Fakenham Racecourse opens its 2020/21 National Hunt season on Friday with a seven-race card, backed by Sky Sports Racing, taking place behind closed doors due to Covid 19 restrictions.
“It’s behind closed doors racing so absolutely no members of the public will be allowed onto the racecourse and people must not try turning up. They will be turned away,” said Fakenham Chief Executive, David Hunter.
The leading two contests on the card have attracted plenty of runners with 14 declared for the 3.10pm Handicap Hurdle and nine for the Handicap Chase 30 minutes later.
Hat-trick seeking Tayzar is likely favourite for the Handicap Hurdle under seven-pound claimer Theo Gillard for trainer Ruth Jefferson. The nine-year-old gelding won at Sedgefield just over a week ago, following on from a September success at Warwick.
Mercian Prince under Eddie Edge for Amy Murphy and Bartholomew J for Harry Cobden and Simon Pearce look the main rivals.
The former had a seasonal pipe-opener at Warwick in September while Bartholomew J was a Southwell runner-up in August a month after a victory at that Nottinghamshire course.
The 3.40pm Handicap Chase over three miles features nine, including three former Fakenham winners.
Hepijeu under Ciaran Gethings for Stuart Edmunds, won the Norfolk National in 2019, while Fixed Rate, Harry Bannister for Charlie Mann, was a 2017 Fakenham victor.
Princeton Royale, under Bryony Frost for Neil King, is the other ex-Fakenham winner, the 11-year-old scoring last time out, in September at Stratford in a race in which Fixed Rate was eighth.
Two others with big chances are Favorito Buck’s under Cobden for trainer Paul Nicholls and Kilfilum Cross for Henry Oliver, the grey gelding a Chepstow runner-up in a big field at class two level in March.
The card starts at 1pm with a conditional jockeys’ selling hurdle in which likely favourite is the Charlie Todd ridden Doux Pretender for trainer Charles Pogson, the gelding having his first run for Pogson since leaving Nicky Henderson’s stable.
Only four mares go in the 1.35pm Novice Chase with Sam Twiston-Davies riding for his trainer father Nigel on Bit On The Side, third last time at Newton Abbott after two successes. She makes her chasing debut as does Edmunds’ Deputy’s Oscar, a Sandown runner-up last time.
Five contest the 2.10pm Maiden Hurdle in which Cobden and Nicholls go with likely market leader Switch Hitter, while 30 minutes later four tackle the three-mile Novice Chase.
A competitive tussle seems assured with Young Wolf for Jonjo O’Neill, Canyon City, for Frost and King, and Olly Murphy’s Skandiburg under Aidan Coleman, all making strong claims.
A 10-runner Novice Hurdle ends the card at 4.10pm with the Brian Ellison trained Cormier, under Danny Cook, a recent Uttoxeter winner, looking the possible favourite.
Following Friday’s meeting, the remaining 2020 fixtures are on October 28, November 17 and 30 and December 20.
Terry Redhead – Racing Pundit