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Blog 21st April

This week we have a blog to bring you from the team at Experience Wakefield

Explore Historic Pontefract

Pontefract is a charming historic market town, home to the picturesque ruins of one of England’s most important castles and, of course, Europe’s longest continuous flat racing circuit (ahem, you may already be aware of that one!). If you’re planning a trip to the races, you may want to stay a little while longer and explore some of the remarkable things to see and do in Pontefract.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Farmer Copleys

A short drive from Pontefract Racecourse you’ll find Farmer Copleys, an award-winning farm shop and café that is definitely worth a visit. Experience field to fork goodness in the Moo Café and stock up on locally produced goodies in the well-stocked farm shop. Look out for special seasonal events such as the Strawberry Experience, Craft and Artisan Markets and Barn Dances to the magnificent annual Pumpkin Festival.

Pontefract Castle

From its construction in 1070 to its demise following the Civil Wars, this once fearsome fortress earned itself the name ‘Key to the North’ thanks to its strategic position and importance in Yorkshire and beyond. Today, the castle is a place of family friendly adventure with historic ruins and dark dungeons to explore as well as magnificent views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the Keep. Don’t forget to pop into the Castle Coffee Shop for coffee and a light bite or a souvenir from the gift shop – the traditional Pontefract Cake is a firm favourite!

Pontefract Museum

The beautiful Art Nouveau museum is home to a world of discovery, where liquorice and voting collide, and fascinating exhibitions celebrate the captivating stories of Pontefract, its people, and the history of its once mighty castle. Highlights include: The Ackworth Hoard (made up of 52 gold coins, 539 silver coins and a gold ring, all dating from the Civil War) and The Pontefract Gallery, which boasts the world’s first secret ballot box and a unique display of objects related to the town’s historic link with liquorice.

Shop till you drop in Pontefract town centre

Pontefract has a colourful marketplace, chock full of outstanding examples of Georgian architecture and winding medieval ginnels. Home to a superb indoor and outdoor market that sells anything from the best quality local produce to the latest fashion and vinyl, you’ll also find a delightful range of independent boutiques dotted around the town centre. A must see is the Magistrate’s Market, a treasure trove for antique and vintage shoppers selling mid-century modern furniture, vintage clothes, local Bagley’s glassware and classic Americana, there’s something for everyone. Head upstairs to Forever After – a collective of local creatives selling an eclectic range of hand-crafted gifts.

Friarwood Valley Gardens

If the marketplace is a little busy for your taste and you’re looking for a peaceful haven, take a short walk down to Friarwood Valley Gardens, a site originally associated with the town’s medieval monastery. Nowadays the gardens feature stunning blossoms, a rose garden and historic pinhole camera. Look out for special events held at Friarwood Valley Gardens throughout the year.

Relax and refuel

After all of that exploring you may be ready to take the load off your feet and in need of some light refreshment. You are guaranteed a warm Yorkshire welcome at any of the town’s delectable food and drink venues, whether it’s a delicious afternoon tea in a quirky café, a classic cocktail in one the local heritage bars or a pint of locally brewed ale in a cosy pub. You’ll find plenty to choose from!

As well as interesting places to visit, Pontefract plays host to a year long programme of exciting festivals and events, here are a few coming up over the next few weeks:

King’s Coronation Weekend at Pontefract Castle

Saturday 6 & Sunday 7 May

Visit Pontefract Castle on Saturday 6 May for a live screening of the King’s Coronation before celebrating in style on Sunday 7 May at A Right Royal Day Out. Expect a full day of family fun including free entertainment, craft workshops, walkabout entertainers and the live screening of the Coronation Concert.

WheelFest 2023 at Pontefract Town Centre

Saturday 10 June

A car meeting with a difference, including anything with a wheel: from vintage, classic and American vehicles to bikes, scooters, and even a model railway! The event run by Pontefract Civic Society, will feature an entertainment stage, craft fair, children’s activities, scavenger hunt, workshops, face painting and more!

Wakefield Armed Forces Day at Pontefract Park

Saturday 17 June

Wakefield Armed Forces Day is an action-packed day of celebration to say a big thank you to our military personnel and their families, along with Veterans and Cadet Forces.

