DIARY – CHELTENHAM

SHOWCASE MEETING – DAY 2 – PART II

SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 2014

 

 

 

Race 5 r.jpg

 

The Alan King trained Ulzana’s Raid wins the

Handicap Hurdle with Wayne Hutchinson aboar

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO READ PART I

 

 

The starting gate for the next race was part way down the home straight, with two fences being jumped prior to heading away from the grandstands for the first time.  This being the case, the horses cantered up in front of us having left the horse-walk before returning down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to finish their journey. 

 

This was a race affected by the re-location of the start; an extra half a furlong (110 yards) had been added to the distance of this year’s renewal of the race, which meant an additional fence to be jumped too.

 

Alan King had a runner in this event, the blinkered Midnight Appeal, today ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.   The race favourite was Standing Ovation at 5-1.  Lesley’s dad likes to bet on a grey so, with three greys in the race, Lesley chose Chicago Grey. 

 

Race 4

Handicap Chase

Distance

3 miles and 1 furlong (20 fences)

No. of Runners

13 ran

Mon Parrain, Sire Collonges, Duke Of Lucca, Mart Lane, Dursey Sound, Chicago Grey, Midnight Appeal, Your Busy, Roalco De Farges, Golden Chieftain, Me And Ben, Standing Ovation, Alfie Spinner

 

The runners approached the tape and then they were off ... or rather they weren’t ... it was a false start; the jockey on the inside of the group aboard Chicago Grey had peeled off to his left, thus ensuring they would not be permitted to go.  As they weren’t travelling at speed, the other riders soon pulled up their mounts and they returned to the starting gate, bringing up the rear as they returned was the grey Sire Collonges, mount of Sam Twiston-Davies.

 

So much for the sedate walk in to the start, the horses weren’t far behind the tape as it was stretched across the racecourse once more.  They set off from more or less a standstill.  It was a short run to the first, with Your Busy rising just ahead of Mon Parrain to his inside, and inside of these were Standing Ovation and Mart Lane.  In midfield, Midnight Appeal hit the first fence; travelling in rear were Chicago Grey and Duke Of Lucca.  Chicago Grey landed a little awkwardly over the second obstacle.

 

Having reached the area in front of the stands, the horses then veered off to their left and headed up the hill to jump the third.  Your Busy and Standing Ovation cut out the running, followed by Sire Collonges to the outside, the cheek-pieced Mon Parrain, Alfie Spinner and Mart Lane; behind these was Dursey Sound, to his inside Midnight Appeal and Golden Chieftain.  Behind these Duke Of Lucca and Me And Ben matched strides, whilst at the rear of the field were a brace of greys, Roalco De Farges and Chicago Grey.  The runners cleared the uphill fence without problem and headed out into the country on the first occasion.

 

There were no incidents as the field cleared the fourth fence, and they all safely negotiated the water-jump too.  The following obstacle was their first open-ditch; again no obvious errors.  Your Busy continued to lead the field as they jumped the seventh fence, with Standing Ovation close up on his inside; Roalco De Farges and Chicago Grey remained at the rear.  The horses headed around the dogleg turn to arrive at the next open-ditch; again no problems, although the Gordon Elliott representative was a little slow at it.

 

The field continued to the top of the hill, travelled around the far bend and began the journey down the slope to fence number nine; once more no obvious errors from the experienced handicappers.  However, by this stage, Mon Parrain had dropped back through the field to dispute last place.  He received a slap or two down his right shoulder and a couple of back-handers too for his troubles. 

 

Your Busy to the wide outside and Standing Ovation against the rail, led the field into the home straight once more.  All of the runners cleared the two fences therein without incident; both Your Busy and Sire Collonges reaching for the second of these.  There were no real distress signals as the horses headed away from the grandstand and up the hill to the next fence; Your Busy was a length ahead of the field, with Mon Parrain and Roalco De Farges bringing up the rear.  However Mon Parrain was very slow at the obstacle and began to lose touch with the others as they headed into the back straight for the final time.

 

Duke Of Lucca hit the next fence.  Midnight Appeal closed up behind the leaders as they approached the water for the final time.  Your Busy continued to lead, from Alfie Spinner, Standing Ovation, Midnight Appeal and the grey Sire Collonges.  The runners cleared the next open-ditch without a problem and Standing Ovation took a very narrow advantage as they jumped the following fence.  They then travelled around the dogleg turn and approached the final open-ditch; it was now Sire Collonges’ turn to drop noticeably back through the field. 

