Worcester Friday 06 August 2010

The Pershore Plum Festival

Family Fun Race Day


Worcester 6 Aug 10 Deep Reflection 1 r.jpg

Worcester 6 Aug 10 Deep Reflection 2 r.jpg

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 a r.jpg

Deep Reflection and

Travelling Head Girl,

Marie Bunce

Deep Reflection and

Travelling Head Girl,

Marie Bunce again

And the

Rest of the World Team’s

goalie is ... Sam Thomas

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 b r.jpg

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 c r.jpg

Sam Thomas again


Before leaving for home,

AP McCoy stops for

a brief chat with Sam Thomas

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 d r.jpg

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 e r.jpg

Irish vs Rest of the World 6 8 10 f r.jpg

Left to right: Sam Thomas, William Kennedy, Luke Harvey (yes, that Luke Harvey!) and Liam Treadwell

The end of the match,

The Rest of the World Team

wins 4-3

Choc’s valet, Phil Taylor, who commentated on the match is pictured centre right (in blue)




As Choc is on the long list of injured National Hunt jockeys as I write this entry, I shall give a brief overview of my day at Worcester, but not describe each individual race on this occasion. 


I’d booked this day off work as soon as I’d discovered that the ‘Jockeys Football’ fixture had been moved from early September to early August.  It being last November when I was talking with Jenny Cheshire, the Hospitality Manager at Worcester, in connection to arranging details of my Choc related auction prize.  And my friend Lesley had also expressed an interest in attending this particular fixture. 


My first task of the day was to drop into work at 08:45 to collect a huge (4 foot x 3 foot?) ‘Star Performer’ photograph of yours truly which, having adorned our office wall for the past 3 years, has now been replaced by one of the more recent incumbents of this title!  Well, they were going to dispose of all the ‘old’ photos of employees, so I thought I might as well bring it home as it was offered to me ...


Having dropped-off the photograph at my home, I set off at 09:15 to collect Lesley from her home in Bedfordshire.  My journey would certainly take me through much of the English countryside, and a number of counties.  Setting off from Lesley’s house just before 10:00, our route took us via Aylesbury, Bicester, Banbury, and Stratford Upon Avon.  I love the countryside in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire ... I really must ask my friend Fay if she’d like to go for a ramble, perhaps in the Cotswolds, as she enjoys walking too.


We arrived in Worcester just after 12:00; the traffic was heavy in the area near the Cathedral (which I’d like to visit one day, as I’m interested in architecture).  We parked centre course, setting off to purchase two £12 grandstand tickets, plus race-cards.


Having walked down the concourse to the Parade Ring, staying a few minutes during which time a number of the jockeys arrived including AP McCoy, we then proceeded to the grandstand to visit the little girls’ room (more information than you needed) and to purchase a drink.  With plenty of time in hand, we returned to the Parade Ring. 


Soon afterwards a procession took place of the Hook Norton Brewery Shires and Dray.  The dray was carrying someone dressed up in a Pershore Purple Plum outfit, a lady disguised as Queen Victoria, and they were accompanied by the Plum Princess.  Although, as Lesley pointed out, it is highly unlikely Queen Victoria would have been seen riding in the back of a brewer’s dray! 


Whilst we were waiting for the horses to arrive prior to the first race, we saw Martin Keighley heading for the Weighing Room, so I called across to him to say hello.  He told us Belinda and baby Harry would be along in a minute and, glancing towards the grandstand, we saw her pushing the pram and heading our way.  We went over to say hello to little Harry, who was having his first ever visit to the races.  Martin had mentioned that Freddie was spending the day with his childminder.  Belinda told us that their runner, Deep Reflection, was a ‘bit of a monkey’ and they didn’t know whether he’d decide to put his best hoof forward today!


The first race came and went – Deep Reflection, despite the aid of stable jockey Warren Marston, finished last of the runners to cross the line (13 ran, with 2 having been pulled up).  That was my Toteplacepot destroyed after just one race!!!  But I hasten to add that I’d placed my bet before I’d spoken with Belinda!


Just for the record, my ‘rubbish’ placepot was:

Race 1: Deep Reflection – 11th of 13

Race 2: Mzuri Bay – 5th of 14

Race 3: Intac – 4th of 5

Race 4: Whenever – a late non-runner

Race 5: Looks The Business – 8th of 14

Race 6: Rifleman – a winner!!!


One of the main aims of this particular race day is to raise money for the Racing Welfare charity, with a raffle and an auction of ‘money can’t buy’ prizes taking place throughout the afternoon.  Only, of course, money does buy the items if you can afford it!

One of the prizes to be auctioned was a pair of Sam Thomas’ breeches signed by the jockeys who won at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival – which included a number of signatures from Choc (as he was top jockey with four winners: My Way De Solzen – the Arkle; Voy Por Ustedes – Champion Chase; Andreas – Grand Annual; Katchit – Triumph Hurdle).  It’s a pity they weren’t Choc’s breeches, as I wouldn’t have been able to resist those!

Surprisingly, the main auction prizes were sold quite cheaply this year – I don’t think any of them made £500, not even a morning on the gallops at Paul Nicholls’ yard (which Lesley would have liked, had her funds permitted).  I wasn’t paying full attention, but Lesley said that Choc’s valet, Phil Taylor, had bid for and won the tickets to see Lady Gaga at the O2 Arena! 

