DIARY – ASCOT
SUNDAY 10 APRIL 2011
Choc on the Winner’s Podium with members of the Fillies & Colts Club ...
and Club mascot Scotty the Horse!
Having spent two days at the Aintree Festival, I was kind of hoping that Choc would be at Wincanton on Sunday; but only because it would have given me a day off to recuperate from my 400 mile round trip to Merseyside! However, having arrived back from Liverpool at 23:30 the previous evening, I logged onto my laptop in order to upload photos and to check Choc’s rides for the following day, only to discover he had 3 engagements at nearby Ascot! I knew it was Ascot’s final National Hunt fixture of the season, and I would feel terribly guilty if I didn’t make an effort to go so, having turned in at 02:00 in the morning, my plans were set for a third consecutive day at the races!
Following the excitement of the previous two days, I fully expected to get a very good night’s sleep; however I awoke at 06:00! Anyway, I got dressed and logged onto my laptop to search for information regarding the gate opening time at Ascot; 10:45, three hours and 45 minutes before the start time of the first race. The course was obviously keen to relieve their ‘guests’ of as much money as possible, as the majority of racecourses open their gates 2 hours before the first race. With such an early opening time, I decided that I’d aim to leave home at around 10:00.
At 07:30 I drove down to the local petrol station to fill the tank of my car, as it was just over a quarter full; and to buy a copy of the Racing Post. It was another beautifully sunny day; with temperatures set to rise into the seventies! Upon arrival at home I ate breakfast - Paw Ridge – yes, I know it’s designed for children! Mind you, I used to have a penchant for ‘baby porridge’, even as a grown-up!
I had a shower and washed my hair, then decided upon my wardrobe for the day. I loved the outfit I’d worn at Aintree the previous day, so I decided upon the same, apart from a clean top. So I wore a black/white flowered skirt – amazingly a mere size 14 (although I’m convinced sizes are getting larger, as I’m definitely not getting any thinner!); a cerise top, a mink coloured Next jacket which, in desperation, I’d only purchased the previous Thursday because I couldn’t find a suitable one in black or grey ... but I absolutely love it!; a flowered scarf, to lift the colour near my face; plus black slingback sandals.
I left home at 10:10 to drive to Ascot. My route took me via the M25, initially through the countra-flow system. At one point, near Chorleywood, I followed a horsebox belonging to Neil King, whose yard is in Newmarket. Following research, it transpired that the box was probably carrying Russian Flag, who would win a Handicap Chase that afternoon ... at Wincanton!
As I knew there were road-works in progress at the roundabout at the far end of the Windsor by-pass, and I’d seen horrendous tailbacks when I’d been on my way to Newbury at the tailend of last month (although that was on a Saturday), I decided against travelling along the M4, but would exit the M25 at junction 13, taking the A30 Egham bypass instead. My journey took me past the lake at Virginia Water; I turned right onto the A329, passing close to Sunningdale before reaching Ascot.
I turned right at the roundabout at the lower end of Ascot High Street hoping to enter the free car park via the side gate. Unfortunately the gate was closed, so I had to do a U-turn; so I turned right into the High Street, and right again the enter the car park. I wasn’t very lucky with the parking space assigned to me ... it was beneath a huge cedar tree; hopefully the day would be clear and still, as I didn’t want any debris or a falling branch landing on the roof of my car!
Having eaten a brief snack, I changed into my slingbacks and set off up the High Street to visit the ticket office. Grandstand entry was £17; once I’d purchased a ticket I walked to the turnstiles to gain entry. Today’s fixture was in aid of the Countryside Alliance.
The first ‘event’ of the day was just about to begin, as the competitors had arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of the Charity Race, which was a flat race taking place over a distance of around 7 furlongs, starting down in Swinley Bottom. The off-time being 12:00 noon. There were 11 horses and riders taking part. Once the competitors had left the Paddock I set off to find a vantage point in the stands, overlooking the betting ring.
