Under glorious, cloudless September skies, racegoers enjoyed a final taste of summer with some sweltering sunshine and nailbiting finishes as Pontefract Racecourse staged its latest meeting.
The feature race on the card was the £30,000 Elkington Stud EBF Fillies Handicap and there was a strong line-up of fillies assembled.
Having had a luckless run on her most recent start at Ascot, Lady Of Aran ran out an impressive winner for Stevie Donohoe and trainer Charlie Fellowes.
Fellowes had taken his filly out of a race at Yarmouth the day before due to unsuitable ground and his decision was vindicated when Lady of Aran took off in the final two furlongs, coming from last to first and mowing down the admirable Gale Force Maya in the last 100 yards.
Earlier it had been a good start to the day for jockey Franny Norton who took the first two races on Jeanie B and Hammer Gun.
Mick Channon trained Jeanie B to win the opening Napoleons Casino Bradford Maiden. She had made an eye catching debut at Salisbury earlier in the month and was well backed to make her second start a winning one. She made every yard of the running to win well and looks a filly with a good future.
Hammer Gun had finished runner-up in the Leger Legends race at Doncaster the previous week, but went one better at Ponte when produced to lead right on the line, denying the gallant Data Protection by a head.
There was a thrilling finish to the Pontefract & District Golf Club Ltd Handicap as Tim Easterby’s Aiya clung on grimly to deny the fast finishing, hat- trick seeking Anna Bunina by a short head.
The winner was given an excellent ride by Cam Hardie and was winning for the first time since joining his trainer having been a promising youngster for Andrew Balding.
Ballylemon was another promising horse as a two-year-old and he was arguably the most impressive winner of the day when taking the Paul Harratt Maiden for trainer Richard Hughes.
As a two-year-old, he finished ahead of Derby runner Bangkok and just behind French Derby runner Raise You. Slightly disappointing in his first two starts as a three-year-old, Ballylemon made no mistake this time and was eased down to annihilate John Gosden’s Pianissimo.
The 2019 Stayers Championship is shaping up as though it will have an exciting finale. Current leader Forewarning was a short priced favourite to cement his lead in the championship, but could only finish second to Tristan Davidson’s Rubenesque in the Madam Lilibet Handicap.
The race remembered one of the most quirky characters to have graced the Pontefract turf – Madam Lilibet was just as likely to pull herself up in a race as she was to win it!
It was fitting that her former jockey, Phil Dennis, made every yard of the running on the seven-year-old Rubenesque who has won both her starts at Pontefract in 2019.
She is now in hot pursuit of Forewarning in the Stayers Championship and it will be interesting to see if she turns up again before pursuing her hurdling career in the winter.
The final race on the card was the Racing TV Handicap and it was won for the second year in succession by Richard Whitaker’s Round The Island. The trainer was actually winning the race for the third year in a row, having taken the 2017 renewal with Penny Pot Lane.Round The Island is a real course favourite at Pontefract and he was given an accomplished ride by Rowan Scott to win at the track for the fifth time.
Pontefract’s next meeting is today (Thursday) and will be the second of the four ‘All About The Racing’ midweek fixtures. With a Punters Panel, a Parade Ring Pundit and Guest Racecard analysist, it is a good chance to get some inside knowledge ahead of the day’s racing.