Worcester Friday 05 August 2011

The Pershore Plum Festival

Family Race Day

featuring the Jump Jockeys Annual Charity Football Match


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Choc waits with trainer Richard Lee and son Tom Lee,

the Morning Line presenter.



In the Parade Ring, Choc aboard Marleybow

ahead of the feature steeplechase event.

The horse wins the ‘gurning’ competition!

In the background are Daryl Jacob and

Paul Nicholls’ Assistant Trainer Dan Skelton


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One circuit to go; right to left:

Choc aboard Marleybow; Daryl Jacob aboard Rowdy Rampage (the eventual winner);

Bold Perk (Conor O’Farrell); The Ferbane Man (Aidan Coleman);

Lost Glory (AP McCoy);


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First half, the Rest of the World Team (in red),

attack the Irish team’s goal.


Commentator and valet, Phil Taylor (blue shirt);

with ATR presenter Luke Harvey.

The blonde lady on right of picture is

Worcester’s Hospitality Manager, Jenny Cheshire


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Choc watches the match



My favourite jockey again


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And here he is again



Choc and colleagues

chat to ATR’s Luke Harvey


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Choc chats with a colleague



I believe this is the second half of the match ...

Choc is a distraction!


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Choc in repose!



It’s that man again ... beautiful hair!

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The match is over for another year ...

The Rest of the World team wins 4 – Nil

Alan King’s second jockey, Wayne Hutchinson, playing for the Rest of the World Team (red)

can be seen centre frame (to the right of the yellow shirted goalie).





This year it was touch and go as to whether I’d be able to attend the Pershore Plum Festival and Family race day featuring the Jump Jockeys Annual Charity Football March at Worcester racecourse.  Months ago I’d booked the day as leave from work but, unfortunately, I’d been struck down with sinus and breathing problems since mid-May, and these had taken a serious turn for the worse in early July when I’d woken up during the night on eight out of ten days feeling nauseous, my hands and feet tingly plus, when each ‘episode’ subsided, I experienced the shakes!  As a result, I’d been signed off work by my doctor for over three weeks, returning just two days before my planned trip to Worcester. 


However, one thing I knew about my as yet undiagnosed problem was that I felt a lot better from being outdoors!  At the time, my doctor had applied for me to see an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist but I was still waiting to receive news of an appointment; the thought being that I might have nasal polyps.    


Had Choc had no riding engagements at the fixture, then I’d probably have remained at home.  But, in the event, he had one riding engagement, Marleybow, in the feature race of the day for trainer Richard Lee.  So I made provisional plans to attend, all dependent on how well I felt when I awoke on the morning of the fixture; bearing in mind that Worcester is over 100 miles away from my home and that I’d not driven my car since the end of June, apart from a short trip to the petrol station to top up the fuel tank the previous Sunday.


Anyway, I got my belongings together in the hope of a trip to Worcester; although I did feel a little out of practice and had to refer to my racing checklist to ensure I’d not forgotten anything!  This included charging my camera batteries ... I take three, one in the camera and two charged spares.  I also sorted out some suitable clothing – a plum/pink/green Wallis tunic top; a cranberry coloured cardigan, brown trousers, dark brown M & S footgloves sandals (they were an absolute bargain – bought for just £9 last year in the sale – I bought a sand coloured pair at the same time too).  However, despite my checklist, I did forget to take my sunglasses ... but that was probably because I wasn’t expecting so much sunshine! 


Friday arrived and, I’m pleased to say, I felt fine; although viewing the long drive to Worcester with slight trepidation!  I showered and washed and dried my hair, and applied my war-paint, including sun block on my face.  I set off on my trip at 09:15; travelling via the Colney Fields retail park where I visited my favourite store - Marks and Spencer.  The purpose of my shopping trip was to buy a pack of ankle length ‘sock tights’, as I couldn’t find any new pairs at home to wear today. 


