VISIT TO JAMIE SNOWDEN’S FOLLY HOUSE STABLES
TO SEE OUR REWARD, WILDEHEARTED WOMAN
AND AN UNNAMED FLEMENSFIRTH GELDING
SATURDAY 13 AUGUST 2016
EPDS Racing’s unnamed Flemensfirth gelding ...
stable name not decided yet – either Flem or Colin!
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Having undertaken a visit to Graeme McPherson’s yard a fortnight previously, I was keen to go on another outing before the summer was over. On this occasion it was to Jamie Snowden’s Folly House yard in Lambourn; I know the ‘Valley of the Racehorse’ quite well, from previous Good Friday Open Days so, with just a little research on Google Maps, it enabled me to locate the yard. It is situated adjacent to the Equine Hospital, and next door to the field where the Open Day afternoon events are held.
I’d also interrogated Google with regards to how long it would take to reach the Berkshire village; anywhere between one hour 20 minutes and one hour 45 minutes depending on traffic. Being a Saturday morning the only possible issue might be summer holiday traffic on the motorways, or road accidents of course. Before looking up the timings, my thought had been to leave at 08:00; however this was revised to 08:15 once a 10:00 o’clock arrival for 10:30 was requested.
Having set my alarm for 06:00, I showered and washed and dried my hair, applied full makeup (as you do), ate a breakfast of two croissants, and was ready to leave just before 08:15. My outfit today was a pair of black M & S jeggings, also a black BHS shirt with pink and white butterfly design thereon; another first time wearing having bought the item last summer. Although I had to secure a couple of loose threads on the left three-quarter length sleeve just before I set off. I also took with me a burgundy M & S frill-edged cardigan and light blue BHS raincoat. No necklace today, just a pair of magenta butterfly earrings created by UniqueDichroic.
I also used my new monochrome Kipling Alenya ‘Graphic Print’ design handbag. Every summer I seem to have a shopping binge which coincides with the latter part of my diary writing phase. It’s been scarves created from newly discovered (at that time) Katia yarns; scarves from other tape style yarns; crocheted scarves from stripes of material; yarn for cardigans and jumpers, having discovered that it is economical to knit with acrylic yarn as opposed to wool; material scarves having found many suppliers on Etsy (at around £8 a scarf); and now Kipling handbags in their summer sale! The bags are addictive, because they manufacture many styles in many colours and designs.
I also managed to wear my contact lenses, despite having suffered from a dry left eye during the previous week, and especially the previous day when I felt every blink for three or four hours after waking up. This had been the first period when my left eye was affected, as opposed to the right eye which has been an ongoing problem for a while now.
Having left just before 08:15, my journey took me around the ring-road, then down London Road to the London Colney roundabout; I didn’t have to wait in a queue, as the lights controlling the large roundabout were on green, both sets that I passed through. I then drove down the bypass to reach the Bell roundabout and travelled over the motorway bridge to reach a further one.
The driver of a silver car was playing ‘silly buggers’ here; I thought they were going to head over the bridge in the opposite direction to myself, but they continued around the roundabout for a second time. I then followed the vehicle to the next roundabout, the one where the Junction 20 anti-clockwise slip-road begins; at this point the car did a 180 degree turn. What was that about? I think they were probably on the right route in the first place, but didn’t know it!
Anyway, the motorway was fairly clear, with traffic flowing well until the approach to Junction 16; the M40. Signs now suggested a maximum speed of 60 mph, and others requested visitors to Legoland use Junction 13. And me? Having reached Junction 15, I took the slip-road to join the M4 westbound carriageway. Not much happened on the M4; I noticed a few bits of minor debris on the hard shoulder at the bridge over the Langley junction, Windsor Castle just visible over the tree-tops on the approach to Datchet, and a ‘peloton’ of cyclists heading over a bridge somewhere between Maidenhead and Reading South.
I’m accustomed to leaving the motorway at Junction 12, for visits to Newbury racecourse and to Noel Williams’ yard but, today, my destination was Junction 14; it’s quite a distance too, as the junctions are few and far between the further away you get from London. I left the motorway at around 09:25. Having arrived at the roundabout beneath the junction, I turned right to head underneath the carriageway then, a short distance along the A338, I turned left. There was a sign warning traffic that the A338 was closed within Wantage.
