DIARY Ė KEMPTON PARK
Ė SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2012
RACING PLUS CHASE DAY
Trainer Tom George makes a fuss of Nacarat,
winner of the Racing Plus Chase
I was hoping for another opportunity to go racing, and to see Choc on a second occasion since his return from injury.† However, my plans were up in the air until it was confirmed that Triumph Hurdle hope Grumeti would run at Kempton Park.† Alan King had agreed to run his novice in order to give Choc the opportunity to ride the horse in a race, rather than go straight to the Cheltenham Festival without a further racecourse appearance; Wayne Hutchinson had partnered the McNeill Family owned horse on his three previous (and only) hurdle outings, due to Choc being sidelined.† Choc had just one other ride on this day, Like A Hurricane in the Handicap Hurdle.
Unusually, I hadnít even Ďlaid outí my clothes ahead of the day, which I normally do ... but perhaps that was because the gates didnít open until midday, therefore I didnít need to leave home until 10:45; this gave me plenty of time to choose my outfit before setting off.††
Todayís outfit was two thermal vests, cerise pink cardigan, purple fleece, burgundy cardigan, three-tier black skirt, opaque tights, black wedge shoes, purple jacket, and M & S scarf.† Two days previously, weather temperatures had risen to 61 degrees fahrenheit (old money) and today was dry and almost as warm too ... certainly a pleasure to go racing after those cold days of winter.† Come to think of it, the only time Iíve actually been slightly cold at the races this winter was last Saturday at Ascot; but that wasnít unbearably so!† Mind you, my fixture attendance this season had been curtailed by Chocís arm injury which happened in mid-December ... and this winter had been mild apart from early February when heavy frosts and snow arrived.
I rarely have a lie-in, so awoke before 07:00; I showered and washed and dried my hair, ate a breakfast of toast and croissants whilst watching Channel 4ís The Morning Line.† Once the programme had finished, I set my VCR players to record the dayís action ... not easy with one of them, as I couldnít remember how to set the recording clock!† And that is because I can count the number of times Iíve used the machine on the fingers of one hand, although that includes last Saturday ... it was always easier just to use my old VHS analogue recorders but one stopped working last summer, and the other Ďdiedí at the end of December, with my tape recording of Kemptonís King George fixture trapped inside.† Damn.††††
Having applied my make-up, I was then Ďthumb-twiddlingí for around an hour before leaving home at 10:45 as hoped.† My route took me to the London Colney roundabout to join the A414; being later in the morning than I usually set off to the races, it took 4 traffic light changes before I was heading in a westerly direction along the North Orbital Road, joining the M25 at Junction 21A.† The journey around the M25 anti-clockwise went smoothly, although there were speed limit signs instructing traffic to slow down approaching the M4 junction.
As usual, I left the M25 at junction 12, heading up the M3 towards London and leaving the latter motorway at Junction 1.† I then travelled along the A308, passing the main entrance to the racecourse, further on turning left and heading up the driveway to reach the free car parking area.† I ate two cheese rolls which Iíd brought with me, before putting on my coat and heading for the main entrance.† It was 11:00 and the gates were open.† Once again, I purchased my ticket using a credit card (£20); I can definitely see the advantage of paying by cash, as it seems to take ages to pay by credit card, both last week and this!†
Once inside I purchased a race-card for £2.50; the sponsors were handing out free copies of the Racing Plus newspaper.† I went to sit at one of the tables across the concourse from the Parade Ring.† I looked through the newspaper and the race-card; nothing of much interest in Racing Plus Iím afraid ... so I binned it!† I then popped to the loo on the lower level of the main grandstand, before going to sit on one of the benches on the lawn in front of the stands.
Having got a little bored ... I then returned to the Parade Ring, sitting on one of the painted stools that surround it; nearby was the statue of Desert Orchid.† The stools are painted white, yellow, red, blue and green, I think; I should really know ... as Iíve been to Kempton Park on numerous occasions.† In fact Kempton is currently my most visited racecourse; although that will change next month when I visit the Cheltenham Festival again.† Being a sunny and warm day, for the time of the year, many of the spectators had gathered in the area, sitting along the steppings and enjoying the sunshine.††††
Following Kauto Starís record of King George VI Chase wins, there was a ceremony to mark the opening of the new Kauto Star Bar, named in his honour; it is located in the Clubhouse building.† Kauto Starís owner, Clive Smith was on hand to do the honours, and Paul Nicholls was interviewed too.