This hugely popular, free event takes place in the beautiful grounds of Pontefract Park and Race Course. Expect military vehicles and displays, live music, children’s rides and activities, craft market, street food and a special Battle of Britain Memorial Flight fly-past.

Pontefract Liquorice Festival at Pontefract Town Centre

Sunday 9 July

Visitors come from far and wide to visit Pontefract Liquorice Festival. A sweet-themed celebration of the town’s liquorice heritage which centres on a colourful market selling tasty treats to tempt the taste buds, quirky gifts and homeware that you just won’t find anywhere else. Explore the market whilst listening to live music from talented local musicians, enjoy fun family activities, live street entertainment and make your way around the liquorice food and drink trail to try out the liquorice creations offered in local cafés and bars. If you’re here for the full weekend, be sure to visit the warmup event for the festival Liquorice Shoots on Saturday 8 July. This fun family day out features an artisan market, dog show, scavenger hunt, face painting, community art trail, food stalls and more.

For more ideas of things to see and do in Pontefract and the wider Wakefield district visit www.experiencewakefield.co.uk or better still, be the first to find out What’s On by signing up to our monthly newsletter expwake.co/enews

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Blog 8th April

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 lead up to the first race meeting of the year is always a hectic time. But being busy brings out the best in the team at Ponte and I couldn’t be prouder of the way that the whole team has knuckled down to get everything done and the place looking ship shape for the new season.

It’s a credit to the team just how much they’ve done in the last two weeks. Tackling decorating schemes in the toilets and finishing off improvement works to all the facilities for those with special accessibility requirements has taken a herculean effort but everything looks great ahead of racing on the 11th April.

The works to the accessible viewing areas and toilets has all been done in house by the Groundstaff team. Jacob and Mandy from Live Tourism carried out an assessment on the Racecourse at the end of 2022 and gave us so many ideas as to how we could make big improvements with some small steps. We’ve revamped all the accessible toilet areas, painting walls and grab rails in contrasting colours, installing mirrors, privacy areas and new RADAR keys. The viewing areas have all been enlarged, concreted and the access to them has been upgraded.

Accessible Viewing Areas

We’ve also installed Hearing Loops in a number of areas and, with the help of Go Racing in Yorkshire installed sunflower benches in quiet spots around the Racecourse to enable those who need a little bit of peace and quiet, to have the space they require.  

Sunflower Benches

We’re not the biggest Racecourse in the country, we don’t have the biggest team and we certainly don’t have the biggest budgets. But we have success. And the reason we have that is the sense of belonging, the camaraderie and the desire to get things done. A sense of pride and the will to succeed.

As everyone enjoys the long Bank Holiday, we’d like to give a massive shout out to Racing Staff from every corner of the industry up and down the country who work such unsociable hours: early mornings, late nights, Bank Holidays and weekends – they’re all the same. There’s a great support network via Racing Welfare .

There are times when it feels like the job takes over. And that’s when you need your racing family – it’s a tight bond but it means that we have a great sport.

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Blog #GroundsWeek

24th March

This weeks blog is brought to you courtesy of the Racecourse Association, who kindly wrote a piece on our grounds team to highlight the hard work they carry out all year round as part of the Grounds Management Association #GroundsWeek campaign!

#GroundsWeek2023 – Turf and More at Pontefract Racecourse

The Racecourse Association (RCA) is proud to once again be joining the Grounds Management Association (GMA) to celebrate #GroundsWeek, a campaign dedicated to recognising the hard work and commitment of grounds teams across the country.

As part of #GroundsWeek Richard Hammill, Chief Operating Officer and Clerk of the Course at Pontefract Racecourse, discusses how the grounds team have come together to tackle more than just turf in the run up to their 2023 season opener on Tuesday 11th April.

“We have always had a strong sense of togetherness and local pride amongst the team at Pontefract. The office staff are always happy to pitch in and get involved on racedays and this sense of responsibility and ownership is something we wanted to extend to our ground staff too.

