Kempton Park – Monday 05 November 2012



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The runners ahead of the Graduation Chase.

Left to right: Kumbeshwar (Choc);

Ghizao (Ruby Walsh); Hell’s Bay (Nick Scholfield)


For me, today’s racing came at the end of three-day weekend.  I had been hoping that Choc would ride at Ascot on Saturday 03 November but, instead, he’d chosen to go to Wetherby to ride Smad Place in the Grade 2 John Smith’s Hurdle.  As it turned out, it was the wrong decision, his mount finishing a disappointing third to the enigmatic Tidal Bay.  To rub salt into the wound, Raya Star had triumphed at Ascot under Wayne Hutchinson and top weight, despite Alan King being of the opinion that he’d need the run to put him spot on.

Choc would then ride at Huntingdon on the Sunday, a very damp and gloomy afternoon.  However, one of his two rides, McVicar, won the Juvenile Hurdle that day. 

Having booked Monday as leave from work in the hope of going racing, I was delighted to discover that Choc would be riding at Kempton Park, and one of his rides would be aboard a particular favourite of mine, Kumbeshwar, in the Graduation Chase.

I’d felt a little bit off colour during the weekend, with a gippy stomach.  So had been spending much of Saturday and Sunday sitting in an armchair wrapped up in a fleece with my favourite purchase of the past month ... a hot water bottle!  It’s proved excellent to relieve the pain of a recent bad back and works well for a dodgy stomach/abdomen too.  In fact I take it to bed with me every night now. 

I felt better when I woke on Monday, although a little light headed; this disappeared as the morning drew on. 

The first race at Kempton Park was scheduled for 13:00; this would normally mean a gate opening time of 11:00.  However, I did check their website and it stated a time of 11:30.  As it takes less than an hour to get to the racecourse, I set my departure time at 10:30. 

Having risen at 07:00 I decided to fill my time before showering by changing my bed sheets, dusting and vacuuming my bedroom.  Then having showered, washed and dried my hair, and applied make-up, I was ready for the day ahead. 

My outfit today was two cream coloured thermal tops (one vest, one long-sleeved), a cerise frill-edged cardigan, purple fleece, burgundy cardigan, black fleece gilet, black faux sheepskin jacket, long black handkerchief skirt, purple tights, engineer boots, Etna scarf, and wrist-warmers.   I would be roasty toasty’ throughout the afternoon ... but there’s nothing wrong with that!!!   

Whoops, running a little late again; it was 10:45 when I set off.  My route took me to Junction 21A of the M25, proceeding anticlockwise around the motorway to reach the M3.  I then headed towards London, leaving at Junction 1, Sunbury Cross.  I think the layout of the lanes has been changed on the roundabout below the motorway; I’m accustomed to pulling into the outside lane, because I turn off at the third exit, but today I decided to choose the middle lane which enabled me to remain on the inside as I approached the relevant turning.

As always, apart from on Boxing Day, I drove past Kempton Park’s main entrance to enter the racecourse via the gate located around half a mile further along the road.  I then travelled up the driveway, manoeuvring past a mobile broadcasting vehicle with camera, to park in front of the small grandstand within the Festival Enclosure. 

Before setting off to the main entrance to purchase my ticket, I ate three submarine rolls filled with cheese which I’d brought with me.  It was very noticeable that aeroplanes from Heathrow were flying low over the racecourse today; I suppose it all depends on the wind direction on the day.  And it was sunny today, with lots of blue sky, which made them even more visible!  The guy who was marshalling the cars commented on the planes; I said it was a little off-putting when they were so low.  He told me that he lived close to the end of one of the Heathrow runways ... and they were a lot lower in the sky when they flew over his house!

I set off to walk around the perimeter of the enclosures, soon reaching the ticket office.  I didn’t notice whether Choc’s car was already there, as many cars were already parked in the rows opposite the main entrance.  I did wonder, however, if gate opening time had been earlier than the 11:30 stated on the Kempton Park website!  

I purchased a ticket, £16 today; although the cashier asked if I had a £1 coin so that she could give me a fiver in change for my two £10 notes.  I rummaged through my handbag’s front pocket to find the old camera film container where I store any one or two pound coins.  I had been running low on coins at this particular period, but found one £1 and two £2 coins, together with a 50p piece.  I begrudgingly handed it over! 

