Ideal ground, sunshine weather and a good crowd made for a fine afternoon of racing on Fakenham’s first meeting of the new National Hunt season.
It was the perfect setting for the inaugural running of the Norfolk National Chase over three miles and five furlongs which attracted a top-class field of 11.
This feature race of the day entirely lived up to expectations with plenty in contention over the final stages.
From the last fence three emerged side by side with 16-1 outsider Rebecca’s Choice under Robert Dunne just touching off Grove Silver ridden by Sean Quinlan and Morney Wing under Harry Bannister.
Delighted trainer Dai Burchell was presented with the impressive Challenge Trophy in the winner’s enclosure to take back to her yard in Ebbw Vale.
The victory also provided Dunne with a double on the day, having taken the previous TBA Mares Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs on Ayla’s Emperor trained by John Flint.
The race looked to have been in the hands of Mo Chailin and Noel Fehily up the home straight but he was collared at the last by an impressive turn of foot and a winning margin close to two lengths.
Odds-on favourite Kiama Bay just failed to take the opening Fakenham Ladies Raceday 22nd May Selling Hurdle over two miles after a ding-dong battle with Kudu Country ridden by Paul Moloney.
The winning jockey was upbeat after the race with good reason: “I broke my leg on him last December when riding at Ludlow so I reckon he owes me one,” he said.
“They went pretty quick from the start but mine stayed on well and luckily I just got his head in front.”
There was no bid for the winner at auction.
An impressive ride by Harry Bannister on Gowanauthat saw off the well-fancied Little Windmill in the IJF House to House Bike Ride Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
The Charlie Mann-trained winner gradually narrowed the gap opened up by the favourite rounding the turn into the straight and had plenty in the tank to push ahead by four lengths.
Just five runners contested the IRL ‘Grassroots’ Hunters Chase over three miles but there was little between the whole field for much of the race. In the end the two market favourites came to the fore with Man of Steel under Joe Hill getting the better of In Fairness and Rupert Stearn by little more than a length.
The finale threw up a shock winner in the shape of Ceporine ridden by Alain Cawley to land the Ladies Raceday 22nd May at Fakenham Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs.
Sent off at the generous odds of 20-1, trainer Richard Hobson’s four year-old was always handily placed in the leading pack and relished the closing stages with a finishing burst five lengths to the good of favourite All Together.
The final meeting at Fakenham before the summer break is Ladies Day on Sunday, May 22, first race due off at 2.10pm.