Weather gods smile on Fontwell festival

Phil Bell
Phil Bell
Markov and jockey Tom Bellamyon their way to victory. Picture: Fontwell Park

Honeyball hat-trick lights up Fontwell

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Phil Bell warmed up for a scorching two-day festival at Fontwell and smiled: We’re due some luck.

Amid forecasts of an Indian summer, temperatures have soared on the south coast this week.

Highs of 23 degrees centigrade are expected to hit West Sussex over the next two days.

And Fontwell’s executive director Bell is delighted, as he prepares to launch the track’s first-ever festival this afternoon.

The popular racecourse has seen some of its biggest pay-days blighted by bad weather in the past year.

It’s inaugural Boxing Day meeting was abandoned, while the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle – it’s most valuable race – was run in grim conditions back in February.

Ladies’ evening was overcast and the meeting in late September last summer was also run in the gloom.

But, finally, the racing gods have smiled on Fontwell.

And it will launch its new double-header in scorching September sun.

Bell said: ‘We are due a bit of luck.

‘We have had Irish Day at this time for years and it has often been run in gloomy and wet weather.

‘Ladies’ evening was overcast this year and it rained all morning ahead of our big family meeting.

‘A lot of our most customer-friendly fixtures over the past few years have been hit by bad weather, so this will make a pleasant change.

‘We are expecting a bumper crowd for both days.’

The festival launches with the Chancellor of The Formchecker Juvenile Maiden Hurdle at 2.10pm this afternoon, and continues with the West Sussex track’s annual Irish Day tomorrow.

A total of 14 races will be run over the two days, with total prize money of £100,000 attracting bumper entries.

Today’s feature is the Fuller’s London Pride Handicap Chase (3.50pm), where fans’ favourite Gary Moore runs Gee Dee Nen at his local course.

And Bell, who is expecting around 10,000 spectators across the two cards, has been pleased with the support of the country’s leading trainers for the new meeting.

‘The response has been fantastic,’ he said.

‘We have the top nine trainers in the country sending horses. They have all been great.’

The ground is currently good, good to firm in places. Tickets available on the gates, which open at midday.