Blog – 1st March

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, who is writing today’s blog, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

With the 2024 season fast approaching and our first fixture less than 5 weeks away, we have had a busy couple of days at the Racecourse this week.

On Wednesday we invited raceday staff in for a training day and on Thursday we hosted our annual ‘Welcome Lunch’.

Wednesday started with coffee and catch ups as we welcomed our raceday members of staff back for a morning of training. The day started with a talk and presentation from Mr Gundill, followed by Richard, who gave an overview of this years upcoming racedays. Richard also spoke about the improvements we have made on the course to the accessible facilities and following his training with the National Autistc Society, Richard trained our staff on how they can best help and assist autistic racegoers.

As a dementia friendly racecourse, Carol recently attended a Dementia Awareness course and was able to train our raceday staff. Carol explained how best to communicate with a person who has been diagnosed with dementia, how to avoid jumping to conclusions about someone’s actions, and managing a conversation as well as the importance of using body language in the correct way. 

We then welcomed Sarah from Racing Welfare, a charity who support the workforce within British Racing offering professional guidance as well as practical help with all sorts including housing, medical assistance and mental health. The services are available to all those who work within the sport, from stud staff to racecourse staff. Sarah talked to us all about the different services available.

The morning was finished with a fantastic lunch from the team at Huggamug, the brownies went down a treat! It was great to welcome back our raceday staff and we look forward to seeing them all on the 2nd April and I’m sure they are looking forward to welcoming you all back to the Racecourse!

On Thursday we welcomed around 50 people including members of the press, sponsors, and local trainers for lunch to look ahead to the new season and celebrate what a year 2023 was!

The afternoon started with some good old networking before we all took our seats for lunch. Lunch was catered for by the amazing team at Huggamug, a big thank you to Jo, Andy and all their staff for a delicious lunch, there hospitality was wonderful and thank you to CGC Events for also helping and manning the bar! On the menu was Beef Sunday Lunch or chicken and leek pie, followed by very generous portions of either brownie or crumble for pudding and a cheese board!

Following lunch Richard and Mr Gundill gave an updates on the new developments with the Weighing Room and the work being done over at the stables. Richard also spoke about becoming the first Racecourse to host Autism friendly racedays across every fixture with Autism in Racing (please find on X @autisminracing) and our upcoming work New Beginnings as part of our 12 months of giving.

As we looked back on last years season we were able to dish out some awards. The first award went to our 2023 Stayers Champion, Yorkindness! Trained by Charlie and Mark Johnston, she held top position on the leaderboard for most of the season with a very impressive total of 3 wins from just 3 starts at Pontefract.

Training performance of the season went to Ruth Carr and her horse Reigning Profit. To our knowledge, Reigning Profit is the first horse to ever win consecutive races at Pontefract! On the 24th April he won the last race on the card and then went onto win the first race on the card at the very following meeting!

Ride of the season went in the way of Callum Rodriguez for his ride aboard Emily Post, trained by Micheal Dods. From sitting at the back of the field for the majority of the race, coming up to the final few furlongs the pair picked off the rest of the runners to take first place!

Carrigillihy, received a well-deserved Special Recognition Award for his efforts around the track at Ponte. Trained by Tim Easterby, Carrigillihy has racked up a remarkable 5 wins at Pontefract and counting! We hope to see him back here for another season.

The final award was presented to Yorkindness, winner of the Ponte Horse of the Year 2023 Award! This was an award voted for by the public at the end of last year on twitter and I’m sure we can all agree it was very well deserving!

It was a wonderful afternoon and always signifies that the start of the season is imminent, we look forward to opening the gates to you all on the 2nd April.