Richard Fahey has been the leading trainer at Pontefract for the last four years and he made an early charge to regain his crown with a superb treble at Monday’s meeting (writes Richard Hammill).
On a card full of close finishes, the Musley Bank trainer undoubtedly stole the headlines.
The day got off to the best possible start for Fahey as he took the opening Douglas Barraclough 80th Birthday Novice.
Springwood had run a race full of promise in the Brocklesby at Doncaster and Tony Hamilton’s mount showed the benefit of experience to just edge out Sidewinder, a promising debutant from the Tom Dascombe yard.
The Fahey/Hamilton combination had taken the same race in 2015 with the speedy Black Magic.
On a cold, dull day that was far from spring-like, another Fahey ‘Spring’ horse, this time Spring Offensive, took the second race.
Having been sent to The Curragh for his first outing of the season, Spring Offensive appreciated the easier company and, despite hanging badly right handed across the track, still had enough in hand to hold off Terhaal for the David O’Meara yard.
Promising claimer Adam McNamara did the steering and was unseated shortly after the line as the horse made his way directly to exit off the course, knowing his job was done.
The feature race on the card - The RIU Palace Meloneras Handicap - often throws up a few winners during the season and the normally tight handicap was torn apart by Mick Easterby’s Perfect Pasture who scooted clear to win by four lengths.
David Easterby, representing the trainer, indicated that the horse would be aimed at some of the bigger handicaps throughout the season and is one to keep an eye on.
The second leg of the Pontefract Stayers Championship, the Pontefract Marathon, is one of the most unique races held on the flat during the season.
Run over two miles, five furlongs, it’s the longest flat handicap in the country.
Kenneth Slack had taken the first round with Almost Gemini and his Omid was backed off the boards to complete the double in the first two rounds of the championship.
A winner over three miles, three furlongs over hurdles, he appeared to have the necessary stamina required for the event but, after making much of the running, was run out of it by American Life and Madam Lilibet, also both winners over three miles-plus over hurdles.
The winner, American Life, gave trainer Sophie Leech her first win at Pontefract.
The best finish of the day was reserved for the Mary Hibbert 80th Birthday Maiden as newcomer Zebedaios (representing Brian Ellison and Ben Curtis) and Brilliant Vanguard (Kevin Ryan / Paul Mulrennan) flashed past the post together.
After a lengthy deliberation, the judge couldn’t separate them and a dead heat was called.
The Ryan representative had made his debut in a hot maiden at York in 2015 and both look sure to pay their way during the rest of 2016.
The biggest cheer of the day came in the Simon Bowett 70th Birthday Handicap as the mercurial Captain Scooby got up in the dying strides.
Having run just two days previously, the hardy 10 year old was making his 159th career start and winning his 13th race.
He has been a fantastic servant to the Richard Guest yard and will continue to pay his way when races are run to suit his hold up style.
The final leg of the Fahey treble, which also brought up the double for Tony Hamilton, came in the last race as Arcano Gold cosily held off Sands Chorus who had won at the course on April 5.
A rise in class looks as though it may be on the cards for the four year old who held his own against some classy performers in 2015.