I headed along the road through Woodlands St Mary and Lambourn Woodlands; the road is unusually straight … it’s signed as Ermin Steet which links the Roman towns of Silchester and Cirencester, which explains it! Further along I turned right, to head down the steep hill to enter the ‘Valley of the Racehorse’; the Kingswood Stud is situated to the left of the road. I recall passing a LRT horsebox (Lambourn Racehorse Transport) at one point.
Having entered the village, I turned left just prior to the High Street to head along Crowle Road. To the right-hand side of the road is Windsor House, the home of Harry Dunlop Racing at present; I remember visiting the yard during the Lambourn Open Day in 1990, when Nicky Henderson was in situ. The yard has an interesting history:
Anyway, at the first T-junction I turned right then, at the next, I turned left to head towards Upper Lambourn. Having researched the location, I knew I was looking for the entrance to a car park on the right-hand side, opposite the entrance to the Equine Hospital. It was easy to find, having driven past Folly House stables first, on the left too. The woodland bordering the road conceals a bridleway; a number of racehorses were approaching along it as I drove into the car park.
There were a couple of vehicles already parked, but it transpired that these were owned by dog walkers who were exercising their canines upon the adjacent ‘Old Cricket Field’. EPDS’ John Powell arrived shortly afterwards and parked in the space next to my car. I put on my raincoat and boots, and loitered for a while; I think there may have been the odd spit spot of rain, so I also put my umbrella in my bag. It had been sunny in St Albans, but had begun to cloud over the further west I drove. One of the dogs being walked came over to me … I ignored it; I’m not a dog person or a cat person! Mind you, cats seem to like me … they are probably my ‘familiar’!
I continued to loiter, eventually close to the car park entrance and was soon joined by John; his partner Ellie and son Alfie were currently on holiday in Dorset. We crossed the road and walked up the driveway to Folly House Stables. There were number of vehicles already parked; not all were 4x4’s. John had requested that 4x4’s park at the yard and other vehicles in the car park opposite; that was because the off-roaders would be used to drive up to the gallops.
We headed through the yard, towards Folly House itself. I remained outside because I wasn’t sure of the protocol, but it transpired that there were a number of people in the kitchen, where trainer Jamie Snowden was serving tea or coffee to his visitors. Having joined them a short while later, I didn’t partake as I’m paranoid about getting caught short these days … it’s my age! Jamie’s children had also made cakes for the party. John had a list of attendees and he continued to check the them off as people arrived; it was the biggest EPDS Racing syndicate membership turnout to date, totalling 30 people!
With many of the group watered and fed, we headed outside to see seven of Jamie’s charges brought out into the yard and mounted prior to setting off to the gallops. They included all three of EPDS Racing’s horses – Wildehearted Woman (aka ‘Wilma’), Our Reward and an unnamed chestnut gelding nicknamed ‘Flem’ or ‘Colin’. The latter is a Flemensfirth, so I presume it’s Colin Flemensfirth! He’s also related to Gaye Chance, Gaye Brief and Black Humour, and eligible for Newbury’s £50k DBS bumper race!
Another was grey mare Midnight Silver, also Fact Of The Matter and maybe Heronry, plus AN Other. One of them, Fact Of The Matter, had undergone a breathing operation and Midnight Silver was due to have a soft palette operation soon. It’s difficult to identify dark bay horses without white markings; there was one with a star, and Heronry has a star; Fact Of The Matter also has a star but he was wearing a hood! There was another bay, which was to do only one gallop, along with youngsters ‘Wilma’ and ‘Colin’ but, without any face markings, I have no way of identifying him or her.
It was then time for us to find our respective modes of transport for the drive to the gallops. I hadn’t been ‘assigned’ a vehicle but Jamie soon discovered he had one spare space in his very dusty 4x4 so I quickly volunteered and hurried across the yard to join him and three others. The ‘Cirencester’ man who I’d met at Graeme McPherson’s a fortnight ago was also in our group and he kindly opened the car door for me so that I could climb into the back seat beside two female companions.
Being with the trainer, we were definitely in the right place to get the low-down about Lambourn and his horses. We set off down his driveway and through the automatic gates, before turning left and driving the short distance to the yard driveway where we joined up with around six or seven other vehicles; only one being a standard car. But the weather had been dry recently, so that would not be an issue.
