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Harry Skelton lays down gauntlet with Fakenham double

Harry Skelton continued to throw down the gauntlet to champion jockey Richard Johnson after a stirring double at Fakenham had taken him just eight wins adrift in the championship table.

On the track’s opening meeting after the long summer break, Skelton’s combination with his trainer brother Dan struck gold in the third and final races to brighten up a grey afternoon in north Norfolk.

Only four runners featured in the At The Races Sky 415 Chase over three miles, but the competition was keen.

Champion trainer Paul Nichols had sent out his impressive six-year-old Bagad Bihoue with claimer Bryony Frost on board and this pairing led the way in great style until the final circuit.

A crashing fall when three from home then left the door open for Skelton on Sam Red and he took full advantage despite being pressed all the way by favourite Thumb Stone Blues.

The winning margin was four lengths.

The same jockey combinations faced each other in the gloom of the late afternoon to contest the Free Tips Daily Novices Hurdle over two miles-and-four-furlongs.

This time, with just three horses under orders, Skelton bossed the whole affair to confirm the superiority of his Momella over the Nichols’ mount Brahms De Clermont by 17 lengths.

Norfolk-based jockey Fergus Gregory made the most of his only ride of the day by winning the opening Samantha Cole Conditional Jockeys Hurdle over two miles.

Making his move from two out on the Olly Murphy-trained favourite Cliffside Park the pairing stretched away from Honkytonktennessee under Gina Andrews to win by three lengths.

Harry Bannister has an excellent strike rate at Fakenham and confirmed his liking for the track by taking the Download The At The Races App Hurdle over two-miles-and-four furlongs.

Riding the Charlie Mann-trained Fixed Rate, Bannister kept his mount up with the pace before making a decisive move from two out which left the field trailing.

His margin of victory was a convincing 10 lengths over Bonnet’s Vino.

The Novices Hurdle over two miles looked as if it might go to the Skelton partnership on the odds-on favourite Holryale.

But they had reckoned without second favourite Theclockisticking under Ciaran Gethings.

He swept past the long-time leader with half-a-mile to go and never looked back, coasting home for the biggest win of the afternoon by 32 lengths.

Another odds-on in the shape of Catamaran Du Seuil, under top jockey Aidan Colema, failed to measure up in the Class 3 Chase over three miles.

Despite being given every chance they were downed by previous course winner Actinpieces, trained at her Peterborough yard by Pam Sly and cannily ridden by Gina Andrews. They were six lengths to the good on the line.

The next meeting at Fakenham, Greene King Race Day, is on Wednesday.

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