VISIT TO JAMIE SNOWDEN’S FOLLY HOUSE STABLES
TO SEE OUR REWARD, WILDEHEARTED WOMAN
AND AN UNNAMED FLEMENSFIRTH GELDING
SATURDAY 29 OCTOBER 2016
The newly named Pride of Pemberley
with trainer Jamie Snowden
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This would be my second visit to Jamie Snowden’s yard, the first having been in mid-August.
There had been a slight set-back with my own syndicate membership, as Menace had recently been retired due to an issue diagnosed by the vet as ligament problems. This manifested itself as lameness behind following his racecourse appearances. However, it was actually what I wanted to happen, as I couldn’t bear the thought of the Twitterati horse being injured on the racecourse at any point.
It also came as no surprise that Mrs Prowting’s Racing Manager, Hannah Bishop, decided to offer Menace a home; she has links with both EPDS Racing and via Noel Williams because the trainer has two Prowting horses in his yard – Midnight Merlot and Midnight Jitterbug. Hannah has two sons, Toby (14) and Noah (12), who also ride. I know that their original schoolmaster pony had recently died aged 32, and their now outgrown loan pony was returned to the owners.
At this point in time Rich Buddy, who used to be trained by Richard Phillips before it retired, was being schooled with the aim of entering show-jumping classes for RoR horses. Toby has also struck up a riding-relationship with Buddy, so it may soon be Hannah who is searching for a new horse; hence the lovely natured Menace, who was a good hurdler, might be stepping into the breach following a short holiday!
Anyway, one thing is for sure, Menace will be living in the manner to which he is accustomed, namely 5-star accommodation like all of the Mrs Prowting’s horses!
During the visit to Jamie’s yard, EPDS Racing’s 4-year-old Flemensfirth gelding would be officially named. I had seen photos and videos of the horse and also seen it on the gallops and at the yard during my previous visit. The syndicate was seeking to name him today; the name would be picked out of a ‘hat’ by the trainer. I’d entered a suggestion, namely ‘Pride of Pemberley’ – my thought being that his stable name was ‘Colin’ (although he was also referred to as Flem). So it’s Colin Flemensfirth – Colin Firth – who played the part of Mr Darcy in the BBC’s highly acclaimed adaption of Pride and Prejudice, and Mr Darcy’s country estate was Pemberley. Hence Pride of Pemberley.
Strangely, although I’ve been doing racing-related things this season – four yard visits and a charity walk also undertaken by Choc, I’ve paid no visits to the races since the Season Finale at Sandown Park in April. My one planned excursion, to see Menace run at Stratford in late July, was cancelled when he pulled a muscle so couldn’t run.
I hadn’t felt the urge to attend the Saturday of Cheltenham’s Showcase fixture either, although a colleague at work, Emily, had with her boyfriend and parents! And I know that another work colleague Charlotte and her husband were planning to attend Sandown Park in early November too. Apart from the usual suspects, namely Hennessy Gold Cup day, King George VI day, all four days of the Cheltenham Festival and all three days of the Aintree Festival plus Sandown’s Season Finale, I’ve nothing planned.
One day I will attend the Saturday of Cheltenham’s Open fixture, and I’m also on the lookout for the AppleTree Stud’s Tyrell to make his appearance over hurdles with, hopefully, Choc in tow on the day!
I had to check my earlier diary to find out what time I needed to leave to reach Jamie’s yard by 10:00. On the previous occasion I left just before 08:15, so knew I had five or ten minutes in hand as this had given me plenty of time. I set my alarm for 06:00.
I showered, washed and dried my hair and applied make-up, before eating two croissants for breakfast. I was ready to depart at 08:20.
Today’s outfit consisted of two thermal t-shirts – pink and grey with black doves – blue oversized BHS cardigan, bright purple M&S fleece, electric blue M&S jeggings, wine-coloured BHS jacket, black with white horses M&S snood, black M&S snow boots. I wore my black M&S Footglove ankle boots to drive in, and took my black and white graphic print Kipling handbag – having bought one earlier in the year, I’m now addicted. When I find clothes which I like, I tend to buy the same item in different colours so, as Kipling manufacture each design of bag in numerous colours, it can be expensive hobby each time they have a sale!
