DIARY – ASCOT
SATURDAY 29 OCTOBER 2011
Choc and Alan ‘hold court’ with the
Million In Mind Partnership members
I thought Choc would be riding at this particular fixture, although I didn’t have time to confirm this or the number of riding engagements until I checked the race-card displayed on the At The Races website shortly before leaving work on Friday. Work ... another very stressful week, no wonder I’d been feeling less than 100% for the past 7 days; and that’s in addition to the ongoing sinus problems I’d been suffering since May. I want to win the lottery, so I can retire from all this work-related stress ... it definitely isn’t good for my health.
I’d also took the opportunity to check the day’s results from Wetherby. Brilliant news, Choc had ridden two winners and a runner-up! This and the anticipation of going to Ascot the following day cheered me up no end.
Anyway, I arrived home, ate my evening meal, epilated my legs whilst watching Strictly It Takes Two (you have to make an effort don’t you?) Besides, as tomorrow’s weather was due to be 14 or 15 degrees with sunny intervals, I intended to get my legs out and wear a skirt. My next task was to rummage through the wardrobe to find my pink jacket, purple sweater, burgundy cardigan, purple fleece, and grey tweed skirt ... yes, the latter still fitted despite my recent weight gain. I also located my black long-sleeved thermal vest - you can never be too careful, as Ascot is notorious for being cold! Or at least I find it so. Plus black wedge shoes and patterned tights to complete the ensemble.
I then logged onto the internet to update my blog and winners page, and to tweet Choc to congratulate him on his double and wish him luck with his rides at Ascot. I also set the VCR to record the following day’s races before turning in for the night.
I woke before 07:00; showered and washed and dried my hair, then applied my make-up. I ate a breakfast of toast and croissants whilst watching The Morning Line. Having then dressed I discovered it was far too early to set off, so I pottered around doing a few chores; although, having said that, Ascot opens its gates 3 hours before their first race rather than the more usual 2 hours of most other racecourses. My Grand National 2012 tickets also arrived, via special delivery, so I signed for those too.
I set off for the races at 10:00. My journey took me around the M25, then westbound along the M4 to the Slough Central Junction. I then headed southwards along the A355/A332, many vehicles heading down the slip-road to Windsor. Having negotiated the roundabout at the far end of the dual-carriageway, I joined a long queue stretching the entire length of Imperial Road. The traffic was stop/start, stop/start through two sets of traffic signals and slow all the way to the entrance of Legoland. The road was then clear for the remainder of the journey to Ascot; I turned left at Swinley Bottom, driving through the underpass to reach the lower end of Ascot High Street.
I turned right at the mini-roundabout and right again into the free car parking area. I was directed to park under the edge of the outstretched boughs of the cedar tree ... damn, not near that tree again! I’m paranoid about one of the branches falling onto my car! Each time I go to Ascot I try to arrive early in the hope that I won’t be parked beneath the tree, but recently I always seem to be unlucky.
I ate two of the cheese rolls which I’d brought with me, and drank a cup of coffee before setting off to walk up the High Street to the ticket office. How strange is this? Despite having visited the racecourse on numerous occasions, and in recent times always parking at the far end of the High Street, I’ve never noticed a parade of shops, a supermarket (Budgens) and a petrol station on the opposite side of the road. A Budgens supermarket ... I’d have thought that Ascot would have a Waitrose outlet!
Having purchased a grandstand ticket for £17.00, I entered the turnstiles, purchasing a race-card for £3.00 from the kiosk on the concourse opposite. After a quick trip to the little girls’ room on the lower level of the grandstand, I returned to the area above the Weighing Room. It was sunny and warm for the time of year. I thought I’d put my sunglasses in my handbag, but couldn’t locate them (I later found them lying on my bedroom floor!) ... damn.
Whilst I was waiting, Barry Geraghty arrived back from a jog around the course, passing the time of day with Mick Fitzgerald who was presenting for ATR today, along with Zoey Bird. The interview area having been set up on the steps beside the Weighing Room.
