DIARY – KEMPTON PARK
– SATURDAY 15 JANUARY 2011
The horses parade before the King George VI Chase:
Choc aboard Irish raider Forpadydeplasterer;
AP McCoy aboard Kauto Star;
Sam Waley-Cohen aboard Long Run
With the coldest December on record having put paid to Kempton Park’s Winter Festival, snow having arrived early month and again the weekend before Christmas, the BHA agreed that the King George VI Chase and the Christmas Hurdle (both Grade 1 races) should be rescheduled and run at Kempton’s mid-January Lanzarote Hurdle fixture. This meant a bumper card of 9 races on the new date! I had purchased a ticket for the Boxing Day fixture, for which I received a refund; and had subsequently bought a ticket online for the re-arranged meeting.
Choc had been booked to ride the Irish raider Forpadydeplasterer in the originally scheduled King George on 26 December (which had then been put back to 27 December in the hope that the course would be raceable, but to no avail) and he retained the ride on 15 January. However, the other intended Irish runner, Sizing Europe, had defected by 15 January, and it transpired that current Gold Cup holder Imperial Commander would have been available to compete had the entries been re-opened. He’d been withdrawn from the 26 December race when a cut sustained at Haydock became infected.
The Christmas Hurdle entries were not re-opened either, although Nicky Henderson’s Triumph Hurdle winner Soldatino was now ready to make his seasonal re-appearance, his trainer having expressed his disappointment that his horse could not gain entry into the re-scheduled race.
Earlier in the week my plans for racing this particular weekend had been fluid; as when Choc wrote his Racing Post column published on the Monday, he wasn’t 100% sure that he would retain the ride aboard the Irish runner. I would be attending Kempton Park on Saturday regardless, but I also had a contingency plan to go to Huntingdon on Friday should Choc go to Warwick instead on Saturday to ride Jetnova and West End Rocker.
On this occasion, unlike last Saturday, I had plenty of time to plan my wardrobe and get prepared for my trip to Kempton Park, having booked Friday as holiday (as I was using up 2010 leave). Thermal vests, purple sweater, black frilly-edged cardigan, purple fleece, long black skirt with hankerchief hem, burgundy tights, ‘engineer’ ankle boots (surprisingly comfortable considering they have a 3 inch heel ... but they are chunky heels!).
My choice of coat and scarf was a little less clear. Originally I was going to wear my short cerise coloured coat but, at the last moment, the forecast promised a deterioration in the weather, so I decided upon my ‘faithful’ black faux sheepskin jacket instead. Both my black faux sheepskin jacket and my black faux sheepskin coat are ‘donkey’s years’ old, but both have come into their own since I started going racing during the winter months. I wouldn’t buy a black coat now, as I think the colour tends not to suit as one grows older. And the only reason I have two very similar coats is that I couldn’t find the longer version in my size, so I bought the jacket ... only to find the coat in my size a few weeks later! And they are not posh ... they are both in fact from BHS!
Because I’m a very creative person, I own numerous scarfs, almost all of which I’ve made myself, either knitted or constructed using a Sirdar ‘Loopa’. But, today, I choose my Berry coloured ‘Snowball’ scarf.
And I re-charged my camera batteries; I take 2 with me so that I can interchange them if the power supply in the first one runs low, which it does sometimes. At Sandown last Saturday the battery warning light had began to display by the end of the day and it had only just held out to the end of the afternoon without changing it. I take a spare memory card too.
Having completed a cross stitch picture as a present for baby William, I put the wrapped gift in the boot of my car hoping that I might get the opportunity to present it to Choc.
Having researched the gate opening times, and car parking arrangements, I decided to set my alarm clock for 05:30, with the intention of leaving home at 08:00 and arriving at Kempton by 09:00, which was car park opening time. However, it didn’t go quite to plan, I initially woke at 04:30 ... another hour’s sleep ... good. But the next time I awoke it was 06:05! Damn, the alarm hadn’t gone off – it was set, but the charge remaining in the battery was too low for the alarm to sound. Looking on the bright side, I still had plenty of time to get ready, and at least I’d discovered that the battery needed replacing before it became an issue.
