Fontwell reflect on frozen assets after Boxing Day race meeting is lost

Fontwell operations director John Fullbrook examining the frozen course on Boxing Day
Fontwell operations director John Fullbrook examining the frozen course on Boxing Day
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BOSSES at Fontwell Park lost a six-figure sum when they were forced to call off their big Boxing Day meeting.

They had invested a huge amount of time and money in trying to beat the cold spell and get the go-ahead for a race day that could have attracted their biggrst crowd for years.

But when temperatures plummeted to minus nine on Christmas Day night, it turned the track to concrete and scuppered their hopes.

The course passed precautionary inspections on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a large team worked for much of Christmas Day to make sure public areas including the car park were safe to use.

But there was nothing anyone could do once the mercury plummeted.

General manager Phil Bell said: “On almost any other day over the festive period, we could have raced.

“It was so frustrating for everyone who had worked so hard to get the meeting on. We all went home on Christmas Day thinking we had done everything possible.

“Even if the temperature had been minus four or minus five that night, we’d have been okay. But Ed Arkell, the clerk of the course, phoned me about 5.30 on Boxing Day morning to say it was like concrete and we had no chance.

“Then we had everyone in doing all the work to contact as many people as possible and tell them it was off. I think we kept racegoers very well-informed and we’ve had good feedback on that score - that’s one good thing to come out of this.

“It’s cost us a six-figure sum. Just the covers we got in, and the labour associated with them, cost £20,000.

“When we got the Boxing Day fixture we always knew there was a possiblity, perhaps even a likelihood, it would be off because of the weather. But we’ll keep the fixture and, over ten years, would hope to run it six or seven times.”

Clerk of the course Arkell added: “We just didn’t have a chance. It’s such a shame because the groundstaff have done an absolutely outstanding job and worked so hard in attempting to get this meeting on.”

Fontwell will hope the weather picks up by next Friday, January 7, for their first card of 2011. That’s followed by a Sunday meeting on Februaty 6. There’s a ‘six pack’ admission offer available.

The package is £15 and includes admission to the Grandstand and Paddock Enclosure, a drink, a £2 food voucher, a race day programme, a Tote discount betting voucher and a return admission voucher.