PICTURE GALLERY: Chords hits right note at Fakenham
Three Chords, the 3/1 favourite, celebrated a personal milestone in fitting style yesterday by lifting Fakenham's feature in front of a bumper crowd.
Caroline Bailey's consistent seven-year-old defied an eight pound rise for a previous Leicester success to follow up a blemish-free point-to-point campaign in 2010 by clinching the Hempton Handicap Chase.
Pilot Andrew Thornton was perfectly placed throughout but had to respond off the last to repel Bench Warrent (6/1).
'He has done an awful lot for a young horse in the past 12 months,' said Thornton. 'He picked up and quickened nicely for me, but just got a bit lonely going towards the last because he is still so green.
'When the other horse came to him he kicked on again. He had gone that far in point-to-points before and won at Leicester over 2m 7f so the trip was never going to be a problem. It's quite an easy three miles around here and he has handled it well.
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'The ground wasn't an issue either as he would go on anything.'
Win machine Ray Mond (7/2) had been a warm order in the ring, but the handicapper looked to have finally caught up with Neil King's charge after a nine-pound penalty for his latest course and distance success.
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Welsh jockey Rhys Flint made the most of some good fortune by picking up a double aboard Alcalde (9/2) and All That Remains (4/1) in the finale.
Flint first got the leg up on John Berry's Alcalde in the Wensum Novices' Hurdle with the five-year-old's regular jockey William Kennedy on duty at Hereford.
Tom Scudamore was later forced to defer in the bumper after damaging his shoulder earlier in the meeting and Flint profited again to cajole a decisive effort from the well-backed All That Remains in a thrilling finish to the Fakenham Standard Open National Hunt Flat race.
Nicky Henderson's Kings Lodge was sent off even money, but faded long before Flint duelled with Tealissio in the final strides. Flint admitted Alcalde looked a progressive type after clearly struggling in the heavier ground at Folkestone last time out.
'To be fair, the horse was very straight-forward,' he said. 'We went off a very good gallop early on and he was very unlucky. Tom Scudamore's horse came down and the race fell into his hands. On a sharp track like this you need a lot of speed and the horse has shown form on the flat which probably helped him out. He needs further because on a more testing track it would probably help him. The first circuit he was flat out so I just had to keep hold of him. The ground was handy enough. Obviously it is tacky because of the frozen ground but it was good enough for him.
'It's nice to ride a double but probably down to a bit more luck than judgement. Tom Scu's bump in the second race meant I managed to pick up a spare ride in the last and he seemed like a nice horse. I know they've paid a bit of money for him and he can go on and win more.'
Henderson missed out again when his heavy odds on favourite Line Freedom (1/10) fell at the first obstacle in the Colkirk Mares' Novices' Hurdle opener. Andrew Tinkler's early exit drew gasps from the 2,500 strong crowd in attendance at Fakenham's extra national hunt meeting – which was awarded after the prolonged pre-Christmas cold snap wiped out the majority of the racing calendar.
Jimmy McCarthy capitalised on Farewellatmidnight (7/1) with Bailey's Mater Mater (12/1) a free-running second – the first of a trio for the Holdenby-based handler alongside her feature victory.
Caught by Witness (4/6 fav) did oblige for odds on punters after a tight second in handicap company on his previous Fakenham visit. Milton Harris had fitted his six-year-old with a tongue tie for the first time following a poor Chepstow run over a longer trip.
The temperamental Lord Singer (3/1) scored in the Toftrees Handicap Chase for Jamie Moore after needing plenty of encouragement to come under orders at the start.