Today it was ‘no great shakes’ that I’d got out of bed at 06:05, as I still had plenty of time to shower, wash and dry my hair, apply make-up and eat a couple of Weetabix before I set off. I even tuned into The Morning Line on Channel 4 to see who their guest was ... it was Ruby Walsh ... before I set off at 08:05.
My route took me to Junction 21A of the M25, where I joined the motorway as there was no sign of any holdups in the contraflow system. My first real panic of the day happened when I reached the Chorley Wood junction and realised I’d left my green canvass bag at home! I tried to recall what I’d put in the bag ... map books – not really important, as I have a good sense of direction and geography (I don’t own or need a satnav either). A couple of bags of sweets ... just in case I got hungry whilst waiting for the traffic to clear at the end of the day. And my make-up bag ... I’d already applied my make-up so I needed it solely if I had to reapply any ... which I can never remember ever doing anyway! Panic over.
There were no holdups on the M25 or M3 and I arrived at Kempton Park at around 08:55. I was directed to Entrance 6, which is the usual entrance I use to reach the free car parking area. Today, however, the only free parking available was centre course (which not many people took advantage of), or in an area just to the south of the usual place for the fee of £3, the tarmac area in front of the Festival stand having been cordoned off today for spectator use. Not surprisingly, I was one of the first cars to arrive and was directed to the park on the row nearest the gate through which spectators would exit to reach the Paddock enclosure entrance.
Having changed into my boots, taken a drink of black coffee from my thermos, and put on my coat, I set off for the Paddock enclosure turnstiles to wait for the gates to open at 09:30. I decided not to take William’s present with me at this stage, as I wanted to ‘see the lie of the land’ before proceeding. I got a little bored waiting and started to pace around; including in the direction of the Premier entrance, where I caught a brief glimpse of Choc returning from his vehicle! (Perhaps he had already walked the course and had taken his Hunter Wellingtons back to the car?)
So, instead of hanging around, I decided to fetch the cross stitch picture from the car and return to the queue which was now forming. The organisers were running a little late, as the gates and turnstiles didn’t open until almost 09:40. Then, having purchased a race-card (£3) I set off to visit the racecourse office to see if I could track Choc down.
Whilst I was waiting to be ‘served’, Kauto Star’s owner Clive Smith arrived to collect his badges/tickets. I spoke with the lady behind the counter, and she suggested I speak with Victoria (the blonde lady who had been our course walk and tour leader during recent meetings at the course) as she was standing nearby in the office foyer. Not surprisingly she remembered me, as I’d been on all three of Choc’s final furlong course walks and on a ‘behind the scenes’ tour on 01 November too. She suggested we go to the Weighing Room to see if Choc was available; as she realised that I would probably prefer to hand the present to Choc personally. In fact it’s mainly because I spend hours and hours completing handmade projects, which makes them personal, valuable and irreplaceable; it’s not like a present you just buy in a shop. So only safe delivery to the recipient can put my mind completely at rest.
We set off for the Weighing Room. She left me just inside the foyer and then went across to the changing room entrance to speak with one of the valets to ask if Choc was available. The valet then went to look for Choc.
And at this point I have to confess that I got more than I bargained for! It transpired that Choc was in the sauna; but he did pop out briefly to speak with Victoria to say that he would be out at around 10:30, as he had arranged to do an interview with Kate Miller of William Hill. And, yes, all he was wearing at the time was a towel wrapped around his neither regions! Which was a nice and totally unexpected treat for me!!! J.
I thanked Victoria for her help and went to wait on the concourse outside the Weighing Room, hoping that Choc would appear in due course. AP McCoy walked past whilst I was waiting; signing autographs and having his photo taken with a group of youngsters and their mother. After approximately 15 minutes I decided I had time to go away and come back again in a few minutes. Initially I went to sit on a bench overlooking the Parade Ring, before popping to the loo and then returning to the precincts of the Weighing Room. It was now around 10:20.
