Fontwell’s big race should be rich in entertainment - preview and tips

Kilcooley omn the way to winning last year's National Spirit Hurdle / Picture by Clive Bennett

Kilcooley omn the way to winning last year's National Spirit Hurdle / Picture by Clive Bennett

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It will be the richest race Fontwell Park has ever staged – by some distance.

Sunday’s totepool National Spirit Hurdle is worth £80,000 in total, an increase of a whopping £30,000 on last year, when it was already the most valuable contest in the track’s calendar.

Fontwell bosses hope the extra cash will be reflected in the quality of the race – and the signs are good, with a strong field of 11 declared for the contest.

Last year, Noel Fehily rode the Charlie Longsdon-trained six-year-old Kilcooley to victory, holding off a sustained challenge from Sam Twiston-Davies on the Paul Nicholls-trained 4/9 favourite Silsol.

The 2016 renewal will not go to Longsdon again – he has no entries – but Paul Nicholls has two, the four-year-old Adrien Du Pont, who has two wins and a second place to his name this season, and five-year-old San Benedeto.

Alan King is also double-handed – with veterans Grumeti and Medinas both in.

Fontwell bosses hope the extra cash will be reflected in the quality of the race – and the signs so far are good, with a strong field of 15 initially entered for the contest.

Other highly-rated entries include Philip Hobbs’ Cheltenian, Neil King’s Lil Rockerfeller and Jeremy Scott’s Melodic Rendezvous.

Sunday’s card has an excellent undercard which includes three trophies: the Josh Gifford Cup (formerly known as the Mad Hatters), the Certain Justice Challenge Trophy, named after a horse who won 14 races at Fontwell between 1959 and 1966, and the Whitelaw Challenge Cup which has been won twice by The Queen’s horses.

In total, there are 57 entries for a seven-race card which runs from 2.20pm to 5.20pm.

A large crowd is expected as the weather – which robbed Fontwell of its first two 2016 meetings – improves and staff are putting on a number of drinks promotions.

More details on those and booking details are available at www.fontwellpark.co.uk or you can call 01243 543335. You can pay on the day.

The figure-of-eight course’s year’s programme did get under way at the third time of asking last week with a six-race card which ended with a double for Neil Mulholland, who saw Fehily ride Lee Side Lady to victory as 15/8 favourite in the Congratulations George Digweed Winning 26 World Championships Handicap Hurdle and Shane Quinlan take the Lease A Horsebox From George Smith Intermediate National Hunt Flat Race on Admiral Kid (5/4 fav).

The biggest-priced winner of the day was Golanova for Gary Moore and Josh Moore in the Buy A George Smith Horsebox Handicap Chase while there were three winners from the tips on the this website.

Tips for Sunday: 2.20 Orbasa, 2.50 Thinger Licht, 3.20 (National Spirit Hurdle) Grumeti, 3.50 Talk of the South, 4.20 Mendip Express, 4.50 Brave Deed, 5.20 Crank Em Up.

STEVE BONE

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