DIARY – KEMPTON PARK – SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2009
Saturday dawned bright and clear, with a spring-like day forecast. As my car was running low on petrol, I went out at 07:30 to fill it up at the local supermarket, returning in time to see Channel 4’s The Morning Line.
Then I washed my hair, and decided what to wear – it was time for the legs to come out again – with the colour theme of the day being black with a touch of red! I’m not so sure that black suits me so well these days, but a number of my coats are black, many of which I’ve owned for years. I am, however, looking forward to wearing either my cerise pink or my mid blue raincoats as the days become warmer – although not that I wish it to rain of course!
Anyway, I was ready to go by 10:40, taking the M25 anticlockwise, then heading up the M3 to Sunbury on Thames, and proceeding down the A308 to the entrance for the free car park. I parked up just before 11:30, which was their gates opening time. Having bought a ticket and race-card, and as the sun was shining brightly, I decided to bask in its warmth, sitting on one of the wooden benches beside the Parade Ring to read through the race-card.
At 12:15 I glanced up and noticed Meally walk by on her way to the Owners/Trainers area. She was wearing her yellow coat, a black mini-skirt and stiletto shoes, which displayed her endless legs to great advantage!
The Racing Post Tipster Forum was held in the Betting Hall at 12:30. Just before the horses began to come into the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race, I decided to walk around and position myself near to the Desert Orchid statue, so that I could get a better view of them.
Choc’s ride in the first race was Bormo for Alan King. It was a Handicap Hurdle event, over approximately 2 miles and 5 furlongs, with 14 runners. As the start was at the ‘apex’ of the course (it being triangular in nature), the horses came out of the walkway and cantered directly to it.
When the race commenced, Aimigayle with Colin Bolger aboard took up the lead. Other prominent runners were Wun Chai and King Jack. Bormo had an inside berth, 4th or 5th from the back. By the first turn, Choc had pushed his mount up the inside to take closer order. He made further headway to chase the leaders after 3 out, but was soon ridden and weakened before making a mistake at the second last flight. Aimigayle was still in the lead as the field entered the final straight, with King Jack just behind her, and Eleazar close up too. The latter ran on to win, with Dansimar in 2nd, Thundering Star 3rd, and Aimigayle holding on to take 4th. Bormo finished in 8th place.
I returned to the Parade Ring as, having finished unplaced, Choc would go straight to the Weighing Room before appearing again prior to his ride in the next race. It was a Novices’ Hurdle, run over approximately 2 miles, with 8 runners. Choc would be riding Trenchant, again for Alan King.
Once he had mounted and was heading down the walkway to the course, I walked around the end of the grandstand to position myself by the rails to see him canter to the start, which was at the beginning of the home straight. The favourite for this event was Ainama trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by AP McCoy.
Then they were off. Alarazi, ridden by Jamie Moore, led them out. He was followed by Alfie Flits, Dee Ee Williams and Conflictofinterest. Choc rode along on the inside in 5th position. As they turned away from the stands, Dee Ee Williams made a mistake at the 3rd flight, with Alfie Flits blundering at the 4th. Choc was still lying in 5th at this stage. As they approached the home straight Choc urged his mount forward but there was a line of horses in front of him so he had to pull to the outside. At the 2nd last and last flight he was still a very close 4th and, although drifting to his left, he overtook all his rivals to triumph by 1¼ lengths. In 2nd place was Ainama, 3rd Conflictofinterest, with Alfie Flits in 4th.
Having won, Choc would be returning to the Winners’ Enclosure and, as I rounded the corner of the grandstand on my way there, I saw Meally making her way to the paddock railings to take up a ringside pitch in preparation for welcoming her man back following his victory. I couldn’t resist congratulating her – “Well done, your boy did good”. I stayed to take photos of Choc as he unsaddled and spoke with connections, before he moved off in the direction of the Weighing Room accompanied by Alice Plunkett of Channel 4 Racing.
