Big crowd at Pontefract for family Flat Cap & Whippet Day

Winning start for Soffika, under top jockey Ryan Moore, who strides clear to win on his race debut at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright
Winning start for Soffika, under top jockey Ryan Moore, who strides clear to win on his race debut at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright

A huge crowd packed picnics and barbecues and headed to Pontefract Racecourse for the annual Flat Cap & Whippet  Day where they not only witnessed some fantastic racing, but also joined in with a brand new world record with Guinness World Records.

As usual, the Picnic Enclosure became a sea of colour as bouncy castles, helter skelters and kids rides took over the lawn. They were interspersed with an array of gazebos and blankets as hundreds of families set out their picnics and settled down to enjoy a lovely afternoon. And while the children were kept busy with their free sweets and activity books, or a trip to the circus or a free pony ride, mums and dads were able to enjoy the high class racing on the first of the track’s three Family Sunday meetings.

Dereva and Ryan Moore storm home to win the Mam & Dad Reunited Love Team Wood Handicap. Picture: Alan Wright

Dereva and Ryan Moore storm home to win the Mam & Dad Reunited Love Team Wood Handicap. Picture: Alan Wright

Before racing got underway, racegoers were treated to a fantastic display from the Yorkshire Pedigree Whippet Club who staged eight whippet races over the final furlong.

Following the whippets on the track came a very different type of whippet as racegoers took part in an attempt to set a new record with Guinness World Records – 691 racegoers claimed their place in history by packing into the outline of giant whippet which had been laid out on the lawns in front of the stands.

Feature race on the day was the £50,000 Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes. Mark Johnston’s progressive Bayshore Freeway was sent off the well back favourite, but looked in trouble turning for home as she encountered a number of traffic problems.

However, favourite backers could breathe a sigh of relief as jockey Franny Norton found daylight and powered through the field to win by a cosy ½ length, making it four wins from her last five starts.

It was Bayshore Freeway’s second course and distance win as she won at this meeting in 2018 when taking the 1½m novice. The corresponding race in 2019 went the way of Dubai Tradition for Saeed Bin Suroor and Hector Crouch. On his first start over the trip, the colt made all the running in a decent time and looks like he could be a decent stayer in the making.

Fresh from wins at Royal Ascot, there was a double on the card for trainer Sir Michael Stoute and jockey Ryan Moore. The opening two-year-old fillies’ novice went the way of Soffika who was, remarkably, giving the trainer his first two-year-old winner of the season.

The winner has a strong staying pedigree and so connections will be thrilled that she was able to get off the mark on her debut. She will only improve and could be an exciting prospect.

The double came when Derevo stormed home in the Mam & Dad Reunited Love Team Wood Handicap. Making every yard of the running, the son of Dansili will face a hike in the handicap following his impressive five-length victory.

There was a double on the card for jockey Franny Norton when he steered Becky The Thatcher to victory in the Pontefract Cup. The popular mare had won the Pontefract Stayers Championship in 2018, but was making her first appearance at the track this season.

Bighearted certainly lived up to her name in the Josh Caygill 30th Birthday Fillies’ Handicap. Quickly away, she looked a sitting target as they turned into the straight, but she would not be denied and kept on finding extra when challenged.

The Rogerthorpe Manor Hotel Handicap attracted a number of entries and was divided into two races. Division One saw a real battle of Ponte favourites as recent course winners, Highly Sprung, Captain Dion and Tricky Dicky took each other on. They fought out a tremendous tussle with Tricky Dicky coming out on top against his rivals.

Division Two also went the way of a previous course and distance winner when Penny Pot Lane struck for the Richard Whitaker stable who took the race last year with Round The Island.