DIARY – ASCOT
– SATURDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2010
More worries about the weather this weekend, but Ascot, Haydock Park and Uttoxeter passed their precautionary inspections. However, Wincanton was lost. Ascot is so easy for me to drive to and, as Choc had 5 riding engagements, I spent another pleasant Saturday afternoon at the races.
Having ordered an item just after Christmas from the Next catalogue, I had finally received an email to say it was ready for me to collect in store, so for the second week running my journey took me via the local retail park. Needless to say, I like to have a quick look around the store whilst I’m there ... but I did resist buying anything. But I was not so lucky in the nearby Marks and Spencers, as I came away with a top (which I’d noticed last Saturday) and a skirt (in a style which I’d seen and liked a few weeks ago). As I needed to get on the road to Ascot I didn’t try them on in the fitting room before purchase ... but, thinking about it, that usually makes my purchase easier, as more often than not the item will fit perfectly and then I have no option but to buy it! No wonder I never have any spare cash! I need to cut up my credit cards ...
I left the car park at 10:30, joining the M25 at the nearby junction. The longstanding roadworks between junctions 18 and 16 were still in operation, although fortunately this week the contraflow lane was not shut due to an incident. Mind you, at one point it did slow down to a crawl between junction 17 and the M40. Once again I took the M4 westbound, today exiting at the Slough Central junction. My preferred ‘scenic route’ would have taken me off at Junction 17 of the M25, through Denham, Gerrards Cross and Stoke Poges, then Slough ... although the last part of the journey is definitely NOT scenic ... and finally joining the Windsor bypass, which exiting at the Slough Central junction takes me onto anyway.
Both routes take me past Legoland, around the ‘longabout’ and then left at the mini-roundabouts at Swinley Bottom. The lane goes through an underpass, the straight mile of the racecourse being overhead, and usually I turn right into the side entrance of the free car park. Unfortunately that gate was closed, so I had to exit onto Ascot High Street, and then turn right at the main entrance to park. I parked up at 11:25. There were far more cars already parked than I had expected ... perhaps the gates opening time was earlier than the 11:40 published on The Morning Line.
Before leaving the car I piled on even more layers ... my purple cardigan, turquoise gillet, and faux sheepskin jacket (I was already wearing a thermal vest, long sleeved t-shirt, red cardigan, and bright purple fleece). As I was wearing a skirt today, I also pulled on my long grey boots. Donning my sunglasses and wrapping my Glamour Red ‘Snowball’ scarf around my neck, I set off on a brisk walk along Ascot High Street to reach the main gate. It’s a bit of a standing joke that walking with me must be similar to going on a ‘route march’ because I walk so fast!
Expecting queues to form at the ticket office, Ascot had positioned a member of staff outside it to sell grandstand tickets, so I purchased one from the lady. She remarked that I’d got the right change ready ... £16 now, as the entry price has been increased by £1 this year. Having passed through the electronic barrier, I purchased a racecard from the kiosk, plus 2 Ascot ballpoint pens, total price £4 – which saved me asking for change.
As it was a pleasant day, sunny but cold, I went to stand on the concourse above the Weighing Room to enjoy the walmth of the sun. To pass the time before the first race, I read through the racecard and made notes in my notebook in preparation for this diary ... as my memory isn’t what it once was!
Warren Marston arrived with a colleague, shortly before noon. Wincanton having been abandoned, he came to take the ride aboard Wham Bang in the first. There were a number of jockey changes today, due to the loss of Wincanton. I then noticed Alan King heading for the Weighing Room area shortly after noon. Liam Treadwell was another jockey I saw arrive, and around an hour before racing both Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh arrived too. You can always spot Ruby because of his grey hair!
Before the first race, I walked around to my vantage point close to the walkway ‘underpass’, where I like to take photos as the horses exit the Parade Ring.
The first race commenced at 13:40, so it was soon time for the horses to arrive in the Parade Ring. There were 7 runners in this event, Llama Farmer being the non-runner due to a preferred engagement at Haydock Park.
