Pontefract held their final family day of 2016 on Sunday (writes Richard Hammill).
The annual Flying Fillies Family Day featured the richest race of the Pontefract season – the £50,000 listed EBF Highfield Farm Flying Fillies Stakes.
With a colourful array of activities for kids, the final racing Sunday always signifies that the end of the school holidays is not too far away.
Before the equine action got underway on the track, racegoers were treated to a rather special race as the racecourse crowned their own flying filly when Lauren Close sprinted up the track ahead of her spirited opponents in the ladies race to claim £250 worth of spa vouchers as her first prize.
On the course, the feature race went the way of Ed Vaughan’s rapidly improving Mehronissa.
Having won a handicap at Newmarket off a rating of 93 last time out, she took the step up to listed company in her stride, getting up close home to catch the brave Ridge Ranger in the shadows of the post.
The runner up, a group three winner at York a couple of starts ago, was giving the winner 7lbs and deserves a huge amount of credit.
Mehronissa herself looks likely to take another rise in the weights and may now be supplemented for the group one Haydock Sprint Cup in September.
The big race sponsors, Highfield Farm, themselves had a couple of runners on the day.
While Ashurst Beacon was unable to justify favouritism in the opening race, Hilldale took the honours in the totepoolliveinfo.com Maiden Stakes later on the card.
Making most of the running, the Michael Dods trained filly battled back tenaciously to get up again after being headed by the Tim Easterby trained Just Hiss. The Exceed And Excel filly is well regarded by owners Emma and David Armstrong, who have owned group one winners Mayson and Garswood in recent years, and she could be a horse to follow in the coming seasons.
The opening maiden race went the way of David Brown’s Sky Gypsy who bounced out of the stalls and made all the running under Tom Eaves.
The filly has always been well thought of by the trainer and had valid excuses for her first couple of runs.
She is reportedly now bang on course for the Flying Childers at Doncaster.
The winning jockey doubled up later on the card when Another Lincolnday took the long distance Moor Top Farm Shop Hemsworth Handicap for trainer Michael Herrington.
Under a power packed ride, the gelding held off the late challenge of course favourite Riptide who was narrowly denied in second. The connections of the runner up can take some comfort now as their charge takes the lead in the Stayers Championship.
There were also doubles on the card for Mark Johnston and Franny Norton as Regal Monarch and Huntlaw both hit the mark.
Regal Monarch won the totepool sponsored one and a half mile handicap in great style. He’s now won four times this season but it was the gelding’s last run in this country as he now heads to Australia to be trained by Chris Waller where he will be targeted at the Sydney and Melbourne Carnivals.
Huntlaw was the easiest winner of the day, going in by four lengths in the ‘In Loving Memory of Alison Clark Handicap’. He became Mark Johnston’s 11th winner of the season at Pontefract already.
Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey have now, between them, won 19 races at Pontefract in 2016.
Fahey picked up his eighth win at Pontefract this season when Gin In The Inn took the finale. The Paul Hanagan ridden winner was last for much of the race but could be spotted travelling ominously well as the runners turned in to the home straight. When the gaps opened, the gelding flew up the home straight to collar long time leader Van Gerwen and stretch clear to win by two and three quarters lengths.
The next race meeting at Pontefract is on Thursday, September 15.