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    There will be special festivities honouring Fontwell this week
There will be special festivities honouring Fontwell this week
Fontwell Park. Source: attheraces.com

There will be special festivities honouring Fontwell this week

Fontwell Park has always been remarkable because of its figure-eight circuit, which makes it ideal for course specialists. This week marks the park's 100th anniversary.

On Thursday night, the track is hosting a gala dinner that many prominent figures in racing are expected to attend.

The fact that Fontwell was the site of the first victory as an owner for Princess Elizabeth, who, along with her mother Queen Elizabeth I, won with Monaveen in 1949 to become the first English queen to win a horse race since Queen Anne in 1714, may be her greatest claim to fame. Both fell in love with the sport after the triumph.

In the 1940s, the dual champion hurdler National Spirit frequently visited Fontwell. In fact, the National Spirit Hurdle, which has been won by horses like Baracouda and My Way De Solzen in more recent times, is now held annually at the track.

The location may be familiar to some from Cue Card's successful start in a bumper for Colin Tizzard, which preceded his 40-1 victory at the Cheltenham Festival, or from John Francome breaking Stan Mellor's record of 1,036 National Hunt winners on Don't Touch in 1984.

As the track's owner, JP McManus has experienced great success. He sent a letter to the track that was printed on the racecard, recalling victories such as Clan Royal, his Gold Cup winner Synchronised, and 2001 National Spirit winner Baracouda.

The first meeting took place on May 21 and 22, 1924, over the course of two days. Twelve races included 69 runners. The first competition, a three-mile sprint with a total prize money of £100, was the Walberton Steeple Chase. With the support of an estimated 7,000 spectators, Gem, ridden by multiple champion jockey Fred Rees, emerged victorious.

Len Lefebve, who was in second place that day on Pride of Manister, was assisted in organising the celebration by his 78-year-old son Will.

A photographic memorabilia show has been developed by Jim Beavis, author of The History Of Fontwell Park, and many of the trophies from the last 100 years have been polished and will be on display.

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