Fontwell Racecourse is a very popular National Hunt course situated near the south coast of England in West Sussex.
Unique in shape, the racecourse is within the village of Fontwell near Arundel, a popular area for thoroughbred trainers.
Owned by ARC (Arena Racing Company), Fontwell is under the same ownership as Bath, Brighton, Chepstow, Doncaster, Ffos Las, Hereford, Lingfield, Newcastle, Sedgefield, Southwell, Uttoxeter, Windsor, Wolves, Worcester and Yarmouth.
- Address – Fontwell Park Racecourse, Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0SX.
- Owner – Arena Racing Company.
- TV Station – Sky Sports Racing.
- Type – National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf
Fontwell is a left-handed track. It is very sharp in nature; in fact, we’d recommend you take a look at it from above on Google Earth.
The hurdles track is a basic oval, while the chase course is shaped as a figure of eight running partly inside the hurdle circuit.
Despite the racecourse’s tight nature, Fontwell does feature a stiff finish which on softer ground can become very demanding. With this in mind, you will still need a horse who can truly see out its trip and handle the ground.
There are pretty easy fences at Fontwell, though the unique layout means horses nippy enough on the turn or those already proven around here are favoured.
Those getting a good lead on the chase course can rather get away on the run-in here, while on softer going smarter jockeys tend to stick to the outside, racing wide where the better ground is which can slightly increase the race distance somewhat. This further accentuates the need to be able to see out the trip.
Jockeys tend to say that unorthodox types are suited by Fontwell, owing to that figure of eight layout.
The theory is that the constant turns either confuse horses or perhaps just keeps them alert, meaning the types that often fail elsewhere can be set alight here.
Despite the fences being known as easy, there does have to be a focus on jumping according to the jocks, precisely because of the layout and the need for horses to concentrate.
The plus side is that if you have a known slick jumper, the horse can rather get away from the field here which, as mentioned above, means they are often not caught close home on the run-in.
Visiting Fontwell Park Racecourse
Fontwell is a terrific, friendly race track to visit.
With betting in mind; enough bookmakers tend to pay for pitches and show up on race days. Betting stalls are also provided throughout, while those in hospitality suites will have their own private facilities. The Tote also have units at Fontwell.
Food and drink is abundant and the course is easily accessible from a number of well populated areas around West Sussex.
How to Get to Fontwell Park
Fontwell does operate a shuttle bus service. The bus runs from Barnham train station to Fontwell Park Racecourse in time for gates opening on race days, and remains in action until the scheduled time of the first race.
The shuttle bus service then recommences from the penultimate race until half an hour after the last advertised race for all fixtures except Boxing Day.
Fontwell Park is situated right near the A27 and A29 roundabout between Arundel and Chichester. Using the A27, there are easy road links from Brighton, Worthing and Portsmouth among other places.
For parking access once at the racecourse, drivers should use Fontwell Avenue on the A29 towards Bognor Regis.
Where to Stay
Though relatively rural, Fontwell Park is near enough to plenty of accommodation for those visiting from outside the area.
Properties recommended by racecourse owners ARC are situated in Fontwell itself, as well as Birdham and Bognor Regis. There are also other hotels, B&B’s and rental properties in the area.
As well as this, Fontwell Park is only six miles from Chichester, 14 miles from Worthing and another 22 from Portsmouth meaning there is no shortage of hotel rooms in the general area.
Fontwell Park Racecourse Fixtures
|Tuesday||12th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
|Tuesday||26th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
National Spirit Hurdle
Despite being quirky in nature and not considered a ‘Grade 1’ track, Fontwell does host its share of decent races. Chief among them is the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle.
The race was originally seen as a bona fide Champion Hurdle trial for Cheltenham and was run over two miles. When it was, Comedy Of Errors was a famous winner of both events.
The race has been run over 2½ miles as a handicap, but is now a Grade Two over 2 miles and 3 furlongs. In recent times, the National Spirit Hurdle has been won by Lil Rockerfeller, Old Guard, Brewin’upastorm and Botox Has, all thoroughly decent types.
Fontwell also hosts the Southern National, a 3m3f Class 3 chase with the Sussex National being run over at Plumpton.
About Fontwell Park Racecourse
Fontwell Park Racecourse was initially founded by Alfred Day, a racehorse trainer who was himself located nearby at The Hermitage. Day began his project back in 1887.
The name Fontwell wasn’t especially known at the time. Aldfred Day in fact had researched the history of the area and wanted to return that name to common use.
In 1924 when Day had bought up enough land, the idea of a racecourse was coming to fruition at last. The hurdles track, as mentioned above, was placed as a normal oval. The steeplechase track however was laid out as a figure of eight in order to conserve space on what was a limited site.
The first official race meeting was organised on May 21, 1924. The first race was won by a horse called Gem, the 5/4 favourite in fact, ridden by Fred Rees.
Top Moments and Modern Day Fontwell
After its beginnings, Fontwell immediately became a popular racing venue for owners, trainers, jockeys and punters alike.
The schedule grew steadily, as did the track’s overall popularity within the sport. In fact, at this track in October of 1949, a certain Princess Elizabeth had her first winner as a racehorse owner.
Monaveen was the princess’s winner that day in the Chichester Handicap Chase. As the Queen of course, she has gone on to have thousands of winners at tracks all across the country but she will always remember Fontwell as the place where it all started.
In 1984, great National Hunt jockey John Francome had surpassed 1000 career wins and was honing in on Stan Mellor’s record. He managed to ride his 1036th winner at Fontwell Park, beating the record on a monumental day for his career, though that has been beaten again since.
In the modern day, things haven’t slowed down. The track is owned these days by Arena Racing Company which puts it in quite an impressive stable.
A new grandstand was opened within Fontwell’s Premier Enclosure in August 2010, coming at a cost of some £6.5 million.
Fixtures continue to be well supported at what is a thoroughly unique jumps racecourse to this day.