Fakenham race meeting is boosted by bumper crowd

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Boosted by the half-term holiday a good crowd supported Fakenham’s Lycetts meeting, making up for the loss of its earlier event in the month due to the weather.

Richard Johnson extended his lead at the top of the champion jockeys table with yet another double at the track.

After failing to get off the mark in the opener he cruised home on the Olly Murphy-trained Calipso Collonges in the Lycetts Bloodstock Insurance Brokers Hurdle over three miles.

With just two rivals the six- year-old was sentoff at prohibitive odds of 1/14 and duly made short work of main opposition Drumlee City under, Daryl Jacob, after following in his slip-stream for the first two miles.

The double was a much tighter affair in the final race of the afternoon, the Fakenham Maiden Open National Hunt Flat over two miles.

In a storming finish Johnson just got his mount Melekhov to the line by a head from second favourite Arch My Boy ridden by Tom Scudamore, bringing up his 146th win of the season.

Champion trainer Nicky Henderson chose Fakenham as the ideal test for his talented horse Rather Be in advance of next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The seven-year-old showed his class with a perfect roundof jumping under Jeremiah McGrath in the Lycetts Chase over two miles.

He shook off his only rivalPositively Dylan under Adam Wedge, who had jumped poorly, to get home by 17 lengths.

The feature race of the afternoon, the Tim Barclay Memorial Chase over two miles and five furlongs, was a duel from first to last in a bunched field of six.

Riding for his brother Michael Scudamore, jockeyTom just got home by a length on his mount Twenty EightGuns in an exciting finish from long-time leader Princeton Royale.

The opening Cowan’s Late Night Accidental Auction Bid Selling Hurdle over two miles went to Beyeh ridden by claimer Jack Sherwood.

The mare showed plenty of grit to hold off rivals Hollywood All Star and favourite Hurricane Rita, winning by just under a length in the dash for the line.

There was no bid for the winner at auction.

Norfolk-based claimer Fergus Gregory delighted his trainer Olly Murphy with a confident ride on Whiskey In The Jar to take the British EBF National Hunt Novices Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs.

When the pairing broke away from their rivals over the final half-mile the lead was extended to nine lengths with ease. Emma Yardley achieved her first win under rules when she took the William Bulwer Long Memorial Hunters Chase over three miles.

Her mount Foxcub was always well-placed and when two of her main rivals fell with a mile left to go she took full advantage, pulling away from only challenger West Lake to win by 25 lengths.

The next meeting at Fakenham is on Friday, March 16, where a giant screen will also bring all of the action from the Cheltenham Festival.