Bell bows out as Fontwell chief

Phil Bell is taking on a new role after nine years of fine service at Fontwell
Phil Bell is taking on a new role after nine years of fine service at Fontwell

Goodwood toast to the retirement of Buckley

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Phil Bell has signed off as executive director of Fontwell Park.

The 46-year-old spent more than nine years at the West Sussex track, overseeing massive changes to the popular south coast venue.

Formerly general manager of the unique figure-of-eight course, Bell will continue to work for owners Northern Racing as their executive director for the south east.

He will oversee the running of both Fontwell and Brighton, a course he managed for six seasons prior to his move to the west of the county in 2002.

Bell said: ‘A new year brings a new role for me. It will mean me overseeing Fontwell and Brighton racecourses, and taking on some sales and PR work for the whole group.

‘I’ll be representing Northern Racing at some of the biggest meetings at their racecourses, such as the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle and the Welsh National at Chepstow.

‘Primarily, I’ll be sharing my time between Fontwell and Brighton, though.

‘And I will be on hand to help the teams at both, whether that’s entertaining people on racedays or helping solve problems.

‘There are big challenges ahead in difficult economic times.

‘Fontwell has come a long way in my time there. The opening of the new Premier Grandstand in 2010 was a particular high spot. But it can’t stand still.

‘There’s hard work ahead to go on making the grandstand and the racecourse as a whole a success.’

And much of that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the track’s new boss Holly Glover, who Bell unveiled this week.

Despite her tender age of 28, she has been with the company six years and switches from flat venue Bath.

Racing returns to Fontwell on Thursday afternoon but eyes are already being cast to their biggest race of the year.

The Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle will take place on Sunday, February 26, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Celestial Halo set to defend his title.

Dual winner and fans’ favourite Lough Derg is expected to be paraded prior to the two-mile four-furlong contest.