It was a case of second time lucky for the West Yorkshire Festival Night at Pontefract races on Monday evening (writes Richard Hammill).
The inaugural running of the event was rained off last year but racegoers were treated to a sunny June evening this time around.
Nine local stallholders lined up to promote their businesses. From Farmer Copleys farm produce to The Reiki Experience, there was a good range of products giving racegoers an added attraction in between races.
The multiple Pontefract winner, Mr Wolf, also paraded before racing.
Now a 14 year old, the front running course favourite won at Pontefract on eight occasions during his career.
Looking in fantastic condition, he had his photo taken with some lucky competition winners and clearly loved the attention.
He’ll be back to parade again at the course’s Family Day meeting on Sunday, August 16.
The feature race on the card was named in Mr Wolf’s honour and produced a very impressive winner in Tom Dascombe’s Dawn’s Early Light (9-1).
Just touched off by a promising horse over the same course and distance earlier in the season, the dashing grey made his handicap debut off a mark of 77 and looks destined for a hike in the weights after sprinting away from a decent field.
He beat Normandy Barriere, who had finished second at York’s Dante festival on his previous outing, by 2¼ lengths in a decent time and is one to keep on the right side of.
Former champion jockey and local lad Paul Hanagan rides Pontefract as well as anyone and the Northern favourite picked up a double, much to the delight of punters.
He got off to a flyer on Mick Channon’s relatively unfancied 14-1 shot Unilit in the opening race.
Stepping up to six furlongs for the first time, the two year old Approve filly stayed on strongly to lead in the shadows of the winning post.
She showed a really willing attitude and looks sure to stay further still.
Punters had to wait for the final race of the evening, the Pontefract and District Golf Club Handicap, for the Hanagan double.
He teamed up with his old boss and current leading trainer at Pontefract, Richard Fahey, on the lightly raced Jan Van Hoof (8-1).
Not seen on the track for 213 days, the gelding still looked in need of the experience and is likely to improve through the season as he learns his trade.
The 2015 Stayers Championship is shaping up to have a box office finish.
Round three of the Series went the way of Tuscan Gold (11-4 favourite) who had finished second and third in the first two rounds.
Gaining his reward for a string of consistent efforts, the Micky Hammond trained gelding is now in pole position for the Championship after seeing off Handiwork and Statsminister in a pulsating finish.
The fourth race on the card celebrated Pontefract’s association with the Magna Carta on the 800th Anniversary of the date on which it was sealed by King John.
The race went the way of Kevin Ryan’s Cyril (3-1 favourite). Heavily backed throughout the day, the horse was stepping up in trip and made every yard of the running under a fantastic ride from Shane Gray.
Supported into favouritism, the roars of the crowd spurred on Cyril as he saw off all challengers to win by 1¼ lengths.
With this win under his belt, the horse could be one to follow over a similar trip (1¼ miles) as connections were not surprised by the manner of his victory.
Another well backed 3-1 favourite Be Lucky kept punters smiling as Michael Easterby and Graham Gibbons teamed up for the penultimate Flat Cap & Whippet Father’s Day 21st June Handicap.
The race title promotes the first of the popular Family Day meetings at Pontefract.
With whippet racing before the first race, spot prizes for the first 500 people wearing a flat cap and a huge array of activities for the kids, it looks like being a bumper day out. There are some very special Father’s Day packages available too and full details of all events on the day can be found on the website at www.pontefract-races.co.uk