Odds-on favourite beaten in opening race on the card at Norfolk track
A bumper holiday crowd packed into Fakenham racecourse for its annual New Year’s Day meeting.
Any thoughts that the opening Selling Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs would be a walkover for the odds-on favourite in a three-runner field were soon curtailed.
Champion trainer Paul Nichols had sent out his nine-year-old Blu Cavalier, who had won a hat-trick of races last season, and was expected to dominate this one under Lorcan Williams.
But although he led his two rivals for two miles they were always in contention and when Cliffside Park, patiently ridden by Lewis Stones, took the lead along the back straight the crowd sensed an upset.
The 11/1 shot held on gamely to win by just under two lengths, giving trainer Olly Murphy the first success of a double on the day. There was no bid for the winner at auction.
Murphy’s second win came in the Novices Chase over two miles and five furlongs with Craigmor, ridden by David England.
This was a very competitive affair despite a field of just four runners.
Content to stay with the pace in the early stages, Craigmor swept ahead with a mile to go and saw off second-placed Volt Face by just over a length.
Another trainer pleased with his team on the day was Christian Williams who also celebrated a double, making the 500-mile round trip from his south Wales yard more than worthwhile.
His first success was in the Amateur Riders Chase over two miles and four furlongs when joint favourite Sideways, ridden by Tommie O’Brien, coasted home by five lengths, ahead of Stonebridge Legend.
Always in the mix behind long-time leader Vaxalco, a bold move around the home turn decided the outcome.
The Williams double to take the Sky Sports Racing Hurdle over three miles also provided jockey David England with his second success of the afternoon.
It came on Strictlyadancer in an open race where the lead changed hands throughout.
Although rival Todd, under Callum McKinnes, finished strongly they were unable to deny the winner who reached the line two-and-a-half lengths to the good.
On an afternoon when doubles were the toast of the New Year, jockey Ciaran Gethings also got into the spirit of the occasion, helping himself to two tight victories, including the feature race of the day, the Sky Sports Racing on Sky 415 Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs.
His mount Ceara Be tracked long-time leader Kilbrew Boy before taking over with half-a-mile to go.
The pairing just held on to win by a neck from the fast-finishing Wind Place and Sho under a drive from Robert Dunne.
Gethings seemed to have lost out to Swaffham Bulbeck in the finale, the Watch Sky Sports Racing Hurdle over two miles.
But urging his mount Havana Hermano over the last he just narrowed the gap for a photo finish which gave him the race by a nose. The next meeting at Fakenham is on Thursday, January 24, first race due off at 12.55pm.