Pontefract gearing up for new season

ONCE again, there are several ‘themed’ racedays, starting with the 22nd annual Northern Racing College Day (Wednesday, April 27) and followed by ‘Irish Night’ (May 27); Radio Aire ‘Singles Night’ (June 6); ‘Red Shirt Night’ (July 15) and ‘Ladies Day’ (August 3). The trio of Sunday fixtures (June 19, July 24 and August 14) continues to have strong family themes, with Father’s Day celebrated on the initial Sunday.

The racing programme once again features five established Listed races - The totesport.com Pontefract Castle Stakes (Sunday, June 19), The Weatherbys Bank Pipalong Stakes (Tuesday, July 5), The Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes (Sunday, July 24), The EBF Flying Fillies’ Stakes (Sunday, August 14) and The totesport.com Silver Tankard Stakes on the final day of the season, Monday, October 17.

The Pontefract Stayers’ Championship, which incorporates all eight races for stayers during the season (i.e. races of at least two miles) continues for the eighth year. Dan Buoy, trained in South Yorkshire by Richard Guest took the honours last year. A points system operates throughout the competition, based on placings obtained during the season. The owner, trainer and stable staff of the horse accumulating the most number of points each receive a memento and £1,000 presented on the final day of the season in October.

The race of the season last year – perhaps the best of any season in the modern era at Pontefract – was when Rio De La Plata and Mabait dead-heated for first place in the Listed Sky Bet Pomfret Stakes on Sunday, July 25 – the final day of the Yorkshire racing Summer Festival. Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Rio De La Plata went on to win a Group 3 race at York, before finishing runner-up in a Group 1 contest at Longchamp in France. The colt then finished the year by winning a couple of Group 1 races in Italy.

Last year saw Mr Wolf record a remarkable ninth win at the course, while Markington won the Pontefract Cup for the second successive year.

The UK’s champion jockey of last season, Paul Hanagan was Pontefract’s leading rider with 14 winners. Based with Malton trainer, Richard Fahey, Hanagan won the British title on the final day of the season at Doncaster in November by two winners from Jamie Spencer, so his victories at Pontefract were crucial to his success. Fahey himself won the trainers’ category for the second consecutive season, with ten winners. Both competitions are supported by ‘In The Frame’, Pontefract’s trophy supplier.