Fakenham meeting attracts strong field for competitive seven-race card
The first race meeting of 2021 at Fakenham offered total prize money in excess of £35,000 and attracted strong fields across a seven-race card.
As the only National Hunt meeting in the country that day the one disappointment was that it had to take place behind closed doors.
The opening Thorpland Maiden Hurdle over two miles set the tone for the afternoon with 14 runners taking part under soft going.
This developed into an outstanding success for Sopat, ridden by Kielan Woods for trainer Phil Middleton.
The horse had struggled when sent off favourite at the December meeting here but relished the conditions this time round to lead from start to finish.
The challenge from Ripper Roo with Aiden Coleman up was ended with a poor jump at the last, Sopat getting home by two lengths.
Olly Murphy rarely fails to have a winner at Fakenham, a track this trainer clearly loves.
He got on board in the second race of the day, the Wells Next The Sea Novices Chase over two miles and five furlongs, thanks to a determined ride by Fergus Gregory on Zee Man.
They had been well- placed throughout and made their move coming round the home turn to stretch away from second-placed Lessankan by seven lengths.
Another first to last success went to Not A Role Model ridden by claiming jockey Jordan Nailor for Sam Thomas.
They took the Fakenham Racecourse Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs with a fine front-running performance.
The result was never in doubt at the sharp end and a three-length victory over Shantung under Bryony Frost.
Warm favourite Miss Zip was pulled up early after a mistake in the Racing Partnership Mares Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
When longtime leader Tippingituptonancy ran out of steam, Krujers Girl, ridden by claimer Kevin Brogan for Johnny Farrelly, took full advantage to pull clear and win comfortably by five lengths.
The Happy New Year Hurdle over two miles and seven furlongs went to Pride of Pemberley, cannily ridden by Robert Dunne for Nigel Dunger.
The lead changed hands frequently with favourite At First Glance ridden by Jonjo O’Neill for his father the most prominent.
Their dominance fizzled out over the final half mile as Dunne made a decisive move on his mount to stretch away and cruise home by four lengths.
The most challenging race of the day was the three miles and five furlongs Chase for Conditional Jockeys and Amateur Riders.
So much so under the tough conditions that only three managed to get round over the 22 fences and complete the course.
Staying power was the name of the game, qualities shown in abundance by Love The Leader, ridden by Mitchell Bastyan, to provide trainer Johnny Farrelly with a worthy double on the day.
The margin of victory was 14 lengths over favourite Orchard Thieves.
The Norfolk Standard Open National Hunt Flat race over two miles concluded the afternoon, nine runners going to post.
After a competitive first mile the result was virtually sewn up when claiming jockey Caoilin Quinn urged his horse Bill Baxter into a commanding lead.
Riding for trainer Warren Greatrex, they scattered the field and never looked back, winning by 13 lengths from Guinness Affair under Daryl Jacob.
The next meeting at Fakenham is scheduled for Tuesday, January 19.