Fontwell Park Racecourse
Fontwell Park Racecourse logo
|Location||Fontwell, West Sussex|
|Owned by||Arena Racing Company|
|Screened on||At The Races|
|Course type||National Hunt|
|Notable races||National Spirit Hurdle|
Fontwell Park Racecourse is a horse racing course located in the village of Fontwell in West Sussex, England, owned by ARC Racing. It features the only figure-of-eight chase course in the country and an oval hurdles course.
Fontwell Park’s founder Alfred Day came to The Hermitage, on the north side of the Chichester to Arundel road, in 1887 to train racehorses. While researching the history of the area, he found a reference on a 1630 map to "Fontwell". This was the name of the spring in front of his house, the only watering-hole on this major south coast route, and which the Romans had originally called "Fons". Passing monks are said to have added the "well" part of the name. Day brought the name Fontwell back into use. As time went by Day was able to buy more land in the area so that by 1924, with the support of the local gentry, he had obtained a license from the Jockey Club to create a racecourse at Fontwell. The hurdles track was a conventional oval shape, but the steeplechase course was designed as a figure of eight to make best use of the limited space available.
There was a huge crowd at the first meeting on 21 May that year. Those who became Club members could enjoy the gardens Day had laid out over many years, which included a maze in the style of the one at Versailles, and relics from other stately homes. What had been the farmhouse became Fontwell House, the members’ restaurant. In keeping with the garden-like setting, the grandstand and the weighing room were built with thatched roofs. The inaugural race was won by the 5/4 favourite Gem, ridden by champion jockey Fred Rees.
It was the course where Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth, had her first winner as an owner when Monaveen won the Chichester Handicap Chase there in October 1949. In 1984 John Francome rode his 1,036th career winner at Fontwell Park, passing Stan Mellor's record for a National Hunt jockey - Francome's record has subsequently been beaten.
The feature race of the season at Fontwell Park is the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle run over a distance of two miles and four furlongs in February. It is a recognised Cheltenham Festival trial. My Way de Solzen, trained by Alan King, won the race in 2006 before winning the World Hurdle. Lough Derg, trained by David Pipe and owned by Bill Frewen, took the prize in 2008 and 2009. Trenchant (Alan King/Robert Thornton) took the prize in 2010 and Celestial Halo (Paul Nicholls/Harry Skelton) was the winner in 2011.
A new £6.5m Grandstand opened in the Premier Enclosure in August 2010 and is sponsored by events and plant hire company Winner Group. The new facility includes a panoramic hospitality lounge for 350 people on the middle floor, twelve boxes on the top floor and a ground floor suite with new catering and betting outlets. The stand has been designed to cater for weddings, conferences, meetings and public shows.
There are 24 race meetings at Fontwell Park each year, including the Boxing day meet.
|February||Sunday||National Spirit Hurdle||Hurdle||Grade 2||2m 4f||4yo +|
|November||Sunday||Southern National||Hurdle||Grade 3||3m 4f||4yo +|