My route took me via Highfield Park; it was a dull day, so I put the car lights on. I also saw two magpies, and soon even more; so that was my luck sorted for the day!!! I headed down the London Colney bypass to join the M25 anti-clockwise carriageway at junction 22. Considering it was still quite early in the morning, there was a fair amount of traffic on the motorway. I wasn’t actually expecting rain, but by the time I’d reached the Kings Langley junction, it had begun to drizzle. Was it rain or low cloud, who knows?
Having reached junction 15, I transferred to the westbound carriageway of the M4; there were no problems on the motorway, although there was a brief section with a speed limit of 50 mph which commenced just prior to the Reading East turning. This was due to repairs being carried out on the interchange with the A329(M) where there was a risk of tailbacks onto the M4; just a precaution.
I was soon counting down the junctions, miles and time; I left via junction 14 at 09:35. My route briefly took me onto the A338, before I turned left onto the B4000 and headed through Woodlands St Mary and Lambourn Woodlands. Further along I turned right and headed down the hill into Lambourn, on the outskirts of which I turned left and headed past Windsor House stables, following the road in the direction of Upper Lambourn.
Jamie’s yard is situated to the left of the road just beyond Lambourn village, next to the veterinary facility. Once more it was requested that solely 4x4’s park beside the stable yard, with ordinary vehicles asked to park in the cricket ground car park opposite. I indicated and stopped ready to turn right however, as I glanced towards the cricket field, a group of racehorses exited the bridleway which runs within the trees to the side of the main road at this point.
As they blocked my entry to the car park, I stopped and waited to see where they were heading; the string crossed the road in front of me and headed up the driveway into Folly House stables – Jamie’s first lot presumably! Once the road was clear, I entered the car park and parked in the only remaining empty parking space, at the far end facing the road.
Rosemarie Heyes had arrived and she was waiting with a friend at the far end of the car park for a third party to arrive also. I said hello, before crossing the road and accompanying another syndicate member, Trevor, as we walked up the driveway to the Folly House stables. The returned horses were being hosed down in the yard; bearing in mind that the front end is less dangerous than the back end I, personally, wouldn’t have chosen to walk behind any of them ... however, after a brief hesitation, I followed Trevor through a fairly large gap between them.
We said hello to Jamie as we passed through the entrance to the upper yard and then headed into the kitchen where tea, coffee and biscuits were being served. Having not allowed enough time to pop into the services near junction 12, I decided against drinking anything so not to be caught short later in the day.
The man from Cirencester and his friend had already arrived. John Powell and partner Ellie arrived after me, with their son Alfie. Jamie headed into the kitchen soon afterwards and we actually had a chat about Menace and Colin and even touched upon Strictly Come Dancing. We both agreed that Ed Balls needed to be eliminated – his dancing is rubbish, just like his politics!
Once everyone had arrived, we headed out into the yard once more. Everyone waited to the side of the upper yard whilst the horses taking part were led out of their boxes and mounted before heading out of the yard on their way to the gallops. All three EPDS horses were included within second lot – Our Reward, Wildehearted Woman and ‘Colin’. Also heading to the gallops were Queens Well, Major Milborne, Brave Encounter, Double Treasure, Kaspian Tern and Carningli; the latter had recently been transferred from the Rebecca Curtis yard having completed a spell on the injury side-lines.
Someone admired one of the Snowden’s pointer dogs; he jokingly said they could take her home with them as she was a bit of a tinker at times. The dog’s name was Alder; I think he said the mother’s name was Cedar.
Jamie Snowden had four spaces available in his 4x4, so Dawn Spooner and her two friends, plus me, took this option. Jamie’s vehicle might be very ‘horsey’ inside, but I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride in it! J Passing through the automatic gates we exited onto the main road and turned left to head towards Upper Lambourn and the Mandown gallops. The girls were discussing retired racehorses, and were wondering where Cedre Bleu was now. I mentioned Walkon, saying that I knew he was at Newmarket now, part of the RoR feature at the Palace House Museum; although he is termed as a temporary exhibit.
