Champion launches four-pronged raid on Fakenham’s opening National Hunt fixture

Harry Cobden will again be aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Touch Kick for the feature race at Faken

Harry Cobden will again be aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Touch Kick for the feature race at Fakenham Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has four chances to get the new 2019-2020 Fakenham National Hunt racing season off to a flying start on Friday afternoon, including in the day's £16,500 feature race at 4.05pm.

Somerset-based Nicholls, with a 32pc strike rate so far this season, has Harry Cobden in the saddle for all four rides.

Seven go in the feature, with Nicholls running Touch Kick, an eight-year-old whose last appearance was at Aintree's Grand National festival.

Favourite is the Caroline Bradley-trained Elkstone under James Bowen. The gelding was a recent Huntingdon winner and steps up in distance for the three-mile chase.

Hepijeu won the Jarrold Ladies Day Chase in June and the Snellings Norfolk National in May at Fakenham, and returns for trainer Stuart Edmunds while also in the mix is the mare Treackle Tart, a Warwick winner last time.

The other chase on Sky Sports Racing Day is over three miles at 3pm in which Nicholls and Cobden have four rivals to their Rhythm is a Dancer. Their six-year-old was fourth last time, at Ayr.

Oliver Sherwood's Jersey Bean under Leighton Aspell, a Perth runner-up in May, and Aidan Coleman's mount Angel Of Harlem for trainer Olly Murphy, look key rivals, the latter a recent Uttoxeter winner.

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Nicholls' Red Force One is hot favourite for the 3.30pm Sky Racing Hurdle. The gelding was runner-up on the flat at Haydock having been third over timber at Stratford in his second hurdle contest.

Interesting rival is the Barry Geraghty-ridden Notre Pari, the five-year-old third on debut in April and not seen since.

Nicholls and Cobden hold a favourite's chance in the four-runner 4.35pm novice hurdle with Dogon. The four-year-old returns after wind surgery, having been pulled up in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Main rival is The Wolf, having a first run for trainer Murphy since leaving Warren Greatrex's yard.

The day's first action is the 1.55pm selling hurdle, favourite for which is Ballyellis, bidding for a hat-trick of wins under Jason Nailor for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Biggest field of the day sees nine go in the handicap hurdle at 2.25pm, headed by Trapper Peak under Billy Garritty. The 10-year-old has his first run for trainer Justin Landy, having won his last three starts.

Selections: 1.55 Ballyellis, 2.25pm Trapper Peak, 3pm Angel of Harlem, 3.30pm Notre Pari, 4.05pm Elkstone, 4.35pm Dogo.

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