Kempton Park 16 October 2011


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 1 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 2 red.jpg


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 3 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 4 red.jpg


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 5 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 6 red.jpg



Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 7 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 8 red.jpg


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 9 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 10 red.jpg



Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Choc 11 red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Binocular red.jpg


Final furlong course-walk with Choc


Kempton Park 16 October 2011


William Hill Christmas Hurdle winner

and former Champion Hurdler Binocular parades.


Kempton Park 16 October 2011


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Total Submission red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Total Submission 2 red.jpg


The Martin Keighley trained

Total Submission parades before

the 3 mile Handicap Chase


Kempton Park 16 October 2011



One circuit to go, Total Submission,

with AP McCoy aboard


Kempton Park 16 October 2011


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Sky Calling red.jpg

Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Sky Calling 2 red.jpg


The Martin Keighley trained

Sky Calling parades before

the 2 mile Handicap Chase


Kempton Park 16 October 2011



Sky Calling canters to the start

with Tom Scudamore aboard


Kempton Park 16 October 2011


Kempton Park 16 Oct 2011 Sky Calling 3 red.jpg


The horses clear the final fence with one circuit to go.

Left to right: Callisto Moon (Mark Grant); Mister Matt (AP McCoy);

Dean’s Grange (Joe Tizzard); Sky Calling (Tom Scudamore);

Zorro de La Vega (Charlie Huxley) – the eventual winner.





I’d not been racing since 05 August and this weekend, as described by Choc via his Twitter account, was looking bleak for riding engagements.  Choc had no rides on either the Friday or Saturday of Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting, and none at Kempton Park on Sunday.  Very bleak ... all caused by the lack of rain this autumn, with runners from the Alan King yard being few and far between. 

Thinking that I would be spending the next two days at home, I left work on Friday feeling down at the prospect of yet another ‘Choc free’ weekend looming.  However, that was all to change when I logged into Twitter later that evening to discover that Choc had re-tweeted a message from Kempton Park; it stated that he would be leading another final furlong course-walk at 13:30 on Sunday.  YES!  I just had to be there, despite having already done the walk 4 times last season!  Martin Keighley had two runners at the fixture – Total Submission and Sky Calling. 

I started to plan for Sunday.  Firstly, what to wear?  It had been an unusually dry and mild October ... hence the lack of rides for Choc ... so how many clothing layers did I need?  I spent much of Friday evening rummaging through the wardrobe – I settled for my cerise top, although slightly tight now, my having put on weight during the summer due to inactivity related to my current sinus and respiratory problems.  Dark blue jeans, blue ankle boots, navy blue fleece, burgundy cardigan and purple jacket.  Plus a flowery scarf, the one I’d worn at Aintree.

I spent Saturday afternoon watching the QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot and the second day of the Cheltenham Showcase meeting on TV.  There was much furore when the jockey aboard the French-trained winner of the Champion Stakes, Christophe Soumillion, received a 5-day ban under the new whip rules (which came into effect on 10 October 2011) – he hit his mount 6 times within the final furlong, the new rule stating that only 5 strikes were allowed.  He also lost his very substantial percentage of the prize money – over £40,000!  The BHA is crazy for instigating such rules just to please the occasional race-goer!

Sunday dawned misty, but this soon cleared.  I showered and washed my hair, applied my war paint and by 10:50 I was ready to set off.  My route took me to join the M25 at Junction 21A.  The road widening scheme had now moved eastwards from this section of the motorway so there were no speed restrictions in place, apart from on the slip-road.  However, the ‘lanes’ have been reconfigured at the junction, and the inside lane at the Kings Langley junction now filters off to the left.   

My journey went smoothly and I left the M25 at the M3 junction, heading towards London.  I left this motorway at Junction 1 and took the Hampton Court turning, driving past the main entrance to the racecourse and entering the driveway further along, in order to park my vehicle for free.  It was 11:40 when I arrived.  As the gates were due to open at 12:15, I remained in my car for a few minutes, consuming a couple of the cheese rolls I’d bought along with me. 

