Monday 27 September 2010

As it’s Monday, the next edition of Choc’s weekly column appeared in the Racing Post today. 


This week he writes about the fact that he’s beginning to seriously miss race-riding ... he’s missing the horses and the camaraderie of the weighing room too.  And he’s getting a touch jealous having to watch others ride the horses he thinks of as ‘his’.  Also, he can’t wait to achieve his 1,000th winner (he’s less than 50 to go to reach this milestone) as it will mean he’s joined a very select band of jockeys. 


Choc also discusses the upcoming Arc (Sunday 3rd October) and mentions that he enjoyed his evening as a guest of the London Racing Club!  On the night he was asked to name a horse for a £50 charity bet ... and he selected Alan King’s Franklino, a 25-1 shot for this season’s Triumph Hurdle.  Any winnings go to Choc’s nominated charity, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.


Jockey Dougie Costello experienced a nightmare honeymoon, when an infection in his lower leg caused him to be admitted to hospital for a week.  Dougie got married on 11th September in Yorkshire, Choc and Meally travelling up to be part of the celebrations.


Better news regarding jockey David Crosse, as he is set to return to race-riding next weekend.  Whilst absent, David has raised over £15,000 for the IJF. 


And I found this article on the internet, regarding Choc’s appointment as the Face of Kempton Park:


There’s currently an update on Bensalem’s progress on Alan King’s website:


I finally found the time to print out the fixture list for 2011 ... and I’m very disappointed that the mid-June Sunday afternoon meeting at Stratford is no more L - there’s no NH racing on that particular Sunday.  But fortunately the July (pre-Choc’s birthday) fixture survives, as does the one a week later!  


And there’s a Sunday in May with 3 NH fixtures – Uttoxeter, Worcester and Plumpton, and then 8 fixtures on August Bank Holiday Monday – 3 of these being National Hunt ones – Cartmel, Bangor-on-Dee and Huntingdon.  


Sunday 26 September 2010


Henley On Thames.jpg


Henley on Thames


I spent an enjoyable day out in Henley on Thames yesterday with my friend Denise. 


The journey down wasn’t particularly quick – the good news being that the road works on the M25 between Junction 16 (M40) and Junction 18 (Chorley Wood) have now been completed, the bad news is that the section between Junction 18 and Junction 22 (London Colney) is now being widened, so the traffic was very slow moving in the contra-flow section!  I was then in two minds as to whether to take the westbound M40 or the westbound M4, finally deciding on the former, only to be confronted by another contra-flow system at the High Wycombe ...


Anyway, I finally arrived at my destination in Caversham and there was time for a chat and a drink of hot chocolate before we went to catch the bus to Henley.  Upon arrival, we had a look around a number of shops – including Asquiths  where we enjoyed browsing around the teddies and other cuddly animals ... and I’m now the proud owner of a cute cuddly stoat which I’ve named ‘Henley’!  He’s my early Christmas present from Denise, I hasten to add!


Soon it was time for lunch, so we visited a restaurant situated beside the river, after which it was time for a walk along the riverbank and another look around the shops before catching the bus back to Caversham.


Denise is an enthusiastic gardener so, before dusk fell and it was time for me to go home, she showed me around her garden, which is over 100 metres long.  Denise and her husband Terry are currently in the process of cutting down all the old shrubs and trees and putting in replacement specimens. 


Having said farewell, I set off for home.  Again I had difficulty in deciding which route to take ... the problem is that I know the Chilterns too well!  Would it be M4 and M25; or A4, A404, M40, M25; or the scenic route ... A4, A404, then Bourne End, Wooburn Green, Beaconsfield, Amersham, Chesham, Hemel Hempstead (okay, Hemel Hempstead doesn’t qualify as scenic, apart from their old town) and back to St Albans.  I chose the latter route.


I had intended to spend yesterday evening watching a video recording of last Wednesday’s Midsomer Murders episode but, in the event, I watched Racing UK’s recorded highlights of yesterday’s action at Market Rasen.


Alan King had 3 runners at Market Rasen, and this is how they fared:

Jubail finished 3rd in the Juvenile Hurdle (14 ran)

Union Island finished 3rd and Wild Desert 4th in the Novices’ Hurdle (10 ran)


And last, but not least, I’d like to wish my niece Kim many happy returns of the day for yesterday, when it was her 18th birthday.  Kim has just started her final year at school, studying Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics at A Level, with the aim of going to university (Sheffield, ICL or Oxford) to study Bio-Medical Science!


