Richard Fahey brings up 150 for season with winner at Pontefract

Ayutthaya, under jockey Tom Eaves, wins the Simon Scrope Dalby Screw-Driver Handicap at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright
Ayutthaya, under jockey Tom Eaves, wins the Simon Scrope Dalby Screw-Driver Handicap at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright

There was a real autumnal feel to proceedings at Pontefract’s second September meeting with a mixture of sunshine and showers to compliment some fantastic racing and exciting finishes.

The day got off to a cracking start for favourite backers when Alben Spirit took the opening Maiden Stakes, giving Ponte’s champion trainer, Richard Fahey, his 150th winner of the campaign.

Alben Spirit had run well against some well touted horses in his two runs to date and looks a promising horse in his own right as he hit the front in the final furlong to beat Jamie Osborne’s Good Earth.

The feature race on the card was the £15,000 Simon Scrope Dalby Screw Driver Handicap. Last year’s winner, Francis Xavier, had won at Ascot on his most recent start and was back to defend his title. However, under the welter burden of 10st 2lbs, he just found the weight concession too great and went down by ¾ length to Kevin Ryan’s Ayutthaya.

Named after a city in Thailand, Tom Eaves’ mount has really hit form in recent weeks and followed up his Haydock victory in the main event. He certainly appreciates the softer ground at this time of year and he could well put together a string of victories.

There was a double on the card for trainer Mick Channon, who brought two daughters of Sixties Icon to Pontefract.

Two-year-old Walkonby has been a model of consistency and was winning her third race of the season when just holding fast finishing runner-up Expensive Dirham.

Graham Lee is currently leading the 2019 Ponte jockeys table and he kicked his mount clear in the home straight before having just enough in reserve to hold on.

The double came in the last race when apprentice Scott McCullagh drove Air Force Amy to an impressive nine-length win.

One of the most popular wins on the card came in the shape of Les Eyre’s Highly Sprung who was winning for the sixth time over course and distance.

The horse is in fantastic form at the moment and had finished runner-up in the Ayr Bronze Cup last week before returning to his beloved Pontefract. With a fast pace to aim at, Highly Sprung quickened up in great style for Lewis Edmunds to record the fastest time on the day.

The two most impressive winners on the card came courtesy of Prestbury Park and Max Vega.

Prestbury Park had been a promising two-year-old for Mark Johnston but had not won since then. Running now for Paul Midgley, supporters of the four-year-old barely had a moment’s worry as he eased clear by seven lengths in the 5f Racing TV Handicap.

Ralph Beckett has a remarkable strike rate at Pontefract and he sent one horse to the West Yorkshire track in the shape of Max Vega, who had made a promising debut at Salisbury three weeks before.

The son of Lope De Vega looks like an exciting prospect judged on the strength of this six length demolition of the opposition.