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Jamie with Our Reward




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I undertook another visit to Jamie Snowden’s yard in Lambourn, on Easter Saturday; Our Reward was back in training following a suspensory injury, but Pride Of Pemberley was out at grass having spent the season on the sidelines due to tendonitis.   

The forecasters had promised a wet winter ... but no-one would have expected snow in mid-December, late February and again in March; in fact it had snowed the day after the conclusion of the Cheltenham Festival.  Easter was early in 2018, with Good Friday falling on 30 March ... but it rained and rained and rained. 

Firstly the planned Good Friday afternoon events on Lambourn Open Day were cancelled, then all yard visits apart from Nicky Henderson’s yard, were cancelled too.  This was because the fields used for visitors’ parking were water-logged; Nicky had separate parking arrangements and also stated that help would be available if anyone got stuck in the mud. 

Only once have I needed rescuing from a muddy car park, namely at the Lambourn Open Day in 2010.  In fact the towing ‘eye’ is still stored in my glove compartment just in case of a repeat episode!  I got stuck in the field opposite Windsor House stables that day, as did others.

Anyway, it rained for most of Friday anyway, so I spent the day transferring recordings from the Cheltenham Festival onto DVD and doing some knitting too.  Another snood was in progress, using Caron Cakes Aran-weight wool.

With today’s visit commencing at 08:00, I set my alarm for 04:30; it takes around 90 minutes to reach Lambourn from home ... and ages to get ready too!  I wanted set off by 06:15 at the latest. 

I showered, washed and dried my hair, applied my makeup, then ate a breakfast of two slices of toast with marmalade, plus half a cup of tea.  I departed at 06:12 according to the clock on my car dashboard.

Today’s outfit was a snake-skin print thermal T-shirt, which I usually wear for work, a burgundy/white/black thermal T-shirt, a berry-coloured polo-neck ribbed jumper, my bright purple fleece, peacock coloured jeggings, mauve butterfly earrings, burgundy jacket with brown corduroy shoulder patches, black snow-boots, black ‘MonkeyGabbie-style Kipling handbag, pink/mauve/red/white/black scarf, plus my Australian bush-hat to protect against the weather.  I wore my brown Footglove ankle boots to drive in.

My route took me around the anti-clockwise carriageway of the M25, to reach the M4; the carriageway was particularly potholed between Maple Cross and the M40 but there was a notice suggesting these would be repaired within a couple of weeks.  The bad weather must have exacerbated any issues and I’d not driven along the anti-clockwise carriageway since going to Newbury on 02 December! 

The journey along the westbound carriageway went smoothly until road-works were encountered close to Reading East, junction 10.  Further road-works, more extensive, were in operation between Reading West and Lambourn, junction 14.  Having been slightly damp when I left home, it was now raining heavily and did so until I reached the Valley of the Racehorse itself.

Having exited the motorway, I turned right at the large roundabout beneath and continued for a short distance along the Wantage road before turning left to continue along Ermin Street.  The heavy rain meant that there were a number of very large puddles along this stretch of my journey, so I kept my speed below the recommended 50mph; as a result, a vehicle some distance behind me initially, soon caught up and was then travelling on my tail.

Further along I followed the sign directing me to turn right, and subsequently headed down the steep hill to enter Lambourn.  Just before the beginning of the main street, I turned left to head along in front of Windsor House Stables; I then turned right at the T-junction, onto Baydon Road.  Further along there is another T-junction; I turned left to continue towards Upper Lambourn. 

I encountered two racehorses as I approached the entrance to the car park adjacent to the cricket pitch, and a large lorry.  I stopped to wait for the two horses to pass by; the riders thanked me.  Having parked up, facing the pitch, I put on my snow-boots, coat, scarf and Australian bush-hat as it was still raining, before setting off to cross the road and walk up the driveway leading to Folly House Stables.  The staff accommodation building, adjacent to the driveway, appeared to be almost complete.  I’d arrived at 07:45.  

