Preview and tips: Eight in frame for Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle

Lil Rockerfeller on the way to National Spirit victory in 2016 / Picture by Clive Bennett

Lil Rockerfeller on the way to National Spirit victory in 2016 / Picture by Clive Bennett

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Fontwell bosses are delighted with entries for their richest race of the year, Sunday’s totepool National Spirit Hurdle.

The track has been known to produce top-class horses and is seen an excellent training ground for future stars – from Cue Card starting his career winning a bumper to Shantou Village making his chasing debut.

Look at the previous winners at the Cheltenham Festival and you will be amazed to see how many have run at Fontwell.

But this Sunday it is Fontwell’s turn to welcome some of the country’s best and eight top-class horses have been declared for the National Spirit Hurdle, which should have an excellent line-up on the day.

Lil Rockerfeller, last year’s winner, is now a non-runner but Colin Tizzard has entered Third Intention, who won the grade-two showpiece in 2012 with Joe Tizzard riding.

Third Intention’s most recent victory was in the 188Bet Monet’s Garden Old Ronan Handicap Chase at Aintree last October.

Nicky Henderson’s Different Gravey matches Lil Rockerfeller in the official ratings with 160 and Gary Moore’s Camping Ground is not far behind on 152.

Camping Ground beat Lil Rockerfeller in the 2016 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham when trained by Robert Walford.

Nicky Henderson has entered this year’s Relkeel runner up, L’Ami Serge, who has gone back to hurdles from chasing who did everything right but win at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

The National Spirit Hurdle 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 twice been won by the Queen.

Last year’s winner Lil Rockerfeller was aiming to defend his crown for trainer Neil King – but is now a non-runner

The Josh Gifford Cup includes an entry from champion trainer Paul Nicholls, As De Mee, who won at Fontwell in October; Racing begins at 2pm and the seven-race card ends at 5pm.

You can pay to get in on the day.

MARCUS GEAR

Observer sports editor Steve Bone’s tips: 2.00 As De Mee, 2.30 Wizards Bridge, 3.00 Adrien Du Pont, 3.30 Robinesse, 4.00 Current Exchange, 4.30 Third Act, 5.00 Puppet Warrior.

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