Kempton Park – Sunday 21 October 2012
Choc returns to the Winners’ Enclosure
having won the Juvenile Hurdle Race aboard McVicar
Another day at the races beckoned; my second of the weekend having attended the Cheltenham Showcase the previous day! And, of course, a further opportunity to see the lovely Choc; he had two rides today, in the first and third races of the fixture.
A mere 40 miles away, I didn’t need to leave home too early this day, my journey taking less than an hour. I awoke just after 07:00, spending time writing notes for my Cheltenham diary. I ate a breakfast of porridge and toast before showering, washing and drying my hair at 09:00.
I had intended to wear the same outfit as the previous day but, in the event, my skirt seemed a little loose today. Perhaps I’d not eaten enough yesterday! I searched through the cupboard for a smaller sized one, and came upon an M & S skirt in black, mauve, purple and white. The pink cardigan and jacket no longer looked right, so I wore my black frill edged ribbed cardigan and mauve jacket instead; the styles of each identical to the pink versions. Fortunately the jacket is one size too big, so two thermal vests, the black cardigan, my purple fleece and burgundy cardigan fit underneath. Michelin woman!!! I topped off my outfit with a purple/mauve/grey/white material scarf, black moccasin style wedge shoes and purple tights. And my ‘Purple Pool’ necklace and matching earrings.
Gate opening time was 12:15, so I decided to set off at 11:00. Perhaps hoping that Choc would arrive whilst I was queuing outside the entrance! I joined the M25 at Junction 22 and headed anticlockwise to reach the M3, before heading towards Sunbury On Thames. I left the motorway at Junction 1, took the A308 past the main racecourse entrance and drove up the driveway to park up in the free of charge area.
Usually I’d stay in the car for a few minutes to eat a small snack before setting off to purchase my ticket. On this occasion I put on my coat immediately and set off for the main entrance. Walking around the perimeter I could see the jockeys’ vehicles parked in a line ... Choc’s was already there, although it did look a bit grimy... although maybe it was a trick of the light. Perhaps I should have volunteered to clean it for him!
It was before midday, so I joined the group of race-goers standing outside the entrance. After a few minutes, the doors were opened. I purchased a ticket (£16), and set off to buy a race-card from the guy standing at the kiosk (£2.50). Having crossed the horse walk-way, I headed for the main grandstand. I walked through the ground floor hall to reach the doors leading out onto the area above the lawn; I headed to the course-side rails.
The weather forecasters had been unsure about the prevailing conditions today. They seemed to think it would be damp a little further south and east of Kempton Park until later in the day; but shortly after I’d arrived, so did the rain! It spitted at first, so I went to stand on the grandstand steps for a while; I then headed back through the ground floor to reach the area beside the Parade Ring.
It was now umbrella weather, so I stood in the shelter of the grandstand first floor terrace. It became a little tedious waiting for the action to begin with no-one to talk to, I even resorted to counting the number of conifers planted along the back of the Parade Ring ... there are 30. And not a lot of people know that or care!
Before racing there was a Tipster Forum; the members being trainer David Pipe, his stable jockey Tom Scudamore, the owner of one of their stable stars, Grands Crus, Roger Stanley, and Racing UK presenter Niall Hannity. Fronting up the panel was Anthony Kemp, race-day presenter. Whilst the forum was taking place, Grands Crus made a guest appearance, being led around the Parade Ring.
As mentioned earlier, Choc had two riding engagements today; McVicar in the Juvenile Hurdle and Roberto Pegasus in the Listed Novices’ Hurdle race. Both were making their hurdling debuts. When running on the flat, McVicar had been trained by Mick Channon, Roberto Pegasus by PM Phelan.
It was soon time for the first race, the horses being led around the Paddock. The posse of jockeys arrived, Choc greeting his trainer and the owners of his mount. One of the gentlemen must have mentioned the fact that Choc no longer keeps his hair long; the jockey removing his helmet to prove it. The owner also took off his cap to show his bald pate! They all laughed in amusement.
As always, I had taken up a vantage point to the back of the Parade Ring, as I know that Choc would be legged up in this area before heading out onto the walkway. Once he’d begun the journey to the racecourse, I set off around the side of the grandstand, up the steps, over the tarmac area and across the lawn to stand beside the course-side rails.