Meally left the paddock side shortly afterwards, and I walked around to the far side of the Parade Ring to await the horses for the next race. In the meantime, Choc had returned for the presentation ceremony and accepted his memento and Alan’s too, as the trainer had gone to saddle Ouzbeck in preparation for the next race.
Following the presentation he was approached by Lydia Hislop and asked by her to give an interview. He removed his ‘Trenchant’ silks to reveal those of Ouzbeck, rolling the former colours up in a very small bundle as he held them in his hands. He described Trenchant as ‘quirky’ and admitted that he couldn’t get his whip through to his left hand in time to prevent his mount from wandering off a straight line. He thought it was more luck than judgement which had enabled him to safely negotiate his rivals in the straight. As time was now short, at the end of the interview he jogged off in the direction of the Weighing Room.
When he reappeared he was waylaid by spectators requesting his autograph, but eventually reached the Parade Ring. Once mounted, Choc headed down the walkway to the course. There were 4 runners in this race, the Pendil Novices’ Steeplechase over a trip of 2 miles 4½ furlongs. The market leader was Herecomesthetruth ridden by Ruby Walsh. The start of the race was at the apex of the course, so the horses cantered directly there.
Then they were off. Herecomesthetruth took up his customary position at the head of the field, with Ouzbeck a close second. However, Choc’s mount jumped the 2nd fence with height to spare, but was not so lucky when jumping the next, an open-ditch. He took off a little early but, despite still clearing the obstacle well, he landed a little awkwardly and caught Choc unawares, who then fell off over Ouzbeck’s offside hindquarters. Luckily Choc was quickly to his feet, and was driven back in the ambulance, alighting at the top end of the course where he waited for the race to complete. Meanwhile Herecomesthetruth continued to lead, followed by Au Courant with Barry Geraghty aboard. Ouzbeck followed the field and carried on for a second circuit too. At the 12th obstacle, Premier des Marais fell, but Jamie Moore managed to grab hold of the reins before the horse ran off. It was the horse’s chase debut.
As the 2 remaining runners turned into the home straight, Herecomesthetruth was still leading and, despite a short-lived challenge from Au Courant, the former went on to win by 5 lengths. Eventually Ouzbeck arrived back at the walkway entrance and was caught by his handlers. I returned to the Parade Ring to see the horses arrive back.
It was now time for the 4th race of the day, the Racing Post Chase over 3 miles, with a record entry of 20 runners. Choc’s mount in this race was front-running Endless Power for Jim Goldie. When Choc entered the Parade Ring, at first he couldn’t locate the trainer and connections, but eventually saw and went to meet them. There was to be a parade before the race, so the horses numbered 1 to 10 exited onto the course first and were sorted into order, whilst 11 to 20 (Choc included) circled in the area just prior to reaching the course.
As I had positioned myself at the farthest extreme of the grassed area in front of the stands, the horses were breaking into a canter by the time they reached me. All the horses were taken to look at final fence in the home straight before cantering back to the start at the beginning of the straight running away from the stands.
When the race began, AP McCoy sent the grey, Nacarat, into the lead on the inside, with Choc on his outside aboard Endless Power. Ollie Magern was close up in 3rd position, with Billyvoddan in 4th. Lacdoudal made a mistake at the first fence down the far straight, with Laskari blundering at the 6th obstacle. Choc appeared to speak with AP as they galloped past the winning post at the end of the first circuit. Silverburn dropped back to last place and was pulled up. Laskari also began tail off. Having passed the apex of the course, Endless Power began to drop back, and Choc pulled him up before the open-ditch.
As the horses came into the home straight Nacarat was still leading, followed by Hold Em. However all bar the grey were just contesting for place money, as AP McCoy rode his mount out to win by 9 lengths on the line. Possel finished 2nd, Big Fella Thanks came in 3rd, and Hold Em faded into 4th.
There was a sad postscript to this race, as Endless Power had sustained a fractured pelvis during the race and died later that evening due to complications associated with the injury.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses come back in and to wait for the next race. This event was a Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle over a distance of around 2 miles, with 7 runners. Choc had chosen to ride Cosmea as she’d proven to be more reliable than Alan’s other runner, Saticon. Alan was speaking with someone in the terraced Owners/Trainers area to the side of the walkway, so Wayne and Choc stopped to converse with him before they came into the Parade Ring.
