Fontwell Park’s Boxing Day fixture drew the crowds yesterday, when persistent rain produced testing conditions but failed to mar the crowd’s festive spirit. Highlights of the day included a double for West Sussex trainer Lydia Richards, based at Funtington, and her regular local jockey Marc Goldstein.
Course specialist Venetian Lad, a consistent nine-year-old roan gelding owned by the Venetian Lad Partnership with Marc Goldstein in the saddle, ran on to hold off The Sneezer, sent out by another Sussex trainer, Daniel Steele . A mistake in the closing stages by The Sneezer, ridden by Gavin Sheehan , cost him the race- but it was a good performance neverthess for this horse, beaten by only just over a length – the duo were 23 lengths clear of third-placed George Nympton.
A delighted Lydia Richards said: “The horse won well, even though he prefers much better ground and he just kept on to win.”
The double came when she sent out Volio Vincente, a horse she bought at Ascot sales earlier in the month, to win the handicap chase over three and a quarter miles. She explained: ” He had won at Fontwell Park previously, with the latest win in late November. I was told his form could be erratic, but wanted to see what he would do for me today. Now he has won so well, I am going to sell shares in him and form another owners’ group.”
The opening juvenile hurdle race was won by Rock of Leon at 7-2, owned by Andy Jansons in conjunction with Alcester trainer Dan Skelton and ridden by David England. The Rock of Gibraltar three-year-old was clearly tired on the run in but the jockey kept him going to win by a neck from odds-on favourite Bishop Wulstan.
Upper Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex and jockey Gavin Sheehan have proved to be a formidable combination and it was no exception when they won the Southern Cranes and Access Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Race with Miss Sophierose ridden by Gavin Sheehan. This gutsy six-year-old beat the Phillip Hobbs-trained Meetmeatthemoon by just a nose.
Lewes-trainer Suzy Smith had an excellent success when she sent out Beau Lake, owned by Sergio Gordon-Watson and Graham Willetts, to win the Handicap Hurdle race over two and a quarter miles ridden by amateur rider Harry Bannister. His useful 5lb claim certainly helped, but he also gave this tough 10-year-old gelding a fine ride to beat 9-2 shot Cappielow Park by a neck with odds-on favourite,Major Milbourne trained by Jamie Snowden, finishing 12 lengths further back in third place.
In the Mares Handicap Hurdle over two miles six furlongs, 10-1 shot Rosa Imperialis, trained for Lady Cobham by Robert Walford at Blandford, won impressively. The five-year-old had impressed in the paddock and was given a good ride by Gavin Sheehan, taking the lead two from home. The duo beat Sheena West’s Cannon Fodder by 12 lengths.
Robert Walford said: ” She did that well and it is a welcome victory- I’ve had too many second places recently. I’m pleased with the way she has won that.” He has around 16 horses in training at the moment- with Carole’s Spirit another progressive mare, which has won for him recently.
The final race of the day, a conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle race, made the long journey from Cowbridge in Wales worthwhile for trainer Tim Vaughan. He sent out Benability at 5-1, with Connor Walsh in the saddle to win by four and a half lengths.
The next meeting at Fontwell Park is on Sunday January 18.