Fontwell Racecourse Guide
Fontwell might not be the biggest course in the country but the West Sussex track plays an important role in the National Hunt season calendar with meetings all-year round. Situated between the towns of Chichester and Arundel in the village of Fontwell the course boasts a rich history and is unique in the UK with two separate courses for hurdles and fences.
Fontwell Major Meetings
Fontwell hosts meetings all year round but it is perhaps best known as the venue for the Southern National which takes place each November, offering a stiff and searching examination of horses’ stamina. Fontwell also plays host to the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle in February which has seen several high-class winners come out of the race. It can often be used as a final trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Fontwell Track Characteristics
Fontwell is unique in that it boasts separate tracks for hurdles and fences. The hurdles course is a traditional oval with sharp turns and a long straight; while the chase course is an unusual figure-of-eight course which crisscrosses and runs inside the hurdles course sharing only the bends and the run to the winning post.
The chase course is considerably sharp and doesn’t suit long-striding horses. Both courses are undulating with an uphill finish and a circuit of the track is around one mile. The ground at Fontwell can be very testing in winter, placing a premium on stamina and while fences aren’t particularly stiff the nature of the track can really test a horse’s jumping ability. Races can develop from some way out and the long home straight can see horses commit too soon.
Fontwell has a knack of producing course specialists due to its’ unique topography, especially on the chase course.
Fontwell Leading Trainers
Over the past five seasons at Fontwell siding with trainers who send out plenty of runners has been a key to success and Gary Moore has had more than twice the number of winners at the track than any other trainer although he has also sent out more than twice the number of runners! Nevertheless the trainer operates a very respectable strike-rate at the track and returns a solid profit figure into the bargain.
Paul Nicholls and Anthony Honeyball also enjoy plenty of success here; the latter saddling one winner for every three runners he has at the track for a small profit. Nicholls meanwhile returns a slight loss over the five seasons despite a strike-rate of 40%.
In the more recent 2021/22 season Venetia Williams enjoyed plenty of success at Fontwell, sending out four winners from seven runners at the track; while Anthony Honeyball and Gary Moore both continued to churn out their fair share of winners.
Fontwell Leading Jockeys
Like trainers, siding with jockeys who ride Fontwell well are worth their weight in gold and over the past five seasons it has been now-retired Richard Johnson and Gavin Sheehan who have been the men to follow. During his time in the saddle backing Johnson’s horses blindly would have seen backers almost 30 points in profit; while Sheehan also returns positive figures and a respectable strike-rate as does Joshua and Jamie Moore - thanks in no small part to their father’s impressive winning record here through the years.
Sheehan has continued his fine record at Fontwell more recently and the most recent 2021/22 season saw the rider strike gold on 28% of his rides for a near-20 points profit; while Tom Cannon, Rex Dingle and Tom Bellamy also returned in profit from their respective rides at the track.
Fontwell Track History
Fontwell Park came about when horse racing trainer Alfred Day purchased enough land to open the hurdles course in 1924, giving the course the name of Fontwell after conducting some extensive research into the area. Day had trained nearby to the course since 1887. The first meeting to be held at the newly created course took place in May 1924.
Prior to becoming Queen, the Princess Elizabeth visited the course in 1949 where she witnessed her first winner as an owner when Monaveen scored under Tony Grantham. The horse was joined-owned with the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret was also in attendance with the horse winning at 30/100.
Two-time Champion Hurdle winner National Spirit was a five-time winner at Fontwell leading to the National Spirit Hurdle being added to Fontwell’s calendar in 1965. The race has been won by several notable types including Baracouda in 2001. The race is a recognised Cheltenham Festival trial.
Fontwell was the scene of the cinema adaptation of Dick Francis’ novel Dead Cert which starred Scott Antony, Ian Hogg, Judi Dench and Michael Williams.
John Francome surpassed Stan Mellor’s career wins when steering his 1036th winner home at Fontwell in 1984.
Fontwell Racecourse Address
The official racecourse address for Fontwell racecourse is:
Fontwell Park Racecourse
How To get to Fontwell Racecourse
If you’re planning a trip to Fontwell Park Racecourse here’s how to get there:
By car: Fontwell Park is handily accessible by road, situated on the A27/A29 roundabout between Chichester and Arundel. From the roundabout head onto the A29 towards Bognor Regis and the course entrance is on the right about 400 yards from the roundabout. Parking is free for racegoers using the main car park but can be upgraded to the centre car park for additional cost.
By train: Racegoers travelling by train to Fontwell should head for Barnham, which is serviced by trains from London Victoria, Portsmouth, Brighton and Southampton amongst others. From there a shuttle bus operates to and from the track or alternatively taxis are available outside Barnham Station with journeys taking around ten minutes.
By air: Gatwick and Bournemouth International Airports are around an hour’s drive away from Fontwell Racecourse. Helicopters are permitted to land in the centre of the course subject to prior approval; while light aircraft can land subject to prior approval at Goodwood which is around six miles away from the course.