Teenage kicks for novice Conor Shoemark as he gets the better of idol Tony McCoy
AMATEUR rider Conor Shoemark made a dream first ever visit to Fontwell as he got the better of a certain Tony McCoy in a driving finish to the Cheltenham Non Runner No Bet At totepool.com Handicap Chase.
In fairness to the perennial champion, he was not given a huge amount of assistance from 11-4 favourite Chestnut Ben, who had been in front for a long time and wandered around the final tight bend of the figure-of-eight circuit.
This allowed 19-year-old Shoemark the chance to sneak up McCoy's inside and finish three and three-quarter lengths clear for what had looked an improbable victory for Upton Mead (15-2) even approaching the final fence.
Shoemark, whose father and grandfather were both accomplished jockeys, is considered a bright prospect himself and is based with Fergal O'Brien.
"I'd never even been here before," he said. "The horse was well on the day, and he's a real galloper, so I thought I'd get to him (McCoy)."
It was Shoemark's fourth winner of the season, and a third for Surrey trainer Kevin Tork, who has revitalised a horse with nothing to show for himself before the turn of the year.
"I got him from Ascot sales for about £500," Tork said. "His jumping's a lot better and if he's OK he'll run again at Plumpton on Monday."
McCoy admitted Heronry (evens favourite) was hardly one of the elite performers at Nicky Henderson's stable, but he would stand out for most smaller trainers as he extended his sequence to three wins from five starts when never seriously challenged in the Docker Hughes Memorial Novices' Hurdle.
"He jumped well, stays well and has obviously progressed since his last win at Sandown," McCoy said.
"He might not be the best horse at Seven Barrows, but he's genuine and will give his owners a lot of fun."
McCoy had played a part in the story of Billy Twyford, even if he did not have a ride in the Exclusive Cheltenham Offers On totepool Mobile Handicap Hurdle.
The 9-2 chance joined Lawney Hill just before Christmas and after staying on in determined fashion for David Bass, he has now won twice and finished second once in three attempts for the Oxfordshire trainer.
"He came from Nicky Henderson after he ran at Exeter. AP told the owner, Simon Munir, that he wasn't a Cheltenham horse and not what he was looking for," said Hill.
"Anthony Bromley (bloodstock agent) rang up and offered him to me, and he has put some nice horses our way in the past. I thought he'd be perfect for my owner Andy Weller."
Weller said: "We thought he'd be suited by stepping up to two and a half miles and Lawney has done a brilliant job of settling him down.
"He's in the Martin Pipe next week but he won't get in, so we might take him to Aintree."
David Dunsdon will be notified of a four-day ban for failing to ride out on Utopia, who the stewards said would have finished fourth.
The smartest prospect in action on the day was the Evan Williams-trained Lienosus (1-2 favourite).
The winning pointer was placed in good Grade Two and Listed events on his first couple of starts under Rules and class very much told in the Try A totetrifecta At totepool.com Maiden Hurdle.
"He's workmanlike, but I'm very pleased, he did what we hoped," said jockey Paul Moloney.
Speedy Bruere (6-5 favourite), who struck for the first time in Britain just 10 days earlier at Towcester, gave trainer David Bridgwater another slice of encouragement ahead of The Giant Bolster's second bid for the Gold Cup when appropriately landing the Cheltenham Ten To Follow At totepool.com Handicap Chase.
Jockey Tom Scudamore said: "We knew he had a chance as he was 6lb 'well-in' and Bridgy's in good form for next week."
Venerable mare Wild Ground (15-2) thrilled Kevin Bishop with a fifth course win in the Arundel Equine Hospital Handicap Chase, and the trainer said: "She's had leg problems, a broken pelvis and sinus infections, so to come back for this is remarkable.
"She may come here again at the end of the month."
McCoy's mount Hawaii Five Nil was just on the losing end to Jo Hughes' newcomer Gentleman Jon (5-1) in the 'Happy Birthday' Angela Bray bumper.