My ticket having been punched, I walked through the ticket office exit door and into racecourse precincts.  At this point I almost made a profit, when I handed over my fiver to purchase a race-card and the seller after rummaging through his purse, handed me back the fiver, together with a 50p piece.  Being an honest soul, sometimes too honest for my own good, I laughed and pointed this out to him.  He took back the note and gave me two £1 coins instead.  The transaction complete, I set off across the horse-walkway and along the concourse to find a suitable table at which to sit.

It was quite warm in the sunshine, especially as I was well wrapped-up too.  I remained at the table until the first horses arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of the first race of the day.  I did keep an eye on the people coming in through the entrance, just in case I could get a glimpse of Choc, but there was no sign of him.  He must have arrived already.

Monday and Thursday being schooling days at the Alan King yard, Choc would have been to the Wiltshire-based stable before heading to the races today.  Later in the week, in his first Horse and Hound column of the season, he would mention that flat jockey Fergus Sweeney joined them on the schooling ground this particular morning.  This was ahead of a scheduled Handicap Hurdle race for flat jockeys taking place at Lingfield Park on Tuesday 13 November.

For the record, 9 jockeys took part in the event, with Fergus riding the Alan King trained Miss Exhibitionist ... and they won!

Race 1: Novices’ Hurdle – 2 miles – 8 hurdles –  9 ran

Once the horses had left the Parade Ring I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails.  As the start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel, the horses cantered down past the grandstand to reach it.

Then they were off.  The field was led away by the Richard Phillips trained Excelsior Academy, almost upsides was the AP McCoy ridden Nice to Have.  The former made an error at the second flight.  Having progressed up the home straight at a steady pace, the two leaders had increased their advantage as they passed the winning post and headed around the top bend.  Nice To Have took the lead over the third flight; the favourite, Ransom Note, making a number of errors and seemingly not enjoying himself on his hurdling debut.  Probably a little temperamental too, being an entire!

AP’s mount continued to lead as the runners headed down the back straight; he was joined by Conigre and Golden Hoof as they rounded the final bend. Andrew Tinkler needed to shake up the ‘green’ Golden Hoof to take the advantage approaching two out.  He stayed on well to win by 4½ lengths from Rysbrack; these two pulling well clear of the remainder.  Twoways, never nearer, finished 3rd and Nice To Have 4th.

The winner had worn earplugs; these were dangling from the bridle as the horse was unsaddled.

Race 2 – NH Novices’ Hurdle – 2 miles 5 furlongs – 10 hurdles – 11 ran

It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Hindon Road; the horse was the 3-1 favourite for this event.  Once the horses had left the Parade Ring I set off to take up my usual position beside the course-side rails.  The 2 miles 5 furlongs start is situated in the far corner of the track, the runners heading straight out of the horse-walk and cantering away from the grandstand area to reach it.

Then they were off.  The runners were led away by the mare Bach To Front; she took the field along the back straight, being joined by Western King as they headed up past the stands.  Choc was on the inside, mid-field.  Having tracked the leaders, No Likey came to join them as they progressed towards the far corner.  But he stumbled upon landing over 4 out, allowing Western King to go on again.

Hindon Road had already taken closer order and soon tracked the leaders.  Turning in he looked to be going well but Choc soon became animated, with four other runners going on.  Of these, Kaysersberg and Barney Cool began to pull away; the latter having a narrow advantage over the last.  However having led over two out, the Neil King trained runner rallied gamely on the run-in to win by half a length at the line.  Western King finished 3rd, with Lisheen Hill shaping up nicely on his Rules debut in 4th.

Both the first and second had been making their hurdling debuts after gaining success in bumper races.  With this win, stable-jockey Alex Merriam had ridden out his claim. 

Hindon Road finished in 5th place, so Choc did not return to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race.

After race 2 there was an opportunity to have my photograph taken on the winner’s podium with the King George VI Chase trophy; which, on this occasion, I decided to do.  One photograph was taken using my own camera, the other by a racecourse representative; the picture later appeared on Kempton Park’s facebook page as had been promised!