I reached my position before Choc and his mount cantered by, he rode down alongside AP McCoy aboard the favourite, Fisher, representing Irish-based trainer Gordon Elliott. Fisher was definitely the ‘looker’ in the field. Being a 2-mile event, the starting gate was at the far end of the home straight; with that and one complete circuit to travel.
Race 1: Juvenile Hurdle – 2 miles – 8 hurdles
Then they were off in this 10 runner race. Choc rode his mount in mid-division, taking the shortest route as is his usual preference! The Joshua Moore ridden Dalmo led the field until headed after 3 out; McVicar was not particularly fluent at this flight but continued to close on the leader, which was now Fisher. Choc drove his mount to challenge over the penultimate flight, but initially it appeared that AP’s mount had pressed home his advantage as they approached the last. However, Fisher blundered at the flight, handing the initiative to McVicar, the latter ridden out to win by 1¼ lengths.
This was the third time in 5 years that an Alan King trained runner had won this particular Juvenile Hurdle event (2010 – Jubail who, having gone to Donald McCain’s yard, was fatally injured at Uttoxeter earlier this year & 2008 – Saticon, currently trained by Richard Phillips).
I hurried back to the Winners’ Enclosure in order to get a good vantage point before Choc and McVicar were led back in. He unsaddled his mount and spoke with connections before posing for a photograph with the winner.
Having moved position to the side of the walkway, close to the Parade Ring entrance, I was in the perfect position to congratulate Choc on his win. However I was thwarted, initially when it appeared that he would be chatting to Denis O’Regan on his way back to the Weighing Room; however he was then accosted by the Clerk of the Course, Barney Clifford, who wished to get a ‘going’ report from the winning jockey. Oh well ... perhaps I’d be lucky later in the afternoon.
Race 2 – Beginners’ Chase – 2 miles – 12 fences
Eleven runners in this race. The David Pipe trained My Brother Sylvest led the runners from the off; the prominent Akula blundering at the first and unseating Colin Bolger, in rear Theodore Lamb falling at this fence. Tom Scudamore’s mount continued to lead until headed 3 out by the favourite, Sire De Grugy. Jamie Moore’s mount soon went clear and despite blundering 2 from home, had a 10 lengths advantage over the last. He ran on to win by 6 lengths easing down. Grams and Ounces completed in 2nd, the long-time leader My Brother Sylvest finished 3rd and Polisky 4th.
It was now time for Choc’s second and final ride of the day, aboard Roberto Pegasus. Once he had been legged up, I set off around the side of the main grandstand to reach the course-side rails. I was in time to see him canter by on his way to the start.
Race 3 – Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) – 2 miles – 8 hurdles
Eight runners in this event. Then they were off. The field was led away by the Tim Vaughan trained Hawkhill, ridden by Aidan Coleman. Choc held up his mount in mid-division, on this occasion deciding to take up a position upon the outside of the field. The favourite, Princely Player, made an error at the fourth flight.
Very fit from hurdling during the summer, Hawkhill was able to keep up the pressure at the head of affairs and was still two lengths clear as they jumped the final flight. He held on to win by ¾ of a length at the line from Princely Player and Spirit of Shankly. The white faced Roberto Pegasus had chased the leading trio before 2 out but was soon ridden and left behind, finishing 10 lengths adrift of the 3rd placed runner.
Choc having finished 4th in this race, returned to the Parade Ring. Having ‘power walked’ back from my position beside the course-side rails, I was in time to take a photograph of Roberto Pegasus being led back along the horse-walk prior to reaching the Winners’ Enclosure.
Having remained in that vicinity whilst Choc unsaddled his mount, I was in the perfect place to re-position myself beside the crossing point where the jockeys exit onto the concourse on their way back to the Weighing Room. At first it appeared that Barney Clifford might accost Choc once more, but he decided to speak with one of the other riders instead; Choc was therefore alone as he approached me.
