Wellforth springs Fakenham shock
Big-priced Irish raider Wellforth (14/1) sprung a shock in yesterday's feature at Fakenham.
Paul Gilligan's bottom weight powered away from Sam Thomas' Rey Nacarado (7/4 fav) to claim the Countryside Alliance Handicap Chase. Johnny Farrelly coaxed a faultless jumping display from the long distance traveller to reward Gilligan's faith in making the trek from Galway to the north Norfolk circuit. Victorias Groom was never close enough to follow up last season's win with Fakenham stalwarts Three Chords and Ray Mond also second best.
'To be fair, when Paul brings horses over it usually isn't for nothing,' said Somerset-based Farrelly. 'He travelled well and did it nicely in the end. That was his Gold Cup race, if you like. The track is a bit different to what he is probably used to, but I think if anything that helped him settle in the early stages when he wasn't travelling.
'I just had to sit back on him but towards the end he warmed to the task. I'd never had the leg up before on this one although I'd ridden for Paul and he is a great fella to ride for. I just hope he brings over a few more.
'He'll probably go up the handicap now, but I still think in England he could do well. Ireland, he might struggle, because there are a lot of good horses. I don't tend to come to Fakenham much, but I had three rides today so it was worth it.'
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Thomas' consolation came in a double aboard Brunswick Gold (7/4 fav) and Tanti Sissi (3/1) in the finale. Alan King's four-year-old looked the pick in the parade ring against some excitable and inexperienced rivals. Oliver Sherwood's previously unraced Milly Malone (7/2) appeared equally capable of picking up a decent bumper with a strong-finishing second.
Thomas had earlier driven out the well-bred Brunswick Gold to success in the European Breeders' Fund 'National Hunt' Novices Hurdle. Sam Remo Bello (9/2) carried the fight turning for home, but Steve Gollings' charge was clearly the class act after contesting a grade two at Cheltenham last time out. The Lincolnshire-based handler has now targeted a Sandown prize.
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'This horse really wants a galloping track, but this race was a qualifier for a race at Sandown and the whole point of bringing him here was to get him qualified for that race,' said Gollings. 'He had to do it the hard way and saw the front of the race for quite a long way and he pulled off a front shoe which doesn't help so, all in all, he is a very exciting horse.
'For a horse of this stature the track is probably a bit too tight. He wants a big track like Haydock or Doncaster or Cheltenham, but it was a means to an end. He might take in somewhere on route, but Sandown is his major objective.'
Pam Sly's Wistow (10/3 fav) obliged with a 19-length success in the West Norfolk Foxhounds & North Norfolk Harriers Novices' Handicap Chase. David England maintained his impressive Fakenham strike rate for the Peterborough handler with a largely untroubled tour after the winner had recently returned from a 23-month injury lay-off.
Massini Man (11/10 fav) qualified for the Fox Hunters at Aintree with a stunning comeback under Claire Wills in the Walter Wales Fox Hunters' Chase. Rash Move (3/1) popped the last two clear but was overhauled in a driving far side finish from the seven pound claimer to complete a three timer for Brendon Powell's top weight.
Brilliant (3/1) touched off Mad Professor (10/1) to land the West Norfolk Sporting Trust seller with Promising Anshan (1/4 fav) an odds-on victor in the Andy Don Memorial Beginners' Chase.