Kim Oct 09.jpg


Kim – ‘Beauty and Brains’


Friday 24 September 2010

After 3 very late nights this week, and working flat out at work too, I’m absolutely shattered!


My diary about my ‘Evening with Robert Thornton’ is progressing nicely ... I’ve written almost 4,000 words so far ... and there are still a few handwritten comments in my notebook which I’ve not yet covered.   I shall spend a little more time on the draft this evening, but must try to get an early night as I’m visiting my friend Denise in Caversham tomorrow and will be setting out at 08:30.  And I will definitely be in bed earlier than last night, when I turned in at 00:30 having spent the entire evening using my laptop!


In the meantime, I found this blog from a fellow attendee of Tuesday’s event:


This weekend is the 2-day Market Rasen Festival event, and Alan King has 3 runners tomorrow:

14:50 Jubail (Wayne Hutchinson) – Juvenile Hurdle

16:30 Union Island (Wayne Hutchinson) & Wild Desert (Christian Williams) – Novices’ Hurdle


And I shall endeavour to complete and upload my diary and photos on Sunday.


Wednesday 22 September 2010


Choc 21 09 2010 1 r.jpg



As hoped, I attended the London Racing Club’s ‘An Evening with Robert Thornton’ at The Kensington Forum Hotel in London.  It was a fabulous evening, Choc entertaining us from 19:30 to almost 22:00, with just a 15-minute break.  


I travelled up to London straight from work, taking the train from my local station to St Pancras.  From there I changed onto the Piccadilly Underground line direct to Gloucester Road.  The hotel is only a 5-minute walk from the underground station and I arrived at 18:40. 


Having entered the lobby, I couldn’t see any notices directing me to the Racing Club’s event, so I joined the queue at the concierge to ask.  Amazingly, as I waited, who should walk in through the revolving doors but the man himself ... looking as gorgeous as ever!  Choc was wearing a grey pinstripe jacket, a pale pink shirt, blue jeans and black shoes.


Having discovered from the concierge that the event was taking place in a first floor meeting room, I set off through the lobby.  And, as fate would have it, Choc was still in the lobby, speaking on his mobile phone.  It was obviously not the time for being a ‘shrinking violet’, so I waited for him to finish the call and went to say hello.  And, oh wow ... as we have met a number of times before, he automatically proffered his cheek for me to kiss!  How fabulous is that?  I’m on ‘cheek kissing’ terms with the gorgeous and wonderful Choc Thornton. J


Shortly afterwards, a lady from the Racing Club arrived to collect Choc, so I excused myself and went to find the meeting room.  As I was early I found a seat in the second row (being a little too shy to sit on the front row) but, as I was next to the middle aisle, I had a clear view of Choc all evening!  


The promised interviewer, Racing UK’s Nick Luck, was unable to make it to the event, but we had a very able substitute in the Racing Post’s Andrew Barr.  It transpired that Andrew had been researching information for the event and made special mention of my useful website ... with Choc then pointing out that I was in the audience!  Although it was a little embarrassing when I immediately owned up to being Choc’s superfan and everyone looked at me!


As I intend to write a full diary entry, I will save the content of the evening’s discussions for later ...


Anyway, the event having ended, I didn’t hurry away, but went across to say goodbye to Choc and to tell him how much I had enjoyed the evening ... and was willingly allowed to proffer another kiss on his cheek J.  Wow.


I arrived back in St Albans at 23:00, collecting my car from my work car park for the drive home.  As I headed home I was nearly witness to a road accident, a car having pulled out of a turning ahead of me, narrowly missing a motorcyclist as it did so.  It must have scared the car driver almost as much as the motorcyclist, as the car mounted the pavement opposite but fortunately didn’t hit anything.


Sadly, having now uploaded my photos on my laptop, I’ve discovered the images aren’t as ‘crisp and clear’ as I’d hoped (but using the flash on the camera seemed too intrusive) ... but I will upload the best of them when I write my diary.  I also have to confess that I wear reading glasses over my contact lenses when I take photos ... and I think that may be an issue ... or it might just be that I’m a useless photographer!!! 


I must have become dehydrated last evening (not from too much drink, rather a lack of it) because I woke up with a headache this morning, which soon turned into a migraine like one, as I began to feel increasingly nauseous before being physically sick at 06:45.  However, I went back to bed and slept in until 08:00, at which time I decided that I felt a lot better so I put on my war paint and went to work!  I did feel a little drained by early afternoon, but I feel fine now. 


