Crowds out in force as Pontefract Racecourse's evening meetings finish on a high

Pontefract Racecourse's final evening meeting of the season took place on Friday with six fantastic races, a beer festival and a stunning performance from critically acclaimed Re-Take That.

By Tony Harber
Sunday, 17th July 2022, 7:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 17th July 2022, 7:31 pm

On a glorious summer’s evening, the crowds were out in force to cheer home their winners and dance the night away, writes Richard Hammill.

Four local breweries, Pennine Brewery, Bier Huis, Revolutions Brewery and Ossett Brewery, pitched up gazebos to serve the Ponte crowd with award winning lagers and beers. And after the horses were safely back in their stables, Re-Take That took to the stage for a singalong performance that relit the fires of the Ponte crowd.

Feature race on the track was the £30,000 Caygill Family Handicap and last year's winner, Enigmatic, was backed into favouritism to repeat his win. He could not quite manage the feat, though, and looked a little reluctant to put his best hoof forward.

Alif Power, ridden by Jefferson Smith, strides clear to win a two-year-old handicap which remembered Pontefract racegoer Peter Chamberlain. Picture: Hannah Ali

It was left to Ventura Rascal to take the honours for trainer Kevin Ryan and jockey Sam James. He made most of the running and bravely fought off both Thirsk Hunt Cup winner, Redarna, and Enigmatic who filled the places.

The biggest field of the day assembled for the opening two-year-old novice and there was a rousing finish to set the tone of the crowd for the night.

Favourite and second favourite, Washington Heights and Braveheart Boy fought out the finish with the latter prevailing narrowly by a head for the Tim Easterby team. The runner-up was carrying a 6lb penalty and was far from disgraced and, with the pair pulling five lengths clear of the third horse, it looks a strong race.

Just four lined up for the two-year-old handicap which remembered Ponte racegoer Peter Chamberlain. The betting market struggled to find a favourite, though, as all four runners seemed to hold live chances. However, the race itself was one-way traffic for Roger Varian’s Alif Power who travelled powerfully behind the pace and readily went clear in the final furlong to score by four lengths, giving the trainer a winner with his only runner on the card.

Braveheart Boy just gets the better of Washington Heights in a thrilling finish at Pontefract. Picture: Hannah Ali

Another trainer scoring with their sole runner was William Muir/Chris Grassick whose Danza Della Luna won the Maiden Handicap impressively by seven lengths. Held up off a strong pace, the daughter of Phoenix Reach quickened nicely in the finishing straight and put the race to bed in a matter of strides.

There were two sprint handicaps to finish the card. In the first, Mr Orange was bidding to win a race he had already won three times in the past and he was backed into favouritism on his hallowed Pontefract turf. The small field scenario did not suit, though, and he was unable to reel in all the way winner Dandy Spirit, for the Roger Fell team.

Formerly trained in Ireland, Dandy Spirit is gradually finding his feet for his new trainer and can continue to improve.

There was a trappy finale with a number of in-form horses lining up. Ghathanfar had won his last two races (including at Pontefract) while Rayong and Ventura Express both boasted impressive course records. However, it was Dynamic Force who took the race for Robert Cowell and Danny Tudhope.

Last seen in action at Royal Ascot, the winner appreciated the drop in grade and made all the running before fending off his rivals in the final furlong.

The next meeting is the second of three Sunday meetings. The Tribute Acts Family Day takes place next Sunday (July 24) where racegoers will be joined by three excellent tribute bands, including Simply Sheeran, Totally Tina and George Michael who will be performing throughout the day.

The children’s funfair is back and there is lots going on, including bus trips to the start, free sweets, activity packs for children and loads more! If you are after a fantastic day out with great racing, then this is for you. For more details about upcoming events visit the course’s website www.pontefract-races.co.uk.