Before racing, presenters Lesley Graham and Alistair Down filmed an introduction sequence close to the Desert Orchid statue for the Channel 4 racing programme.
Eventually it was almost time for the first race of the day, the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle; a number of winners of this race having gone on to record victories in either the Triumph Hurdle or the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.† The role of honour in recent years includes Zarkandar (Triumph Hurdle winner 2011), Soldatino (Triumph Hurdle winner 2010), Binocular (Champion Hurdle winner 2010), Punjabi (Champion Hurdle winner 2009) and Penzance (Triumph Hurdle winner 2005).
Alan King had chosen to bypass this race with Grumeti; opting instead for the Dovecote Novicesí Hurdle later in the afternoon.† The later race was for novices of all ages, rather than 4-year-olds.† The same option that he had taken last week at Ascot, when running Balder Succes.
Once the runners had set off down the walkway, I walked around the outside of the main grandstand building to find my favourite vantage point close to the hedge which runs along the side of the front lawn, separating the enclosure from the free car parking area.††††
The horses cantered down past the stands to reach the starting gate, which was at the far end of the straight; the horses travelling one full circuit plus the home straight.
Then they were off.† The field was led away by Dark and Dangerous, from Baby Mix, Une Artiste, the initially hard-pulling Sadlerís Risk, Dildar, Orthodox Lad and Hurricane Herbie, with Kayalar bringing up the rear.
Dark and Dangerous continued to lead as the runners headed down the side of the course; Baby Mix dived at the 4th flight, but it didnít affect him.† Around the far turn, the order was Dark and Dangerous, from Baby Mix, Saddlerís Risk, Dildar, Une Artiste, Orthodox Lad, Hurricane Herbie and Kayalar.
Sadlerís Risk Ďbunny-hoppedí 4 out.† Baby Mix took up the running 3 out; 4 runners pulling clear of the remainder.† Entering the home turn, Baby Mix led from Sadlerís Risk, Dark and Dangerous, and Dildar.†
Baby Mix was over 2 lengths up clearing 2 out; he was driven by Paddy Brennan to retain his advantage, staying on well to beat Sadlerís Risk and long time leader Dark and Dangerous.† Having gone third before 2 out only to lose that position before the last, Dildar Ďlostí his hind-legs on landing over this flight, unseating Ruby Walsh in the process.† Ruby was okay following this mishap; he strode up the home straight as though nothing had happened, heading for the Weighing Room.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses arrive back; before repositioning myself on the far side of the Parade Ring.
Once the competitors in the next race had set off down the walkway heading for the racecourse, I went to find my vantage point beside the course-side rails.†
The start of this race was in the far corner of the track.
Then they were off.† The field was led away by the blinkered Panjo Bere, from Busy Isit, Not So Sure Dick, Cool Friend, Hunt Ball, Golan Guy, Arrayan and Fahrisee.†
Heading up the home straight on the first occasion, Busy Isit and the cheek-pieced Not So Sure Dick came to dispute the lead with Panjo Bere.† Fahrisee, in rear, was jumping slowly and losing ground; Arrayan pecked on landing over the 7th fence.†
The runners proceeded down the side straight, Arrayan blundered at the 9th fence, an open-ditch.† Banjo Bere continued to dispute the lead with Busy Isit; this pair was followed by Not So Sure Dick, Hunt Ball, Cool Friend, Golan Guy, Arrayan and the tailing off Fahrisee.
Cool Friend led narrowly from Hunt Ball as they cleared the open-ditch, 5 out; the latter took the advantage at the next.† Richard Johnsonís mount continued to challenge the leader; Not So Sure Dick in third.
Having jumped 3 out, Hunt Ball went clear, extending his advantage after 2 out.† He jumped the last full of running and went on to score by 10 lengths from Cool Friend.† Not So Sure Dick completed 9 lengths back in 3rd, Arrayan staying on to finish 4th.†
However, there may be a downside to winning with so much in hand, and for the sixth time in seven starts.† Hunt Ballís new handicap mark might rule him out of his preferred target (the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival; as he may be rated too high.† If this is the case, then running in the Byrne Group Plate may be the only option.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.† I then re-positioned to the far side of the Parade Ring; although in the shade, it is less crowded and affords a better view of the horses.†
Wanting to retain my vantage point beside the course-side rails, I decided to head there early.† Being the feature race, the horses paraded in number order in front of the stands.† They then cantered down the course to take a view of the final fence before returning to the start.† Fiendish Flame, customarily keen, took a hold and jockey Alan OíKeeffe had a problem pulling him up on his way to view the obstacle, overshooting it by some distance.
