Racecourse as seen from Park Hill, Pontefract
|Location||Pontefract, West Yorkshire|
|Owned by||Pontefract Park Race Company Ltd.|
|Screened on||Racing UK|
The track is left-handed with a sharp bend into the home straight. Horses drawn low (i.e. on the inside of the track) usually have the advantage. The final 3 furlongs of the track are uphill, making it quite testing.
The course was originally a horseshoe of 1 1/2 miles, but in 1983, it was converted into a full circuit of 2 1/2 miles. This made it the longest continuous flat racing circuit in Europe and allowed it to stage one of the longest races in the calendar at 2 miles 5 furlongs. Pontefract retained this distinction until York Racecourse completed its circuit for the holding of the Royal Ascot festival in 2005. However, whilst York remains a 'circuit', there are no races held around the new link; it is therefore open to debate whether Pontefract has retained its status in this regard.
Racing is recorded as having taken place in Pontefract as early as 1648, just before the local Castle was taken by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Races were held in the meadows near the town but these were discontinued by 1769. The townsfolk restarted the sport in 1801 and it has continued ever since. In 1827 the races were held in September and reported as being very fashionably attended.
While it cannot "claim to be one of Yorkshire's major courses" it was used for some major races during World War II when other courses were out of action. These included the war substitute Lincoln and November Handicaps.
The course traditionally began its afternoon race meetings at 2.45 pm - later than most other courses - so that miners at the adjacent colliery could finish the morning shift in time to go racing. This remained the case until the colliery closed in 2002.
Facts and figures
- Number of fixtures (2012) - 15
- Prize money (2012) - £731,810
- Top trainer (2007 - 2011 inc.) - Richard Fahey, 28 wins from 213 races
- Flying Fillies' Stakes
- Pipalong Stakes
- Pomfret Stakes
- Pontefract Castle Stakes
- Silver Tankard Stakes
- Fox, George (1827). The History of Pontefract in Yorkshire. Pontefract, England: John Fox. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- Mortimer, Roger; Onslow, Richard; Willett, Peter (1978). Biographical Encyclopaedia of British Racing. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 0-354-08536-0.
- Wright, Howard (1986). The Encyclopaedia of Flat Racing. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7090-2639-0.