Fontwell Racecourse History

Fontwell Park is one of the oldest watering holes in Britain! Named the 'Font', Roman soldiers knew the spring by the side of the road as an important stopping point on their journeys between the ancient towns of Chichester and Arundel. Passing monks who relied on the stream for clean drinking water, added the Anglo-Saxon word 'well', and ever since the village of Fontwell has stood at the busy junction of routes across West Sussex. However, it was only in 1923 that Alfred Day allowed his gallops to be developed into a course by the Fontwell Park Steeplechase Committee. He laid out the unique figure of eight steeplechase course at Fontwell Park in 1924, creating an important meeting place for the local community. Both the spring and the well can be found today within the grounds at Fontwell Park. The first meeting took place on Wednesday 21st May 1924, with the Duke of Richmond in attendance; Gem became the very first winner when ridden by F.B.Rees the champion jockey (Result shown below). Like the majority of courses, Fontwell closed during the war, but in 1947 National Spirit won at the course in preparation for his Champion Hurdle victory in 1947, repeating the feat the next year. The course launched the National Spirit Challenge Trophy to mark that success. Two years later Monaveen won at the October meeting to provide Princess Elizabeth, later to become Queen, her first racing success.  It was the only horse she jointly owned with the Queen Mother. In 1951 Nickel Coin used a Fontwell victory as a stepping stone to Aintree success in the Grand National. Currently the course hosts 11 fixtures annually.

Fontwell 1939L.JPG (11871 bytes)
Fontwell continues to thrive today, whereas nearby Chichester closed its gates for the final time in 1740.

The West Sussex cathedral city of Chichester is the only city in the county and is its county town. It can trace its history back to before Roman times and was even an important centre in the Anglo-Saxon period. Its cathedral dates back to the 12th century. In the mid-1700s it staged its own race meetings, the first of which took place in 1735. The ‘County History of Sussex’ recorded that Chichester races took place in 1735 but seem to have been of very small importance. A further meeting was hosted in Chichester in 1740.

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the 1945 map shown below.
Fontwell 1924b.JPG (25434 bytes)Fontwell 1924a.JPG (10555 bytes)
1924 Matched Pair from the inaugural season 1925 Matched Pair
The front cover/ principal races from this rare racecard (the first meeting held at the course ) are provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.
Fontwell 1951.JPG (27735 bytes)

Fontwell 1957kt.JPG (30513 bytes)
1956 Gents 1957 Ladies 1957 Gents 1958 Gents 1958 Ladies

The rare handbill shown below is provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.

1967 Gents 1967 Ladies 1968 Ladies 1968 Gents 1969 Gents

The principal race at the track is the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs. It is named after National Spirit who won the Champion Hurdle twice and, in a long successful career won 32 of his 85 starts. The inaugural running of the race was in 1965 when won by Salmon Spray. All winners are shown below.
1965 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Salmon Spray, trained by Bob Turnell and ridden by Johnny Haine
1966 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Johns-Wort, trained by J F Norris and ridden by Michael Scudamore
1967 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Sempervivum, trained by Fulke Walwyn and ridden by T Jennings
1968 The National Spirit Hurdle was abandoned
1969 The National Spirit Hurdle was abandoned
1970 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Coral Diver, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by Terry Biddlecombe
1971 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Varma, trained by M Masson and ridden by David Mould
1972 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by St Patrick’s Blue, trained by D Tatlow and ridden by David Mould
1973 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Brantridge Farmer, trained by Miss Aureil Sinclair and ridden by Richard Rowell
1974 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Brantridge Farmer, trained by Fulke Walwyn and ridden by Terry Biddlecombe

Font1970.JPG (17116 bytes)
1969 Ladies 1970 Matched Pair 1971 Matched Pair

1975 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Bladon, trained by Fred Winter and ridden by Robert Kington
1976 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Comedy of Errors, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by John Burke
1977 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Comedy of Errors, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by John Burke
1978 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Kybo, trained by Josh Gifford and ridden by Bob Champion

1972 Gents 1972 Ladies 1973 Matched Pair 1974 Gents

1979 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Bird’s Nest, trained by Bob Turnell and ridden by Andy Turnell
1980 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Snowtown Boy, trained by Fred Winter and ridden by John Francome
1981 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Random Leg, trained by Josh Gifford and ridden by Bob Champion
1982 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Mr Moonraker, trained by Miss S Morris and ridden by Paul Carvill

1974 Matched Ladies Pair 1975 Gents 1975 Matched Ladies Pair

1983 The National Spirit Hurdle was abandoned due to frost.
1984 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Cut A Dash, trained by Mrs N Smith and ridden by John Francome
1985 The National Spirit Hurdle was abandoned due to frost
1986 The National Spirit Hurdle was abandoned due to frost

1976 Gents 1976 Ladies 1977 Gents 1978 Gents 1979 Gents

1987 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Corporal Clinger, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Peter Scudamore
1988 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Vagador, trained by Guy Harwood and ridden by Mark Perrett
1989 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Beech Road, trained by Toby Balding and ridden by Richard Guest
1990 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Vagador, trained by Guy Harwood and ridden by Mark Perrett

1980 Member 1981 Member 1982 Member 1983 Member 1984 Member

1991 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Al Asoof, trained by Peter Hedger and ridden by Mark Richards
1992 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Honest Word, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Peter Scudamore
1993 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Flown, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Richard Dunwoody
1994-98 The National Spirit Hurdle was not held

1985 Member 1986 Member 1987 Member 1988 Member 1989 Member

1999 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Lady Cricket, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Tony McCoy
2000 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Male-Ana-Mou, trained by Jamie Poulton and ridden by Andrew Thornton
2001 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Baracouda, trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by Thierry Doumen
2002 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Rouble, trained by Josh Gifford and ridden by Leighton Aspell

1990 Member 1991 Member 1992 Member 1993 Member 1994 Member

2003 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Classified, trained by Martin Pipe and ridden by Tony McCoy
2004 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Starzaan, trained by Hughie Morrison and ridden by Timmy Murphy
2005 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Blue Canyon, trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by Tony McCoy
2006 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by My Way de Solzen, trained by Alan King and ridden by Robert Thornton

1995 Member 1996 Member 1999 Member 1998 Member 1999 Member

2007 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by United, trained by Lucy Wadham and ridden by Leighton Aspell
2008 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Lough Derg, trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore
2009 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Lough Derg, trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore
2010 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Trenchant, trained by Alan King and ridden by Robert Thornton

2000 Member 2001 Member 2002 Member 2003 Member 2004 Member

2011 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Celestial Hero, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Skelton
2012 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Third Intention, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Joe Tizzard
2013 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Prospect Wells, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Daryl Jacob
2014 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Kayf Moss, trained by John Flint and ridden by Rhys Flint

2005 Member 2006 Member 2007 Member 2008 Member 2014 Member
2015 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Kilcooley, trained by Charlie Longsdon and ridden by Noel Fehily
2016 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Lil Rockerfeller, trained by Neil King and ridden by Trevor Whelan
2017 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Camping Ground, trained by Gary Moore and ridden by Josh Moore
2018 The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Old Guard, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden
     
2016 Member 2018 Member      

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

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774 former courses

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352 pages

400 former courses

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180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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