Blog – Friday 24th November

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 todays blog.

November is a big month in the calendar for Racecourses up and down the country as the annual Racecourse Association Showcase Seminar and Awards takes place. The afternoon seminar offers Racecourses the chance to pick up tips from guest speakers from contrasting industries while the evening awards celebrates innovation and best practice on Racecourses with around 12 awards up for grabs. The culmination of the evening is the crowning of the ultimate Showcase Champion racecourse – an award that we were honoured to win in 2019 at the event at Hamilton Park.

The 2023 event saw the 2022 Champions, Aintree, act as host. Alexia and I made our way across the M62 to try and get some fresh ideas and start planning our 2024 racedays. The RCA had programmed a really interesting set of guest presenters from a diverse range of businesses and events – Everton Football Club, the Eurovision and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. There have been several memorable presentations over the years and some that really stick with you. For me, listening to Susan Finnegan, Commercial Director at Culture Liverpool, talk about the Eurovision legacy was one of those. Her passion, pride and commitment were inspiring and the skill of her team to stage the most successful running of the famous song contest has helped to cement Liverpool as one of the leading destinations for events in the world.

The evening Awards ceremony did not disappoint either. Joined by the rest of the office team, Ponte was just one of a huge turn out from Racecourses to attend and we were lucky enough to have been shortlisted for two awards – in the Diversity and Inclusion and in the Raceday Event categories. Each year, the standard seems to get higher and higher as courses strive to better themselves and become industry trend setters. To even be nominated for an award is an honour and so to pick up the Raceday Event award for our Racing For Everyone Raceday in June is something that we are all immensely proud of.

In 2023, we had made a concerted effort to make wholescale changes to all our accessible facilities. Everyone in the team played their role – the groundstaff worked tirelessly to upgrade every accessible toilet and increase the size of every accessible viewing platform, and the office team identified different user groups and invited them to the course to see the changes that we had put in place. The event saw us roll out these extensive improvements to our accessible facilities alongside an orientation tour for anyone who wanted to familiarise themselves with the Racecourse, an Autism in Racing raceday, a trip down memory lane presentation for dementia patients and BSL interpreters for racegoers from the deaf community. The race meeting sticks out in my mind as having a huge amount of planning and preparation but being incredibly rewarding. One piece of feedback we received from a wheelchair user visiting the course was that she was used to feeling like a bit of a nuisance when she when to events normally but felt like a VIP on her trip to Ponte. This kind of testimonial makes even the hardest day at work seem worthwhile. 

The Showcase Champion award in 2023 went to Musselburgh Racecourse who won an incredible 3 Awards! It was a richly deserved success for a small team who work incredibly hard. We all cannot wait to sample the delights of Edinburgh and know that there will be a truly outstanding Scottish welcome.

Along with the best industry events, when the team lets their hair down and celebrates, comes the worst hangovers. It will come as no surprise that the Ponte team can party with the best of them. First ones on the dance floor, last ones to be kicked out. There are some sore heads today, but it was worth it!