Blog #GroundsWeek

24th March

This weeks blog is brought to you courtesy of the Racecourse Association, who kindly wrote a piece on our grounds team to highlight the hard work they carry out all year round as part of the Grounds Management Association #GroundsWeek campaign!

#GroundsWeek2023 – Turf and More at Pontefract Racecourse

The Racecourse Association (RCA) is proud to once again be joining the Grounds Management Association (GMA) to celebrate #GroundsWeek, a campaign dedicated to recognising the hard work and commitment of grounds teams across the country.

As part of #GroundsWeek Richard Hammill, Chief Operating Officer and Clerk of the Course at Pontefract Racecourse, discusses how the grounds team have come together to tackle more than just turf in the run up to their 2023 season opener on Tuesday 11th April.

“We have always had a strong sense of togetherness and local pride amongst the team at Pontefract. The office staff are always happy to pitch in and get involved on racedays and this sense of responsibility and ownership is something we wanted to extend to our ground staff too.

“In 2022 we hosted the RCA Showcase & Awards. To host a major industry awards was a significant undertaking for us and required a complete transformation of the site, including a marquee build on the track itself! Our hard-working grounds team played a vital role in this process and we wanted them to continue to get involved across the wider site as we prepared to welcome racegoers in 2023.

“Naturally, turf management is at the heart of what our ground staff do. Pontefract is the longest continuous flat racing circuit in Europe so there is plenty of turf for the team to manage! After our season closer we always welcome national hunt gallopers to the track, with so many horses working on the racecourse the grounds team have to put in some intensive work to get it back in order and ready for racing.

Taking Ownership of the Wider Site

“Away from the track we’ve been implementing a number of improvements and upgrades ahead of our opening fixture and we were keen for our grounds team to take ownership of some of these projects. A big focus for us has been improving the on-course experience for racegoers with access requirements. In 2022 one of our racedays was assessed from an accessibility perspective as part of the RCA Access Project. A trained assessor, with lived experience of disability, attended one of our fixtures and created a report with feedback on what we were doing well and where we could improve things. As a result of this report our grounds team have transformed our accessible viewing platforms, making them bigger and laying hardstanding paths to remove the need for racegoers using wheelchairs to traverse across grass. They have also refurbished all of our accessible toilets, adding in colour contrasting facilities, new mirrors and shelves so the toilets meet the requirements of more racegoers. “

Laying the foundations for the new accessible viewing platform.

The Head Groundsman, Martin Follows, has been with the Racecourse since 1990 and he oversaw the work to the accessible viewing areas, carrying out the work to ensure that the new platforms blended in seamlessly with the existing Pontefract grounds. Other members of his team, including father and son Rob and Tom Pemberton, undertook the improvements to the accessible toilets.

Martin said: “It’s great to be able to work on a different aspect of the Racecourse Enclosures and the team were all excited to be able to play such an integral role in improving the facilities for those racegoers with special access needs. It goes to show that no two days are really the same at Pontefract and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been here for more than 30 years.”

With a brilliantly maintained racing surface, record prize money in excess of £1.45 million and upgraded facilities across the course it’s safe to say that Pontefract Racecourse is the place to be for horses, owners, trainers and racegoers alike this season, thanks in part to the hard work and dedication of the grounds team.

You can find out more about the GMA’s #GroundsWeek here, and you can book your tickets to Pontefract here.

About #GroundsWeek

#GroundsWeek is an interactive campaign run by the Grounds Management Association (GMA) and is built on the involvement of the groundscare community – with support from the community and our sponsors, which are listed below, we will be putting our sector in the spotlight once again and celebrating the impact of groundscare on sport and green spaces. 

In 2023 the week runs from Monday 20th March—Sunday 26th March. Throughout the week the RCA is exploring the art of racecourse grounds management, highlighting examples from across the sport and sharing case studies of industry personnel.

About the Racecourse Association

The Racecourse Association (RCA), formed in 1907, is the trade association for British racecourses. 59 racecourses are members and have equal voting rights.

The RCA has owned RaceTech since March 1998. The RCA serves the interests of its 59 British racecourse members both inside and outside the sport, empowering them to be the best venues that they can be.

The RCA works on behalf of racecourses to represent their views within the sport through the tripartite structure of the Members’ Agreement alongside BHA and The Horsemen’s Group. Outside of horseracing, the RCA works alongside the Government, other sports and leisure venues, and national charities to meet the needs of racecourses.