Shortly afterwards I set off to walk to the main entrance.  A number of punters had already arrived, some waited outside the ticket hall, others inside.  Many appeared to already have tickets.  I can rarely purchase tickets in advance, as my plans usually involve Choc making an appearance ... and I never know that until a day or maybe two before a fixture takes place.  The Cheltenham Festival, the Aintree Festival, Kempton’s King George day and Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury being the exceptions, when I purchase tickets in advance, regardless.  Although, of course, it’s always a bonus if Choc is riding at the meeting. 

Whilst I was waiting, I recall Andrew Thornton and Denis O’Regan arrived.  There was no sign of the Chocmobile in the car park as yet. The gates opened on time and I was one of the first ‘on the day’ ticket purchasers to enter.  I immediately made a beeline for the kiosk selling race-cards.  After a quick scan through it to find out if arrangements for the course-walk were the same as previously ... yes they were ... I headed for the racecourse office to sign up.  Today I was third on the list.

Having signed up, I headed for the little girls room and then returned to sit at one of the tables on the concourse.  From my vantage point I saw Choc arrive at 12:35, he was wearing a dark coloured suit and was carrying his green Hunter wellies.  He headed towards the Weighing Room.  The instructions for the course-walk stated that I should report to Gate Q at 13:25, so I remained seated at the table until 13:15 before heading to the rendezvous point.

As on previous occasions, Victoria Schlesinger came to collect the group and we walked down to just beyond the first fence; Choc had exited via the horse-walk entrance and came down the course to meet up with us.  He asked if anyone had done the walk before ... “yes, I know Jane has!”  One couple, first time race-goers, asked me who Choc was; they thought it too rude to ask him direct.  I explained. 

Choc talked about the second last fence in a race being the most important; the one at which they were often travelling the fastest.  Hence the reason the penultimate fence on Cheltenham’s OId Course had been re-positioned to cause fewer problems to the competitors.  He said the going at Kempton, which had been watered, looked in good condition today, lush and green; unlike Cheltenham, which he said didn’t look too good over the weekend. 

Someone asked why National Hunt horses have to carry so much weight?  In a lot of cases they are bigger, stronger and more mature than a lot of flat bred horses so it is not a problem.  Besides, Choc said he’d be far too heavy to be a jockey if they were to carry less weight! 

How fast does a horse gallop?  Some can travel at over 40 mph; but Choc has never ridden any which can gallop that fast.

Not surprisingly, the issue of the new whip rules was raised.  Choc said they were ‘crap’; although he was not in favour of the jockeys going on strike.  He believes it is impossible to remain within the guidelines in the heat of a finish to a valuable race when instinct would take over and everyone would do their utmost to win regardless; it might be different if it was a selling hurdle! 

He said there are just too many things to think about whilst riding a race finish; plus it’s very difficult to suddenly be forced to re-learn, especially without a ‘bedding-in’ period.  He experimented by counting how many strikes he gave his mounts when he rode at Fontwell Park recently; he discovered afterwards that he’d hit the horses almost twice as many times as he’d thought at the time! 

However, Choc did say that Alan King’s horses were trained to ‘travel’ during a race, so it shouldn’t be such a problem with horses from his retaining yard; but it might be more difficult for other stables where the horses often front runners and need more encouragement towards the finish. 

He said Richard Hughes can afford to hand in his licence on principle, but the majority of other jockeys cannot.  He said it was very unfair that Christian Soumillion had lost thousands of pounds in prize money yesterday just because he’d hit his mount once too often within the final furlong.  He watched the racing from Cheltenham on TV yesterday and said one jockey had transgressed ... Choc said he wouldn’t name him ... I personally think it was Ruby, as I had been counting too!  The general view was that the stewards wouldn’t dare pull ‘the nameless jockey’ up on it!!! 

Choc asked if we knew the professional background of the Chairman of the BHA, the organisation responsible for imposing the new whip rules.  I didn’t answer, as the previous day I’d read Choc’s tweet regarding this enquiry. Someone had told him that Paul Roy was an investment banker.  Hardly qualified to know about riding in the heat of a race. 

