A Day at the Races


Find out below exactly what you can expect from your Day at The Races.

Whether it’s learning out how to choose your horse, discovering some of the terminology used on a racecourse or simply finding out what’s available at the track!

Horseracing offers something for everyone, and at Pontefract Races, it’s no different. Whether you want to dress up or dress down, take your family for a fun day out, dance to live music or enjoy great food.

What are you waiting for? Head to our booking page to find a fixture that’s right for you.

There really is something for everyone with over 400 fixtures across 49 racecourses this Summer. A day at the races can be everyone’s turf, come see for yourself!

Find out more at greatbritishracing.com/everyonesturf




What to expect of a day at the races

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 diverse sport welcoming to everyone regardless of their sex, race, age, ethnicity or gender orientation. Racing is a truly inclusive family and we are proud to host everyone at Pontefract.

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:

  • Arrive early, beat the rush and have a good look round the Racecourse – look at the Racecourse maps at all entrances to get your bearings. Have a quick look at the map below to give you an idea of where everything is.
  • Check out the food options (click here for more details) or why not bring your own picnic?
  • Relax in one of the bars with a glass of wine or a pint and have a look at the racecard and the runners for the first race!
  • Wander over to the Parade Ring to make your final selections (you need to be in the Grandstand & Paddock or Premier Enclosures to access the Parade Ring area).
  • Put your bet on (click here for more information) and then seek out the best place to cheer on your first selection!
  • If you’re lucky enough to win, go and welcome your horse into the Winners Enclosure and then head straight to the tote or the bookmakers to collect those winnings!

Most of all, have fun at Pontefract. Meet some new friends and have a great day out.


How do I pick my horse?

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 choose the jockey’s silks that have their favourite colour, or the jockey whose name they recognise! Why not ask one of the regular racegoers who they think might win?


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 into the Premier or the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosures, you can see the horses walk around 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 is healthy. You can often tell this by having a good look at its coat – see if it has a healthy shine to it. You can also tell if it’s in good shape by checking out the muscle definition around the 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 a good sign, but it is often considered detrimental if a horse is sweating between its back legs.


We offer a prize to the stable lad or lass in charge of ‘the best turned out horse’ for many of our races. The race sponsor will choose a horse that they think has been well groomed – quite often the mane or the tail is plaited, and there might be a ‘diamond’ pattern on the horse’s hindquarters (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 phrase ‘horses for courses’? Well, that’s never more true than at Pontefract. The course’s unique shape with its turns and ups and downs means that it takes a very special type of horse to win with us. 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 at the Course, or at this Course and over the same 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.


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 into leaving 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 its ears flat back to its head; a horse throwing its head about generally are signs that the horse is not entirely happy about something!

What is 'The Going'?

The Racetrack on which the horses run is an oval of 2miles and 136 yards 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 race on is called ‘Heavy’
– the driest/fastest conditions that we race on is called ‘Hard’. We try to avoid racing on ‘Hard’ ground and will irrigate the Racecourse to produce slightly softer conditions.


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:-

  • Heavy
  • Soft
  • Good to Soft
  • Good
  • Good to Firm
  • Firm
  • Hard

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 firm.


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!

What happens after each race?

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!


This means that the final result has been announced and cannot 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 gather 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. There are more showers available when the horses return to the Stable Yard so they can be kept cool, calm and collected at all times. For more information on horse welfare, please visit https://www.britishhorseracing.com/horse-welfare/


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.

Where can I eat & drink?

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!

Where can I get more information from?

If there’s anything at all that you need to know then give us a call on 01977 718307 or email us and we’ll try our best to sort it out.


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 answer any of your questions!

Accessibility Information

We have a number of facilities to assist those who may have accessibility problems including step free access to each of the enclosures at the Racecourse. We also have lifts available in the Main Stand and in the Dalby Stand giving access to all floors.


There are accessible toilets in all enclosures along with viewing ramps in every area.


We are also very pleased to announce that every race meeting in 2024 will be Autism Friendly racedays, making us the first Racecourse in the country to host Autism in Racing Racedays on every day.


We are thrilled to be working with Future Ticketing to host Autism Friendly racedays throughout the year. As part of our Autism Friendly racedays, the Racecourse and Future Ticketing will provide designated quiet and safe spaces for autistic Racegoers, or those who may have additional needs, including complimentary soft drinks and biscuits. In addition, there will be a dedicated sensory room, provided by Immersive, at every meeting.


Any racegoers wishing to apply for places at any Autism in Racing fixture should contact Autism in Racing on X at https://twitter.com/autisminracing (@autisminracing). A brand new Autism in Racing website will be developed over the coming months. In the meantime, to learn more about Autism in Racing please visit https://twitter.com/autisminracing


To view the full Accessibility Information for the Racecourse, please click here