Fakenham Easter opener sees Athou Du Nord shock favourite

Jody Sole with Clonbanan Lad and connections

Jody Sole with Clonbanan Lad and connections

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Storm Katie did its best to thwart Easter Monday racing at Fakenham with a morning of high winds and driving rain, but to everyone’s relief had largely disappeared into the North Sea before the off.

Encouraged by the turnaround, a big holiday crowd flocked to the track to enjoy the seven-race card under good conditions even though the going was inevitably soft.

Jody Sole, Clonbanan Lad & connections

Jody Sole, Clonbanan Lad & connections

Setting the standard for the afternoon was the opening Ladies Day Fakenham 22nd May Selling Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs.

Only four runners took part but there was no lack of competition.

With half a mile to go, favourite Minister of Interior made his bid under Alan Johns but was soon joined by second in the market Athou Du Nord ridden by Alain Cawley.

Locked together these two battled it out but it was the 6 year-old French raider trained by Richard Hobson who travelled best up the home straight to win going away by six lengths.

In the subsequent sale, the impressive Athou Du Nord was bought by trainer Ali Stronge for £6,000.

The Robert Hoare Novices’ Hunters’ Chase over two miles and five furlongs was landed by favourite Clonbanan Lad under a determined ride from Jody Sole.

Main rival Man of Steel with Joe Hill on board gave the winner most to do but with top weight was unable to close the gap which stretched to three lengths at the line.

Former course winner Gin and Tonic went off favourite in the Cecil and Sheila Buttifant Memorial Novices Hurdle over two miles and duly won the day under a patient ride from Ryan Hatch.

Tucked in behind the six-runner field , the pairing started to take control from two out to dash home by a comfortable five lengths from Dylan’s Storm.

It was a different story in the David Keith Memorial Chase over three miles in which the fancied horses failed to last the course.

Relishing the give in the ground, the Charlie Mann-trained Morney Wing under Harry Bannister just managed to shake off a bold bid by Gamain to take the feature race of the afternoon along with the Captain David Keith Challenge Cup by half a length.

The conditions also favoured Who’s Mickey Brown ridden by Nick Scholfield as the soft going took its toll. This Neil Mulhollan-trained 6-year old simply scattered the field from half-a-mile out and just kept extending his lead to a remarkable 45 lengths.

Having won six point-to-points, Mr Madeit certainly made his debut under rules count in the Queen’s Cup Eastern Counties Hunters’ Chase over three miles.

Confidently ridden by George Greenock, the 11/10 favourite had to work hard to hold off the persistent Master Workman under Sam Davies-Thomas but won well in the end by just over a length.

The top combination of trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Nico de Boinville held all the cards in the finale, the Happy Easter Mares’ Maiden National Hunt flat race over two miles.

The outstanding Kayf Grace showed her class from the off to lead all the way and confirm her favourite’s odds of 1/5 with a commanding win.

The West Norfolk Point-to-Point will be held at Fakenham on Sunday, April 17, first race due off at 2pm.

National Hunt racing returns on Tuesday, May 3.