Focus on Fontwell: Getting into spirit of our biggest race

National Spirit, the horse the big race is named after
National Spirit, the horse the big race is named after

The richest and most prestigious race in Fontwell’s calendar now has an £80,000 prize fund, writes racecourse executive director Simon Williams.

The Totepool National Spirit hurdle is back for its 51st year with an increase in prize money which is sure to attract some of the country’s top horses.

The race’s prize pot has been increased by £30,000 and some of the country’s top trainers have already shown interest in what is sure to be a great card.

The National Spirit Hurdle is named after the dual winner of the champion hurdle in the 1940s and is Fontwell Park’s only class-one race of the year.

There have been some very notable names from horse-racing throughout the contest’s 51 years including Salmon Spray, Comedy of Errors, Kybo, Vagador, Baracouda, My Way de Solzen and last year’s winner Kilcooley, who has since gone on to win the class-one West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby Racecourse.

This year Fontwell has got into the ‘national spirit’ by offering a drinks promotion on Talisker whiskey, though it applies only until the first race.

The National Spirit Hurdle race day has an excellent undercard which includes three trophies: the Josh Gifford Cup (formerly known as the Mad Hatters), the Certain Justice Challenge Trophy, named after a horse who won 14 races at Fontwell between 1959 and 1966; and finally the Whitelaw Challenge Cup which has been won twice by The Queen’s horses.

The National Spirit Hurdle race day has an excellent undercard which includes three trophies: the Josh Gifford Cup (formerly known as the Mad Hatters), the Certain Justice Challenge Trophy, named after a horse who won 14 races at Fontwell between 1959 and 1966; and finally the Whitelaw Challenge Cup which has been won twice by The Queen’s horses.

Before the National Spirit Hurdle, Fontwell is looking to host its first meeting of the year next Thursday (February 18).

The 2015-16 season so far at Fontwell sees Tom Cannon remaining at the top of the jockey leaderboard with six wins and Jamie Moore only one behind.

Gary Moore leads the trainers’ table with nine wins and Neil Mulholland is second with six. A lot can change in 2016 so make sure you are there not to miss out.

In March, Fontwell will host two meetings. The first is the Cheltenham Preview Raceday on Wednesday, March 9, which sees a panel of industry professionals discuss all the action before the big festival.

Jockeys Leighton Aspell and Noel Fehily, trainer Oliver Sherwood and Betfred TV presenter Matt Hulmes.

The second is the very popular St Patrick’s Raceday – this year on Saturday, March 19 – which will also feature live Irish music and all the action from the Six Nations rugby.

This Fontwell race day last year was featured in the Racecourse Association’s review of 2015 for having an increased attendance of 49 per cent. It has become one of the main highlights of the year at Fontwell.

Order your tickets for all these meetings in advance to save money off the gate price – go to www.fontwellpark.co.uk or call the racecourse on 01243 543335.

See tips for all Fontwell meetings at www.chichester.co.uk on the day of racing

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