Pontefract races: Rubenesque leads all the way to win flat racing’s longest handicap

Mokaatil (near side) gets up to win the Riu Hotels And Resorts Handicap in the final strides. Picture: Alan Wright
Mokaatil (near side) gets up to win the Riu Hotels And Resorts Handicap in the final strides. Picture: Alan Wright

Racegoers were once again treated to spring-like weather and some fantastic racing at Pontefract’s second meeting of the season, including the Pontefract Marathon – the longest handicap race to be run on the flat in 2019.

A crowd of around 3,000 racegoers swarmed to the track to celebrate the Easter holidays.

Feature race on the card was the £25,000 RIU Hotels and Resorts Handicap. A good quality field faced the starter and last year’s winner Foolaad was sent off a well-supported favourite to win again and also follow up his win at Doncaster at the start of the season.

Favourite backers will have been feeling confident as the gelding took up the running entering the final furlong, but he was overhauled in the shadows of the post by both Ian Williams’ Mokaatil and the gallant Pipers Note. Mokaatil had been rated considerably higher in his days with Owen Burrows and looks attractively handicapped to follow up.

The opening race of the day was also the first two-year-old race of the year at Ponte and saw a very warm favourite in the shape of Mark Johnston’s Alminoor. With the trainer in attendance to watch his charge, the expensive son of Kodiac made no mistake in scorching up the Pontefract turf to score by an easy 4½ lengths.

With a speedy Richard Fahey two year old well beaten in second, Alminoor looks like a horse to keep on the right side.

Jockey Graham Lee is in flying form and took the Novice Fillies race on James Bethell’s Melrose Way. Sent off at a huge 20-1, the daughter of high class sire Mayson showed a tremendous attitude to win at the first time of asking in what looked a decent race.

Lee secured a double when taking the second division of ‘The Golden Horse Racing Club is with Robert Stewart Handicap’ with Johnny Cavagin. He has not been with trainer Paul Midgley for too long but this was the horse’s first appearance following wind surgery.

The first division of the Robert Stewart Handicap saw a success for Socialites Red. The Scott Dixon trained speedster fairly bolted up having made much of the running for Theodore Ladd.

Another runner making all was Rubenesque. While Socialites Red scorched the course over 5f, Rubenesque’s victory was over the marathon trip of 2m5½f! Having run over 3 miles of hurdles on numerous occasions, stamina was guaranteed for Tristan Davidson’s runner and she made her intentions clear from the start, poaching an early lead and never looking likely to be caught.

Napoleons Casino Bradford are big supporters of Pontefract and their 2019 sponsorship programme got under way with the 1m handicap, won impressively by David O’Meara’s Hortzadar.

It was the first run in the UK for the four-year-old and he could not have been more impressive, streaking clear by an impressive eight lengths in one of the fastest times on the day.

The final race on the card went the way of Conundrum for dual purpose trainer Jedd O’Keeffe.

From the yard that sent out Cheltenham Festival runner-up Sam Spinner, Conundrum has physically done well over the winter and looks as though he will make up into a decent three-year-old over the coming season.

The next race meeting on the calendar is Northern Racing College Charity Day on Wednesday, May 1 - a card which often throws up a few stars of the future, equine and human! Full details of the card and the rest of the 2019 season, can be found on the racecourse website at www.pontefract-races.co.uk.