The curtain came down on the 2017 racing season at Pontefract on a lovely autumn afternoon.
A huge Monday crowd of over 4,000 people came to celebrate the end of what has been a fantastic year at the West Yorkshire track and were treated to some excellent racing and nail-biting finishes.
The feature race was the 25th running of the totepool EBF Silver Tankard Stakes. There was a classy look to the line-up with Godolphin looking to win back to back runnings of the contest following D’Bai’s win in 2016.
They saddled hot favourite Old Persian while the Queen ran the hugely promising son of Frankel, Learn By Heart. It was Clive Cox’s Connect, though, who came out on top with an authoritative victory.
He ran in the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown last time and was far too keen to do himself justice. Settled nicely in midfield on this occasion, he showed a telling turn of foot to pass the post 2¾ lengths ahead of the staying on Lisheen Castle and Learn By Heart.
He has reportedly finished for the season now, but will make an exciting three-year-old in 2018.
The owner of Connect, Alan Spence, made it a double on the day when Dominating took the 31st running of the Phil Bull Trophy Conditions Stakes. The Mark Johnston trained three-year-old has been a model of consistency throughout the season and enjoyed the drop in class to give the trainer his fourth win in the race in the last seven years.
The win also brought up an incredible 4,000 career wins for the trainer and gave jockey PJ McDonald his 100th winner of the season.
The race was also the final leg of the Stayers Championship with Tuscan Gold and La Fritillaire both still in with a chance of winning.
La Fritillaire made a bold bid for glory and finished an honourable third, but it was not quite enough to catch the Micky Hammond trained stayer who won the championship for the second time in the last three years.
Tim Easterby has trained nine winners at the course this season and Dave Allan has ridden nine too. They teamed up with the hugely popular Silvery Moon to take the totequadpot Handicap over 1m 2f.
He has been a fantastic servant to connections over the years and was winning his ninth race, just holding off the final effort of three-year-old Tuff Rock and Jamie Spencer, seven years the junior of the winner.
Two-year-olds contested the first two races on the card with Mick Channon’s Iconic Code winning the first and Richard Whitaker’s Dawn Breaking taking the second.
Both winners showed real guts and determination to reel in horses that had kicked clear in the home straight. It was only a fourth career start for Dawn Breaking and he has now won on two occasions, both at Pontefract. Brigand was an eye catching third on his debut for William Haggas as he missed the break badly but was finishing strongly in the home straight.
The 1½ mile maiden looked all over as Tranquil Star kicked clear with two furlongs to run for the Jeremy Noseda team. Jockey John Egan was bidding for a double having taken the first on Iconic Code, but he was reeled in, in the shadows of the post, by the Ben Curtis ridden Darksideoftarnside.
The winner had looked very inexperienced on his debut and still has plenty to learn about the game, but there is no doubting his ability and he knuckled down well close home to catch the faltering winner.
The curtain came down on the 2017 season as Van Gerwen took the finale for trainer Les Eyre. The winner had returned to form when second over the same course and distance at the end of September and made no mistake this time, scoring cosily for winning owners Mr and Mrs Yates, of Sunpak potatoes, – Pontefract regulars and race sponsors.
The 2018 season starts up on April 3, 2018 and there are some exciting developments planned ahead of the new season.
Keep up to date with all the latest news and information from the racecourse on their social media channels and on their www.pontefract-races.co.uk website.