The starting gate for this race was at the beginning of the side straight; the horses completing two circuits of the track; the same distance as for Kemptonís premier event, the King George VI Chase.†
Then they were off.† The field was led away by the ultra-keen Fiendish Flame, followed by Nacarat and Hectorís Choice.† Sarando jumped untidily at the first fence.
Around the far turn Fiendish Flame was well clear of the field, from Nacarat, Hectorís Choice, Deep Purple, Consigliere, Royal Charm, Planet Of Sound, Michel Le Bon, Sarando and Mount Oscar.† Michel Le Bon hit the 3rd fence.
Along the back straight Fiendish Flame still retained a clear advantage, Michel Le Bon and Sarando not fluent in rear, the latter receiving a reminder.† Heading up the home straight on the first occasion, the order was Fiendish Flame, Nacarat, Hectorís Choice, Royal Charm, Planet Of Sound, Deep Purple, Consigliere, Mount Oscar, Michel Le Bon and Sarando.
The Jenny Candlish trained runner gradually came back to the field, but retained his advantage until after the 12th fence.† Nacarat had taken over the lead, from Hectorís Choice and Planet of Sound as Fiendish Flame retreated.† Around the final bend, Hectorís Choice was galvanised to join and overtake the grey, jumping 3 out in the lead.† However, he hit the fence, losing momentum and handing the initiative back to Nacarat.
The 2009 winner was 4 lengths up when clearing the second last, extending his lead over the final obstacle and galloping on to win by 11 lengths.† Hectorís Choice completed in 2nd, with Planet of Sound 3rd and Consigliere 4th.
Deep Purple fell at the 14th, jumping the final fences whilst rider-less; he was reported by his trainer to be a little battered and bruised following the race. †He had also bled; an issue he had encountered before during his racing career.† Plans to run in the Grand National were put on hold.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses arrive back; before repositioning to the far side of it in preparation for the horses arriving to parade ahead of the next race, the Dovecote Novicesí Hurdle.†
Choc soon arrived to join Alan King, owner Max McNeill and his racing manager, Iain Turner, in the Parade Ring.† Alan was keen to take a look at the Paul Nicholls representative, Dodging Bullets, walking across the grass to take a close view of the horse as it was led around before returning to his group.†
The bell sounded, instructing the jockeys to mount.† Once Choc was aboard and heading down the walkway, I returned to my preferred vantage point beside the course-side rails; I was in time to see him and Grumeti canter down past the stands.† The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.
Then they were off.† The field was led away by Crescent Beach, from Grumeti, Nazreef and Dodging Bullets both keen, Terre Du Vent and Zarzal.†
Crescent Beach continued to lead from Grumeti as the runners headed down the side of the course.† There was no change at the head of affairs until 3 out, when Choc sent his mount into the lead; Terre Du Vent now in third position, from Dodging Bullets and Zarzal.† Crescent Beach weakened rapidly as they exited the final bend; Nazreef was tailed off.
Grumeti was in charge over 2 out, the mare Terre Du Vent crashing out at this flight.† The Ďgreení Dodging Bullets giving chase to Chocís mount, although wandering around on his approach to the final two obstacles.†
Grumeti was pushed out after the last, winning easily by 1Ĺ lengths from the Ruby Walsh ridden Dodging Bullets.† Zarzal completed in 3rd, with the long time leader Crescent Beach finishing 4th and Nazreef 5th.† Fortunately Terre Du Vent was okay following her fall, as was her jockey Paddy Brennan.
I returned to see Choc and Grumeti arrive in the Winnersí Enclosure.† After unsaddling, chatting with connections and posing for a photograph with the horse, Choc set off for the Weighing Room; Channel 4ís Alistair Down accompanying him in order to carrying out an interview for TV.
