HORSE RACING: Festival fever as former Huntingdon winner lands a big Cheltenham prize

Shishkin and Nico de Boinville on the way to victory in the Betway Sidney Banks Memorial Novices Hur

Shishkin and Nico de Boinville on the way to victory in the Betway Sidney Banks Memorial Novices Hurdle at Huntingdon Racecourse earlier this season. Picture: FRANCESCA ALTOFT PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Cheltenham wasn’t the only place with Festival fever last Wednesday – it was also in evidence at Huntingdon Racecourse.

The local track staged it’s annual Festival Raceday with a healthy turnout of 79 runners across seven races, with all the action from Cheltenham also being shown on big screens.

There was an immediate link to the Festival when Dagueneau, trained by Emma Lavelle, justified 2/1 favouritism to record his first success over hurdles at the fourth attempt in the opening race.

The five-year-old carries the now famous colours of Andrew Gemmell who owns Paisley Park, also trained by Lavelle, who was the winner of last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and unsuccess-fully defended his crown 24 hours after Dagueneau’s victory at Huntingdon.

Fresh from the success of Imperial Aura at Cheltenham the previous day, trainer Kim Bailey and jockey David Bass teamed up to land the maiden hurdle over two miles with the 6/5 favourite Rhosneigr.

Two hours after her husband Harry Skelton had ridden Politologue to victory at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Bridget Andrews steered home Faivoir to his third success in the closing National Hunt Flat Race for trainer – and her brother-in-law - Dan Skelton.

This improving five-year-old was following up a success at Bangor and, despite a seven-pound penalty, comfortably drew clear in the closing stages for an impressive success.

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Earlier in the day, a drop in trip and class suited the Ben Case-trained Midnightreflection, who re-turned as the 7/2 favourite to win the second race, a handicap hurdle for mares’ over two and a half miles, under young jockey Jack Tudor.

The third race on the card, a handicap hurdle over two miles for female jockeys, was won by Local Affair, who was getting off the mark at the eighth attempt.

She was ridden by Katie O’Farrell who was recording her first winner in Britain since she joined champion trainer Paul Nicholls last year, after 27 victories in her native Ireland.

Making his just his second start over fences, Max Dynamo, trained near Cheltenham by Emma-Jane Bishop, got the better of front-running Silent Encore to win the near three-mile handicap chase.

Forty minutes later, Torrent Des Mottes landed his second Huntingdon success when staying on strongly under Patrick Cowley. Owned and trained by John Cornwall, the galloping grey took the lead three fences from home and maintained his lead to come three-and-half-lengths clear in the two-and-a half-mile handicap chase.

Racing returns to Huntingdon for the Go Racing Raceday tomorrow (March 19). A seven-race card is scheduled to get underway at 2.10pm with tickets available in advance from £11.

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* A horse with a previous Huntingdon victory this season tasted success at the Cheltenham Festival this week.

Shishkin, who won the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at the local track last month, went on to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday for trainer Nicky Henderson and jockey Nico de Boinville.

Huntingdon Racecourse general manager Liam Johnson said: “It was fantastic to see Shishkin win one of the biggest races of the week to kick off the Cheltenham Festival.

“Those who came along to Huntingdon to see him win the Sidney Banks last month could not fail to have been impressed with both his performance on the track and his physical appearance before the race.”