FORMER footballer John Barnes MBE, best known for his prolific spells with Watford and Liverpool, will the special guest at Friday’s Smarkets Sporting Icon Raceday, writes David Hucker.
Barnes follows in the footsteps of Rugby World Cup winner Mike Tindall and multi-Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton in being the guest at this popular annual event.
Awarded 79 caps for England, going on to secure a spot in the national Football Hall of Fame, Barnes was twice voted Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and also won PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1988. The event will be hosted by racing broadcaster Rupert Bell in the Paddock Pavilion ahead of the afternoon’s seven-race card, which has attracted a massive 158 entries.
Racing begins at 12.50pm with the Smarkets Betting Exchange Juvenile Hurdle over two miles.
There are six former winners entered in the opener, including Song For Someone, who also won a bumper in his native France. Percy Prosecco won well on his hurdles debut at Huntingdon, adding to his win at Windsor on the flat in August, although with the runner-up having been well-beaten on his next run at Sedgefield and a third of the field pulling up, it is difficult to evaluate the form.
David Pipe and Alan King both have three entries, with the latter’s Ffos Las winner Our Power an interesting contender.
Paul Nicholls has two entries in the day’s longest race, the Smarkets Novices’ Hurdle over three and a quarter miles, with Worthy Farm having shown promise when ridden by Bryony Frost in a Bangor-on-Dee bumper in April.
Top of the bill is the £50 Risk Free On Racing with Smarkets Novices’ Chase with more than £16,000 in the prize fund and it has attracted a number of previous winners, including Gordon Elliott’s multiple scorer Cubomania, who won his fourth chase at Cheltenham last month. Dan Skelton’s One For Billy was challenging the winner when running out through the taped rail on the run-in at Cheltenham last time and is another to consider.
However, the one that really catches the eye is Cheltenham Festival runner-up Kalashnikov, who is very much the star of Amy Murphy’s Newmarket stable and who has been featured on social media doing plenty of schooling ahead of his chasing debut.