Fakenham Racecourse hosts first race meeting of season
The 20/21 jump racing season kicked off, as scheduled, at Fakenham on Friday, but it was obliged to go ahead behind closed doors.
At the last meeting held in mid-March the course was packed to the rafters, coinciding as it did with Gold Cup day in Cheltenham.
Then, the place was buzzing and the atmosphere electric.
Seven months on and still in the grip of the pandemic all that had changed, as it has at many sporting venues across the UK.
About the only people watching from the sidelines were those involved with the horses, mainly trainers and owners, on the seven-race card.
Fakenham racecourse chief executive David Hunter was full of praise for everyone who had contributed towards making the race day both possible and safe.
Hunter said: “They’ve been brilliant and I’ve been really impressed by how they have managed to provide such a secure environment here.”
“A huge amount of preparation has gone on behind the scenes and I’m only sorry not to have had a crowd of thousands sharing it with us. We certainly look forward to the day that happens in due course.”
Things got under way with a competitive Conditional Jockeys Selling Hurdle over two miles.
Last year’s winner, Skeaping, ridden by Kevin Brogan, led the way but was collared by co- favourite The Twisler, under Harry Read, from two out.
The pairing took control up the home straight to stretch away and win by 11 lengths.
Only three horses contested the Sky Sports Mares Chase over two miles and five furlongs but the rivalry was intense.
Odds-on favourite Bit On The Side with Sam Twiston-Davies on board tried to make all but a decisive move by James Bowen on Jubilympics landed him the prize in a hard-fought dash to the line.
Jockey Aidan Coleman had been out of action for more than two months through injury but celebrated his return by taking the ‘National Hunt’ Maiden Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs on Here Comes Johny, trained by Olly Murphy.
They downed long-time leader Switch Hitter for a commanding victory.
The Breeders Cup Novices Chase over three miles went to the outsider of the four runners.
Jockey Ciaran Gethings and trainer Stuart Edmunds have a good record at the track and dominated their more fancied rivals on Wolf of Windlesham.
A big field of 13 contested the Champions Day Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs in which the fancied Tayzar fell early on.
Always up with the leaders, it was favourite Carys Commodity who showed his class under a fine ride by Jonjo O’Neill junior, riding for his trainer father.
They won convincingly by 14 lengths.
The ‘Download The At The Races App’ Chase over three miles had more than its share of drama.
With victory in his grasp Harry Bannister’s mount Fixed Rate took a heavy fall at the last.
In trying to avoid him, Sam Twiston-Davies was thrown off his mount One Forty Seven.
This enabled Sir Jack Yeats with James Bowen on board to win by a neck from the fast-finishing Hepijeu.
The last race of the day, the Sky Sports 415 Novices Hurdle over two miles, went to warm favourite Cormier ridden by Danny Cook.
They had to tussle with Medalla de Oro but got home well by five lengths.
The next meeting at Fakenham is on Wednesday October 28.