Jonathan Acott remembers catching the racing bug as a child on a visit to Uttoxeter.
Now he has the chance to enjoy the sport from the inside after taking over as the new boss of Fontwell Park.
The 41-year-old has taken over as executive director at the popular jump-racing course from Simon Williams, who has moved on to another Arena Racing Company track, Windsor.
Acott is getting stuck into the challenge.
“I was about eight or nine when my dad was a sponsor and took me to Uttoxeter. I remember the atmopshere – I was quite transfixed.
“Chester is what you’d call my home track and I now live in Epsom so enjoy going to Windsor and Ascot. But I love it here at Fontwell – the racecourse has a unique charm and one of my jobs is to get new people coming here.”
It’s one of the first places I’ve been where the staff are as passionate as the customers. That’s great, you can’t buy that.Jonathan Acott
Acott says getting people through the gates is a challenge facing the whole of racing at the moment – as is the need to make use of racecourse at all times, not just on racedays.
He’s tackling both head-on, helped by a group of staff he says he is delighted to have inherited.
“There’s a lot of passion for racing and for what we offer among the team here,” said Acott, who comes from an operations-director background and was most recently based at the University of Surrey’s county sports park in Guildford.
“It’s one of the first places I’ve been where the staff are as passionate as the customers. That’s great, you can’t buy that.
“What I want to do is appeal to new customers while looking after the needs of existing ones and of people in racing such as owners, trainers and jockeys.”
A crowd of 5,000 for the recent family raceday – when they’d hoped for 10,000 – shows how tough it is. That attendance was hit by poor weather and, Acott believes, by worries following the Manchester terror attack – somethnig that has made Fontwell, like many venues, step up security.
He said the racecourse remained a versatile venue, staging everything from weddings to business meetings, and the imminent installation of an all-weather bend at one end of its unique figure-of-eight track should boost its appeal to racing connections.
After a two-month summer break from racing following next Thursday afternoon’s card, a busy late summer and autumn await.
He said: “We have Ladies’ Evening on August 24, another family fun day on September 10, our October Festival on October 6 and 7 and, yes, we’re already starting to think about Boxing Day racing.
“It will be a busy and exciting time and I can’t wait.”
* Fontwell stages its final jumps card before a summer break next Thursday (June 15) afternoon.
They raced at Fontwell on Tuesday, with a 20/1 win for Moon Trip in a handicap hurdle among the highlights.
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