Choc’s mount in this event was Spirit of Adjisa, trained by Alan King, as were all his mounts today. Once the jockeys were aboard and heading down to walkway to the course, I set off through the concourse of the grandstand to reach the grandstand steps on which to view the race.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight coming away from Swinley bottom, so the horses galloped past the stands to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Arkose, followed by Finian’s Rainbow, Sereth, Priors Glen and Spirit of Adjisa, Choc’s mount was held up and taking a strong hold on the inside.
Spirit of Adjisa wasn’t particularly fluent at the 6th flight, and he didn’t jump the next perfectly either, this time Choc being vigorous with his encouragement. In rear, Max Milano flattened this flight, and again blundered 3 out; Wham Bang began to tail off.
Arkose was still in the lead as they turned in, Spirit of Adjisa in third position. Having tracked the long-time leader throughout, Barry Geraghty brought Finian’s Rainbow to challenge 2 out, glancing behind for dangers. The horse soon drew clear and won on the bridle. Arkose stayed on to finish 2nd, with Choc’s mount in 3rd. Sereth, having blundered at the penultimate last flight, finished 4th.
I returned through the grandstand concourse to reach the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure (which is part of the Parade Ring). Choc unsaddled and spoke with connections before returning to the Weighing Room, removing his helmet on the way in.
I remained where I was, until the horses competing in the next race left the Parade Ring, as Choc didn’t have a ride in this event. I then set off for the grandstand steps.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight running away from the stands.
Then they were off. Diablo led, ears pricked enjoying himself. He was followed by Pettifour and Burton Port, with Knockara Beau on the inside, the latter not jumping fluently. Ballygulleen was soon in rear, eventually tailing off.
Later in the race, Jan Faltejsek decided to switch Knockara Beau to the outside, but blundered at the 9th, challenging for the lead at the 13th, but then jumping left and blundering at the next obstacle. Burton Port was slow at the 12th.
As they turned in, Diablo still led, Burton Port driven along in his slipstream. The two leaders jumping the second last together. Burton Port had a one length advantage when Diablo blundered at the last, thus allowing the rallying Knockara Beau to come home in second, behind the Trevor Hemmings owned, Nicky Henderson trained, Barry Geragthy ridden Burton Port. Diablo finished 3rd, with Pettifour in 4th, also having hit the last fence. Ballygulleen completed the course in a distant 5th.
I returned to my favourite vantage point above the walkway ‘bridge’ in preparation for the next race of the day.
Choc’s mount in this race was Midnight Sail, who hadn’t seen a racecourse since last April when he’d been Choc’s penultimate winner of last season – his 118th! The jockeys arrived early in the Parade Ring, and a number of the owners and trainers hadn’t arrived yet, including Alan King and connections. It is quite amusing to see the jockeys looking a little lost when they can’t find anyone to speak to, so they just have to chat amongst themselves for a few minutes!
Once Choc had disappeared through the walkway tunnel, I set off to find my usual place in the grandstand – in the standard section, but it is immediately next to the Owners and Trainers section, and they are situated below the Royal Box!
There were 2 non-runners, Lough Derg and Souffleur, both ran at Haydock Park, the latter winning his event!
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight coming out of Swinley bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the grey Benfleet Boy, following by Beshabar, Majaales, Dee Ee Williams, and El Dancer. In rear were Mutual Friend, Martys Mission, and Ashkazar. Choc took an outside line aboard Midnight Sail, near the back of the field.
The field was closely packed as the runners rounded the top turn, Benfleet Boy knocking the top bar out of the 6th flight. Around Swinley Bottom, Secret Tune had joined the leaders, who were still Benfleet Boy, Beshabar and Majaales.
Along the back straight, Beshabar just led, with Chief Yeoman closing up under young Rhys Flint. Turning in, Beshabar was being pushed along by Ruby, with Chief Yeoman now putting in a challenge for the lead, with Consigliere closing on the inside. At the last flight, Beshabar, having responded to his jockey’s urgings, held the advantage over Consigliere and Chief Yeoman, but having repelled their challenges, he still had to fight all the way to the line to hold off the fast finishing Tender Falcon.
A victory for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh in the purple colours of Margaret Findlay, mother of Harry.
Having tailed off, Choc decided to pull up his mount, bypassing the final two flights.
Having unsaddled his mount in the area reserved for unplaced horses, Choc jogged through the ‘underpass’ and back to the Weighing Room, keen to get changed in preparation for the next event, the feature race of the day.