 

Alfie Spinner was marginally ahead as they cleared this fence, from Standing Ovation against the rails, between them was the improving Golden Chieftain and, to their outside, Your Busy; Midnight Appeal travelled in fifth position.  Sire Collonges had now dropped to the rear, Sam Twiston-Davies called it a day at this point; stable companion Mon Parrain having already been pulled up.

 

The runners negotiated the far bend and began the descent to the third last fence.  To the inside, Standing Ovation held a slight advantage over his rivals as they jumped it, Alfie Spinner cleared it in second, from Golden Chieftain and Your Busy.  Midnight Appeal wasn’t far behind, although he didn’t put in the tidiest of leaps at this fence.  As they rounded the final bend, Roalco De Farges weaved his way through between Midnight Appeal and Alfie Spinner; he looked the biggest danger to the two leaders, Standing Ovation and Golden Chieftain.

 

In fact he was upsides, if not marginally ahead as they cleared the penultimate fence; Golden Chieftain began to weaken shortly after clearing the fence, this left Standing Ovation to battle it out with the grey on the run to the final obstacle.  Alfie Spinner was staying on and had soon drawn alongside the Tizzard runner.  Roalco De Farges was only a neck ahead of Tom Scudamore’s mount clearing the last, but the latter soon began to tire as they climbed the hill to the line.  The grey went on to win by 4½ lengths.  Standing Ovation held on for second, with Alfie Spinner two lengths back in third.  Chicago Grey had stayed on from the rear of the field to claim 4th.  Midnight Appeal completed in 9th place. 

 

Unfortunately Lesley had chosen the wrong grey.  Although she would have won her each way bet had 16 runners taken part but, unfortunately, there were just 13 runners in this one. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Roalco De Farges

Tom O’Brien

Philip Hobbs

2nd

Standing Ovation

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

3rd

Your Busy

David Casey

James A Nash

4th

Chicago Grey

Kevin Sexton

Gordon Elliott

 

We returned to the area beside the Parade Ring to see the placed horses return.  Chris diverted to the bookies once more.  I believe he had also placed a winning bet or two on the Champions Day racing at Ascot. 

 

It was now time for the fifth race of the day.  There were two runners of interest for me in this race, namely the Alan King-trained top-weight Ulzana’s Raid and the Martin Keighley-trained Seymour Eric.  The favourite for this event was flashy chestnut Andy Kelly at odds of 4-1; the Alan King runner was also a flashy chestnut.

 

My group returned to the course-side rails prior to the runners leaving the Parade Ring.  Seymour Eric showed his wellbeing by having a buck or two as he exited the horse-walk prior to cantering across the track and heading up the all-weather strip around the top turn. 

 

The starting gate for this race was located part way down the back straight, with two hurdles to jump before the far bend.  Having milled around at the start, it was soon time for the race to begin.

 

Race 5

Handicap Hurdle

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs (11 flights)

No. of Runners

13 ran

Ulzana´s Raid, Ardkilly Witness, Foxcub, Andy Kelly, Pass The Time, Moorlands Mist, Act Alone, Forthefunofit, Jimmy The Jetplane, Seymour Eric, Megastar, Dragon´s Den, Bygones Sovereign

 

The jockeys organised themselves into a group and walked in slowly to the tape and then they were off, first time.  To the inside of the track leading the way was Bygones Sovereign; to his outside were Jimmy The Jetplane and Seymour Eric.  Wider still on the track travelled Act Alone and Forthefunofit; just behind these front-ranked runners was the keen Andy Kelly.  Having cleared the first without incident, the field headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the second flight.  Megastar and Dragon’s Den brought up the rear as they jumped this hurdle.

 

Bygones Sovereign continued to lead the way as they climbed to the top of the hill before turning the far bend and heading downhill to the next flight; both Jimmy The Jetplane and Seymour Eric drawing upsides the leader as they jumped it.  There was still a difference of opinion regarding the best ground, with Forthefunofit, Act Alone, Megastar, Ulzana’s Raid and Dragon’s Den all being taken wide upon the course as they travelled towards the fourth flight.

 

Having cleared the obstacle without incident, the runners on the wide outside manoeuvred back towards their rivals in order to take the shortest route they could around the bend and into the home straight on the first occasion.  There was no change at the head of affairs as they continued towards the fifth flight; Dragon’s Den brought up the rear. 

