National Hunt Racing
A bumper holiday crowd packed into Fakenham racecourse to enjoy its Christmas meeting on Sunday in weather more appropriate to spring.
Top jockeys Noel Fehilly and Richard Johnson led the way on the day with three winners between them across the six-race card.
Fehilly got off the mark in the opener, the Christmas Hurdle over three miles, recording his 80th winner of the season on 7-1 shot Shaky Gift.
Content to play a waiting game in the early stages the pairing moved through the pack at the serious end to come alongside leader Bonnet’s Vino and get home by just under a length.
Champion jockey elect Johnson posted his 164th win when he steered the Lucy Wadham-trained four year-old Mystic Sky to a comfortable victory in the Thoroughbread Breeders Association Mares Hurdle over two miles. Always in contention, the warm favourite took up the running from two out and was never challenged up the home straight to ease clear by seven lengths.
A fine double was secured by Fehilly on favourite Bears Rails in the Fakenham 2016 Annual Membership Novices Chase over three miles.
There was all to play for coming to the last as rival Tanner Hill under Mark Quinlan refused to buckle but trainer Colin Tizzard’s chase debutant had enough in the tank to drive on for an excellent two length win.
The most convincing run of the afternoon came from Noble Legend to take the At The Races Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
Harry Skelton went straight into the lead from the off and never relinquished it in a bold front-running gamble which spread-eagled the field.
The eventual margin was a convincing 11 lengths from Emerald Rose. Tightest finish came in the Racing At Fakenham New Year’s Day Hurdle over two miles.
All the money had come for Newmarket trainer Michael Wigham’s Gin and Tonic who had obliged punters on his last run at the track.
There was to be no repeat but with three in the running at the last it was anybody’s guess until Neworld driven out by Alain Cawley snatched it by half a length.
With the sun still shining favourite backers plunged on What A Moment from the David Pipe yard to send them home happy in the last, the Independent Racecourses Ltd Maiden Hurdle of two miles and four furlongs.
A confident ride from Tom Scudamore looked to have sealed it until rank outsider Prince of Steal at 16-1 under Liam Treadwell literally stole it on the line by a neck.
The next meeting at Fakenham is on New Year’s Day, first race due off at 12.40pm.