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Pontefract Racecourse

Pontefract Racecourse

In last month’s OCP magazine I looked at Aintree racecourse the home of the Grand National. This month I’m heading across the Pennines into ‘God’s Own County’ Yorkshire to visit Pontefract racecourse.

As before in this series of articles on British racecourses, I will look briefly at the track’s location, history, configuration and will also highlight some significant track stats.

History and Location

The racecourse is in the historic West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract which is also famous for its liquorice sweet making industry.

For those racegoers coming by car the racecourse is very easily accessible being located about half a mile from Junction 32 of the M62 and with links to the A1, M1 and M18. Pontefract which has three railway stations which are well served by trains from Leeds & Wakefield and York and Sheffield. Some trains from London also stop there on the way to Bradford.

Pontefract Tanshelf railway station is closest to the racecourse being almost opposite the entrance to Pontefract Park. Whilst the two other stations are more centrally located in the town itself, which is a 2 mile walk from the course.

Racing in Pontefract can be dated to the Civil War. However, modern day racing close to the present site in Pontefract Park first started in the late 18th century and has continued to the present day. The course has had plenty of ups and downs in the past 200 years.

Like many racecourses around the country it was closed during the First World War. However, during the Second World War it was one of only a few racecourses in the North of England where racing took place. This meant that several famous races were held there during the war years, including the Lincoln & November handicaps and in 1943 the Ebor Handicap was also run at the course.

Up until 1983 the track was a horseshoe of 1 ½ miles but it was then changed into a full circuit of 2 miles. The change in the course configuration meant the it was now able to stage one of the longest races in the flat calendar at 2m 5 ½ f.

Pontefract would traditionally start its meetings off at 2:45 which was much later than other British racecourses. The late start was to enable the local coal miners to get the course after their morning shift had finished.

It’s not one of the biggest courses in Yorkshire but it’s friendly one and most of its facilities are near each other.

In 2019 Pontefract will host 16 race meetings during the flat season. No Group races are run at the track but there are four Listed races with the 1m 4f Pontefract Castle Stakes and the Silver Tankard Stakes, 1-mile race for two-year-olds in October, being the arguably the tracks biggest races.

Track Configuration

Pontefract racecourse is a left-handed undulating course with a sharp bend into the home straight. There is a near 3f uphill finish all the way to the winning post. Those final three furlongs make the track one which demands plenty of stamina from horses, especially when the going gets soft. You can get a feel for the gradients of the track from the course map on the Racing Post.

Horses that get going too early in the straight can find their stamina running out in the final furlong. On heavy ground you will often see the jockey bring their mounts over to the stands rail to find better ground.

One thing that can catch out punters is that the run to the start is downhill all the way and often a keen horse can expand too much energy just on the way to the start.

Horses drawn low on the inside of the track tend to be at advantage here.

For those horses drawn on the outside it can be a big disadvantage for the jockey to make their effort out wide coming into the straight especially when the going is on the quick side.

All in all, Pontefract provides a real test for a horse and jockey and the ability to see out the distance of a race is a necessity.

Pontefract Stats

Let’s begin by looking at some general stats including favourite stats at the course since 2014.

The stats below are from Jan 1st 2015 to the time of writing (10/04/19) and cover all meetings at the course. Once again, I am using the ever useful for the stats.

Let’s begin by looking at some general meeting stats from the last five years. Beginning with the fate of the favourites both clear and joint.

Bearing in mind that favourites, including Joint & Co favs, won 31% of all turf flat races in the period under research.

The results below contain 455 winners from 3962 runners.


Clear, joint & co-favourites have produced the following set of results:
156 winners 499 runners 31% -37.3 A/E 0.93 294 placed 59%. If you had backed every favourite at Pontefract, you would have lost £37.30 to a £1 level stake.

Breaking those results down into handicap & non-handicap races:

  • Non-handicap – 55 winners from 150 runners 37% -26.95 A/E 0.83 96 placed 64%.
  • Handicap – 101 winners from 349 runners 29% -10.35 A/E 0.99 198 placed 57%. 

Digging a bit deeper let’s focus on favourites that won their last race and those favourites who had finished outside the first three on their last start.

  • Favourites that won their last race have produced – 35 winners from 102 runners 34% -1.41 A/E 1 66 placed 65%.
  • Favourites that had finished outside the top four on their last start produced – 49 winners from 183 runners 27% -27 A/E 0.88 97 placed 53%.

Trainers and Favourites:

If you’re a favourite backer. Then the best performing trainers when the money is down are:


Top trainer in terms of numbers is Richard Fahey with a near 42%-win strike rate and his favourites are under bet and performing 35% better than market expectations. Which surprised me. Compare the Fahey record with that of his nearest rival Mark Johnston whose favourites are performing 12% worse than market expectations.

Lower down the table it’s probably worth noting any favourites from the Richard Whitaker and Michael Easterby stables.

Jockeys and Favourites:

Which jockeys have done the business for favourite backers?


The Silvestre De Sousa ridden favourites are over-bet. Compare his record with nearest rival Danny Tudhope who provides favourite backers with some value.

General Stats

Now a few general course stats. Starting with market position.

Market Position:

  • The top three in the betting provided 299 winners from 1423 runners 21% -247.27 A/E 0.87 671 placed 47%.
  • Odds SP: 28/1 & above – 5 winners from 522 runners 1% -261 A/E 0.45 35 placed 7%.


Big priced winners do occasionally pop up, but you will be waiting a long time to find them and if you have backed all runners at the meeting that started 28/1 or bigger you would have lost £261 to a £1 level stake.

Last Time Out Placing:

Those horses that finished in the first three in their last race provided 216 winners from 1280 runners 17% -98.95 A/E 0.9 508 placed 40%

Last Time Out Winners:

  • Last time out winners provided 63 winners from 388 runners 16% -109.07 A/E 0.83 157 placed 40%.

Previous Course Winners:

  • Previous course winners provided 56 winners from 596 runners 9% -191.11 A/E 0.73 168 placed 28%.


The average for last time out winners in all turf flat races in the period is 16% with an A/E 0.87 so last time out winners are performing about average. Meanwhile previous course winners at Pontefract are doing worse than average which is 12% with an A/E 0.85. If you had backed all previous course winners, you would have lost £191.11 to a £1 level stake.

Trainer Stats and Angles

Here are a few interesting trainer track stats, that will hopefully enable you to identify some winners at Pontefract through the rest of this season.

Trainers and Handicap Runners In The Top-Three In The Betting.


Both Michael Easterby & Richard Whitaker handicap runners in the first three in the betting need respecting.

Trainers & Two-year-old’s Making Their Racecourse Debut.


Only 12 two-year old have won on their racecourse debut at Pontefract since the start of 2014 and five of them were trained by Richard Fahey.

Trainers & Handicap Debutants


Twenty-four horses have won at the course when making their handicap debut. Only one trainer has saddled more than one winner and that’s Richard Fahey who’s had a third of all handicap debutant winners at the course with a very healthy 38%-win strike rate.

If you had backed all the Fahey handicap debutants you would have made a profit of £25.70 to a £1 level stake.

Trainers & Race Distance (Handicaps)

Trainers & Race Class (Handicaps)

Hopefully you enjoyed this brief look at Pontefract racecourse and some of the track’s key stats.

The next chapter in this tour of British racecourses stays in Yorkshire and heads to Beverley.

Until next time.