My first sighting of Choc; he arrived at 11:45, chatting with Aidan Coleman who arrived at the same time. Aidan was dressed in a suit, Choc in casual clothes. Shortly afterwards Aidan, having donned his Wellington boots, set off to walk the track. Matt Howell, Alan King’s Travelling Head Lad, arrived at midday to deliver the racing silks to the Weighing Room.
I remained on the concourse above the Weighing Room until around 13:00, when I changed location and went to stand on the steps near the ‘bridge’ over the horse-walk which leads to the stables and racecourse. However, when the spectators arrived to view the horses ahead of the first race, I found my chosen spot a little too crowded and rather claustraphobic!
As usual, having weighed out ahead of the first race, Choc sat on a chair inside the Weighing Room to wait for Alan King to collect his saddle before returning to the inner sanctum of the Weighing Room.
I have to mention the screams eminating from the fairground rides; these were set up on the lawn near the pavilion. I’m convinced that anyone who goes on these is absolutely crazy. It would upset my stomach and, besides, I now dislike heights; a fact I only discovered around a decade ago during a trip to Paris when I took a ride on a Ferris wheel in the Place De La Concorde. I don’t even like standing on a ladder these days ... and to think I used to ride horses, some over 16 hands! My first ride, at the age of 9, was aboard a 15 hand horse. The drawback of being tall for my age.
Psi started as favourite for the first race, Merehead was second favourite and Batonnier third in the betting. The race began in Swinley Bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Arab League from Big Time Billy and Tom Wade. Batonnier taking a keen hold on the inside, two from the rear.
Turning in and heading up the home straight on the first occasion, Arab League held the advantage from Big Time Billy, Tom Wade, Merehead, Oasis Knight, Airmen’s Friend, Richmond, Fontano, Marju King, Batonnier, Psi, Thoresby and Captain Sully.
Big Time Billy was a little slow at the 4th flight; Batonnier was three from the back as they turned away from the stands. Heading for Swinley Bottom, Arab League still held a narrow advantage, the other runners close on his heels; Big Time Billy now beginning to find the pace too hot. The darker grey, Merehead, blundered at the 7th flight.
Around Swinley Bottom the order was Arab League, Airmen’s Friend, Tom Wade, Merehead, Oasis Knight, Thoresby, Richmond, Batonnier, Psi, Big Time Billy, Marju King, Fontano and Captain Sully.
Arab League hit 4 out, Airmen’s Friend now taking a narrow lead; turning into the home straight Batonnier was in 6th position, Choc switching his mount to the outside to make his challenge. Arab League, Airmen’s Friend and Oasis Knight were soon joined by Psi, Batonnier and Merehead. Psi and Merehead jumped the last flight in unison, the latter going on to win by 3¼ lengths. Batonnier stayed on to take 3rd close home, with Airmen’s Friend 4th.
Choc, having finished 3rd, returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to unsaddle his mount. I duly returned through the lower level of the grandstand to find a vantage point on the steps above the Weighing Room from which to take photos. Once he had spoken with connections and returned to weigh-in I relocated to the far side of the Parade Ring in preparation for the second race.
Choc’s mount in this event was the Million In Mind Partnership’s Torphichen. This race began near the end of the back straight, with one fence to negotiate before the first turn.
Then they were off. The field was led away by King Edmund from Baseball Ted, the latter hit the first fence. They were followed by Fiftyonefiftyone and Anquetta; Choc aboard Torphichen was on the inside near the rear of the field. At the rear, Darcey’s Dancer made a mistake at the first too.
King Edmund and Baseball Ted led the field into the straight on the first occasion, from Fiftyonefiftyone, Anquetta, Panjo Bere, Safari Journey, Torphichen, Takeroc and Darcey’s Dancer. Fiftyonefiftyone hit the second fence, Anquetta the third.
King Edmund was 5 lengths up passing the post with one circuit to go. Torphichen was disputing 5th place around the top turn. Takeroc made a mistake at the 6th, the open-ditch, and wasn’t fluent at the next either; King Edmund got in close to it. Panjo Bere, now in rear, was jumping out to his left.
