VIDEO: Sherwood is Fontwell’s festive hero

Oliver Sherwood grabbed the glory as a huge crowd made the most of the Boxing Day sunshine at Fontwell Park.

After the amount of rain that had fallen along the south over the past few days, it was a Christmas miracle that racing was able to go ahead.

But after a mammoth effort by clerk of the course Ed Arkell, head groundsman Paul Mant and the rest of the groundstaff, racing was able to be staged on heavy ground and thousands of race-goers were treated to some excellent action - including one race that had the most unlikely of endings.

Trainer Sherwood had jockey Leighton Aspell to thank for two of his three wins.

The Sussex rider was a four-length winner on 5/4 favourite Beforeall in the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase - see the finish to this race in our video, above - and he followed up with Spirit Oscar, evens favourite, in the David Hazelden 65th Birthday Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

You can also see in the video how packed the racecourse was as people got some welcome Christmas fresh air and made the most of the winter sunshine.

Sherwood’s third win of the afternoon came in the 32Red Handicap Hurdle, in which Thomas Garner was a surprise winner on Jeano De Toulouse at 8/1.

Sherwood might have had a fourth success but for some ill fortune in the most extraordinary finish of the afternoon in the Ward-Thomas Master Removers Handicap Chase.

With one to jump, 11-year-old Zhukov, ridden by George Gorman, was fourth in a four-strong field and had no chance. But the leading two, Sherwood’s Moulin De La Croix and Andy Turnell’s Sablazo almost collided going over the final fence - Conor Shoemark was unseated from Sablazo and Jack Sherwood lost too much ground on Moulin De La Croix.

That looked like it had left Fontwell veteran Morestead to claim the honours, but Zhukov - still with plenty of ground to make up - gradually caught Josh Moore’s leader and won by a length for disbelieving owner-trainer Kevin Tork.

It was one of the most remarkable twists seen in a Fontwell race for a long time and Gorman was happy to take the plaudits as he rode back past the stands on his way to the winner’s enclosure.

Fontwell’s biggest meeting of the year began with Trevor Whelan riding 7/4 chance Vandross to victory in the 32Red.com Juvenile Hurdle - also kicking off a run of three wins for horses tipped on this website on Christmas Day, Beforeall and Spirit Oscar being the others.

Later, there was success for West Sussex trainer Richard Rowe in the 32Red On The App Store Handicap Chase, won by Colin bolger on Alteranthela (5/2), while the last, the 32RedPoker.com Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, was taken by Peqeno Diablo (9/4 joint favourite), ridden by Josh Hamer for trainer Claire Dyson.

It was Fontwell’s final meeting of 2013 but their 2014 programme gets under way on Thursday, January 9.

See this week’s Observer for a chance to win a pair of annual badges - and see next week’s paper (Jan 2) for reaction and pictures from the Boxing Day meeting.

STEVE BONE