INCENTIVISE won the Southern National - but not without a fight.
The Richard Lee-trained nine-year-old showed terrific stamina to take Fontwell Park’s second biggest race of the year by a length after a battle to the line with Mortimers Cross.
Michael Nolan was on board for 7/2 shot Incentivise’s second win in less than a month as he held off the challenge of Andrew Thornton, who was looking for a back-to-back double after winning the previous race.
There were seven finishers from a starting field of nine for the freebets.co.uk-sponsored race, which is second only to Feburary’s National Spirit Hurdle in stature at the figure-of-eight track.
Thornton could console himself with having won the Fullers London Pride Salmon Spray Handicap Hurdle on 20/1 chance Romeo Americo for trainer Seamus Mullins.
It was a beautiful sunny day for one of Fontwell’s big meetings of the year, although there was slight disappointment that only a shade under 3,000 turned up to see the action when a figure of 3,500 had been hoped for.
Other highlights on the card included a thrilling half-length win for Harry Skelton on the 5/4 favourite Overlay in the casino.bonus.co.uk Casino Bonus Handicap Hurdle and another close finish in the Download 888Sportmobile From App Store Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, taken by 5/2 favourite Storm Alert under Lucy Gardner.
Dougie Costello on Benheir (13/8) took the John Rogerson Memorial Beginners’ Chase while Joshua Moore was a 15-length victor on Well Refreshed in the Richards’ 65th @ Baldwinscranehire Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase.
Leighton Aspell guided 7/4 shot Dawn Twister to victory in the hardingscatering.co.uk Maiden Hurdle.
Fontwell Park general manager Tracy Skinner said it was another enjoyable day at the track, where staff were now focusing much of their efforts on the big Boxing Day meeting.
There are two more midweek cards to come first - next Wednesday and on Tuesday, December 11 - before the festive spectacular.
Last year 8,000 poured through the gates on Boxing Day and this year’s crowd could be even larger.
“A lot of the hospitality areas are sold out already and we’re 60 per cent up on where we were at this time last year, which is fantastic,” said Skinner.
“We’d advise people to book in advance if they’re thinking of coming.”
Get the latest from Fontwell and Goodwood throughout the seasons - in the Chichester Observer, out every Thursday