Full day of action at Fakenham Races
Champion trainers Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson both have good chances of success this afternoon as Fakenham stages its 13th annual 'Countryside Counts Raceday'.
It promises to be an exciting event – with greyhound and lurcher racing from 11am, followed by seven fascinating National Hunt races, with the first off at 1.30pm. .
Both Nicholls and Henderson, who have excellent strike-rates at the course, have each sent three runners to the North Norfolk track.
Nicholls' best bet looks to be Like Minded in the Andy Don Memorial Beginners' Chase (2.00). This lightly-raced eight-year-old has shown some useful form over hurdles in the past two seasons and is taken to progress on his chasing debut, as Like Minded looks to follow the same path as Promising Anshan, who won this race for Nicholls last season. Enter Paradise and Quentin Collonges look the likely dangers.
As for Henderson, he could well land a double with the Open Hearted (2.30) and Barbers Shop (4.15), both owned by Her Majesty The Queen.
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Open Hearted runs in the European Breeders' Fund 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (Qualifier) (2.35), which has attracted an excellent field of good novices. This gelding bred out of the Derby winner Generous has won three of his four starts in fine style and with possible Cheltenham entries next month. Open Hearted will be keen to continue his progression with further success today. Of the rest do not dismiss Sam Telm and Black Dragon, who both look improving sorts with course form.
Meanwhile Barbers Shop runs in the Walter Wales Fox Hunters' Chase (For The Walter Wales Cup) (4.15). This classy individual – placed in the King George, the Hennessey and the Paddy Power Gold Cups – makes his hunter chase debut and you would expect him to be there or thereabouts, his only concern being that he has been off track for well over a year in what looks a fascinating contest.
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Tapes go up at 1.30pm with the West Norfolk Sporting Trust Selling Handicap Hurdle, in which the Debra Hamer-trained Brilliant is given the nod. This gelding was a dual course and distance winner last season and, despite making his first appearance for nearly a year, is given a chance to make it hat-trick of course wins. Only Hope and Catawollow also have chances.
Vincitore could well land the feature race of the day, the Countryside Alliance Handicap Chase (For The Prince Carlton Challenge Cup) (3.05). Trained by the in-form Charlie Longsdon, this novice chaser has already recorded two victories at Worcester this season and then was denied a third when beaten only by a neck on his last start at Ludlow and could gain compensation with Iron Chancellor and Gorge rate as dangers. The Pam Sly-trained Pheidias could run well from a low weight.
The Brendan Powell-trained Terra Bleu looks to have chances in the West Norfolk Foxhounds & North Norfolk Harriers Novices' Handicap Hurdle (3.40). This consistent five-year-old gelding has not been out of the first three since joining his new yard and could well add to his 13-length success at Fontwell back in December.
Nuisance is the selection for the Fakenham Mares' Intermediate Open NH Flat Race (4.45) – the final race on the card. Trained by Tom Symonds, this mare ran a cracking race on her racecourse when finishing third at Hereford last month and is sure to come on for that run. La Belle Doyenne looks the obvious danger.
RACECARD – PAGE 47