Charlie Mann is now based at Neardown Stables, a much smaller yard than his previous one; it’s to the left of the main road prior to the turning by the churchyard. We also spoke about Sam Thomas having moved to Lambourn recently; research tells me he’s moved to Saxon House stables and is now Warren Greatrex’s next door neighbour. We continued to the bottom of this lane, at the T-junction we turned left. A short distance further on we turned right into Maddle Road. The road soon bears to the left and we continued along it until we reached the track which led up to the top of the Mandown gallops.
There was another string of horses on the gallop which ran along the side of the track; I believe it was Brendan Powell’s string, as I think Jamie mentioned that the 4x4 parked on the tarmac area near the top belonged to the trainer. Our convoy pulled into the area at the top of the Mandown gallop and we all alighted in preparation for the string to appear over the brow of the hill in due course.
The horses did two gallops in total, with Colin and Our Reward foremost in the string both times, after which we got back into the 4x4’s and began the journey back to the yard; there were five or six vehicles in the convoy. Unlike on the previous visit, we returned to Maddle Road via the same route as on our outbound journey. Further progress had been made on the construction of the buildings leading off from the corner where the road bears off to the right. Jamie explained these were being built by Jockey Club Estates; they own the Lambourn gallops, and are to replace their current site which is almost next door. The latter is being converted into another yard evidently.
Having turned left at the bottom of the road, then right shortly afterwards, our progress was interrupted by horses walking along the lane, on our side of the thoroughfare; it was Stan Moore’s string returning from the gallops. Leading the string was a piebald cob. We crawled along behind them, during which time we entered the main road which runs from Upper Lambourn to Lambourn. There were a couple of vehicles in front of us, one being from Stan’s yard. However, the driver of the other one decided they wanted to overtake and nearly got kicked by a horse for their troubles!
It wasn’t actually worth the risk as, shortly, afterwards, the string turned left into Stan’s yard. We continued in the direction of Lambourn, turning right and entering through the gates to Folly House just before reaching the village. Other vehicles in the convoy followed, rather than heading up the main drive to the stables. We alighted from Jamie’s 4x4; the trainer wondered if we should check the vehicle to see if Alder had cadged a lift to the gallops – evidently she sometimes does.
The talented Fact of the Matter was watching proceedings with interest from his box at the corner of the upper yard; it’s dual aspect! Many of the boxes are dual aspect, but not all of them actually have a view, unlike his. Whilst we were waiting for a stable tour to commence, the racing names suggested for ‘Colin’ were placed in the cup which Present View had won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014; he’d won the 2 miles 4 furlongs Novices’ Handicap Chase, the last race on the first day thereof. The horse’s owner, Sir Chips Keswick, had insisted that Jamie keep the trophy, which sits on his kitchen windowsill I believe, to remind him of the happy times and triumphs on days when racing misfortune strikes.
It was Jamie’s role to select the name from those submitted and, having pulled out one of the slips, he announced it … Pride of Pemberley … OMG I’ve named a racehorse! Fortunately, from feedback I’ve seen via social media, and from those in attendance, many appear to like the name. J It’s so important to choose a nice name for a horse; Menace is misnamed, because he’s a lovely natured horse and has a lovely classy head too. He was called Hayden by his breeder, and I think I’d have named him Prince Among Ponies, although you’d have to run the words together as, with spaces, it’s one character too many! Along the lines of Pride and Prejudice, a good name for a Flemensfirth mare would be Lydia’s Folly!
Our tour of the yard commenced with Fact of the Matter; a number of the horses were missing from their boxes having not arrived back from the gallops yet. There was an unnamed Oscar filly, Heronry in the corner box, Kassis and Future Gilded. Moving into the main yard, Midnight Chill was living in the late lamented Present View’s old box and next to him the dark grey Filemon.
We then headed through the archway, where Baraymi, Dark Lover (who suffered a heart fibrillation issue on his last run in the spring), Denboy (who is the son of Denman’s full sister … I guess that makes him a nephew!), Lunar Flow, Born Naughty, Orchard Park and Souriyan. We had to watch our backs as Double Treasure and Wildehearted Woman were returned to their boxes, probably Colin too.
