Pontefract Racecourse History

The earliest evidence of racing in the Pontefract area was in March 1648 when races took place near Pontefract Castle. Captain Baines, in charge of Cromwell’s soldiers which had besieged the Castle, questioned whether he should ride his brothers grey mare in one of the races.  Meetings were staged regularly over the next century and a half on a variety of courses, including on Pontefract Park, as evidenced by the two newspaper articles shown below. However, it was not until Tuesday 5th October 1790 that a meeting was held in a park close to the present day racecourse. In 1802 Members badges were sold, allowing members entry to the course for the next 20 years. Subscribers to the £50 scheme were issued with a silver ticket and the funds enabled the first grandstand to be built. The Pontefract Cup was launched in 1803 and four of the first five occasions it was contested were won by Lord Darlington, the result of the inaugural running is shown below. There was disquiet in 1831 when Pontefract races were reported to be in decline by the Sporting Magazine and in danger of ceasing. This news was not taken well by all of the ‘members’ who had subscribed £50 and they threatened to dismantle the grandstand. For a short period, in the late 1860s and 1870s, Pontefract held a full programme of steeplechase races, with results shown below. In 1906 the Corporation leased the racecourse ground to a management group led by the Mayor, the Alderman and the Burgesses. Racing ceased during the war years, but in 1916 the Pontefract Race Company was formed under the chairmanship of Major General Sir Loftus Bates. During the Second World War Pontefract was one of only two Northern courses allowed to hold racing, the other being Stockton. This enabled the substitute Ebor to be transferred from York in 1943 when Yorkshire Hussar was successful. On Wednesday 6th April 1983 the course was transformed when the previous horseshoe shaped course became an oval, enabling races of up to two miles to be contested, making it the longest continuous flat racing circuit in Britain. One of its principal races is the Listed Silver Tankard Stakes for 2 year olds over a mile which was first contested in 1993 when won by Barbaroja, trained by Jimmy Fitgerald and ridden by Walter Swinburn. Full results from that race are shown below. Currently the course offers 16 fixtures annually.
Wednesday 14th September 1803
Pontefract 100 Guineas Gold Cup

1. Agonistes, bay horse carrying 8st 12 lbs owned by Lord Darlington
2. Unnamed bay colt by Ormond carrying 6st 2 lbs owned by Mr Mellish
3. Strap, bay colt carrying 6st 2 lbs owned by Mr Lee
4. Dick, 3 year old colt carrying 6st 2 lbs owned by Mr Wilson
Betting 6/4 Agonistes

Pontefract continues to thrive today, whereas nearby Wakefield closed its gates for the final time in 1849.

The first evidence of racing at Wakefeld was in 1678 on the third Wednesday in August. It took place on The Ings near to Law Hill. However, once gentlemen landowners laid claim to The Ings the racecourse was relocated to Outwood, a course of about 2 miles round. It became established and a grandstand was built from subscriptions from supporters who were given life membership badges, although racing only lasted until 1794. There was a lull until 1847 when the Wakefield Grand National was launched by the Earl of Strathmore. It was run over a 4 mile course consisting of 53 fences, starting at Sandal Castle, but lasted for just 2 more years, with the final meeting on Wednesday 21st February 1849.

Monday 27th December 1847
Wakefield Grand National over 4 miles and 53 fences
1. Proceed, 11 st 4 lbs owned by Mr Maddock
2. Sailor, 10 st 2 lbs owned by Mr S Mason jnr.
3. Langley Lass, 10 st 2 lbs owned by Mr Surtees

Pontefract 1938.JPG (14284 bytes)

In 1824 Sherwood, Jones, Smith & Co produced a series of maps showing the layout of racecourses. One such map was of Pontefract which is shown below:-

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the 1841 map shown below.
The two newspaper extracts given below report on meetings held in August 1736 and June 1740 and are shown courtesy of the Newcastle Courant and the British Library Online.
When a full programme of steeplechase and hurdle races was staged on Pontefract Racecourse in the late 1860s and throughout the 1870s, this was not a new experience for Pontefract. Indeed, as early as Monday 23rd March 1846 steeplechases had been staged in the vicinity of Pontefract racecourse, although not on the actual racecourse. On this day a crowd in excess of 15,000 witnessed the running of the Badsworth Hunt Steeplechase (result shown below) over 3 miles on a course described as ‘fair hunting country’. The elliptical course commenced in a sward field on the Pontefract side of Pontefract Park, crossing over fallow, stubble, grass and ploughed fields, with a good number of thorn fences, ending with a 500 yard run in on the lower part of the Park. It meant that spectators in the Stand and on the racecourse could see the entire steeplechase.
Badsworth Hunt Silver Cup Steeplechase over 3 miles
1. TRUCK, bay horse owned by Mr Smallpage and ridden by J Wilmot
2. VANISH, brown mare owned by Mr Smith and ridden by Scott
3. CABIN BOY, black horse owned by Mr Marsh
4. SQUIRE, chestnut horse owned by Mr Long
5. GIPSY QUEEN, chestnut mare owned by Mr Senior
circa 1920 circa 1940
By the late 1860s National Hunt races were held on the racecourse, billed as the Pontefract and West Riding Steeplechases, with the meeting on Wednesday 18th March 1868 featuring the Great West Riding Steeplehase over 3 1/2 miles

Wednesday 18th March 1868
Great West Riding Handicap Chase over 3 1/2 miles

  1. Greenland (6/4 fav) owned by Mr S J Welfitt
  2. Birdie (5/1) owned by Mr Martin
  3. Diana (4/1) owned by Mr G Simpson
  4. Prince (10/1) owned by Mr W G Brook
  5. The Guide (2/1) owned by Mr Atkinson
1974 Gents 1976 Member 1977 Member 1978 Member 1979 Gents
National Hunt meetings continued into the 1870s, but by the end of the decade they were limited to a few hurdle races, and shortly afterwards Pontefract reverted to a Flat racecourse.