“In 2022 we hosted the RCA Showcase & Awards. To host a major industry awards was a significant undertaking for us and required a complete transformation of the site, including a marquee build on the track itself! Our hard-working grounds team played a vital role in this process and we wanted them to continue to get involved across the wider site as we prepared to welcome racegoers in 2023.

“Naturally, turf management is at the heart of what our ground staff do. Pontefract is the longest continuous flat racing circuit in Europe so there is plenty of turf for the team to manage! After our season closer we always welcome national hunt gallopers to the track, with so many horses working on the racecourse the grounds team have to put in some intensive work to get it back in order and ready for racing.

Taking Ownership of the Wider Site

“Away from the track we’ve been implementing a number of improvements and upgrades ahead of our opening fixture and we were keen for our grounds team to take ownership of some of these projects. A big focus for us has been improving the on-course experience for racegoers with access requirements. In 2022 one of our racedays was assessed from an accessibility perspective as part of the RCA Access Project. A trained assessor, with lived experience of disability, attended one of our fixtures and created a report with feedback on what we were doing well and where we could improve things. As a result of this report our grounds team have transformed our accessible viewing platforms, making them bigger and laying hardstanding paths to remove the need for racegoers using wheelchairs to traverse across grass. They have also refurbished all of our accessible toilets, adding in colour contrasting facilities, new mirrors and shelves so the toilets meet the requirements of more racegoers. “

Laying the foundations for the new accessible viewing platform.

The Head Groundsman, Martin Follows, has been with the Racecourse since 1990 and he oversaw the work to the accessible viewing areas, carrying out the work to ensure that the new platforms blended in seamlessly with the existing Pontefract grounds. Other members of his team, including father and son Rob and Tom Pemberton, undertook the improvements to the accessible toilets.

Martin said: “It’s great to be able to work on a different aspect of the Racecourse Enclosures and the team were all excited to be able to play such an integral role in improving the facilities for those racegoers with special access needs. It goes to show that no two days are really the same at Pontefract and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been here for more than 30 years.”

With a brilliantly maintained racing surface, record prize money in excess of £1.45 million and upgraded facilities across the course it’s safe to say that Pontefract Racecourse is the place to be for horses, owners, trainers and racegoers alike this season, thanks in part to the hard work and dedication of the grounds team.

You can find out more about the GMA’s #GroundsWeek here, and you can book your tickets to Pontefract here.

About #GroundsWeek

#GroundsWeek is an interactive campaign run by the Grounds Management Association (GMA) and is built on the involvement of the groundscare community – with support from the community and our sponsors, which are listed below, we will be putting our sector in the spotlight once again and celebrating the impact of groundscare on sport and green spaces. 

In 2023 the week runs from Monday 20th March—Sunday 26th March. Throughout the week the RCA is exploring the art of racecourse grounds management, highlighting examples from across the sport and sharing case studies of industry personnel.

About the Racecourse Association

The Racecourse Association (RCA), formed in 1907, is the trade association for British racecourses. 59 racecourses are members and have equal voting rights.

The RCA has owned RaceTech since March 1998. The RCA serves the interests of its 59 British racecourse members both inside and outside the sport, empowering them to be the best venues that they can be.

The RCA works on behalf of racecourses to represent their views within the sport through the tripartite structure of the Members’ Agreement alongside BHA and The Horsemen’s Group. Outside of horseracing, the RCA works alongside the Government, other sports and leisure venues, and national charities to meet the needs of racecourses.

Additionally, the RCA encourages and facilitates racecourse community engagement, involvement in horse welfare initiatives, responsible drinking campaigns, and various other partnerships within the sport. The Showcase & Awards, the marquee event of British Racecourses to celebrate and reward excellence and innovation, is hosted by the RCA annually in November.

www.racecourseassociation.co.uk

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Blog – Friday 3rd March

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)

It’s been a busy but rewarding week at Ponte Towers.

We view Staff Training as one of the most essential parts of our business and we spent much of Wednesday briefing existing, and new, raceday staff ahead of the start of the 2023 racing season.

