Blog  – 5th January

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, who is writing today’s blog!
  • His trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Happy New Year!

We are now in the “thick of winter”, although it might be more appropriate to call it “the rainy season”.

We are often surprised that many people think that the pressure is off and we can have an easy time. Not a bit of it. Winter is the time when we take stock of the past season, carry out any major improvements, deal with all the repairs which the past year have thrown up and put in hand all the arrangements for the coming season.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) are requiring all Racecourses to upgrade their “Weighing Rooms” which include all the facilities for Jockeys and Officials. To be fair, the last major upgrade we carried out was just over 30 years ago and our facilities do need a complete overhaul. This is a major scheme which absolutely must be completed in time for us to race on Easter Tuesday 2nd April – no pressure then! Sleepless nights ahead.

The current weighing room look.

The Fixture List for 2024 was published towards the end of last year. We have our “usual“ 16 race meetings on roughly equivalent dates. Now we need to revise the detail of each days races and the prizemoney we can offer. We strive to offer as much as possible but the BHA has introduced some radical changes to the structure of race meetings this year and the funding which we will get from the Horserace Betting Levy Board towards prizemoney is to go down because it is being concentrated on major Saturday meetings and festivals.

This years fixture list.

Bearing in mind ever increasing costs, balancing the books is a headache.

Apart from a small number of permanent staff, the staff and contractors we require on racedays are engaged for a “season” at a time and we will start making arrangements in the next few weeks.

As a place of “entertainment” for the general public, we have to comply with a plethora of rules and regulations. In addition to those laid down by the BHA, we have a Safety Certificate issued under the Safety of Sports Ground Act and we have to arrange rigorous checks and inspections before the new season can start. These include a structural survey, testing the electrics, gas, emergency lighting, heating, ventilation and fire alarm systems, checking lifts, turnstiles and roller shutters, in effect all mechanical services.

We also have to look after the racetrack itself and get it ready to race on in April when the rain relents and we can get on it, it will still need mowing (occasionally) spiking or vertidraining, and there will be railings to clean.

In short, we need to plan and implement everything necessary to ensure the racecourse is in good order and ready for everyone at our first meeting on Easter Tuesday, 2nd April.

We look forward to seeing you.