Fontwell Park staged the United Hunts meeting for the third successive year on Thursday, where sixty-eight runners battled it out over seven races. The South East failed to bag a race, but we did come within touching distance on more than one occasion.
The first race was the Guy Peate Memorial Challenge Trophy, a 3m 2f Novice Hunterchase that has been won by the likes of Little Legend and Adept Approach in the past. Nothing quite of that calibre lined up this year but it was nevertheless an exciting contest. Time Is Tickin was sent off the 33/1 outsider of the fourteen runners, but no one told him as he put up a bold show to just go down on his sword to the lightly raced Impact Area, who has been a revelation at the Wiltshire course of Larkhill this season. The nine year old only made his debut in January, but he has now won three point-to-points and a hunterchase from six starts.
The second race was the 2m 4f Novices Hunterchase for horses who qualified in various Maiden point-to-points. Remarkable Man was sent off the well backed favourite under Gina Andrews, having won his Maiden, Restricted and Intermediate, as well as placing in an Open. The South East's best chance according to the betting was Here I Am, a winner at Charing under Oz Wedmore where the pair beat Slidecheck and subsequent winner Ballybrack Dancer. Slidecheck had qualified for this through placing in that race and was the only horse in the race to have not lost his maiden status. However, despite being the 20/1 outsider and being bustled along by Will Clarke from a long way out, the eight year old found plenty and looked the winner all the way up the run in. In the final twenty yards before the line he began to tire, while Pete Mann galvanised Out Of Range to finish strongly, just agonisingly heading Slidecheck on the line.
There were plenty of Welsh raiders on the card and they were responsible for winning the third race, as Jodie Hughes steered Cygnet to an easy success in the Ladies race ahead of the Gina Andrews ridden and favourite, Foundry Square. Three out Theophrastus looked likely to provide Jody Sole with his first hunterchase winner as a trainer, but the thirteen year old couldn't live with the younger legs of his rivals over the final few furlongs.
The fourth race was the 3m 4f United Hunts Open Champion Hunterchase, which looked set to be a war of attrition in the atrocious conditions. Last year's winner Start Royal was sent off the 5/2 favourite, but the tiring ground was not to his liking and he was pulled up with a circuit to run. The one horse who relished the conditions was 50/1 outsider Lets Get Serious, who stayed on strongly to win by 19 lengths from Doctor Kingsley. Adept Approach looked set to run a huge race under Philip Hall, but the nine year old came to grief six fences from home.
Having been beaten on three consecutive favourites, Gina Andrews was desperate for a winner, but the betting for the fifth race suggested her wait would go on, as Dunraven Bowl winner Desertmore View was sent off the odds on favourite over the Simon Andrews trained Can Mestret. However, the gamble was foiled on the Welsh favourite, when the horse stumbled and unshipped John Mathias after just four fences. His departure meant Gina simply had to steer her mount round, winning eased down by 24 lengths.
The Mare's raced followed, where stout stayer Cheyanwe was sent off the uneasy favourite over another Welsh raider, Kimora. The seven runners went a sensible early pace, but still finished strung out and exhausted as they quickened up over the final mile. Kimora had stayed on strongly behind Desertmore View in the Dunraven Bowl and she boosted that form by hacking up here by twelve lengths over Cheyanwe, providing Matthew Barber with his 50th winner as a jockey.
The final race was the 2m 6f Cuckoo Maiden Challenge Cup, where on paper any one of six horses seemed to have a decent chance of winning. Star Of Massini was sent off the 7/2 favourite for Gina Andrews and Nigel Padfield, but the eight year old had to settle for third, as Johnny Bailey booted Full Trottle to victory for Laura Thomas. The six year old Full Trottle has looked a decent young horse this season, winning twice and looking arguably unlucky to be beaten on three other occasions. He will now be in Open company but should improve enough to make the step up.