The first of Pontefract’s three popular Sunday family days this season took place last weekend (writes Richard Hammill).
A near 9,000 strong crowd packed picnics and barbecues and headed to Pontefract for the annual Flat Cap and Whippet Family Day.
With a massive array of activities going on before racing, the crowd were kept entertained from start to finish.
The Yorkshire Pedigree Whippet Racing Club got proceedings underway with 10 whippet races and a couple of ‘mixed breed’ fun races.
Racegoers gathered along the final furlong to cheer on their favourites and while the whippets were spectacularly fast, Meg the Pocket Rocket Jack Russell got the biggest cheer as she sprinted up the final furlong. Whippets and horses weren’t the only speedsters on show either - there were even racing ferrets too.
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 either 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 Father’s Day.
The racecourse will run five ‘listed’ races during 2016. One of these races - the totepool Pontefract Castle Stakes - provided the highlight of racing on Sunday.
These races are aimed to attract quality equine stars and last year Luca Cumani and Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum combined to take this with a subsequent group two winner Connecticut.
Since then, the owner has transferred his horses out of the Cumani yard and while Luca Cumani has had a slow start to his season, Sheikh Mohammed has seen his superstar Postponed rocket to group one successes.
Sheikh Mohammed provided the hot favourite for the Pontefract race on Sunday in the shape of rapidly improving handicapper Barsanti. However, it was Cumani who took the honours with the relatively unfancied Loving Things who won impressively in a very fast time.
Loving Things gave Cumani a double on the day following Banksea’s effortless success in the £20,000 totepool Handicap. Having just his fifth run, the Lawman colt cruised through the race before quickly putting daylight between himself and Sir Michael Stoute’s Darshini.
The first two races on the card were for inexperienced horses and produced two good winners.
The opening Novice Fillies race went the way of a Mark Johnston debutant Fancy Day who made every yard of the running and fought off all challengers.
Race two went the way of Lucy Wadham’s Pumblechook. On his debut, he’d been third to subsequent Dante winner and Derby fourth Wings of Desire. There was nothing of the same calibre in the line up this time and he had no problem in opening his account.
Wind Place And Sho won the High-Rise Maiden at Pontefract last April. Until Sunday, he’d not been back to the track, but maintained his 100 per cent course record when taking the Pontefract Cup in clearcut fashion by six lengths under top weight. He’ll no doubt face a rise in the handicap for his easy win but he looked on very good terms with himself and relished the marathon trip.
The penultimate race on the card went the way of James Fanshawe’s Esteemable. The four year old filly is currently in foal to Bated Breath. It’s not unusual for fillies in foal to thrive as she is doing and this was already her fourth win of this season. The concluding sprint handicap went the way of Jason Ward’s Roll on Rory who was good enough to run in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2015. He’s been keeping good company ever since and appreciated this slight drop in class.