Then they were off. The keen running April Fool soon took the lead and held the advantage into the home straight and travelled up it beside the stand-side rails. Faithful Ruler was the first to throw down a challenge and galloped on to win. Dichoh, ridden by ex-jockey Bill Smith (famous for riding the Queen Mother’s horses) came to pip early leader April Fool for 2nd. It had been a close finish; the distances were probably half a length and a head.
Upon returning to the Winners’ Enclosure, Derek Thompson, who was presenting for ATR today, interviewed the winning rider, Fran Bell. Derek was rather patronising, as he asked her what she did as a job ... suggesting perhaps a typist or ‘something like that’. How sexist is that? No, she is the Joint Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, who hunt 3 days a week during the season. She said she hasn’t got a ‘serious’ job, she is totally engaged in ‘horsey’ things.
Soon I was treated to my first glimpses of Choc today, as he set off to walk the course at 12:10, going-stick in hand; returning at 12:45. Alan King’s Assistant Trainer, Noel Williams, arrived at 13:00, accompanied by Wayne Hutchinson. However, having weighed out, Choc had to wait for ages for Noel to collect his saddle ahead of his ride aboard Invictus in the first race of the day; in fact many of the horses had already arrived in the Parade Ring by the time the Assistant Trainer had left the Weighing Room to start his journey to the saddling boxes.
Once Choc was aboard his mount and had set off for the start, I walked through the lower concourse of the grandstand to find a vantage point in the stands above the betting ring. The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track, the horses heading out of Swinley Bottom to jump the first flight. There were three greys in this event – Abayaan, Topthorn and Barbatos. Invictus was third favourite for this race; Barbatos was favourite and Milgen Bay second favourite.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Abayaan, followed by Chasing Aces, Joinedupwriting, The Gurner, Spirit Is Needed; Cheney Manor and Halucha were in rear. Turning into the home straight on the first occasion, Chasing Aces had assumed to lead. Choc’s mount Invictus was in mid-field, in his customary inside berth. Cheney Manor and Halucha were still in rear, the latter travelling wide of the field.
Past the winning post with one circuit to go, the order was Spirit Is Needed, Chasing Aces, Invictus, Abayaan, Topthorn, Milgen Bay, Barbatos, Mawsem, Joinedupwriting, The Gurner, Cheney Manor and Halucha. Chasing Aces led the runners towards Swinley Bottom. The Gurner soon lost ground and began to tail-off.
Heading out of Swinley Bottom once more, Milgen Bay came to join the leader 4 out; these were followed by Spirit Is Needed, Invictus, Mawsem, Barbatos, then a slight gap to Cheney Manor; the others losing touch.
Turning into the home straight for the final time, the field was led by Spirit Is Needed from Milgen Bay; Invictus was travelling well in their slipstream, then Barbatos. Against the nearside rails two out, Milgen Bay held a slight lead, Invictus challenging to his far side, and Barbatos now to their inside. Spirit Is Needed began to drop out.
Choc’s mount was slightly ahead over the last flight and it was nip and tuck to the line, Barbatos never quite able to get his nose in front. Invictus triumphed by a short-head. Milgen Bay finished 3rd and Mawsem plugged on to finish 4th.
Choc’s 51st winner of the season; and compensation for one of Choc’s most embarrassing career moments, which occurred at Leicester in January. He’d been unseated from Invictus in the home straight, on the flat, having lost an iron when seeming to have a race at his mercy. Sorry Choc, but I’m going to put in a link to the story. Besides, I love this Daily Mail ‘stock’ photo of Choc which accompanies the article!
I set off through the grandstand concourse to reach the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back. Having unsaddled and debriefed Noel Williams, Choc went to weigh in, before returning to the Paddock to receive his memento for winning the race. As the event had been sponsored by Ascot’s Colts and Fillies Club, a couple of Club members, along with the Club’s mascot Scotty the horse (ie. someone dressed up in a horse suit), joined Choc on the podium.