I did some more loitering, whilst trying not to look too suspicious! Bob Champion walked by whilst I was waiting. 10:30 came and went ... Victoria walked by and asked if I’d seen Choc. No, not yet. Then, a few minutes later, who should come jogging along the concourse towards the Weighing Room but the man himself? I presume I must have missed him leaving the building on his way to attend the interview. He almost passed me by, so I called out his name and he stopped. Choc’s hair was still slightly damp from having been in the sauna. I handed over the present and he thanked me. ‘You are very kind’, he said. I wished him luck for the day’s racing, before we took leave of each other. He returned to the Weighing Room, and I to the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race. Whew ... mission accomplished.
The first race of the day must have been around an hour away; I sat on one of the wooden stools on the far side of the Parade Ring, the tall fir trees offering protection against the strong winds blowing in from a westerly direction. I was beginning to feel hungry, so I went to buy two chocolate bars from one of the stalls (a Boost and a Twirl) before returning to my chosen vantage point.
Choc had 4 rides today, in races 3, 4, 7 (King George VI Chase) and 8 (Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle). His first ride was Midnight Prayer; then Samsons Son; Forpadydeplasterer and The Betchworth Kid.
Whilst I was waiting for the horses to appear ahead of the first race, I watched a number of interviews being broadcast by Kempton Park TV on the big screen overlooking the Parade Ring; KPTV’s Anthony Kemp doing the honours. The first interviewee was Simon Claisse, who is Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham; evidently he’d been part of today’s coursewalking ‘delegation’ which included Kempton’s own Clerk Barney Clifford. I thought I’d seen Simon whilst I was loitering outside the Weighing Room!
Another interviewee was Lee ‘And they are off ... Racing’ Mackenzie, who was today’s commentator. He said he’d try to keep as calm as possible, endeavouring not to get too excited about each race too early. The third interviewee was Kate Miller, who went through the racecard giving her selections, although there was initially a problem with her microphone. She mentioned her interview with Choc; he had said that Midnight Prayer would need the run and that Samsons Sons would be his best ride of the day. Kate said that The Betchworth Kid was today’s Pricewise selection.
Ruby Walsh also came down to the Parade Ring, to be interviewed, but I didn’t recognise the interviewer. Although his mobility was barely impaired, you could clearly see that he was still wearing a frame on the lower half on his right leg, having fractured both his tibia and fibula in a fall last November. Nick Luck and Steve Mellish were representing Racing UK on course today. (Pundits Steve Mellish and Dave Nevison always seem ‘shifty’ to me, as they never hold eye contact with anyone!)
Soon it was time for the first race of the day, off time 11:50. Once the horses had departed from the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight. However, when it was time for the off, on-one seemed keen to take up pole position, the horses dawdling across the steeplechase track and onto the hurdles course. The commentator, Lee Mackenzie remarking at the ‘lack of enthusiasm’ being demonstrated!
However, when they finally broke into a gallop, it was Jolly Roger who set off in front, with Kuilsriver to his outside; the keen running Mavalenta in third. Also prominent were Finch Flyer, Cuckoo Rock, and New Code. Further back and racing keenly were the favourite, Brampour, and A Media Luz with Barry Geraghty aboard. Kuilsriver had assumed the lead by the 2nd flight.
The field was closely packed as they galloped past the winning post with one circuit to go and headed down the side of the track. Kuilsriver was slow at the 4th, and again at the next, relinquishing the lead to Jolly Roger. A Media Luz soon progressed through the field and, by 3 out, was tracking the leaders.
Jolly Roger led the field into the home straight, A Media Luz and Brampour at his quarters. However, having taken a narrow lead as they leapt the 2nd last, Barry Geraghty’s mount caught the top of the flight and fell. In rear, Aldorable unseated Colin Bolger too.
The fall of the Nicky Henderson trained mare left Brampour in the lead, however he edged towards the nearside and was soon hard-pressed by the AP McCoy ridden Kazzene. These two horses cleared the final flight in unison, although the latter wasn’t fluent, however AP drove out his mount to win by 1½ lengths. Kuilsriver rallied to finish 2nd, with Brampour back in 3rd.
