Horses laden with stamina are no bad thing at the best of times at Pontefract, but never more so than at the second meeting of the season at the West Yorkshire track tomorrow (Monday).
The Pontefract Marathon Handicap – over a testing 2m 5½ furlongs – is the longest flat handicap race run in the country and forms the second leg of the 2016 Stayers Championship in which Almost Gemini holds an early lead having revelled in the gruelling conditions at the track in the opening meeting of the year last Tuesday.
Course favourites Riptide and Tuscan Gold are both likely to be back in action to settle old scores having been nip and tuck in the 2015 championship.
At the other end of the spectrum, the sprinters compete for the richest race on the card, the £20,000 Riu Palace Meloneras Handicap.
Out Do took the prize for the David O’Meara yard last year before going on to Listed glory at York later in the season.
RIU Hotels and Resorts, who sponsor this race, are once again generously donating an all inclusive week’s holiday for two people to the winner of the Best Dressed Lady Competition at the Pontefract Ladies Day on Wednesday, August 3. This year, the lucky winners will be heading to Mauritius.
The race itself is often a pointer to a big handicap winner later in the year: 2015 Ayr Bronze Cup winner Go Far took his chance in this race last year while 2014 Ayr Gold Cup winner Louis The Pious made his reappearance in this race in 2014 and 2013 Wokingham winner York Glory won the race three seasons ago. It is definitely a race to keep an eye on for the future.
Two-year-olds step forward for the first time at Pontefract this season in the Douglas Barraclough 80th Birthday Novice Stakes.
Richard Fahey and Black Magic took the contest last year and the leading trainer from Ponte in 2015 will no doubt field a strong contingent in a bid to follow up.
Mary Hibbert will also be celebrating her 80th birthday at Pontefract on Monday and sponsors the 6f maiden for three-year-olds.
In what was a highly informative race in 2015, Tom Dascombe’s smart ‘Dawn’s Early Light’ was just touched off by the Richard Fahey trained Beardwood. Both of these horses will hold claims in top races this season and the race will hopefully reveal some promising horses to follow in 2016.
Those living in York can pick up a ticket for £2 for this meeting if they register for the Racecourse Postcode Lottery scheme before the day – all postcodes throughout Yorkshire will be able to get tickets to specific meetings throughout the year.