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Blog – 16th February

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.

Ladies Day is one of my personal highlights of the year. I love seeing the fashion and getting involved in making this such a great day out for everyone.

Wednesday 7th August sees the return of our annual Ladies Day Fixture, a highlight of the racing calendar. It is a fabulous day full of glitz and glamour, and there always promises to be a showcase of style both on and off the track as the Ladies of Yorkshire truly do ‘dress to impress’.

The atmosphere of Ladies Day is like no other, it’s a great day out to enjoy with friends and loved ones, it’s a day when action-packed racing meets fabulous fashion! Over the years we have seen some amazing outfits, all worthy of a chance at winning the Best Dressed Competition.

 
Pictured above is last year’s winner Charlotte! Photo: Hannah Ali

It is the news you have all been waiting to hear! We can now reveal where the lucky winner of this year’s coveted Best Dressed Ladies Competition will be jetting off to.

So this year, we will be sending one very lucky Lady away to,

*drumroll please* …

*insert dramatic pause*…

MAURITIUS courtesy of the fantastic RIU Hotels & Resorts.

RIU have sponsored the competition now for many years and we are very grateful for their continued support and generosity. Previous winners of the competition have holidayed in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamica to name just a few of the fantastic destinations!

The winner will be off on a week long, all-inclusive stay for two with flights included! Does it get much better than a free holiday to a stunning island located in the Indian Ocean? I’m not sure it does!

We can’t thank RIU enough for their sponsorship. This year not only have the provided an incredible prize for our winning Lady but there is also a spectacular prize for the runner up. This year’s runner up will win a four-night stay for two people at the RIU Hotel in Dubai! (Flights are not included)

The format of the competition while differ slightly from past years. Those wishing to enter the competition can do so throughout the early afternoon by making their way to a designated area to be snapped up for a photo! The photo then acts as your submission into the competition which will be judged by an independent panel. The winner will then later be announced by Heart Radio presenters Dixie and Emma.

Gents, we haven’t forgotten about you! There is also the Best Dressed Gents Competition with cash prizes up for grabs.

So be sure to don your best outfits for a shot at the top prize. We look forward to welcoming you all on Ladies Day.

Ladies Day Hospitality is now very limited. There are still spaces available in the Ladies Day Marquee, however the Park Suite is fully booked. Find out more about tickets here.

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Twelve Months of Giving with New Beginnings

January sees the launch of Pontefract Racecourse’s ‘Twelve Months of Giving’ for New Beginnings Horses – a charity who provide a safe and secure environment for former racehorses, where they can adjust and be re-trained for their second career following racing.

The Pontefract team at New Beginnings Horses
The Pontefract team at New Beginnings Horses

In 2023, Pontefract Racecourse announced that former racehorse and New Beginnings resident, Nearly Caught (affectionately known as Nico), was to become their first Racehorse Ambassador. Earning just under £350,000 in prize money, Nearly Caught was a strong stayer who competed over marathon trips all around Europe. During his career, Nearly Caught was no stranger to Pontefract either as he won the Phil Bull Trophy by an impressive 10 lengths in 2015 – his biggest winning margin throughout his esteemed career!

Nearly Caught parades at Pontefract
Nearly Caught parades at Pontefract

Ahead of the launch of the new campaign, Richard Hammill, Chief Operating Officer for Pontefract Racecourse, said:

‘We pride ourselves on providing the highest level of equine welfare at Pontefract when racehorses visit the track and were delighted to team up with New Beginnings and welcome Nico as our Racehorse Ambassador. It’s been a privilege getting to know Nico and all the team here absolutely adore him. Having visited the yard in 2023, we were all keen to be able to do as much as we possibly could to help New Beginnings and the horses in their care. Launching ‘The Twelve Months of Giving’ was a natural progression to help raise the visibility of the charity and to showcase the wonderful care that is given to thoroughbreds in the next stage of their career.’