Race 3 – Handicap Chase – 2 miles 4½ furlongs – 12 fences – 11 ran

The starting gate for this event was in the far corner of the track.  The ex-Alan King trained Porters War was a runner in this race; the horse now being trained by Jeremy Scott. 

Then they were off.  The field was led away by one of the outsiders, Chapel House from Health Is Wealth.  Forget It blundered and unseated his jockey, Jamie Moore, at the fence in front of the stands. 

There was no change at the head of affairs until Muldoon’s Picnic took over three obstacles from home.  But Moscow Chancer was still closing and out-jumped his rival at the last, holding on to win by a nose at the line from the rallying Muldoon’s Picnic.  Porters War, having been a close third at the last, finished in this placing.  These three completed 28 lengths ahead of the fourth, the second Jeremy Scott trained runner, Bowntobebad.

It was a winner for trainer Tom George and jockey Paddy Brennan.

I noticed that Alan King and a companion were watching with intent from the Owners and Trainers terrace as the placed horses arrived back, Alan referring to information within his race-card.  Maybe he was interested to see how his ex-charge Porters War had got on.

Race 4 – Handicap Hurdle – 2 miles 5 furlongs – 10 hurdles – 11 ran

It was now time for Choc’s second ride of the day, aboard Medinas.  When the horses had left the Parade Ring I headed off to take up by usual position beside the course-side rails.  The 2 miles 5 furlongs start is situated in the far corner of the track, the runners heading straight out of the horse-walk and cantering away from the grandstand area to reach it.

Mush Mir appeared a little temperamental as the runners prepared to leave the ‘holding pen’, although he did consent to join the others.  Then they were off. 

The runners were led away by the David Pipe trained Beyond.  Choc, far from unusually, was on the inside in mid-field.  Mush Mir soon shadowed the leader and held the advantage as the field passed the lollipop for the first time.  Jeremiah McGrath’s mount continued to lead until the 6th flight, at which point Beyond regained it once more. 

He retained it until headed by Medinas just before two out.  However, the Emma Lavelle runner, Fox Appeal, who had tracked Choc’s mount around the final bend, was ridden to lead before the final flight and stayed on well, beating Medinas by 3½ lengths at the line. 

The Paul Nicholls trained, Ruby Walsh ridden favourite, Black Thunder finished 3rd, with Beside The Fire 4th.

Once Choc had crossed the line I headed back to the Winners’ Enclosure to see him arrive back, unsaddle and return to the Weighing Room. 

Race 5: Graduation Chase –  2 miles 4½ furlongs – 16 fences –  3 ran

It was now time for Choc’s third and final ride of the day, aboard one of my favourites, Kumbeshwar.  Just three runners, Ghizao and the ‘infamous’ Hell’s Bay being the other two.  The latter is now trained by Keiran Burke, having originally been trained by Paul Nicholls and then Colin Tizzard.  I shall never forget that it was Hell’s Bay which ripped apart Choc’s right knee when he ran out during a chase at Newton Abbot in July 2010. 

The three jockeys arrived in the Parade Ring together; Choc helmet in his hand at first, before putting it on once he’d met up with owner Max McNeill.  I remained at the far end of the Paddock as the horses paraded, jockeys being legged up before heading down the walkway.  I then set off to take up my usual vantage point beside the course-side rails.

The three runners cantered down past the stands to take a look at what would be both the 7th and the final fence during this event.  Having completed this task, they headed back past the winning post and along the side of the course to the starting gate which was located in the far corner of the track.

I was preparing my camera to take a photograph for when the runners reached the fence nearest the stands so wasn’t watching the big screen, and with the planes flying overhead today it drowned out Mike Cattermole’s commentary as the runners set off.  Therefore the horses had cleared the first fence before I’d realised they begun! 

Choc had taken the lead aboard Kumbeshwar who was jumping well.  However, for no apparent reason, his mount decided to put in an extra stride at the fourth fence, a plain obstacle.  This resulted in him somersaulting before hitting the ground, his jockey flying through the air to land heavily a few yards ahead of his horse.  I held my breath; fortunately Kumbeshwar got to his feet straight away, to gallop after the two remaining runners.  I couldn’t see what had happened to Choc, but the commentator reported that he was sitting up and seemed okay.  A lucky escape for both horse and jockey.

