Guineas winner is edged out in Pontefract’s big race

Exhort, ridden by Paul Hanagan, gets up in a thrilling finish to win the Weatherbys TBA Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright
Exhort, ridden by Paul Hanagan, gets up in a thrilling finish to win the Weatherbys TBA Pipalong Stakes at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright

The second of Pontefract Racecourse’s ‘Art of Racing’ meetings saw a good crowd in attendance despite the uncertain weather forecast.

Thankfully the rain stayed away for the day, meaning enthusiastic racegoers were in for a dry day’s racing, which included the course’s second listed race of the season, The Weatherbys TBA Pipalong Stakes.

Art of Racing racedays give racing fans the opportunity to be part of the action and showcase their racing knowledge by being guest tipsters for a race on the day. Seven tipsters each wrote a race preview in the racecard and spoke about their race before horses entered the paddock. Each race also had a guest judge for the Best Turned Out Horse, the winning groom receiving a cash prize.

Those that fancied turning their hand to race commentating could do so by visiting the pop-up commentary booth to have a go on one of the races, behind the scenes.

The Weatherbys TBA Pipalong Stakes, the second of five Listed races at Pontefract this season, shaped up to be a fiercely run contest with a number of highly regarding horses entered into the race.

Last year’s winner, Clon Coulis, was beaten by a nose at Royal Ascot and lined up for Jamie Spencer against 2018 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook. Joseph O’Brien had an entry for the first time at Pontefract, as well as Mark Johnston’s well-regarded Threading.

However, it was 25/1 shot Exhort, who pierced her way through the field to swoop home and deny Billesdon Brook on the line for owners, Cheveley Park Stud. Paul Hanagan steered home the Richard Fahey-trained filly with a fantastic ride, having been at the back of the field with a quarter of a mile to go.

Fahey’s assistant trainer Robin O’Ryan said: “She’s always been a well-regarded filly and has been placed a couple of times prior to this.”

He went on to say Exhort would be most likely entered into a Group 3 in the future.

David Allan teamed up with Ivan Furtado to take the spoils in the first race of the day as Ambyfaeirvine led from the start and kicked home two furlongs out to win The Dianne Nursery Handicap Stakes.

The same tactics were executed brilliantly in the second race as Major Blue won by 3¾ lengths to odds on favourite, Three Card Trick.

Major Blue broke away smartly from the stalls with Hollie Doyle sending the three-year-old to the front and pushed on a furlong out to ease to victory for James Eustace.

It was the 10th running of The Richard III Handicap Stakes at Pontefract, being the fourth race on the card. Ower Fly won this race in 2018 but had no such luck this year, finishing sixth of eight runners.

It was Musharrif who landed the prize after bolting up a furlong-and-a-half out to win by 3¾ lengths for Zak Wheatley and trainer Declan Carroll despite the winning jockey losing his whip in the final furlong.

The Ben and Mary Hibbert Memorial Maiden Stakes was won in stunning fashion as John Gosden’s only runner of the day, Harrovian, powered home to win by seven lengths with Robert Havlin on board. Gazton ran well in second at 33/1 for Ivan Furtado and is half-sister to Stayers Hurdle winner, Penhill.

Rossa Ryan’s first-ever ride at Pontefract ended in success as Li Kui held on to win The Atlas Leisure Homes Ltd Handicap Stakes for trainer Paul Cole.

Edgar Allan Poe repeated last week’s success at Pontefract by winning the final race on the card for Rebecca Bastiman, in the hands of Phil Dennis to close a fantastic day of racing at Pontefract.

The next meeting is the second and final Friday night meeting of the season, and is Abba Night, Red Shirt Night and Beer Festival. Gates open 4.30pm with the first race due off at 6.25pm.