Nico with Chief Operating Officer, Richard Hammill
Nico with Chief Operating Officer, Richard Hammill

The campaign will see a variety of fundraising activity for New Beginnings taking place in every month in 2024. There’ll be opportunities for racegoers to see Nico (and some of his friends) and the New Beginnings team on each of the Racecourse’s Family Race Days, while other events will include staff volunteering days, a visit to the yard for Pontefract Racecourse Annual Badge Holders, bucket collections, community visits to local schools and the Prince of Wales Hospice and even attending a Castleford Tigers match!

Pam and Kevin Atkinson of New Beginnings said:

‘We have been taking the horses to meet the racegoers at Pontefract for over 10 years and we really enjoy working with the whole team there. We’re thrilled to be part of their Twelve Months of Giving campaign. We see daily the powerful impact racehorses have on people lives and we are delighted to be partnering with Pontefract Racecourse on this initiative so more people can experience and learn what horses do for people, and people for horses. The campaign will hopefully help us to raise vital funds to be able to continue to care for these wonderful horses who give us so much joy.’

The Pontefract Groundsteam set to work

If you’d like to make a donation to New Beginnings Horses, please click here.

Click here for more information on Pontefract Racecourse and the Twelve Months of Giving.

For more information on New Beginnings Horses, please click here .

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Autism Friendly Racedays at Pontefract

Pontefract Racecourse is thrilled to announce that all race meetings at the West Yorkshire track in 2024 will be Autism Friendly racedays, making it the first Racecourse in the country to host Autism in Racing Racedays on every day.

Bobby Beevers, Chair and Founder of Autism in Racing is delighted to get more Autism Friendly racedays in the calendar and commented:

“I think it’s absolutely amazing that Pontefract are making all their fixtures Autism-Friendly. Huge well done to Richard, Norman and the team for making it happen. Autism in Racing and Pontefract Racecourse have built a strong relationship and I’m really looking forward to working with the track for the season ahead.”

Hosting it’s first Autism in Racing racedays in 2023, Pontefract has made huge steps in improving all aspects of accessibility at the Racecourse and recently carried out a major scheme to upgrade the accessible facilities throughout the site. Their ‘Racing for Everyone’ race meeting in June 2023 won the coveted ‘Raceday Award’ at the Racecourse Association Showcase Event in November.

Richard Hammill, Chief Operating Officer for Pontefract Racecourse said:

‘Raising awareness of Autism and playing our part in enabling the Racing Industry to be more inclusive is hugely important to us all at Pontefract. The Racecourse has a long association of working with customers and racegoers who have additional needs, as well as with Autism in Racing and to be able to put something in place to make the Racecourse even more inclusive throughout the season is incredible.’

The Racecourse will be working in conjunction with their ticketing provider, Future Ticketing, who will provide valuable funding to enable the initiative to take place every day. 

Hammill continued:

‘We are thrilled to be working with Future Ticketing to host Autism Friendly racedays throughout 2024. Their support is invaluable and we are really excited to be able to partner with them on this project.’

Ann Marie Guinan, Chief Marketing Officer of Future Ticketing, was excited that Future Ticketing could be part of the venture:

‘Future Ticketing are extremely proud to work with Pontefract Races on this project. Racing is an inclusive and accessible sport and we are delighted that we can enable further attendance and an Autism friendly experience to racegoers at Ponte.’

As part of their Autism Friendly racedays, the Racecourse and Future Ticketing will provide designated quiet and safe spaces for autistic Racegoers, or those who may have additional needs, including complimentary soft drinks and biscuits. In addition, there will be a dedicated sensory room, provided by Immersive, at every race meeting.

William Buick, champion jockey and Ambassador for Autism in Racing said:

“I congratulate Pontefract for their commitment to Autism Friendly racedays. My family has first hand experience of autism and as an Ambassador for Autism in Racing I welcome the way racecourses are embracing the concept.”

Any racegoers wishing to apply for places at any Autism in Racing fixture should contact Autism in Racing on X at https://twitter.com/autisminracing (@autisminracing).

Richard Hammill
Chief Operating Officer
Pontefract Racecourse
01977 781307

For more information on Pontefract Racecourse, please visit www.pontefract-races.co.uk

To discover services offered by Future Ticketing, please visit https://www.futureticketing.com/

A brand new Autism in Racing website will be developed over the coming months. In the meantime, to learn more about Autism in Racing please visit https://twitter.com/autisminracing

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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.

