Fontwell Racecourse is situated on the South Coast between Arundel and Chichester, where it stages 24 National Hunt fixtures every season. Races are run on a figure of eight jumps course that offers a unique visual experience to racegoers in the UK.
The course’s flagship event is the Grade 2 National Spirit Handicap Hurdle, which takes place in February, and is seen as trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Horses that have won the National Spirit Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle include Baracouda and My Way de Solzen. The course is also a popular venue for banquets, weddings, Christmas parties, and exhibitions.
Below are some key facts about Fontwell Racecourse.
Course Type: Jumps
Current Owner: Arena Racing Company
The unique figure of eight layout means horses have to race around both left-handed and right-handed bends. This means it is often an advantage for horses to race prominently, so that they can take the shortest route throughout. The fences are relatively easy to negotiate, but the fast-pace of many of the races still means the fences catch out plenty of dodgy jumpers. Meanwhile, the stiff uphill finish means it generally doesn’t pay to kick for home too soon.
Fontwell stages race meetings throughout the year, with the Oktoberfest two-day Festival a perfect way to mix betting on horse racing with the enjoyment of drinking steins of German beer and eating Bratwurst. Other popular themed meetings include Boxings Day’s Winter Wonderland, and March’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. There’s also an Easter Extravaganza, Summer Fun Days, a Gentlemens’ Evening and a Ladies’ Evening.
However, the big two race days are the November Meeting and the National Spirit Hurdle Meeting, both of which are sponsored by Totepool. November is when the Southern National takes place, and the 2017 renewal of this chase run over 3 miles 3 furlongs and 149 yards was won by Cresswell Breeze. Meanwhile, the National Spirit Hurdle takes place in February. This Grade 2 Hurdle is named after the 1947 and 1948 champion hurdler National Spirit and provides runners with a chance to win a share of £80,000 of prize money. Recent winners include Lil Rockerfeller and Camping Ground.
Fontwell Racecourse promotes a relaxed atmosphere, with racegoers urged to dress with the weather in mind, especially at winter meetings. Therefore, the dress code is generally relaxed. However, racegoers attending the hospitality suites and the Premier Enclosure are required to adhere to the smart casual policy. This means that men should wear collared shirts, though tailored shorts and smart jeans are okay. However, trainers, non-tailored shorts, sportswear, beachwear, and fancy dress are forbidden in these areas. There is no dress code for children in these enclosures or other enclosures.
Fancy dress is permitted in the Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure, though this or other clothing should not be offensive in any way. Racegoers may also want to join in some themed race days. These include the Best-Dressed theme on Ladies’ Evening, whilst wearing a Christmas jumper on the Festive Raceday is rapidly becoming a tradition amongst the Fontwell faithful.
John Francome set a new record for the number of winners ridden by a National Hunt Jockey when riding his 1,036th winner at Fontwell. That beat the former record set by Stan Mellor. However, Francome’s record has subsequently been beaten by several jockeys.
Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed her first ever winner when her horse Monaveen won at Fontwell in 1949, though she was only Princess Elizabeth at the time.
Address and Contact Details
Fontwell Park Racecourse, Arundel Road, Fontwell, Arundel, BN18 0SY