FOLLOWING on the heels of a highly successful inaugural two-day festival earlier this month, Fontwell Park was the perfect setting for an afternoon of autumn racing last Wednesday when crowds enjoyed glorious sunshine and some thrilling finishes.
There was plenty of local interest at the meeting, starting with the first race when Findon trainer Nick Gifford sent out 22-1 shot El Padrino to finish second to the favourite, Well Regarded trained by Emma Lavelle. The six-year-old bay gelding, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, has been difficult to train but put in a fine display of jumping, beaten by only three lengths.
Nick Gifford said: “He has been a late developer. I have had him about a year and he is a big horse and simply didn’t jump. Carl Llewellyn had him and he couldn’t get him to jump either.”
“Today he was jumping well and enthusiastically. He’s obviously going to be suited more by fences and I have not decided yet whether to give him another run over hurdles or to go straight to a chase with him .”
He attributed the transformation in El Padrino to work done with the horse by his sister, top event rider Tina Cook, who plays a key role at Downs Stables.
He said: “Tina has worked extensively with him, loose jumping and schooling him and this has paid off. I was very pleased with his run today.”
Owners who had made a 300 mile round trip to what used to be their local course, were delighted when their horse, Double Chocolate, won the Hildon Handicap Chase, trained by David Bridgwater. Double Chocolate runs under the banner of Red and Black Racing, run by John and Edwina Huckle, who moved from Billingshurst to live at Newcastle, Near Monmouth.
John explained: “Fontwell was always our local track until we moved away. We have always had racing groups, first Into The Red racing group, followed by Into The Black and the latest, which these days is really just my wife and myself, we called Red and Black Racing.
“When we tried to name this horse, almost everything we chose was already in use. In the end we came down to Double Chocolate, which seemed a good name. The horse has been transformed since he joined David’s yard this season and we are thrilled by this win.”
Tom Scudamore was on board the horse and rode a strong finish to go past Menetan, which finished in second place.
Joshua Moore, back in the saddle after a spell of injury, enjoyed a 10-1 winner on board Psi, owner by Nick Peacock, trained by his father Gary at Horsham, in the Champagne Joseph Perrier Handicap Hurdle.
Psi, now six, had been placed in all five runs he completed over fences last season but disappointed in a run over hurdles at Fontwell in May. He had clearly benefited from a summer break and scored a 10 length victory over nearest rival Tarvini.
There is racing again at Fontwell Park, on Thursday October 27 when the first race is at 2pm and again on Friday November 4 and Wednesday November 23.
For full feature and more photographs, see P11, West Sussex Gazette, January 26.