The first in the series of three popular Sunday family days at Pontefract Racecourse took place last Sunday.
A huge crowd packed picnics and barbecues and headed to Pontefract for their annual Flat Cap & Whippet Family Day. On the racing side there were some fantastic doubles on the card from Tony Hamilton, Franny Norton, Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey.
The Yorkshire Pedigree Whippet Racing Club got proceedings underway at 12.30pm with 10 whippet races and a ‘mixed breed’ fun race! Racegoers gathered to cheer on their favourites who sprinted up the final furlong in the blink of an eye! Whippets and horses were not the only speedsters on show either – there were even racing ferrets too!
As usual, the Picnic Enclosure became a sea of colour as bouncy castles, helter skelters and kids rides took over the lawn. They were interspersed with an array of gazebos and blankets as hundreds of families set out their picnics and settled down to enjoy a lovely afternoon. And while the children were kept busy with either their free sweets and activity books, or a trip to the circus or a free pony ride, mums and dads were able to enjoy the class racing.
Trips to the starts of all the six furlong races were a huge hit with racegoers. Ex-jockey George Chaloner spoke to racegoers along with the official starter and the starting stalls handlers. Some of the jockeys also had a chat with guests as they arrived down at the start!
Feature race on the day was the £50,000 totesport.com Pontefract Castle Fillies’ Stakes. Ralph Beckett celebrated a birthday winner when Isabel De Urbina swooped fast and late to win under Harry Bentley.
Having won similar race at Goodwood earlier this season, the four-year-old daughter of Lope De Vega was giving weight to all bar one of her rivals and got her head down on the line to claim victory over Ryan Moore’s mount Alwaysandforever.
Posh Perfect took the opener for Richard Fahey and Tony Hamilton, making all of the running over six furlongs to narrowly scrape victory from eyecatching newcomer Poetry, a half sister to Royal Ascot scorer, Calyx.
The Marwan Koukash owned Suegioo brought up the double for Fahey and Hamilton when taking the 2m2f Pontefract Cup. The winner was formerly a high class but frustrating horse who was winning for the first time since taking the Chester Cup in 2014! Having been held up at the rear, the nine-year-old stayed on late and fast to take the lead in the last 100 yards and win, going away from course specialist, Becky The Thatcher.
Mark Johnston and Franny Norton also had doubles on the day. Bayshore Freeway won the 1m4f novice by an impressive 3 ½ lengths. It looked a strong race on paper with an unbeaten representative from Godolphin and a classy entry from Sir Michael Stoute, Hazarfiya, who had run well in the Cheshire Oaks last time. Tracking the leaders throughout, Norton produced the winner to lead entering the final furlong and stayed on strongly to the line.
The two men then went on to win the 1m2f handicap with Rainbow Rebel who made most of the running and tenaciously saw off the brave Trinity Star in a tight scrap over the last furlong, the pair drawing clear of the third placed horse by a huge 13 lengths!
The last two races on the card were competitive looking sprints. Tim Easterby’s Excellent Times took the fillies handicap under a strong ride from James Sullivan, putting her best foot forward to get her head in front to win by a neck. She looks the type who will improve again and is one to look out for over the coming season.
Round The Island, trained by local trainer Richard Whitaker, took the honours in the lucky last. Held up in rear for the majority, the gelding stuck to the inside rail and stayed on strongly to take the lead in the last 100 yards. The gelding seems to thrive off the Pontefract hill, having two of his three wins at the West Yorkshire course.