Choc’s ride in the next event was Squadron; the favourite for this race was the Paul Nicholls trained Aerial. The starting gate for this event was in the side straight, with one fence to be jumped before Swinley Bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Gee Dee Nen, Aerial in second place hit the first fence; Squadron shared third place with Pascha Bere, Choc’s mount to the inside as they exited Swinley Bottom.
The runners travelled two by two down the back straight; Gee Dee Nen with Aerial; Squadron with Pascha Bere. Gee Dee Nen led the field into the home straight; Pascha Bere made a slow leap at the first fence therein. The runners were closely packed around the top turn, Aerial being restrained on the outside. Both Squadron and Pascha Bere received reminders after they’d jumped the second fence down the side of the course; Pascha Bere again after the next; and Squadron another two as they headed into Swinley Bottom.
The field having been closely packed, both Gee Dee Nen and Aerial jumped the next fence very fluently and a small gap opened up between them and the others. Squadron hit the top of 5 out. The two leaders jumped 4 out and 3 out in unison.
Around the final bend Gee Dee Nen was being ridden; but although Aerial appeared to be going the better, Ryan Mahon did take a discreet peek under his arm to see where the other 2 runners were. Then, coming off the bend, Aerial came under pressure too.
Gee Dee Nen still held a slight advantage over two out, and the distance grew as they approached the last. Jamie Moore’s mount went on to win by 6 lengths from Aerial who held on to second by 1¼ lengths from Squadron. Pascha Bere completed in a distant 4th. A win for the outsider of 4.
Once more I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc return aboard Squadron before he headed to the Weighing Room.
It was now time for the third race on the day, in which Choc would be having his final ride of the afternoon, his mount being Dhaafer. When Choc arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of this race, I believe he was sucking on an ice cube to ease dehydration; pointing to his mouth, he appeared to politely explain this to one of the owners of Jubail, Alan King’s second runner in this race. Jubail would be ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
Dhaafer was the favourite for this race; Jubail was joint second favourite with Rock Of Deauville. The Paul Nicholls trained horse had finished 6th in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, behind What A Charm, Kumbeshwar, Dhaafer, Plan A and Jubail; however, he had been prone to jumping errors in the closing stages that day.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with this and one whole circuit to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Pullyourfingerout, followed by Ultravox, Architrave, Dhaafer, Rock Of Deauville, Jubail, Whitby Jack and Gulf Punch; the latter was slow at the second flight.
Past the post with one circuit to go, Pullyourfingerout and Ultravox were setting a good pace at the head of affairs; followed by Dhaafer to the outside of Architrave. Heading out into the country, there was no change at the head of affairs, a small gap having opened up between Gulf Punch at the rear and the remainder of the field. Having received reminders, Dhaafer jumped slowly at the fourth last and was soon being pushed along.
Around the final bend the order was Ultravox, Pullyourfingerout, Rock of Deauville who was cruising, Jubail, Whitby Jack and Dhaafer. However, Rock of Deauville capsized having jumped 2 out, bringing down Whitby Jack and hampering Dhaafer. This left Ultravox to fight out the finish with Jubail as Pullyourfingerout weakened.
Initially it appeared that Wayne Hutchinson’s mount might prevail, however Ultravox was more determined than his rival and won by a neck at the line. Pullyourfingerout completed in 3rd, ahead of the staying on filly Gulf Punch. Dhaafer was 5th.
Ultravox had beaten the Alan King trained Franklino at Newbury in March and, following today’s victory had gone on to win again at Haydock. Okay, so Franklino had proved to be a disappointing horse, but the Newbury race had been his best effort to date. Although, had Rock Of Deauville stood up, he would probably have won today.
Jubail was sent to the Doncaster sales in May and was purchased by the Donald McCain Jnr yard for £35,000.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Jubail arrive back; shortly afterwards, having unsaddled his mount in the area reserved for unplaced horses, Choc walked back under the ‘bridge’ on his journey back to the Weighing Room. Whilst Noel Williams was attending to Jubail in the Winners’ Enclosure, Choc chatted to one of the owners; he then debriefed Noel about his ride, before going to ‘weigh in’ ... not that every jockey is weighed in, unless they have been placed!