Our route took us to Upper Lambourn, with Warren Greatrex’s Uplands yard in the bottom of the valley to our right. There was a set of temporary traffic lights further up the lane, but they were on green. We turned right just prior to the graveyard of St Luke’s church; the church itself is now used as a blacksmith shop.
The lane took us down past Jamie Osborne’s yard to our left; a number of the Apple Tree Stud’s horses are trained there. Lesley and I visited Jamie’s yard during one of the Lambourn Open Days, but I’ve not visited since the Stud’s horses arrived. We turned left at the T-junction and headed a short distance along the lane before turning right. The lane soon bears around to the left, and we headed past a yard where we briefly stopped to glance across at a horse named Val De Law, also trained by Jamie, which was currently on the water treadmill. It was part of his recuperation from a tendon injury incurred when finishing 3rd during the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in 2015. I don’t know whose yard it is now – Brendan Powell and Seamus Durack have both moved since I visited it on an earlier Open Day.
Jamie mentioned that this is his favourite time of the year, when none of his racing dreams have yet been dashed. He asked me which horse I was involved in; the ‘cheap and cheerful’ Menace … because I spend far too much money on clothes! We spoke about much preferring National Hunt racing; Jamie has a point-to-pointing background. He also mentioned that there is a thought that flat races should be run with fewer minutes between them, to keep the punters interested; he was of the opinion that it was the complete package which drew in the crowds, a social thing as well as the racing. Personally, the social side of it doesn’t even register; it’s all about the horses! Jamie used to be Nicky Henderson’s Assistant Trainer and amateur jockey.
We passed a tractor further up the lane, before turning off to the right and heading up the track to reach the top of the gallop. At the top of the hill, we parked up and got out of the vehicles to await the arrival of the horses. Because of the lie of the land, the horses only became visible as they reached the brow of the hill, before continuing along the all-weather track towards us; the gallop they were using commenced adjacent to Charlie Mann’s Neardown yard.
As mentioned earlier, the plan was to gallop four of the horses twice, and three just once; the latter included youngster Wildehearted Woman aka ‘Wilma’ and new acquisition ‘Colin’ (‘Flem’ doesn’t seem an appropriate nickname for the lovely chestnut horse; too much like phlegm). The third of these would be the one which I couldn’t recognise, either coming back into work or returning from injury at the present time.
However, first up were Our Reward, leading Fact Of The Matter, Heronry, and Midnight Silver; Jamie mentioned that the latter’s homework left a lot to be desired, but she certainly made up for it on the racecourse with three wins, two being at Ffos Las – she loves the mud. In fact the worst she’s ever finished in her 10 race career, to date, was 5th on her first run! She is due to undergo a soft palette operation soon, which is the least serious of all the breathing operations and, as explained by Jamie, can be performed on multiple occasions if required; following this procedure, a horse can return to training in a week. Fact Of The Matter had recently undergone a more serious breathing operation and was now on the comeback trail. Heronry had been off the track due to injury for over a year.
First gallop completed, ‘Wilma’, ‘Colin’ and AN Other set off back to the yard, whilst the other four walked back past us in order to return to the beginning of the gallop once more. On the second occasion, Matter Of The Fact was upsides Our Reward as they reached us, the latter to the nearside. Heronry followed this duo, with the grey mare bringing up the rear. Gallops over, the remaining four set off down the hill on their journey back to the stables.
We got back into our vehicles ahead of leading our ‘string’ back to the yard. On the way down, we passed Brendan Powell Senior sitting in his 4x4 overlooking the other gallop; so I presume the horses which we’d seen at the end thereof, must have been his charges. Further down, Jamie enjoyed some banter with the rider aboard Our Reward; it transpired that his jockey today was none other than Rodney Farrant, who had ridden Martha’s Son to victory in the 1997 Queen Mother Champion Chase! 1997 was the year of Choc’s first Cheltenham Festival victories, namely two as an amateur.
A little bit further down the hill, Jamie pointed out an area where the land was being built up and flattened out; a new training ground evidently. Jamie’s horses crossed over the track and entered a bridleway which ran behind the houses in order to continue their journey back to the yard. I imagine Lambourn is a more interesting place for the horses, because there are so many different gallops and, for the further away ones, the horses need to go for a hack to reach them.