Around Swinley Bottom the order was King Edmund, Anquetta, Baseball Ted, Fiftyonefiftyone, Torphichen, Takeroc, Darcey’s Dancer and Safari Journey; Panjo Bere had now lost touch.
Torphichen had progressed into third place by the next fence, although he was a little slow at the following one. Anquetta led after 4 out, from King Edmund and Torphichen. Safari Journey clobbered 3 out, although near the back of the field at the time.
Anquetta was clear from 2 out and went on to win by 5 lengths from the long time leader King Edmund. Having been slow over the penultimate fence, Torphichen lost third place on the run to the line, Darcey’s Dancer staying on to deny him.
ATR’s Matt Chapman was a little rude about Torphichen; he said the 6-year-old, who had been purchased for the Million In Mind Partnership via the sales ring out of the Edward O’Grady yard, already had a lot of mileage, wasn’t well handicapped and probably needed blinkers too.
Again, I initially located to the steppings area above the Weighing Room to take photographs of Choc as he returned to the Winners’ Enclosure. As the horse was owned by the Million In Mind Partnership, once unsaddled Alan and Choc ‘held court’ with the group of owners who were crowded onto the steps beside the Parade Ring, close to the area reserved for the 4th placed horse. Choc was particularly animated, gesticulating to explain details of his ride aboard Torphichen.
When Choc returned to weigh-in, I relocated to the far side of the Paddock in preparation for the next race. His mount in this event was one of my favourite horses, Kumbeshwar. Today Choc was wearing the dark blue and burgundy silks of co-owner Nigel Bunter. Max McNeill and his family, the other co-owners were here today to watch their horse; Kumbeshwar having run in their burgundy, dark blue and white colours last season.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with one full circuit plus the home straight to cover.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Kumbeshwar, chased by Elsafeer. These were followed by Drill Sergeant, Baracas, Brampour, Nearby, Katies Tutor, Topolski, Third Intention who made an error at the first flight, Harry Tricker, Via Galilei, A Media Luz and Tarkari.
Kumbeshwar was jumping very well and continued to lead the field as they headed towards Swinley Bottom. A Media Luz hit the flight before the turn; Harry Tricker soon tailed off. Choc’s mount still held the advantage from Elsafeer, Baracas, Drill Sergeant, Third Intention, Brampour, Nearby, Topolski, Via Galilei, Katies Tutor, A Media Luz, Tarkari and Harry Tricker.
Elsafeer had his nose slightly in front over 4 out; Topolski who was already being pushed along, blundered 3 out. Kumbeshwar was still ahead turning in, but his rivals were queuing up behind him and he was joined 2 out and soon overtaken by A Media Luz, Brampour and Via Galilei. Brampour and Via Galilei led over the last, the latter briefly taking the advantage on the flat before Brampour, ridden by Paul Nicholls’ nephew and amateur jockey Harry Derham, asserted and won by half a length.
A Media Luz, having flattered to deceive earlier in the straight, weakened after the last and just held on for 3rd ahead of Baracas. Once beaten, Choc eased Kumbeshwar and they finished 8th.
I returned to the Parade Ring, waiting for Choc to return having unsaddled his mount in the enclosure reserved for unplaced horses. I then re-located to the far side of the Parade Ring in preparation for the feature race of the day, in which Choc would be riding one of the Irish competitors, Golden Kite. The horse was trained by Adrian Maguire, Choc’s most admired jockey; Adrian having been stable jockey to David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson when Choc was a lad at the yard.
It was Adrian’s first runner, as a trainer, at Ascot. ATR’s Zoey Bird interviewed the trainer prior to the race and he said he was pleased to have a ‘great jockey’ riding his horse. He also thanked the Ascot staff for looking after them really well. Noticing a family likeness, Adrian’s daughter and son had accompanied him to the meeting.
There were 4 Irish representatives in the race – Golden Kite, The Last Derby, Muirhead, and favourite Bideford Legend. The race took place over 2 full circuits of the track, the horses cantering down past the stands to take a look at the final fence before returning to the starting gate.
