The thoroughbred Racehorse is one of the most pampered animals in the world! They are known for their agility, speed and spirit.
Horses are pack animals and love to run in groups. And if a horse does not want to run, there is very little that the rider can do about it. You will see a 'will to win' in many of the horses who are enjoying competing and trying their best.
There are 2 ways of putting a bet on at the Racecourse:
The tote offer what is known as 'pool betting'. All the money placed on a particular race is put into a 'pool'. The tote take out a percentage for their takings and then the remaining money is shared between the winning ticket holders. While the figures that appear on the tote screen are a guide to the price at the exact moment that you put your bet on, the actual price isn't known until the pool closes at the start of the race. The minimum bet with the tote is £2.
There are tote betting points around the Racecourse. Click here for totepool details.
It is important to check your ticket thoroughly when you put your bet on, but if you have any disputes with your Tote bet, there is a Tote Raceday Manager at every race meeting. Simply come to the Raceday Office and asked to be directed to the Tote betting office.
Alternatively, you can visit the Racecourse Bookmakers.
Bookmakers offer 'Fixed Odds Betting'. The bookmakers are located in designated Betting Areas which are at the front of the stands in all Enclosures. The Bookmakers display their best 'price' or 'odds' for every horse and are in competition with each other to provide the most competitive price. When you put a bet on with a bookmaker you get the odds on display at that time, therefore you know exactly how much you will win when you place the bet, but you run the risk of losing out if the price of the horse gets bigger!
The betting ring can be a very daunting place for the first time racegoer. However, it needn't be. Just follow these straightforward guidelines and you'll discover how easy it is to bet with a bookmaker.
Most importantly, have fun - wander around the betting ring and make sure you get a great price. Compare the price that the tote are offering and then find a place in the stands to make sure that you shout your horse home in first place!
REMEMBER, DO NOT BET MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD TO LOSE. WE CANNOT ACCEPT ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE OUTCOME OF ANY RACE OR ANY BET THAT YOU PLACE. ALL ARRANGEMENTS ARE STRICTLY BETWEEN YOU AND WHOEVER YOU PLACE YOUR BET WITH.
No - badges or tickets for ALL enclosures are available at the turnstiles on the day. However, it is ALWAYS cheaper to buy your tickets in advance. The earlier you book, the cheaper it is.
Prices for tickets/badges ON THE DAY are available here.
Yes - no matter how many are in your group, it's always cheaper to buy tickets in advance. Please note though, that you can only get advance tickets for the Grandstand & Paddock or Premier Enclosures.
You can only buy the Raceday Packages in advance too!
To check prices, click here.
You can either get tickets:
The Racecourse have a programme or 'Racecard' printed for every race meeting.
They are included in the price of entry to the Premier Enclosure and are available in all other Enclosures at a cost of £2.50.
You can buy them in advance when you book your tickets for just £1.50!
The Racecard is also included in the cost of the Paddock Package and Birthday Package.
The Race Card is designed to help you through the day and maximise your enjoyment.
Inside the front cover of every racecard is a plan of the stands and enclosures.
You'll also find a page with some vouchers that can be used in the Bars & Restaurants around the course.
There are also a number of general notices - information on who the officials are, where you can eat and drink and what race meetings are coming up. There are lots of hidden gems in there!
Ok, you've had something to eat; you've had a quick drink; you've studied the track facts and you've got 30 minutes before the first race - the horses haven't come in to the Parade Ring yet and so it's time to have a quick look at the runners and riders for the first race.
In the racecard, each race number can be identified by the number displayed on the edges of the page - in our example below it's race 4.
If you look at a typical race from the racecard you will see the following general details about the race situated in the top left hand corner of the page :
Next, look at a specific horse - let's look at horse numer 1, HATTON FLIGHT
If you look at the whole 'block', there is everything you will need to know about the horse.
Looking left to right, you will see the colour of the shirt (known as the 'silks') that the jockey will wear. Take good note of this so that you can cheer your horse on at the finish!
After the name of the horse you will see a number in brackets - ie 43 - this indicates the number of days since the horse last ran. If you look at horse 5, PROSPECT WELLS, you will notice that this horse has not run for 412 days. If a horse has been 'off the course' for a long time it may indicate that it has had some training problems, been injured, or simply needed a long period of rest and relaxation.