 

All having cleared it safely, the field galloped up towards the grandstand, veered left and headed up the hill to begin their final circuit.  Bygones Sovereign led the way from Jimmy The Jetplane, Seymour Eric, Andy Kelly, Moorlands Mist, Act Alone, Ardkilly Witness, Forthefunofit, Ulzana’s Raid, Megastar, Pass The Time, Foxcub and Dragon’s Den.  Seagulls were flying above the Best Mate Enclosure as the horses passed by, perhaps searching for titbits dropped by today’s punters.

 

Heading down the back straight for the final time, the runners cleared flight number six without incident and continued the long journey to the next, passing through their starting point in the process.  The jockey aboard the leader became animated as they approached the next; his closest rivals soon taking a very narrow advantage.  Seymour Eric now disputed the lead with Jimmy The Jetplane and Andy Kelly as they negotiated the dogleg turn.  The runners cleared the next without incident, although the flight did look a little battered as the horses continued on their journey; Megastar and Ardkilly Witness probably the main culprits. 

 

By the time they’d reached the top of the hill, Bygones Sovereign had dropped to the rear of the field and was beginning to lose touch.  Seymour Eric led the field around the far turn, with Jimmy The Jetplane now also dropping back through the field.  The Martin Keighley runner cleared the flight with Andy Kelly upsides; a close third to the outside was Act Alone.  Further back in the field Ardkilly Witness flattened one of the panels.

 

Seymour Eric fought off the challenge of the favourite as they approached and jumped two out; but now Act Alone, who bumped him slightly, and Forthefunofit took over the lead after the flight.  Travelling just behind the leading horses were Ulzana’s Raid and Dragon’s Den.  The field turned into the home straight, heading for the final flight.  The Nicky Henderson runner and the Jonjo O’Neill runner just ahead, with Wayne Hutchinson steering his mount to the inside to get a clear view of the hurdle and almost upsides as they jumped it. 

 

Act Alone made a hash of it and this left Forthefunofit and Ulzana’s Raid to join battle up the run-in, with Dragon’s Den making his challenge between them.  Richie McLernon’s mount was the first beaten but, although his other rival continued to stay on to the line, he was always held.  The Alan King-trained Ulzana’s Raid won by half a length.  Forthefunofit completed 3¾ lengths back in third, with Ardkilly Witness a further 3½ lengths away in fourth.  The first three had all taken today’s favoured outside route around the course.

 

Seymour Eric completed in 7th place.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Ulzana’s Raid

Wayne Hutchinson

Alan King

2nd

Dragon’s Den

Leighton Aspell

Chris Down

3rd

Forthefunofit

Richie McLernon

Jonjo O’Neill

4th

Ardkilly Witness

Christopher Ward

Dr Richard Newland

 

The Alan King runner having won, I set off at route march pace to the Winners’ Enclosure and arrived with plenty of time in hand.  Having left both Lesley and Chris in my wake, they managed to find me easily ... because of my bright mauve jacket! 

 

Ulzana’s Raid was still quite lively when being unsaddled by his jockey; Matt poured two or three buckets of water over the horse to cool him down before covering him with a rug.  The trainer, jockey, stable-lass and owner posed for photographs with the horse before he was led away.    

 

Having weighed-in, Wayne returned in time to join the sponsor and connections on the podium for the presentation of the prizes.  We remained on the steppings for a while and saw the runners for the penultimate race arrive therein; there were just three participants in this event, there being two non-runners. 

 

The evens favourite for the race was the blinkered David Pipe-trained runner Ainsi Fideles, who was just a 4-year-old, and had won his last five races, including a beating of today’s main rival Splash Of Ginge at Perth on his most recent run.  However, Splash Of Ginge possessed the best hurdles form, having won Newbury’s very valuable Betfair Hurdle in February.  And, evidently, a number of the Twiston-Davies runners had run below par at that particular Perth fixture. 

 

We walked down to the course-side rails in time to see the three runners exit the walkway; they headed across the racecourse and up the all-weather strip around the top bend to reach the starting gate.  Having milled around behind the gate for a few minutes it was then time for the race to begin. 

 

Race 6

Novices’ Chase

Distance

2 Miles 4 furlongs (14 fences)

No. of Runners

3 ran

Gentleman Jon, Splash Of Ginge, Ainsi Fideles

 

The three runners walked slowly towards the tape ... and then they were off, with Ainsi Fideles leading the way.  Gentleman Jon brought up the rear.  The leader put in a big leap at the first, jumping out to his right; as a result, Tom Scudamore pulled his whip through to his right-hand should any necessary aid be required at the following obstacles to keep the horse jumping straight. 

