Blog – 11th August

Welcome to another blog from the team at Pontefract Racecourse.

Every fortnight, someone from the team will share their thoughts for your entertainment (or otherwise!):

  • Managing Director, Norman Gundill with his trusty PA, Caroline who also looks after the hospitality,
  • Accounts Manager, Nicola,
  • Admin manager, Carol,
  • Marketing exec, Alexia, and,
  • Chief Operating Officer, Richard (who is writing today’s blog)


The glitz and glamour returned to Pontefract on Wednesday as the course hosted their annual Ladies Day. Stilettoes, hats and fascinators were the order of the as the Ladies of Yorkshire dressed to impress to be in with a chance of winning the coveted Best Dressed Lady competition for an amazing prize of an all-inclusive holiday to the fantastic RIU Dubai resort. The first 500 racegoers through the Premier Enclosure entrance were greeted with a glass of bubbly to kick start their day.

The Best Dressed competitions took place before racing and the Heart Angels were on hand to pick 100 Ladies and 50 Gents for their respective finals. It was the eighth year RIU Hotels & Resorts have sponsored the Best Dressed competitions and they provided yet another spectacular prize for our winning Lady and Runner Up. Around 100 ladies took to the Parade Ring in the hope of claiming the big prize and it was Charlotte Hall who took the crown.

The opening race on the card was the 1m2f Solutions 4 Cleaning Handicap for gentleman amateur riders which featured a renewal of rivalry between Dogged and Just Hiss who had fought out a pulsating finish at Beverley earlier in the month. On that occasion, Dogged had forged out the win but, different day, different track, and Just Hiss took his revenge under 17 year old, Thomas Easterby, trained by his father Tim. Appreciating the renowned stiff finish, the winner stayed on strongly to beat his brother, Will, who was on board his Uncle Mick’s ‘Contrast’. A real family affair!

There were two divisions of the 6f Maiden and former champion jockey, Ryan Moore, made the long trip north for two rides – one in each of these races. Things got off to the perfect start as he partnered Kevin Ryan’s Royal Zabeel to a facile 7½ length success. The winner is well regarded by the Hambleton trainer and is expected to go on to better things. Moore was aboard the well fancied Point Given for Sir Michael Stoute in the second division but he could only manage 4th place behind a couple of exciting looking juveniles. Charlie Johnston’s Saint Matthew made a bold bid from the front on his racecourse debut but was overhauled in the closing stages by Richard Fahey’s Ajwadi who, with the benefit of racecourse experience, put his head in front at the right time. 

One of the feature races of the day was the 2m Napoleons Casino Bradford Handicap. With 5 course winners amongst the competitors, it looked like a great race on paper and the reality did not disappoint. Punters made Charlie Johnston’s Yorkindness the favourite and the support was well founded with Joe Fanning steering the filly to a hard fought ½ length victory over El Borracho, maintaining her 100% record at the track.  It was Fanning’s only ride on the card but gave him his 4th victory at the track in 2023.

The RIU Hotels Veteran’s handicap is open to horses aged 6 years or older. 11 well known names lined up over the 1m trip with Mick Appleby’s Motawaafeq coming out on top with a battling victory – repelling all challenges. In a similar vein, Paul Midgley’s Van Gerwen rolled back the years when taking the FBS Chartered Accountants Handicap under Cam Hardie, recording his 4th course and distance victory in the process.

With many winners coming from near the pace, there was a deluge of money for Tracy Waggott’s front running Ghathanfar in the final race and he set a scorching pace from the outset. However, in a complete reversal of the day’s form, Michael Dod’s Emily Post came from last to first under a brilliant ride from Callum Rodriguez. Apparently difficult to settle, the 4 year old looked a completely different proposition this time and can progress if her wayward tendencies are behind her.

The next race meeting at Pontefract is the final Family Day of the year on Sunday 20th August. There will be the usual array of family filled entertainment and tickets are selling fast for the event. Racegoers are encouraged to book online in advance to avoid disappointment.