Fakenham hope to beat the weather
Mark PointerFakenham clerk of the course David Hunter and his team have pulled out all the stops to ensure their New Year's Day showpiece meeting goes ahead.Hunter was cautiously optimistic of passing a precautionary early morning inspection despite forecasts of overnight frost for a competitive six-race card, which is set to attract the north Norfolk circuit's biggest crowd of the season.Mark Pointer
Fakenham clerk of the course David Hunter and his team have pulled out all the stops to ensure their New Year's Day showpiece meeting goes ahead.
Hunter was cautiously optimistic of passing a precautionary early morning inspection despite forecasts of overnight frost for a competitive six-race card, which is set to attract the north Norfolk circuit's biggest crowd of the season.
'We hope to get the go ahead but ground temperatures overnight were forecast to touch minus four,' he said.
'The minimum air temperature was going to be minus two but we've done everything we can.
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'I've even been into local farms to get more covers which we will lay down on the exposed and vulnerable areas of the course. There wasn't any frost in the ground on Thursday and if the meeting had been a day earlier it would have gone ahead - no problem. The going would have been perfect and we've attracted a decent number of entries.
'This is a major meeting in our calendar. It's a great opportunity for Fakenham racecourse and gives us a chance to show off all the good things that we do. People just need to keep an eye out first thing and providing we are racing, which I am hopeful we will be, they should come prepared for a winter's day enjoyment - meaning sensible footwear and keeping warm and dry.'
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Fakenham specialist Nicky Henderson and jockey Felix De Giles look the partnership for punters to follow. Henderson, who saddled a four-timer at the course only last month, has two runners, both ridden by De Giles and both with decent chances.
The first, Crystal Rock, takes his chance in the New Year's Day Maiden Hurdle (1.15). This five-year-old gelding has shown steady progress over hurdles, as seen when finishing third at Doncaster, last time out. Hopefully he can progress further today, with La Sarrazine, from the James Fanshawe stable, looking the main threat.
The Queen-owned Gold Award is Henderson's other runner - in the ultra-competitive Welcome To 2010 Handicap Hurdle (2.15). This lightly-raced gelding has it all to do in this race, but despite lacking experience and having not run for 260 days Gold Award has shown enough promise from his six starts to justify selection.
Proceedings get under way with the Heritage House Selling Handicap Hurdle (12.40) in which Canni Thinkaar is the selection. This nine-year-old gelding has been revitalised since joining the Jim Best-yard and should make it three wins on the bounce following wins at Ludlow and Huntingdon.
Sarahs Gift is a tentative selection in the ACT Ltd CD Welton Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (1.45). The Lawney Hill-trained seven-year-old notched a hat-trick of wins during the summer and should be thereabouts again, despite being unplaced at Ascot last time out.
Kinkeel could be the surprise winner of the Baxter-lees Juniors Handicap Chase (2.50). Despite his recent form this gelding has been a consistent horse over the years and could well return to the winners' enclosure with conditions in his favour. Wandering Minstral is the main danger.
The Sean Curran-trained Captain Smoothly gets the nod in the ACT Ltd CD Welton Handicap Hurdle (3.25). This gelding was impressive winner on his debut for his new stable, when winning by four lengths at Exeter last time out. Despite going up in the handicap the gelding has another good opportunity to win again. Watch out for, Gouranga, who could run well at a decent price.