EXCITEMENT is building as Fontwell Park gears up for the second year of its new two-day festival.
The back-to-back meetings are designed to become – over time – a significant feature to mark the start of the jump-racing season nationally.
And the signs from the festival’s debut last year suggest the plan could be a winner.
The 2011 festival attracted thousands of punters and an array of top jockeys, trainers and owners – and was blessed by hot sunny conditions – so hot, in fact, the Saturday crowd was down because some went to the beach instead.
Temperatures are unlikely to be quite as high this year but Fontwell bosses hope that if next week’s weather is reasonable, they will attract as many race-goers again for the two days of action on Friday, October 5 and Saturday 6.
The festival – offering nearly £90,000 of prize money – carries a ‘best of British’ theme to mark the memorable year the country has seen with events like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.
Each day will feature seven races, live music – and plenty of beer, courtesy of Fullers, who are putting their name to day one and calling it London Pride Raceday.
Fontwell Park executive director Phil Bell said: “Ticket sales are in line with last year, when we had a crowd of about 3,000 on the Friday – our biggest attendance for a weekday afternoon fixture – but had fewer than the 5,000 we hoped for on the Saturday because ironically it was too nice.
“Although this week’s rain has dirupted a lot of sport and events it’s come at an opportune time for us. Provided it doesn’t carry on too much longer, after a long dry spell, it will have given us the prospect of good ground to run on.”
Bell said it would take time to establish the festival as one the wider jump-racing world would plan into its programme.
But he said it looked likely that a number of top trainers and well-known local handlers would be aiming some very good horses at Fontwell this year. And he was confident the festival’s reputation would grow.
Attractions on Friday will include a jockeys’ mastermind hosted by Desert Orchid’s former rider Colin Brown and music from Madness band Los Palmas 6. A lunch in aid of Parkinson’s UK will be held before racing.
Saturday’s racing will be complemeneted by kids’ entertainment and culminate with music by From The Jam.
See more on the Fontwell festival in your new-look Observer sport pages next week - and we’ll have tips and reports for both days of the festival on this website.