PONTEFRACT’S 2012 season began on Tuesday with an eight-race card, which actually produced nine winners, as the feature race the Paddock Package Handicap Stakes over one mile and a quarter resulted in a thrilling dead heat between Deauville Flyer and Mirrored (writes Graham Orange).
In what is thought to be a unique occurrence in British racing, at least in the modern era, both horses are trained by the same person - Tim Easterby - who is based at Great Habton near Malton.
In a pulsating three-way driving finish, also involving the eventual third-placed Northside Prince, the judge could not separate Deauville Flyer (20-1), ridden by Graham Gibbons and Mirrored (9-1), the mount of Duran Fentiman.
Owned by Middleham Park Racing, Mirrored may be aimed at the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar in early June, while Deauville Flyer, who has won over two miles, will probably be upped in distance next time.
North Yorkshire trainer Elaine Burke also recorded a winning double, although in the more conventional way, courtesy of Lisiere and Media Hype.
Ridden by the champion jockey for the past two years, Paul Hanagan, Lisiere (7-4 favourite) made virtually all the running to land the contest for maiden three-year-old fillies over the sprint distance of five furlongs and prevail by six lengths, while Media Hype (9-1), the mount of Philip Makin, also won impressively by five lengths in a handicap contest over one mile and a quarter.
Veteran trainer Reg Hollinshead sent out Cloudy Spirit (5-2 favourite) to win the longest race of the day, the Jamaican Flight Handicap Stakes over two and a quarter miles, in the hands of Tony Culhane, who started out as an apprentice rider with Hollinshead.
The well-backed Cloudy Spirit took the lead over a furlong out to stay on well and win by two and a quarter lengths from Ambrose Princess.
Last season’s leading trainer and jockey at Pontefract, Mark Johnston and Silvestre de Sousa, combined to take the Dalby Stand Handicap Stakes for three-year-old sprinters, when Es Que Love (4-1) made all to win by a length from Yeeoow (trained by Elaine Burke).
The opening race of the afternoon, Division One of the Handicap contest over one mile, produced an impressive winner in Toymaker (9-2 joint favourite), trained in Lincolnshire by James Given and ridden by Paul Mulrennan.
Owned and bred by the Antoniades family, Toymaker was following up his victory last month on the all-weather surface at Kempton Park and made smooth headway to win by three and a quarter lengths.
Niceofyoutotellme justified his cramped odds of 8-11 favourite to take the High-Rise Maiden Stakes for three-year-olds by a length and a quarter from Kudoz.
Trained near Andover by Ralph Beckett and ridden by Jim Crowley, Niceofyoutotellme looks a useful prospect and he won more easily than the winning distance would suggest.
Middleham trainer Chris Fairhurst sent out Thackeray (20-1) to take the final race of the afternoon, the Second Division of the one mile Handicap contest, in the hands of Kelly Harrison, who has been riding in Dubai.
The winning distance was a length and a quarter over Striker Torres in what was a competitive conclusion to Pontefract’s opening meeting of the season.
The next meeting at Pontefract takes place on Monday, April 23, when racing is scheduled to begin at 2.15 pm. The seven-race programme features Britain’s longest handicap race on the flat, the Pontefract Marathon Handicap Stakes.