A winner for the David Pipe yard; although A Media Luz would probably have won had she not fallen 2 out.
I returned to the Parade Ring to view the runners prior to the next event; before returning to the course-side rails.
Another 2 mile event, this time over the larger obstacles but still commencing at the far end of the home straight with just over one circuit to race.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the grey Sambulando; followed by Dee Ee Williams, Nadiya De La Vega, Gus Macrae, Quasar D’Oudairies, with Chain of Command and Pepe Simo bringing up the rear.
By the time they reached the 2nd obstacle, the Barry Geraghty ridden mare Nadiya De La Vega had taken 2nd place. Pepe Simo and Chain of Command still brought up the rear as they passed the winning post with one circuit to go. Sambulando flew the open ditch and had a 3 or 4 lengths lead around the far turn. Quasar D’Oudairies soon dropped back and was pulled up before the 6th.
Nadiya De La Vega hit the 7th obstacle. Pepe Simon made ground from 4 out, with the Nicky Henderson trained mare taking up the running at the final fence down the back straight, 4 from home. She led around the final bend, from Gus Macrae and Pepe Simo.
Despite crashing through the 2nd last, Nadiya De La Vega retained the lead from Pepe Simo, Gus Macrae dropping back. Barry Geraghty’s mount cleared the last well, Barry without irons, and she stayed on to win gamely by one length from Pepe Simo. Sambulando rallied to take 3rd ahead of the fading Gus Macrae. The only other finisher was Dee Ee Williams, as Chain of Command was pulled up before jumping any fences in the home straight.
Nadiya De La Vega is definitely not ‘the finished article’ but she is very game and honest – she has huge ears too, often thought to be a sign of a very good temperament! She runs for the Million in Mind Partnership syndicate; whose horses go to the sales at the end of each season.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race and Choc’s first ride of the day.
Alan King had two runners in this event, Midnight Prayer to be ridden by Choc, and Credit Crunched the mount of Sam Thomas. Alan’s Assistant trainer, Noel Williams, was representing the stable today, as his boss was at Warwick races.
Once the horses had left the Parade Ring I set off to view the race from beside the course-side rails.
The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track, the horses exiting the walkway and cantering directly down the side of the course to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Big Bertie; in rear were Credit Crunched and Lucius Fabeo. Heading along the back straight, Big Bertie was at the head of affairs, followed by Silpius, Firm Order, Mudita Moment, Sybarite,The Reformer, Just Josie, Arthur’s Pass, and the white-faced Highland Legacy showing up on the outside of the field. Midnight Prayer was on the inside in mid-field.
Big Bertie led the field into the home straight for the first time. The favourite, Chablais, hit the 3rd flight. Past the winning post with one circuit to go, Choc was travelling in his customary position against the rails, and was in around 11th position.
Heading away from the stands, Sybarite hit the first flight down the side, Midnight Prayer landing on all fours at this obstacle; turning the far corner Lucius Fabeo and Whispering Jack began to lose touch with the field. Big Bertie still held the lead, from Firm Order, Chablais disputing third place with Mudita Moment. These were followed by Arthur’s Pass, The Reformer, Sybarite, Made In Time; Credit Crunched soon making progress on the wide outside. Sulpius pulled up before 3 out. Chablais hit this flight.
Midnight Prayer had begun to take closer order as they travelled towards the final bend, around which Firm Order led, with Chablais to his outside and closely followed by The Reformer; long time leader Big Bertie having now dropped out.
Chablais took over as the field entered the home straight, Firm Order coming under pressure on the inside of the track. Sybarite came to challenge the leading pair between the final two flights; Chablais hit the last and despite rallying on the flat, Paddy Brennan’s mount could not reach the winner, the winning distance one length.
Chablais was the second winner of the afternoon for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty. The Reformer finished 3rd, Firm Order 4th, Made In Time 5th, and Credit Crunched 6th. Midnight Prayer completed in 9th; Choc did say, pre-race, that he needed the run!
The winner was a very expensive buy, costing £260,000 at the sales.