But, you can guess the outcome; having picked up 4 packs (5 pairs in each) of sock tights for just £2.50 each, I took a wander around the store.  My eye was caught by a magenta coloured cardigan, with frills around the bottom; nice fit; I’ll buy that then!  I also found a long ink coloured (ie. blue) slouchy cardigan which fitted nicely too; I’ll buy that too!!!  I decided to look no further, as I can’t afford to buy lots of clothes because I’ve just purchased my tickets for next Year’s Grand National, soon I need to purchase my Cheltenham Festival tickets, and I must replace an old and faulty video recorder with a VCR/DVD recorder or hard disk/DVD recorder as soon as possible.


My perusal of the clothing racks and visit to the till to pay meant that I drove out of the car park at 10:00 to start my trip to Worcester.  My route took me along the A414 to Hemel Hempstead, then along the A41 to Aylesbury and Bicester.  It was now 11:00.  There was a hold-up on the Bicester bypass as, due to the current re-routing of the dual carriageway which leads to the A34/M40 junction, the inside lane slip road (opposite the petrol station) was closed.  Since my trip to Stratford in late May, a roundabout has been constructed at the Chesterton turning; and there’s also a new 40 mph speed limit in operation!


I subsequently joined the northbound carriageway of the M40; leaving at the Banbury junction.  Another road-works related hold-up near the large Tesco’s supermarket; the curbs were being raised in Ruscote Avenue.  After the short delay, I took the A422 to Stratford Upon Avon, where I had a slight lapse, and ended up driving through Shottery!  Not a problem however, as I know my way through the residential area to re-join the A422 – because on my first few visits to Stratford races I drove to the Stratford Upon Avon/Warwick junction of the M40 and would take a short-cut along Church Lane to reach the racecourse! 


I was soon heading for Worcester once more, along the A46 to Alcester; turning right along the A435; then left, where the road is once more designated the A422.  A right-turn in the village of Arrow, and onwards to cross the A441, then through the village of Inkberrow and westwards to join the A44.  My route then took me over a bridge across the M5 motorway after which I turned left, heading along Swinesherd Way to a large roundabout; I then turned right into Whittington Road and began the long descent into Worcester.   


However, it was now 12:45; lunchtime.  I soon joined a queue of traffic waiting to reach the town centre, and it took me another 35 minutes to reach the racecourse car park!  Whilst I was stuck in the traffic queue, I noticed racehorse trainer Simon Earle’s horsebox ahead of me.  My fourth trip to Worcester races, the third time I’d driven to the course and, finally, I was able to select all the correct traffic lanes to reach the course!  Not that I’d taken any wrong turnings in the past, but I did have to rely on other drivers’ courtesy to allow me to push in front them to reach my destination!


The car park is in the centre of the racecourse, and I had arrived one hour before the first race.  I brought my lunch with me, so I ate that before heading across the racecourse to the turnstiles to purchase a ticket (£15) and a race-card (£3).  I popped to the loo within the main grandstand, before heading down the path to the area between the Parade Ring and the home straight, where I would remain for most of the afternoon.     


The first race, a Claiming Hurdle, was won by the David Pipe trained American Art, ridden by Conor O’Farrell.  The winning horse was not claimed.   


Before the second race of the day, I had a very pleasant and unexpected treat ... Choc must have been in the sauna and, for a few moments, he came out to stand on the steps beside the Weighing Room with just a rust coloured towel wrapped around his nether regions! 

The second race of the day, a Novices’ Hurdle, was won by the Lady Herries trained Geneva Geyser, ridden by Leighton Aspell.  This was the horse’s third consecutive win.

The third race of the day was a Novices’ Chase, with the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Sam Twiston-Davies ridden, Mad Moose receiving the race in the Stewards’ Room.  This was because he’d been beaten a mere short-head by Timmy Murphy’s mount, Vertige Dore, the latter having hung badly approaching the last and interfered with Mad Moose!  The reversal must have come as a surprise to nearby punters, as I overheard them expressing the view that the stewards at Worcester never revise a result following an enquiry!

