Fontwell Park boss: We’re hoping to be Boxing clever

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We’re gearing up for our big Boxing Day meeting and it’s like venturing into the unknown for us, writes Fontwell Park executive director Phil Bell.

Last year was due to be our first one and it was frozen off – but the weather is much milder this year.

We’re catering for a large crowd but it’s impossible to know just how large it will be.

We’re aware a lot of people will leave it late – possibly until the day itself – to decide whether to come.

That said, advance ticket sales and hospitality are going really well. If you book any time up to 11am on December 23, you can get a Grandstand & Paddock Enclousre ticket for £17, and of course kids aged up to and including 15 get in free.

As well as the racing, we’ll have Santa, a circus skills tent, dodgems, fairground attractions, stilt-walkers, face-painters and much more.

We’re all really excited about Boxing Day – it could be our biggest-ever day.

Then we’ll be straight into promoting our 2012 fixtures, which have been confirmed since my last column.

I’m delighted that we’ve secured 24 meetings next year – our largest number ever, at a time when many courses have had numbers trimmed.

The highlights will include the usual ones – Ladies’ Evening, the two-day festival in October and Boxing Day.

But the first feature meeting will be one we’re calling All About The Racehorse on Sunday, February 26, when the feature race will be the National Spirit Hurdle.

Race-goers will be able to meet a racehorse, see a farrier at work and finding out about all aspects of the creatures who make racing what it is.

We’re hoping to parade Lough Derg – a much-loved double National Spirit Hurdle winner who has just been retired after earning an amazing £374,000 in prize money – that day, as well as some other famous names.

We’re reducing many of our prices for 2012. I wanted us to reflect the fact that times are hard for a lot of people at the moment and the public are looking for greater value in their leisure pursuits.

For 19 of our 24 meetings, you’ll be able to book a Grandstand & Paddock Enclosure ticket in advance for £10 - the cheapest it’s been for some time. And the cost of an annual pass is going down significantly to £199.

Watch out in next week’s Observer for more details of the annual badges and a chance to win a pair.

Away from racing, our Christmas parties are keeping us extremely busy at the moment.

We’ve had more than 2,000 people coming here for them – up by 500 on last year’s number.

We’ve been giving them musical themes and we appear to have gained a strong reputation for this aspect of what we offer on non-raceing days.

Back on the track, there’s one thing to look out for the day after Boxing Day.

Giles Cross, who was the superb winner of our totepool Southern National last month, one of the best renewals of the race we’ve had, goes in the Welsh National at Chepstow.

I’d have thought many who saw him battle to victory that day will back him.

- Phil Bell