Fontwell’s at its finest for festival

Tracy Skinner is eagerly anticipating Fontwell's two-day festival  Picture by Louise Adams
Tracy Skinner is eagerly anticipating Fontwell's two-day festival Picture by Louise Adams
The sun ought to shine for Fontwell's Thursday afternoon racing

Irish raiders among the Fontwell fields

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It’s festival time at Fontwell - and a crowd of thousands are set to enjoy it.

Officials are hoping for dry weather and some top-quality racing to make the second year of the track’s two-day October festival another success.

Last year more than 7,000 punters watched the action and advance ticket sales suggest there could be similar numbers again.

Fontwell Park general manager Tracy Skinner, still only three months into her tenure after switching from Newcaslte racecourse, can’t wait for the fun to begin and said: “The racecourse is looking fantastic and we’re ready to go.

“Sales have been going really well - now we need good weather to boost our walk-up numbers on the day, and the forecast looks pretty good at the moment.”

She is delighted by the high number - and the calibre - of entries and paid tribute to clerk of the course Ed Arkell and his team in keeping the standard of the racing surface consistently good, which helps attract decent runners.

She added: “This is only the second year of this festival and these things take time to grow. But last year it made a strong debut and we hope another good year this year will help establish it.”

Friday’s racing - which runs from 2.10 to 5.35 - has the the £15,000 Fuller’s London Pride Handicap Chase as its feature race.

Among entries is the highly-rated Pure Faith, trained by Peter Bowen, who won the race last year with Rio Gael.

Friday’s card also features the Paddy Power Juvenile Maiden Hurdle, the Everyone’s Favourite The Ship Hotel Chichester Novices’ Chase, the Ricochet New Album From Ocasan Handicap Hurdle, the SIS Live Handicap Hurdle, Astute Wealth Planning Ltd Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase and the Southern Water Maiden Hurdle.

One of Saturday’s highlights is the return of Nick Gifford-trained Royal Wedding in the BTU Supporting Help For Heroes Handicap Chase.

The horse became one of Fontwell’s most popular winners of recent years when he won on the day Prince William married Kate Middleton.

Saturday’s line-up (2.20 to 5.45) also includes the Morrison Utility Services Supporting Cancer Research UK Novices’ Hurdle, the Black & Veatch Supporting The RNLI Handicap Chase, the MTS Cleansing Services Supporting The Air Ambulance Handicap Hurdle, the Clancy Docwra Supporting St Barnabas Hospice Handicap Hurdle, the 4D Supporting Aair/Awaairebear Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase and the Southern Water Supporting WaterAid Standard Open National Hunt flat race.

Many of jump racing’s top trainers and jockeys are among those due to appear across the two days, which both have well over 100 entries across the cards ahead of final declarations.

Paul Nicholls, Donald McCain, Tim Vaughan, Brendan Powell and Gary Moore are among handlers looking for festival winners while Jamie Moore, Colin Bolger, Sam Twiston-Davies and Fontwell specialist Tom Cannon are among those already booked for rides.

Friday is sponsored by Fullers and also includes a jockeys’ mastermind at 1.10pm, a charity lunch in aid of Parkinsons UK and live music from Madness specialists Los Palmas Six.

Saturday is a charity race day sponsored by Southern Water, who alone will have more than 700 guests present.

After racing there’s a live set by From The Jam.

It’s not too late to book advance tickets - but do it today if you’re planning to. Call 01243 543335 or visit www.fontwellpark.co.uk.

We’ll have tips for each day on the morning of racing at on this website and a report and results in the evening - plus plenty of coverage in your new-look Observer next Thursday.