I congratulated him upon his earlier win; he said ‘thank you’ and asked how I was. ‘Fine, thank you’ I replied. All the better for speaking with you I thought. I know I must have had a soppy grin on my face; I usually do when I talk to him. But who cares? He’s gorgeous ... in a beautiful ‘munchkin’ kind of way!
Having popped to the loo situated at the back of the grandstand hall, I returned to the Parade Ring. Paralympics Dressage Gold Medallist, Natasha Baker, made a special guest appearance today, being interviewed in the Winners’ Enclosure about her achievement.
On a couple of occasions during the afternoon, punters had been given the opportunity to pose on the Winners’ Podium to have their photograph taken with the King George VI Chase trophy.
The rain had returned.
Race 4 – Handicap Chase – 3 miles – 18 fences
Another 11 runner steeplechase. The field was led away by joint-favourite Firm Order, but he blundered and unseated Dominic Elsworth at the first. Poor old Dominic, it was the third time he’d ended up on the deck this weekend; once at Cheltenham and in the earlier steeplechase when riding Theodore Lamb.
Tim The Chair was left in the lead by this departure, Chapel House taking up the running shortly afterwards and leading until 4 out; Font was going better than many when he departed at this fence. Basoda had now gone on and soon established a clear lead; in fact he went on to win by 25 lengths, easing to a walk near the finish. Baily Storm finished 2nd, Sea Cadet 3rd and Nom De Guerre 4th.
With Choc’s rides for the day already completed, it was at this point that I decided the weather had beaten me. Having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back, I set off for the exit gate, located close to the closed turnstiles.
As I wanted to set off as soon as possible in order to avoid driving home in the dark, I didn’t consume even one of the cheese rolls which I’d brought with me. Having departed the confines of the racecourse, it was not a surprise that there were no traffic queues on the A308 waiting to join the roundabout beneath the M3; there were still 3 races to complete. My journey took me down the M3 to join the M25 clockwise carriageway. The Sunday afternoon traffic was quite busy, with slow moving vehicles between the M4 and M40 junctions, but no serious delays. No sighting of Choc heading home either.
I reached home at around 17:00 and I did actually watch the final race of the day on TV! My jacket, scarf and cardigan collar were a little damp; they spent a few days in the airing cupboard because I forgot they were there!
My supper consisted of four cheese rolls and a bowl of tomato soup. In fact I hadn’t eaten a proper meal during this entire weekend!
Here are brief details of the races I missed:
Race 5: The William Hill Hurdle – 2 miles – 8 hurdles
Just 4 runners – Australia Day, Brampour, Get Me Out Of Here and First Avenue. As always, the grey Australia Day took a keen hold and held a clear lead until after 3 out, although jumping right at times. Brampour took poll position over the penultimate flight, but was overtaken by Get Me Out of Here before the last. The latter won by 1½ lengths at the line from Brampour; First Avenue a further 3¾ lengths away in 3rd. After his early exertions, Australia Day dropped away to complete 17 lengths adrift in 4th. A winner for AP McCoy, Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus.
Race 6: Handicap Chase – 2 miles – 11 fences (1 omitted)
Twelve runners; the winner was Lucy’s Legend ridden by Paddy Brennan, trained by Paul Henderson. Shooters Wood, who had made most of the running, finished 2nd; Mibleu 3rd and Bhaltair 4th.
Race 7: NH Novices’ Hurdle – 2 miles 5 furlongs – 10 hurdles
This 12-runner event was won by the Emma Lavelle trained, Dougie Costello ridden Le Bec. Definite Chance completed in 2nd, Up For An Oscar was 3rd with long-time leader, Present View, 4th.
Having arrived home earlier than expected, I had time to select and upload today’s photographs onto my website. My Cheltenham pictures would have to wait until the following day, which they did.
At this point I was not panicking about writing today’s Kempton Park diary. Nor was my Cheltenham diary from yesterday a cause for concern, as I’d have at least 11 days to complete them before going racing again. However, little did I know that I’d encounter a major problem with my laptop two days later; this would lose me 4 days of valuable writing time.
I later discovered that Choc hadn’t headed directly home, but had met up for supper with Horse and Hound Hunting and Racing Editor, Catherine Austen. That’s good news, confirming that Choc will be continuing his column in the magazine this autumn/winter.