James Bowen, 18 last Tuesday, was the star of the show at Fakenham, taking the race of the season, the Fakenham Silver Cup, to compete a hat-trick of victories.
Bowen, son of trainer Peter from Haverfordwest in Wales, was in superb style and completed his treble when grey gelding Thistimenextyear fortunately landed the £18,000 feature race.
Potters Midnight, last year’s winner from Lucy Wadham’s Newmarket stable, looked like completing the double when she led at the final hurdle. However, the mare made a complete mess of the flight and left the way clear for Thistimenextyear to score at 5/2.
“I’ve been a bit lucky. I don’t think I’d have won if the other horse had jumped the last well,” admitted Bowen, although trainer Richard Spencer thought otherwise.
“I was on the inside of the track and Thistimenextyear was closing. We’ve been brushing up his jumping at home and he’s done well,” said Spencer.
While Bowen had plenty to celebrate he probably wasn’t looking forward to going home to see dad.
Bowen partnered the Christian Williams trained Sideways to success in the Prince Carlton Chase, the 10/11 favourite just getting the better of the outsider of the field, Henryville, trained by his father Peter.
It was a stirring finish as Bowen got Sideways, a winner at the course on New Year’s Day, home from Henryville who defied his 20/1 odds.
“He was in front a bit early but he has a good profile and is improving. It was a nice prize and he deserves it. He’s done plenty of racing so it may be time to give him a rest to look forward to next season,” said the trainer.
Bridgend-based Williams has been enjoying plenty of Fakenham success this season and his Cap Du Nord, again under Bowen, won the Fakenham Staff Fundraising Run for Air Ambulance Chase, his third successive victory.
Nobel Leader looked a big danger to Cap du Nord but a jolting jumping error followed by another poor leap at the final fence left Williams’ six-year-old gelding to score in style, returned the 11/8 favourite.
“He finished off very well. I must think now about stepping him up in grade,” said Williams.
There was more last fence drama in the Walter Wales Memorial Novice Chase. Primal Focus, bidding to land trainer Williams with a treble, led going to the last but crashed out leaving Stonebrigg Legend, under Ben Poste to score at 5/2.
The mare, trained by Sarah Humphrey, had won at the course’s last meeting 11 days earlier … beating Primal Focus.
Olly Murphy had the first and second in the Robert Case Memorial Maiden Hurdle when 11/10 favourite Swaffham Bulbeck, three times a runner-up, finally got his nose in front under Cillin Leonard, a 10-pound conditional clocking up his first winner in Britain.
Swaffham Bulbeck took over from Grand Inquisitor and then held on to beat fast-finishing hurdling debutant and stable-mate, Emerald Rocket.
The Gary Moore trained Clayton was delivered perfectly by seven-pound conditional jockey Niall Houlihan to take the opening selling hurdle, returned at 13/8. Clayton moved past long-time leader and 5/6 favourite American Tom before the final flight and ran out a comfortable winner by a length. It was Houlihan’s second trip to Fakenham and his first winner at the course.
The closing Hunters’ Chase completed a double for trainer Spencer when Sir Jack Yeats, at 5/4, easily scored under James King.
Words by Terry Redhead