Aintree is next stop for Fontwell's big-race winner
Fontwell Park’s showpiece race looks like being a stepping stone to Aintree for its impressive winner
Olly Murphy and Aidan Coleman landed the spoils in the Grade 2 feature race, the Loch Lomond Whiskies National Spirit Hurdle, with Brewin’upastorm building on an impressive success at Taunton to win by 5½ lengths at odds 3/1 - getting the better of odds-on favourite McFabulous, trained by Paul Nicholls. in the process.
Trainer Murphy told Sky Sports Racing: “I’m absolutely chuffed with that – he’s a very, very talented horse. It’s great to have that winning form at graded level. He got a very, very bad fright over fences – and things certainly didn’t go to plan on those runs.
“To win with as much authority as he did today in that company was very pleasing. The penalties worked in his favour today, but if they’d been reversed, and everyone was getting penalties off him, it would have made no difference. The way he won, he absolutely bolted up.
“He saw the two-mile-three out very well today, and the plan will be to go straight to Aintree for the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One.”
Coleman, who praised Fontwell's groundstaff for getting the track in fine condition, told Sky: "I still think there's improvement which is brilliant because he's won that with a bit of hand. I still think he's not the finished article as I think the fences earlier on in the year have taken their toll, mentally, on him and that's why I think he's on the comeback trail.
"I thought Taunton was a race made for him and it was a good performance but there were bits and pieces that he'd improve on confidence wise. He took a big step forwards today but I still think there's another bit left in there which is fantastic.
"When I brought him out he was a different horse. I did want to follow McFabulous to the last but when I saw he was under pressure down the back I didn't want to give him a chance so I committed sooner than I had originally planned and I was there a bit soon but I thought that was the best thing to do rather than sit on his skirt and give him the chance to beat me.
"He idled a bit in front and I knew he wouldn't do a lot but I didn't want to give Harry's horse a chance. I was very happy.
"It's a great race to win. The last three race meetings have been ploughed field (because of the weather) but you come here today and there's fresh ground everywhere; fantastic job, unbelievable."
But that was just one of seven races held in spring sunshine on a lovely afternoon at Fontwell when the only thing missing was a crowd.
The 2/1 favourite The Crooner looked all but beaten rounding the turn in the opening race, the Glen Scotia Single Malt Handicap Chase, but rallied again in the straight under Tom Scudamore, to land the opener by 3¼ lengths for Venetia Williams.
The 11/8 fav High Up In The Air defied a late market drift to claim a fifth consecutive success, with a nine-length victory in the Enjoy Champagne Piaf Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – continuing the fine form at the track for Gary and Josh Moore.
Favourites continued to dominate the afternoon, with evens favourite Fantastikas coming home 2¾ lengths in front in the Champagne Piaf Novices’ Hurdle – a success for another father-son duo, Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.
Thirteen lengths was the largest winning margin of the afternoon as Blame The Game made it four winning favourites in the opening five races, coming in at 2/1 in the Piaf The Champagne Of The Open Handicap Hurdle for Chris Gordon and Tom Cannon.
The Galloping Bear put an end to the hopes of 2/5 fav Sametegal, beating him by a cool 12 lengths in the Taste Champagne At champagnepiaff.com Open Hunters’ Chase for B Clarke and Millie Wonnacott at an SP of 100/30.
Harry Whittington’s Brave Kingdom ended proceedings with a 4¼-length win in the Life, Worth Celebrating With Champagne Piaf Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race under Gavin Sheehan, at 6/1.
The West Sussex racecourse’s next meeting takes place on Wednesday, March 10.