Why Fontwell might have had a longer wait for 2013 opener

Action from Fontwell Park's All About The Horse raceday
Action from Fontwell Park's All About The Horse raceday

Fontwell Park officials got their 2013 programme under way a month late - and breathed a sigh of relief that they weren’t made to wait still longer.

After their first two planned fixtures of the year were washed out by rain, there were fears snow could wipe out Sunday’s All About The Horse raceday.

But the card, which featured their biggest race of the year, the £50,000 totepool National Spirit Hurdle, survived after the weekend brought no more than a few flurries of the white stuff.

The only downside was the bitterly-cold conditions, which must have been a major factor in keeping the crowd down to below 2,000.

Those who did brave the cold were rewarded with an action-packed afternoon.

The National Spirit Hurdle was won by Daryl Jacob on Prospect Wells, who trainer Paul Nicholls says may now be Aintree-bound for the Grand National festival.

The eight-year-old, who went off at 3/1, was nicely in touch all the way and pulled clear of his rivals after the final flight to take the grade two two-and-a-half-mile contest by seven lengths from Meister Eckhart.

Nicholls’ other two runners in the field of six - 7/4 favourite Dark Lover and Brampour - were third and fourth.

Prospect Wells was one of four winners from the afternoon tipped by sports editor Steve Bone on this website on Saturday night. You can see his tips for every Fontwell and Goodwood meeting on the site.

Fontwell Park general manager Tracy Skinner said: “We were so pleased and so excited to get a race meeting on at last. It was our first since Boxing Day.

“We started getting a few snow flurries on Saturday and thought we could be in trouble if it turned out to be heavier than forecast. We called a Sunday morning inspection as a precaution but didn’t need to hold it.

“It was a great day. The racing was very competitive and our All About The Horse features proved popular.”

One theme of the day was a tribute to legendary jockey and trainer Josh Gifford, who was based in Sussex and was a great friend of Fontwell.

The first running of the Josh Gifford Memorial Race was won by Noel Fehily on the David Pipe-trained Shoegazer - another of our winning tips.

Josh’s family were present for the occasion - including his trainer son Nick and his daughter Tina Cook, famous in her own right as an Olympic eventer. She took time out to show her medal from London 2012 and talk about her experiences at the Games.

Skinner added: “It was great to see Josh Gifford so well-represented and so fondly remembered. The race in his honour will certainly be an annual event here now.”

Horse-related sideshows included a chance to ‘meet’ a racehorse and a farrier demonstration.

The Racehorse Sanctuary, a West Sussex retreat for retired runners, raised around £10,000 on the day.

Our other winning tips came as Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs teamed up to take the toteplacepot At totepool.com Novices’ Hurdle with 9/4 chance Uncle Jimmy before the totequadpot At totepool.com Handicap Chase was won by Time To Think, a 4/1 shot ridden by Andrew Thornton for Seamus Mullins.

See a picture special from the meeting in the Observer - out now

Next up Fontwell stage a Cheltenham preview meeting next Wednesday (March 6).