 

Having negotiated the dogleg turn, the small field approached the first of the open-ditches; all three cleared this without problem.  They continued to the top of the hill, Ainsi Fideles with a clear lead over his rivals, before heading downhill in Indian file to the third.  Again the leader jumped out to his right, as did Splash Of Ginge; horses having a tendency to follow their leader!  Gentleman Jon clouted the fence, survived but lost ground.

 

The runners headed into the home straight on the first occasion; all three cleared the two fences therein without bother before continuing up the hill in front of the Best Mate stand and over fence number six.  Ainsi Fideles continued to lead the way, with Splash Of Ginge approximately four lengths behind him and Gentleman Jon five or six lengths in arrears.  The front two cleared the next without incident; Daryl Jacob’s mount hit it but survived.

 

Sam Twiston-Davies had closed the gap slightly between himself and the leader by the time they cleared the water-jump; their remaining rival still trailing.  The next obstacle was the penultimate open-ditch.  There were no problems encountered at this fence.  One circuit had been completed, with five more fences to jump.  The runners headed to the next, a plain fence, which they all safely cleared, before travelling around the dogleg turn.

 

Ainsi Fideles continued to hold a three length advantage over Splash Of Ginge as they jumped the final ditch and headed to the final turn; Gentleman Jon travelled ten lengths adrift in third position.  Sam Twiston-Davies made up ground upon the leader as they galloped downhill to three out and was just a length behind as they jumped it, although his mount did skew slightly in mid-air.  Once again, as he’d done on the previous circuit, Gentleman Jon hit this one but yet again survived the blunder.

 

Approaching the home turn, Tom Scudamore aboard the leader became more animated; he also checked beneath his right arm to ascertain how far behind him Splash Of Ginge was.  His rival was just two lengths adrift as they turned into the home straight and headed towards the penultimate obstacle.  From travelling in the slip-stream of the leader, Sam pulled his mount out to the right in order to get a better view of the fence; perhaps not the best side to select considering the leader’s preference to jump out to his right too. 

 

Having cleared the obstacle, Splash Of Ginge was now manoeuvred to make a challenge to the far side of the leader instead and they jumped the fence together.  Sam’s mount landed with more momentum than his rival and galloped up the hill to the line to win by 9 lengths from a tired Ainsi Fideles.  Gentleman Jon finished 34 lengths back in third.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Splash Of Ginge

Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies

2nd

Ainsi Fideles

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

3rd

Gentleman Jon

Daryl Jacob

Colin Tizzard

 

Having discovered how easy it was to return to the Winners’ Enclosure following a race, and there being plenty of room on the steppings today too; we decided to return to the area to see the runners arrive back. 

 

We stayed to see the presentation and the horses enter the Parade Ring ahead of the bumper race too, before returning to the course-side rails in time to watch the competitors canter up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before returning down the turf, and continuing along the all-weather gallop to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.

 

The favourite for this race was the David Pipe-trained, Tom Scudamore-ridden Moon Racer, priced at 11-4.  My personal ‘pick of the paddock’ was the Seamus Durack runner, Paolozzi, starting price 20-1!  Lesley’s choice was Chezzy. 

 

The horses congregated on the course, rather than in the holding pen ahead of the off.  Having moved in the opposite direction, they turned and walked towards the starting gate in an organised fashion.

 

Race 7

Standard Open NH Flat Race

Distance

2 miles 110 yards

No. of Runners

12 ran

Arabic History, Celtic Agent, Going For Gold, Moon Racer, Paolozzi, Chezzy, How About It, Ink Master, Miami Present, Robbie Rabbit, Troika Steppes, War On The Rocks

 

Then they were off, led away by the nose-banded chestnut Going For Gold.  A couple of runners were fighting for their heads, namely Troika Steppes and Miami Present.  Moon Racer took over the lead as they progressed up the home straight; close up to his inside Troika Steppes, to his outside Celtic Agent. Bringing up the rear was War On The Rocks.

 

Troika Steppes and Moon Racer disputed the lead as they headed up the hill away from the stands, followed by Celtic Agent, then a group of six runners; namely Miami Present, Robbie Rabbit, How About It, Paolozzi, Ink Master and Going For Gold.  These were followed by Arabic History and Chezzy; War On The Rocks was three lengths adrift in rear.

