Daytime TV’s Jeremy Kyle is returning to Fontwell Park this weekend aiming to retain the National Spirit Hurdle title, the most prestigious race in the Fontwell calendar.
Kyle, 53, has a huge passion for horse racing and this weekend will have two of his horses racing at the West Sussex track, with Old Guard looking to shine in the historic blue-riband race (2.50pm) and filly New Guard making her debut in the Netbet Betmaker Maiden Open National Hunt bumper race later on the Fontwell card.
Old Guard, showing strong form again this year so far, shone at last year’s meet, claiming the title. Reflecting on the victory, Kyle said: “The National Spirit Hurdle is such an important race and we’re delighted to have won it last year.”
Kyle is eager to see that repeated this year noting: “His form’s rock solid this year, we’ve had him four years, he’s done phenomenally well, surpassing all possible beliefs.
“We had great success at Fontwell Park last year. Old Guard been a tremendously successful horse for us, winning The National Spirit Hurdle last year and we will try to regain our trophy this year. I think it will be a lot harder this year than I was last year, but if the ground is right and the trip is optimum then he will do well.
“Two and a half miles is Old Guard’s optimum trip, it’s the perfect length for him. We have aimed him at this particular race because of that. Of course, you never know with the ground if it is going to cut up or not, but he wants it to be good to soft really. All national hunt horses are dependent on the ground.”
Fontwell holds a special place in the heart of racing aficionado-turned-owner Kyle, reminiscing: 'My first ever winner, Sonning Star, was at Fontwell Park. Fontwell is synonymous with racing for me, it’s just a fantastic day of racing.”
Kyle is hoping for his horses to be on top form but is also looking forward to the occasion: “I am looking forward to a great day out with friends, we have a box and it’s expected to be the warmest February racing day ever in Fontwell, so will be great.
“I like the way Fontwell do it, it’s a nice racecourse. The ambiance is great, the people are great and it’s a good day out so is always in the calendar.”
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Kyle’s passion for the sport started at an early age, with his father getting involved in the sport through his work with the Queen’s Mother. His love for the sport kept growing and after meeting legendary trainer Josh Gifford, wanted to become an owner himself claiming: “I saw all his trophies and got an appetite for it, so decided to dip my toe in.”
Both of Kyle’s horses are trained by renowned trainer Paul Nicholls, who claimed his outstanding 3,000th win this week. Having enjoyed a hugely successful working relationship with him, Kyle added: “The man is phenomenal. It’s hard to put into words how good this guy is at what he does, you can only marvel at him.
“We have been really lucky with all of my horses. We always want the horses to come back safely and hope that they will be able to do so whilst running at their optimum ability which Paul trains them to achieve that. You want them to do their best but stay safe at the same time. I love this sport and we are really looking forward to a great weekend.”
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All eyes for Kyle are on the meet this Sunday, with many of the owners looking to this as a warm-up for the celebrated Cheltenham Festival. Kyle, who will have runners at this year’s festival, is yet to make a decision on Old Guard for the focal meeting of the year, adding: “Everyone is obsessed with the Cheltenham Festival, but the only real race we could place Old Guard into this year – in terms of 2.5 miles – is the Coral Cup. It might be an option but for now, all eyes are on Fontwell this Sunday and anything beyond that will be dependent on how he goes.”
Tickets are still available for this Sunday’s action and the chance to follow Kyle’s horses closely on a beautiful day of racing at Fontwell Park. For more information, visit www.fontwellpark.co.uk/whats-on/the-national-spirit-hurdle