DIARY – ASCOT – FRIDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2008
I was concerned that Choc may not be fit to ride at Ascot today, as he had twice come to grief at Wincanton yesterday. But I checked his engagements diary early on Friday and he was still listed to ride.
At 10:15, as my car was running low on fuel, I drove to the petrol station to fill up. I took advantage on this diversion to visit M & S too, and purchased a pair of brown Footglove trouser shoes (or ‘granny’ shoes as I prefer to call them), a pair of brown faux suede boots, and a pair of grey/black Per Una shoes too – hopefully I’m now sorted for the winter.
As I was very close to the M25, I joined the motorway at that point, driving around to Maple Cross. From there I took the road to Denham, Gerrards Cross, Stoke Poges, Slough and Windsor, past Legoland, towards Ascot. At the ‘long-about’ I was directed to take a road to the left, which took me to the east of the course, and I parked in car park 5, costing £5. It must have been around midday when I arrived.
I purchased a General Admission ticket for £10, and the obligatory race-card. It was a pleasant day, and the sun was shining, although there was also quite a stiff breeze. I went inside the concourse and had a look at the Christmas stalls – paying particular interest in the jewellery, as I like to see what others are making and selling.
It was then time to go outside to the Parade Ring to view the horses as they came in. As the jockeys came out of the Weighing Room, it became clear that Choc was badly limping – obviously as a result of yesterday’s falls at Wincanton. After chatting to the connections of Karabak, Alan and Choc went across to the far side of the paddock, where Choc trotted across in front of the horse (despite his limp) and was legged up onto his mount. He exited the paddock and cantered down to the start over at the far side.
Karabak ran well, he was in touch, made headway to chase the leaders before 3 out, challenged and was upsides 2 out, then ridden but still there at the last, he kept on but was readily held by the winner, Mad Max, on the flat. A winner for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty. I went around to the Winners’ Enclosure to see him return and took a few photos. Choc dismounted, but ensured that no weight was put on his left leg. I can’t quite remember when it happened, but at some early stage of the afternoon, he did point to his foot, presumably explaining that he’d hurt it or his ankle.
Choc’s ride in the 2nd race was Masked Man, who had fallen at the last fence at Stratford Upon Avon on his previous appearance, having made a bold showing. However, today wasn’t Masked Man’s day. He made a mistake at the 1st fence, but was in touch, made headway at the 12th, chased the leaders after the next, was then ridden but weakened 3 out, and finished 5th. The race was won by Massini’s Maguire ridden by Richard Johnson for Philip Hobbs. As he was unplaced Choc dismounted in the area set aside for unplaced horses and I watched as he came through the underpass and returned to the Weighing Room with Alan.
Choc’s next ride was on Bakbenscher, who had won at Stratford on the day that Masked Man had run and fallen. The grey was held up in rear, hit 4 out, was never going well after that, before tailing off when he hit 2 out. He finished last but one. The race was won by Dee Ee Williams ridden by Liam Treadwell. Again Choc unsaddled in the outside paddock, but he didn’t remember about his bad foot, and accidently landed on it, which must have hurt – ouch!
Choc wasn’t riding in the 4th race, a Handicap Steeplechase, won by Alphabetical ridden by Noel Fehily.
Choc’s 4th ride in the 5th race was aboard Yardbird in a Handicap Steeplechase. He started as favourite, but the horse ran in snatches. He was in touch, chasing the leaders when slightly hampered at the 10th, was ridden and hit the 14th, got tailed off and was pulled up before 4 out. Very disappointing. The race was won by Can’t Buy Time, owned by JP McManus, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Noel Fehily. Again I watched from the terraces as Choc limped into the Weighing Room. Andrew Thornton’s mount had fallen at the fence in front of the stands and he looked a little lame too as he walked in. It had started to spit with rain by this time.
It was announced that Choc would be replaced on Group Captain in the last race of the day, with Andrew Thornton taking the ride. Group Captain was top weight and finished third, the winner was Art Professor trained by Venetia Williams, ridden by Aiden Coleman. I watched the horses return to the Winners’ Enclosure, before setting off to the car park. It had stopped raining by this time.
Having returned to the car, I exited the car park but was held up in the traffic queuing past the entrance to the course as I had decided to return by my familiar route along Windsor Road. By the time I’d reached the double mini-roundabouts it was pouring with rain, although this later left off. I drove back past Legoland to Windsor, Slough, Farnham Royal, Beaconsfield, Amersham, Chesham, Hemel Hempstead and home. The return journey took well over 2 hours, and it was around 18:30 before I reached home.