Within the barn, Colin … Pride of Pemberley, occupied the first box and, not surprisingly, the group stopped off to admire him. Opposite was Mollyanna, which is co-owned by the Duchess of Cornwall, next door to her was Wildehearted Woman; she was more interested in eating her dinner so I couldn’t get a photo. Also on that side Capsy De Mee and Champagne James. Next door to Pride of Pemberley was Ardkilly Witness, then Kapgarde King and Naranja. We followed Jamie out of the door at the far end of the barn and back into the main yard once more.
As we walked around the left-hand side thereof, we saw Between The Waters which was to run at Ascot later in the day; in the last race on their card which was the bumper. Also the chestnut Major Milborne, Adrrastos, Queens Well which wasn’t being very friendly, next to her was an unnamed Definite Article filly, the grey mare Midnight Silver who was recovering from a breathing operation and, finally, a new acquisition at the sales Lord Topper; a pretty bay 3-year-old with a blaze and four white socks. The horse was bought on recommendation from Charles Hills who had trained him on the flat until recently. The latter was saddled up and tied up within his box ready to go out on third lot.
Stable tour completed, it was now time for everyone to depart, with third lot now heading to the gallops; I thanked Jamie before I left and also wished him luck at Ascot later in the afternoon. As a group of us was walking back down the drive, I noticed that Jamie’s wife and two of his children had gone to collect the two ponies from the paddock over to our right. One pony was definitely 26-year-old mare Sherbet! Alder also briefly accompanied us down the driveway.
Having got into my car, I had to be careful not to run over a couple of dogs which were running around the car park – a terrier and a whippet, although it might have been a small greyhound! My next door neighbour used to have a greyhound-sized whippet named Milo; they currently have a normal-sized whippet named Buzz. Although the last time I tried to stroke Buzz he growled at me; I don’t know what I’d done to offend him!
I drove out of the car park at around 12:15, turning left upon exit to head back to Lambourn; just ahead of me was the 4x4 of EPDS Racing’s John and Ellie. However, whereas they turned right in order to head back to the M4, I carried on into the centre of the village. I had an idea that I’d like to try out an alternative route to Newbury, just in case I went to visit Noel Williams’ yard on Hennessy Gold Cup Day. I always ensure I arrive at the racecourse just before gate opening time on that particular day, so a prior visit to Noel’s would put a bit of a spanner in the works, despite promises that the start time would leave plenty in hand to get to Newbury. However, with Menace’s early departure to his retirement home, I don’t envisage a stable visit on that day … but thought I’d experiment anyway!
I had looked at the map prior to my departure from home, but still didn’t realise that I was already on the road to Great Shefford! I had, however, been in two minds as to whether I’d head to Great Shefford and then to Wantage on the A338 or whether I’d travel via the B4001 instead. Once within Lambourn village I turned left, so the decision was thus made, and I journeyed via the latter. This route took me past Oaksey House and it wasn’t the easiest thoroughfare to negotiate, with parked traffic on the left-hand side and a number of vehicles heading from the opposite direction.
Once out of the village, I continued past the turning to Seven Barrows and headed up the hill onto the downs. Not surprisingly it was misty and damp at this point; more so than lower down in Lambourn itself, although it hadn’t stopped drizzling all morning. I was soon travelling behind a 4x4, a slow one at that – 40mph all the way; I didn’t mind. Further on there was as animal trailer at the head of the queue too. There was a railed gallop visible to the left of the road; further on a turning off to the left led to Harry Whittington’s yard. I image it must be very bleak in winter, as it wasn’t very nice in late October!
Further on, where the lane turned sharp left, there was a lane to the right signposted Letcombe Bassett – Coneygree lives there. I left the B4001 at a crossroads just before Childrey; the 4x4 also took this option and another vehicle now followed me, having journeyed straight across at the aforementioned crossroads. Shortly afterwards I entered Wantage.
I wasn’t sure which way I was heading at this point; all I knew was that I wanted to find the A34. I arrived initially at a T-junction, with traffic lights, the right hand option was signposted Hungerford; that was the A338 from Great Shefford, so I turned left. There was another junction shortly afterwards where I turned right, signposted All Routes. The road headed through a residential area at the end of which there was a roundabout where I turned right. There was a further roundabout where I headed straight across; I was now on the A417 heading east.