Having said hello to a couple of EPDS syndicate members who had just parked up in the area beside the yard, I headed across the gravel and into the house.  I wiped my feet on a mat; as I entered the kitchen, Jamie’s wife Lucy asked me if my boots were clean!  I assured her they were; they’d been left in my hotel room to soak in water after Day 1 of the Cheltenham Festival, been washed again once I’d got home, and then been stored in my bedroom until today; I knew they were perfectly clean, before I’d stepped out of my car today, that is!!!

Anyway, I poured myself a cup of coffee, and chatted to one of the other attendees.  Jamie soon arrived back from the shops with a further supply of milk, and more attendees arrived too.  Amongst those attending were Will (or Bill), Wendy and John and, of course, EPDS Racing’s MD, John.  I got chatting to a lady whose name I don’t yet know; she owns a share in Leapt, one of Graeme McPherson’s recent recruits. 

I then chatted to Will ... and we compared arthritic injuries; don’t you just love getting older, NOT!  He used to play cricket and also has an issue with his neck, as do I.  Will owns a share in Ami Desbois; Ami is currently on the injury sidelines.  Graeme McPherson had intended to re-investigate the breathing issues which the horse has been suffering from this season; he’d already had a wind-op prior to his first run of the campaign. 

However, before this could be arranged, Ami went lame.  X-rays showed nothing ... then two stress fractures were discovered in his legs following an MRI scan; these were subsequently pinned.  And that’s why I wanted an MRI scan to discover if I’ve got a stress fracture in my pelvis!  All my x-ray showed was osteoarthritis; tell me about it! 

Jamie explained that the early start time was because he’d hoped to have runners at Haydock Park today; but, in the end, he hadn’t because of unsuitable ground conditions.  One of the EPDS members had a cold; Jamie thought he ought to be wearing a hat in such wet weather – he mentioned that someone had ended up with pneumonia because they got soaked when they had a cold.  I once got soaked through during a thunderstorm and subsequently succumbed to a cold less than 48 hours later; research has shown that it will make you more vulnerable to picking up viruses, etc.     

Everyone having arrived, we took a tour around the top yard as the horses to be exercised second lot weren’t quite ready to go.  Fact Of The Matter was occupying the dual-aspect box; the one with views across the yard and down the driveway to the road.  Next to him was Court Out, then an empty box as Capsy De Mee had recently set off for his summer holiday.  Around the corner was Thistle Do Nicely, tacked up and ready to go; he’s part owned by Apple Tree Stud!     

Scorpion Sid, a giant, was also tacked up; Jamie said he’s currently the slowest in the yard ... despite having won two hurdle races, including a 2-mile event!  He was a friendly horse, and was described as a ‘people’ person!  There was Risk And Co too; he was another tacked up ready for lot 2, as was Oscar Star.  Next Level occupied the corner box.  Our Three Sons was being tacked up by the owner’s son; the lad was trying to convince Jamie that he should take his dad’s horse pointing-to-pointing.  There was a horse in the end box, a mare I think, but I didn’t catch her name or take a photo of her name plate.

The horses were now ready to be mounted, so we headed over towards the main house and waited whilst Jamie legged up the riders; the eleven horses going out in lot 2 were Dans Le Vent, Thistle Do Nicely, Scorpion Sid, Midnight Monty, Kalahari Queen, Oscar Star, Risk And Co, Hogan’s Height, Our Three Sons, Between The Waters and, of course, EPDS Racing’s Our Reward; Hogan’s Height and Midnight Monty were the stragglers, having not been quite ready to head out with the others.  Rodney Farrant was riding Our Reward today, and Jamie’s wife Lucy also rode one.