As Choc was competing in the next race, I returned to the Parade Ring to watch the placed horses return to the Winners’ Enclosure and to watch for him to reappear ahead of his ride aboard the Alan King trained Samsons Son. Alan also ran Top Mark in this event, to be piloted by Gerard Tumelty.
Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, I headed for the course side rails within the Paddock enclosure. Amazingly, punters were still arriving through the turnstiles.
The start of this race, being 2 miles, was at the far end of the home straight with just over one circuit of the course to travel.
The field was led away by the grey Karky Shultz with, to his inside, proven front runner William Hogarth. Choc was in mid-field, on the inside aboard Samsons Son. Top Mark and Gerard Tumelty were towards the rear. On the outside and pulling very hard was Ski Sunday under AP McCoy. Past the post with one circuit to go, Choc was lying in 7th position.
William Hogarth and Karky Shultz still disputed the lead as the field galloped around the top turn. Skint was in 3rd, followed by Ski Sunday, Zanir, Via Galilei, Aather, Tobago Bay, Simply Blue, Souter Point, and Alhaque. Big Robert, Babilu and Johnny Mullen were in the group of runners at the back of the field.
As the field entered the back straight, Karky Shultz had a clear advantage, William Hogarth having dropped back slightly. Skint still travelled in 3rd, along with Ski Sunday, then Tobago Bay, with Samsons Son up his inside. Alan King’s other runner, Top Mark, was at the back of the field.
At the final bend, Samsons Son was in around 6th position. Long time leader Karky Shultz was still at the head of affairs as the field entered the home straight, with Ski Sunday coming through on the wide outside to clear the 2nd last with a narrow lead. Having hit the front, AP McCoy’s mount began to stretch his lead and went on to win, Skint kept on at the same pace and took second; Karky Shultz, although edging left approaching the last, rallied towards the end and finished 3rd. Zanir finished 4th. Aather was close up in 5th; then an 11 length gap back to Samsons Son in 6th.
When interviewed following the race, winning trainer Lawney Hill explained that Ski Sunday has just one eye, having lost the other in an accident before he was transferred to her stable. It was Ski Sunday’s first outing over hurdles since losing an eye, and AP was given instructions to keep his mount to the outside of the field and away from the other runners. (As the horse carries its head slightly to the left, I presume that’s the eye he has lost – so if he’s on the outside on a right-handed track, he can see all his rivals.) Both this horse and Universal Soldier, who won a race at Chepstow last Saturday, had been members of Nicky Henderson’s string prior to joining their new stable. Ski Sunday, when trained by Tim Vaughan, finished runner-up to Walkon at the Grand National Festival in 2009, so is obviously a talented horse.
As Choc had been unplaced, I decided to remain by the course-side rails in order to get the best possible pitch ahead of the main events of the day. I remained beside the rails until after the King George VI Chase had been run.
The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track, beyond the reservoir. The Snail was reluctant to line up with the other runners; which resulted in a false start. The consenting runners trotted back to the starting gate, having not travelled far, and in the hope that The Snail might decide to take part at the second attempt. An assistant led the recalcitrant horse around as the other runners circled once more at the start; however it was to no avail as he planted himself as the field set off again.
The runners were led away by Safari Adventures, followed by Free World; Jimbatai was awkward at the second obstacle; Bible Lord and Drybrook Bedouin both got close to the fourth.
Safari Adventures held a two length advantage as they turned into the home straight for the first time. He was pursued by Free World, Bible Lord, Polyfast, Ursis, Its Crucial, Jimbatai, Drybrook Bedouin and Cruchain; the latter hit the last in the home straight.
No change at the head of affairs as they progressed down the side of the course; where Jimbatai made a mistake at the 8th. The Snail could be seen trotting back in the opposite direction, having taken no part in the race.