When it was time to begin, the eager jockeys had to take an extra turn because the Starter wasn’t on his rostrum yet.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Gentle Ranger; Golden Kite in second position dived through the first but, thankfully, his partnership with Choc survived! However, Aidan Coleman wasn’t so lucky, as he was unseated from Dover’s Hill when his mount blundered at the second fence. Balthazar King blundered and stumbled at the third, Niche Market made a mistake at the fourth.
Around Swinley Bottom on the first occasion, the order at the head of affairs was Free World, Gentle Ranger, The Last Derby, Golden Kite, Ostland, Promising Anshan, Balthazar King, Bideford Legend and Exmoor Ranger. Air Force One, Muirhead, Qulinton and Life Of A Luso were at the rear of the field; Quinz was already in danger of losing touch with the others.
Turning into home straight on the first occasion, Free World led, with Golden Kite to his outside. They were followed by Ostland, Gentle Ranger, Promising Anshan, Exmoor Range and The Last Derby. Air Force One was now detached from the back of the field, along with Quinz. Free World led from Gentle Ranger around the top turn, Ostland in third, Golden Kite in fourth. Noel Fehily pulled up Air Force One before attempting a second circuit, but Richard Johnson continued aboard Quinz.
Free World lost ground on the run towards Swinley Bottom, Ostland taking up the running; Exmoor Ranger making his customary one mistake per race at the fence just before it. Golden Kite led around the turn, Ostland and Gentle Ranger in close contention; Razor Royale soon making notable progress. Bideford Legend fell 4 out, hampering compatriot Muirhead. Sadly, although struggling to his feet and valiantly attempting to canter after the field, the Barry Geraghty ridden favourite had suffered a fatal injury, his near foreleg now useless.
The Sam Twiston-Davies ridden Razor Royale led around the final bend from Exmoor Ranger and Promising Anshan; Golden Kite was now in fourth. Promising Anshan became Razor Royale’s closest pursuer after 2 out; however, after the last, Sam’s mount appeared to idle and Exmoor Ranger stayed on to win by one length at the line. Promising Anshan finished 3rd, with Golden Kite 18 lengths back in 4th. The very disappointing Quinz was pulled up after 3 out.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back and unsaddle in 4th spot. Adrian appeared very pleased with the ride, putting an arm around Choc’s shoulder to congratulate him.
Again I relocated to the far side of the Parade Ring once Choc had gone to weigh-in. The runner of interest in the next race was the Martin Keighley trained Court In Session, to be ridden by Richard Johnson.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with one full circuit and a home straight to travel.
Then they were off. Court In Session led them away, jumping well. In rear, Giant O Murchu ballooned over the first and second flights. Quix, Tornade D’Estruval, and Just Say Please all took a keen hold.
The order around the top turn was Court In Session, Quix, Tornade D’Estruval, All The Winds, Just Say Please and Giant O Murchu. Just Say Please blundered at the fourth flight and was soon in rear. Quix hit the next.
The order around Swinley Bottom was Court In Session, Tornade D’Estruval, All The Winds, Quix, Giant O Murchu and the now tailing off Just Say Please.
Martin Keighley’s charge led into the home straight and, although close enough if good enough, his rivals were no match as he went clear of his pursuers from the penultimate flight; staying on strongly to win easily by 14 lengths. All The Winds stayed on to finish 2nd, Giant O Murchu 3rd, Tornade D’Estruval weakened quickly after the last and finished 4th.
I returned to the Parade Ring to see Martin Keighley’s 18th winner of the season arrive back in the Winners’ Enclosure.
The penultimate race of the day had just 3 runners, Tiger O’Toole being an absentee. The start of the race was in Swinley Bottom.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the Sam Twiston-Davies ridden Ackertac, although he did have a tendency to jump to his left. Micheal Flips breasted the second fence. Megastar, taking a keen hold, was held up in third.
Nick Scholfield, noting Ackertac’s penchant to jump away from the rail, decided to switch Micheal Flips to the inside approaching the sixth obstacle. Sam, having earlier switched his whip to his left hand, slapped his mount down the shoulder to guide him around the top turn. Micheal Flips took the lead at the seventh fence.
