Double success at Pontefract for De Sousa and Johnston

Gran Canaria Queen and jockey Rachel Richardson  repeated last year's win at Pontefract.  Picture: Alan Wright.
Gran Canaria Queen and jockey Rachel Richardson repeated last year's win at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright.

Tea, cake and exciting racing were the order of the day at Pontefract on Monday as racegoers enjoyed the Midsummer Tea Party on a bright summer afternoon (writes Richard Hammill).

Local farmshop Farmer Copleys provided the afternoon tea and Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston provided a couple of highlights on the track as he and last season’s champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa teamed up for a double on the card.

The feature race, The EBF Spindrifter Conditions Stakes, is named after Sir Mark Prescott’s prolific two year old who won 13 races in his first season in 1980, including three victories at Pontefract.

While two year olds do not often run 13 times in their first season any more, Mark Johnston’s Love Dreams maintained his 100 per cent record with a comfortable all the way success.

The Dream Ahead colt is likely to head to the July meeting at Newmarket in a couple of weeks with a group three on his agenda.

Well backed, he’s clearly well regarded and looked potentially smart in seeing off a couple of other highlypromising colts.

Silvestre De Sousa brought up the double for the team when guiding Highly Sprung to a victory in the Wilfred Underwood Memorial Classified Stakes.

Just touched off at the course last week, the gelding was ridden with a little more restraint this time and got up in the shadows of the post to deny the well fancied Rococoa.

For a group of annual badge holders at Pontefract, the day had started with a trip to Musley Bank to see the training centre of Richard Fahey.

Let’s hope the trainer was able to point them in the direction of his Belle Travers who took the opening Ladies Race.

The race gave Emily Bullock her first ever winner and on her 25th birthday too.

The ladies stepped to the fore again in the EBF Alan Mercer 60th Birthday Handicap as Gran Canaria Queen and Rachel Richardson followed up their win in this race in 2015 with a gutsy performance. Woefully out of form so far this season, the mare was able to race off a 9lb lower mark than that which she had won off last season but looked right back to her best as she held off recent course winner Dutch Mist.

Jockey Rachel Richardson had narrowly avoided serious injury in a fall at Beverley last week and it was good to see the pair back in the winners enclosure again.

One of the most impressive winners on the day was the Roger Varian trained Alquffaal. Ridden patiently by Paul Hanagan, the gelding appreciated the step up in trip to win handsomely by three and a half lengths.

He’d run at Pontefract earlier in the season – well beaten by Ed Dunlop’s hugely promising Amazing Red – but faced nothing of that calibre and could be one to keep on the right side of in handicaps.

The Lifetime in Racing series honours the achievements of staff with a longstanding history in the Industry. This year’s race was held in honour of Rose Beattie who has recently retired from the position of travelling manager for Mark Johnston.

After the race, Mark and Deirdre Johnston presented an award to Rose by way of a thank you for all her hard work. The race itself was won by Ruth Carr’s Oriental Splendour who, unusually at Pontefract, led home a trio of runners drawn high.

The win continued the fantastic run of form for Ruth Carr who recently raised over £32,500 for Macmillan when she won a charity race at York racecourse.

The final race on the card resulted in a bit of an upset as the relatively unfancied Shouranour held off the fast finishing course specialist Trinity Star.