A decent sized Sunday crowd, many on free or sponsored entry, helped Market Rasen racecourse celebrate the award of Best Small Racecourse in the East Midlands.
Small fields have been a much discussed feature of racing this winter, and the national problem was a feature locally on Sunday.
Only four went to post for the opening race, the ‘RedSport.com National Hunt Novices Hurdle.’ Make me a Fortune (3/1)is trained locally by Steve Gollings at Scamblesby. The seven-year-old had a pair of handicap wins at Market Rasen in December and with 10lb claiming jockey Trevor Ryan on board he was reunited with his rider of those two recent successes.
They were well up with the other three throughout, but Make me a Fortune could not find any extra from two flights out and Wilberdragon (7/4), trained by Charlie Longsdon ,sneaked through to win by two lengths. He may not have got up had Relic Rock not made a hash of the last fence.
On board the winner, jockey Noel Fehily was recording his 70th winner of the season. There was another to come later. Make me a Fortune finished third.
The second race was another Class 4 Novices Hurdle. Top weight Fort Worth, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, was conceding weight all round. He fell on the back circuit and it left Kilronan High (5/2), from the top stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies, to claim the spoils.
Racecourse presenter Mike Vince described the winning jockey Sam Twiston-Davies as a great ambassador for racing and the jockey looked forward to the Cheltenham Festival this week.
“It’s great to start the week with a horse that’s in good order, the trainer is happy and so am I. We will be outnumbered by the Irish at Cheltenham but we will see what we can do, a little bit of luck always helps. I think some of my best hopes will be on Tuesday.”
The father and son combination will be on some big hopes at Cheltenham, but here at Market Rasen Kilronan High was a more modest former point and bumper winner.
The first chase of the afternoon was the ‘Cheltenham Day One Handicap. Trafficker was strongly fancied in the betting. He also was a winning pointer but had Ultimatum Du Roy, Water Wagtail and Lively Baron to contend with.
The latter had been dropped in class. Fields may have been small but the racing was still competitive and here Fehily completed a double on Ultimatum du Roy (11/4), who was solid with his jumping despite the soft ground. He had won at Market Rasen in the past but was unproven over the three-mile trip.
Market Rasen trainer and Grimsby Town FC director Michael Chapman brought The Society Man across the Willingham Road from his Woodlands stables for the fourth race, a Handicap Chase and a qualifier in the Grassroots Jumps Series.
He is a consistent and versatile sort, acting over both hurdles and fences, getting in the frame regularly but not to the winning post first very often.
It proved the same story here as The Society Man (4/1) had to settle for third place behind another 4/1 shot Future Gilded, who is trained by Jamie Snowdon and had Brendan Powell up.
Biggest field of the afternoon went to post for the Class 3 Handicap Hurdle. Favourite Master Malt (7/4) gave trainer Jonjo O’Neill another winner in the colours of John P McManus, the distance five lengths ahead of Hollow Tree who had Tom Scudamore on board. Master Malt won a couple of good ground hurdles last summer and won his first handicap when keeping on well at Exeter last month. He clearly can perform on soft ground, a previous question mark against him.
Iconic Rose (3/1) won the Mares Handicap Hurdle. She too had something to prove in whether she could stay three-miles, while the final race, a Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, saw Jonathan England win on Whatsupjack (12/1).