Looking again at HATTON FLIGHT, to the right of the brackets you will see the horses age - 6 - followed by the weight that the horse will carry. In this case the weight is 9st 1lb. This weight is made up of the weight of the jockey, the saddle and the jockey's clothing. If, for example the jockey and the saddle etc weigh in at 9st, he/she will put a 1lb lead weight into the saddle to make it correct. All jockeys are then 'weighed out' to make sure that they are carrying the correct weight and then weighed in AFTER the race to make sure that they've not lost anything!
After the weight of the horse is a number in brackets. This is the horse's position within the starting stalls.
Back to the racecard and HATTON FLIGHT!
Underneath the name of the horse you can see the following:
B g Kahyasi - Platonic
'B' is the colour of the horse - in this case 'Bay' (or light brown)
You can also have 'Br' (Brown), 'Ch' (Chesnut), 'Bl' (Black), 'Gr' (Grey), 'Ro' (Roan) or (very rarely) 'W' (White).
'g' is the sex of the horse - in this case a 'gelding' (a male horse that has been castrated)
You can also have 'c' (colt - 2 or 3 yr old male 'entire' horse), 'h' (horse - 4yr old or older male 'entire' horse), 'f' (filly - 2 or 3 yr old female horse) or 'm' (mare - a 4yr old or older female horse)
'Khayasi' is the father or 'sire' of Hatton Flight and 'Platonic' is the 'dam' or mother. These details are known as the 'breeding' of the horse.
Underneath the details of the horses breeding you will see the name of the Owner, Trainer and Breeder of the horse. The sponsor of the jockey is also listed.
Underneath the weight details you will find the name of the jockey - in this case Jimmy Fortune.
Beneath the jockey and 'colour of the silks' details you will see the horses 'form' or it's finishing positions in it's last 6 races. In the case of 'HATTON FLIGHT' the form is 11U05-5 So, on the horses last racecourse appearance (43 days ago), he finished 5th. The '-' that appears before the '5' indicates that any figures to the left of the '-' were during the previous racing year. A '/' indicates 2 previous racing years ago.....
You can expect to see any of the following symbols within the form '1'. '2', '3', '4', '5', '6' which indicate the horse's finishing position (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th).
You may also see:
'0' - the horse finished out of the first 6 and was 'unplaced'
'F' - the horse fell
'U' - the horse did not fall but the jockey was knocked off or 'unseated'
'R' - the horse 'refused' to race
'P' - the horse 'Pulled up' and did not complete the race.
A little gap after the 'form' may be one of the following letters 'C', 'D', 'C D' which are as follows:
C - the horse has won over this course (ie Pontefract)
D - the horse has won over the distance of today's race
C D - the horse has won over the distance at this course!
Below all this information is a small review of the horses chances with the offical rating given to it by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and a 'star' rating given by the racecard compilers.
After the very last horse in the race you may see a line which states that certain horses are wearing 'blinkers' or 'cheek pieces' or 'tongue strap'. The following are permitted pieces of equipment that the horse may wear on it's head or in it's mouth:
Blinkers - fit over the head and keep the horse looking straight forward to concentrate
Cheekpieces - fit to either side of the horse's head and again aim to keep the horse focused by looking straight ahead
Visor - fit over the head but have a slit in the 'cover' to allow the horse more peripheral vision
Eyecover - fit over the head and completely blocks vision in one eye (these are rarely used)
Tonguestrap - fits in the mouth over the tongue to prevent a horse from swallowing his/her tongue.
At the end of all the runners you will see a race summary and the predicted 1-2-3!
And that's it!
There is a lot of information packed into the Racecard!
It's often a good place to start if you look at the heading of the race
The ages of all horses are calculated from the 1st January of the year in which they are born. Horses do not race until they become 2yr olds.
Races are run at Pontefract over distances varying between 5 furlongs and 2 miles and 5 furlongs. There are 8 furlongs in a mile.
All racehorses (regardless of their age or sex) are allocated an official rating once they have run 3 times (or once they have won a race if sooner). The British Horseracing Authority give them a 'handicap' rating. A horse who has not done particularly well may have a rating in the 40s, while a very good horse will be rated in the 120s or higher!
The 'handicap' rating can go up or down on a weekly basis.
The horse carries a saddle which the jockey 'sits' on to help steer. Within the saddle is an area for lead weights so that we know EXACTLY how much weight a horse carries (including the weight of the jockey).
