An array of entertainment with a typical Yorkshire twist, both on and off the track, took place under beautiful summer skies, writes Richard Hammill.
Before racing got underway, the Yorkshire themed entertainment was in full flow with the Flat Cap Brass Band kicking off proceedings throughout the enclosures. With whippet racing, a Yorkshire Pudding throwing competition, face painting, kids rides and giant garden games, there was plenty to keep everyone occupied.
With more than £200,000 worth of prize money up for grabs, there were some big fields, some competitive racing and some fantastic finishes.
The feature race was the Listed Sky Bet Pontefract Castle Fillies Stakes and Bartzella was a hot favourite to continue the red hot form of both the trainer (William Haggas) and jockey (Danny Tudhope) who had enjoyed a fruitful time at Royal Ascot.
The writing was on the wall from an early stage, though, as the favourite could not take up her favoured front running role and it was Glenartney - an unlucky loser in a Group 3 at York last time out - who showed a willing attitude to get her head in front on the line, giving a first listed race success for jockey Ross Coakley in the process.
She is likely to take a step up in class once again and will no doubt be well placed by trainer Ed Walker over the next few months.
The Pontefract Cup saw a field of 13 gathered for the longest race on the day. While Kaizer had not been seen on the flat for 554 days, he has developed into a useful staying hurdler in the meantime and he relished the marathon trip of 2m 2f on his return to the level.
In one of the best finishes on the day, three horses were separated by under half-a-length with the 2021 Stayers Champion, Flint Hill, returning to his best in second.
Mark Johnston had a strong hand in the middle distance handicap with both Approachability and Enfranchise well fancied and it was the two of them that fought out the finish.
Enfranchise won the battle for yard bragging rights, getting the better of her stable mate by 1¼ lengths.
Johnston also sent out well fancied runners in the opening couple of races with Lady Lavinia and Love Is Golden both sent off favourite. However, they were both out of luck. Misty Blues started a Yorkshire themed day off well with Tim Easterby’s two-year-old improving for the step up in trip and running out a comfortable winner of the opener by 2½ lengths.
Visibility caused something of a shock when winning the second race at odds of 20-1. The five-year-old had been campaigned mainly over 7f, but relished the stiff 1m 2f, staying on well to win by 1½ lengths for Scott Dixon and Jack Duern.
The tightest finish of the day came in the three-year-old mile handicap with nine improving youngsters lining up for a prize of £25,000.
Karl Burke rounded off his superb week at Royal Ascot when Bullet Force just edged out Million Thanks by a short head. Both horses are clearly improving and likely to rate higher over the course of the season.
Having won two races during the 2022 Sunday Series already, Karl Burke’s Eilean Dubh stood to collect a bonus of £100k if he was able to take the concluding Sky Bet Sprint.
The gelding had been winning over a mile, but was dropped to sprinting as he was now too high in the handicap to contest the 1m option. He was one of 16 horses to line up but, drawn widest of all, he was never able to get competitive and it was Tracy Waggott’s Ghathanfar who made every yard of the running and held off recent scorers Dream Composer, Corinthia Knight and Il Bandito in a thrilling finale.
Pontefract's next race meeting is next Monday when the popular Art of Racing Raceday sees racegoers take up guest tipster roles as well as picking the best turned out horses in each race. Full details are available at the racecourse website: www.pontefract-races.co.uk