Choc came into the Parade Ring to speak with Alan King and the horse’s connections, before being legged up into the saddle. Being the main event of the afternoon, there was a pre-race parade, the horses being sorted into number order whilst still in the Parade Ring, which meant Choc had to be led around for an extra circuit! Once they’d reached the course, Albertas Run led the way, Choc aboard Oh Crick at number 4, there being 6 runners. The competitors then turned and set off for the start, which is located just before Swinley Bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Herecomesthetruth, followed by The Sawyer, Monet’s Garden, Albertas Run and Planet of Sound, with Oh Crick in rear. However, the 12-year old Monet’s Garden soon took up the running, ears pricked, thoroughly enjoying himself. Second favourite, Planet of Sound, was in touch when crashing out at the 5th obstacle. The horse was fine, as he rose and galloped after the other runners. However, having passed the walkway exit point, he turned around and started to trot back down the course towards the final fence. Luckily he then turned back again and, although escaping capture at that point, he was caught by his stable-lad once he reached the exit point for the second time.
Past the post with one circuit to go it was still Monet’s Garden in the lead, then Herecomesthetruth, Albertas Run, The Sawyer and still Choc on Oh Crick in rear. Oh Crick didn’t meet all his obstacles perfectly, birch flying at the 9th. He also got a little too close to a couple down the back, which affected his momentum. At one point, Herecomestetruth dropped back to last place. The field was waved around the third last, as Richard Johnson (rider of Planet of Sound) was being wheeled off the course aboard a trolley stretcher.
Into the home straight, Monet’s Garden was still leading, Albertas Run was in second, Herecomesthetruth had rallied into third, and then came The Sawyer, with Oh Crick close in rear. However, it was Monet’s Garden’s day, as he never looked like being caught, keeping up the gallop to win by 1¾ lengths, easing down, from Albertas Run. The Sawyer finished 3rd, with a gap of 14 lengths to Oh Crick, who only managed to overtake one, the tiring Herecomesthetruth.
The popular grey had won this event in 2007 too.
I returned to the steps above the Weighing Room to see Choc arrive back in the Winners’ Enclosure.
Having taken photographs of Choc, I returned to the area above the ‘underpass’ so as to get a good vantage point for taking photographs of him as he arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of the next race. Whilst standing there, I glanced across to the Weighing Room, noticing two blonde ladies sitting on the seats along the perimeter of it. It did occur to me that perhaps one of them might be Choc’s wife, Meally, and this was confirmed when they left the building, heading for the Parade Ring gate, and climbing up the steps to the concourse area. How do I know you ask? She’s one of the few girls who possess the courage to wear such a short skirt during such cold weather!
I shall recount an amusing story about my wearing a mini-skirt, which I used to do until around 10 years ago. I was approached by a man when shopping in Woolworths, who did offer apologies first in the hope that he wouldn’t offend me, and then he went on to compliment me on my nice shapely legs ... the only problem was that he must have been at least 70 years old! But, then again, any compliment is good!
Once again, the jockeys arrived early in the Parade Ring, so they chatted amongst themselves. Despite having been stretchered off the course following his fall from Planet of Sound, Richard Johnson must have been passed fit by the doctor, as he was chatting to Choc as they waited for their respective owners and trainers.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The race started at a snail’s pace before Menorah picked up the tempo over the first, he was followed by Alexander Beetle, then a hard-pulling Sophies Trophy, then Lush Life, and on the inside a very hard-pulling Prince Buster with Choc aboard.
Menorah led the way towards Swinley Bottom, until Choc gave up his struggle against Prince Buster, allowing his mount to assume the lead. Sophies Trophy was almost bolting with his rider too. After the turn, Choc steadied his mount, permitting Menorah to go on again. Sophies Trophy was still in close contention, followed by Lush Life, and Alexander Beetle.
On the home turn, Prince Buster was upsides Menorah, the latter then taking the advantage again, with Ruby Walsh aboard Lush Life closing. But Menorah’s fate was sealed at the last with a mistake, Lush Life jumping it well and overtaking him on the flat to win. Prince Buster finished 3rd, with Sophies Trophy in 4th.
