Although still regarded by some as another one of Yorkshire’s smaller, less important courses, Pontefract racecourse is a hugely popular day out and never fails to attract the big crowds on racedays. As a flat course, it runs only between April and October, with sixteen days of racing during this period. Dating back to the 18th century though, Pontefract had nevertheless gained the status of the largest continuous flat racecourse in Europe by 1983.
The first evidence of a race meeting at Pontefract is
said to be on 5th October 1790. It is said that the meeting occurred in the park in the rough confinements of the present course. This was followed in 1801 when additional evidence was discovered, suggesting that a three-day meeting was held at Pontefract.
In 1802, Pontefract racecourse introduced an innovative new ticketing scheme, selling members badges at an individual price of £50. This gave its possessors 20-year entry to the course, with the revenue used to construct the first Grandstand. However, it wasn’t all happy times for the members of the 20-year badge, when in 1831, the quality of racing at Pontefract was reported negatively in the Sporting Magazine. To the members who had coughed up £50 for the silver ticket, this was unacceptable and threats were made to destroy the recently-built grandstand.
With a strong mining industry in the past (no longer the case), Pontefract used to start its racing at the later time of 2.45pm, so the miners from the local colliers were able to get to the races in time.
Renowned Pontefract Winners
Pontefract’s showpiece event is the Pontefract Cup, and was first held in 1803, with Muly Moloch the very first winner. In the first five Pontefract Cups, owner Lord Darlington had the honour of parading the winner on four occasions.
In the years following this, Pontefract saw a number of famous winners in this race, who went on to achieve great things in racing. The Duchess won the first Pontefract Gold Cup, before retaining its title the year after and then winning the coveted St Ledger. Another horse to pull off the feat of winning one of Pontefract’s big races before going on to take first place in the St Ledger was Barefoot, who did so in 1823.
From the mid-19th century to the new millennium, Pontefract racecourse underwent increasing modernisation and development. In 1849, when the railway in Pontefract was put up, the North East corner of the course had to be removed. Thirty years later, the course had a second stand built, to add to the construction of the Grandstand in 1802.
Shortly after the end of the First World War, during which time horseracing across the whole country had come to a standstill, the building of the new Grandstand commenced and in 1922 opened its doors for the first time. Whilst it had closed its gates during the First World War, Pontefract remarkably stayed open during the Second World War. Along with Stockton races on Teesside, it was just one of two courses in the north of England permitted to host horseracing, and raced on alternate Saturdays with Stockton. While York was closed for the war, the Ebor meeting was held at Pontefract in 1943. Ran over 1 and a half miles, the prestigious race was won by Yorkshire Hussar. The M62 began its construction in 1971. With the course’s sheer proximity to the motorway, changes to the course had to be made. Amendments were made to the 1 mile start, as altering races ran over 6 furlongs, 1 mile and a quarter, and 1 mile and a half.
Similar to the course at York, Pontefract’s course used to take the shape of horseshoe. However, this all changed in April 1983, when the shape of its track changed to that of an oval. This change allowed for races over 2 miles to be ran, not possible on the old track. Spanning an impressive 2 miles and 125 yards, the course has become the longest continuous flat racing track in the whole of Great Britain.
In 1995, more refurbishments at the course occurred. The Paddock area was made bigger, the new Dalby Stand opened and in August of that year, Pontefract’s first race meeting to be held on a Sunday took place. The Silver Stand was later completely refurbished in 1999.
For all enquiries please contact:
- Pontefract Park Race Co. Ltd
- 33 Ropergate
- West Yorkshire
- WF8 1LE
- Tel: 01977 781307 (Admin Office)
- Fax: 01977 781333
- Course Office/Fax: 01977 702210
Tickets can be purchased on entry at the following prices:
|Third Ring (Cars with a max. of 4 occupants)||£10||£10|
- Family tickets are valid for Sunday meetings only, and admits 2 adults and children into the Paddock Enclosure. They must be booked in advance.
- All under-16s enter for free and must be accompanied by an adult.
- Free car parking is available.
Annual Badges can also be purchased, entitling the bearer to a whole year’s entry to meetings. The following prices apply as of January 2008:
|Single (Lady or Gent)||£160|
|Joint (Husband & Wife or Partners Living at same address)||£215|
Party bookings and discounts are also available at reasonable prices. Please follow this link for more information.
The course adjoins Junction 32 on the M62. Leeds is nine miles to the west. Three motorways (A1, M1 and M18) are all within ten miles of the course.
There are 3 train stations in Pontefract – Baghill, Monkhill and Tanshelf. Baghill station is the closest to the course, and is 0.3 miles away. Trains to Pontefract are served frequently by trains from Doncaster, York and Leeds.