A number of members’ 4x4’s were parked beside Jamie’s carport; I volunteered to ride in Jamie’s 4x4, along with two others, and his dog!  Jamie loaded the bitch, a German short-haired pointer evidently, into the back of the vehicle.  I sat in the front ... it’s the only occasion when I’d volunteer to sit in a vehicle which was muddy both inside and out!  Having arrived back from the shop, Jamie’s 4x4 was parked beside the kitchen, so he drove around to the far side of the house so that the others could join the convoy as we headed out of the automatic gates onto the road beyond.

The lady in the back didn’t realise that the Good Friday Lambourn Open Day had been cancelled due to the car parks being too wet; apart from Nicky Henderson’s yard remaining open for the morning that is.  I had a horrible feeling it was going to be cancelled and I, personally, had cancelled plans after the afternoon events had been called off.  The yard openings had been called off just a day later. 

Jamie explained that, although there are gallops in the field adjacent to his yard, he prefers to use ones further away because it allows the horses to warm up and warm down on the journey to and from them.  He did, however, use the nearby gallop during the recent snow period.  Jamie said the December snow wasn’t as bad as the late February snow ... or was it the mid-March snow!  All I know is that it was wet snow, dry snow, then wet snow again.  Wet frost is very difficult to remove from car windscreens, whereas dry frost (weather blown in from Siberia) is very easy to clear!

When asked, Jamie said he didn’t ride out very often, just when they were short-handed for whatever reason.  He was looking forward to his children being able to ride out, although the oldest Lettie was currently only six; free labour!  His daughter had only just come off a lead rein; they had just one pony at present, the chestnut white-faced Bindy who I’d seen in the paddock beside the driveway as I arrived.  In fact they were going to collect a second pony that same afternoon.   

We headed along to the Mandown gallops, as we always do when accompanying Jamie; he took us via the least muddy route ... if that’s possible when the weather is particular inclement.  We alighted from our vehicles and had to wait a while for the horses to appear; in fact the first ones to pass by belonged to trainer Sam Thomas.  Jamie told us that Sam was moving his operation to Wales soon, to take up the salaried trainer role with owner Dai Walters; Christian Williams having recently vacated it.  Sam Thomas, himself, rode past shortly afterwards; he said good morning to everyone. 

Jamie’s horses did two gallops, apart from Kalahari Queen who headed straight home after the first one.  Gallops completed, we got back into our respective vehicles and shadowed the horses whilst they walked back; Lucy led the string.  Jamie chatted to each rider to find out how his charges had been going today.  Near to the Maddle Road we encountered three racehorses; each rider was wearing a Jo Hughes hi-viz jacket.  One was a pretty, rocking-horse dapple grey; it spooked when it saw another vehicle heading up from said roadway.

We followed behind these three, along the road, around the corner, and after they’d turned left at the T-junction.  There was a pre-fab building being constructed to the left; Jamie said it had appeared in the matter of a couple of days!  Jo Hughes’ horses continued along the roadway towards Oliver Sherwood’s yard, whilst we headed back to the main B4000 and subsequently to Folly House.  When asked, Jamie said his favourite small racecourse is Taunton; they look after everyone very well.

Having alighted from the cars, with the pointer dog released too, we then headed into the main yard to continue our tour of the horses.  We saw Midnight Chill, Crown Theatre, Blue Bullet and Three Ways before heading through into the back yard; Blue Bullet had his ears back but Jamie said he wouldn’t bite – he was just grumpy because he was currently on box rest!  In contrast, Three Ways does bite!

Shantewe was in the first box, next to her was Shockingtimes; also a biter or at least a might bite!  Double Treasure, Jamie’s highest rated current horse, occupied the corner box and, next to him, was Floral Bouquet.  Havisham was next, then Jamie’s hunter the grey Right Enough.  Our Reward’s box was currently empty; Thebannerkingrebel was next to him.  I liked Thebannerkingrebel; he’d choked during the Cheltenham bumper having never come under pressure during his previous racecourse outings – a wind-op is planned.