The fourth race, a Handicap Hurdle, was won by Red Not Blue trained by Simon Earle and ridden by Andrew Thornton.  Red Not Blue must have been travelling in the horsebox I’d seen in the lunchtime traffic queue!

The fifth race of the day was a Selling Handicap Hurdle.  It was won by the AJ Whitehead trained, Chris Timmons ridden, Ton-Chee.  There were no bids for the winning horse ... no surprise, as the horse was a 12-year-old!

It was now time for Choc’s one and only ride of the day, aboard the Richard Lee trained Marleybow; who was wearing blinkers today.  Richard and his son Tom, the latter who can often be seen on Channel 4’s The Morning Line presenter panel, were the only connections of the horse at the races today.  Soon Choc arrived in the Parade Ring to speak with them ahead of the race; he was legged up on the far side of the Parade Ring and led around to exit onto the course. 

The start of this race was at the beginning of the back straight, with almost two full circuits to travel; the race being 2 miles and 7 furlongs in distance.  It was to be a race of incidents.  Then they were off.  The first casualty was Kirkhammerton, who took a nasty tumble at the first.  The horse was fine, but initially it didn’t look good for jockey Danny Cook ... however, despite treatment, he was okay to play in the jockeys’ football match following racing; just sporting a plaster on his chin!  The second casualty was the Evan Williams trained Cold Harbour, who unseated his jockey at the second.

Sadly, the Emma Lavelle trained Troy Tempest, who fell heavily at the eighth fence, died instantly from what appeared to be a broken neck.  It was a horrible incident; but fortunately jockey Jack Doyle was fine.  On the second circuit, the first fence in the back straight was dolled off, as Danny Cook was being treated on the landing side.  Green screens had been erected around the lifeless Troy Tempest, and the field was waived around the fence, it being the penultimate obstacle.

Choc’s mount had blundered badly at the fourth fence but was still in with a chance of a placed finish when he broke down before the last, so Choc steered him around the final fence and dismounted as soon as they’d come to a halt.  The race was won by the Paul Nicholls trained Rowdy Rampage, ridden by Daryl Jacob.  Grovemere, who Choc had ridden twice this season (to win over hurdles at Ffos Las and to be placed third in his first attempt over fences here at Worcester) finished second today, ridden by Paddy Brennan.

Marleybow’s stable-lass and Tom Lee walked down the course to collect the horse, followed shortly afterwards by the trainer.  The bandage on the horse’s near-fore was removed and they felt down the tendon behind his cannon bone.  A horse ambulance came to collect him, as he was very lame. Choc, having removed his saddle, walked back to the Weighing Room with Richard and Tom.  The second horse ambulance removed Troy Tempest’s body from the course.  Very sad, only a 6-year-old, and no more Stingray references either.

Following the race I set off to buy an ice-cream from the van situated beside the grandstand.  A double ‘Mr Whippy’ style ice-cream, but I decided not to ask for the addition of a Flake!  Whilst I ate the ice-cream, I went to look at the Silent Auction items displayed on A-boards outside the Racing Welfare tent.

The Auction items included a day with Channel 4 Racing; a stable visit to Paul Nicholls for two; a stable visit to Jonjo O’Neill Racing at Jackdaw’s Castle; a stable visit to Dr Richard Newland’s yard; a visit to Richard Phillips’ yard; racing, hospitality and course-walk with a top jockey at Cheltenham; two tickets and hospitality to see Katy Perry at the O2 arena; and a pair of John Smiths 2011 Grand National breeches signed by winning jockey Jason Maguire and other national hunt jockeys (including Choc – his signature was on the top right-hand side, by the waistband!)  I’d love a pair of Choc’s breeches; worn and unwashed!!!