Additionally, the RCA encourages and facilitates racecourse community engagement, involvement in horse welfare initiatives, responsible drinking campaigns, and various other partnerships within the sport. The Showcase & Awards, the marquee event of British Racecourses to celebrate and reward excellence and innovation, is hosted by the RCA annually in November.


Blog – 17th February

Welcome to another blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola, who is writing todays blog,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Meet Nicola – 3rd February 2023

Hello my name is Nicola.

I started work at the Racecourse in May 1994 – I know – I don’t look old enough!  I had 2 interviews in one week – one for Pontefract Racecourse and the other for British Airways cabin crew – and here I am (sorry BA)!

The Racecourse team was considerably smaller in 1994 and there were only three of us to run the administration including Mr Gundill!  It had its advantages though and I was able to learn every aspect of the administration of the Racecourse. 

As the Racecourse Stands and facilities grew over the years, we employed more staff and I was appointed as the Accounts Manager in September 2011.

I have always lived in and around Doncaster.  I have 2 children, Oliver 21, Lucy 18 and a 6 year old Beagle called Ruby! They all keep me on my toes! Ruby comes to work with me every day and she is one of the much loved office dogs we have here.

I have always loved animals from a very young age, especially horses.  At age 11 I was lucky enough to own my own horse called Merrylegs.  Due to time and money constraints unfortunately I don’t have my own horse anymore but I have carried on riding and have taken my daughter for lessons since she was 8 years old.  It would be my dream come true to ride around the track here at Pontefract – so if anyone can make that happen I’ll dust off my jodhpurs!

Through my time at Pontefract, I’ve grown to love racing and, when I get the time, I love a day at the races in Yorkshire – the office day out to York Races (link to ) is always memorable! I love a flutter and can occasionally be found at the casino as well.

We have a great team here at the Racecourse and I really enjoy working with them.  A normal working day for me consists of inputting invoices, making payments (I don’t like this part much), reconciling bank accounts, processing payroll, answering telephone queries and lots of calculator tapping. It all sounds very boring but I enjoy it!  Racedays are, however, very different and hectic for us all and it’s all hands on deck and you have to be able to turn your attention to any issue at short notice! You will usually find me based in the Raceday office, adding up, or answering the phone or helping out with customers.  But occasionally if short staffed or exceptionally busy you might see me operating a turnstile!  Come and say hello if you see me dashing by! 😊


Blog – 3rd February

Welcome to the first blog of February from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol, who is writing todays blog,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Meet Carol – 3rd February 2023

Hi, I’m Carol.  I was born and raised in Liverpool.  I moved over to Yorkshire in 1996 when I got married (and since divorced) but often get back to the other side of the Pennines!

I have 2 daughters.  Sadly my eldest daughter passed away 8 years ago when she was 15 and I now live in Whitley Bridge with my youngest daughter.

I have worked at Pontefract Racecourse for 24 years – I was obviously very young when I started!  I was taken on in a part time capacity to help out with Mr Gundill’s typing and other administrative duties.  This was when we had just one computer, one phone line and the only way anyone could buy tickets was by cash or cheque. Even at Pontefract times have really changed since then!!! (I’m showing my age).

My job now is Administration Manager and you will find me in the Raceday Office with a big smile on my face (most of the time).  My main duties are employing Raceday Staff, looking after our Annual Badge Holders, making arrangements for Owners & Trainers, taking bookings for the Restaurant and anything else that is thrown my way. Racedays are always busy and definitely keep me on my toes!

I love my job and it’s a great team that I work with.

Despite working at a Racecourse, I’m not really into racing but a few years ago I did a series of posts on social media called “Carol’s Big Tips” ! It definitely caught the imagination of the racegoers! However, in 5 years, I only ever chose one winner – Frankie Dettori and Mince – but it was favourite! Racegoers definitely didn’t get rich through my selections!

In my spare time I volunteer for Samaritans.  I answer calls from people who are struggling to cope with life.  I find it very rewarding being there to give emotional support to people who are going through difficult times.

I also volunteer with Age UK in a befriending role.  I chat to elderly people who may be isolated or lonely and don’t have anyone else for company.

So if you see me at the Racecourse on a raceday, come and say hello!


Blog – 19th January

Welcome to the fourth blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality, and is writing todays blog,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Caroline’s first blog – 19th January 2023

Hi, I’m Caroline. I was born and raised in Castleford and moved to Normanton (where we still live) with my husband, Duncan, in 1998. Our son, Joshua, came along the following year.