Around the far bend, Safari Adventures remained the leader, and still held pole position as they set off down the back straight. Jimbatai hit the 6th from home and fell. Polyfast and Cruchain were now Safari Adventures nearest pursuers, the former upsides as they rounded the final bend. However despite the challenge, Safari Adventures still held a slight advantage at the penultimate fence; initially outpaced, Cruchain rallied as he approached the last and it appeared that he might even win. However, having cleared the fence he couldn’t go on, leaving Polyfast and Safari Adventures to battle it out to the line, the former prevailing by a head over the very gallant Safari Adventures. What a shame, Safari Adventures definitely deserved to win after this gallant front running display.
So it was another winner for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.
Harry Skelton, having pulled up Drybrook Bedouin before the third last, caught the loose horse and held it on a long rein as, standing up in his stirrups, they cantered up the straight. He let go of Jimbatai’s reins as he passed the winning post, the horse cantering on alone to be collected by its lad.
There was a Stewards Enquiry following the race, as Polyfast and Safari Adventures came very close on the run-in; but the result stood.
As explained earlier, I remained beside the course-side rails in order to have a front row view of the feature events. The horses competing in the Christmas Hurdle cantered down past the stands on their way to the start.
The race started at the far end of the home straight, with just over one circuit to travel.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the confirmed front runner, Overturn, followed by Binocular, Bocamix, Starluck, Khyber Kim and Escort’men. Bocamix and Escort’men both jumped the first flight awkwardly.
The pace was fast, the field closely packed on the bend. Overturn led the field down the side of the track, Binocular remaining in second, Starluck wide in third, followed by Bocamix, Escort’men, and Khyber Kim. Bocamix soon became outpaced and dropped to the rear of the field. AP aboard Binocular glancing behind to check on his pursuers as they entered the final bend.
Binocular touched down slightly ahead over the 2nd last. Having made up ground to pull alongside the 3rd placed Starluck, Khyber Kim was soon under pressure, taking an ungainly leap over the last. Thus Binocular galloped on the win by 3¾ lengths from the gallant Overturn, with Starluck in 3rd and Khyber Kim in 4th.
As this was the feature event, the horses were organised into number order whilst circling around the area reserved for the unplaced horses to be unsaddled. Exiting onto the course, the horses were preceded by a replica World War I horse drawn ambulance, which would be undertaking a fund raising trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity for wounded servicemen.
Number one and first alphabetically, was Albertas Run with Dougie Costello aboard; he was followed by Choc aboard the Irish raider Forpadydeplasterer, then Kauto Star and AP McCoy; Long Run and Sam Waley-Cohen; Madison du Berlais with Danny Cook (his usual pilot Tom Scudamore currently on the sidelines due to injury); the grey, Nacarat, and Paddy Brennan; Planet of Sound and Richard Johnson; the James Nesbitt owned Riverside Theatre and Barry Geraghty (it was James’ birthday today, although he was unable to attend due to work commitments in New Zealand); and finally The Nightingale and Sam Thomas.
Once the parade had been completed, the jockeys took their mounts for a look at the fence nearest the stands before cantering down to the 3-mile start; which is at the beginning of the straight heading away from the stands.
Then they were off. A cheer went up from the excited spectators ... it was like being at the Cheltenham Festival!
Madison du Berlais led them away, but lost the advantage at the first due to a slow jump, Nacarat taking over. Danny Cook had already lost his cap aboard the former. Kauto Star was soon up into second, disputing with Albertas Run. Madison du Berlais was now in fourth; Long Run close behind. Forpadydeplasterer was in rear.
Turning into the home straight for the first time, the order was Nacarat, Kauto Star, Long Run, Albertas Run, The Nightingale, Madison du Berlais, Riverside Theatre, and Planet of Sound, with Choc’s mount bringing up the rear. Another cheer for Kauto Star as the field passed the grandstand with one circuit to go.
Nacarat led the field down the side of the course, with Kauto Star and Long Run close behind. Madison du Berlais had totally lost his place; Choc knew his mount was struggling too, so to look after the horse he pulled him up. Choc would later remark in his Racing Post column that he had noticed that AP had been cajoling Kauto Star along, even prior to Choc pulling up his own mount.
Still no change at the head of affairs down the back straight, Nacarat followed by Long Run, Kauto Star, Riverside Theatre, The Nightingale and Planet of Sound. Riverside Theatre got close to the sixth fence from home.
