Now Fontwell is racing’s figure-of-8,000 course

The stands are packed for Fontwell's Boxing Day race meeting  Picture by Connors
The stands are packed for Fontwell's Boxing Day race meeting Picture by Connors

Fontwell bosses are celebrating the success of their first Boxing Day meeting – which attracted their biggest crowd in at least a decade.

Close to 8,000 people poured through the gates for the festive fun and racing, a great first step in establishing the meeting as a regular favourite on the racing and local calendar.

The crowd witnessed a six-race card and enjoyed a wide range of sideshows and kids’ entertainment.

Inside the racecourse, staff coped well with the huge number of people - although there were traffic jams before and after racing which has led to track bosses beginning a review of access arrangements for next year.

Fontwell’s festive bow was a year late after their planned 2010 Boxing Day meeting was frozen off – and executive director Phil Bell said it had proved worth the wait.

“I’d rank it as one of my best days at Fontwell,” he said.

“Northern Racing took over the course in 2002 and this was the biggest crowd we have had in all that time.

“The volume of traffic was a bit of a problem in terms of the the time it took to get everyone in and out but we are already looking at how we can improve that next time.

“This fixture is ours for good now and I think the first one has given us a lot to build on.

“In terms of actual events to go to, there is not a lot for families to choose from on Boxing Day and I think the numbers who came demonstrated that.

“There would have been a lot of people among them who’d never been to Fontwell before. We hope they enjoyed the experience and will come back time and time again.”

On the track, it was an unusual afternoon as five of the six favourites – and one second-favourite – won.

Problema Tic kicked the festive fun off, as he jumped soundly to win the Mercedes Benz of Chichester Classic Beginners’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s charge, the 10/11-favourite, made the switch to fences in style, drawing clear from Kind Of Easy at the third last to win comfortably.

Miss Milborne ended a run of five straight second places with victory in the Butlins Bognor Regis Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. The 11/10 favourite tracked the leaders before easing to the front two from home.

Peter Bowen’s Run To Fly was the only favourite not to taste victory, finishing third behind 3/1-shot Miss Fleur in the Express Printing Handicap Chase.

Hot 5/6 favourite Whatshallwedo took the Winner Tool Hire 01903 230906 Handicap Hurdle.

Sawago – who, like Prolema Tic, was tipped for victory on – was a popular winner of the Ward-Thomas Master Remover Handicap Chase as he delivered Christmas cheer for Sussex trainer Gary Moore ridden by Noel Fehily. Terra Bleu – the 13/8 favourite – finished 13 lengths clear in the Butlins Bognor Regis Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.