Bigger crowds return for latest race meeting at Pontefract
Following the easing of restrictions larger crowds returned to Pontefract for the first time since October 2019 when they staged their latest meeting on Sunday.
The racecourse is continuing to take a cautious approach to racedays in 2021 for everyone’s safety and comfort with capacities for the rest of the season remaining well under their maximum, with officials feeling that a little more room than usual across the site is preferable under the current circumstances.
A crowd of around 5,500 – 6,000 racegoers were in attendance on Sunday with some cracking finishes.
Feature race on the day was the Sky Bet sponsored Pomfret Stakes – a Listed race with a superb list of previous winners including Mondialiste who went on to win the Arlington Million the following season.
There was a tightly knit field gathered with punters just favouring the former Group 3 winner, Regal Reality for the Sir Michael Stoute / Ryan Moore team who have taken each of the 2021 Pontefract Listed races to date. However, it was Michael Dods’ tough and genuine Brunch who took the step up in grade in his stride for jockey William Buick.
Brunch has been running in some of the best big field handicaps and finished runner-up in the Lincoln and Hambleton before enduring an unlucky run in the Royal Hunt Cup. There were four horses in line approaching the final furlong, but Brunch was just hitting top gear and he went on to score by three-quarters of a length with David O’Meara’s Rhoscolyn second.
David O’Meara’s luck took a turn for the better as he and stable jockey Danny Tudhope secured a double on the card courtesy of Charging Thunder and Alpha Cru.
The former was stepping up in trip on just his fifth career start and looks a strong stayer in the making. The Eldwick Stud gelding relished every yard, never stronger than at the finish in winning by five lengths.
Alpha Cru was having his first start for the yard and his first in this country, having finished fourth in a Leopardstown Maiden last August. He showed a likeable attitude to get the better of a protracted dual with runner-up Bluewater Lady.
Perhaps the most impressive winner of the day came in the opening race when Fearless Angel made a sparkling racecourse debut for trainer David Loughnane, jockey Rossa Ryan and owners AMO Racing.
Loughnane revealed that the filly had been showing a lot of speed at home and they had been confident of a bold showing but was still impressed by the way she quickened clear of a decent yardstick in Vieux Carre.
The biggest cheer of the day came in the Tiesplant Handicap when course specialist Corinthia Knight registered his third course win (from four starts) when carrying the welter weight of 10st 6lb to victory under Hollie Doyle.
The pair have struck up a great relationship and the gelding clearly enjoys the unique challenge of Pontefract. Despite looking likely to be reeled in, he repelled every challenger to win by a length from another course favourite, Highly Sprung.
An exciting finish to the Pontefract and District Golf Club Handicap saw Regal Mirage regain the winning thread for the team of Tim Easterby and David Allan.
The seven-year-old has been a tremendous servant to his owners and, sticking to the inside rail, he wore down long time leader, Where’s Jeff, on the opposite side of the track.
The runner-up had charted a wide course throughout the race under an enterprising ride from Jo Mason, but the extra distance he covered in doing so just proved too much of a hindrance.
The final race on the card was the Fly High Faye Nickels Handicap and it saw a welcome return to Pontefract for Van Gerwen who was making his 17th course start. Now in the care of Paul Midgley, the winner scooted clear of his toiling rivals to score by two-and-a-half lengths.
The race also brought down the curtain on the Go Racing In Yorkshire Summer Festival which has been taking place at the county’s nine racecourses throughout the week.
The next race meeting at Pontefract is Ladies Day next Wednesday. Tickets are selling fast and, with some limits on capacities in place, racegoers are encouraged to book online in advance to avoid disappointment. Limited tickets will be available on the day, but once capacities have been reached the gates will be closed.
Further information can be found on the course's website at www.pontefract-races.co.uk