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Dream day for Ferguson family at Fakenham Races

17:05 11 April 2012

The third race at Fakenham Racecourse was won by (L) Oscar Baby ridden by Mr N. Halley. Picture: Ian Burt

The third race at Fakenham Racecourse was won by (L) Oscar Baby ridden by Mr N. Halley. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2012

Young jockey James Ferguson took top honours when riding Earth Dream to victory in the prestigious Queen’s Cup at Fakenham’s Easter Monday meeting.

The 22-year-old was riding in his first race under rules, but showed no signs of nerves as he gave the 11-10 favourite – trained at Newmarket by his father, John – a tremendous ride. After taking the lead at the seventh fence, Ferguson jnr sent Earth Dream clear and ran away with the race to win by an amazing 54 lengths and complete a wonderful family double.

“I am absolutely ecstatic, such a good feeling and such a great horse – we are so lucky to have him,” said the jockey. “We felt it was time to have a crack and gain some experience, since the horse had done so well for me.”

The very proud father, trainer and owner, John Ferguson, added: “Ever since I have been coming to Fakenham, I have always loved the idea of winning the Queens Cup and to have a horse good enough to win and to have my son ride the winner in his first ride under rules – well it’s as good as it gets.”

The other feature race on the card, the David Keith Memorial Handicap Chase (3.50) was won by the 13-2 shot, Farewellatmidnight.

This Alex Hales-trained mare, who won a novice hurdle at the North Norfolk track in January last season, was having only her third run over fences, but jumped like an experienced old chaser to land the spoils. She was given a peach of a ride by young Campbell Gillies, who got his mount settled early in the race and had her jumping well throughout, before staying on well to win by five lengths.

Tapes went up at 2.05 with the Ella Rush Birthday Celebration Selling Hurdle and King Of Castile got favourite backers off to a flying start. The 7-4 favourite, ridden by Conor O’Farrell, seemed to be struggling with a circuit to go, but O’Farrell got a tune out of this eight-year-old gelding down the back straight. He collared the two pace-setters, Unwanted Gift and Lilac Belle, after the second last to stay to win by 19 lengths from Sumak in second.

In the subsequent auction, King Of Castile, was bought back in for £4,600.

Course and distance winner, Marky Bob, showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to land the Robert Hoare Novices’ Hunters’ Chase (For The Robert Hoare Memorial Trophy) (2.40). The 5-4 on favourite made all and jumped beautifully throughout, under a confident ride by Gordon Gallagher, and despite tiring in the softening ground after the last, Marky Bob ran out a comprehensive 28-length winner.

Trainer Hugo Froud said: “Gordon said he jumped well throughout and just got a bit lazy and tired near the finish. He seems to be improving with every run and this was his third Hunter Chase win in the last five weeks.”

Oscar Baby, a 12-1 shot, trounced his rivals in the 1824 Fakenham Membership Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (3.15). The six-year-old mare was handily placed and moved comfortably into the lead after the third last to run away to secure her maiden success by an impressive 29 lengths.

Winning jockey Niall Halley said: “That’s my first winner for a few years now, I think my last one was at Fairyhouse in Ireland about six years ago to the day. This is a special win for me, since my father bred her. She’s done it well and seems an improving sort –who really enjoyed the increase in trip and ease in the ground today.”

Best finish of the day was in the J M Finn & Co Handicap Hurdle (4.25), in which the Venetia Williams-trained Emperor’s Choice prevailed by a neck. Given a determined ride by Aiden Coleman, the 2-1 favourite always seemed to being playing second fiddle to Grassfinch. Going to the last flight and the course and distance winner, Grassfinch, held the advantage, but somehow Coleman galvanized Emperor’s Choice on the run-in to win by a neck.

The 20-1 outsider, Was My Valentine, won the finale, the North Norfolk Mares’ Maiden Open NH Flat Race (5.25) by one-and-three-quarter lengths. Ridden by Paul Moloney, this mare was held up for most of the race, before making her claim for the race inside the final furlong to win with something in hand from W Six Times in second place.

The next National Hunt meeting at Fakenham, is on Tuesday, May 8, with the first race off at 2.30pm – although there is a point-to-point meeting on Sunday, April 22, with the first race off at 2pm.

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