The road headed past lanes into West and East Lockinge respectively, the former being Henrietta Knight territory. Upon arriving in Rowstock there was a roundabout where I turned right onto the A4185 and I followed a bus as we journeyed along the side of the Harwell Technology Park, before heading over the A34 and taking the slip-road to the right in order to join the southbound carriageway thereof. I knew I was in the right place, as there was a sign to Blewbury too!
I was thinking that I needed the second turning to the left but, in fact, it was the third I required. The first went to West Ilsley, which was located to the west of the road, and the next to East Ilsley which I could see nestling in the valley to the left-hand side of the A34. The third turning was signposted Beedon, so I left the A34 here. As the village was situated to the west of the road, the slip-road headed down hill and under the dual carriageway.
Entering the village I began to think my sense of direction had let me down; I was convinced I was heading in the wrong direction – west instead of south! I couldn’t rely on pinpointing my direction, as there was no sunshine or shadows either. I did toy with the idea of turning around and taking a road which had been signposted to Hampstead Norreys but, in the event, I continued through what I later discovered was World’s End … it might have been for all I knew!
Anyway, I eventually arrived at a T-junction; I turned left. The road soon headed over the A34 … it appeared I might still be on my planned route after all. Shortly afterwards I crossed over the M4 too, before entering Hermitage. Does Newbury racecourse still run the Hermitage Chase? Anyway, I soon arrived at a roundabout, where I turned right; a left would have taken me to Streatley, so I now knew exactly where I was once more.
I continued down the B4009, although it took longer than expected to reach the outskirts of Newbury. I’d soon reached a double-mini roundabout and I took a left at the second of these. I was now driving along Kiln Road, although I didn’t appreciate the speed bumps at regular intervals. Shortly afterwards the road become Turnpike Road but fortunately there’s no extra toll these days ... apart from the wear and tear on the suspension of the car!
Just prior to the road exiting into countryside, a right-hand turn would have taken me down Fir Tree Lane to a set of traffic lights on the A4 and, if I’d continued through these, the following roundabout would be the one where the new railway bridge permits access to the Newbury racecourse car park. Today I carried on to the next big roundabout when I also joined the A4, continuing straight ahead into Thatcham; very familiar territory to me. Being Saturday lunch-time, traffic was moving slowly through the town, hindered by a number of sets of traffic lights.
I continued along the A4, through Woolhampton; I noticed that the Falmouth Arms in the centre of the village was no longer a pub – it’s been converted to residential units. I eventually arrived at Junction 12 of the M4, at which point I joined the eastbound carriageway. Near Slough, I noticed Stan Moore’s horsebox drive by me; sometimes the speed at which horseboxes move amazes me – horses need a leg at each corner for travelling! Traffic had been moving freely until I approached the junction with the M25, when the inside of the four lanes came to a standstill; it was the slip-road onto the London orbital motorway. It didn’t help that traffic from the other three lanes continued to push into the queue ahead.
Once the initial congestion had eased, I headed along the roadway to enter the clockwise carriageway of the M25. Traffic was also moving quite slowly thereon, but I was soon able to manoeuvre into lane two; I’m paranoid about getting caught in the inside lane between Junctions 15 and 16 just in case I’m forced onto the M40 by weight of traffic!
There were no further delays on the M25 and I left the motorway at Junction 22; London Colney. I headed up the dual carriageway and into St Albans. Once within the City, I think I must have returned via my outward route … I can’t completely recall … but I do get a little superstitious about ‘unwinding’ my route whenever possible!
I arrived home at 14:45 ... so my excursion through Berkshire and Oxfordshire had added an hour onto my journey time home. I’d also succumbed to one of my neck-related headaches by mid-afternoon – one of the downsides these days after a long drive.
On the previous visit to Jamie’s yard we’d seen Val de Law continuing his comeback following a leg injury sustained when finishing 3rd in the 2015 Aintree Festival’s Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase. Sadly, two weeks following this visit, Jamie announced that his talented charge had now been retired due to incurring further niggling injuries. Sadly the horse had proved too fragile to train.
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