A Day at the Races can be anything you want it to be!
The layman's view of racing is that it is an elitist sport for the wealthy and privileged. The reality could not be further from the truth! Racing is a sport for everyone - for young and old, men and women, rich and poor.
A Day at the Races can be a great day or night out with colleagues from work, an amazing way to catch up with friends, a fantastic way to make friends or a fabulous way to spend time with the family. Check out all our fixtures here.
It's an exciting, pulsating and inexpensive way to spend the day.
To make the most of your day, follow the basic steps laid out here for the First Time Racegoer:
Most of all, have fun at Pontefract. Meet some new friends and have a great day out.
There are lots of different ways in which people choose the horse that they are going to back!
Many simply go for their favourite name, or their favourite colour of the silks that the jockey is wearing or the jockey whose name they recognise!
To help out the novice racegoer, the Racecourse has a programme, or 'Racecard', produced for every meeting. Have a look at 'understanding the Racecard'.
If you're going in to the Premier or the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosures you can see the horses walk round the 'Parade Ring' before the jockey gets on. It's always worthwhile looking at your horse to see if it's calm (but not too sleepy!). Ideally you want a horse that is taking a healthy interest in everything going on without getting too agitated or excited.
You should look if the horse looks healthy (it's coat has got a healthy shine to it) and see if it's in good shape and has plenty of muscles around its back legs and chest.
Often when horses are getting a bit nervous or over excited they sweat. This appears as a white-ish lather around the neck or under the saddle. A small amount of sweat is not a bad sign, but it is often considered to be detrimental if a horse is sweating in between it's back legs.
For many of our races we offer a prize to the stable lad or lass who is in charge of 'the best turned out horse'. The sponsor of the race chooses a horse which they think has been well groomed - quite often the mane or the tail is plaited and there might be a 'diamond' pattern on the horses hind quarters (their hips essentially!) This means that the stable lad or lass has spent time brushing, preparing and generally giving a lot of TLC to their charge.
Have you heard the phrases 'horses for courses'? Well that's never more true than at Pontefract. The unique shape of the course with it's turns and ups and downs means that it takes a very special type of horse to win at Pontefract. And quite often if a horse runs well here, it will generally do so again. So watch out for horses that have won or run well at Pontefract before. The racecard will normally be a good guide to this - if a 'C' or 'CD' appears next to the form it means that they've won over the Course, or over this Course and over this Distance before! One horse, Mr Wolf, won 9 times at Pontefract before he retired in 2012! He still comes to visit when we have a parade of retired racehorses at our Sunday meeting in August.
In the same way that horses might take a particular liking to Pontefract, some jockeys are particularly good at riding around here. Listed in the Racecard are the current standings for the top trainer and top jockey in the current racing season so keep an eye out for that!
Finally, before you go and put on your bet (click here for how to do so), have a look at the horses on the way to start. They should canter down to the start enthusiastically but under control. You don't want to see a jockey really struggling to hold on to the horse, but at the same time you don't want to see the horse having to be cajoled to leave the Parade Ring!
The horse should then be cool, calm and collected at the start and ready to go!!
Horses are, by nature, pack animals and love to run together in big groups. If they are not enjoying their day out then you will be able to tell. A flashing tail; a horse with it's ears flat back to it's head; a horse throwing it's head about generally are signs that the horse is not entirely happy about something!
The Racetrack on which the horses run is an oval of 2miles and 136yards of turf.
Depending on the weather conditions, the ground conditions alter. For example, if there's a lot of rain, the ground may become softer. Similarly, in drought the ground is harder/drier.
Based on the state of the ground we issue a 'Going' report.
There are several types of description of the 'going'
- the softest/muddiest/wettest conditions that we are allowed to race on is called 'Heavy'
- the driest/fastest conditions that we are allowed to race on is called 'Hard'.
Racing is run under the 'Rules of Racing' laid down by the British Horseracing Authority who regulate the sport. The Rules stipulate that we must use one of, or a combination of, the following to describe the state of the ground:-
Flat Racecourses should strive to provide ground that is no harder than 'Good to Firm' at their meetings (obviously depending on weather conditions). If the ground looks like being 'Hard' then we are able to 'water' or 'irrigate' the course to 'soften' it.
The 'Going' can drastically affect the chance of any particular horse. Some horses do not perform to the best of their ability if the ground is soft, and similarly some horses hate the ground to be hard.
It is definitely worth keeping an eye on the weather and finding out if the horse that you like enjoys the sunshine or the rain!
As soon as the horses cross the finishing line, the race is not always over! If it's been a particularly close finish, the Judge may call for a photograph to determine which horse has won.
And it might not necessarily be over then either! If it's been a close finish, or there has been some bumping and barging, there may be a 'Stewards Enquiry' where the Stewards take a good look at the race to determine whether the horse which has crossed the line in front has pushed his way through or blocked the way of a rival. The winning horse can be disqualified in some circumstances! SO NEVER THROW YOUR BETTING TICKET AWAY, UNTIL THE 'WEIGHED IN' ANNOUNCEMENT IS MADE!!! This means that the final result has been announced and can not be changed.
A jockey can make an 'Objection' to another horse if he/she feels that his horse's chance has been affected by an incident in the race.
Immediately after the horses come off the course, the first 4 horses head to the Winners Enclosure (right in the heart of the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure) to see their connections. Racegoers often gather in this area to congratulate the winners, commiserate with the losers and just generally soak up the atmosphere. There's a trophy presentation to the winning connections after every race!
Once the excitement of the race dies down then you have around 30 minutes to regather your thoughts and get ready for the next race.
It may sound like a long time but there's plenty to keep you occupied.
After the horses have finished the race you may see them cool down and being washed down. We take horse welfare very seriously at Pontefract and there's always lots of fresh water about and there are 3 horse showers available to keep the equine superstars rehydrated and looked after.
It may be time to collect your winnings, or you may need to rehydrate yourself, but don't forget to make plenty of time to pick your horse in the next race!
On certain racedays, you will find that there are lots of other things happening around the racecourse - bands, music, circus, kids rides, competitions, etc etc - listen to the PA system on the day for details of what's going on! To look at when our special 'themed' days are, please click here.
There are lots of options for eating and drinking! From fine dining in the restaurants to a sandwich in one of the bars to fish and chips from one of the retail units! There really is something for everyone!
Similarly, you can get a cup of tea or you can splash out on a bottle of Champagne!
For a complete overview of where you can eat and drink, please click here!
If you come unstuck on a raceday then all the Racecourse Staff at the turnstiles or dotted around the Racecourse are all briefed to help out.
And if you are still stuck, then come to the Raceday Office (which is just behind the Winner's Enclosure) and we'll (hopefully) be able to solve it!
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