IN very testing conditions at Pontefract on Monday, Mr Crystal rolled back the years to win the Pontefract Marathon Handicap Stakes - Britain’s longest handicap race on the flat - for the second time (writes Graham Orange).
His previous victory in the race came in 2009, a win which helped his connections clinch the Pontefract Stayers’ Championship for that year.
Ridden by former champion apprentice jockey Freddie Tylicki and trained at Middleham by Micky Hammond, Mr Crystal (9-2) fought out a battle royal with Riptide to prevail by a short head.
The champion jockey for the past two years Paul Hanagan partnered Intense Pink (3-1) to a very impressive victory in the Subscribe Online @racinguk.com Maiden Stakes.
The three-year-old filly, trained at Newmarket by Chris Wall, took the lead a furlong and a half out to land this sprint contest over six furlongs by 14 lengths after being eased down near the line.
Another former champion apprentice rider Hayley Turner was seen to good effect on Ruacana (11-2) in the handicap contest for three-year-olds over one mile and a half.
Trained at Newmarket by Michael Bell, Ruacana had been placed on his three outings on the All-Weather track at Wolverhampton this year, and this son of Cape Cross led over a furlong from home to repel the efforts of Hallmark Star by a length and three-quarters.
The feature race of the afternoon, the RIU Palace Meloneras Handicap Stakes, a contest for sprinters over six furlongs, went to Seal Rock (9-2 favourite), ridden by Dane O’Neill for veteran trainer, Henry Candy, who is based near Wantage in Oxfordshire.
Seal Rock stayed on well to take the prize by a length from Mirza.
Lincolnshire trainer James Given continued his good form at Pontefract this season when Jadanna (16-1), the mount of Paul Mulrennan, tracked across the course from his stall nine berth to win the opening race, a contest for maiden two-year-old fillies.
Making her racecourse debut, Jadanna stayed on strongly to win by an impressive three lengths from Back In The Frame.
Flying Applause (9-1) came from last to first to nail the one mile handicap contest under a fine ride by apprentice jockey Lee Topliss.
Trained at Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire by Roy Bowring, Flying Applause was following up his victory at Leicester earlier in the month and just held on by a neck from Edmaaj.
The final race of the day, a handicap contest over one mile and a quarter for apprentice jockeys, went to Tapis Libre (15-2), the mount of David Simmonson.
Trained at Sheriff Hutton near York by Mick Easterby, Tapis Libre made all to win by a length and three-quarters from recent Yarmouth winner Spin Cast.
Pontefract stages the 23rd annual Northern Racing College charity day race meeting next Wednesday (2.20pm start).
The meeting is unique in British racing with every race supported by a leading UK bookmaker, as they set aside their commercial rivalry to encourage the grass-roots and future of the sport, along with aiding the fund-raising efforts of the Northern Racing College, which is based at Rossington Hall, near Doncaster.
The Ladbrokes.com Fillies’ Handicap Stakes - a contest for fillies and mares over one mile and a quarter - is the principal race.
The card also includes the BetVictor Handicap Stakes (three-year-olds - one mile and a quarter), the Betfred Supports The NRC Handicap Stakes (one mile), the coral.co.uk Handicap Stakes (three-year-old sprinters - six furlongs) and the totespool Supports The NRC/British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes (three-year-olds - one mile and a quarter).
The opening contest is a race for maiden two-year-olds over five furlongs, supported by both William Hill and the European Breeders’ Fund.
The Northern Racing College was established in 1984 and operates under the auspices of The British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust, providing full on-site training courses for young people planning to work in racing stables, some of which go on to become jockeys.
The giant screen, situated opposite the main stands, will show all of the action on the track