Nicholls and King make strong bids for National Spirit Hurdle crown

A STRONG list of entries for Fontwell’s richest race of the year includes the two horses who have shared the honours for the past three years.

Lough Derg, handled by David Pipe, won the National Spirit Hurdle in 2008 and 2009 but saw his bid for a hat-trick blown away by Alan King-trained Trenchant a year ago.

Both are in the 14-strong line-up for this Sunday’s contest, part of a £60,000 seven-race card.

Paul Nicholls has entered Celestial Halo, while Sentry Duty, trained by Nicky Henderson, is another to watch.

Fontwell Park general manager Phil Bell is delighted with the potential of what will be on parade. “Entries are pleasing – we just have to hope all the higher-rated horses who have been entered now go on to run,” he said.

“Andy Stewart, the owner of Celestial Halo, has told me his horse will run.

“He had a run in the Kingwell Hurdle, a Cheltenham trial race for two-milers, at Wincanton last Saturday and was second as an outsider in a field of five.

“Celestial Halo is being aimed at the Aintree Hurdle and a race at the Punchestown Festival. It’ll be great for our crowd to see him in action.”

Lough Derg, fifth in the 2010 National Spirit when going for a treble, was disappointing in a contest at Ascot last Saturday.

Another King horse entered for Sunday’s race is JP McManus-owned Karabak, who could be ridden by champion jockey Tony McCoy.

King confirmed the son of Kahyasi was ready to run before heading to Aintree or Punchestown in April.

Elsewhere on the card, 12 entries for the Fuller’s London Pride Foxhunters’ Trial Hunters’ Chase include another star from the Nicholls yard, Ornais. Earlier in the card the Play Poker at Novices’ Chase is also worth £15,000.

There’ll be plenty of sideshows and entertainment for all the family, including Jockeys’ Mastermind and a chance to ‘meet a racehorse’. There’ll be fundraising for the Cowfold-based Racehorse Sanctuary.

n Admission is from £17 in advance; kids go free. Call 01243 543335.

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