It has been five months since the last action at Pontefract Racecourse, but the 2016 season is fast looming with the West Yorkshire track kicking off their 16-day campaign on Tuesday, April 5.
With prize money once again topping the £1 million mark, there promises to be another season of top class racing and fantastic entertainment.
At the annual press luncheon held yesterday, Norman Gundhill outlined exciting plans for the year ahead.
With admission prices to the Premier, Grandstand & Paddock and Silver Enclosure fixed for another year, there is a small increase for the price of a car to park in the Picnic Enclosure with a maximum of four adult occupants (now £15), although the price does include a racecard.
However, with the cost of a joint Annual Badge working out at under £8 a person a day for the whole season, the Loyalty Card scheme and the £2 Postcode Lottery promotion all in operation this season, there are plenty of bargains to be had.
On the track, the quality of the racing promises to be as good as ever with five listed races offering a combined total of £210,000 in prize money.
In 2015 David O’Meara continued his stranglehold of the Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes when Mondialiste followed up the success of his stable companion, Custom Cut, in 2014.
Mondialiste continued his impressive progression through the ranks when winning a Group 3 at York and a Grade 1 in Canada before finishing runner-up in the Breeders Cup Mile at Keeneland.
The totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes went to subsequent Group 2 winner Connecticut and the Weatherbys Pipalong Stakes went to subsequent Group 3 winner Nakuti.
Divine won the EBF Highfield Farm Flying Follies Stakes and ran some fantastic races in defeat throughout the rest of the campaign.
The two-year-old listed race run at the last meeting was won by Thanksfortellingme, who completed his two-year-old career unbeaten in three starts.
They were not the only equine stars seen at Ponte in 2015 as Right Touch (who famously went on to win at Ayr on ‘Touch’ Day), Dawn’s Early Light, Sixth Sense, Mayfair Lady, Penhill and Hernandoshideaway all appeared at the track during the year.
As well as favourites such as Red Shirt Night on Friday evening, July 15 (which again features a Yorkshire Beer festival) and Father’s Day Flat Cap and Whippet Family Day on Sunday, June 19 there are some new theme days to look forward to in 2016.
On Friday evening, May 27, Cheryl,Mike and Jay (formerly of Bucks Fizz) will be performing straight after the racing to complement the Racecourse 80s Night.
The Monday evening race meeting on June 6 has also received a complete facelift and will now be Rugby League Evening. Season ticket holders of Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, Wakefield Wildcats and Huddersfield Giants will get entry to the Grandstand & Paddock for just £5. There is also an opportunity to upgrade to a VIP package (for £40) with the chance to meet and greet the players.
Tuesday, July 5 becomes the Art of Racing Raceday with racegoers encouraged to try their hand at all things racing. From trying commentating to seeing the starts, picking the best turned out horse to tipping the winners. There is even the chance for budding jockeys to try out the equiciser.
There is also the 27th annual Northern Racing College Charity Day on Wednesday, April 27 and the Midsummer Tea Party Day on Monday, June 27 to look forward to.
In keeping with the strong family tradition, there are two more Family Sundays (the Go Racing in Yorkshire Festival Family Day on July 24 and the Flying Fillies Family Day on August 14).
The glitz and glamour of the ever popular Ladies Day hit the town on Wednesday, August 3 where the winner of the best dressed lady competition will walk away with an all inclusive trip for two to Mauritius courtesy of RIU Hotels and Resorts.
Regular racegoers will notice that the Paddock Lounge Bar has been revamped. Two of the outdoor kiosks have been incorporated in to the bar, giving a new raised seating area and a much lighter, sunnier aspect over the Betting Hall lawn and Parade Ring.
Annual Badge holders will also notice that their bar has undergone some work along with a range of new furniture added to the area.
The racecourse run a trip for 50 of their Annual Badge holders each year to visit a leading stable yard and on Monday, June 20 they will be bused out to Malton to see the yard of the course’s 2015 leading trainer, Richard Fahey.
With just over four weeks to the start of the racing year at Pontefract these are exciting times for the racecourse, which looks forward to welcoming punters, new and old, back for the 2016 season. Full details of all the Pontefract race meetings to be held this year can be found at www.pontefract-races.co.uk