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Blog – 22nd December

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.

What a year its been, 15 fabulous racedays!

From music with Kim Wilde to Ladies Day to Racing for Everyone and who can forget our SkyBet Sunday meeting!

While it was gutting to loose our final fixture of the year we definitely had plenty of fun during the year which made up for it.

Lets find out what some of the highlights were this year for the team:

Nicola: Having arch lintels installed at the house, very exciting!

Carol: A first ever winning tip! Stay Away Fay won at Cheltenham at 18/1 (maybe we should start to make note of Carol’s tips!)

Mr Gundill: The SkyBet Sunday Series meeting on the 25th June

Richard: Winning the Raceday award for Racing for Everyone at the RCA Showcase

Caroline: Sitting next to Paul Hanagan at the Go Racing in Yorkshire Lunch

Alexia: Our trip to York Races!

All of us at Pontefract would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, all the best!

See you next year.

We will leave you with some festive clips to enjoy and a lovely picture of us enjoying a Christmas day out:

Facebook – A wonderful rendition of ‘I wish it could be Christmas Everyday’, you never know it could be the next Christmas Number 1

Our very own Christmas Carol has an absolute cracker of a joke – Our Christmas Carol – YouTube

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Blog – 12th December

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, who is writing todays blog,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Hello again! It’s Carol!

Now that the Racing Season is over, it’s time to start getting ready for next season. 

The first job is to get the Annual Badges underway. I have ordered the 2024 metal badges and they are due for delivery at the beginning of December.  We’ve got plenty of exchange days for next year too – I have just finalised these reciprocal dates where our Annual Badge Holders get to visit other Racecourses around the country (and in Ireland) on certain days. There’s a trip to see New Beginnings and a coffee morning at the Racecourse as well. All in all, being an Annual Badge Holder is great value for money.

In August I took part in a Zumbathon to raise money for Dementia UK.  Myself, my daughter Mollie and about 30 other people did 3 hours of non-stop Zumba and managed to raise over £1,500 for a very worthwhile charity. Looking into the charity, I wanted to see what more we could do at Pontefract and so, last week, I attended a course on Dementia Awareness for Sports Clubs & Venues. I would like to share a bit of what I learned with you and how we might implement some changes at Ponte.

I have to admit that I was a bit concerned about doing the course at first, especially when I can’t remember what I did yesterday or when I find myself staring into a cupboard when I’ve forgotten what I went into the cupboard for in the first place!!!

I soon learned that there is so much more to dementia than just memory loss. There are lots of other symptoms such as:-

  • Confusion and needing help with daily tasks
  • Disorientation
  • Problems with language and understanding making communication difficult
  • Difficulty thinking things through and planning
  • Difficulty with visual perception
  • Changes in behaviour

All of these symptoms can lead to frustration.

These are just a few symptoms and it is important to remember that everyone who has the illness is different and might suffer in different ways.

Some people who have been diagnosed with dementia do not want people to know.

The course I did was aimed at giving us a better understanding of the barriers that people with dementia face in their daily lives, especially when attending a sporting event.  It really made me think.

We listened in detail to a lovely gentleman called Nigel and his wife Sandra (who is his carer) who explained the difficulties they often come across when attending his favourite sporting events. 

He explained that one on the misconceptions about dementia is that most people think it is an old person’s illness.  He said that he is only 65 and that there are people younger than him who have also been diagnosed.  When I met Nigel, it wasn’t obvious that he had dementia so if he hadn’t told me, then I would never have known.

Nigel wanted to let us know about some of the issues that he regularly came up against when visiting Sports Venues. They were a real eye opener and things that I hadn’t necessarily considered :

  • On arrival, going through a turnstile can be busy and Nigel felt overwhelmed, especially when other people in the queue behind him were impatient as he struggled to communicate what it was he wanted.  This caused him to get frustrated and, occasionally, angry.
  • Everything about going out can be daunting for a person with dementia and it is important for us to be understanding of this.

