Focus on Fontwell: Anniversaries celebrated - and a fun day ahead

Paul Mant at Fontwell / Picture by Louise Adams
Paul Mant at Fontwell / Picture by Louise Adams

It has been 92 years since Fontwell Park first opened its gates to the public – and the course remains one of the strongest small National Hunt courses in the country.

The inaugural race was won by the 5/4 favourite Gem, ridden by champion jockey Fred Rees, on May 21, 1924.

Alfred Day, the founder of Fontwell Park, started as a trainer, getting inexpensive horses to win good races. As time went by Day was able to buy more land in the area so that by 1924, he had obtained a license from the Jockey Club to create a racecourse at Fontwell.

Now, in 2016, Fontwell Park is the second-busiest jumps only course in the country with 24 meetings a year, beaten only by Uttoxeter with 25.

The anniversary of Fontwell Park’s founding was not the only impressive one marked at the track in recent days.

Head groundsman Paul Mant has celebrated 35 years of work there without a single day off sick. Paul started work in 1981 with dad Roger, who was head groundsman at that time.

Roger worked at Fontwell for 44 years and Paul took over the title role in 2002 when his father retired. Paul says he is aiming for at least 50 years before he thinks of retiring.

Roger worked at Fontwell for 44 years and Paul took over the title role in 2002 when his father retired. Paul says he is aiming for at least 50 years before he thinks of retiring.

The jumps season has finished and Tom Cannon kept his crown as Fontwell’s top jockey for a third consecutive year.

The contest went down to the wire with Noel Fehily. Both had eight wins, but Cannon managed more second and third places to secure his position as No1.

A very impressive season for Sussex trainer Gary Moore saw him confirmed as the course’s top trainer with 13 wins.

Last time Moore managed to secure the No1 spot was in 2012-13 season – since then has twice been second to Chris Gordon, who finished third this year.

Fontwell’s popular family fun day returns this Sunday (May 29). It’s a great day out for the whole family with a full programme of jump racing – plus entertainment including a mini-zoo, a large fun fair, laser quest, an 85ft inflatable assault course, a bouncy castle, pony rides, zorbing and face painting, all of which is free.

Under-18s go free and adults pay only £12 if they book before Saturday.

After this meeting there are only two midweek fixtures in June to get your jump-racing fix at Fontwell before the summer break.

These are on Wednesday, June 1 and Tuesday 7, the latter named as a Farmers’ Market Raceday.

Visit www.fontwellpark.co.uk and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date.

Max Roberts

Fontwell Park marketing manager

Sports editor Steve Bone’s tips for Sunday: 1.50 Fountains Windfall, 2.20 La Madonnina, 2.50 Highbury High, 3.25 Osgood, 3.55 Saint Roque, 4.30 Leaderofthedance, 5.00 Killabraher Cross, 5.30 Lady From Geneva.

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