 

Heading into the back straight, all the runners apart from Going For Gold, decided to take the favoured route close to the outside rail.  The Jonjo O’Neill runner, Miami Present under David Casey, was still pulling for his head.  Conor Shoemark aboard Lesley’s selection, Chezzy, was having a very uncomfortable ride – his saddle had slipped forward and he was perched up his mount’s neck. 

 

Having reached the dogleg turn, the runners drifted back towards the nearside rails, almost joining up with Going For Gold who continued to plough a lone furrow along the inside.  Moon Racer continued to lead, from Troika Steppes, Robbie Rabbit and How About It as they headed to the top of the hill.  My selection was travelling well to the wide outside of the main group and made rapid progress as they galloped down the hill towards the final turn; in fact he was now in second position, behind Moon Racer and ahead of Robbie Rabbit.

 

Tom Scudamore set sail for home as he rounded the home bend, putting daylight between himself and the field.  Paolozzi continued in second position, from Ink Master, Arabic History, Robbie Rabbit, Celtic Agent and War On The Rocks.   

 

And the leader was not for catching, he continued to pull away from his nearest rivals, winning by 12 lengths at the line.  Arabic History grabbed second position from Paolozzi just before the line; ¾ of a length the distance between them.  Celtic Agent claimed fourth, a further 6 lengths behind these.

 

Unsurprisingly Going For Gold, the lone horse to have taken the inside route around the track, trailed in last; he was even beaten by Chezzy despite the slipped saddle!   

 

With 12 runners taking part, the first three would have paid out each-way; so my 20-1 selection would have turned a profit had I bet on it. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Moon Racer

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

2nd

Arabic History

Noel Fehily

John Ferguson

3rd

Paolozzi

Conor O’Farrell

Seamus Durack

4th

Celtic Agent

Adam Nicol

Philip Kirby

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure for the final time today and were in time to see the placed horses arrive back.

The final race over and presentations made, it was time for us to set off for home.  Lesley and I popped to the loo situated on the ground floor of the main grandstand, opposite the Winners’ Enclosure.  We then set off up the concourse towards the main entrance, passing the temporary site of the Cheltenham bookshop on the way.  They were advertising the recently published McCoy In The Frame, a collection of photographs taken by acclaimed photographer Edward Whitaker spanning 20 years of the Champion Jockey’s career.  Also Gary Witheford’s If Horses Could Talk book, which I read last month shortly after publication. 

Having exited the iron-gates adjacent to the Centaur building, we walked over the bridge, across the driveway and passed by the ticket kiosks before weaving our way between stationary traffic queuing back along the Evesham Road.  We returned along the tarmac driveway which acts as the exit point for the upper car park, before turning to our left between hedges and descending the gravelly roadway which runs through the centre of the lower field where I’d parked my car.  It wasn’t particular comfortable underfoot conditions, with numerous large stones protruding from the surface of this driveway; we moved onto the grass to our right to search for my car.    

Many of the vehicles had already left, so my car was standing within a group of just 5 of 6 cars.  I changed into my driving moccasins, placing my slightly muddy shoes in the boot; there wasn’t much room inside, with space also required for two passengers.  I placed my jacket and scarf on the back seat, and my capacious handbag in the foot-well behind the driver’s seat.   There was time for a quick snack – I’d brought four cheese rolls with me; two for me and one each for Lesley and Chris.

I’m not 100% sure what time we set off; I didn’t glance at the car clock.  But traffic outside the racecourse was moving smoothly and I was able to turn left onto Swindon Road upon reaching the gateway.  I know traffic can build up along the New Barn Lane exit route, and have regretted heading that way in the past so, on this occasion, I took a right at the large roundabout outside the main racecourse entrance and headed down the section of the Evesham Road which leads to the town centre.  There was a taxi parked shortly after the corner to the road, it was in the process of picking up race-day punters; I had to manoeuvre around it before descending the hill. 

We did get stuck in traffic further along the route, but not for long, and were able to take a left turn into Wellington Road; a signpost marking it as part of the route to Cheltenham General Hospital.  I’d soon reached the roundabout on the Prestbury Road, heading straight across to Pittville Circus; a ‘microcar’ pulling out a little later than sensible onto the roundabout in front of me too.  Having negotiated the Circus, I entered Pittville Circus Road, and I recall a number of vehicles passing by in the opposite direction too. 

