Gin and tonic provides a festive tipple at Fakenham

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Early morning frost failed to stop the action at Fakenham’s final race meeting of 2017 with the track surviving an 8am inspection.

Good fields attracted a fair crowd to enjoy both the racing and Christmas carols played by the Town Band on an afternoon where Gin and Tonic continued his liking for the north Norfolk course.

Tuesday’s opening Thoroughbred Breeders Association Mares Hurdle provided the perfect start to the afternoon with the well-fancied Banjo Girl leading from first to last over the two miles.

French claiming jockey Maxime Tissier, riding for Newmarket trainer Lucy Wadham and making his first appearance at the track, made it look easy.

Wadham’s charge held off favourite Dory, under Richard Johnson, to win well by five lengths.

Favourite Minella Gathering took the spoils in the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art Hurdle over three miles under a confident ride from Paddy Brennan.

Always well-placed the pairing got away from main rivals Pennywell and Scooby rounding the home turn to coast home.

A bold bid by outsider Princeton Royale, who led for much of the At The Races Chase over two miles and five furlongs, failed on the run-in as his effort was downed by favourite Creep Desbois under Daryl Jacob.

A low sun meant the final fence had to be bypassed which seemed to suit the finishing strength of the winner, who reached the line a length ahead of Popelys Gull under Kielan Woods.

A spare ride for Jack Quinlan on Gin and Tonic, who had previously won twice at Fakenham, had the seven-year-old reproducing some of his best form in the Racing At Fakenham On New Year’s Day Hurdle over two miles.

But it was a desperately close finish from the last with Cubswin, under Trevor Whelan, bearing down on the leader, only to lose by a neck.

Odds-on favourite Mortons Leam, ridden by Kielan Woods for Peterborough trainer Pam Sly, took the Fakenham 2018 Annual Membership Chase over two miles.

The winner jumped a perfect round to ease home by 11 lengths from the persistent Oakidoaki ridden by Brendan Powell.

What had been a frustrating afternoon for champion jockey Richard Johnson with two seconds and a fall was redeemed with a runaway win on Rio Quinto, trained by Olly Murphy in the final race of the day.

Warm favourite William Hunter failed to threaten at any stage and the result of the Independent Racecourses Ltd Hurdle over two-miles-and-four furlongs was never in doubt from a long way out.

The margin was the biggest of the afternoon at 34 lengths over the trailing Potters Hedger, ridden by Leighton Aspell.

The next meeting at Fakenham is on New Year’s Day, with the first race due off at 12.45pm.