Blog – 3rd 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 National Horseracing College Charity Day is when Pontefract traditionally looks to the future stars of racing, both human and equine. Racing on Wednesday 1st May saw the charity race day run for the 35th time.

The National Horseracing College, based just outside Doncaster, was set up in 1984 and provides a range of courses at all levels for people who are looking at the horseracing industry as a future career. It also offers those currently in the business the chance to develop their qualifications and skills and provides the ideal opportunity to nurture the grass roots and future of the sport.

The Apprentices kicked proceedings off with the 3rd round of the Go Racing In Yorkshire Future Stars series. The race went the way of Bryan Smart’s Princess Karine under jockey William Pyle. Appropriately, William is a graduate of the NHC and showcased his talents to fine effect, steering the favourite to an easy 5½ lengths success, making every yard of the running.

The Northern Commercials Maiden over 5f saw some interesting 2 year olds strut their stuff for the first time. There were some on course whispers for Karl Burke’s Invincible Annice and Adrian Keatley’s Francisco’s Piece and the two fought out the finish with Keatley’s charging winning by 1¼ lengths. Both the first and second look as though they have an excellent future ahead of them and can make their mark as the season progresses.

The remaining five races were all run in support of The National Horseracing College. There was a good spare ride available on Ian Williams’ Giselles Defence in the 1m2f handicap and Clifford Lee stepped into the saddle. A new recruit for the Williams team, the gelding had shown some decent form for Gavin Cromwell in Ireland and looks set to exploit an attractive handicap mark in the coming weeks. The 4 year old strolled clear to win eased down by 4 lengths from Harriet Bethell’s Bearwith.

The Bethell team aimed to hit back straight away when sending out the favourite for the 1m Handicap, On The River, who had won at the most recent meeting on the 22nd April. Everything seemed to be going to plan for Cam Hardie’s mount but he was outstayed close home by Darryll Holland’s 4 year old colt, Pearl Eye. On his first outing of the season, the son of Expert Eye looked in great shape and another good season beckons.

Once again, the Bethell team were runner up on the final race on the card when Isle of Wolves failed by ¾ length to reel in Roger Fell’s She’s Got Bottle. The winner was following up her victory in the same race in 2023 and made every yard of the running under Danny Tudhope. Tudhope was completing a double on the card having steered Sean Woods’ Savvy Exchange to victory in the 1mile Maiden. The winner was sent off a short priced favourite and is clearly well regarded by the team who have targeted this race with decent horses in the past. He’s one to monitor closely.

The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust Handicap saw a winner for the Amy Murphy team. Bogged down in heavy ground earlier in the season, the winner skipped over the drying ground to score by an easy 3½ lengths. 

The next meeting at Pontefract is Music Night on Friday eve 24th May and the incredible Bjorn Again will perform after racing. Tickets are still available and are currently on sale via the website.