I learnt of the importance communicating with a person who has been diagnosed with dementia, how to avoid jumping to conclusions about someone’s actions, and managing a conversation.  The importance of using body language in the correct way. 

I would like everyone to know that if you have been diagnosed with dementia or you are a carer for someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, please don’t let this put you off enjoying your day out at the Racecourse.  If you let us know in advance of your attendance, we will do our very best to ensure you have a day free from any stresses. 

We are a dementia friendly Racecourse.

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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!

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Blog – 10th 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,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard and,
  • Barney, Ruby, Toby, Daisy and Molly who are writing today’s blog!

In today’s blog we thought it was about time to introduce you to the true grafters in the office, the team that make Ponte so special, the ultimate back bone of the Racecourse – the office dogs!

We are lucky enough to have a team of five, four legged friends, with three permanent members of the team and two part timers who pop in to see us on a Friday.

First up we have Ruby. She has been part of the team for seven years and keeps all the boys in line! First and foremost, her role is predominantly being in charge of the kitchen. If there is any food consumption in the office, you can guarantee Ruby will be there to oversee it.

(Please don’t judge the contents of our fridge!)

Ruby has, in fact, added to her responsibilities and taken over a new role as reception watchdog, which she has stepped into really well. It’s great to see her positive attitude and dedication for the job. Ruby loves being in the office so much, that come the end of the day she refuses to leave her bed!

Ruby really is full of character and the office wouldn’t be the same without her.

Ruby’s two moods!

Next up we have Toby, aka Tony, who is very much in love with Ruby!

Our precious Toby has the important role of monitoring the printer, he deals mainly with scanning and photocopying.

Toby’s loves nothing more than chasing squirrels round the bins on his lunch break, but unfortunately he hasn’t figured out just yet that he will never be able to catch one!

Its fair to say Toby is a Prince, and he sure knows it!

Making up the full time trio is Barney who proves age is just a number!

Rocking those silks Barney!

When he isn’t chasing his dreams of becoming a jockey, Barney spends his time waiting for the postman to arrive at the end of the day and then informing us rather loudly that the postman has arrived.

Barney’s favourite thing in the world, like his mum, is sausage. His second favourite thing is attention. If Barney isn’t being hand fed sausage, he will scratch at anything and everything until he is! It has to be a sausage specifically as, like his mum, he’s a fussy eater! We love his persistence!

Now time to meet the part timers!

First up is Barney’s favourite Molly!

Molly definitely has the speed of a racehorse, but perhaps not the size. She does make a rather good jockey though!

Molly aka Houdini, is arguably the office flirt! It would be fair to say that you need to keep one eye on Molly at all times as she has become rather clever at stealing food right from under the nose of others and chewing whatever is in sight!

Last but by no means least is Daisy, the matriarch of the group!

A true Ponte girl!

While she may be in her later years, she still very much loves the buzz of the office and is always on the go, with a little guidance and support.

Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks!

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Blog – 27th October

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.

I have known the Racecourse all my life. My Grandfather and his brother-in-law took on the secretarial work for the Race Company in November 1937 (before I was born). My Father followed him and with a colleague from his professional firm, subsequently took on the management. 

I don’t know when I first set foot on the Racecourse, my earliest memory is my mother bringing my sister and I for tea in the Directors Dining Room. We would have been 5 or 6 years old. As a teenager I was sent down to the Racecourse during school holidays to pin up results from other meetings and results of photo finishes. I joined the management team in 1966 and have been part of it ever since.

The Racecourse was a very different place in those days. To start with most racegoers were male. Apart from my mother and any female friend she had invited, there were no women. Most of those who came, came by public transport, buses, or trains.

In many ways the Stands were very basic and although I never thought it at the time, would have been depressing by today’s standards. The floors downstairs were solid concrete and upstairs were bare floorboards. The Glasshoughton Coking Plant (where Xscape now is) was in full production.  External wood was re-painted each year but was flaking off by the end of summer. You hoped the wind was a south easterly because that wafted in the smell of Pontefract Cakes or Mint Imperials from the Liquorice Works instead of the smell of the coke ovens.

