AS THE days get shorter and the nights get longer, the racing season at Pontefract is gradually drawing to a close and the track staged its penultimate meeting of the year on Monday.
The card got underway with a one mile, two furlong maiden for two year olds - the longest two year old race throughout the season at Pontefract.
Austrian School had run an eye catching race at the course at the previous meeting, staying on strongly after getting badly outpaced over one mile.
The step up in trip was just what was needed as Franny Norton bounced the Mark Johnston trained runner out in front and he repelled all challengers, showing an extremely willing attitude in the process, to win by three quarters of a length from his stable companion Making Miracles.
Austrian School could be an interesting proposition for next season when faced with a real test of stamina.
Franny Norton completed a first and last race double when Frankster won the finale.
Fourth in the race last year, the Micky Hammond trained gelding has run some decent races at Pontefract in the past and finally got off the mark when collaring the David Simcock-trained Graphite close home.
Frankster was completing a double for his trainer after Cornerstone Lad took the penultimate race.
Cornerstone Lad is a big strong son of Delegator whose future reportedly lies in the National Hunt arena and he could make a decent novice hurdler in the new jumps season.
It was very nearly a treble for the Hammond team as Pontefract favourite Tuscan Gold flew up the straight but couldn’t quite peg back Madam Lilibet.
The race was delayed for five minutes as the recalcitrant Madam Lilibet refused to leave the parade ring.
Despite the best urgings of owners, trainer and jockey, she planted herself at the exit to the course until she was ready to move.
In the race itself, she benefitted from the fast gallop set by La Fritillaire and Transpennine Star, taking the lead early in the home straight and holding off the late challenge of Tuscan Gold by a head.
The Stayers Championship for this year will go down to the wire at the track’s last meeting on October 23 with Madam Lilibet, Tuscan Gold and La Fritillaire all still mathematically able to win.
The feature on the card, a class three handicap over one mile, has been won by some smart types in its time and the line up this year was not lacking in quality.
Last year’s winner Blair House was second in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot earlier in the season and it would be no surprise if this year’s winner, The Grape Escape, took a similar route in 2018.
Richard Hannon’s colt has kept good company this season and was an impressive winner under the welter weight of 10st 3lbs, easily seeing of Jeremy Noseda’s Me Too Nagasaki.
Improving all the time, the winner would not be out of place in graded company.
The one-mile Napoleons Casino Bradford Handicap was turned into a procession by David O’Meara’s Pioneering.
The trainer, fresh from Suedois’ million dollar success in the United States, has placed Pioneering to perfection and the gelding was completing a three timer as he pulled clear of a big field.
He’s gone up 11lbs since the start of his winning spree and the handicapper is likely to raise the horse in the weights once again.
The DEM Windows Nursery was won in tidy style by Big Les for the Karen McLintock yard.
Big Les was third in a decent York maiden last time out - the winner of which has since been campaigned in group races.
Making his handicap debut off a mark of 73, Big Les looks as though he will be a decent horse for the yard to go to war with in 2018.
There is just one more race meeting at Pontefract in 2017, with October 23 the final chance to go racing at the track this year.
There’s a listed race to look forward to and an excellent supporting card. There are still a few places remaining in the VIP totepool Suite. For more details check the course’s website at www.pontefract-races.co.uk
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