Irish raider claims Fakenham Racecourse’s biggest-ever prize

On a day when the course staged its most valuable ever race, Fakenham saw star turns Ruby Walsh and champion jockey AP McCoy both score victories in front of a bumper crowd yesterday.

But that most valuable race, the �22,500 Kettle Chips Handicap Chase, went all the way across the Irish Sea courtesy of 9-2 second favourite Romanesco, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott.

Elliott wasn't present but assistant Ollie Murphy, who persuaded the owners to buy the seven-year-old for �12,000, was delighted at the gelding's victory under jockey Timmy Murphy.

'He deserved to win when falling at the last at Cheltenham last week. We came because of the prize money. Full credit to Fakenham for putting on such a good race,' said Murphy.

At the back of the 14-strong field with a mile to go, Romanesco cut down his rivals and won by almost four lengths with Alpine Breeze, a last-fence faller at the track last week second, and long-time leader Court By Surprise third. McCoy had just one ride and that in itself was a pointer to him taking the Kettle Chips Handicap Hurdle worth more than �8,000 to the winner.

McCoy always had Vulcanite, for owner J P McManus, handily placed in the 11-strong field and he took up the running half a mile out.

Outsider Cheshire Prince looked a possible danger but McCoy's mount was never seriously threatened and a good leap at the last saw the 11-8 favourite home by seven lengths for trainer Charlie Longsdon.

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Walsh took the honours in the Gary Peters Novices Chase thanks to the Paul Nicholls-trained There's No Panic who was helped by the last fence fall of Tour D'Argent.

Tour D'Argent, from Nicky Henderson's stable under Barry Geraghty, fell on chase debut two weeks ago but jumped perfectly well throughout the near three-mile trip. However, having closed to within half a length, the favourite crashed out at the last and left the 6-4 second favourite to win by six lengths.

'I remember winning here in a novice chase on Twist Magic in December 2006.

'I don't get to Fakenham very often so it's good to have a winner,' said Walsh.

Geraghty and Henderson gained compensation when Her Majesty's The Queen's Close Touch easily won the Michael Scotney Novices' Hurdle.

The gelding's biggest scare was losing a shoe before the start but once running the 4-5 odds-on shot romped home.

Aidan Coleman replaced booked rider Danny Cook on 3-1 favourite Local Present in the Barrett and Cooke Chase and duly took the victory.

Local Present ranged up besides long-time leader Wait No More before the last and won comfortably for trainer Brian Ellison.

Eight-pound claimer Daniel Hiskett rode a powerful finish to squeeze home 2-1 favourite Tower by a neck in the opening selling handicap hurdle, beating Wom to score for Cheltenham trainer Martin Keighley.

The finale saw the longest priced winner of the day, 14-1 shot Pass The Time under Dougie Costello for Neil Mulholland, beating favourite Miss Conduct in the Norfolk Hospice Tapping House Fillies' Hurdle.

The next meeting at the Fakenham is on Tuesday, November 20.