Hammond full of praise for Aiden Brookes in Pontefract victory

.Justus came home ahead of Maxident and Robert Johnson.

Micky Hammond was grateful for Aiden Brookes’ claim after landing round one of the Pontefract Stayers’ Championship with Justus at the opening meeting of the season at the West Yorkshire track.

Justus looked beaten down the stretch of the two-and-a-quarter mile Jamaican Flight Handicap under 5lb claimer Brookes, with Maxident and Robert Johnson apparently fighting out the finish.

But Justus (9-2) responded to Brookes’ urgings and got up close home to land victory by three-quarters of a length.

Hammond felt Brookes’ claim proved vital on ground the horse loves as he took advantage of carrying nearly a stone less than all four of his rivals.

Hammond told Racing TV: “The horse has had a good winter with us. Obviously Aiden has been with us now for a good few years now since leaving school and he’s well worth his claim.

“(The ground is) very important for the horse. Lightest-weighted in the race which has suited. When they quickened up a little bit they actually left us a bit flat footed.

“All we’ve done is just stay which has won the day for us really. Absolutely delighted.”

Hammond has a smaller army of runners on the Flat but is hoping for a drying up of the ground for his jumpers.

He added: “Surely it’s going to dry up very soon. Maybe for the winter jumpers this festival weekend we have in the north might be the last time that we get the soft or heavy ground.

“And then hopefully we might get some sort of a spring, although having said that it’s actually quite spring like here today.

“Hopefully the racing will go ahead through the rest of the week because the forecast isn’t too promising.

“We haven’t got a lot of Flat horses, we’re not going to have a lot of summer jumpers but the jumpers we’ve got we’ll keep them going until Cartmel at the end of May. The winter jumpers have done really well.”

The Bell Conductor (10-1) made all to land the feature William Hill Extra Place Races Every Day Handicap for Craig Lidster and William Pyle.

The seven-year-old was pressured in the final furlong but held off Glorious Angel to triumph by one and a quarter lengths.

Favourite Wen Moon was a further length and a half back in third.

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