We then headed into the barn, encountering Lostnfound, Lunar Flow, Naranja, Monbeg Theatre, Etat Major Aulmes, Footloose, Timcoda, Instant Karma and Carntop.  I liked Etat Major Aulmes.  Having exited at the far end, we continued into the main yard once more.  The first box was occupied by Dr Walugi, next to him was Alrightjack ... he’s a gurner!  There was also Lord Topper, the grey King Vince, Presenting Pearl, Kalahari Queen, Dans Le Vent and others. 

Having lagged behind the main group ... because myself and a couple of others cannot resist making friends with the horses ... we then scooted back through the archway to catch up with the main group once more.  Our Reward was now back in his stable.  Jamie spent time chatting about the EPDS horse whilst Our Reward ate his dinner ... or was it brunch!  Anyway, Our Reward was perfectly behaved, despite his stable door being open. 

I took loads of photos before placing my camera back in my handbag.  Stupidly I managed to catch the end of my scarf in the zip; this briefly jammed the zip.  I did free it, but not before the scarf had suffered slight collateral damage ... the plastic zip won’t undo quite to the end now either but, fortunately, it only affects the final 6 teeth thereon.

Jamie hopes to have runners at Aintree and/or Sandown Park; it all depends if there’s less rain during April because ground conditions are too soft at present. 

The tour of the yard now over, I thanked Jamie before setting off down the driveway; we are on cheek-kissing terms!  I crossed the road to enter the car-park adjacent to the cricket pitch.  It was 10:30.  Being Easter, I wasn’t too sure whether to return via the M4 and M25 or head across country.  However, as it was early, I thought I’d risk the motorways route for a speedy return; besides, my cross-country routes sometimes take a lot longer than expected due to traffic holdups, diversions and the occasional loss of direction!

However, I did initially deviate from my incoming route.  So, instead of turning right just prior to Lambourn village, I continued straight ahead.  Parsonage Lane narrows as it passes St Michael’s and All Angels church, so I had to wait for a couple of oncoming vehicles to pass; they had priority.  I continued ahead at the cross-roads, entering Newbury Street. 

Having exited Lambourn, the lane meanders beside the river, through Eastbury and then the outskirts of East Garston.  The roadway was partially flooded in places but, as there was little traffic heading in the opposite direction, I was able to skirt these obstacles when encountered.  Having arrived at Great Shefford, I turned right and headed up Hungerford Hill to join the M4 at junction 14. 

The sun had put in an appearance prior to this, although it did rain again as I headed in an easterly direction along the M4.  Traffic was moving well until I reached the slip-road for the M25.  Typically, a number of vehicles had left it until the last moment to pull into the nearside lane; one vehicle even came to a complete standstill in the second lane prior to pushing into the queue; that was dangerous as, although warning signs instructed a lower speed limit on the main motorway at that point, some were moving faster than this designated pace.

I was expecting difficulty with the merging manoeuvre, when joining the M25; in the event it went very smoothly.  I managed to move into the second lane almost immediately; the inside lane takes one onto the M40 at the next junction!  There were no hold-ups on the clockwise carriageway, unlike the anticlockwise one which was choc-a-bloc in a number of places.

I exited at Junction 20 and headed into St Albans and home; I arrived back at 12:10 ... my outing had taken 6 hours.  It was my only outing of the Easter weekend, with the Lambourn Open Day being mainly cancelled; it rained Friday, for much of Saturday, Sunday was dull and grey with late rain, and it rained on Monday too.  That’s the problem when Easter falls so early in the year.  Easter 2019 is 19 to 22 April, far better; although the Grand National is early, scheduled for 06 April next year. 

The drafting of this diary was initially curtailed when my 10-year-old wireless mouse ‘died’ at tea-time on this day; thank goodness for Amazon who were able to deliver a new one by lunchtime on Sunday, Easter Day!



PHOTOS – Visit to Folly House Stables in Lambourn (Index)




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