Winner’s enclosure beckons for champion jockey at Fakenham season opener

Richard Johnson is highly fancied at Fakenham's opening meeting of the season. Picture: Archant

Richard Johnson is highly fancied at Fakenham's opening meeting of the season. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Champion jockey Richard Johnson looks set to visit the winner's enclosure today when the 2018/19 National Hunt season gets under way at Fakenham.

Johnson has fancied rides in four of the six races, including the feature at 4.10pm. He partners Hogan's Height for trainer Jamie Snowden in the six-runner Sky Sports Handicap Chase over three miles, the seven-year-old gelding trying to recapture last season's form when he won back-to-back novice chases before completing a hat-trick at Haydock.

Main rival is Nigel Twiston-Davies' Ballykan, under Daryl Jacob. The gelding failed to win last season but runs off the same mark as when runner-up at Kempton in February. Another to keep an eye on is Pam Sly's grey mare Actinpieces, who under Gina Andrews, won the corresponding race last year.

Johnson's other chances are for Olly Murphy, most winning trainer at the north Norfolk course last season.

In the 3.40pm novice hurdle, the pair have Mon Port, likely to be odds-on in a six-runner field. A winner for Ben de Haan, Mon Port won on hurdling debut at Huntingdon for Murphy, who has three of the six taking part from his Stratford-based stable.

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At 2.35pm Johnson and Murphy have high hopes for Miles To Milan in the handicap hurdle, the gelding successful second time out for Murphy at Ayr in May. Murphy also runs Todd, under 10-pound claimer Callum McKinnes while Master of Finance, for Lucy Wadham, may also get in the money, returning to hurdles after scoring at the course over fences in June.

In the 4.45pm finale, General Custard for Johnson and Murphy looks to beat three rivals in the novice hurdle. The £78,000 half brother to Wild Rhubarb was a winning debutant at Warwick. His main rival is Snowden's Floral Bouquet, the mare a faller at Ffos Las last time out.

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Trainer Nicky Henderson has a great strike rate at the track and runs Cultivator under Nico de Boinville in the four-runner novice chase at 3.10pm. The free-running sort is up in trip after winning at Worcester in September.

The 2.05pm selling hurdle gets the season under way and could go to Neil Mulholland's Collodi under Harry Reed, the gelding only one pound higher than when winning at Market Rasen in the summer.

Selections: 2.05pm Collodi, 2.35pm Todd, 3.10pm Cultivator, 3.40pm Mon Port, 4.10pm Hogan's Heights, 4.45pm General Custard.

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