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Record prize money of £1.3m at Pontefract races this year

Pontefract's 2018 campaign gets underway on Easter Tuesday, April 3.
Pontefract's 2018 campaign gets underway on Easter Tuesday, April 3.

PONTEFRACT’S 16-day season gets underway on Easter Tuesday, April 3.

The total prize money on offer of over £1.3 million is the highest ever provided at the track.

The course’s managing director Norman Gundill has outlined plans for the year ahead.

He also recalled last November when Pontefract were shortlisted in four categories at the annual RCA showcase awards.

The course’s Wall Of Fame - introduced for the first time in 2017 - won the ‘Topspot’ category. This was the third award that the racecourse has won in the last four years.

The booking of Cheryl, Mike and Jay - formerly of Bucks Fizz - to play their greatest hits after racing on 80’s Night two years ago was so successful it led the track making both of their Friday evening meetings music nights last year.

That theme will continue this year when Belinda Carlisle plays after racing on 80’s Night on May 25 and The Bootleg Beatles perform on Red Shirt Night on July 20.

The other evening meeting during the year, on Monday, June 11, will once again be Rugby League evening.

Season ticket holders with Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Trinity, Featherstone Rovers and Huddersfield Giants will again be able to gain entry for £5.

Ladies Day will be on Wednesday, August 8, this year. The winner of the best dressed lady competition will receive a week’s holiday for two in a Riu Resort in the Dominican Republic. Second prize will be a weekend at the new Riu Hotel in Dublin.

In keeping with the strong family tradition at the track, there are three family Sundays each with their own individual family friendly theme and over £100,000 worth of prize money.

Two of the Sunday racedays have been revamped in recent years with the Flat Cap and Whippet Family Day on June 24 and the ‘In The Zone’ raceday on August 19.

The remaining Sunday meeting on July 29, will, for the first time in 2018, feature a “fake festival” with three different tribute acts.

The EBF Stallions Highfield Farm Flying Fillies Stakes on August 19 will once again be the richest race during the season with prizemoney of £60,000.

The meeting on Sunday, June 24, clashes with an England qualifying match in the World Cup against Panama but racegoers will be able to watch the match on screens in a World Cup marquee on the site adjoining the parade ring.

On the track, the quality of the racing promises to be as good as ever with record prize money and five listed races offering a combined total of £250,000 in prize money.

Both Abingdon and Queen Kindly had huge reputations before winning the Pontefract Castle and EBF Highfield Farm Flying Fillies Stakes respectively in 2017.

Abingdon had four more runs last season, once in group one company, twice in group two and once in group three.

She started favourite in three of those four races finishing second on one occasion and third twice. She ended her season with a rating of 108.

Frankel’s daughter Queen Kindly had won the group two Lowther Stakes as a two year old and big things were expected of her as a three year old.

However, her win in the Flying Fillies was her only victory last season and she ended the season with a rating of 103.

Pontefract are increasing prizemoney for this race and will try to attract the very best sprinting fillies and mares with the hope of it achieving group three status in the future.

Another Touch lifted the Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes when he just got the better of former winner Custom Cut while Lincoln Rocks, who had such a fantastic season with some brilliant runs in good races, won the Pipalong Stakes.

Connect has not been seen since winning the EBF Silver Tankard Stakes but he beat a good field very easily and the yard are hopeful that he will continue to improve into a group performer in the coming season.

There were some other top performances on the track with subsequent Royal Ascot winner Snoano winning on April 11. Golden Apollo won big sprints at both York and Ascot following his win in the Mr Wolf Sprint.

Perhaps the best race of last season came in the Spindrifter Stakes when Zaman beat Unfortunately and Izzy Bizu. The winner was subsequently placed in two group two races while the runner up won the group two Robert Papin at Maison Lafitte and the group one Prix Morny at Deauville. Even the third home won a listed race.

The biggest headline of Pontefract’s year came when Dominating gave Mark Johnston his 4000th winner in the Phil Bull Trophy.