I’ve ordered my Kempton Park Boxing Day ticket this evening too ... although the fixture had been on my ‘attendance’ list even before the recent announcement of Choc’s appointment as their ‘Face of National Hunt Racing’ this autumn.  Another fixture I wish to attend this autumn will be Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury.  And I’m sure I will get to Cheltenham before next year’s Festival too.


Fellow Choc fan, Karen Hudson, has kindly sent me this Choc related internet link from the Sporting Life:


And Geoff Lester has updated the blog on Alan King’s site too:


Talking of Alan King, and revealed by Choc last night, it transpires that Sir Robert Ogden has moved his horses, apart from Voy Por Ustedes, from Alan King’s yard to Nicky Henderson’s (ie. Sagalyrique, Forzy Origny, and Chamirey).


A copy of Jilly Cooper’s new novel ‘Jump’ dropped onto my doormat on Monday and, after having read Richard Phillips’ blog this evening, I thought I’d read through the acknowledgements at the back of the book – Choc is one of the jockeys mentioned, and Jenny Cheshire, the Hospitality Manager at Worcester, gets a mention too!


Monday 20 September 2010

Yet again, I arrived at the supermarket just as the doors opened at 08:00, in time to buy their only copy of today’s Racing Post!


The very exciting news in today’s column is that, tomorrow evening Tuesday 21 September, Choc will be the guest of the London Racing Club where he will be appearing at ‘An Evening with Robert Thornton’!


Choc will be interviewed by Racing UK’s Nick Luck (aka Lord Snooty – a character from The Beano) and answering questions about how he got started in racing, the highlights of his career to date, and revealing stories about his time with trainers David (The Duke) Nicholson and Alan King.  Choc will also suggest a few horses for punters to follow during the coming season, and will be answering questions from the audience (which he’s admitted he’s a little nervous about). 


The event is to be held at the Kensington Forum Hotel (Holiday Inn) in Cromwell Road in London, the nearest tube station is Gloucester Road, start time 7.30 p.m. Entry is free to London Racing Club Members and £5 to non-members ... sounds like a bargain to me!!!


So, as I work just 5 minutes from my local station and it’s only a 22-minute journey on the train to St Pancras, then a single change onto the Piccadilly Line direct to Gloucester Road, the underground journey time being 19 minutes ... where else could I possibly want to be tomorrow evening?  And I’m so excited ... J


There are no Alan King or Martin Keighley trained runners at tomorrow’s Stratford meeting.


Sunday 19 September 2010

It’s great to see National Hunt racing back on the box again and, even though today’s meetings were just ‘run of the mill’ fixtures, there were a number of exciting finishes.


And there was success for the Alan King trained runner at Uttoxeter too:

Pouvoir winning the Novices’ Chase under Sam Thomas by 4½ lengths (7 ran).


The next NH meeting is held at Stratford on Tuesday.


And tomorrow being Monday, Choc’s fourth column will appear in the Racing Post – so I’ll be outside the local supermarket waiting for the doors to open at 08:00 in order to buy a copy on my way to work.


Saturday 18 September 2010

Having taken a 10 day break, National Hunt racing gets underway again tomorrow, with meetings at Plumpton and Uttoxeter. 


Alan King has a runner at the latter fixture:

16:50 Pouvoir – Novices’ Chase, to be ridden by Sam Thomas.


And I notice that stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson is also back in action tomorrow, at Uttoxeter, having now fully recovered from a broken leg sustained at Ludlow in mid-May.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Just a very brief blog, with a link to Meally Thornton’s latest Eclipse diary which was published today:

Meally’s Latest Eclipse Diary


Tuesday 14 September 2010

I confess that I didn’t see the end of last night’s final of the US Open Men’s Tennis Championship ... I gave up when the match was delayed by rain near the end of the second set.  However, Rafael Nadal won the match 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 and became only the seventh man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles.  Gone are the days when I used to stay up all night to watch Andre Agassi’s matches and then would set off to work in the morning having had no sleep ... or, maybe, just a few short catnaps!


Nadal’s opponent, Novak Djokovic, was still suffering following Saturday’s gruelling match against Roger Federer, as he was doing stretching exercises during the changeover breaks and between points too.  It was all very déjà vu as, on a number of occasions, Andre Agassi had to play the second semi-final on ‘Super Saturday’ as it’s known, only to be thrashed by Pete Sampras in the final the following day.  The ‘bigger’ crowd draw would always play the later match ... although it was even worse in those days as the Women’s final used to be sandwiched between the two men’s semi-finals! 


And I have to mention that I’m pleased that Kim Clijsters won the Women’s Singles event for the second year running too.