Jamie’s nearest gallop is to the far side of the Lambourn Open Day afternoon activities field, but there are many gallops to suit all requirements, with varying degrees of incline. They are Jockey Club-owned and maintained; a fee payable per racehorse, per month ... and it ain’t cheap!
Meanwhile we returned to the lane; it had been a different route back to this point; it looked like a new barn was being created adjacent to the track, next to a number of dwellings. Having re-joined Maddle Road (it is more of a lane than a road, despite the name) we turned left and headed back to the High Street; at the T-junction we turned left. Along to the right is Weathercock House, formerly the home of Jenny Pitman and now owned by Richard Hughes; the latter having purchased it from Malcolm Denmark. I wonder if he will open his yard on Lambourn Open Day; Jenny used to … but Malcolm definitely did not!!!
We took a right turn further along, with Jamie Osborne’s yard situated on the right-hand corner. At the next T-junction, next to the churchyard, we turned left and headed back to the yard. One or two vehicles followed us through the electric gates, whereas the others returned to the car parking area having entered via the nearer driveway. We were greeted by one of Jamie’s two pointer dogs.
Once everyone had congregated in the main yard once more, Jamie took us on a tour of his horses. Val De Law had also arrived back, and his legs were being hosed down; Jamie warned us that the horse might lash out with his hind-legs if we got too close. ‘Colin’, ‘Wilma’ and AN Other also arrived back now.
Jamie has a number of mares in his yard; the breeders often send their future broodmares to him and, if they take to racing, they are syndicated for the duration of their racing career before returning to the owner/breeder to create the next generation of racehorses! Amongst his mares, he’s currently got two unnamed fillies/mares from Ireland, plus one named Queens Well (by Kings Theatre) which didn’t sell at the recent DBS sales (Lot 315) when consigned by Fergal O’Brien Racing; they wanted £45,000 for her. However, Jamie persuaded the owner/breeder to send her to his yard to see if she can make it as a racehorse, with the hope of gaining black type for a future broodmare career.
Also within the main yard were Adrrastos, Between The Waters, Major Milborne, Three Ways, Val De Law who was now in his stable, an unnamed grey (a roan-grey) Kayf Tara gelding, and Midnight Chill; the latter lives in Present View’s old box. Their Cheltenham winner, known as ‘Elvis’, ruptured a tendon during a race at Kempton Park in the spring and had to be put down as a result. There is a plaque on the wall outside the stable, denoting the previous occupant’s status.
We then headed into the back yard, with its adjacent barn. Within this one was Champagne James, a pretty mare Naranja, ‘Wilma’, Capsy De Mee which is related to As De Mee, Mollyanna whose joint-owner is the Duchess of Cornwall, and Ardkilly Witness owned by four former army personnel and ex-colleagues of Jamie Snowden (or at least one of them is); yep, now you mention it, Jamie definitely has the demeanour of an ex-soldier … and he’s rather nice too! Am I allowed to mention that? My favourite ‘barn horse’ was chestnut Kapgarde King.
Other horses in the back yard were the ‘gurning’ Souriyan, Orchard Park, Born Naughty, Lunar Flow, Dark Lover, Baraymi and Double Treasure; the latter was described as a bit of a tearaway! Having taken a number of photographs, I was lagging behind by the time everyone had returned through the main yard. The next lot was then preparing to depart for the gallops.
Finally, we took a look around the top yard, opposite Folly House. The first horse we saw was named Ventura Castle; he’s by flat racing sire Paco Boy and, evidently, doesn’t like jumping! The conclusion was that Paco Boy is not going to be a dual purpose sire. Although John was quick to point out that he’s Londonia’s sire and he has won a hurdle race! Ventura Castle’s next door neighbour was Our Reward; the trainer has high hopes for the EPDS horse.
Heronry was stabled in one of the two corner boxes; one of our group, a lady, seemed to love this particular horse - she was even letting him lick her face! I don’t mind horses licking the salt off my hands … but I would definitely draw the line at licking my face … the same would apply to dogs, even if I was keen on them!
Another occupant was the mare Belcanto; she’s small but a good jumper. Also Our Three Sons and Breaking Bits – I particularly liked the latter. The four others I recall were Brave Encounter, a grey Right Enough, Carrigkerry and, last but not least, Fact Of The Matter. Jamie stood in front of Carrigkerry, chatting to the group for a few minutes; the horse was involved in the Graeme McPherson-related controversy and was disqualified from his last win as a result.
