Set in spectacular surroundings and steeped in racing history… Located in the heart of the West Sussex countryside with a thrilling and exciting atmosphere. Fontwell Park offers 24 exciting jump race meetings throughout the year and remains the only figure of eight jumps course in the UK.
Included in our Racing Highlights are a range of themed events and top class racing days for Fontwell Park.
The Netbet National Spirit Hurdle | Sunday 24 February
The most valuable and prestigious race in the racing calendar with £80,000 prize money! This fixture is named after the dual winner of the champion hurdle in the 1940's and attracts some of the finest racing talent in the country! Most recently, Lil Rockerfeller and Old Guard.
St Patrick’s Raceday | Saturday 17 March
Grab your Guinness hats and get ready for a day of top class racing and Irish fun! Join us for Live Music and Horse Racing with Rugby aired live all day! New for 2019, our St. Patrick's Raceday is a Feature Event in our Racing Calendar with every ticket recieving a free drink on us!
Easter Eggstravaganza Raceday | Wednesday 24 April
Win some fantastic prizes as the popular Easter egg hunt returns. As well as 7 exhilarating horse races, there will be plenty of free entertainment for the little ones.
Big Bank Holiday Family Fun Day | Sunday 26 May & 'Back to School' Family Fun Day | Sunday 8 September
15,000 people last year loved our HUGE family fun days, and with loads of new attractions for 2019, you will too! Keep the kids entertained for hours while the adults can enjoy the thrills of jump racing. Don’t forget, kids go FREE and entertainment is FREE!
Ladies Evening | Thursday 22 August
The most glamorous event of the year sees jump racing combine with live music! Acts to be announced soon!
Oktoberfest 2 Day Festival | Friday 4 & Saturday 5 October
Willkommen to the 2 day Oktoberfest! This ever popular meeting celebrates all things Bavarian so you can enjoy the races with a Bratwurst and traditional German beer. After racing, there will be live music on stage that will get everyone raising their Steins!
The Southern National | Sunday 17 November
The journey to the National starts here! National Hunt racing at its best, this fixture really is the ultimate ride for jockey and horse and is ran over 3 miles of November ground. One of the greatest spectacles of the year at Fontwell Park.
Boxing Day Racing | Thursday 26 December
Fontwell Park’s biggest raceday of the year and a great Sussex family tradition. Combine top class racing and hospitality with all the festive fun of our “winter wonderland”.
Aside from racing, Fontwell Park is the perfect destination for a huge range of events; from Weddings to Banqueting, Exhibitions to Christmas Parties and Meeting Space for 2 – 500 guests. From the traditional Fontwell House, to our Premier Grandstand and Paddock Marquee, we have three versatile Venues to suit any occasion.
Located just off the A27 between Chichester & Arundel, Fontwell Park offers dedicated event planners to give a complete service.
We understand that every event is unique, so don't hesitate to get in touch with our Events team to organise a tour or to answer any questions.
Alfred Day came to The Hermitage, on the north side of the Chichester to Arundel road, in 1887 to train racehorses. While researching the history of the area, he found a reference on a 1630 map to “Fontwell”. This was the name of the spring in front of his house, the only watering-hole on this major south coast route, and which the Romans had originally called “Fons”. Passing monks are said to have added the “well” part of the name. Day brought the name Fontwell back into use.
Generations of his family had been involved in racing as trainers and jockeys throughout the 19th century. While not training any Derby winners, Alfred Day often managed to get inexpensive horses to win good races. He bought one horse for just over £20 and won a race worth £300 with it. He turned down an offer of £700 for it, but a week later the horse died! His best horse was Master Willie, who held the world record for 6 furlongs for over 25 years.
As time went by Day was able to buy more land in the area so that by 1924, with the support of the local gentry, he had obtained a license from the Jockey Club to create a racecourse at Fontwell. The hurdles track was a conventional oval shape, but the steeplechase course was designed as a figure of eight to make best use of the limited space available. There was a huge crowd at the first meeting on 21 May that year. Those who became Club members could enjoy the gardens Day had laid out over many years, which included a maze in the style of the one at Versailles, and relics from other stately homes. What had been the farmhouse became Fontwell House, the members’ restaurant. In keeping with the garden-like setting, the grandstand and the weighing room were built with thatched roofs. The inaugural race was won by the 5/4 favourite Gem, ridden by champion jockey Fred Rees. It was a warm, humid day, the first of a two day meeting, and some of the stable lads refreshed themselves so much they had to be put to bed still wearing their boots.
There were four days racing in the first year and this slowly increased with a mixture of one and two day meetings, generally in spring and autumn. In 1949 Monaveen won a race at Fontwell. This was the first racehorse owned by the Queen and the Queen Mother, and the only horse they owned jointly. He went on to win good races and to run in the Grand National. A topiary statue in the main enclosure commemorates Monaveen’s triumph and the special bond his owners had with racing.
The dual winning Champion Hurdler, National Spirit, won 32 of his 85 starts and five of those were at Fontwell, most notably in the Rank Challenge Cup, which he won 3 years in succession in 1948-50. Since 1965 a prestigious hurdle race has been run in his honour, attracting many equine stars over the years. Its first running saw Salmon Spray winning, who went on to land the Champion Hurdle in 1966. Other top class horses to have won it include the dual Champion Hurdler Comedy of Errors and the top stayer Baracouda, who won the race in 2001.
Between 1959 and 1966 Certain Justice won 14 races at Fontwell, and 25 in all. More recently, in 1992-93 St Athans Lad won eleven races at Fontwell in the space of 14 months. They were good examples of the racing adage “horses for courses”. The unusual shape of the steeplechase track with its twists and turns does not suit all horses, but others thrive on it as there is always something new coming into view up ahead. It is the only figure of eight jumps track left in the country. The course has long been valued by racing fans, many of whom go into the middle to watch the races by one fence and then walk over to the nearest fence on the next stretch of the figure of eight, in good time to see the horses reach it. As the horses go round three times in a three mile chase, spectators get quite a bit of exercise too!
Around 1970 it was rumoured that Goodwood might buy the course, but instead it was snapped up by Isidore Kerman, a top London divorce solicitor who already owned Plumpton racecourse. He died in 1998 and his son Andy became the chairman until deciding to sell in 2002 to Northern Racing, who currently own or manage nine courses. Since then there has been a huge investment in the facilities. A new 90 box stable yard has been constructed and in 2007 the parade ring, winners' enclosure and saddling boxes were refurbished. A 40 bedroom hotel and pub/restaurant have also opened on the site. Maximum use has to be made of racecourses nowadays, so there are now over 20 race meetings a year and the course facilities are in use for numerous other events such as weddings, markets and concerts.
Trainer Alfred Day targeted the Glorious Goodwood meeting and scored some high profile wins there, including the Goodwood Cup, the Stewards Cup and the Goodwood Plate.
Fontwell Park has its own history book available for purchase, and was written by historian and racing enthusiast Jim Beavis.