Pontefract’s 2019 season got under way on Tuesday under beautiful blue skies and, while there was a cold breeze greeting racegoers, there was plenty of exciting action on the track to warm the punters up.
On a day where every race was sponsored by the Racehorse Owners Association for their Industry Ownership Day, the feature was the £25,000 ‘Sponsorship for ROA Members’ Handicap Stakes over 1m2f.
The last time this race was run in 2017 (the 2018 renewal was abandoned to waterlogging), Tim Easterby and David Allan teamed up to take the honours with their subsequent Royal Ascot winner, Snoano, who was owned by Mike Macleod.
Mike was back to try to win the race again, this time with the Richard Fahey trained Society Red. However, his brave runner was outpointed close home by the Easterby/Allan combination with Aasheq who battled on strongly to give the Malton team consecutive wins in this event.
Like Easterby, Richard Fahey targets a particular race at this meeting each year and he won the £12,000 6f handicap for an incredible fifth time in six years when his Ventura Ocean stormed up the middle of the track under promising 5lb claimer Sean Davis.
The three-year-old had won over the course and distance as a juvenile and could be one to keep on the right side of.
There were doubles on the card for Kevin Ryan and Tom Eaves when Mont Kinabalu and Rathbone won their respective races.
Rathbone had been a decent two-year-old, running in some high class races. He appreciated the drop in class when easily landing the 6f novice ahead of the Brian Meehan trained Amplify.
Mont Kinabalu had been rated considerably higher as a youngster and returned to form with a bang in the opening race of the day – division one of the ROA Owners Jackpot Handicap over 1m – running on well to comfortably beat the Paul Cole trained Arctic Sea.
The second division of this race went the way of Casement for one of the leading Ponte trainers, Mick Appleby.
It was the gelding’s first outing for the Appleby yard, having previously been trained by Alan King. It looks a shrewd purchase as the five-year-old shot clear under Alistair Rawlinson to win eased down by almost two lengths.
The EBF High-Rise Novice Stakes has a rich history with Luca Cumani’s subsequent Derby hero taking the race in the same year he won at Epsom.
The £15,000 novice race attracted a small but select field and it was Mark Johnston’s Rochester House who made all the running to score impressively. The son of Galileo had been touched off at Newcastle on debut by a well touted Gosden horse but made no mistake at Ponte.
Clearly held in some regard by the Johnston team, the colt is likely to tackle another novice race before stepping up in grade.
The Stayers Championship is always a popular event at the West Yorkshire track with some old favourites back in action.
Mick Channon’s So Near So Farhh had finished third in the series in 2018 and looked as though she would take an early lead in the 2019 championship when she cruised to the front entering the home straight. However she was just chinned on the line as Valkenburg stayed on stoutly for the Harriet Bethell team.
The final race on the card saw a return to the Winners Enclosure for Brian Ellison’s Archive.
Given an excellent ride by apprentice Ben Robinson, the nine-year-old stayed on strongly to deny Sempre Presto her third course win.