They’re off in new Ponte race season

Winner of the opening race of the 2011 Pontefract season Hits Only Jude, ridden by Neil Farley. Picture: BRIAN LUNN
Winner of the opening race of the 2011 Pontefract season Hits Only Jude, ridden by Neil Farley. Picture: BRIAN LUNN
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TOP Yorkshire-based jockey Silvestre de Sousa – who recorded exactly a century of winners last season on turf – rode a couple of winners at Pontefract’s opening meeting of the 2011 campaign on Tuesday to give notice of his intentions to stay in the spotlight during the current campaign, writes Graham Orange.

Descaro (13/2) give the Brazilian-born rider his first success of the afternoon, producing a power-packed finish to land the longest race of the day, the Jamaican Flight Handicap Stakes over two-and-a-quarter miles, by three-quarters of a length from Blackmore.

Descaro is trained at Nawton in North Yorkshire by David O’Meara and won a couple of stayers’ races on the Flat last year (Ayr and Ripon), as well as competing over hurdles this winter.

De Sousa had to wait until the final race to complete his double when Record Breaker (3/1 favourite) prevailed in a handicap contest over one mile-and-a-half for Middleham trainer Mark Johnston. Record Breaker dominated the race, dictating the pace to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths to record his second win at Pontefract.

Malton trainer Richard Fahey produced the first two home in the feature race of the afternoon, the Paddock Package Handicap Stakes over one mile-and-a-quarter. Ingleby Spirit (9/1) led home stable companion Changing The Guard (5/2 favourite), winning convincingly by three-and-a-half lengths in the hands of Barry McHugh. It kept up the remarkable record of Fahey in this equivalent race over the years, having now won it five times in the last seven years with the likes of horses such as Flying Clarets and Vintage Premium.

The colours of Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire were carried to victory by Florestans Match (11/8 favourite) in the race for maiden three-year-olds over the sprint distance of six furlongs. Trained near Andover by Ralph Beckett and ridden by Jim Crowley, Florestans Match at last fulfilled some of the promise she showed last year as a two-year-old to win by an impressive four lengths.

Strictly Pink (9/1), trained at Newmarket by Alan Bailey, was given an eye-catching ride by Cathy Gannon to land the Dalby Stand Handicap Stakes, a contest for three-year-old sprinters. Despite missing the break, Strictly Pink made steady headway to prevail by a neck from Lexi’s Hero. The filly may take her chance in the fillies’ classic, the 1,000 Guineas, early next month.

Another Newmarket-trained horse, Halfsin (5/2 joint favourite) – representing trainer Marco Botti – took the contest for maiden three-year-olds over one mile-and-a-quarter by a couple of lengths, partnered by Adam Kirby, while the opening race of the afternoon, the Pontefract Loyalty Card Handicap Stakes (one mile) went the way of Hits Only Jude (5/1 joint favourite) by four and a half lengths in the hands of apprentice jockey, Neil Farley. Trained at Sledmere in East Yorkshire by Declan Carroll, Hits Only Jude had won just four days previously at Musselburgh.

The next meeting at Pontefract takes place on Tuesday, April 19, when racing is scheduled to begin at 2.10pm.