Trainer John Ferguson eyes success at Fakenham Racecourse matinee meeting

Fakenham’s national hunt season comes under orders on Friday with a special ‘matinee’ meeting which sees the opening contest on the six-race card off at noon.

This afternoon’s four hurdle races and two chases provide a competitive card which could prove successful for John Ferguson. The former bloodstock agent, who was an advisor to Sheikh Mohammed, had a successful start to his training campaign last season and holds good chances in the first four races.

In the opener (noon), Ferguson saddles last time out Ludlow winner Haymarket in the two-mile hurdle. Under Denis O’Regan, Haymarket will have to defy a 10lb increase to see off eight rivals, led by Operation Tracer and Venetian View.

Those met in a recent Huntingdon race, Michael Bell’s Operation Tracer finishing second and George Moore’s Venetian View fourth.

Bai Zhu is Ferguson’s representative in the handicap chase (12.30pm). Fourth at Fontwell, the gelding faces a tricky task with Sentimentaljourney and Alpine Breeze likely market leaders.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Sentimentaljourney finished second at Uttoxeter after winning at Stratford while Alpine Breeze, from David Cantillon’s stable, had won at Market Rasen and Huntingdon before being brought down at Bangor recently.

Ferguson has hopes with Houseparty (1pm), a winner at Huntingdon, while in the same novice hurdle he also runs Jameel, second at Sedgefield earlier this month.

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But the real interest in the race will be David Pipe’s Tom Scudamore ridden Investissement. The six-year-old gelding was last seen finishing third on the flat in the August 2011 running of York’s Ebor Handicap. His previous jumping experience was in Cheltenham’s March 2010 running of the Triumph Hurdle when he was pulled up.

Ferguson’s fourth winning chance is with Perpetually in the feature race at 1.30pm, the handicap hurdle. The mount of Jack Quinlan, who claims three pounds, Perpetually fell at Wincanton in March having finished third at Cheltenham in November following a win at Haydock. Quinsman for Caroline Bailey and El Dancer from Lucy Wadham’s yard rate big threats.

Two last time out winners have to shoulder weight burdens but could fight out the two-mile chase (2.05pm). Full Ov Beans will be ridden by seven-pound claimer Nick de Boinville for Michael Gates while 10-pound claimer Matthew Stanley partners Jamie Snowden’s Jawhary following his Towcester win last week.

The finale (2.35pm) sees Shabak Hom, a winner at Ludlow recently, ridden by three-pound claimer Richard Evans for trainer David Evans, try to defy top weight in the handicap hurdle where he faces a challenge from five other runners, including Doyenne Dream from Sarah Humphrey’s yard.