Six-year-old mare Ceara Be took the New Year’s Day honours at Fakenham when claiming her first hurdles success by landing the feature handicap hurdle worth almost £7,000 to the winner.
Trained by Alex Hales, Ceara Be was ridden by Ciaran Gethings and stormed home at 5/1 to improve on her previous second place at Leicester in early December.
“Today was the first time I had sat on her. She is a nice mare. I had an easy lead into the race and thought I may have hit the front too soon. But she flew the second last flight and jumped well at the last and we were home and dry,” said the winning rider.
Fast-finishing Wind Place and Sho was second with top weight Amanto third in a contest reduced to five runners when All My Love crashed out in front of the packed stands with a circuit still to go.
There was a major upset in the opening selling hurdle when the Paul Nicholls trained Blu Cavalier, sent off at a prohibitive 2/11, was beaten by the Olly Murphy trained Cliffside Park.
Under a fine ride by claimer Lewis Stones, Cliffside Park, a winner at Fakenham in October 2017, got up before the final two flights to win at 11/1 in an exciting three-horse contest.
Murphy, prolific at the course, went on to complete a double when Craigmor won the four-runner chase under David England. He pushed Craigmor to the front with a circuit to go and held off the challenge of Volt Face to steal the spoils, the winner returned at 11/10.
The amateur riders’ handicap chase went the way of 11/4 joint favourite Sideways who, under Tommie O’Brien, recorded his first victory under rules.
Vaxalco set a decent pace early on but Sideways, trained at Bridgend in South Wales by Christian Williams, took over two out and was always in control, winning by five lengths with bottom weight Stonebridge Legend running on for second spot.
The trainer made the long journey even more worthwhile when his Strictlyadancer landed the handicap hurdle under England to complete a quickfire double for both himself and the jockey. The gelding had been disappointing in maiden hurdles and on handicap debut but he enjoyed the three-mile trip and won comfortably at 9/2.
“He’s been really good at home. He fell in a point-to-point and that knocked him back a bit. But we like him and today he has rewarded our patience,” said Gareth Moores, representing the trainer.
The finale saw jockey Gethings complete a 41/1 double when he got Havana Hermano home by a nose for Stuart Edmunds, the 6/1 winner just foiling Swaffham Bulbeck, the result confirmed by in a photo finish.
It was anther excellent ride from the impressive Gethings who thwarted treble-seeking jockey England and trainer Murphy, who looked to have had the race set up for them by stable companion Some Boy McCoy.
Words by Terry Redhead