Fontwell Park Racecourse

Nr Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 0SX - Map & Directions
01243 543335
Entrance to Fontwell Park
Entrance to Fontwell Park (N Chadwick /

Fontwell Park racecourse is located in West Sussex and is the course where Queen Elizabeth II had her first winner as a horse owner, as Monaveen won the Chichester Handicap Chase way back in 1949. Northern Racing has ownership and control of ten courses in the country and they took charge of Fontwell Park in 2002.

Fontwell was voted racecourse of the year in 2011 at the Betview awards, whilst the track made headlines that same year as the racehorse Royal Wedding won his race on the same day Prince William married Kate Middleton. For real Fontwell fanatics the course also sells a book dedicated to all things related to the site, titled ‘The History of Fontwell Park’, which is priced at £10 and published in 2008, and written and compiled by Jim Beavis.

In August 2010, a brand new £6.5 million grandstand was opened in the premier enclosure, which included a panoramic hospitality lounge big enough to house 350 people, 12 private hospitality boxes and a ground floor suite with new catering and betting facilities. As well as this, Northern Racing also recently completed a multi-million pound refurbishment of the course, to ensure the levels of racing and service at the course are as good as they possibly can be.

Fontwell Park can be accessed by following the A27 to Chichester and following the various signs directing visitors on race days. Those travelling by train should alight at Barnham station, which is well served by frequent trains from both London Victoria and Portsmouth. The station is just two and a half miles from the course and there is a free shuttle bus service in operation on race days.

Ticket Prices

Entry to watch the racing at Fontwell Park is very well priced, with Premier access starting at as little as £15. Paddock entry and course entry are £10 and £5 respectively, whilst under-18s are allowed in free of charge when accompanied by a full paying adult, making for a very reasonably priced family day out.

The Course

There are 23 race days at Fontwell Park each year and despite being exclusively used for National Hunt action, the West Sussex venue is open all year round. It features two very distinct courses, including, firstly, the steeplechase course which is in parts right-handed and parts left-handed due to being shaped in a figure of eight. Approximately one mile in length, it has six fences and is very flat and sharp in nature. Because of this, it offers quite the test for competing horses, particularly when the ground is soft.

The hurdles course goes around the outside of the steeplechase track and is oval shaped. Unlike the steeplechase, it is actually left-handed but manages to maintain straight lines in both the back and home straights. Around one-mile in circumference, the hurdles track has four flights per circuit and despite being tight, features an easy finish. On soft or heavy going, it’s a place which favours those that run out wide.

A Unique Steeplechase Test

Although the course layout at Cartmel in the Lake District shares some similarities with the steeplechase course at Fontwell, the latter is more of a textbook figure-of-eight circuit. Unlike in the US, racecourses in this country come in a range of shapes and sizes but even so, Fontwell offers a distinctly unique test for chasers.

We can’t possibly know what goes through the mind of a horse but it does seem that Fontwell’s layout keeps certain ‘thinkers’ interested. While your quirkier types might end up doing well here as a result, others thoroughbreds end up rather disorientated by the unusual nature of the challenge.

Not only is the figure-eight shape enough to confuse some horses but there’s also the issue of the paddock location. The exit to it is situated half-way up the run-in and it’s not uncommon for horses to set their sights on the exit as they approach. Some horses slow down as a result while others head for a paddock return, forcing jockeys into some evasive action. This is certainly a track where it pays to side with a horse you know can handle the very particular challenges it will face.

There’s nothing exceptional about the stiffness of the fences but those that can take them quickly can pull away from the others early on. At a place where the lead doesn’t change hands as much you’d think, getting yourself into an early prominent position can prove decisive.

Clearly, there’s a lot to this course and you’ll not be surprised to know that course specialists aren’t a rarity. There’s perhaps nobody who emphasises this point better than St Athans Lad, who won 11 of 23 attempts here but just 1 of 40 outside of Fontwell Park. Who will be the next St Athans lad to follow at Fontwell?

Major Meetings at Fontwell Park

Fontwell Racecourse
Fontwell Racecourse (Chris Shaw /

The feature race of the season at Fontwell is the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle, which is run over 2m4f every February and is a recognised trial for the Cheltenham Festival. Another famous race is the Southern National Handicap Chase, although in truth, as one of the smaller tracks, Fontwell doesn’t really host what could genuinely be described as a “major” meeting.

Dining and Hospitality

Fontwell Race
Race at Fontwell Park (nick macneill /

The grandstand at Fontwell caters for business all year round for those wishing to use it to host such functions, conferences and weddings, as well as providing hospitality opportunities on race days. Hospitality areas are available for groups of between 12 and 350, with prices ranging from £99 and £129 per person.

There are also three restaurants on site, with visitors able to eat in the Premier Restaurant, Paddock Restaurant or the Barracks Marquee. These are priced at £75, £45 and £55 per person respectively and staff at Fontwell have an excellent reputation for providing superb hospitality.


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