Liam Treadwell’s victory at the track on Royal Wedding just hours after the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had tied the knot at Westminster Abbey has made headlines around the world.
And coming just weeks after Fontwell Park won a prestigious racecourse-of-the-year award, it adds to what’s turning out to be a memorable year at the popular venue.
Now general manager Phil Bell says their task is to build on the profile it has given them and get even more people tempted to sample the unique atmosphere at the course.
Grand National winner Treadwell led from the front on board the aptly-named runner in the Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer Handicap Steeple Chase which kicked off last Friday night’s wedding-day race card. And when he stormed up the final straight well clear of his nearest rival, the near-6,000 crowd went wild.
No-one could have written a better script and Bell, who had talked trainer Nick Gifford into entering the horse, which was tipped to win on the Observer’s website last Thursday, later said: “The story has gone around the world.
“There’s been interest from the USA, Australia, various TV news channels and newspapers and it’s given the racecourse one of its best and most historic days for years.
“Having won the racecourse of the year title weeks earlier, it’s all helping raise our profile. We want to build on that now with more great racing and great stories over the rest of 2011.”
Royal Wedding, whose win cost bookies hundreds of thousands of pounds, is owned by Don Trangmar, a former chairman of Sussex County Cricket Club. He said: “I’m delighted. I always thought he had a chance.
“It’s lovely for Nick (Gifford) who has such a hard job following in his dad’s footsteps. Nick, Liam and the stable lad who looks after him deserve so much praise.”
Treadwell, for whom Fontwell is the local track, likened the atmopshere as he rode back past the crowds in the stands after winning on Royal Wedding to experiencing a big win at Cheltenham.
He said: “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t felt a bit of pressure because of all the interest in the horse. It was a nice feeling coming back in, a bit like coming down the hill at Cheltenham. What a brilliant atmosphere.”
There might have been a nice follow-up story 90 minutes later when Princely Hero, ridden by another jockey with Sussex connections, Leighton Aspell, led for a spell in the Tricia and Clive Wilson 40th Wedding Anniversary Handicap Hurdle – but he ended up well beaten.
The race was instead claimed by Celticello – one of four horses numbered one to win on the night.
Punters enjoyed British band music, street party-style entertainment and sideshows and, after racing, music by The Magic of Take That and Robbie.
Next up for Fontwell is a midweek meeting next Wednesday which features a fundraising lunch for St Barnabas Hospice in Worthing. Then the build-up begins for the big bank-holiday family race day on Sunday, May 29, for which the track are teaming up with the Sussex FA to offer a range of football-related sideshows plus all the usual free entertainment for kids.
Don’t forget to look out for Fontwell tips the day before each meeting on this website