I then popped to the loo; before catching the end of race 7, Division I of the Standard Open NH Flat Race.  It was won by Peter The Horse, trained by EV Stanford and ridden by Mr JM Quinlan.  The final race of the day was Division II of this event, which was won by Bevnott, who veered across the course but still won; ridden by Matt Crawley and trained by Lucy Wadham.

Once the horses had been led away following the last race, spectators were permitted to make their way to the football pitch, which was located mid-course.  My route took me via the Parade Ring exit point, across the home straight and through a small gate to enter the area where the jockeys park their vehicles.  I was very pleased to see that the Chocmobile was parked a few rows back as, although Choc no longer plays in the annual charity football match, it meant that he would probably stay behind to watch (as he had done so two years ago).  Last year Choc had been sidelined due to his knee injury and was away in Yorkshire attending his sister-in-law’s wedding on this day.

I went to stand to the side of the nearest goal and, when Choc returned to his car, I went across to speak with him.  I asked about Marleybow’s injury; Choc said he would be okay, but will probably be off the racecourse for around a year or so. 

He also mentioned how quiet his book of rides has been this summer; he’s never known anything like it.  I can vouch for that, as I keep track of his rides in my (almost) daily blog and it has been very noticeable that he’s had just one or even none at a lot of fixtures. 

I must confess that I still get a little tongue-tied in Choc’s presence ... but that’s because I’m shy and retiring by nature!

Having said farewell to Choc, I returned to my vantage point near the goal.  Choc was asked to sign autographs and pose for photos, he then passed close by me (I said ‘Hi’ again) and he went to meet up with colleagues who were watching from the sidelines. 

Not surprisingly, Choc was very much a distraction, although he did disappear to the Weighing Room for a short time during the early part of the second half.  However, despite finding it hard to drag my gaze away from my favourite jockey, I can report that the Rest of the World team beat the Irish team 4 – Nil! 

I must mention that Alan King’s second jockey, Wayne Hutchinson, was a member of the Ladbrokes Rest of the World Team, and that Arena Leisure Irish Team member, Stephen Donovan, suffered an ankle injury and was substituted.  As usual, valet Phil Taylor, commentated on the match; Luke Harvey filmed the match for ATR.

After the match, the players returned to the Weighing Room to change; Choc accompanied them.  It was now time for me to depart.  I returned to my car; it was one of only two remaining in the main section of the car park!  I set off for home at 20:05. 


Being August, there was still around an hour of daylight left; I wound down the car window to guarantee that I got plenty of fresh air into my lungs to ensure I didn’t get sleepy!  It had, after all, been a long day, and I had over 100 miles to cover on my trip back to Hertfordshire. 


Instead of returning via Stratford Upon Avon, I headed along the A44 towards Evesham; up the steep Cotswold escarpment beside Broadway Tower and through Bourton On The Hill and Moreton In Marsh.  My route then took me through Chipping Norton, and south-eastwards towards Oxford; I turned off the road at Enstone and headed along the B4030 to Bicester.  Darkness fell as I travelled along this most difficult part of my route, but I made it safely to Bicester and then along the A41 to Aylesbury. 


There was a minor hold-up on the Aylesbury ring-road; resurfacing work.  And again on the A41 east of the town; further resurfacing work!  The perils of travelling in the late evening.  My route then took me along the A41 dual carriageway bypass past Tring and Berkhamsted to Hemel Hempstead, where I encountered an un-signposted diversion; yet more resurfacing work, this time on the infamous ‘magic roundabout’.  Having a very good sense of direction, I decided to go via the Adeyfield housing estate; I knew my way because I’d visited Hemel Hempstead Hospital’s Urgent Care Unit less than a month ago, having felt extremely unwell in connection with my current sinus and related breathing problems.


Anyway, my journey then continued along the A414 to the Park Street and then the London Colney roundabouts and home.  I arrived back at 22:40.


All in all, it had been a ‘magical’ day, as not only did I see and speak to the most gorgeous guy in the whole world ... Choc of course ... but it reaffirmed the fact that I adore him with all my heart! Y





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