Whilst I was watching the horses parade ahead of the fourth race of the day, Choc appeared; having completed his 3 rides he was heading home to Gloucestershire. And talk about ‘kitchen sink’; he was weighed down by his huge kit bag, with saddle perched on top. He was carrying his going-stick and seemed to be almost bent double to support the weight! He headed along the paddock pathway, through the gateway and climbed up the steppings to reach the exit gate.
Knowing that Choc had now left, and that there were many chores to be completed at home, I decided it was also time for me to leave. So just a few minutes later I set off to walk down Ascot High Street to collect my car. On this occasion I took my usual route home – turning left outside the gates and through the underpass beneath the straight mile of the racecourse to reach Swinley Bottom, where I turned right. Along one side of the ‘longabout’ and past Legoland. I then headed for the Windsor bypass, there were no traffic problems today; taking the M4 eastbound carriageway to join the M25. There was a minor holdup on the slip road leading onto the latter motorway, due to weight of traffic.
The remainder of the journey went smoothly; I arrived home at 16:45. I uploaded today’s photos onto my laptop, before writing my blog which, on this occasion, covered the past three days racing.
However, I will describe the races I ‘missed’!
The starting gate for the next event was in Swinley Bottom. The favourite for this race was Qianshan Leader.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Soulard under Paddy Brennan; Lordsbridge clouted the first fence but survived. Heading towards the home turn on the first occasion, the order was Soulard, Qianshan Leader, Tempting Paradise, Fiftyonefiftyone, Double Vodka, Bedarra Boy, Lordsbridge; in rear Pilgrims Lane hit the third fence, Qianshan Leader hit the fourth.
Heading up the home straight with just over one circuit to go, Paddy Brennan’s mount continued to lead, although he was a little awkward at the last fence therein; this allowed Qianshan Leader and Fiftyonefiftyone to pull alongside him; however around the top turn Soulard had gained the advantage again. Away from the stands, Soulard blundered at the 8th; Double Vodka hit the 10th fence, as did Qianshan Leader.
Heading out of Swinley Bottom, Soulard relinguished the lead to Qianshan Leader, but only briefly, as Bedarra Boy challenged over the 12th and took the advantage. Lordsbridge, who was now an improving third, fell 3 out, hampering the fading Soulard.
Bedarra Boy was 3 or 4 lengths clear around the final bend and stayed on well to win by 6 lengths from Qianshan Leader. Some distance behind, a group of 4 horses fought out the minor placings, Denis O’Regan claiming 3rd aboard Double Vodka, having driven the horse along for much of the race! Pilgrims Lane completed in 4th, with Fiftyonefiftyone in 5th.
When interviewed after the race, trainer David Arbuthnot said his horse had won the race because he was a good jumper; he’d originally purchased the animal to be a 6-furlong sprinter but he’d proved to be ‘as slow as a hearse’! Bedarra Boy had now won 3 out of 4 chases he’d competed in.
The start of the next race was at the beginning of the straight heading towards Swinley Bottom, with almost two complete circuits to travel; it was a race for veteran horses, in other words, 10 year olds and upwards. The favourite for this event was Blu Teen.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Alderburn, who was slow at the first, followed by Wogan, Appleaday, Ma Yahab, Laskari, Blu Teen and Magic Sky. The grey, Appleaday, nodded on landing over the fourth. Wogan soon took up the running and retained the advantage into the home straight, when the order was Wogan, Alderburn, Appleaday, Ma Yahab, Blu Teen, Laskari and Magic Sky.
The runners headed down the hill towards Swinley Bottom once more, Appleaday and Wogan disputing the lead; Laskari coming through to take third position. Having been held up in rear, Magic Sky soon improved to chase the leaders; Laskari hit the first in the back straight and lost his place before falling 4 out. Blu Teen was tailed off.
Appleaday led into the home straight, Magic Sky soon his nearest pursuer and closing. Over the final fence, Magic Sky now held a half length advantage, but Appleaday rallied to get his nose in front on the run to the line; however Magic Sky wasn’t to be denied and got up again in the final few strides to take the prize by a neck.