For a Racecourse, the team of casual raceday staff can often be the first part of the racegoer journey on a day at the races and so it is imperative that the customer facing team know and understand both the layout of the Racecourse AND the brand and the core values of what Pontefract stand for. We want them to embrace the true Yorkshire spirit that the Racecourse embodies and exude Yorkshire hospitality from the moment that customers arrive.

We want our Staff to feel valued and a full part of the Pontefract family. We want them to know how we’ve responded to their feedback from last season, what improvements we’ve made to make their roles easier as well as keep them up to date with the latest health and safety guidance and ‘hot topics’ that they may need to address.

Inspection reports from the like of AA , Visit England and Live Tourism form a vital part of our Staff training and help us to build a better team to ensure that we can offer the best possible service to our racegoers.

No good staff training day is complete without a tour of the Racecourse to maximise orientation knowledge but by far the most important part is a good catch with their friends and colleagues over a big lunch – thanks to Jo and Andy at Huggamug for providing an incredible spread!

From Staff Training on Wednesday to our ‘Welcome to 2023’ Pre Season Launch on Thursday – no rest for the wicked.

There was an extensive guest list with invitees from across the industry (ROA, PJA, owners, trainers, sponsors, Press) and it was great to see such a brilliant turnout to learn about some of the fantastic events we have in store in 2023.

We also handed out a few very special awards for the first time too. Most people know that we like to do things the ‘Ponte’ way and so there was never going to be recognition of those who receive it regularly. Instead, we wanted to highlight some of our true Ponte heroes and Flint Hill , Round The Island, Corinthia Knight and Mr Orange were very worthy recipients. While the last named is enjoying a long and happy retirement, the first three will reportedly be back in action in April at Ponte. We shouldn’t have favourites, but we’ll definitely be cheering them on!  

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Blog – 17th 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, who is writing todays blog,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Meet Nicola – 3rd February 2023

Hello my name is Nicola.

I started work at the Racecourse in May 1994 – I know – I don’t look old enough!  I had 2 interviews in one week – one for Pontefract Racecourse and the other for British Airways cabin crew – and here I am (sorry BA)!

The Racecourse team was considerably smaller in 1994 and there were only three of us to run the administration including Mr Gundill!  It had its advantages though and I was able to learn every aspect of the administration of the Racecourse. 

As the Racecourse Stands and facilities grew over the years, we employed more staff and I was appointed as the Accounts Manager in September 2011.

I have always lived in and around Doncaster.  I have 2 children, Oliver 21, Lucy 18 and a 6 year old Beagle called Ruby! They all keep me on my toes! Ruby comes to work with me every day and she is one of the much loved office dogs we have here.

I have always loved animals from a very young age, especially horses.  At age 11 I was lucky enough to own my own horse called Merrylegs.  Due to time and money constraints unfortunately I don’t have my own horse anymore but I have carried on riding and have taken my daughter for lessons since she was 8 years old.  It would be my dream come true to ride around the track here at Pontefract – so if anyone can make that happen I’ll dust off my jodhpurs!

Through my time at Pontefract, I’ve grown to love racing and, when I get the time, I love a day at the races in Yorkshire – the office day out to York Races (link to https://www.yorkracecourse.co.uk/ ) is always memorable! I love a flutter and can occasionally be found at the casino as well.

We have a great team here at the Racecourse and I really enjoy working with them.  A normal working day for me consists of inputting invoices, making payments (I don’t like this part much), reconciling bank accounts, processing payroll, answering telephone queries and lots of calculator tapping. It all sounds very boring but I enjoy it!  Racedays are, however, very different and hectic for us all and it’s all hands on deck and you have to be able to turn your attention to any issue at short notice! You will usually find me based in the Raceday office, adding up, or answering the phone or helping out with customers.  But occasionally if short staffed or exceptionally busy you might see me operating a turnstile!  Come and say hello if you see me dashing by! 😊

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Blog – 3rd February

Welcome to the first blog of February 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.

Meet Carol – 3rd February 2023

Hi, I’m Carol.  I was born and raised in Liverpool.  I moved over to Yorkshire in 1996 when I got married (and since divorced) but often get back to the other side of the Pennines!

