THE curtain came down on the 2016 racing season at Pontefract on a lovely autumn afternoon on Monday (writes Richard Hammill).
A huge crowd of around 4,000 came to celebrate the end of what has been a fantastic year at the track and were treated to some excellent racing and nail biting finishes.
The feature race was the 24th running of the listed totepool EBF Silver Tankard Stakes. The form horse was D’bai, who had finished an excellent third in the group two Champagne Stakes on his last run.
Coupled with the fact that jockey William Buick had flown through the night following his weekend rides in Canada, punters were anxious to make him their favourite. And they were proved right as the Dubawi colt ran out a cosy winner, seeing off Marco Botti’s Al Hamdany.
D’bai is unlikely to run again this season but connections are looking forward to him running over middle distances as a three year old and he was introduced into Sky Bet’s betting for the 2017 Epsom Derby following his win.
The Godolphin operation doubled up when Timekeeping took the one mile, four furlong maiden. The three-year-old had made his debut at the course back in April and was a handsome winner on just his second start.
The race was run at a frantic pace in the conditions and turning in to the home straight, only two horses counted.
Newly crowned champion jockey Jim Crowley led the way on Admiral’s Sunset but it was the newly crowned champion apprentice Josie Gordon – on her first ride for Godolphin – who took the honours, driving her mount clear to win.
Richard Fahey has been the leading trainer at Pontefract for several years. Starting the day, he trailed Mark Johnston by one winner but the Fahey trained Lucky Mistake made sure that the 2016 leading trainer award went right to the wire as he gained his first win in the six furlong totesport maiden.
The win secured the leading jockey award for the season for Tony Hamilton who has won seven races at the course this year.
The final leg of the Stayers Championship was the 30th running of the Phil Bull Trophy Conditions Stakes.
The Stayers Championship was already won by 2016 champion Riptide. However, the Pontefract favourite found the competition too hot in a great renewal of this race and the finish was fought out by Oriental Fox and Burmese for Mark Johnston and Marcus Tregoning respectively.
The Tregoning gelding has spent the season competing at the highest level, while the Johnston horse has been running in all the top staying handicaps.
The two horses stamped their class on the race and it was Oriental Fox who handled the conditions the best, powering clear to win by three lengths. The win of Oriental Fox also ultimately secured the leading trainer award for the 2016 season for the Johnston team.
On just his second ever ride at Pontefract, jockey Fran Berry had to be at his strongest to guide Mount Moriah to victory in the opening race.
In a close finish, the Beckett trained winner had to survive a lengthy stewards enquiry before being confirmed the winner ahead of Silver Link, who was posting a second runner up placing for the Marcus Tregoning yard.
With 25 horses keen to run in the one mile, two furlong handicap, the entries were split into two races so that all could compete.
The First Division was won impressively by the Tom Tate trained Empress Ali who revels in softer ground and has run some cracking races in better company.
The Second Division went the way of the heavily backed Bahama Moon for the David Barron team.
Always travelling well, victory was in little doubt when Graham Gibbons asked his mount to quicken clear.
Cosmic Chatter won the final race, giving jockey James Sullivan a double following his win on Empress Ali.
The winner could be seen travelling strongly in behind horses with a furlong to go, and when Sullivan guided his mount through the gaps, the Paris House gelding stayed on strongly to win by one and a quarter lengths.
Pontefract’s 2017 season starts on April 11 and there are some exciting developments planned ahead of the new season.