Turning in for the final time, Paddy Brennan’s mount still led, Long Run was in second, with AP McCoy trying to galvanise a challenge from Kauto Star. However, Long Run was coasting and took the lead before 3 out, Nacarat beginning to fade. Kauto Star, in second, ploughed through the top of the penultimate fence, AP fortunate to remain in the saddle. This enabled Riverside Theatre to assume the runner up position.
Long Run only had to clear the last to win, which he did in style, galloping on to win by 12 lengths from Riverside Theatre; Kauto Star was a further 7 lengths back in 3rd. Long time leader Nacarat completed in 4th. Planet of Sound and Madison du Berlais completed the course but a distance behind. Both Albertas Run and The Nightingale were been pulled up.
The race time was 4 seconds above standard. A one, two for trainer Nicky Henderson, and five winners on the day, including both Grade 1 events.
It later transpired that Long Run had been wearing ear plugs to cut out extraneous noise and to help him to settle better. And there was much discussion as to whether ear plugs should become a declarable item, like blinkers or tongue ties.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return. I think Long Run may have been paraded before the stands following his win, as there was a delay before he arrived back, the last horse to return.
The trophy was presented to owner Robert Waley-Cohen; with mementos for jockey (and son) Sam, and trainer Nicky Henderson.
It was now time for the Choc’s final ride of the day, in the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle, aboard the Alan King trained The Betchworth Kid; the horse started as the favourite for this event.
The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track, beyond the reservoir.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Buena Vista and Dantari; bringing up the rear was Barwell Bridge. Heading down the back straight, the order was Buena Vista, Dantari, Quartz De Thaix, Bygones of Brid, Al Co, Drill Sergeant, Racing Demon, Like Minded, James De Vassy, Organisateur, Chief Yeoman, The Betchworth Kid, First Point, Hills of Arran, Premier Dane, Ackertac, Palomar, Songe and Barwell Bridge.
Dantari and Buena Vista led the field into the home straight for the first time. Unusually, Choc had assumed a mid to outside line aboard The Betchworth Kid. However, he blundered at the third, shooting Choc forward, although he quickly regained his balance. Down the side of the course, Bygones of Brid stepped at the fifth flight, AP McCoy unable to retain the partnership as gravity took over; unseated.
Dantari held the lead down the back straight, followed by Quartz De Thaix, Racing Demon, and Drill Sergeant; Buena Vista now dropping back through the field.
As they entered the final bend, The Betchworth Kid was struggling to go the pace and had dropped to the back of the main group. Quartz De Thaix led them into the home straight, pressed by Organisateur, First Point, Racing Demon, Drill Sergeant and James De Vassy. However, as they approached the second last, Organisateur dived away to its left, barging into James De Vassy, having already cut sharply across First Point. Luckily Nick Williams’ charge survived being severely hampered, took the lead, cleared the last and went on to win by 2 lengths; Organisateur overtaking Palomar on the run-in to claim 2nd prize. First Point was 4th.
A tired Songe had capsized at the 2nd last. Initially the horse showed no signs of rising so the green screens were erected, however after a few minutes the horse got to its feet, having solely been winded.
A disappointing day for Choc, with none of his four rides making the frame.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return then, once the horses competing in the final race of the day had set off down the walkway to the course, I returned to the course-side rails to view the event.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight heading away from the stands; the same course and distance as the King George VI Chase.
The field was led away by Rear Gunner, followed by Or Sing About, Moleskin, Arthuro Uno who jumped awkwardly at the first, Rey Nacarado, Factotum, and Mallusk with Mohi Rahrere in rear.
Having made ground into 4th, Mallusk clouted the third fence and dropped back. Arthuro Uno reached for the sixth and subsequently lost his place. Mallusk, who was already struggling as the runners progressed up the straight for the first time, hit the 9th and was pulled up shortly thereafter, his jockey Jason Maguire deciding not to commence another circuit. Arthuro Uno was also pulled up here, by jockey Paddy Brennan.