The race types are as follows:
A Handicap is a race where the horse which the Handicapper considers is the best horse in the race carries the highest weight. Typically the top horse will carry 9st 7lbs (made up of the jockey's weight, the saddle and any additional lead weights). The 'second best horse' in the race may have an official rating which is (for example) 2 less than the top horse. This horse will then carry 2lbs less in weight - ie 9st 5lbs.
Between the highest rated horse and the lowest weighted horse in a handicap can be as much as 20lbs!
Handicaps are restricted to horses who have a similar ability - for example if they are rated between 71 and 85 they can run in the same race.
A Handicap is a very competitive type of race because, if the official ratings are correct and each horse performs to the best of its ability, all horses should finish level!
It's up to the punter to judge whether he or she thinks a particular horse is better or worse than the rating it's got:
It's all a matter of opinion and trying to pick out the horse that you think is better than the rating it has achieved
A Nursery is a Handicap race (see above) that is only open to horses aged 2 years old.
A Maiden Race is for horses who have never won a race. Often there a several horses in Maiden Races who have never been on a Racecourse before. You should make a trip to the Parade Ring to have a look at the horses first!
There are different types of Maiden Races - ie a Maiden Auction, a Median Auction Maiden etc. These races are restricted to horses who were purchased at certain sales or for a certain price.
A Claiming Race is where all the horses running are for sale at a price fixed by their owners. The weight that they carry is determined by their selling price.
A Selling Race is where all the horses running are for sale. The winner will then be sold at public auction immediately after the race! We do not run any selling races at Pontefract though!
A Conditions Race is a race where the weights are determined by a certain set of 'conditions'.
One or more of a selection of conditions may apply in any one race. Examples of typical conditions are set out below:
A Classified Race might be described as,for example 'a 0-85 Classified'. This is a race where the horses are:
Listed and Group Races are for the highest rated horses.
Generally speaking horses in these types of races are allocated the same weight (although a weight allowance may apply to a younger horse or female horses). Their 'handicap rating' is irrelevant and they are the best horses in the country.
Group 1 races are for the very best horses - followed by Group 2, Group 3 and then Listed.
A Day at the Races can be anything you want it to be!
The layman's view of racing is that it is an elitist sport for the wealthy and privileged. The reality could not be further from the truth! Racing is a sport for everyone - for young and old, men and women, rich and poor.
A Day at the Races can be a great day or night out with colleagues from work, an amazing way to catch up with friends, a fantastic way to make friends or a fabulous way to spend time with the family. Check out all our fixtures here.
It's an exciting, pulsating and inexpensive way to spend the day.
To make the most of your day, follow the basic steps laid out here for the First Time Racegoer:
Most of all, have fun at Pontefract. Meet some new friends and have a great day out.
There are lots of different ways in which people choose the horse that they are going to back!
Many simply go for their favourite name, or their favourite colour of the silks that the jockey is wearing or the jockey whose name they recognise!
To help out the novice racegoer, the Racecourse has a programme, or 'Racecard', produced for every meeting. Have a look at 'understanding the Racecard'.
If you're going in to the Premier or the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosures you can see the horses walk round the 'Parade Ring' before the jockey gets on. It's always worthwhile looking at your horse to see if it's calm (but not too sleepy!). Ideally you want a horse that is taking a healthy interest in everything going on without getting too agitated or excited.
You should look if the horse looks healthy (it's coat has got a healthy shine to it) and see if it's in good shape and has plenty of muscles around its back legs and chest.
Often when horses are getting a bit nervous or over excited they sweat. This appears as a white-ish lather around the neck or under the saddle. A small amount of sweat is not a bad sign, but it is often considered to be detrimental if a horse is sweating in between it's back legs.
For many of our races we offer a prize to the stable lad or lass who is in charge of 'the best turned out horse'. The sponsor of the race chooses a horse which they think has been well groomed - quite often the mane or the tail is plaited and there might be a 'diamond' pattern on the horses hind quarters (their hips essentially!) This means that the stable lad or lass has spent time brushing, preparing and generally giving a lot of TLC to their charge.
Have you heard the phrases 'horses for courses'? Well that's never more true than at Pontefract. The unique shape of the course with it's turns and ups and downs means that it takes a very special type of horse to win at Pontefract. And quite often if a horse runs well here, it will generally do so again. So watch out for horses that have won or run well at Pontefract before. The racecard will normally be a good guide to this - if a 'C' or 'CD' appears next to the form it means that they've won over the Course, or over this Course and over this Distance before! One horse, Mr Wolf, won 9 times at Pontefract before he retired in 2012! He still comes to visit when we have a parade of retired racehorses at our Sunday meeting in August.
