Fontwell ready for first big race of the year

FONTWELL PARK is ready for its first big race of 2012 today (Sunday) – on a day when the racehorse will be centre of attention.

The feature race goes off at 3.40 and is one of seven contests on the card, which begins at 2.05pm.

OUR TIPS FOR TODAY: 205 Brough Academy, 235 Sir Du Bearn, 310 Rateable Value, 340 Clerk’s Choice, 415 Barbers Shop, 445 Rough Times, 515 Utopian.

One popular visitor on the day will be Lough Derg, winner of the National Spirit Hurdle in 2008 and 2009, who was recently retired after racking up more than £300,000 prize money.

Lough Derg will lead out this year’s field for the Grade 2 race and is sure of a warm reception from Fontwell fans.

The day will include numerous features in which race-goers can learn more about racehorses.

Temporary stables near the racecourse entrance will enable visitors to ‘meet’ some horses and there will be farrier demonstrations and the chance to ride on a horse equisizer. Topthorn and Captain Nicholls from the National Theatre’s Warhorse production will parade throughout the day.

Pony rides for youngsters and presentations from everyone from vets to racehorse trainers are also planned.

The Racehorse Sanctuary will be the beneficiary of charity collections.

And fittingly, in diamond jubilee year, the Queen is among owners who have runners entered on the card.

Barbers Shop, trained by Nicky Henderson, is a contender for the totepool Mobile Text tote To 89660 Foxhunters Trial Hunters Chase, and is sure to be well-backed if he makes the cut. The ten-year-old has seven career wins and seven places to his name.

Clerk’s Choice is gearing up for an assault on the National Spirit Hurdle – but trainer Oliver Sherwood’s hopes are in the lap of the weather gods.

The son of Bachelor Duke was the biggest name among the eight horses declared for the contest.

“He is in great, great order and we are ready to go,” said the Rhonehurst trainer. “He is one of a whole heap of horses here who want decent ground – not the heavy ground we’ve had. That would be the only worry for us.”

Last year’s champion Celestial Halo will not defend his crown after finishing second behind a coasting Binocular in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last weekend.

We’ll have a report later in todday.