Meanwhile, up front, Rear Gunner under Andrew Thornton was still at the head of affairs. Factotum was struggling in rear by the 11th, soon tailing off, but AP McCoy continued aboard his mount. Rear Gunner remained clear until 4 out, at which point his nearest rivals Moleskin and Rey Nacardo closed up to his quarters following a series of jumps which saw him get close to a number of fences, affecting his momentum.
However, Andrew Thornton got a breather into his mount around the final bend and was able to pull away from his closest pursuers; he went on to win by 6 lengths. Moleskin completed in 2nd, with Rey Nacarado in 3rd. Or Sing About, who was tailed off along with Factotum, refused at the last. AP’s mount, however, did jump past the stationary Or Sing About and completed 79 lengths behind the winner! Having been run over the same course and distance, this race was 14 seconds slower than the King George.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back to be unsaddled. Andrew Thornton was very pleased to have won, holding his arms aloft as he rode back in aboard Rear Gunner. It seemed to mean almost as much to him as it would had be won the King George!
Once the horses had been led away I set off to find my car. It was 16:20 ... and the car park was already gridlocked. Initially all exiting cars had attempted to drive down to Entrance 6 to leave whence they came. But no-one seemed to be going anywhere for the time being; and not for around 30 minutes in fact. Eventually the gateway leading onto the main road, through which everyone had walked to reach the course turnstiles, was opened and all the remaining vehicles headed for that instead.
I wasn’t particularly bothered about going anywhere, so I leisurely ate a snack (4 finger rolls containing cheese in fact, which I had remembered to bring with me); interrupted only by one car owner who asked that I move my car so that he could join the queue to leave. I did so begrudgingly, as like everyone else, he wasn’t going anywhere and it seemed a waste of effort of my part if you ask me!
Having eaten, I jotted down a few notes to help with this diary, whilst wondering in awe that people would waste so much petrol waiting in a gridlocked queue of cars! However, by 17:35 the end of the queue was finally in sight, so I switched on my engine and joined the back of it. A steward waved me out onto the main road outside and it took just 6 or 7 minutes in slow moving traffic to reach the M3 and I was on my way home.
There were no traffic problems on the M25 and I reached home at 18:30 although, admittedly, later than last Saturday when I’d arrived home at 17:40 following my trip to Sandown Park. I wrote my blog and uploaded my photos onto my laptop during the evening, but decided against selecting, cropping, size reducing and uploading the pictures onto my website; I’d save that task until the next day when I was far less tired. And I still didn’t crawl into bed until gone 23:00!
For the record, Warwick races went ahead after an early morning inspection, with Wayne Hutchinson riding a double aboard the Alan King trained runners – West End Rocker and Call Me A Legend. Jetnova ran disappointingly, presumably not suited by the going.
The following day, Lee Mottershead reported in The Racing Post that over 15,000 people attended today’s fixture; Kempton Park having expected around 10,000 to turn up. Last season’s King George VI Chase run on Boxing Day 2009 had attracted a crowd of 21,679. The corresponding Lanzarote card last season had attracted a mere 2,188; with 3,975 attending on Racing Post Chase day in February!
There was news that, upon returning home, Kauto Star had slightly bleed (the first time this had occurred in 36 runs) and it was also discovered that he had a ‘low-grade’ infection; Forpadydeplasterer was found to be unwell following a bad scope; It was discovered that The Nightingale had a fibrillating heart – similar to the health problem suffered by Denman a few seasons’ ago; Albertas Run was found to be ‘stiff and sore’ behind; and Planet of Sound had ‘choked’ – he wears a tongue tie but would undergo further cauterisation of his soft palate.
Many of today’s punters had arrived by train ... I’ve travelled by train to Kempton, Sandown and Ascot – it takes ages, because I have to travel into London, change onto the underground, then catch the relevant train out of Waterloo. Weekday train travel is expensive and, at weekends, there are always engineering works on the underground upsetting one’s plans. I’ve played ‘sardines’ on the train back from Sandown and suffered journey times of over 2 and a half hours returning from Ascot. Sufferance on the M25 is a pleasure by comparison!