In the same way that horses might take a particular liking to Pontefract, some jockeys are particularly good at riding around here. Listed in the Racecard are the current standings for the top trainer and top jockey in the current racing season so keep an eye out for that!
Finally, before you go and put on your bet (click here for how to do so), have a look at the horses on the way to start. They should canter down to the start enthusiastically but under control. You don't want to see a jockey really struggling to hold on to the horse, but at the same time you don't want to see the horse having to be cajoled to leave the Parade Ring!
The horse should then be cool, calm and collected at the start and ready to go!!
Horses are, by nature, pack animals and love to run together in big groups. If they are not enjoying their day out then you will be able to tell. A flashing tail; a horse with it's ears flat back to it's head; a horse throwing it's head about generally are signs that the horse is not entirely happy about something!
The Racetrack on which the horses run is an oval of 2miles and 125yards of turf.
Depending on the weather conditions, the ground conditions alter. For example, if there's a lot of rain, the ground may become softer. Similarly, in drought the ground is harder/drier.
Based on the state of the ground we issue a 'Going' report.
There are several types of description of the 'going'
- the softest/muddiest/wettest conditions that we are allowed to race on is called 'Heavy'
- the driest/fastest conditions that we are allowed to race on is called 'Hard'.
Racing is run under the 'Rules of Racing' laid down by the British Horseracing Authority who regulate the sport. The Rules stipulate that we must use one of, or a combination of, the following to describe the state of the ground:-
Flat Racecourses should strive to provide no harder than 'Good to Firm' ground at their meetings (obviously depending on weather conditions). If the ground looks like being 'Hard' then we are able to 'water' or 'irrigate' the course to 'soften' it.
The 'Going' can drastically affect the chance of any particular horse. Some horses do not perform to the best of their ability if the ground is soft, and similarly some horses hate the ground to be hard.
It is definitely worth keeping an eye on the weather and finding out if the horse that you like enjoys the sunshine or the rain!
As soon as the horses cross the finishing line, the race is not always over! If it's been a particularly close finish, the Judge may call for a photograph to determine which horse has won. You will often hear 'photograph, photograph' announced over the PA system.
And it might not necessarily be over then either! If it's been a close finish, or there has been some bumping and barging, there may be a 'Stewards Enquiry' where the Stewards take a good look at the race to determine whether the horse which has crossed the line in front has pushed his way through or blocked the way of a rival. The winning horse can be disqualified in some circumstances! SO NEVER THROW YOUR BETTING TICKET AWAY, UNTIL THE 'WEIGHED IN' ANNOUNCEMENT IS MADE!!! This means that the final result has been announced and can not be changed.
A jockey can make an 'Objection' to another horse if he/she feels that his horse's chance has been affected by an incident in the race.
Immediately after the horses come off the course, the first 4 horses head to the Winners Enclosure (right in the heart of the Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure) to see their connections. Racegoers often gather in this area to congratulate the winners, commiserate with the losers and just generally soak up the atmosphere. There's a trophy presentation to the winning connections after every race!
Once the excitement of the race dies down then you have around 30 minutes to regather your thoughts and get ready for the next race.
It may sound like a long time but there's plenty to keep you occupied.
After the horses have finished the race you may see them cool down and being washed down. We take horse welfare very seriously at Pontefract and there's always lots of fresh water about and there are 3 horse showers available to keep the equine superstars rehydrated and looked after.
It may be time to collect your winnings, or you may need to rehydrate yourself, but remember to make plenty of time to pick your horse in the next race!
On certain racedays, you will find that there are lots of other things happening around the racecourse - bands, music, circus, kids rides, competitions, etc etc - listen to the PA system on the day for details of what's going on! To look at when our special 'themed' days are, please click here.
There are lots of options for eating and drinking! From fine dining in the restaurants to a sandwich in one of the bars to fish and chips from one of the retail units! There really is something for everyone!
Similarly, you can get a cup of tea or you can splash out on a bottle of Champagne!
For a complete overview of where you can eat and drink, please click here!
If you come unstuck on a raceday then all the Racecourse Staff at the turnstiles or dotted around the Racecourse are all briefed to help out.
And if you are still stuck, then come to the Raceday Office (which is just behind the Winner's Enclosure) and we'll (hopefully) be able to solve it!
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