Will brings piece of Fontwell Park history back to life

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A LITTLE piece of racing history has been brought back to life at Fontwell Park – and Will Lefebve has ensured it has been done so with care and accuracy.

The former Press Association racing reporter learned in 2003 there was a picture of his father Len at the West Sussex racecourse, commemorating his part as a jockey in the first race ever staged at Fontwell in 1924.

He was delighted, although noticed the captions on the display spelled incorrectly both his surname – it said A Lefbye instead of Lefebve – and the name of his horse, which was down as Pride of Minister instead of Pride of Manister.

Will, from Ferring, who now works for Totepool on Fontwell race days, said: “I kept meaning to do something about it but never got round to it and then the picture, which was in the Garden Bar, disappeared.

“Then out of the blue recently, I got a call from Ed Arkell, the clerk of the course, saying they’d found the picture and had put it up in the weighing room.

“I asked if I could get the mistakes rectified and Ed was quite happy, so I took it to a printing business I know in Worthing, Impress, who were able to do the job.

“The display has been nicely restored and is now back in the weighing room – where I’m hoping that among the jockeys who see it will be Tony McCoy, if he makes a visit or two the course before he retires at the end of the season.

“I’m delighted I’ve been able to get the mistakes corrected and it’s lovely to see the picture back on display – some 91 years after it was taken to record the start of racing at Fontwell Park.”

The race in which Len Lefebve – who raced as A (Alfred) Lefebve – is photographed was the opening race of Fontwell’s inaugural meeting on May 21, 1924. He finished second in the four-runner contest behind the favourite Gem, ridden by F Rees.

Len rode around 150 winners in a career lasting until his early 20s – and being part of Fontwell’s first race was not his only claim to fame.

In September 1922 at the Isle of Wight racecourse, he rode a horse called Diasy Cutter in two races in an hour, then in 1927 he also rode in Taunton’s first race.

In the middle of all these firsts, Lefebve rode Ardeen in the 1925 Grand National and led over the first seven fences before crashing out at the eighth.

Will, 69, handed the newly-restored ‘first race’ display over to clerk of the course Ed, watched by Totepool colleagues Sue Sloan and Lyn Baxter.

STEVE BONE