Hewlett Road was clear of traffic heading from my right, so I immediately turned left and headed back to the ‘longabout’.  Again with no traffic from my right, I took a left turn and a right turn and this took us up Harp Hill; the land falls away to the left further up the ascent, with the houses on the right enjoying great views across towards Prestbury.  Having reached the top and begun a slight descent, a further right turn took us into Greenway Lane.  We encountered no vehicles along this stretch of road, manoeuvring through the two chicanes without delay.  Houses line the left-hand side of road as it nears the Sixways Junction and, following the sharp left-hand corner I was able to pull up behind two vehicles, waiting for the lights to change.

Being a multi-phase junction, it often seems to take ages for the lights to change to green; on this occasion we didn’t have to wait long.  A left turn then took us onto the A40 and we headed through Charlton Kings before beginning the ascent up past the Dowdeswell Reservoir to reach the set of traffic lights upon the Andoversford bypass; these were set to red.  We then drove along the next stretch of road; a Murco petrol station is situated to the right, there being a sharp left-hand bend at this point.  Shortly afterwards the Gloucester Road joins the A40 from the right; again the traffic lights were set to red. 

Once they had changed to green, we headed up the short section of dual carriageway; one maniac driver whizzed by at the start of the sharp incline, impatient to speed ahead.  We were soon travelling past the Puesdown Inn, although this has been re-signed Garniche.  Having descended from the highest point of our Cotswold journey, we crossed the Stow/Cirencester Road; again no traffic crossed our path to cause a delay.       

I don’t recall following any vehicles, or being closely followed either, during the next stretch of the journey but, by the time we’d reached The Inn For All Seasons or shortly afterwards, we’d caught up with the vehicles travelling ahead of us.  It could be termed a ‘convoy’ as we approached the 40mph speed limit on the outskirts of Burford.  I was held up at the large roundabout above the town by traffic crossing my route, before heading along the ridge to reach the roundabout at the beginning of the Witney bypass.  The markings on the road have changed in recent times, traffic heading into Witney via Minster Lovell take the inside lane, those wishing to use the bypass use the outside lane when approaching the roundabout.

I drove along the bypass at a sensible speed, around 60 mph, with no requirement to overtake any vehicles; it was quiet, with no-one interrupting my progress along the inside lane by entering via any of the slip-roads.  There was no scrimmaging for a position at the Oxford end either, there being no over-takers ‘running out of road’ before it narrowed into single carriageway in each direction once more.   The road passes the Evenlode pub on the right and a petrol station on the left before a roundabout is reached; heading straight ahead, then through a set of traffic lights, and onwards to the roundabout on the outskirts of Oxford. 

As I needed to return Lesley and Chris to Bedfordshire, I turned left at this point and headed up the dual carriageway to the Peartree roundabout before driving up the slip-road onto the A34 northbound carriageway.  I made certain that I moved into the outside lane before I reached the cones which presumably marked improvements at the junction with the M40.  It was noticeable, even in the dark, that the shrubbery on the A41 side of the junction had been removed as part of the workings.  I headed up the dual carriageway to the large roundabout where the B4030 joins from the left. 

A further short stretch of carriageway, followed by a right turn at the next roundabout took us onto the Bicester bypass and onwards towards Aylesbury.  Whereas my night vision had been no problem on the A40, it was worse than I’d hoped as I drove along this section of the A41; it didn’t particularly help that I was being followed by a vehicle ... a little too closely!  When we reached the short stretch of dual carriageway just prior to Kingswood I was convinced the driver would overtake me, but he/she didn’t; obviously they felt safer having rear lights to follow.   

After Kingswood the road meanders through the English countryside, as opposed to following the route of the old Roman Road as it did prior to the village.  We then drove through Waddesdon; we were slowed briefly by a vehicle backing out of a parking space in the main street into our path.  Our journey continued along the next section of the A41 and we had soon reached Aylesbury.  There are a number of roundabouts leading to retail parks on the outskirts of the town; we negotiated these and turned left to join the ring-road.

Having been caught out by the very rough road surface on the Aylesbury-side of Wing, I had no intention of returning via that route.  Instead we continued along the ring-road until we reached the A41 once more, turning left at the traffic lit junction and getting caught by a red light at the next junction shortly afterwards.  Aylesbury have been busy during the past year or so replacing a number of mini-roundabouts with traffic lights.  Personally, I think it is the wrong move for them, but it would be a good idea for my particular locality in St Albans! 

