Blog – 13th October

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,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard who is writing this blog

This time of year always brings a range of emotions as we start to bring the curtain down on the 2023 season. Depending on how successful the year has been often determines whether we’re ready to close the doors for another year, or whether we wish we could continue racing a little longer.

As we approach the end of another racing season, one question that we are asked a lot is ‘what do you do over the winter without racing’?

I think that there’s a general perception that Racecourses simply go into hibernation for the Winter but there’s an awful lot of work goes on behind the scenes for everyone on the course.

From the Groundstaff perspective, there’s the small matter of repairing the track following around 100-120 horses using the course on the last day. After that, it’s time to crack on with the list of repairs and renovations needed before the start of the 2024 season in April. A site this size ultimately has a fair amount of wear and tear through the course of each year and the groundsteam work tirelessly over the Winter to get everything looking spick and span. It’s a bit like the old analogy of painting the Forth Road Bridge – they start in the Picnic Enclosure and work through to the Premier, by which time, the Picnic is ready for more maintenance!

We also have the small matter of the Weighing Room refurbishment to contend with. At a cost of just under £¾ million, the Weighing Room will be completely stripped out, redesigned and renovated in line with the new British Horseracing Authority regulations. Much has been written about the costs associated with the re-designs but, whatever the thoughts of individual racecourses, our Weighing Room is desperately ready for the change and a big make over. We’re looking forward to providing a new, state of the art facility that is in keeping with the athletes who use it.

We also need to keep on top of providing outstanding facilities for our equine visitors and, during the Winter of 2023, we’ll be installing a new trot up area as well as renovating the Veterinary Treatment areas in the Stable Yard. 

Preparing for a new season from an administrative point of view is no mean feat. Budgeting, prize money planning, managing admission pricing, battling with proposed food and drink costs, planning innovative new days, booking musicians, creating marketing literature etc are all time consuming jobs. There’s a new office move to factor in and we mustn’t forget the conferences and Christmas parties as well!

Before we know it, it’ll be March 2024 and we’ll be on the usual last minute push to get everything finalised. Training new raceday staff, compiling risk assessments and staff instructions for every job you can imagine. And we’ll no doubt be applying a final lick of paint to the new Weighing Room when we open the doors on the 2nd April. 

Until then, we look forward to celebrating the end of what has been an outstanding season at Pontefract.

We’ll see you on the 23rd October.