DIARY Ė HUNTINGDON Ė SUNDAY 01 MARCH 2009
The gates would open at 12:10 today as the first race was at 14:10.† This meeting was one of the Ďnewí fixtures which had been arranged because so many meetings had been lost to the weather in early January and again in early February.
Having completed a number of household chores, I set off at 11:40, joining the A1M north bound carriageway south of Hatfield Tunnel to travel to Huntingdon.† This being my 11th visit to the course, Iím beginning to recognise landmarks along the route.† After leaving the A1M there are 5 roundabouts to negotiate Ė the first beside a supermarket at Biggleswade, then Old Warden, Sandy, the Black Cat (for Bedford and Milton Keynes) and Buckden.† Plus the roundabout at the Huntingdon exit point.
It being Sunday, the outward journey was straightforward, and I arrived at the racecourse at around 12:40.† I parked in the field, on the front row, having arrived before the majority of the punters.† I sat in the car for a while as it was still 90 minutes until the first race.† Then, having changed my shoes and put on my coat, I walked to the entrance, paying £10 for my ticket today, with £2.50 for my race-card.† The sun was shining, although there was also a cold breeze.†
As the grounds were still fairly deserted, I went to sit on a bench overlooking the Parade Ring to wait for the first horses to appear.† I noticed Shane Clarke walk by me - he was our helpful valet at Stratford last summer when I was seeking to find Choc.† He is APís valet, so Tony must be riding today.† I also glanced across towards the Weighing Room and saw Noel Williams disappear behind the corner of the Tote building.† He must be on duty today, and I hope heís brought some of the ĎDoncasterí luck with him Ė Choc having ridden 2 winners at Doncaster on Friday, and Wayne Hutchinson 4 winners there yesterday.
As the first few horses started to arrive in the Parade Ring I walked across to position myself in my favourite spot, just by where the Parade Ring joins the Winnersí Enclosure section.†
Chocís mount in the first race, Division I of the Maiden Hurdle, was Latin Scholar.† The start of the race was over in the far corner of the track, as the distance was 2 miles and Ĺ a furlong, so Choc was first out onto the course and cantered down past the stands.† 9 runners were competing.
Then they were off.† The field was led by Slickdaley, but Rockateer ridden by Richard Johnson took up the running as they came up the straight for the first time.† Choc was on the inside, in around 4th or 5th position, his mount taking a keen hold.† Latin Scholar had dropped back a little by the time the field had completed a circuit but Choc drove him on to make headway after 3 out.† He was in equal 4th position at the 2nd last flight, but finished 5th on the line.† Long Distance challenged Rockateer for the lead at the last, but the latter was driven out to win.† A winner for Richard Johnson.† Victory Surge finished 3rd, with Japura in 4th.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to ensure a good pitch in preparation for the horses entering the Parade Ring for the next race.† Choc would have unsaddled with the other unplaced horses before walking back to the Weighing Room.†
It was now time for the Division II of the Maiden Hurdle, in which Choc would be riding Mount Helicon. †As the start of the race was in the same location as for Division I, the horses cantered down past the stands once again to reach it.† There were 9 runners.
The race was led off by the very aptly named chestnut, The Big Fella.† E Major was restrained in 2nd place, with Richard the Third in 3rd.† However the latter horse, with Andrew Thornton aboard, soon pulled his way to the front of the field.† Choc was on inside in 4th position. As they galloped down the far side, The Big Fella dropped out and was pulled up.† A collision occurred between Richard the Third and E Major at the third last flight, but they both survived.†
Choc avoided any trouble and went up around the outside on the home turn to take the lead, coming up the stand side of the course in the final straight.† However he was challenged by the favourite Hot Diamond, who came through to win, another victory for Richard Johnson.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Choc come back, unsaddle, speak with the owners before returning to the Weighing Room.
The third race of the day was a Novicesí Chase in which Chocís mount was Rustarix.† There had originally been 5 entries for this event, but two were withdrawn overnight, and another non-runner was announced shortly before the event.† This left just Rustarix and Kinkeel to contest the prize, Chocís mount was sent off the 1-12 favourite!† Kinkeel was very well turned out, with an attractively plaited mane.† Alanís horses never have their manes plaited.†
Choc and Eamon Dehdashti came out of the Weighing Room together, but Choc was waylaid by autograph hunters so then trailed behind a little.† There were no owners in the Parade Ring for Rustarix, but there were a group for Kinkeel.† The start of the event was at the top end of the course, over to our left, so the horses cantered directly to the start.† I positioned myself by the rails, just across from the open-ditch hoping to take a photograph as the two runners jumped the fence.† It was then that I discovered there was a problem with the picture card in my digital camera, so I was unable to take further photos (or at least that was what I thought).††††
When the race began, Choc took up his customary position on the inside, racing alongside if not slightly ahead of Kinkeel.† Choc went a little wide as they turned the corner at the end of the back straight, so Eamon switched to the inside line.† This meant that Choc came up on the stand side of the two runners, with Rustarix standing off the open-ditch and jumping it well.† However, although standing off the second open-ditch, he didnít land quite as well and Choc had to push his mount along as he was now headed by Kinkeel.†
The horses raced into the final straight upsides each other, jumping the second last in unison.† However Choc then pressed ahead, leading at the last, and winning by 11 lengths, his 96th winner of the season.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Choc come back, but was disappointed that I couldnít take any photos.† As the owner was not in attendance, Choc spoke with Noel briefly, before setting off for the Weighing Room.
