What a difference a week made at Pontefract Racecourse!
Following torrential rain at the last meeting, there was not a cloud in the sky for the latest race day with blistering sunshine throughout and some fantastic racing from start to finish on an eight-race card.
There was a hugely progressive winner in Francis Xavier who took the honours in the Simon Scrope Screw-Driver Handicap. Trained by Kevin Frost in Staffordshire, the gelding raced keenly early just behind the leaders and was produced with a perfectly timed ride by claimer Joshua Bryan to win by 1¾ lengths.
He has now won his last four starts and defied a rise of 14lbs in the handicap and this fast improving gelding can continue his ranks up the ratings.
Bryan then went to make it a quickfire double, giving him his 56th career win in the process, when landing the Novice Auction Stakes on Never Do Nothing for his boss Andrew Balding. Despite being pushed along a long way out, his mount quickened up smartly when seeing daylight and swept around the field to win by a neck.
Paul Hanagan was also in double form on the afternoon, firstly when collecting a spare winning ride on Reloaded for trainer George Scott in the EBF Maiden Stakes. Hayley Turner was due to ride the colt but had to give up her four rides after her flight from Singapore was cancelled. Having made a promising debut at York, Reloaded looks a bright prospect for the future and a horse that should definitely be watched. Hanagan gave the horse a huge amount of confidence and produced him with a late run to lead 100 yards out and win by a neck.
Gin In The Inn loves it at Pontefract and made a welcome return to the Winners Enclosure, giving Hanagan his double.
Owned by Dean and Stella Hardman, the gelding defied a terrible draw in 17 to win The Racing UK Handicap. This was Gin In The Inn’s sixth career win and his third at Pontefract.
It was no illusion that Illusions won the EBF Fillies Nursery for trainer Richard Fahey.
Fahey loves targeting this race and has now won four of the last five runnings! Ridden by Paddy Mathers, the filly kept on strongly in the final furlong after being outpaced early to win by 1½ lengths.
‘Lovely Jubbly’ were the words of many across the racecourse after Our Rodney landed the first division of the EBF Maiden Stakes at odds of 100/1!
Andrew Mullen took the ride and had to be patient with him when trapped on the rail in the final furlong. When the gap eventually came, Our Rodney battled really well to the line to win by ½ length. Trainer Donald McCain is mainly known for his National Hunt horses and Our Rodney looks as though he could have a future both on the flat and over hurdles.
Paul Midgley trained Desert Ace to win in a thrilling finish of the 5f Handicap. Tracking the leading pair and quickening in the final furlong, he kept on strongly to take the contest by 1¼ lengths. The horse appreciates the stiff finish that Pontefract has to offer and it would not be a surprise to see the gelding running again quickly.
While Her Majesty The Queen did not make the journey to Pontefract on Thursday she did send the Sir Michael Stoute trained Refrain to West Yorkshire and he duly took the apprentice race in fine style for jockey Tristan Price. Having his first ride for her Majesty, the Ponte crowd gave him one of the biggest cheers of the day when walking back through the crowd to the winners enclosure. This was Price’s fifth career win and his confidence will be high after the high profile winner.