Monday 13 September 2010

Choc’s third Racing Post column appeared today and I was at the supermarket early this morning to buy the one and only copy their newspaper wholesaler supplies to them ... their ‘usual customer’ may soon be getting peeved that there’s never a copy available to purchase on a Monday!


In this week’s issue Choc explains why September is the wrong time to take a 10-day break in the National Hunt calendar – firstly, many of the horses are just coming back into training after their summer break and the jockeys are required by their yards for riding out and schooling; secondly, children have now returned to school for those with families; and, thirdly, it’s too expensive for some jockeys to holiday at this time of the year!


Choc’s physiotherapy is progressing well and he can now pedal properly on an exercise bike (ie. full revolutions) and can, very importantly, after warming up extend his leg fully when horizontal (a key milestone in his recovery).


And there’s very exciting news on the PR front involving my nearest racecourse – Choc is to be Kempton Park’s ‘Face of Racing’ this autumn (and a very cute face at that), and will be attending all their jumps fixtures from Sunday 17 October until the William Hill Winter Festival at Christmas (the arrival of his baby son at Christmas permitting I presume!).  Kempton Park’s aim is to get people more involved with jump racing – racegoers will get the opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes look at racing, as well as autograph and photo sessions.  Choc will be taking groups for a stroll along the final furlong, talking about the sport and answering any questions!  I like a nice walk in very pleasant company so I hope there will be no limit to the number of repeated furlongs I am permitted to cover!  LOL.


As you can imagine, I’m already getting excited at the prospect of seeing Choc at Kempton Park this autumn!  It could be a very busy weekend for me in mid-October, with the Cheltenham Showcase meeting followed by a trip to Sunbury-On-Thames! J


And I read that Jimmy McCarthy won this year’s Jump Jockeys’ Derby, which took place at Epsom last Thursday, aboard the Alan King trained King’s Troop.


This evening I’m going to watch the delayed final of the US Open Men’s Singles Championship from Flushing Meadow.  One finalist is Rafael Nadal, who is attempting to become only the seventh man in history to win all four major titles – the others being Fred Perry (1930s); Don Budge (1930s); Rod Laver (1960s); Roy Emerson (1960s); Andre Agassi (1990s); and Roger Federer (2000s).  The other finalist is Novak Djokovic, who played brilliantly during a 5-set match on Saturday evening to knock Roger Federer out of the tournament ... hooray!  Hopefully, with the 24 hour delay due to bad weather, Djokovic will have recovered enough to put up a fight against Nadal.  But I don’t mind who wins!


And I loved last Wednesday’s new episode of Midsomer Murders ‘Blood on the Saddle’ – it was very witty in places and must now be classed as one of my favourites too.  Other particular favourites are Death’s Shadow, Beyond the Grave, Dark Autumn, Death and Dreams, The Straw Woman, Four Funerals and a Wedding, and The Axeman Cometh.


And I’m looking forward to Strictly Come Dancing starting at the beginning of next month, having watched the introduction programme last Saturday when the celebrities were introduced and paired up with this season’s dancers.

Wednesday 08 September 2010

Martin Keighley had two runners at Uttoxeter this afternoon and this is how they fared:

The Fox’s Decree finished 6th in the Handicap Hurdle (11 ran).

Le Brocquy was pulled up in the Handicap Chase (8 ran).  The ATR race notes state that he made an error at the 2nd last which resulted in jockey Warren Marston losing his irons.


National Hunt racing now takes a break until Sunday 19 September – 10 days.


Irish ex-jockey Charlie Swan won the Legends race held at Doncaster today.  The race was organised by former trainer Jack Berry to raise money to build an injured jockeys facility in the north similar to Oaksey House in Lambourn:  At The Races - Swan leads Legends home


The heavens opened 5 minutes before I reached home this evening, so I got soaked!  Drat.


This evening I shall watch a brand new episode of Midsomer Murders – Blood on the Saddle – set against the background of a Wild West themed fair.  The locations, I gather, are Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire (a very picturesque village – yes, I have been there on one of my rambling excursions and have been for a drink in The Eight Bells too), Rickmansworth (Stockers Farm which was used to film the Black Beauty TV series many moons ago), and Littleworth Common (I don’t know this particular location).

I had been hoping to visit my friend Denise in Caversham this Saturday, but unfortunately both she and her husband have now got colds and I can’t risk bringing the virus back home, as a close family member is undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the present time. 

Tuesday 07 September 2010

The rain fell and the going changed at Sedgefield, so Martin Keighley decided to keep his horses at home today and is hoping they will have suitable conditions to run at Uttoxeter tomorrow:

15:30 The Fox’s Decree – Handicap Hurdle

17:40 Le Brocquy – Handicap Chase

Again both to be ridden by Warren Marston.