Choc 4th ride of the day was aboard Sam Lord.† Unusually Choc was the last to leave the Parade Ring, and cantered leisurely down past the stands to the start.† The distance was 2 miles and Ĺ a furlong, with 10 runners.†
The race was led off by Gleann an Sagart, with Orpen Wide in 2nd.† Choc travelled on the inside at the back of the field, Sam Lord taking a keen hold.† There was some bumping as the horses rounded the top bend, mainly because Sam Lord ran a little wide at the corner!† Down the back straight the field was quite closely packed, Choc moving up on the inside to take closer order.† He was in 4th as they turned the final bend, initially moving to the outside but then switching back to the inside.† Chocís mount was 3rd at the last flight, and overtook Gleann an Sagart on the run in to claim 2nd.† The winner was Orpen Wide, having taken up the running after the 3rd last. In 4th place was LíHomme De Nuit.
As Choc had finished in 2nd place, he returned to the Winnersí Enclosure once more.† After unsaddling and speaking with the owners, he returned to the Weighing Room for the final time today.† I then went to sit on the bench beside the Tote Building to shelter from the cool breeze.
The 5th race of the day was a Handicap Hurdle over a distance of 2 miles 4Ĺ furlongs.† There were 7 runners, with only 2 of the horses being ridden by non-claimers (Richard Johnson and Jamie Moore).† The race started at the top end of the course, over to our left.† I decided to watch this event from the stands.
When the race began, Hills of Aran led them off, followed by Oscardeal and Callisto Moon.† Richard Johnson held up Hibiki at the back of the field.† As they galloped up the straight for the first time, Night Cru came through to dispute the lead.† Oscardeal was pulled up, possibly having sustained an injury.† Turning into the final straight, Hernando Royal challenged at the second last flight, and went on to win.† Hills of Arran stayed on the finish 2nd, with Night Cru in 3rd, and Altilhar 4th.
The 6th race was a Handicap Chase over a distance of 3 miles, with the starting point half way up the home straight.† There were 3 non-runners so 6 competitors remained.†† Again I positioned myself in the southern stand, overlooking the foundations of the new stand, to watch this race.
The field was led off by Dunbrody Millar, followed by Potts of Magic, with Bermuda Pointe in last place.† Nois Voila went to the front as they proceeded down the back straight, but then Dunbrody Millar took up the running once more.† A mistake was made by Nois Voila, which resulted in Philip Hide losing one of his irons.† Dunbrody Millar then dropped back and began to tail off.† †Potts of Magic was in the lead as they entered the final straight, with Bermuda Pointe making a mistake at the second last and then wandering around on the run-in, which ruined any chance he may have had with Richard Leeís runner, Potts of Magic.† Finishing in 3rd place was Baren De Doc, and 4th Bali Bay.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Potts of Magic and Oliver Greenall come back in.†
However, having watched 6 races and, of course, all of Chocís rides for today, I decided to depart once Iíd seen the horses exit the Parade Ring to compete in the final race on the card, a NH Flat race.† There were 8 runners, and it was won by Ryde Back, with the hard pulling Kaycee running very well but just being caught on the run-in.
It was a beautiful Ďred sky at nightí sunset and I arrived home at 17:55.
My first task was to swap my digital picture card for a new one and test the camera to see if it worked okay.† Yes, the camera now worked fine.† I swapped the new card out again, reloaded the old one and tried to upload the pictures which I had taken of Latin Scholar and Mount Helicon, but my PC gave me an error message. Damn, no photos then.† Worse still, the instruction manual reminded me that I can use the camera without a card, by saving the pictures onto its internal memory.† Why didnít I think of doing that?† Doh!† I could have taken photos of Choc and Rustarix returning to the Winnersí Enclosure and of Sam Lord too if Iíd only realised.† But at least Iíll remember by experience and luckily the problem arose at one of the minor meetings which Iíve attended.† Itís just a pity as the quality of light was good today, far better than at Newbury yesterday, and you can get so much closer to the action at Huntingdon, so my pictures would have been good. L†