DIARY Ė ASCOT Ė SATURDAY 19 JANUARY 2009
Chocís main reason for deciding to ride at Ascot today was to compete aboard Karabak in the NH Novicesí Hurdle, the last race on the card.† In addition to riding Karabak for Alan King, he had 4 other rides, 3 of them for Alan and 1 for Paul Nicholls.† His alternative fixtures were Haydock Park or Wincanton.
The day dawned wet, but this soon cleared and the sun came out.† I was hoping to set out for Ascot at around 09:30 to 09:45 but, in the event, I visited my friend Mark to collect my Christmas present (yes, Christmas!) and to take advantage of his offer of assistance to transfer photos from my mobile phone to my PC for uploading to this website.† Unfortunately it was 10:00 by the time Iíd arrived back home again, so I hurriedly changed before setting out for Ascot races.
My preferred route takes me via Maple Cross, Denham, Gerrards Cross, Stoke Poges, Slough and Windsor but, as I was running a little late, I initially decided Iíd go via the M25 and M4, leaving the motorway at the Windsor junction.† However, when I was approaching the M4 turnoff, I noticed a sign stating that Junction 7 of the M4 was closed and, as I wasnít sure whether that was the Windsor junction, I decided to stay on the M25 and leave at the Staines/Egham junction instead.† It later transpired that Junction 6 is in fact the junction I needed but I had to make a snap decision and, as it turned out, my geographical knowledge didnít let me down, which was just as well because I didnít have a map with me on this occasion.
So, having left the motorway at Egham, I came to a roundabout and had to decide whether it was the Windsor or the Camberley/Bagshot road which I needed. As Windsor is north of Ascot, I decided to head for Bagshot as I know it is near Bracknell, which is west of Ascot.† Although suffering a few doubts as I drove along the A30, I eventually came upon a right-hand turn opposite Wentworth Golf Club signposted to Ascot/Bracknell, so took that road alongside Virginia Water (the lake) and it was a good decision as it was the A329 which runs beside the racecourse through Ascot!
Just before reaching Ascot High Street, I turned right at the mini-roundabout, then a left into the free car park. Before leaving the car I drank a cup of black coffee, decided to put on both a fleece and gillet under my coat to keep warm, and then walked along the High Street to the ticket office, where I purchased a £15 general admission ticket before entering through the turnstiles.† I purchased a race-card and an ĎAscotí pen, then walked around to the far side of the Parade Ring to enjoy the sunshine whilst I waited for the horses to enter the paddock for the first race.
I noticed Ruby Walsh chatting to someone at the edge of the Parade Ring, before he then went across to the podium where he took part in the tipster recommendations presentation.††
Chocís first ride of the day was aboard Saticon in the Juvenile Novicesí Hurdle.†† Once he had appeared in the Parade Ring I decided to take a walk around towards the far side in order to take some photos as he exited onto the course.
The start of this event was at the beginning of the home straight.† Ray Diamond started out in the lead, but this was soon taken over by Amore Mio.† Choc decided to take an inside line, Saticon starting off in 3rd or 4th place, the horse diving slightly at the 2nd flight.† He briefly went into 2nd place after Swinley Bottom, but was ridden from 3 out, turning into the home straight in 4th place.† The short priced favourite was Zaynar, who went clear between the last two flights and won, second was the long-time leader Amore Mio, with Stow in 3rd.† Saticon held on to 4th place.†
As Choc had finished as a placed runner, he returned to the Winnersí Enclosure, and I walked through the concourse to descend the steppings and take photos of him unsaddling. Once heíd disappeared inside the Weighing Room, I walked around to the far side of the Parade Ring to wait for the competitors for the next race to appear. †
Chocís 2nd ride was in the next race, aboard Howle Hill, reverting to hurdles and not wearing blinkers today either.† The horses were led off by Lough Derg, Scriptwriter making a bad mistake at the first flight.† Choc held up Howle Hill in rear, on the outside of the field.† Many of the runners took a wide course looking for better ground.† Howle Hill made a mistake at the flight before Swinley Bottom and had lost touch some time before they reached the final straight.† Lough Derg was still in front but had 5 challengers as they came up the straight but none managed to pass him.† A popular winner for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore and they received an enthusiastic reception when they returned to the Winnersí Enclosure.
