There are no increases in admission prices for the fourth successive year at Pontefract races this season (writes Graham Orange).
The course’s 16-day season starts on Tuesday, April 8.
The cost of annual membership remains the same at £190 (single) and £255 (joint) for a campaign which will once again offer prize money in excess of £1 million.
This means that four of the five listed races during the season will continue to be worth £40,000 and the EBF Flying Fillies’ Stakes on Sunday, August 17, provides prize money of £50,000 as it continues to be the richest race of the programme.
The ‘loyalty card’ scheme will continue for a fourth year and will feature in the racecards during the first meetings of the season.
The scheme enables patrons who pay to enter the grandstand and paddock enclosure for six meetings and get the card stamped each time, free entry to another meeting of their choice later in the season.
The number and variety of inclusive ‘packages’ is maintained, while new for this year is the ‘Full Ponte’ package, which includes admission to the grandstand and paddock Enclosure, a pen, a bet, a placepot and jackpot form, sandwich, slice of cake and coffee, voucher for a pint of beer, lager or glass of wine, a racecard and a copy of the Racing Post – all for £24 inclusive of VAT.
Last year saw the overall attendance figure up by just over 10 per cent over the previous season, while gate receipts rose by over seven per cent.
Once again, there are several ‘themed’ racedays, starting with the 25th annual Northern Racing College Day (Wednesday, April 30) and followed by a new 80’s Night’ (Friday evening, May 23).
All things local will be celebrated on ‘West Yorkshire Festival Night’ (Monday evening, June 9); ‘Midsummer Tea Party Day’ (Tuesday, July 8); ‘Red Shirt Night’ – incorporating a Beer Festival – and celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Injured Jockeys’ Fund (Friday evening, July 18) and ‘Ladies Day’ (Wednesday, August 6).
The trio of Sunday fixtures (June 22, July 27 and August 17) 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.
All of these days have pre-booked special offers and packages regarding discounts on combinations of entrance, food and drink.
The racing programme once again features five established listed races - the totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes (Sunday, June 22), the Weatherbys VAT Services Pipalong Stakes (Tuesday, July 8), the Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes (Sunday, July 27), the EBF Flying Fillies’ Stakes (Sunday, August 17) and the totepool.com Silver Tankard Stakes on the final day of the season, Monday, October 20.
The Pontefract Stayers’ Championship, which incorporates all eight races for stayers during the season (i.e. races of at least two miles) continues for the eleventh year.
Riptide - trained in Herefordshire by Michael Scudamore - took the honours last year.
A points system operates throughout the competition, based on placings obtained during the season. 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.
Notable horses to win at Pontefract last year include Brown Panther (owned by former England footballer, Michael Owen), the winner of the totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes for a second successive year, who went on to win the group two Goodwood Cup and finish eighth in the Emirates Melbourne Cup - Australia’s most famous race.
Libertarian won the High-Rise Maiden Stakes in April, before landing the group two Dante Stakes at York and finishing runner-up in the Derby and fourth in the St Leger.
Fireship won the Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes in July and went on to group three success at Deauville in France.
Gifted Girl lived up to her name when winning the Weatherby VAT Services Pipalong Stakes and then was second in the famous grade one Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park, Chicago.
Artistic Jewel was runner-up in a group three race at the Curragh after being successful in the EBF Highfield Farm Flying Fillies’ Stakes in August.
Elidor – third to Libertarian in April - went on to win the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot.
York Glory and Galician - first and second in a valuable handicap contest in April -went on to win the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the International Handicap at Ascot respectively.
Peniaphobia won a race for maidens on his debut in the early part of the season prior to landing the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury.
Remote ran in another race for maidens on the same day before winning a group three race at Royal Ascot.
Treaty Of Paris prevailed in a race for maidens in July before being successful in the group three Acomb Stakes at York.
Lady Heidi took the EBF totepool Silver Tankard Stakes in October and the filly has an entry in this season’s group one Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July.
Silvestre de Sousa was Pontefract’s leading rider last season with 13 winners, while Malton-based Richard Fahey was once again the course’s top trainer, this time with ten winners.
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.
Several projects have been completed or are underway, including the horsewalk from the stables to the racecourse, which has been upgraded at a cost of £43,000.
A new totepool and Betfred betting hall is being constructed, costing £360,000. This imposing building includes an impressive concourse and will greatly add to the racegoing experience.
Also, work is underway to replace the old owners and trainers entrance adjoining the winning post with a new facility at a projected cost of £48,000.