Cooper’s bittersweet day at Fontwell

Dirty Deal, ridden by Lee Edwards, after winning the opening race of Fontwell's 2012 programme  Picture by Louise Adams
Dirty Deal, ridden by Lee Edwards, after winning the opening race of Fontwell's 2012 programme Picture by Louise Adams

AMATEUR rider Robert Cooper had a bittersweet victory at Fontwell Park’s first meeting of 2012.

On the day he was handed a 52-day for excessive use of the whip in a race on New Year’s Ever at Uttoxeter, Cooper had a rare victory in the penultimate contest of the afternoon at the West Sussex track.

And as he crossed the line the winner of the SIS Live Handicap Steeple Chase on board Mortimers Cross, Cooper threw away his whip to show how he felt about his upcoming ban.

Cooper said he was gutted at a 52-day ban for excessive use of the whip on Elton Fox in a maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter.

The BHA’s disciplinary panel found the jockey had hit the six-year-old, who won by a length, 23 times - 12 without allowing time to respond.

“It’s not nice to get a ban like that and I didn’t think I was that hard on him,” Cooper told At The Races.

“I didn’t think I deserved that much, but that’s racing. Rules are rules and you can’t break them.”

That victory was Cooper’s first for 12 years but at least he didn’t have to wait long for another.

Earlier on Fontwell’s card, What Er Say, ridden by Nick Scholfield, earned a place in the Blue Square Staying Novices Hurdles series finale at Uttoxeter next month by winning Fontwell’s qualifying race after going off at 40/1.

Scholfield timed his effort superbly to put the likes of Bold Chief (Daryl Jacob) and Makethe Mostofnow (Paul Moloney) in the shade.

The meeting - Holly Glover’s first as the new general manager at Fontwell Park - kicked off with the Docker Hughes Memorial Novices’ Handicap - the 20th running of the race in memory of the famous Pompey fan who stood for parliament in the 1980s and planned to lobby for duty-free on the Gosport Ferry if he got elected.

The race was taken by Tony Carroll-trained Dirty Deal (9/1), whose rider Lee Edwards was another to get into trouble with the stewards for breaking the new whip rules - earning a five-day ban. The 3/1 shot Anay Turge was second.

The Crohn’s In Children Research Association Novices’ Chase, with a field of only three, was a 27th win of the season for Aiden Coleman on Carpincho, the 8/11 favourite, well ahead in the end of Sam Twiston-Davies on Sherwani Wolf, hindered by a mistake at the last.

There was an amazing 53-length win for the Jamie Snowden-trained Marodima, ridden by Tom O’Brien, in the Horton’s Steam Fair Handicap Steeple Chase. Once the challenge of favourite Morestead had been seen off, the result was never in doubt.

King of Castile (11/4 second favourite), trained by Sussex-based Jim Best, held off a strong challenge from Brendan Powell on Terra Bleu to win the Welcome To Baby Joshua Warren Handicap Hurdle under James Best.

The last, the digibet.com Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, went to Richard Johnson - currently to Tony McCoy in the champion jockey title race - on Philip Hobbs’ 4/1 contender Danandy.

Unfortunately there were no winners on this occasion among the horses tipped on this website before racing - but we will try our luck again when Fontwell next races, on Friday, January 27.

* See next week’s Observer (Jan 19) for a feature on Fontwell’s new general manager.