The racetrack was only railed in from the 1½ mile start to the finish, so if a horse unseated its rider, the horse could get out.  One ended up in Featherstone!

Staffing on race days was minimal.  One fellow Racecourse Manager once said you could run a racecourse like ours on a “shoestring”.  We did not need a Safety Officer, or security staff.  We did have two or three police officers but no more.

We only had one honorary Doctor and one honorary Vet, who were rewarded with a very good lunch and could bring their wives.  Contrast that with today’s contingent of two (or sometimes three) Doctors, two Paramedic Ambulances, a Nurse, and a Physio, two Vets and a Horse Ambulance, all fully paid.

We did have photo finish.  We were one of the first in the country to get one.  We also had camera patrol but it was recorded on film.  We employed a man on a motorbike to bring the film from the camera out “into the Country”.  That film and the one taken from the Stands then had to be developed and projected onto a screen in the Stewards Room.

Commentary to Betting Shops was via the “blower” service with a man on the Stands relaying the commentary by telephone (as in the Robert Redford film “The Sting”).

There was no CCTV.  No TV’s in betting shops or TV channels other than BBC or ITV, but even that was in black & white. 

In the past 50+ years, we have replaced all the old concrete posts and wooden rails round the racetrack with plastic, done a huge amount of drainage and sand slitting, doubled the Main Stand in size by building on at the rear, brought both Stands up to modern Standards.  Built the Dalby (Private Box) Stand and the Park Suite and completely revamped the Parade Ring.

My Mother would recognise where she was, but I think she would marvel at what we have done.  I hope so, and I hope you appreciate the improvements as well.

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Blog – 13th October

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 this blog

This time of year always brings a range of emotions as we start to bring the curtain down on the 2023 season. Depending on how successful the year has been often determines whether we’re ready to close the doors for another year, or whether we wish we could continue racing a little longer.

As we approach the end of another racing season, one question that we are asked a lot is ‘what do you do over the winter without racing’?

I think that there’s a general perception that Racecourses simply go into hibernation for the Winter but there’s an awful lot of work goes on behind the scenes for everyone on the course.

From the Groundstaff perspective, there’s the small matter of repairing the track following around 100-120 horses using the course on the last day. After that, it’s time to crack on with the list of repairs and renovations needed before the start of the 2024 season in April. A site this size ultimately has a fair amount of wear and tear through the course of each year and the groundsteam work tirelessly over the Winter to get everything looking spick and span. It’s a bit like the old analogy of painting the Forth Road Bridge – they start in the Picnic Enclosure and work through to the Premier, by which time, the Picnic is ready for more maintenance!

We also have the small matter of the Weighing Room refurbishment to contend with. At a cost of just under £¾ million, the Weighing Room will be completely stripped out, redesigned and renovated in line with the new British Horseracing Authority regulations. Much has been written about the costs associated with the re-designs but, whatever the thoughts of individual racecourses, our Weighing Room is desperately ready for the change and a big make over. We’re looking forward to providing a new, state of the art facility that is in keeping with the athletes who use it.

We also need to keep on top of providing outstanding facilities for our equine visitors and, during the Winter of 2023, we’ll be installing a new trot up area as well as renovating the Veterinary Treatment areas in the Stable Yard. 

Preparing for a new season from an administrative point of view is no mean feat. Budgeting, prize money planning, managing admission pricing, battling with proposed food and drink costs, planning innovative new days, booking musicians, creating marketing literature etc are all time consuming jobs. There’s a new office move to factor in and we mustn’t forget the conferences and Christmas parties as well!

Before we know it, it’ll be March 2024 and we’ll be on the usual last minute push to get everything finalised. Training new raceday staff, compiling risk assessments and staff instructions for every job you can imagine. And we’ll no doubt be applying a final lick of paint to the new Weighing Room when we open the doors on the 2nd April. 

Until then, we look forward to celebrating the end of what has been an outstanding season at Pontefract.

We’ll see you on the 23rd October.