I have 2 daughters.  Sadly my eldest daughter passed away 8 years ago when she was 15 and I now live in Whitley Bridge with my youngest daughter.

I have worked at Pontefract Racecourse for 24 years – I was obviously very young when I started!  I was taken on in a part time capacity to help out with Mr Gundill’s typing and other administrative duties.  This was when we had just one computer, one phone line and the only way anyone could buy tickets was by cash or cheque. Even at Pontefract times have really changed since then!!! (I’m showing my age).

My job now is Administration Manager and you will find me in the Raceday Office with a big smile on my face (most of the time).  My main duties are employing Raceday Staff, looking after our Annual Badge Holders, making arrangements for Owners & Trainers, taking bookings for the Restaurant and anything else that is thrown my way. Racedays are always busy and definitely keep me on my toes!

I love my job and it’s a great team that I work with.

Despite working at a Racecourse, I’m not really into racing but a few years ago I did a series of posts on social media called “Carol’s Big Tips” ! It definitely caught the imagination of the racegoers! However, in 5 years, I only ever chose one winner – Frankie Dettori and Mince – but it was favourite! Racegoers definitely didn’t get rich through my selections!

In my spare time I volunteer for Samaritans.  I answer calls from people who are struggling to cope with life.  I find it very rewarding being there to give emotional support to people who are going through difficult times.

I also volunteer with Age UK in a befriending role.  I chat to elderly people who may be isolated or lonely and don’t have anyone else for company.

So if you see me at the Racecourse on a raceday, come and say hello!

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Blog – 19th January

Welcome to the fourth 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, and is writing todays blog,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Caroline’s first blog – 19th January 2023

Hi, I’m Caroline. I was born and raised in Castleford and moved to Normanton (where we still live) with my husband, Duncan, in 1998. Our son, Joshua, came along the following year.

I have worked at Pontefract Racecourse since February 2015. I work on reception, assist Mr Gundill with all his administration work as well as dealing with Private Hospitality bookings – you might say that I’m a bit of a jack of all trades really!

I was a very late starter to horseracing – other than watching the Grand National each year.  My first experience of a day out at the races was on a Sunday in July 2009 here at good old Ponte!!! We had been invited to attend a meeting (which included a memorial race for my late uncle) in the Private Hospitality boxes and had a fabulous family day out!

Well, from that point on, I was hooked and horseracing became a hobby of mine. Thankfully my dad also had an interest so I would often take him along to the races too. I then went on to organise our annual family day out at Ponte, usually at the June Sunday meeting, and we came for the next few years. I would arrive as early as possible to make the most of the day, and I never wanted to leave. I remember thinking to myself I’d love to work here…. it would be my dream job! So, when the opportunity arose, I went for it.

When I first started I worked solely for Mr Gundill but after a few years I was asked if I would like to get involved with the hospitality side of the business. I jumped at the chance because I knew what a fabulous day out it was for people. I hope that I could add my experience and make our customer’s day just that little bit more special. And I would like to think that that is what I have done.

On racedays you will find me initially in the Dalby Stand reception area, but after that, it’s all hands to the deck so I could end up anywhere doing any job.

I think most people think we have six months off after our last race in October but there is certainly a lot more to working at a racecourse than just the 16 meetings we have each year. I love my job (and the location), I work with some wonderful people and I’m looking forward to the start of the 2023 racing season – especially if I get to see my hero, Paul Hanagan, a bit more!

See you in a couple of weeks with another post!

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Blog – 6th January 2023

We hope you all had a lovely Christmas and wish you a very Happy New Year!

Welcome to the third 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 this blog, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard.

Alexia’s first blog – 6th January 2023

It may be best to start with who I am! I started working at Pontefract Racecourse in July last year, after moving back to Leeds from Cheshire. I studied Law for three years at university here, so its always felt like a second home. After graduating university in 2021 I moved back home and pondered on what I was to do next after deciding a legal career wasn’t perhaps the best path for me.

I had to think about what it was I was interested in, and that was racing! Having spent the last three or four years working within the gaming industry and being brought up around the sport, the world of racing seemed like a good option to me.

