Pontefract Racecourse used to be the playground of the local West Yorkshire miners until the local colliery shut down in 2002, but the locals still flock to attend a mixture of fun themed days put on by the course, such as Ladies’ Day and Family Fun Day.
Renowned for being one of the longest and most stamina-sapping courses in Britain, Pontefract stages a series of marathon races throughout the season. Meanwhile, the other season highlights include the Pontefract Castle Stakes, the Silver Tankard Stakes, the Pomfret Stakes, the Flying Fillies’ Stakes, and the Pipalong Stakes.
Below are some key facts about the Pontefract racecourse:
Course Type: Flat
Current Owner: Pontefract Park Race Company Limited
Up until 1983, Pontefract Racecourse was a horseshoe that could stage races of up to 12 furlongs. However, the course was then made into a complete circuit measuring just over two-miles, allowing it to stage marathon races, with the longest being over two miles and five furlongs. The course is also incredibly undulating, with horses running downhill after the winning post until the bottom bend. The course then straightens out until a small downhill section around the final bend leads to a five-furlongs uphill finish all the way to the line.
Over the minimum distance, an inside draw is a massive advantage, especially for front-runners that get to dictate their own pace. Jockeys rarely race wide, unless the ground is very soft, and you’ll often see jockeys sit second or third rank in the hope that the front-runners have gone too fast and the gaps will appear late on. If the pace-setters do go to fast, the complexion of races can change quickly in the final stamina-sapping climb to the line.
Pontefract stages five Listed Races each season, which are the main highlights. The Pontefract Castle Stakes is a Listed Race run over a trip of just over 12 furlongs. It was established in 2005, with the dual-winner Brown Panther being the most high-profile winner of the race.
The Pomfret Stakes is run over a mile and has been won twice by trainer David O’Meara with Custom Cut and Mondialiste, whilst Convey was a well-backed winner for Sir Michael Stoute.
The Pipalong Stakes is also run over a mile, with 2005 winner Red Bloom living up to her name after winning this race, as she went on to become a Group 1 winner.
The Flying Fillies’ Stakes is a chance for the sprinting fillies to showcase their talents, with Wannabe Grand, Mince, and Queen Kindly being amongst the most talented winners of the race.
Last but not least, the Silver Tankard Stakes is run over a mile, with its most high-profile winner being D’bai. The Charlie Appleby trained horse has since scored at Group 2 Level.
The only enclosure that Pontefract Racecourse insists on a dress code is in its Premier Enclosure, and even here only smart casual attire is requested. There’s no need for a jacket and tie, though trainers, sportswear, t-shirts, scruffy jeans, and shorts are not permitted. However, at some of the bigger meetings, the locals have been known to dress to impress.
The remainder of the course is very much orientated towards family fun, with picnics and funfairs part of the family attraction.
Pontefract Racecourse was the first course in England to install a dope testing facility.
Pontefract Racecourse also installed its own photo-finish equipment in 1952.
Pontefract also used to have a tradition for starting its afternoon meeting at 2.45pm. This was so that the local miners could finish the early shift and still make it to the races in time for the first race. Sadly, this tradition ended when the local colliery closed in 2002.
Pontefract Racecourse, Pontefract Park, Park Road, Pontefract, West Yorkshire WF8 4QD.