Monday 27th March 1871
Badsworth Hunt Steeplechase over 2 miles

  1. Robin (4/1) owned by Mr G Simpson and ridden by W Simpson
  2. John Bright (3/1) owned and ridden by Mr E Dalglish
  3. Generosity (10/1) owned by Mr C Burton and ridden by Cunningham
  4. Salutation (10/1) owned by Mr Axe and ridden by Welburne
  5. Trumpeter (10/1) owned by Mr J Sweeting and ridden by Crawshaw
  6. Raskell (7/1) owned by Mr Stubbs and ridden by Preston
  7. Miss Brunell (2/1 fav) owned by Mr T Wilkinson and ridden by Spence
circa 1950 circa 1950
1982 Gents 1982 Lady 1982 Gents 1984 Gents 1985 Gents
The rare handbill shown below is provided courtesy of the Robert Shaw collection.
1992 Gents 1993 Gents 1993 Junior 1993 Ladies 1994 Gents

The Silver Tankard Stakes is a 2 year old Listed race run over a mile each October. The inaugural running was in 1993 when the Jimmy Fitzgerald trained Barbaroja was successful. Full results are shown below.
1993 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Barbaroja (3/1), trained by Jimmy Fitzgerald and ridden by Walter Swinburn 8 ran
1994 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Kalabo (5/2 jf), trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Willie Ryan 7 ran
1995 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Weet-a-Minute (4/1), trained by Reg Hollinshead and ridden by Kieren Fallon 6 ran
1996 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Entice (5/2 jf), trained by Barry Hills and ridden by Michael Hills 7 ran

1994 Ladies 1995 Gents 1996 Gents 1997 Gents 1997 Ladies

1997 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Gulland (10/11 fav), trained by Geoff Wragg and ridden by Michael Hills 8 ran
1998 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Three Green Leaves (3/1 jf), trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Joe Fanning 7 ran
1999 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Hataab (3/1), trained by Ed Dunlop and ridden by Richard Hills 6 ran
2000 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Worthily (11/4 fav), trained by Mick Channon and ridden by John Reid 9 ran

1998 Gents 1999 Ladies 1999 Gents 2000 Gents 2000 Ladies

2001 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Bandari (7/2 fav), trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Kevin Darley 12 ran
2002 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Battle Chant (7/2), trained by Ed Dunlop and ridden by Seb Sanders 5 ran
2003 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by New Mexican (2/1 fav), trained by Lynda Ramsden and ridden by Jamie Spencer 10 ran
2004 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Comic Strip (4/5 fav), trained by Sir Mark Prescott and ridden by Seb Sanders 9 ran

2001 Gents 2001 Ladies 2002 Gents 2002 Ladies 2003 Gents

2005 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Nakheel (11/8 fav), trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Richard Hills 7 ran
2006 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Sweet Lilly (4/1), trained by Mick Channon and ridden by Tony Culhane 8 ran
2007 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Siberian Tiger (12/1), trained by Mick Channon and ridden by Tadhg O’Shea 6 ran
2008 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Playfellow (4/9 fav), trained by Michael Jarvis and ridden by Phillip Robinson 4 ran

2003 Ladies 2004 Gents 2004 Ladies 2005 Gents 2005 Ladies

2009 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Gallic Star (11/2), trained by Mick Channon and ridden by Chris Catlin 8 ran
2010 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Zinella (10/1), trained by Ann Duffield and ridden by Paul Hanagan 6 ran
2011 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Letsgoroundagain (15/2), trained by Charlie Hills and ridden by William Carson jnr 8 ran
2012 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Willie the Whipper (7/1), trained by Ann Duffield and ridden by Graham Lee 7 ran

2006 Gents 2007 Gents 2007 Ladies 2008 Gents 2008 Ladies

2013 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Lady Heidi (20/1), trained by Philip Kirby and ridden by Silvestre de Sousa 5 ran
2014 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Prince Gargarin (4/1 cf), trained by Ed Dunlop and ridden by Adam Kirby 8 ran
2015 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Thanksfortellingme (13/8 fav), trained by Ralph Beckett and ridden by Richard Kingscote 7 ran
2016 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by D’bai (9/4 fav), trained by Charlie Appleby and ridden by William Buick 8 ran

2009 Gents 2009 Ladies 2010 Gents 2010 Ladies 2011 Ladies

2017 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Connect (9/1), trained by Clive Cox and ridden by Adam Kirby 8 ran
2018 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Manuela De Vega (10/11 fav), trained by Ralph Beckett and ridden by Harry Bentley 5 ran
2019 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by King Carney (7/2), trained by Charlie Fellowes and ridden by Danny Tudhope 6 ran

2012 Ladies 2014 Ladies 2014 Gents 2015 Ladies 2015 Gents

2020 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by Pythagoras (5/1), trained by Richard Fahey and ridden by Paul Hanagan 7 ran
2021 The Silver Tankard Stakes was won by My Professor (16/1), trained by Alice Haynes and ridden by Silvestre De Sousa 11 ran

2016 Ladies 2016 Gents 2017 Ladies 2017 Gents 2018 Member
     
2019 Member 2020 Member      

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing johnwslusar@gmail.com stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
ORDER FORM
Download an order form
  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
Postage & Packaging    
Total    
Email order form to johnwslusar@gmail.com