The 3rd race of the day was a Novicesí Chase, no ride for Choc.† The favourite, Free World, led them off.† Roman Villa wasnít keen at the start, and Stumped made a mistake at the first fence.† Having caught up with the field, Roman Villa decided heíd had enough as they turned the corner to head for Swinley Bottom and pulled up, despite the urgings of Mattie Batchelor.† Calgary Bay kept close order with Free World, with Panjo Bere closing as they came into the final straight.† Free World was overtaken before the 2nd last by his two nearest pursuers, and although closing on the line, Calgary Bay was held off by Panjo Bere.† A winner for Gary Moore and Jamie Moore.
Choc was riding in the Victor Chandler Chase, aboard the Paul Nicholls trained Natal.† When he came into the Parade Ring he walked too far out, and had to be collected by a blonde lady who took him back to meet the connections, Paul being at Haydock Park today I believe.† Once mounted, the horses did a number of circuits around the paddock, as they were required to be in number order before exiting onto the course for the pre-race parade.† The short priced favourite was Master Minded, also trained by Paul Nicholls.
Once the race had begun, Choc held up Natal in fourth place of the 5 runners, but made a number of jumping errors as he got too close to the obstacles, and was relegated to last place before Swinley Bottom.† Master Minded was running and jumping so well that he took the lead before entering the final straight and went away to win well (as would be expected).† Petit Robin had reclaimed 2nd place at the end, with Mahogany Blaze 3rd.† Natal had weakened by the 9th fence, and remained in last place, coming home in his own time.†
Being the only unplaced horse, Natal was unsaddled outside and I watched Choc walk back to the Weighing Room.† Petit Robin must have cut his near fore as Nicky Henderson was sponging it down after he had been unsaddled in the Winnersí Enclosure.
Choc didnít have a ride in the 5th race, a Maresí Hurdle race.† Doubly Guest was led in at the start by Nicky Henderson, presumably having had problems in previous races.† The grey, Magical Legend, with Timmy Murphy aboard led them off and Tot of the Knar was running very keenly.† Again, many of the runners were steering wide to get better ground.† Doubly Guest took up the running later on, and as they came into the final straight she was one of 3 horses in with a chance, the others being United and Sweetheart.† Doubly Guest was the first to be dropped, and then Sweetheart made a mistake at the last, so United claimed victory.
It was whilst I waited for the runners for the 6th race to enter the Parade Ring that I noticed Meally and a girlfriend sitting on the steps near the paddock exit tunnel, here to watch and support him today.† Chocís mount in this race was The Hairy Lemon, and the horse was wearing blinkers as usual.†
Once the race had started, Choc was positioned near the back, between runners.† Bafana Boy made a mistake at the first and baulked a number of the runners.† The Hairy Lemon jumped fine, apart from the fence in front of the stands, where he was given a reminder.† Miss Mitch and Oceanos Des Obeaux disputed the lead, with others taking up the challenge but the former jumped extremely well and held off all comers to win.† 5 runners were pulled up, but The Hairy Lemon was well beaten from the 11th fence, but did complete the course in 12th and last place!
As mentioned earlier, Chocís ride in the final event on the card, a NH Novicesí Hurdle, was Karabak. †In his Gloucestershire Echo column Choc had written that this was his main reason for riding at Ascot, rather than Haydock Park or Wincanton.† The race favourite was Kangaroo Court, trained by Emma Lavelle, ridden by Jack Doyle.
When the race began, Choc held up his mount on the inside in mid-division, Kangaroo Court was in last place.† Karabak took closer order as they approached Swinley Bottom to go 3rd, Jack Doyleís mount also moved through the field.† As they came into the final straight, Choc moved up on the inside to take the lead, and was ridden clear from the last, winning well from Kangaroo Court, Somersby and Our Bomber Harris.† Chocís 1st winner of 2009, and 76th of the season.
I walked through the concourse to reach the Parade Ring, and spotted Meally and her friend descending the steppings to see Choc come back to the Winnersí Enclosure.† I waited for Choc to dismount, unsaddle, speak with connections, have his photo taken with the horse and disappear inside the Weighing Room before I set off for the car park to collect my vehicle and drive home.
My route took me via Windsor, Slough, Stoke Poges, Gerrards Cross and Denham, joining the M25 at Maple Cross to return home.† I arrived home shortly before 17:45.