New race season starts with Tuesday meeting

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PONTEFRACT’S 16-day flat racing season starts on Tuesday, April 5.

There is a slight rise in admission prices because of the increase in VAT and the need to up contributions towards prize money.

Admission prices for this year are premier enclosure (£21), grandstand and paddock (£14), silver ring enclosure (£7) and picnic enclosure (£5 or £12 per car upto four occupants). Annual membership is now £190 (single) and £255 (joint).

There’s no increase for advance bookings into the grandstand and paddock while a new ‘loyalty card’ will be in the racecard for the first four meetings of the season. This scheme enables patrons who pay to enter this enclosure for six meetings and get the card stamped each time free entry to another meeting of their choice in 2011.

The age at which accompanied youngsters are admitted free of charge has risen from 16 to 18 at all meetings. Another new innovation includes the production of a first time racegoers guide and a children’s guide. Also, a cash machine (ATM) will be sited in the foyer of the raceday office.

Despite reductions in overall prize money, due to lower contributions by the Levy Board, the principal race at each meeting will continue to be worth at least £10,000 with no race run at less than £3,550 in prize money.

A quintet of class five races will have their value increased as a result of a contribution from Betfair, as part the betting exchange’s overall contribution to Yorkshire racing.

Once again, there are several ‘themed’ racedays, starting with the 22nd annual Northern Racing College Day (Wednesday, April 27) and followed by ‘Irish Night’ (Friday evening, May 27); Radio Aire ‘Singles Night’ (Monday evening, June 6); ‘Red Shirt Night’ (Friday evening, July 15) and ‘Ladies Day’ (Wednesday, August 3). The trio of Sunday fixtures (June 19, July 24 & August 14) continues to have strong family themes, with Father’s Day celebrated on the initial Sunday. 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 Pontefract Castle Stakes (Sunday, June 19), The Weatherbys Bank Pipalong Stakes (Tuesday, July 5), The Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes (Sunday, July 24), The EBF Flying Fillies’ Stakes (Sunday, August 14) and The Silver Tankard Stakes on the final day of the season, Monday, October 17.

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 eighth year. Dan Buoy, trained in South Yorkshire by Richard Guest 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.

The race of the season last year – perhaps the best of any season in the modern era at Pontefract – was when Rio De La Plata and Mabait dead-heated for first place in the Listed Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes on Sunday, July 25 – the final day of the Yorkshire racing Summer Festival. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Rio De La Plata went on to win a Group 3 race at York, before finishing runner-up in a Group 1 contest at Longchamp in France. The colt then finished the year by winning a couple of Group 1 races in Italy.

Last year saw Mr Wolf record a remarkable ninth win at the course, while Markington won the Pontefract Cup for the second successive year.

The UK’s champion jockey of last season, Paul Hanagan was Pontefract’s leading rider with 14 winners. Based with Malton trainer, Richard Fahey, Hanagan won the British title on the final day of the season at Doncaster in November by two winners from Jamie Spencer, so his victories at Pontefract were crucial to his success. Fahey himself won the trainers’ category for the second consecutive season, with ten winners. Both competitions are supported by ‘In The Frame’, Pontefract’s trophy supplier.

The Jockeys’ changing room facility is being completely refurbished with modern appliances and is fully funded by the race company at a cost of £35,000.

Last year, the racecourse received accreditation from Visit England.

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.