DIARY Ė ASCOT Ė FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER 2008
I broke up for my Christmas and New Year holidays yesterday, so I couldnít think of anything nicer than spending the first day of my leave at Ascot watching Choc ride.†
It is too expensive to travel through London on a weekday so, as I did once before, I drove to Ascot.† My route took me via the M25, but this time I had intended to leave the orbital motorway at its junction with the M4 and head west to Windsor but, in the event, heavy traffic had built up prior to the M4 junction so I decided to take the M40 west instead. At Junction 2, Beaconsfield, I left the motorway and took the road to Slough, travelling through Farnham Royal and Farnham Common.† I was held up at numerous traffic light junctions as I travelled through Slough, then drove under the M4 and across the River Thames towards Windsor. My route took me past Legoland to the ĎLongaboutí where traffic heading for Ascot is diverted via Cheapside to approach Ascot High Street from the east.†
This time I decided to park in the free car park and walk up the High Street to purchase a General Admission ticket for £10, race-card £3.† The guy who parked next to me was wrapped up warm and commented that it was always cold at Ascot Ė yes, I know. Colder in fact than any other racecourse Iíve visited!
The usual turnstiles werenít open today, so punters were being let through the doorway at the back of the Eastern Ticket Office.† As it was around 12:15 I went straight over to the paddock to wait for the horses engaged in the first race to arrive.† Unusually the wind was blowing from the other direction today, making the paddock side of the grandstand colder than the racecourse side.
Choc had 4 rides today, all for Alan King.† His first ride was Midnight Sail in the Maiden Hurdle.† Choc held the horse up in mid-division, made headway after 3 out, was a close 3rd when he made a mistake at the next, but responded well to pressure, and led soon after the last, staying on strongly to win.† The first winner Iíd seen him ride live at Ascot, and therefore he returned to the Winnerís position in the enclosure. The runner-up was Fistral Beach ridden by Ruby Walsh, trained by Paul Nicholls. I noticed Fran again, as she was looking after Doverís Hill for trainer Mary Hambro.† Fran is an ardent tennis fan and presumably still camps out at the Wimbledon tennis every June/July.
The second race was a Novicesí Handicap Steeplechase, which was won by Baseball Ted, ridden by Richard Johnson, who made all and was ridden clear after 2 out, running on well at the line. There were a number of fallers in this race, but luckily all the horses and jockeys were okay.
Chocís 2nd ride was on grey, Medermit, in the 3rd race of the day, a Novicesí Hurdle race. Choc held up the horse in last place but just behind leaders, made a mistake 3 out, but then made headway at the next, challenged at the last flight, and led on the flat, was all out but beat Dee Ee Williams by a short-head.† The horse was returned at 14-1, and Alan King seemed surprised by the win, as heíd not rated the horse that highly, thinking it might have to go down the handicap route.
As this was the big hurdle race of the day, there was a memento for the winning jockey, so Choc came out of the Weighing Room, Medermitís colours over his following rideís colours, and climbed onto the podium to collect a bottle of Champagne.† Alan wasnít available as heíd gone to saddle Chocís third ride of the day.
Chocís third ride was Turkish Surprise in the Novicesí Steeplechase.† The horse was held up behind the leaders, disputed 2nd place from 3 out, was soon ridden, but kept on for a clear 2nd place approaching the last, however he was always held by winner, Deep Purple.† Another return to the Winnersí Enclosure but in second spot.
No ride for Choc in the 5th race of the day, which was won by Master Medic ridden by Robert Walford and trained by the Alners.
Chocís final ride was Nikos Extra in the 6th and final race of the day, a Handicap Hurdle.† He was held up towards the rear, then made headway but didnít have much room on the final bend, he was then ridden to chase the leaders after the next flight, but weakened after the last.† As Choc was unsaddling in the Unplaced Horses area, I went across to take a quick look, but soon came away as it was very windy and, as I was wearing a skirt, my modesty was at risk!† I went back to the Parade Ring and watched as Choc returned for the final time to the Weighing Room and, once he had disappeared inside, I set off for the car park located at the bottom of the High Street.
Once Iíd reached my car and changed out of my grey long boots, putting on my trainers, I left the car park by the Winkfield Road entrance, turned left and drove through the underpass below the New Mile course to reach the double mini-roundabouts, turning right to return to Windsor, and this time went via Slough High Street, Stoke Poges, Denham, Rickmansworth, and Watford, arriving home at around 17:45.