DESPITE small fields, there were some long-priced winners when racing, supported by a good crowd, returned to Fontwell Park with the National Spirit Raceday on Sunday.
The opening Josh Gifford Memorial Novice Chase, sponsored by Bet Placepot With Totepool, set the trend. It was fiitting that this race, in memory of Findon trainer Josh Gifford, who died two years ago, was won by a local trainer.
Horsham-based Gary Moore sent out 7-2 shot Via Sundown, ridden by son Joshua, to a comfortable half-length victory over odds-on favourite Benvolio, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Daryl Jacob.
The trophy for the race was originally the Mad Hatters Trophy presented for an amateur riders flat race at Fontwell Park, which was won by Josh’s widow, Althea, riding one of his horses in 1979. She was at Fontwell, accompanied by her son Nick, who now trains at Downs Stables, Findon, and his wife Ruth, to present it to the winning local owners Nick Peacock and Nick Roach.
The big race of the day, the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle Race worth £50,000, was won in spectacular style at 16-1 by Kayf Moss trained by Bridgend trainer John Flint with his son, Rhys, in the saddle.
Kayf Moss got the better of the Alan King-trained Meister Eckhart in a photo fiinish. Favourite 2-5 Saphir Du Rheu, sent out by Paul Nicholls, was a disappointing fourth with Gary Moore and son Josh on board Chris Pea Green claiming third place.Rhys Flint had extensive treatment for a serious leg injury incurred only three weeks previously because he was determined to ride the horse in the big race.
But delight at winning the race was short-lived when stewards gave the rider a seven-day ban for excessive use of the whip, which wiil preclude him from riding the horse at the Cheltenham Festival. John Flint said of the victory: “I knew from times of previous races that we could beat Saphir Du Rheu.”
Maidstone-based trainer Linda Jewell was in fine form at the meeting, scoring an excellent double initiated by Itoldyou at 8-1, ridden by Tom Cannon, and completed by 10-1 shot Clonusker with Gerald Tumelty in the saddle in the handicap hurdle later In the card.She said of eight-year-old Itoldyou:”He has plenty of scope and can also go on good ground and up in trip.We got him when we retired our consistent winner She’s Humble and she has gone to stud and been covered.”
Hot Whiskey N Ice was a good 3-1 winner of the Novice Hurdle Race of the day for trainer Noel Wiilliamson and jockey Wayne Hutchinson. The horse also gave the trainer the second win of his career as a trainer, which started when he recently left Alan King, where he had been assistant trainer for many years.
He said: “It’s my second winner, but I have a lot of young bumper horses coming on and have plenty to look forward to in Spring. I bought this horse at the summer sales because I liked his type. He was not expensive but had a bit of form in Irish point to points and will go on to jump fences.”
Two favourites did win at Fontwell when Victor Dartnell sent out Richards Sundance at 5-4 to win the Foxhunter trial and Otago Trail won the National Hunt Flat Race, also at 5-4 for Venetia Wiilliams, ridden by Liam Treadwell.
Fontwell Park had pulled out all stops to make the track raceable after unprecedented rainfall and their outstanding effort was rewarded with competitive racing and a good crowd.
*Racing goes ahead at Plumpton in Sussex today with an interesting seven-race card. The first race is at 2.05 and apart from a match in the second race, where horses trained by Donald McCain and Lucy Wadham go head to head, and a smaller field for the amateur riders’ race, other races are well-subscribed and make for an interesting race card.