Having reached for the jump at the open-ditch, Megastar blundered and nearly unseated his jockey, Jamie Moore, at the fence after Swinley Bottom. Micheal Flips and Ackertac disputed the lead down the back, although the former hit 4 out and 3 out.
Sam’s mount led into the home straight. Megastar was being pushed along in third; however he did close on the leaders as they approached the penultimate fence. But Ackertac jumped out to his left and Megastar seemed to jump into the back of him, which handicapped his progress.
Ackertac again jumped left at the last, Micheal Flips taking the advantage to go up his inside to win by 2½ lengths. Megastar was eased on the flat once beaten, finishing last.
The light was fading as the time of the final race approached. Whilst I was waiting beside the Parade Ring, Aidan Coleman set off for home. He must have suffered an injury when being unseated from Dover’s Hill earlier in the afternoon, as one of his sleeves hung empty by his side. A companion carried his possessions. A broken collarbone was the prognosis.
Choc’s mount in the last race was Jojabean, sporting the same orange and black colours as Medermit. Having exited onto the course, the horse was a little reluctant to set off for the start. The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with one full circuit and the home straight to travel.
Then they were off ... at a very sedate pace! The commentator, Richard Hoiles, jokingly said that the horses went to the start faster and that if they kept up this speed they would be dead-heating with the fireworks display at 18:45!
The field was led away by Provo and Baroque Man, then Cecconi, Stormy Gale, Crystal Swing, Barrakilla, Typhon De Guye, Population and Xaarcet; Jojabean was keen on the inside in rear.
As they headed down the side of the course, Exaacet and Jojabean remained at the back of the field; Baroque Man and Provo still leading. Stormy Gale, the favourite, suffered trouble in running and was shuffled back through the field as they approach Swinley Bottom. Jojabean had an awkward moment, when he seemed to take a false step with his hind legs on the turn.
Martin’s runner, Typhon De Guye made progress down the back. Turning in and heading for the latter stages of the race there were a number of runners in contention, Provo, Baroque Man, Stormy Gale, Cecconi, Barrakilla, Jojabean and Typhon De Guye.
However, Population burst through between the leading contenders and went on to win easily by 6 lengths. Barrakilla was 2nd, Crystal Swing 3rd, and Jojabean 4th. Typhon De Guye finished 6th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure for the final time, to see Choc and Jojabean arrive back. Choc’s mount was reluctant to stand still whilst being unsaddled. Jojabean had also been wearing earplugs, these were removed; as he was led around he shook his head, the dangling plugs seemingly an irritant.
Choc having returned to the Weighing Room, it was time for me to leave. I left via the racecourse turnstile exit and, as always, I did a route march down Ascot High Street to the car park. There were a number of vehicles entering the car park, presumably the occupants arriving in preparation for the fireworks display which was due to commence at 18:45.
Having arrived back at my car, I then had to find a way out. I was parked in the back row of two but couldn’t reverse out and turn to my right because the giant yew tree blocked my escape! I glanced around but couldn’t see an obvious route through the row of cars behind or in front. Somewhere there must have been a gap between the vehicles because there was an empty space beside me.
Fortunately, however, after about 5 minutes, the driver of the car parked immediately in front of me arrived back and drove away, leaving a vacated space to allow me to exit from the car park onto Ascot High Street.
I then turned left, and left again, driving through the underpass to reach Swinley Bottom. My route took me back past Legoland, shortly after which I was again caught up in a traffic jam. However, once through two sets of traffic lights the road cleared and I encountered no problems on the M4 until traffic slowed considerably on the slip-road leading to the M25 clockwise carriageway.
Once on the M25, the traffic was moving okay again, although it was quite heavy for a Saturday. Leaving the M25 at Junction 21A, I travelled back via the North Orbital, arriving home at 18:40. A little later than hoped, as I missed the first two celebrities ‘take to the floor’ on Strictly Come Dancing – Russell Grant and Chelsee Healey. I wish the programme was broadcast a little later.
After watching Strictly, eating my evening meal and uploading my photographs onto my laptop, it was time for bed.