The Richard Lee trained Rifleman won the big race of the day, the Pershore Plum Festival Land O’ Plums Handicap Steeplechase, ridden by Giles Hawkins (one of Choc’s tips to become champion jockey one day), who rode a double on the card.  Harry Skelton rode a treble, the other winning jockeys today being AP McCoy and Eamon Dehdashti.

After the last race of the day had been completed (the bumper), we headed across the course to the football pitch, which is located centre course. 


It soon became apparent that the match would be filmed and, as Luke Harvey was in attendance, presumably for At The Races.  [A brief overview of the match appeared the following day on that racing channel and was used as a ‘time-filler’ on a number of occasions too – and yes, we were visible standing behind the ‘Cathedral end’ goal – Lesley wearing an orange cardigan and myself a cerise pink raincoat.]   As last year, and presumably on many occasions previously too, Choc’s valet Phil Taylor acted as the major match commentator.


The Team Managers were both currently sidelined jockeys, Swindon Town supporter and Alan King’s second jockey, Wayne ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson for the Rest of the World; and Dave Crosse for the Irish Team.  AP McCoy, who stayed to watch the first half of the match, was amongst the supporters on the sideline.


There is a cracking ‘bloomer’ in the race-card, which states that the Ladbrokes Rest of the World Team consisted of Sean Quinlan (Captain), Jack Doyle, Sean Curran, Johnny Farrelly, Tom Molloy, Gerard Tumelty, William Kennedy, Alan Berry, Richie McLernon, Leighton Aspell, Colin Bolger, Steve Donivan, Roger Quinlan and Mark Grant.  With members of the Arena Leisure Irish Team including Mattie Batchelor (Captain), Sam Thomas, Liam Treadwell, Andrew Tinkler, Charlie Poste, Rhys Flint, and Danny Cook.  You’d have thought someone would have ‘twigged it’ before the card was printed that the names were transposed, as it doesn’t take a degree to realise there might be something wrong simply by looking at the names!


Sam Thomas, although not my pin-up boy, is a very good goalkeeper ... despite eventually letting in 3 goals!  Lesley likes Sam, and Sean ‘Seannie’ Quinlan, and Christian Williams (but the latter wasn’t at Worcester yesterday).  William Kennedy started as goalkeeper for the Irish team, before transferring to the field later in the match.

At one stage, Luke Harvey was persuaded to become a member of the Rest of the World team.  Mind you, his partner Emily Jones would probably have played better!

Whilst the match was progressing, Jenny Cheshire and representatives from Racing Welfare were walking around the perimeter of the pitch to sell raffle tickets to the punters.  I spoke with Jenny and we both expressed our disappointment that Choc, due to his injury, was unable to offer his usual charity auction prize this year – tickets and lunch at Cheltenham plus walking the course. 

And of course, at half time, I spoke with Phil Taylor to ask him how Choc was getting on, and he told me he’d visited him last week.  He said the surgeon stated that the knee injury was the worst of this type he’d ever known L but, on the plus side, Choc was making the most remarkable recovery he’d seen (thus far) too J.  He asked if we’d enjoyed our day.  Yes, we had.  Although I’d done the Toteplacepot and only got one placed horse, Rifleman the winner of the 6th and final race in this type of bet.  I told him I was even worse at tipping than Choc was at selecting horses on the Morning Line!  I also asked him to pass on my best wishes to Choc when he saw him next.

Harry Skelton scored more than one goal for the Rest of the World team, and they beat the Irish Team 4-3. 

The Irish Captain, Sean Quinlan, presented the trophy to winning Captain Mattie Batchelor, who said that triumphing in this match was almost as good as finishing fourth in the Gold Cup, which he did aboard Carruthers last March!


We stayed to hear the results of the raffle, but didn’t win a prize ... which is probably fortuitous in the case of travel vouchers on Dudley Coaches! 


The day’s events having been completed, we set off to find my car, which was by this time looking extremely lonely in the car park!  We ate a few chocolate biscuits before departing, as I’d not eaten anything since breakfast, apart from a large ‘Mister Whippy 99’ style ice cream!   


Being early August, it was still light as we drove out of the racecourse gates; and the roads in and around Worcester (and all the way home for that matter) were very quiet.  As I’d done last September, I decided our route home would begin with the A4538 bypassing Pershore and Evesham, and then joining the A44 which goes to Oxford.  The road travels up the steep escarpment beside Broadway Tower, through Bourton-on-the-Hill, and onto Moreton-in-Marsh and Chipping Norton. 


As I know the Enstone to Bicester road quite well these days, we cut across country thus avoiding Oxford.  When I was a teenager and my parents used to take my younger brother Neil and me for day trips to the Cotswolds, we always used to take this route through to Chipping Norton, and I particularly remember the causeway at Rousham and the Hotel at Hopcrofts Holt (which is, allegedly, haunted by highwayman Claude Duval ... no, not the racing journalist!) 


After arriving at Bicester, I took the A41 back to Aylesbury, and then headed for Leighton Buzzard, via Wing, dropping Lesley off at a nearby village.  I then headed back to Hertfordshire, arriving home at 10:45!  Another enjoyable day at Worcester and l look forward to returning next season when, all being well, my favourite jockey will be back in action again. J


So much for my ‘brief’ diary ... it’s almost 2,000 words long!






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