SUMMER NAPS: Gary finally gets the biggest prize

Naps winner Gary Pritchard with Dalepak's Mick White

Naps winner Gary Pritchard with Dalepak's Mick White

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The absence of long priced winners during the 2016 Dalepak Summer Naps League persisted to the bitter end. Yet at long last, champion Gary Pritchard (Fat Gazza) could finally relax.

Twenty five weeks of the competition came and went without so much as a sniff of a 33/1 winner although there was always a suspicion one would pop up at some point and thwart Pritchard, a £500 runner-up in the jumping equivalent six months earlier.

With two weeks to go both Martins’ Maidens and DCD Ltd went agonisingly close with 66/1 runner-up Lancaster Bomber while only three more contests on Wolverhampton’s card remained on the final evening when The Nap Hand Partnership saw Royal Melody beaten just a length and a quarter into second at odds of 66/1.

NHP tipster John Frampton was one of 17 who went through the entire summer without a winner, yet how close he was to snatching the £1,000 first prize from Pritchard at the death.

All of which goes to prove, that it’s never over ‘til Fat Gazza sings...

And sing he certainly did, after picking five winners during the season to emerge with a balance of £35.50, fending off Steve Griffiths (Kingsley Park Airgun) by £7.50.

The memory of long time naps supporter Pete Burdett was kept alive by his widow Ann as PWB Racing picked up £250 for third spot while naps assistant Holly Shaw (Harley’s Angels) shared fourth spot with Nigel Ancil (K9 Walkers), the latter instantly donating his £100 to the Cynthia Spencer Hospice fund which again looks like topping its regular £1,000 a season contribution.

Sixth spot went to Alfi Racing’s Fiona Solazzo who abandoned the quest for the Sammy Parker Trophy with three weeks remaining only to be propelled into the prize money by 25/1 winner The Last Lion along with her husband Mario.

Also picking that horse were Derby Day Trippers while the only other 25/1 winner during the entire season was chosen by Barry Frost (Rosey Poets) who picked 
up £50 and the Snowy Wootton Poachers Pot.

Ian White (Aye Boy) retained the Sammy Parker Trophy he had won six months earlier, picking 16 winners during the season.

Overall winner Pritchard began to make an impression on weeks five and six when Quiet Reflection (7/1) and Harzand (13/2) won the Group Two Sandy Lane 
Stakes at Haydock and the Investec Derby at Epsom respectively for trainers Karl Burke and Dermot Weld respectively.

Yes his challenge really hit full throttle on July 9 when Home Cummins took the John Smith’s Handicap at York, sending him top, £1 clear of K9 Walkers.

Despite being something of a form student he admitted the choice came via a radio tip discussed as being appropriate to Wales’s triumphant return from the Euro 2016 championships, and the fact Pritchard has some Welsh allegiances.

Never headed thereafter, the icing on the cake was supplied by Royal Artillery (10/1) four weeks later. Joined at the top by Harley’s Angels with seven weeks to go, he instantly responded with 12/1 winner Intense 
Tango (again trained by Burke), a brave selection in a 17 runner handicap at Haydock.

Pritchard said: “I was introduced to the naps table by my KAB Seating work mate Barry Kingsnorth (KAB) before the 2013/14 winter season.

“I do study my horses a bit and feel I deserved to hang, on but it was all a bit nervy at the end.”

He added: “A few of are going on a race day out to Wolverhampton on December 3 so I expect we will celebrate then.”

Runner-up Griffiths said: “I believe I have been involved with the naps table from the beginning and once 
finished second under the team banner The Zebras which was named after a five-a-side football team I ran at Lings Forum.

“I remember we once had a good winner which earned us the headline ‘Zebras earn their stripes’!”

The new jumping competition gets underway on Saturday when around 160 teams will be bidding to win the first Flagkick Naps Table.

New teams include A Tail Of Two Cities, Sprint Finishers, Abba and Klopp’s Barmy Army.