Pontefract Racecourse is a Flat racing venue situated very close to the centre of Pontefract in West Yorkshire.
The track is part of the Go Racing in Yorkshire initiative, alongside the wider county’s other eight racecourses Beverley, Catterick, Doncaster, Redcar, Ripon, Thirsk, Wetherby and York.
Pontefract is well supported by owners and trainers, with its better races receiving entries from around the country, while some of its novice and maiden races also attract potential stars of the future.
- Address – Pontefract Races, Pontefract Park, Park Road, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, WF8 4QD.
- Owner – Pontefract Park Race Company Limited.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat.
- Surface – Turf.
Pontefract is a left-handed track and not a straightforward one. There are many undulations, rises and falls, as well as a stiff uphill finish.
Given the nature of the course, stamina is at a premium here. Tactical speed is always important in racing, however there are some tracks at which speed ratings and the like are much less important and Pontefract is one of them for sure.
The final three furlongs are all uphill, some of that run being on the turn. Many jockeys have gone for home far too soon, only to be caught close home.
When the ground is testing, stamina comes into play even more than before. Many jockeys send their horses wide looking for better ground, though covering more mileage in the process. As well as this, that uphill three-furlongs is naturally even more tiring in the rain and so it’s not uncommon for a mile race to be won by a confirmed mile-and-a-quarter horse and so on.
One good bit of info from jockeys, something a punter may not spot, is that no matter which way runners turn to get to post at Pontefract they do so going downhill.
This can light some of them up and make them expect unnecessary energy, something you most definitely don’t want to do at a stamina-sapping track! Those betting last minute can keep an eye on this.
Aside from all that, jockeys do predictably report Pontefract to be a stiff track. The inside is apparently the place to be, especially in the sprints, though slower ground in longer distance races may mitigate this somewhat as the ground can churn up on the rail.
Look out for talented hold-up horses ridden by experienced Pontefract jockeys and/or those with proven stamina, as even when it looks as though a horse’s goose is cooked, a patient rider can get them home here.
Visiting Pontefract Racecourse
Pontefract Racecourse is ideally situated within Pontefract Park. A beautiful area, it is close to many amenities with the racecourse itself showing off various cafes, bars, restaurants and betting outlets.
How to Get to Pontefract
Leeds is just 17 miles north west of Pontefract Racecourse using the M62. The journey should take less than half an hour. Once in the Pontefract area, follow signs for the racecourse.
From the Manchester area, also passing Huddersfield and Wakefield, take the M62 heading east and turn off for Pontefract, following signs for the track.
From the north, head down the M1 and A1(M), linking up with the M62 before following signs for Pontefract and the racecourse, while from York you can use the A64 first, then the A1(M).
From the south and passing Sheffield, use the M1 and A1(M) north until reaching the turn off for the M62, heading then to Pontefract.
The best train station for major routes goes through York, though Leeds is another viable option given how easy it is to then commute to Pontefract.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of rooms available around Pontefract, Wakefield and Castleford to use for a day at the races. Leeds is another larger option, while York too is only 30 miles away.
Biggest Races at Pontefract
Pontefract doesn’t host any major Group races, however there are some events of fairly significant quality staged there every year.
These are the best of them:
|Handicap||4yo+, Handicap, Class 2||1m2f||April|
|Handicap||4yo+, Handicap, Class 2||5f||April|
|Handicap||4yo+, Handicap, Class 2||1m4f||June|
|Pontefract Castle Stakes||4yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||1m4f||June|
|Spindrifter Conditions Stakes||2yo Only, Conditions Stakes, Class 2||6f||June|
|Pipalong Stakes||4yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||1m||July|
|Handicap||3yo+, Handicap, Class 2||6f||July|
|Handicap||4yo+, Optional Claiming Handicap, Class 2||1m||July|
|Pomfret Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m||July|
|Flying Fillies’ Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Listed Race||6f||August|
|Handicap||4yo+, Optional Claiming Handicap, Class 2||1m||September|
|Premier Fillies’ Handicap||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Handicap, Class 2||6f||September|
|Silver Tankard Trophy||2yo Only, Listed Race||1m||October|
|Phil Bull Trophy||3yo+, Conditions Stakes, Class 2||2m2f||October|
About Pontefract Racecourse
Assuming records are accurate, then horse racing in one form or another has taken place in and around Pontefract since 1648. That just about precedes Pontefract Castle being taken by Oliver Cromwell’s forces.
In those days, horse races were held near the town’s meadows but were stopped around 1769. Townspeople restarted racing in 1801 according to reports and it has never left the area since then. Pontefract races was a fashionable event to attend, with the meeting held each September.
Pontefract was known to step in when other courses were out of action during the War. In fact, during this period it hosted the Lincoln and the November Handicap, both usually at Doncaster.
Photo finishes were made available at Pontefract Racecourse back in 1952, making the track one of the earliest to install such devices, while it was also the first racecourse anywhere in England to boast a dope testing facility.
One fascinating piece of Pontefract history comes from its close ties with the mining industry. The track used to begin racing at 2.45pm, significantly later than other courses hosting afternoon meetings, in order for miners at the nearby colliery to be able to attend racing after finishing the morning shift.
This remained the case in fact in until 2002, when sadly the colliery closed.