And, as I write this diary, I’m watching Laytown races taking place on the beach in Ireland!

Monday 06 September 2010

Yet again I was eager to obtain a copy of today’s Racing Post, which contained the second edition of Choc’s new column.  Luckily one of my possible routes to walk to work passes my local supermarket and I even arrived a few minutes before their 08:00 opening time! 


Anyway, in today’s column Choc tells us about a Media Training course he’s undergone, organised by JETS (Jockeys’ Employment and Training Scheme) ... and he has discovered that being an interviewee is very different from playing the role of TV presenter, the latter experience being very scary indeed!  But, fortunately, he’s going to persevere. 


He also writes about the fantastic support that the injured jockeys receive – financial support from PRIS (Professional Riders’ Insurance Scheme) – jockeys being covered for up to 18 months from the date of their injury, and the benefits they receive is linked to the number of rides they had during the previous season; and also the wonderful physiotherapy and rehab facilities offered by the IJF (The Injured Jockeys’ Fund) and also direct financial help if required.


Choc, along with Graham Lee, Mattie Batchelor, Paddy Brennan and Richard Johnson also did some modelling last week organised by Cheltenham’s Commercial and Operations Manager, Becky Morgan, for shirt-maker Thomas Pink.  The company sponsors the leading trainer and jockey awards at the Cheltenham November meeting and at the Festival in March.  The photos will be used throughout the year in various publications.


Tomorrow, a couple of Martin Keighley’s horses take the long trip up to Sedgefield:

16:10 The Fox’s Decree – Handicap Hurdle

16:45 Le Brocquy – Handicap Chase

both to be ridden by Warren Marston


I’ve had a look through my collection of novels to read and have chosen Under Orders by Dick Francis – the book features the fictional one-armed ex-jockey Sid Halley who, I recall, appeared in 3 earlier novels written by the author.  I’ve read all 39 of the late Dick Francis’ earlier fiction books.  This book starts off recounting events on Gold Cup day and, having been to Cheltenham on a number of occasions now, I can clearly picture the scene.


I stayed up to watch Andy Murray’s match at the US Open late last night – a very disappointing result, but the pressure must be immense on the player when we have just one British representative of a high standard as compared to, say, France or Spain who both have a number of players in the last 16 of the competition.


Ex-player and now Sky pundit Greg Rusedski , when discussing Murray’s disappointing loss, suggested that perhaps Andy should contact Andre Agassi and Darren Cahill (Andre’s coach during his final tennis playing years) to get advice and guidance – I wonder if he will?  I understand Andre was Andy’s tennis player hero when he was growing up.

Sunday 05 September 2010

It’s been a quiet few days for Choc-related news ... however, the second edition of Choc’s new column appears in tomorrow’s Racing Post and this week he’s going to be writing about the career possibilities he might pursue when he retires which, hopefully, is still a number of years into the future!


More news on Alan King’s website about the horses in training this season:


National Hunt racing’s only ‘official break’ starts on Thursday, giving the jockeys an opportunity to take a brief holiday before the remainder of the season commences from Sunday 19 September onwards.


I tuned into At The Races this weekend to watch the racing from Stratford Upon Avon yesterday and from Fontwell Park and Worcester today.  Coverage of the US Open tennis also continues and I’ve tuned in to watch a number of matches, I’ve been busy with my next cross stitch project, and I also became engrossed and have finished a very good novel ‘Outside Chance’ written by Lyndon Stacey.   

Wednesday 01 September 2010

Poor Fox’s Decree, he finished 2nd again today, this time in the Novices’ Hurdle at Hereford and must be due a win soon (11 ran).


As hoped, Meally Thornton’s latest Eclipse diary was published today - Meally’s Eclipse diary


Director Steven Spielberg is currently shooting the film version of War Horse with a number of jockeys, old and new such as Robert Bellamy and Richard Killoran, taking part as film extras – Kim Bailey has been recounting details in recent blogs.


The weather has been beautifully pleasant in Hertfordshire for the past couple of days; however it appears to be absolutely scorching in New York where the US Open Tennis Championships are taking place for the next two weeks.  I enjoyed watching a 5-set match between Novak Djokovic and fellow Serbian Troicki yesterday evening.  Djokovic looked certain to lose for much of the match, but somehow survived.  And as I write this blog, Andy Murray is on court for his first round match.




Rounded Rectangle: RETURN TO BLOG INDEX
Rounded Rectangle: RETURN TO HOME PAGE