I got into racing through my dad who has worked in this field for as long as I can remember, and I have been fortunate enough to grow up around horses, pictured below is my beloved Vinnie.

Vinnie came to us after retiring from racing when he was seven.

Vinnie’s racing career lasted five years, during that time he got a couple of wins to his name and even ran in the Queens Vase at Ascot in 2009! Clowance House, as he was known on the track, was a son of Galileo, he started out on the flat with Roger Charlton before he had a change of turf and finished his career over fences.

So, I’d decided a career in racing would work for me, but not wanting to go down the riding route I wondered what could I do within the sport, how could I apply what I had learnt at university to horseracing?

Like many wanting to pursue a non-yard based career within the sport it can be a struggle to find a role that works for you, there are so many different jobs within horseracing, but sometimes it can be difficult to get your foot in the door and gain experience.

After daily checks on the careers in racing website, I found the Racing Media Academy (RMA), a week course down in Newmarket at the British Racing School followed by a six-week work placement with one of racing’s leading media organisations, with the hope that it would open doors and help me find a job.

We were the first cohort of students to undertake the RMA, a career pathway created by broadcaster Josh Apiafi and his team to increase equality, diversity and inclusion into the sport. During our training week we met the likes of Clare Balding, Mike Cattermole, Lydia Hislop, to name just a few, who taught us all about the racing media!

I then moved down to London to work for JSC Communications, a sports PR firm specialising in horseracing, during my time there I was fortunate enough to work with the team at Epsom on the Derby and helped with the team at Royal Ascot.

It was an incredible experience, and myself and those on the course were very lucky to be the first ten graduates and are proud to be ambassadors for the Racing Media Academy.

From there I moved back home to Cheshire and I applied for the job here at Pontefract and luckily, Richard and Mr Gundill were kind enough to offer me the job! So, I packed my bags and moved back to West Yorkshire, and now here I am at Ponte Carlo!

On a raceday you will more than likely find me wandering around the racecourse with a camera in hand trying to snap some pictures and get content out onto our social media channels (please follow them!) Or having a chat with Richard in the Parade Ring!

I have really enjoyed my first 6 months here at the Racecourse and am looking forward the to start of the 2023 season.

Please feel free to come and say hello on a raceday if you see me 🙂

We will be back with another post in two weeks, see you then!

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Blog – 22nd December

Welcome to the second 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.

Value on Racecourses – 22 December 2022

Much has been published about pricing at British Racecourses: from the cost of entry, to the cost of food and drink once you’re inside the course – indeed, the Racing Post published their Racecourse Prices Index with visits around the courses undertaken in 2022.

The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ is an overused phrase but is a very real concept and it has been looming large on the horizon for a few months now. It’s something that we’re painfully aware of – from a business perspective, from a personal perspective and from the point of view of our customers.

So how do we address it? How do we keep racing as cost effective as possible, offering genuine value, while still managing the increasing tariffs that are being directed towards us? 

It’s a fine balance. We hope we’re on the right lines but, as 2023 dawns, we’ll need to keep an eye on how the year progresses.

We want everyone to feel they are getting value:

  1. We recognise the different costs in staging race meetings.
    A midweek Tuesday afternoon does not cost as much to stage as, for example, a Friday evening or a Sunday when there are additional considerations and attractions.
    So we’ve introduced differential costs.
    This means that over 80% of the race meetings in 2023 will cost less, or the same, than in 2022.

2. We put on great early bird offers.
I’ve not been to as many Two Circles workshops as I have without learning the mantra that the best price should be the first price – ‘The earlier you book, the cheaper it is!’

And it works! Start the sales curve early! The customer saves and we get income at a time of year when we would not normally have any, helping us to spread the annual costs.

3. We offer value packages.
We’ve teamed up with our catering partner to offer what we think are some great packages. We’ve got a new offering which I think gives exceptional value.
We also got the opportunity to make a fun video advert to sit alongside the promotion which is always an added bonus!
It’s really important to us to have a ‘Yorkshire’ voice in everything we do. Did someone say Flat Caps and Whippets? Of course…

The True Yorkshireman

4. Give back to the regulars
It sounds like a clichéd line, but we are incredibly grateful for those who choose to spend their hard earned cash at Ponte and so there’s a loyalty card, concessions for students and OAPs as well as free entry for different customer groups on a variety of days.  