A second winner of the day for Ruby Walsh, this time aboard a Nicky Henderson trained runner, Barry Geraghty having taken the ride aboard Nicky’s other runner, Osric.
This provided further opportunity to take photos when Choc returned to the Winners’ Enclosure. I remained on the steps near the Weighing Room as Choc was not competing in the next event.
Two non-runners had reduced the field to 4, one of them, Little Josh, ran and won at Haydock Park. Sam Thomas took over from Liam Treadwell aboard Lorient Express, having diverted from the abandoned Wincanton fixture.
The start of this race was just before the turn into the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Lorient Express, followed by Andreas, Panjo Bere and the hard pulling I’msingingtheblues. Panjo Bere was tight into the 4th obstacle. Lorient Express was slightly skewed at the next, and then got too close to the 8th, retreating as a result and allowing Andreas to take the lead by the 9th obstacle.
Andreas led them into the home straight, followed by Panjo Bere and Lorient Express. However, Ruby aboard I’msingingtheblues had them all in his sights, despite having appeared in trouble as they jumped the third last. Panjo Bere led over the 2nd last, but Ruby had taken a very slight advantage by the last. However, Panjo Bere was not to be denied, with young Joshua Moore driving his rallying mount back up to win in the dying strides. What a scalp to claim! Ruby slapped Joshua on the shoulder shortly after the line - presumably a ‘Well Done Mate’ moment!
I returned directly to my favourite vantage point in preparation to take photos of Choc as he exited the Parade Ring for the final time today.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Fun Guy, following by Wood Yer. Sweet Irony took an inside line mid-division, but wasn’t settled. Big Guns was in rear. Fun Guy went quite wide on the top turn, but remained clear with just one rival until halfway.
Away from the stands, Peedeeque, Top Smart, the roan coloured Venetian Lad and Rogue Dancer were prominent. The favourite, Sprinter Sacre under Barry Geraghty, was mid-field.
Exiting the final bend, Wood Yer led them in, followed by Venetian Lad and Top Smart, with the weakening Fun Guy. On the outside and closing fast were Sprinter Sacre and King of the Night. Choc aboard Sweet Irony was going well too, but Ruby and Barry soon had his measure, battling to the line, the latter’s horse prevailing by a nose on the line. Sweet Irony was 3¾ lengths away in 3rd. Top Smart had faded into 5th, Wood Yer kept on for 4th, 12 lengths adrift of Choc’s mount.
That’s Barry Geraghty 4; Ruby Walsh 2; Joshua Moore 1. Also 4 winners for Nicky Henderson – one of which, Lush Life, was ridden by Ruby!
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the competitors arrive back, including Choc aboard Sweet Irony. Barry Geraghty wasn’t available to accept his winning memento, as he was in a hurry to leave!
I waited on the steps above the Weighing Room until the first wave of punters had departed. Whilst there, I noticed both Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty heading for the main gates, both setting out for the drive to the airport to catch their plane back to Ireland.
I came away with the feeling that Spirit of Adjisa, Prince Buster and Sweet Irony used up too much energy by pulling hard during their races, and once they learn to settle should all be able to pick up a prize or two.
I then set off down Ascot High Street. Having reached the car park, I started my drive home at 17:30. I decided to re-trace my route back to Windsor, and then join the M4 eastbound carriageway. I encountered a couple of ‘muppets’ on the road (a term used by Choc to describe bad drivers, and also a term frequently used by my friend Mark).
The first incident involved a stationary car, with its hazard lights on, in the outside lane of the dual carriageway at the junction with the M4 – there seemed to be little wrong with the car as it eventually moved off, but it appeared related to an altercation with another car driver – a problem which continued as they drove around the roundabout and then up the slip-road to the motorway. All well and good, but a nuisance and dangerous for other drivers. The second incident was a French registered car travelling at 35 miles per hour on the slip road onto the M25, at first I thought it might be related to slow moving traffic on the M25 ... no, the vehicles were moving freely – give me strength! I wish I’d gone home via my ‘scenic’ route!
There were no problems through the contra-flow section, and I arrived home at 18:30. After a snack, I spent the evening uploading the photographs I’d taken at Ascot and updating my blog whilst watching Most Haunted Live. I finally crawled into bed at 23:15. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!
And, on this occasion, a second set: