Congratulations to Pontefract Racecourse after the Racecourse Association (RCA) announced they were Showcase Champion for 2019 at the tenth annual RCA Showcase & Awards.

Held this year at Hamilton Park Racecourse, the Showcase & Awards, partnered by Moët Hennessy, Racing Post and Great British Racing (GBR), celebrate excellence and innovation in racecourse customer experience.

As well as being named overall Showcase Champion, Pontefract’s Guinness World Record-winning Uniquely Yorkshire raceday wowed the judges in the Events category by creating the world’s biggest image of a whippet made up of racegoers. 

Newmarket was also rewarded with a Highly Commended award in this category for the world’s first official Peaky Blinders Raceday which proved exceptionally popular with racegoers.

Norman Gundill MBE, Managing Director of Pontefract Racecourse, commented “We are thrilled to be named as the Showcase Champion Racecourse. To have been named as Champion by a panel of expert judges and amongst our peers means the world.

“I believe that with Pontefract winning the Champion accolade it shows that any racecourse can achieve great things with the right mindset. We’re a proud member of Go Racing in Yorkshire and strive to give our customers the best day out possible. My thanks must go to my incredible team.

“Of all the awards the racecourse has won during my tenure, this certainly means the most. It’s an evening we will never forget.”

Maggie Carver, Racecourse Association Chairman, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Pontefract Racecourse has been crowned with our most prestigious accolade, Showcase Champion.”

“This was an exceptional year for Pontefract, having been selected as Finalists in three categories. Under the astute leadership of Norman Gundill and Richard Hammill, the racecourse has continued to develop and innovate. In 2019, with both an increase in attendance and racegoer satisfaction scores, Pontefract demonstrated an outstanding raceday experience for customers.

“The foundations of our Showcase & Awards, excellence and innovation, were on show amongst all of our Finalists and the eventual winners. With record numbers of submissions, the competition in 2019 was the strongest we have seen. Our winners and highly commended have shown exceptional commitment to delivering outstanding customer experiences.”

Across a sparkling awards night held at Hamilton Park Racecourse, there were a total of 13 awards handed out by special guests Catriona Bissett and Chris Hughes.

Beginning the night, the two awards for individuals were presented. The Chairman’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Racing was given to Simon Bazalgette who recently stood down as Chief Executive of the Jockey Club after 11 years at the helm.

Petra Gough of Sandown Park Racecourse was honoured with the RCA Outstanding Achievement Award for her continued commitment to promoting racing at the Esher venue.

York Racecourse celebrated a wonderful evening by being crowned Champion Groundstaff team in the Racecourse Groundstaff Awards in association with Pitchcare, Watt Fences and Fornells. York were also named winners of the Racing Post Readers Award to celebrate customer service, the only award of the evening to be nominated by racegoers.

Musselburgh were crowned best racecourse for Owners’ Experience thanks to their fantastic raceday team led by Jane Walker. Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) Members were instrumental in placing Musselburgh on the shortlist for this award, with their nominations demonstrating how popular the racecourse is amongst this vital customer group.

The 2019 Best Campaign Award was won by ARC & Doncaster for their innovative take on family days. The dino-themed days were a mammoth success with racegoers, so much so that the campaign and raceday was rolled out across the ARC group. 

Operational Excellence was awarded to the 2019 hosts Hamilton Park on account of the business-change project to include an onsite hotel, transforming Hamilton Park from racecourse to resort.

Hosts Hamilton Park were the Operational Excellence winners for their new onsite hotel development

Cheltenham made it back-to-back wins in the Food & Beverage category for the stunning Horse & Groom, a gastro-pub themed hospitality concept that proved a sell-out success at this year’s Festival™. Such was the fierce competition in this category, the judges awarded Perth a Highly Commended accolade for their partnership with Heritage Portfolio which has delighted racegoers throughout the season with fresh, innovative food and beverage options.

The Love of the Sport Award went the way of Salisbury Racecourse, who managed to beat off competition from some serious rivals to win with their Harvey the Horse Easter Trail which managed to secure a host of new attendees to the racecourse and cement the racecourse amongst the city’s tourist attractions.

Ripon’s green travel maps were a hit with the judges in the Spotlight Award, reserved for initiatives that were standalone and could be adopted by other racecourses to enhance the customer experience. These maps embrace the environmental nature of Ripon’s brand and provide racegoers with scenic cycle routes to the racecourse.

Aintree continued their outstanding record in the Racing Together Community Award by making it four wins in five years thanks to the recent innovations in the Aintree Community Strategy. Aintree worked alongside the Royal Marines to introduce a health & wellbeing element to their work and managed to interact with hundreds of local people. Due to the outstanding calibre of submissions in this category, the judges awarded a Highly Commended accolade to Ascot on account of their summer festival with Sebastian’s Action Trust.

The Digital & Social Media Excellence Award was reclaimed by Goodwood following a new initiative to leverage social media influencers around the Qatar Goodwood Festival, ensuring a stream of organic, positive content.

In its first year, the Diversity & Inclusion Award was won by Scottish Racing and their fantastic partnership with William Hill and Alzheimer’s Scotland to ensure that racing in Scotland was dementia-friendly and a welcoming day out for all who attended. Beverley’s stellar work in welcoming Syrian refugees to the racecourse was Highly Commended by the judges.

Scottish Racing won the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Award

Main picture: The Pontefract Racecourse team were crowned Champion Racecourse at Showcase 2019.