PONTEFRACT’S FINAL evening race meeting this season was held on Friday with the annual Red Shirt Night.
The charity evening, hosted by former trainer Jack Berry to raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund, also saw a number of local breweries take over part of the paddock lawn for their annual beer festival.
Many racegoers were resplendent in red shirts - the legendary ‘good luck’ symbol that Jack Berry wore to the track whenever he had a runner.
There was a musical twist to proceedings as well with Cheryl, Mike and Jay, formerly of 80s Legends Bucks Fizz, playing straight after racing. As well as fun and nostalgia, there was also some great racing.
The feature race on the card was the £15,000 Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Handicap Stakes.
Richard Whitaker has been in tremendous form this season and one of the flag bearers for the yard, Avon Breeze, was running at Pontefract for the third time this year, having won once and then been unsuited by the softer ground when finishing fourth a couple of weeks ago.
The eight year old mare is in foal to Equiano and is only able to keep racing for another couple of weeks. She looked a little outpaced in the early stages as there was a frenetic gallop, but once pulled to the outside in the home straight, this superb mare flew up the outside to win handsomely to the huge cheers of the Pontefract crowd.
The night got off to a flying start with a stunning performance for Andrew Balding’s Danzan who blitzed his rivals in the Countrywide Freight Novice Auction Stakes.
Rarely does a two year old win a race by 10 lengths but that is exactly what the Lawman colt did.
Dropped to six furlongs for the first time, Danzan was always up with the pace and sprinted clear to win in the style of a very useful performer.
For much of the one and a half mile contest, it looked as though a double was on the cards for the Balding/Probert combination as their Count Simon travelled supremely well in the Maiden Auction Stakes.
When they took the lead from favourite Mancini with a couple of furlongs to go, the result seemed inevitable but the brave Mancini would not be denied and battled on gamely to get back up in the shadows of the post for Jonathan Portman and Richard Kingscote.
When the rains hit Pontefract earlier in the month, Ralph Beckett had withdrawn Crowning Glory from the listed Pipalong Stakes but, back on her favoured fast ground, and dropped into handicap company, the four year old showed a decent turn of foot under an excellent ride from Georgia Cox.
Crowning Glory will now be stepped back up in grade and, with her confidence on a high, could well be one to keep on the right side.
The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for the winner of the finale when Mr Orange struck for the Paul Midgley team.
Named after Graham Orange, who was such a familiar face at the county’s racecourses for many years as public relations officer with Go Racing in Yorkshire, the four year old has shown a liking for Pontefract in several efforts here over the past couple of years. He’s owned by the same team who owned Mr Wolf - and, in Mr Orange, they look as though they have another horse who could give them a lot of fun at Pontefract.
The Maiden Handicap went the way of Mr C for trainer Ollie Pears and jockey Joe Doyle.
Mr C has shown steady improvement in his four runs to date and travelled strongly to fend off Akkadian Empire by a head.