The race was to begin at the end of the home straight, so Saticon and Cosmea cantered down side by side to the start. When the race began, Helium ridden by Liam Treadwell led them off, with Art Exhibition in 2nd, Ray Diamond in 3rd and Saticon in 4th. Choc travelled on the inside in 5th place. Ruby was at the back, keeping a tight hold on Hebridean. They rounded the final bend with Helium still ahead, Saticon in 2nd, and Cosmea being pushed along in 3rd position. However Hebridean was stalking the 3 horses in front of him and, as Cosmea dropped back to 4th, Ruby’s mount challenged for the lead at the 2nd last flight. Unfortunately Cosmea blundered at this flight and weakened further, eventually finishing last. Hebridean galloped on to win, with Saticon 2nd, Helium 3rd and Excape 4th.
Again I returned to the Parade Ring to wait for the next race. Choc’s mount in this Handicap Chase was The Hairy Lemon, last year’s winner of the event. There were 9 runners in this race, over a distance of 2 miles 4½ furlongs. Choc, having been engrossed in conversation in the Parade Ring, almost missed the opportunity to mount his ride and had to jog to catch up with the horse. Once the horses had exited the walkway they cantered directly to the start over on the far side of the course.
Le Burf ridden by Noel Fehily led them off. Nemetan unseated Robert Walford at the first, but Dominic Elsworth recovered when his mount, Ice Bucket, made a mistake at the same obstacle. Choc was on the inside in 5th place, but The Hairy Lemon was already receiving extra encouragement before the field had jumped the 4th fence. Then, having made a mistake at the 9th fence, The Hairy Lemon dropped out and Choc pulled him up before the 10th. Randwick Roar made a number of jumping errors during the race.
Le Burf led the race from start to finish, with Ice Bucket finishing 2nd, Pop Ahead 3rd and Kew Jumper 4th. I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure and noticed AP return, without his mount, to speak with trainer Jonjo O’Neill. Presumably the horse, Pop Ahead had a problem, but it must have been fairly minor as the connections didn’t seem too concerned.
It was then time for the last race of the day, the NH Flat race over 2 miles in which Choc was riding Cyder with Rosie for Dominic Ffrench Davis. The horse’s lad had bruising around his eye – a horse related injury or a fight I wondered! Meally was waiting on the terrace in the Owners/Trainers area, and Mattie Batchelor spoke with her as he passed by, as did Choc shortly afterwards. Andrew Tinkler’s (aka Tinks) mount, La Patrona, was a little reluctant to leave the paddock so Choc’s mount had to be lead around him.
I walked down to the rails to watch the race, which would be starting at the beginning of the home straight. It was getting a little chilly by this time, although the sun was still shining.
Unfortunately there was confusion as the horses walked in at the start, with Bellvano being left. Evidently the jockey shouted that he wasn’t ready but the starter didn’t hear him and let the others go. He was booed by the spectators as he cantered back up the course. La Patrona led them off, with Choc on the inside in 4th or 5th position. As they reached the far turn, King’s Legacy moved up on the outside to dispute the lead, and soon took over. Ruby’s mount was still going well as they turned into the straight. But, by this time, Cyder with Rosie had already lost its position and had tailed off. Ballybach challenged for the lead as they galloped up the straight but Ruby’s mount hung on. A treble for Ruby today. As it was a NH flat race the runners will still finish providing they keep within the wings of the hurdles, which Choc did in 6th place.
It was my last view of Choc for today. I briefly returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return before I exited the course to find my car. As I prepared to drive home, two of Andy Turnell’s prospective Cheltenham Festival runners were doing a workout on the course – one of them was Micheal Flips.
I drove down to join the main road, turning right to head towards the M3. There was a considerable hold-up due to race-day traffic on the road which heads back past the main entrance to the course, but as soon as I reached the motorway it had cleared and my drive home around the M25 was free of incident. I reached home just after 18:00.