Paul Hanagan and Richard Fahey at the double at Pontefract's evening race meeting
Almost a month after racegoers were welcomed back to racecourses across the country, Pontefract held their second meeting with spectators on Monday evening.
With seven races on a balmy evening, around 2,000 spectators enjoyed some exciting finishes with course favourites Paul Hanagan and Richard Fahey both registering doubles.
Feature race on the card was the Northern Commercials Iveco S Way Handicap and there was a strong southern contingent with William Haggas providing the short price favourite in ‘A Star Above’.
All seemed to be going to plan for the favourite but Furzig, for the Fahey/Hanagan team, had other ideas with the former champion jockey conjuring up a fantastic late run to get up in the shadows of the post to score by a head.
The six-year-old has struck a rich vein of form recently and was following up his win at Ripon at the end of May.
The Fahey/Hanagan double was initiated when No Nay Nicki ran out a hugely impressive winner of the opening Maiden Fillies Stakes.
The daughter of No Nay Never had cleared learned a huge amount from her promising debut at Thirsk and bounded clear in the style of a classy performer to win, eased down, by eight-and-a-half lengths. She is one to keep an eye on.
The Mr Wolf Sprint remembers one of the all-time Ponte greats, Mr Wolf, who is currently enjoying a happy retirement aged 20. The Ryan team have won this race on a couple of occasions and their Bergerac was sent off favourite to win again following his course and distance win earlier in the year.
It was not be, though, as William Muir’s Mitrosonfire stayed on resolutely to win by a comfortable two-and-a-quarter lengths.
He had been noted finishing strongly over sharp tracks and clearly appreciated the emphasis on stamina that Ponte provides.
Pontefract is like a home from home for Ventura Express as he has already run here four times this season. He secured his second win of the campaign when bolting up for the Paul Midgley/Kevin Stott team and their enthusiastic owners ‘Double Espresso and Partners’.
The race had appeared to have a competitive look to it, but the winner was well backed into favouritism and his supporters never had a moments doubt as some of his competitors got in each other’s way.
While not yet reaching the lofty heights of Mr Wolf, Ventura Express now has a 50% record at the course and clearly has an affinity for the West Yorkshire track.
Another Ponte favourite, Mr Orange, lined up in the second race of 6f. He’s not quite found his stride yet this season and failed to trouble the judge. Instead, John Quinn and Jason Hart teamed up with Mr Wagyu who was registering his second win in seven days.
Never far from the pace, he quickened up nicely to win by three quarters of a length from Scott Dixon’s Shackabooah.
The long distance races at Pontefract are always popular and five horses lined up for the Tony Bethell Memorial Handicap over 2m1f.
Starting in front of the stands, the runners completed just over a circuit of Pontefract Park with front running Warranty setting a searching pace. However, the race was set up nicely for winning jumper Flint Hill to make a successful return to the flat and give trainer Ruth Jefferson her first ever flat winner in the process.
Mark Johnston added his name to the scoresheet when Puckle landed the 1m2f handicap under Joe Fanning for owners The Pucka Partnership.
The four-year-old filly was handily placed throughout and comfortably saw off the challenge of Billy Roberts.
The next meeting at Pontefract is on Father’s Day on Sunday, June 20 when the course will once again welcome back a limited number of spectators. Guidelines by the British Horseracing Authority and the DCMS mean that numbers will continue to be severely restricted and certain areas will be inaccessible to the public.
The event has now reached its capacity and no further tickets will be available. In addition, no walk ups are available on the day if you haven’t already got a ticket.