Paul Mulrennan - A Jockey’s Diary: Stiff uphill finish should help Commanche Raider strike at Pontefract

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After all the excitement of the 53rd John Smith’s Cup day at Knavesmire, the top-class action in Britain is at Ascot this weekend – with the great mid-summer clash of the middle-distance horses in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

It could prove informative ahead of the feature races at York in August when the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival will be centre stage.

For my part, I am concentrating on two meetings in Yorkshire today and tomorrow – at Pontefract this evening and at Ripon tomorrow afternoon.

I then have a quick dash over the Pennines to Haydock Park to take one ride in the Merseyside racecourse’s finale.

I notice there’s a music concert at Haydock which is just a little taster of what’s to come at York with its Music Showcase next weekend, including great names from the 80s like Tony Hadley and Marc Almond on Friday night, as well as McFly on Saturday.

But back to matters on the track over the next 24 hours or so.

My best chance of a winner tonight is Commanche Raider in the Yorkshire Racing Summer Festival Handicap at 9.10pm.

Trainer Michael Dods’s five-year-old is in decent form. He was runner-up in a sprint race at Newcastle at the start of June and followed that up with victory at Pontefract five weeks ago.

Michael is having a good time with his horses in his County Durham yard at the moment and I think that Commanche Raider has a big chance this evening.

Half-an-hour earlier, The Lodge Road would not be without an opportunity of opening his account in the House That Jack Built Maiden Handicap. He is still to find the winner’s enclosure but, in his last race for me at Newcastle last month, he was just beaten by a length or so into second place.

Trained by Martin Todhunter in Cumbria, I think the track at Pontefract, with its stiff uphill finish, will suit this horse’s strengths.

Tomorrow afternoon finds me riding at Ripon, the closest racecourse to my home.

I team up with Yorkshireman-in-exile Mark Tompkins for what I believe will be my best opportunity of a winner during the afternoon.

Toptempo may not have won on his first three starts – one of them in Listed company – but I have a good record on horses from Mark’s Newmarket yard when he sends them north.

The 3.40pm race sees the three-year-old filly in a handicap race – and with a smallish field – for the first time.

Carragold would not be without a squeak in the 4.20pm race. He’s a consistent animal and won at Beverley a couple of months ago.

After finishing in the 6.05pm race in north Yorkshire, I’ve got just under three hours before my engagement in the 9pm race at Haydock Park. My mount is Ascription for trainer Ed Dunlop.

The three-year-old was expensively acquired but has yet to show his true pedigree. I rode him into fourth place on what was his third career outing at Nottingham.

Tomorrow is his first chance in a handicap race and, hopefully, he’ll step up to the mark.

Tomorrow’s meeting at Ripon is the start of the Yorkshire Racing Summer Festival which is scheduled to continue at Redcar on Sunday, but be aware the latter meeting is subject to an inspection this morning.

Beverley is Monday’s fixture in the county, while Catterick stages a meeting on Wednesday followed by Doncaster on Thursday.

There is a double header – York and Thirsk on Friday – with more racing action on Knavesmire on Saturday.

Pontefract provides the festival climax a week on Sunday.

The Yorkshire Racing Summer Festival, supported by SkyBet and Welcome To Yorkshire, is a great occasion that celebrates all eight Flat tracks in the county and I hope to be riding at most of the meetings.

The next racing at York is on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, July 27-28.

Friday is the start of the Music Showcase Weekend, with Tony Hadley, Marc Almond, Sheffield band ABC and Altered Images all performing after racing. The following day there is a concert by McFly.

Friday evening’s racing includes the Listed EBF Lyric Stakes and on Saturday the SkyBet York Stakes offers a £100,000 prize. Gates open on Friday at 4pm and on Saturday at 11.15am.

Admission ranges from £8 to £35 on both days. As always, accompanied under 16s are admitted free of charge to all areas. More information at