This took away any competition within the race, Ghizao leading for the remainder of the race and going on to win by 33 lengths.

Kumbeshwar completed the course, rider-less, so appeared to be okay.  Choc had been collected by one of the marshal cars and was given a lift back to the area close to the winning post.  He seemed sound as he walked back across the racecourse to return to the Weighing Room.  

My mind at rest, well almost, I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the two finishers arrive back.

It was at this point that I wished I owned a smartphone instead of my almost prehistoric Nokia 6300.  Because, if I did, I’d have been able to tweet Choc to ask if he was okay before I left Kempton Park. 

Race 6: Handicap Chase – 3 miles – 18 fences – 9 ran

I confess I didn’t actually watch this race from the course-side rails; I stayed seated beside the Parade Ring instead, hoping for a final glimpse of Choc before he set off home.  But I did watch the race via the screen situated to the rear of the Winners’ Enclosure.

The race was won by the Mick Channon trained, Dominic Elsworth ridden, Loch Ba.  The horse is in the same ownership as Somersby and was trained before her retirement, by Henrietta Knight.  Hen was at Kempton Park today to see Loch Ba win very easily, by 19 lengths.

Choc departed as the winner and placed horses were being led back to the stables following this race; he paused briefly whilst the marshals prevented pedestrians from crossing the walkway, before continuing his progress to the main exit.  I left shortly afterwards, it was 16:00 and prior to the final race of the day.

I would have caught up with him to ask how he was, but he was speaking with a group of people as he walked back to his car and shyness prevented me from interrupting.  But at least I knew he was okay following his fall. 

Race 7: Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – 2 miles – 8 hurdles – 9 ran

The final race of the day was won by the Lucy Wadham trained General Ting.  The winning conditional jockey was Micheal Nolan ... spelt correctly and pronounced Me-hall. 

Having been a bright day, the setting sun was now close to the horizon as I headed down the M3 in a south-westerly direction.  The dazzling globe shone straight into my eyes on a couple of occasions as the road curved one way then another and it was very difficult to see the road ahead; thank goodness there were no obstructions or queues. 

The low sun problem disappeared once I joined the M25 clockwise carriageway.  Although it was late in the afternoon, it wasn’t yet the rush-hour as such, so the traffic on the motorway moved freely during my journey back to Hertfordshire.  I exited at Junction 22, arriving home at around 17:00.   

I logged onto my laptop to see if Choc had tweeted a message following today’s fall.  Yes, he’d confirmed that he was okay, as was Kumbeshwar.  I did send a message back to say I was pleased he was fine, and to hoping he wasn’t too bruised. 

I spent the evening uploading the day’s photographs onto my website.  However, as the evening progressed, I began to feel unwell with mild abdominal cramps, so turned in at 21:00. 

I awoke during the night feeling nauseous, my legs seemed weak and I was shaking too.  It was reminiscent of the ‘sinus episodes’ of last year in fact.  After lying wake for a couple of hours, I slept for the remainder of the night and felt much better in the morning.  However, after moving around for an hour or so, I felt nauseous once more.  I had an appointment with my doctor scheduled for 10:30 and originally intended to go into work beforehand; however, I phoned my manager to say I’d go straight to the doctor instead and then decide whether I’d attend work.

The doctor prescribed some tablets to combat the nausea; she thought I’d probably picked up a virus, having been feeling unwell intermittently since the early hours of Saturday morning.  On my way back, I purchased my prescription at the local supermarket, costing £15.30 in total ... as she’d also prescribed a nasal spray, believing I’d got sinusitis too.  And I thought my operation was supposed to sort out all my sinus issues – which is very disappointing.  

On this occasion I decided to look after number one, and phoned in sick. 

I turned in at 21:00 on the Tuesday having succumbed to stomach ache yet again, but felt better the following morning although a little nauseous once more.  However, I decided to take another of the prescribed tablets and this seemed to do the trick and I was able to attend work for the remaining three days of the week.  

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