Pontefract Racecourse buzzing as first OAP Free Day proves a success

Pontefract Racecourse staged their first OAP Free Day when they staged the second race meeting of the year on Monday.

By Tony Harber
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 12:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 1:30 pm
Rayong, ridden by Franny Norton, goes clear to win the feature race at Pontefract, the £25,000 RIU Hotels and Resorts Handicap. Picture: Alan Wright
Rayong, ridden by Franny Norton, goes clear to win the feature race at Pontefract, the £25,000 RIU Hotels and Resorts Handicap. Picture: Alan Wright

Almost 2,000 over 60s registered in advance for their free ticket and with a huge number of owners attending and 92 runners declared to run, there was a real buzz to the racecourse. The sun also shone on the near 4,000 strong crowd, writes Richard Hammill.

Feature race was the £25,000 RIU Hotels and Resorts Handicap and it was Rayong who took the honours for the team of Karl Burke, King Power and Franny Norton.

He had been a promising, but slightly frustrating two-year-old and, despite running well in big races, had not won since a course and distance win in July 2020.

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Al Qaasim, ridden by Danny Tudhope, gets in front to win the Napoleons Casino Bradford Handicap at Pontefract. Picture: Alan Wright

Rayong clearly has an affinity with the track, though, and moved easily through the race, winning readily by two lengths.

A return trip to Pontefract is likely to be on the agenda in the coming months.

There was a double on the card for the trainer when Hooked On You took the VW Fillies Novice for owners John and Jess Dance.

The winner had shown promise on her one turf start on soft ground at Haydock last season and looks as though she should have a good future ahead of her given the manner of her success.

There was also a double on the card for the trainer/jockey combination of Declan Carroll and Harrison Shaw.

They got the ball rolling when Gannon Glory was a taking winner of the 5f Maiden. Restricted to just one race as a two-year-old when fancied for a maiden at York, the winner has grown and strengthened over the winter and showed a willing attitude to repeal all challengers. The double came when King of Tonga took the closing sprint handicap, just getting the better of the well backed Some Nightmare in a bunch finish.

The Pontefract Marathon Handicap is always an intriguing race as it is the longest flat handicap run in this country on, arguably, one of the toughest tracks in the country.

Dual winner of the race Wemyss Point was making his final career start, but there was no fairytale ending on this occasion as John Berry’s Dereham strode clear to take the race in impressive style.

The winner had been unlucky at the track in 2021 when carried halfway across the home straight by one of his opponents. However, it was all plain sailing on this occasion with Megan Nicholls steering the six-year-old to a seven-length success.

The first two-year-old race of the season at Pontefract went the way of Charlie and Mark Johnston’s Duchray. The father and son team have made their usual impressive start to the season and this youngster lohttp://pontefract-races.co.ukoks to have inherited a good chunk of his sire, The Last Lion’s speed. Connor Beasley did the steering to beat Mick Channon’s Legend of Xanadu who also made a hugely promising debut.

There was a shock in the Steve Willard’s Happy 60th Birthday Handicap when 100-1 shot, Do I Dream scored stylishly.

There appeared to be no fluke about the win for the daughter of Mondialiste who was making her first start on the turf in 2022 following three unplaced efforts on the all weather. She came from last to first to overhaul the well backed, odds on favourite, Autumn Festival for the O’Meara/Tudhope combination.

That duo quickly made amends, though, when their consistent Al Qaasim was a cosy winner of the Napoleons Casino Bradford Handicap over 1m.

The next meeting is National Horseracing College Charity Day on Wednesday, April27. Tickets are available from pontefract-races.co.uk.