Pontefract Racecourse

Pontefract Park, Park Road, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, WF8 4QD - Map & Directions
01977 703224
Pontefract Racecourse
Pontefract Racecourse (Richard Webb / geograph.org.uk)

Racing has been taking place in the West Yorkshire town of Pontefract since as early as 1648, before the forces of Oliver Cromwell took the local castle. Until they were stopped in 1769, horse races used to take place in local meadows before racing was finally brought back to the area permanently in 1801. Racing has taken place in Pontefract ever since and the site was used for a lot of races during WWII when many other courses were out of action. In 1952, staff installed a photo finish and Pontefract prides itself on the fact that it was the first British racetrack to be the home of a testing facility for doping.

Pontefract Baghill station is located just down the road, less than half a mile from the course, and is conveniently on the York to Sheffield line. Alternatively, Pontefract Tanshelf railway station is also within walking distance of the course and is located on the Leeds to Knottingley line. Pontefract racecourse is situated just half a mile from J32 of the M62, so it is extremely accessible for those travelling by car. The M62 links to the M1, M18 and A1(M) so can be easily accessed from all directions.

Ticket Prices

There are four separate price bands at Pontefract racecourse – premier entry is priced at £21, whilst grandstand and paddock entry and access to the silver enclosure are available for £14 and £7 respectively. Entry to the picnic enclosure is available for as little as £5.

A discount of £4 is available for OAPs and full time students, although some identification may be required. Customers under the age of 18 are allowed free entry when accompanied by a full paying adult, whilst free entry is also offered to disability carers who are accompanying disabled visitors.

The Course

Pontefract Flat Racecourse Map

The flat course at Pontefract, West Yorkshire, was initially a horseshoe measuring 1½ miles but in 1983 it underwent extensive changes and was extended into a full circuit measuring 2½ miles in circumference. This makes it one of the longest continuous flat racing circuits in Europe, making it fitting therefore, that it later became home of the longest handicap race in the country (the Pontefract Marathon Handicap).

The large course is left-handed and run over undulating ground. For such a long course it features a short home straight, which is just shy of two furlongs. Stamina is extremely important in order to succeed at Pontefract, with the final three furlongs of every race entirely uphill and sharply uphill too.

Between the two-mile and the six-furlong mark, Pontefract is almost entirely downhill, making some horses over-eager in longer contests. For those that exert early on, many experience real difficulty with the gruelling stiffness of the finish so this is a course where the jockey has to pace things just right.

Draw Bias Emerges in Longer Races

Typically, sprint events reveal the strongest amount of draw bias at racecourses because the impact of the draw is proportionately higher in shorter races but this is not the case at Pontefract. A look at five and six furlong races reveal there’s no benefit to starting on the inside or outside despite runners taking on a considerable left-handed bend before they approach the line.

It’s a little surprising to see such lack of bias on a non-straight sprint track but what’s more eyebrow raising is the strong bias seen in longer eight and 10 furlong races.

A look at 160 contests either 1m or 1m 2f in length and featuring at least 10 runners show that those drawn low won nearly twice as often as those on the outside. Runners on the inside scored 76 victories at a win rate of 15%, while those starting at the opposite end mustered just 34 victories and a 6% win rate.

Interestingly, the bias becomes even stronger when just focussing on races that were run on good to soft, or worse, ground. When racing in the mud, low drawn runners won over three times more than high drawn with their respective impact values reading 1.57 and 0.47. This suggests a difference in drainage and going at the course, which affects the area of the track used in these slightly longer races and is certainly something to be aware of and monitor.

Major Meetings at Pontefract

Meeting at Pontefract Racecouse
Meeting at Pontefract Racecouse (derek dye / geograph.org.uk)

With 16 racing fixtures taking place each year, one of the most prestigious races at Pontefract is undoubtedly the Flying Fillies’ Stakes. The Stakes was first run in 1993 and takes place each August over a distance of 6f. Another important race is the Silver Tankard Stakes, which was established in 1993 and is contested over 1m4yds each October. The most successful trainer of all time is Richard Fahey, who won 28 of his 213 races between 2007 and 2011.

Dining and Hospitality

Pontefract Track
Pontefract Track (derek dye / geograph.org.uk)

Pontefract racecourse hospitality restaurants start from just £52 per person. In terms of private boxes, a buffet option starts from £71 + VAT per person, whilst a sit down dining option is slightly more expensive at £78 + VAT per person but all of these are relatively affordable compared to similar options at other racetracks.


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