Racecourse caterers come in for a fair amount of stick and, to be honest, they are fighting a losing battle most of the time. Rising staff costs, staff shortages, brewery increases, rising food prices – who’d be a caterer?

We had the first of our pricing meetings for 2023 last week. They’re long, involved, difficult meetings and it can be a battle.

Customers often tell us they can get their pint at ‘their local’ much cheaper. And it’s true – they absolutely can. What is sometimes overlooked is that ‘their local’ doesn’t move the travelling catering circus in and out for just 16 times a year – they operate 365 days a year – and the costs of set up and clearing up are huge.

It’s not that I’m trying to defend them – some of the prices that are put forward at early meetings are over the top. We take quite a unique viewpoint in that we subsidise some items so that the entry level price to the customer is fair.  It’s important to try and wear the customer’s shoes and think about times when you’ve felt taken advantage of as a customer and avoid that at all costs.

Anyway, speaking of food and drink, it’s Christmas! So, to end, here’s our glorious Carol to set the Christmas mood.

Have a great Christmas and New Year and we’ll see you on the other side when Alexia will be writing her first blog!


 

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Blog – 9 December 2022


Welcome to the first official blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!). Firstly, let me introduce the Admin team:

  • 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 the first blog.

Ponte Pride – 9 December 2022

A long time ago, back in November 2019, in a world before Covid was even a thing, the team at Ponte were incredibly honoured to be crowned the Champion Racecourse at the Racecourse Association Showcase Awards hosted by the reigning champions, Hamilton.

For obvious reasons, we’ve not been able to host the event since until our chance finally came round on 10th November this year.

With around 250 delegates due to be in attendance, we set to creating a Showcase Event that was truly befitting of Ponte, making sure that the gathered masses, many of whom had not been to Pontefract before, were truly welcomed into our racing world with our brand and Yorkshire heritage dominant in every aspect of the event.

For those that have not been to Ponte before, the logistics of organising an event for 250 people on the site are challenging to say the least. We do not have a conference or restaurant facility large enough to seat this size of party , and, with the majority of the site on a pronounced slope, options for a marquee were limited. The only way round the problems was to site a marquee on the track itself, just beyond the winning post. But with no services close by, we had to arrange gas, electric and water as well.

What seemed like a great idea in November ’19, suddenly seemed to be something of a mission impossible.

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The marquee build took two weeks

But we don’t like to be beaten and the team pulled together in the most incredible way. The marquee company, our catering team, our fantastic groundstaff, the office team and the wonderful marketing team from the RCA left no stone unturned.

Marquees were put up, walkways were covered, red carpet was laid, walls and woodwork were repainted, lawns were manicured, bathrooms were given a makeover and 250 Yorkshire goodie bags were packed. I cannot begin to tell you how immensely proud I was of the whole team of pulling off such an impressive and seamless event.

The Yorkshire Goodie Bags
The last minute toilet refurb
We’re ready!

As is often the case, beneath the elegant exterior of the graceful swan, there was a whole lot going on under the surface to ensure that everything went smoothly. The delegates didn’t see that the generator failed straight after the seminar section of the afternoon meaning our electrician was poised by a replacement generator for 4 hours solid! They didn’t see the industrial heater breakdown meaning one of the team needed to re-set it every 4 or 5 minutes. They didn’t see the aftermath the morning after. But that is what makes an event great I guess – a brilliant team, pulling together to ensure that the customer has a great experience.

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The office and groundstaff teams

To win two awards on the night was absolutely the icing on the cake – the Marketing Award for our ‘Silver Surfers and OAP Free Day’ Campaign and the Food & Beverage Award for our amazing on site café, Huggamug.

The team collecting an award

The event gave us two weeks of apprehension and, at times, terror, but was one of the most brilliant nights we’ve had. All down to teamwork and hard graft.

All the best to the new Showcase Champions, Aintree. We can’t wait to celebrate with you in 2023!