Blog – 31st May

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 today’s blog.

​The first evening fixture of the 2024 Pontefract Racecourse calendar took place last Friday night with a fantastic music night celebrating all things Abba.

A stellar crowd was out in force to see some exciting racing and then dance the night away with the superb Björn Again performing on stage.

Once the horses had safely left the course after the last race, racegoers flooded the Parade Ring in anticipation of Björn Again’s performance. There was a fantastic atmosphere with racegoers enjoying an evening to remember with one of the world’s most successful bands.

The Björn Again show was created and founded in 1988 in Melbourne by Australian director and musician Rod Stephen and has gone on to be hugely popular, the enduring appeal of Abba reflected in the ongoing success of the show, having amassed 5,600 performances in 72 countries in 32 years.

In addition this year the racecourse has introduced sustainable music nights, with Friday’s meeting being used to raise awareness on becoming more environmentally sustainable.

They called upon racegoers to help the efforts into making the music nights more sustainable, with two bike generators in use for spectators to pedal to generate electricity.

We also encouraged racegoers to car share and use of public transport to get to and from the races, raised awareness of energy saving devices by reminding people to switch off devices at home and encouraged racegoers to use the recycling points on site among other changes made.

There was some fantastic racing to kick off proceedings too. The feature race on the card was the £30,000 EBF Restricted Maiden and 16 two-year-olds took to the turf to strut their stuff.

What looked a competitive race on paper was turned into a procession by Tony Coyle and Kaine Wood’s newcomer Regal Gem.

David Nolan did the steering aboard the son of Zoustar and the writing was on the wall a long way from home.

The winner was well backed with Coyle confirming the high regard that Regal Gem was held in: “He was ready for the Brocklesby but the ground went against him so we made a plan to wait for the good prize money of this race and come here. We won’t be rushing him but he’s a really good type.”

There was a promising run in second for Charlie Johnston’s Expensive Rose, who flew up the home straight to grab the runner-up spot.

The other two year old race on the card was the Northern Commercials Fillies Novice and Hollie Doyle and Charlie Appleby teamed up with the exciting Enchanted Life.

Sent off a well backed favourite, punters did not have any anxious moments as Hollie steered the daughter of Kodiac to a 1¾ length success over Roger Varian’s Esprit Queen, who ran an eyecatching first race.

The opening race on the card celebrated the 50th birthday of Ponte regular Leigh Sutton. The 1m handicap was won in impressive fashion by Rebecca Menzies’ Million Thanks.

The winner had some excellent form earlier in his career and has been brought back to form by the Menzies team. Stretching clear under Oisin Orr, the winner will be turned out quickly under a penalty and is likely to go in again soon.

Gordon Grey had been knocking on the door in his recent runs, finishing runner-up on the last three occasions. Ben Brookhouse’s runner was well fancied to finally put his head in front and his front running tactics were deployed perfectly by Jack Gilligan on a course that can play to the strengths of horses who like to be close to the pace.

Brookhouse was determined to win the race sponsored by some of his owners and Gordon Grey played his part to perfection.

There was another all the way winner in the 1m2f handicap when Charlie Johnston’s Yippee made every post a winning one under Franny Norton.

The winner briefly looked in trouble as they turned into the home straight, but kept finding more for pressure before sprinting clear to win, eased down, by 2¾ lengths.

There was a sense of déjà vu to the finale as Ventura Express registered his fourth win at Pontefract, following up his victory in the corresponding race last year.

Paul Midgley’s charge loves the West Yorkshire air, holding the fast finishing Zarzyni by a head and giving David Nolan a double following his win on Regal Gem.

The next race meeting at the Yorkshire track is another evening fixture. The award winning Racing For Everyone Race Night, held on Monday, June 10, sees the track throwing its doors open to guests who may be looking to go racing for the first time.

With BSL signers on the big screen, an autism friendly sensory room, and a ‘trip down memory lane’ talk, there is plenty going on for everyone.