On a beautiful autumn day, Pontefract Racecourse started the final stage of their 2015 season with a bumper eight race card.
It was a particularly good day too if your first name was Graham – the first five races were won by jockeys Graham Lee and Graham Gibbons, who dominated the card.
Feature race was the £15,000 EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Fillies’ Handicap. The race brought together a number of in-form fillies but it was Mark Rimell’s Spirea, under the all conquering Graham Lee, who hit the line in front.
The five-year-old mare had hit the bar on a couple of occasions already at Pontefract this season and victory looked unlikely as she turned into the straight with a wall of horses in front of her. However, the gaps appeared and Graham Lee’s mount quickened up impressively to win eased down by 2¾ lengths.
She may bid for a quick course double as she’s entered in the big sprint at the course on September 24.
One of the easiest winners of the day came in one of the biggest fields as Sir Michael Stoute’s Entity made every yard of the running under Graham Gibbons to win the 1m 2f Book Your Christmas Party Here on 0113 287 6387 Handicap.
The three-year-old filly was following up her win over the same course and distance earlier in the year when she adopted exactly the same tactics. Having disappointed at Salisbury last time, she clearly appreciated the return to West Yorkshire and will be one to follow when she returns.
The first leg of the Gibbons double came aboard Spike in the opener. David Barrons has his youngsters in great form and this was yet another two-year-old winner for the Thirsk handler.
Quickly out, the 6-4 favourite just needed to be kept up to his work in the closing stages to hold off Shinelikeadiamond and Richard Fahey’s promising newcomer, Dacoity.
The Fahey team continue in red hot form and the trainer unbelievably racked up his 12th winner at Pontefract this season when High Baroque scored nicely to win the 1m 2f Racing UK Maiden.
The Pontefract Stayers Championship looks as though it will go right down to the wire this year. The competition leader (Tuscan Gold), second (Riptide) and joint third (Chevalgris) were all in action over the two divisions of the sixth leg of the Championship.
With Tuscan Gold looking as if he needed the race after his short break and course favourite, Riptide, running another brave race to claim fourth, it was left to Aviator and Call It On to land the two divisions of the long distance handicap.
Aviator has really sprung to life over hurdles since his last flat run and he continued his improvement returned to the level winning easily for the James Eustace/Graham Lee combination.
Call It On fairly sprinted clear to win Division 2 by eight lengths in a time over 10 seconds quicker than Division 1.
He was winning his third race on the bounce and trainer Philip Kirby heaped praise on his nine-year-old who really has got his act together recently and looked way ahead of the handicapper. It will be fascinating to see if either of the winners come back for one of the final legs of the Championship in October.
Local owners, The Fatalists, provided Graham Lee with the middle leg of his treble as their Dark Ocean recorded his second course and distance victory of the 2015 season.
Jedd O’Keeffe’s five-year-old appreciated the juice in the ground and held off the late challenge of Red Charmer by ¾ length. This was a fine performance under top weight and the admirable son of Dylan Thomas can continue his improvement up in grade as the ground continues to soften.
The closest finish of the afternoon was saved for the last race as Jebel Tara made it four wins out of his last five starts when battling on bravely in the Racing UK Apprentice Handicap under 3lb claimer Paddy Bradley.
The 10-year-old is really thriving at present and should be followed while in his current mood.
The next meeting at Pontefract is today (Thursday) when there looks like being another bumper card providing some excellent racing.