Everyone was wondering if a ‘spotter’ was employed to watch each jockey in a race ... if this was indeed the case, it would mean a lot of manpower at the Cheltenham Festival when there might be 28 runners in a number of the races!

Choc did mention that, although the whip rules had changed, it was still possible to ride using spurs, provided they were declared, and that was far worse than a whip.  And it had been discussed, half jokingly, amongst the racing fraternity!  Also, the jockeys had wondered whether they should all hit their horses once too often, so that everyone got a ban.

With the time of the first race fast approaching, the discussion came to an end.  But not before many of the group had posed for photos with Choc, including a number of children.  I was the last to leave; I gave him a kiss on the cheek, thanked him and said that I hoped the rain would arrive soon.  He hoped so too.

I returned to the Parade Ring in time to see the horses prior to them setting off to the start of the first race.  For the majority of races throughout the afternoon, I stood on the steps of the grandstand to watch, returning in between to the Parade Ring.  The exceptions were the race in which Total Submission ran, and also Sky Calling’s race, when I went to stand beside the course-side rails so as to take photographs as they cleared the nearest steeplechase fence.   

The afternoon’s results were as follows:

The Juvenile Hurdle was won by the Sheena West trained Alfraamsey, ridden by Marc Goldstein.  Oceans Destination fell at the second flight, his jockey Colin Bolger was stood down for the remainder of the afternoon having injured a knee.

The Paul Webber trained grey Australia Day under Denis O’Regan romped away with the Beginners’ Chase, winning by 51 lengths!  But he was the odds-on favourite. 

Former Champion Hurdler and winner of last season’s William Hill Christmas Hurdle, Binocular, was paraded before the third race.  Sam Waley-Cohen, rider of King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Long Run, was also interviewed whilst the horses were in the Parade Ring ahead of the third race. 

The third race, a listed Novices’ Hurdle was won by the Tim Vaughan trained Elsafeer, ridden by Richard Johnson.

The Martin Keighley trained Total Submission was very late arriving in the Parade Ring prior to the fourth race; the bell had already sounded to signal the jockeys to get mounted and AP McCoy, who was to ride the horse, was becoming restless!

This 3 mile Handicap Chase was won by the Chris Gordon trained Ballagio, ridden by Tom Cannon.  Total Submission was pulled up.  Martin Keighley later reported that the horse had pulled a shoulder muscle.

The Class 2 Hurdle race was won by Pepe Simo, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Daryl Jacob.  Nearby completed in 2nd.  Via Galilei finished last of the 4 runners, having badly sweated up in the Parade Ring.

The 2 mile Handicap Chase was won by favourite Zorro De La Vega, trained by Sarah Humphrey and ridden by Charlie Huxley.  Callisto Moon fell two out when leading; Martin Keighley’s runner Sky Calling fell at the last when booked for second place.  The mare was fine although she must have cut her head, as her trainer reported she had a few staples in it!

The final race, a National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle, was won by the favourite Fennis Boy, trained by Tim Vaughan and ridden by Richard Johnson.

Having stayed until after the last race, traffic was queued at the exit point onto the main road.  Having then driven back towards the main entrance, there was a further queue to reach the junction with the M3; however I was soon on my way towards the M25.  There must have been an earlier accident, as warning signs were displayed on the motorway, but no hazards materialised.   

There was slow moving traffic on the M25 clockwise carriageway near the Heathrow, M4 and M40 junctions but no-holdups thereafter. 

I arrived home at 18:55.  Just time for a quick meal before watching the Strictly Come Dancing results show; Dan Lobb was voted off on this occasion, a surprise.  I uploaded my photographs onto the laptop, watched Downton Abbey ... in the background ... and wrote my blog too. 

And also discovered the very sad news that the 5-year-old Mille Chief had been put down after breaking a hind leg on the gallops the previous day.  A big loss to the Alan King yard.  Hopes had been high that he would become a real contender for the 2012 Champion Hurdle, having matured.  Sadly it was not to be.  A young and very talented horse; we shall never know how good he could have been.  RIP.




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