In stark contrast to the previous meeting, racegoers were greeted to a warm, glorious sunny day at Pontefract for last Thursday’s meeting.
There was some fantastic action on the track, including an exciting two-year-old destroying his rivals and some ‘edge of the seat’ finishes to keep the crowd cheering.
There were doubles for Richard Fahey and jockey Paul Hanagan courtesy of Shazzab and Paddy Power.
The former took the fillies’ nursery in good style, giving Fahey his third win in the last four runnings. For much of the home straight, it looked as though favourite Dathanna, Charlie Appleby’s sole runner on the card, would take the honours, but Richard Fahey’s Shazzab (one of three runners in this race for the trainer) quickened up nicely in the soft ground to win by 2¼ lengths.
Paddy Power brought up the double for the trainer and jockey in a thrilling finish to the 5f Racing UK Handicap. Just ½ length separated the first four finishers as Paddy Power got up under an inspired jockey to just deny Van Gerwen who had taken the contest back in 2016.
Captain Dion was another winner on this card last year who was bidding to follow up for the Kevin Ryan team. In contrast to Van Gerwen, the top weight was always travelling noticeably well for Tom Eaves and made most of the running, staying on resolutely to score by 1½ lengths at odds of 14-1.
The feature race on the card was the £20,000 Simon Scrope Dalby Screw Driver Handicap and the race went to the Tim Easterby yard when Dance King came with an inspired run to get up in the shadows of the post and just deny the brave Empress Ali. The runner-up had looked the winner when she struck for home early in the straight but Dance King, a previous course and distance winner, was not to be denied despite touching 99-1 in running and looking a forlorn hope in the straight. He flew through the pack in the final furlong to take the prize.
It was a good day for the Easterby family as Mick took the finale, the Follow Racing_UK on Twitter Apprentice Handicap with Arrowtown. Despite a string of ultra consistent efforts, the mare was registering her first win, collaring the long time leader Mirimar close home. The runner-up had looked certain to collect, but 1m 4f on heavy ground just took its toll in the final 100 yards.
The opening procurementseminars.co.uk Novice Auction went the way of Dawn Breaking for the in-form team of Richard Whitaker and jockey Lewis Edmunds. The trainer, who has had a fantastic season, was registering his sixth win at Pontefract this year. Dawn Breaking, owned in partnership by former sports minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, has clearly made giant steps since his debut at Thirsk and took the contest in comfortable style.
The most impressive win on the card came for Karl Burke’s two-year-old Unwritten, who powered away from a decent field to score by nine lengths. The son of Poets Voice was having just his second start. Always close to the pace, he stayed on strongly for PJ McDonald to beat a field, including previous winners, and looks a useful staying prospect in the making.
There was a welcome return to form for Inexes for the Marjorie Fife team in Division 2 of the Racing UK Handicap. Trained by John Gosden as a two-year-old, the five-year-old had been a model of consistency earlier in the season before performing below par in his last couple of starts. Under a strong ride from Barry McHugh, Inexes battled on gamely in a driving finish to overhaul long time leader Mujassam in the final furlong.