An 11-year-old had beaten a 10-year-old. Wogan completed in 3rd, with Ma Yahab 4th. A win for the 12-1 outsider bar one.
The next race was for Conditional Jockeys; Alan King was represented in this event by the Peter Hatton ridden Like A Hurricane, who started as the favourite. Another runner, Georgian King is ex-Alan King trained, and I can recall Choc suffered a couple of mishaps on the horse back in 2008; the first in a Novices’ Hurdle at Uttoxeter, the other in a Novices’ Chase at Huntingdon.
The start of this race was in the side straight, with 2 flights to negotiate before Swinley Bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Quickbeam, from Arkose, Miss Overdrive, Kasban, Lupanar, Like A Hurricane, Go Amwell, Puzzlemaster, with Georgian King on the wide outside. Arkose took over the running as the horses headed into Swinley Bottom.
Into the back straight the order was Arkose, Kasban, Puzzlemaster, the keen Lupanar, Quickbeam, Like A Hurricane, Georgian King, Miss Overdrive and Go Amwell. Miss Overdrive made noticeable progress down the back straight, taking a narrow lead as the runners cleared the fourth flight. Turning into the home straight on the first occasion, Georgian King was in rear. Go Amwell fell at the fifth flight; both he and the jockey were okay but, instead of following the other runners, the loose horse set off in the opposite direction with the risk of encountering the field as they entered the back straight on the next circuit!
Past the winning post with one circuit to go, Miss Overdrive was clear of the field but not fluent at the next flight. Quickbeam stumbled having jumped the 8th. Like A Hurricane was travelling well as the runners approached Swinley Bottom. Fortunately, as the competitors headed for the next flight, the loose Go Amwell decided to change direction again, so he was now travelling clockwise once more and galloping ahead of the field, reins dangling in front of him.
Turning into the home straight for the final time, the order was Miss Overdrive, Like A Hurricane, Georgian King, Arkose, Puzzlemaster, Kasban and Lupanar; Quickbeam was tailed off. Like A Hurricane and Georgian King held the slight advantage over the penultimate flight, with Miss Overdrive soon rallying under pressure.
Georgian King led approaching the last but blundered; Puzzlemaster throwing down his challenge and taking over on the run-in. Miss Overdrive was now his nearest pursuer and he prevailed by half a length at the line. Arkose completed in third, with Georgian King fading into 4th; Like A Hurricane completed in a disappointing 5th, having found little off the bridle.
The final race of the day was the Hunters’ Chase. And, if you followed the earlier link to my photographs taken at Huntingdon on 02 November 2008, you’ll know that one of the competitors in the next race, Orphelin Collonges, gave his jockey that day, Tom O’Brien, a scare when he bolted across the Parade Ring!
The start of this race was near the far end of the ‘side’ straight’ with one fence to jump before Swinley Bottom. The favourite for this event was Just Amazing.
The field was led away by the flashy Just Amazing, Sovereign King (another ex-Alan King trained horse) coming through to take second; with Oracle Des Mottes and Orphelin Collonges held up in rear. Oracle Des Mottes was slow at the second; Just Amazing displaying a tendency to jump to his left.
Up the home straight on the first occasion, Just Amazing and Sovereign King disputed the lead and continued to do so as they headed down the side of the course; they were soon well clear of the other two runners. Heading out of Swinley Bottom, Just Amazing looked to be going the better, but heading around the home turn Sovereign King rallied and continued to challenge the leader.
Having appeared in command jumping two out, when Sovereign King hit the fence, Just Amazing, ears pricked, began to idle approaching the last, which permitted his rival to challenge once more. Despite pecking on landing, Sovereign King continued to do so until Just Amazing decided to pull out just a little bit extra 75 yards from the line to win by half a length. He was being a bit of a ‘monkey’!
As mentioned earlier, I only saw the first three races in person; having decided to return home once Choc had departed following his final ride of the day in the third race.