We headed along the Aston Clinton Road, taking a left at the large roundabout to join the A41 bypass road. Not far along I took the slip-road off the bypass to join the A489 and head in an easterly direction.  I used to know this area quite well, having been rambling in the vicinity on a number of occasions; I also had a recollection that the road followed field boundaries for the part, resulting in a number of sharp right-angled turns.  It did.  We passed the road to Wilstone; I’ve rambled from there.  Also the lane leading to Little Tring; I had ancestors who lived at Little Tring Farm, beside the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. 

The Wendover Arm fell into disrepair over the years due to leakage and a stretch close to the farm was ploughed over.  However, in recent times, a phased project has been underway to re-open it.  The farm building is not the original, a new one having been constructed; nor is the nearby road bridge over the canal.

Having crossed the Tringford Road roundabout, we drove along beside the Startop’s End Reservoir, yet another starting point for my historical rambles.  The road rises up to cross the narrow bridge over the main Grand Union Canal; the traffic light controls showing on red as we approached.  Having cleared the canal, the road passes Marsworth before heading over the Euston railway line and into Pitstone.  There are minor traffic calming bumps by Marsworth, but these become more intrusive at Pitstone; second gear, 20 mph all the way.

There used to be a cement works at Pitstone and I recall my late father taking me out for a driving lesson in the vicinity and all the roads and houses in the village were covered in white dust from the works.  The works have now been replaced by a business park; far cleaner.  The speed bumps continued through Ivinghoe; there’s a National Trust post-windmill close by. 

Just beyond Pitstone I needed to take a sharp left turn to continue along the B489 towards Dunstable; in the dark, I almost missed the turning and, if I had, would have ended up back in Tring!  Mind you, in the dark, at this stage of the journey I was relying upon my companions to direct me!  The road soon passes close to the bottom of Ivinghoe Beacon, another happy rambling ground for me; I’ve climbed it a number of times over the years.  The view to the left across the vale would have been pleasant, had it not been dark. 

At the next junction I had the option to turn left at the first of the pair of roundabouts and drive through Edlesborough to reach Eaton Bray, or continue along the Dunstable Road to the next single roundabout before turning left; I chose the former.  A right turn opposite Edlesborough Church put me on the road through the main part of the village and on to Eaton Bray.  I dropped Lesley and Chris off at her home; it was 20:15.  They had both enjoyed their day, with talented punter Chris definitely returning home with more money than he’d left with that morning!

I retraced my route back through the village, turning left to head through the Church End area of Totternhoe.  There was a vehicle following close behind me and the driver took a short-cut along Furlong Lane just prior to the main road; it didn’t help them, as the car was still waiting to pull out onto my route as I drove by.  Bad move. Having reached Dunstable, I turned left, crossed one roundabout before turning right into Meadway.  The speed bumps and 20 mph limit along this stretch of my journey through the housing estate add five minutes to my journey time.

I eventually reached Beech Road, turned left and drove down the slope to the traffic lights located at the junction with the A5 London Road.  After waiting a minute or two for them to change to green, I turned right and headed through the traffic lit junction where the road on the left leads to Caddington; I drove onwards towards Markyate.   The lights on their bypass were showing green, so I was not delayed as I drove past Flamstead to reach Junction 9 of the M1.  I continued under the motorway bridge to join the Redbourn bypass, turning left and heading up the hill, through Hatching Green to Harpenden Common.

I turned right at the roundabout and headed towards St Albans, an impatient driver sped past me; I was doing 40 mph, the speed limit, the other driver was going much faster.  I had been looking forward to a final burst of speed on this stretch of road before my home City but unfortunately a car pulled out from Beesonend Lane; they dawdled along ahead of me at 50 mph.   But we still caught up with a convoy of traffic before St Albans, so I presume even the earlier speed-limit breaker would not have got much advantage.

After a pedestrian pace along the City roads, I reached home at 20:55.  There was time to eat a salad, upload my photographs and write a blog before turning in for the night ... or rather before dosing off to sleep on the sofa!  I awoke at around 01:30 and went to bed.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Considering I had two passengers to talk with along my journey, I appear to have taken in even more than usual along my route!!!  That’s really strange ...

Click here for photos Race 4

Click here for photos – Race 5

Click here for photos – Races 6 & 7

 

 

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