PONTEFRACT Racecourse is looking to build on a successful 2011 when attendances were up by 3.1 per cent.
The 2012 season, which was officially launched yesterday, begins on Tuesday, April 10 and will see a 16-day campaign concluding on Monday, October 22 with no increase in admission prices.
A new innovation this year is the ‘Pontefract’s Got Talent’ Night after racing on Friday evening, June 1. Racegoers can register on firstname.lastname@example.org and if they impress the panel of special judges, they will win a hospitality box for their friends and family and an entry in ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ with a chance to meet Simon Cowell.
The number and variety of package deals for racegoers increases this year, with new additions being the ‘Picnic Package’ every day (incorporating one for under 18s) and a Ladies’ Day Premier Package on Wednesday, August 8. Annual Membership remains at £190 (single) and £255 (joint).
For the second year, a ‘Loyalty Card’ will be in the racecard during the first meetings of the season. This scheme enables patrons who pay to enter the Grandstand & Paddock enclosure for six meetings and get the card stamped each time free entry to another meeting of their choice in 2012.
Overall prize money is set to rise to just over £800,000 – an increase in excess of nine per cent.
Once again, there are several ‘themed’ racedays, starting with the 23rd annual Northern Racing College Day (Wednesday, May 2) and followed by the inaugural ‘Pontefract’s Got Talent’ Night (Friday evening, June 1); Radio Aire ‘Singles Night’ (Monday evening, June 11); ‘Red Shirt Night’ (Friday evening, July 20) and ‘Ladies Day’ (Wednesday, August 8). The trio of Sunday fixtures (June 24, July 29 & August 19) continues to have strong family themes. Information packs for young racegoers and paddock commentaries will all be added to the usual family attractions on the three Sunday fixtures.
The racing programme once again features five established Listed races - The totesport.com Pontefract Castle Stakes (Sunday, June 24), The Weatherbys Bank Pipalong Stakes (Tuesday, July 10), The Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes (Sunday, July 29), The EBF Flying Fillies’ Stakes (Sunday, August 19) and The totesport.com Silver Tankard Stakes on the final day of the season, Monday, October 22.
The Pontefract Stayers’ Championship, which incorporates all eight races of at least two miles during the season continues for the ninth year. Descaro, trained in North Yorkshire by David O’Meara took the honours last year. A points system operates throughout the competition, based on placings obtained during the year. The owner, trainer and stable staff of the horse accumulating the most number of points each receive a memento and £1,000 presented on the final day of the season in October.
Top horses to shine at Pontefract last year include Caspar Netscher, runner-up in the Youngsters Conditions Stakes in May, who went on to land the Gimcrack Stakes at York and the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury (both Group 2 races). The colt ran well in a couple of Group 1 races to end the season – The Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Trained in Nottinghamshire by Alan McCabe, Caspar Netscher is due to begin his three-year-old career in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury in April. The third horse in the Youngsters Conditions Stakes, Red Duke, also won in Group 2 company (the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket), while Red Cadeaux was beaten by a nose in the closest-ever finish to Australia’s most famous race, The Melbourne Cup in November, after competing in the totesport.com Pontefract Castle Stakes in June.
Last year saw Mr Wolf compete in his 31st race at Pontefract.
Silvestre de Sousa (who was runner-up in the Jockeys’ Championship to fellow North Yorkshire-based rider, Paul Hanagan) was Pontefract’s leading rider with 17 winners, while Middleham-based Mark Johnston was the course’s top trainer with nine winners. Both competitions are supported by ‘In The Frame’, Pontefract’s trophy supplier.
The giant screen will be at every meeting providing racegoers with an even better view of the action on the track, along with racing from the ‘away’ meetings. There will be an extra screen at the three Sunday fixtures and the trio of evening meetings, as well as on Ladies Day to show the Olympic Games.