The crux of the matter was the number of days the horse had been in Jamie’s yard before he ran and won, having come from the point-to-point field. Graeme, who is a QC and works for the BHA too, objected because he said the horse had been at Folly House for too few days before running under rules. Anyway, I’ll let the trainer explain via his website newsfeed:
I shall side with Jamie as, although I enjoyed my visit to Graeme’s yard very much and hope to return at some point, I really like Jamie having met him, he’s so nice, and he has a point too!!!
Our morning on the gallops and at the yard had drawn to a close, and the gathered syndicate members gave Jamie a well-deserved round of applause. I was amongst those who thanked him personally for his time, and wished him luck for the remainder of the season. I also bid farewell to the ‘Cirencester man’ and one of his friends. It was now time for me to leave.
I headed out through the main stable yard and down the driveway to the road; there was a pony in the paddock beside the drive (perhaps it was Sherbet, his children’s pony – she certainly appeared to be the right colour). I used to know another mare named Sherbet, she was a pretty chestnut … but I hated riding her. She used to buck if given half the chance, and was slower than the other riding school ponies; this resulted in her panicking when losing sight of her friends, at which point she would canter up the lane to catch them up! I much preferred Lollipop; he was a pretty bay pony, although unlike the narrow in girth Sherbet, he was slightly Thelwell in shape!!!
Having returned to my car, I took off my coat and cardigan and snow-boots, before setting off on my return journey; I’d learnt my lesson from a couple of weeks ago when I’d been boiling all the way home having kept my cardigan on. Upon exiting the car park I turned left and drove into Lambourn village just a short distance away. I turned right signposted the M4, then left to head past Windsor House stables once more. At the far end I turned right; it’s a difficult turning to get out of, with reduced visibility along the high street to the left but, fortunately, there are control measures to reduce the speed of traffic heading from that direction!
The road soon begins to climb up steeply to reach Ermin Street and I thus headed out of the magical ‘Valley of the Racehorse’! Having reached the T-junction, I turned left and drove back through Lambourn Woodlands and Woodlands St Mary; I recall a postie had parked his van on a driveway just to the left of the road. At the far end of the road there is another T-junction, where I turned right to head a short distance to the roundabout beneath the M4.
I turned left to head up the slip-road in order to join the eastbound carriageway, passing Newbury, Reading, Maidenhead and Slough; traffic was moving freely, allowing me to travel at around 70 mph for most of the way. However, as I approached the Datchet junction, the flow slowed, with signs suggesting a maximum speed of 60 mph. The slip-road onto the motorway increases the width to 4-lanes after the junction, but I managed to move into the inside lane before the vehicles came to a halt shortly afterwards.
However, fortune was definitely on my side, as signs were warning of a 45-minute delay on the anti-clockwise carriageway between junctions 11 and 9; 10 being the A3 at Guildford. Phew! In contrast, my route took me to the left and onto the clockwise carriageway. Traffic was moving slowly, but at least it was moving! I managed to move out into lane 2 shortly afterwards, and this held me in good stead for negotiating Junction 16 and continuing on my journey to Junction 20 where I left the motorway. I then travelled up the dual carriageway to reach the London Colney roundabout, crossing over into London Road and heading along the ring-road and home. I arrived back at 13:55.
That left me with the remainder of the day, and the early hours of the next morning, to watch Day 8 of the Olympic Games coverage from Rio; Super Saturday as it was termed! There were gold medals for the men’s rowing eight, for Laura Trott et al in the women’s team pursuit cycling and Mo Farah in the 10,000 metres. The latter even more amazing considering the runner was tripped up and fell during the race too … and they still couldn’t beat him! However, Jessica Ennis-Hill had to settle for silver and Greg Rutherford for bronze this time around.
My left eye was a little sore when I took out my lenses, although it had felt perfectly okay all morning, and that eased off until I began to type this diary … when I felt every blink once more; it’s so annoying.
I’d also got another date for my diary – namely Saturday 03 September when a visit to Noel Williams’ yard had been arranged by EPDS Racing. So that’s a visit to see Menace, Kincora Fort and Daliance at Noel’s new yard on the other side of Blewbury.
Click here to view my photographs Part 1
Click here to view my photographs Part 2
Click here to view my photographs Part 3