I have worked at Pontefract Racecourse since February 2015. I work on reception, assist Mr Gundill with all his administration work as well as dealing with Private Hospitality bookings – you might say that I’m a bit of a jack of all trades really!

I was a very late starter to horseracing – other than watching the Grand National each year.  My first experience of a day out at the races was on a Sunday in July 2009 here at good old Ponte!!! We had been invited to attend a meeting (which included a memorial race for my late uncle) in the Private Hospitality boxes and had a fabulous family day out!

Well, from that point on, I was hooked and horseracing became a hobby of mine. Thankfully my dad also had an interest so I would often take him along to the races too. I then went on to organise our annual family day out at Ponte, usually at the June Sunday meeting, and we came for the next few years. I would arrive as early as possible to make the most of the day, and I never wanted to leave. I remember thinking to myself I’d love to work here…. it would be my dream job! So, when the opportunity arose, I went for it.

When I first started I worked solely for Mr Gundill but after a few years I was asked if I would like to get involved with the hospitality side of the business. I jumped at the chance because I knew what a fabulous day out it was for people. I hope that I could add my experience and make our customer’s day just that little bit more special. And I would like to think that that is what I have done.

On racedays you will find me initially in the Dalby Stand reception area, but after that, it’s all hands to the deck so I could end up anywhere doing any job.

I think most people think we have six months off after our last race in October but there is certainly a lot more to working at a racecourse than just the 16 meetings we have each year. I love my job (and the location), I work with some wonderful people and I’m looking forward to the start of the 2023 racing season – especially if I get to see my hero, Paul Hanagan, a bit more!

See you in a couple of weeks with another post!


Blog – 6th January 2023

We hope you all had a lovely Christmas and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Welcome to the third blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, who is writing this blog, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Alexia’s first blog – 6th January 2023

It may be best to start with who I am! I started working at Pontefract Racecourse in July last year, after moving back to Leeds from Cheshire. I studied Law for three years at university here, so its always felt like a second home. After graduating university in 2021 I moved back home and pondered on what I was to do next after deciding a legal career wasn’t perhaps the best path for me.

I had to think about what it was I was interested in, and that was racing! Having spent the last three or four years working within the gaming industry and being brought up around the sport, the world of racing seemed like a good option to me.

I got into racing through my dad who has worked in this field for as long as I can remember, and I have been fortunate enough to grow up around horses, pictured below is my beloved Vinnie.

Vinnie came to us after retiring from racing when he was seven.

Vinnie’s racing career lasted five years, during that time he got a couple of wins to his name and even ran in the Queens Vase at Ascot in 2009! Clowance House, as he was known on the track, was a son of Galileo, he started out on the flat with Roger Charlton before he had a change of turf and finished his career over fences.

So, I’d decided a career in racing would work for me, but not wanting to go down the riding route I wondered what could I do within the sport, how could I apply what I had learnt at university to horseracing?

Like many wanting to pursue a non-yard based career within the sport it can be a struggle to find a role that works for you, there are so many different jobs within horseracing, but sometimes it can be difficult to get your foot in the door and gain experience.

After daily checks on the careers in racing website, I found the Racing Media Academy (RMA), a week course down in Newmarket at the British Racing School followed by a six-week work placement with one of racing’s leading media organisations, with the hope that it would open doors and help me find a job.

We were the first cohort of students to undertake the RMA, a career pathway created by broadcaster Josh Apiafi and his team to increase equality, diversity and inclusion into the sport. During our training week we met the likes of Clare Balding, Mike Cattermole, Lydia Hislop, to name just a few, who taught us all about the racing media!

I then moved down to London to work for JSC Communications, a sports PR firm specialising in horseracing, during my time there I was fortunate enough to work with the team at Epsom on the Derby and helped with the team at Royal Ascot.

It was an incredible experience, and myself and those on the course were very lucky to be the first ten graduates and are proud to be ambassadors for the Racing Media Academy.

From there I moved back home to Cheshire and I applied for the job here at Pontefract and luckily, Richard and Mr Gundill were kind enough to offer me the job! So, I packed my bags and moved back to West Yorkshire, and now here I am at Ponte Carlo!

On a raceday you will more than likely find me wandering around the racecourse with a camera in hand trying to snap some pictures and get content out onto our social media channels (please follow them!) Or having a chat with Richard in the Parade Ring!

I have really enjoyed my first 6 months here at the Racecourse and am looking forward the to start of the 2023 season.

Please feel free to come and say hello on a raceday if you see me 🙂

We will be back with another post in two weeks, see you then!