I repositioned myself on the far side of the Parade Ring, in the hope of taking photographs of the winning jockey when he returned to collect his memento.† The ownerís and trainerís prizes having been presented, Choc took a few moments to appear ... although he had jogged from the Weighing Room.† After the official photographers had captured the moment, Choc was accosted by KPTVís Anthony Kemp, who carried out an interview whilst they were stood on the podium.† Prior to commencing, my favourite jockey took a few moments to watch the race replay on the screen overlooking the Parade Ring; shading his eyes from the low sun.†
Following the KPTV interview, Choc went across to speak with Nick Luck of Racing UK.† I walked back to the other side of the Parade Ring; in hindsight, probably not a brilliant idea as the sun was shining directly into my camera, making photography difficult.† But I wanted to congratulate Choc on his win, and to do this, I needed to be standing beside the walkway leading from Parade Ring to the racecourse and stables.†
The interview took a few minutes, but eventually it was complete and Choc headed along the walkway towards me; stopping briefly to speak with a guy who was standing on the paved area in front of the Owners and Trainers building. When heíd almost reached me, Nicky Henderson, who was walking towards the Parade Ring, jokingly tried to grab the bottle of champagne which Choc was carrying.† I said ĎWell doneí as Choc walked past; he thanked me and asked how I was doing.† He was then accosted by another gentleman he knew, chatting for a minute or two (it probably wasnít that long ... it just seemed like it to me as I stood admiring him) before he returned to the Weighing Room.†
During his interview with Nick Luck (which Iíd recorded), Choc would not be drawn as to whether heíd choose to ride Grumeti or last Saturdayís Ascot winner Balder Succes; although he did say that Grumeti reminded him of one of his previous Triumph winners, Penzance, whereas Balder Succes was not the finished article and thus more of a project for next season.† Personally, I think Choc will choose Grumeti over Balder Succes ... although he Ďlovesí both horses.† Itís a pity Choc canít be cloned and then ride both of them!!!† Whatever his decision, I just hope he doesnít choose the wrong one ...
The next event was the Pendil Novicesí Chase; I confess to remembering Pendil well!† The starting gate for this race was over in the far corner of the track.†
Then they were off.† The field was led away by the grey, Zaynar.† However, he didnít get very far, almost refusing at the first fence, then skewing as he cleared it, unseating jockey Tom Scudamore in the process.† This left Cristal Bonus in the lead, from Duke Of Lucca, Minella Class, Life Of A Luso and Will Scarlet, the latter already well in rear when making an error at the third fence.
Cristal Bonus and Duke Of Lucca disputed the lead turning into the home straight on the first occasion.† The loose Zaynar continued to race with the field.†
Cristal Bonus led narrowly as the runners headed down the side of the course, from Duke Of Lucca, Minella Class, Life Of A Luso and the remote Will Scarlet.† The loose horse interfered with Barry Geraghtyís mount as they cleared the 8th and 9th obstacles.†
As the field set off down the back straight, there was no change at the head of affairs, Life Of A Luso blundering at the 11th.† Minella Class lost his place before 4 out and was pulled up shortly afterwards.† Duke Of Lucca challenged for the lead approaching 3 out, but Cristal Bonus asserted again as they cleared 2 out and went on to win by 13 lengths.† Richard Johnsonís mount completed in 2nd, with Life Of A Luso in 3rd.† Tailed off, 77 lengths back, Will Scarlet completed in 4th, claiming prize money of £1,046!
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Cristal Bonus return; I then repositioned myself on the far side of the Parade Ring in preparation for Chocís arrival ahead of the next race.† Alan King had two runners in this event, Like A Hurricane to be ridden by Choc, and top weight Balzaccio ridden by Peter Hatton claiming 7lbs.
The battery charge of my camera was running low, so I changed it; I take two spare rechargeable batteries to the races, just in case they lose their charge before the end of the afternoon.† I donít want to miss any important shots!†
When the bell was sounded for the jockeys to mount, Alan and his two jockeys headed towards the walkway very close to where I was standing ... I tend to take a few steps back when this happens, as I hate to be intrusive when taking photographs!††† Alan first legged up Peter, followed by Choc; the two stable representatives having been following each other around the Parade Ring.†
Once the horses had headed out onto the course, I set off to my usual vantage point beside the course-side rails.† The horses cantered down past the stands before turning and heading back to the start, which was in the far corner of the track.
Then they were off.† The field was led away by confirmed front runner, Dantari.† He was followed by Tasheba, Ashbrittle, Oscar Prairie, So Fine, The Reformer, Ultravox, Pause and Clause, Balzaccio, Semi Colon, Mister Snowball, Busker Royal, Glenstal Abbey, Woolfall Treasure and Like A Hurricane.
The runners were well grouped heading up the home straight on the first occasion; at the rear of the field, Like A Hurricane was untidy clearing the third flight, Choc pushing him along afterwards for a few strides.† Dantari received a reminder as he headed around the top turn.† The field began to string out as they raced towards the far corner; Dantari losing the lead to Tasheba.† In rear, Like A Hurricane was already being pushed along to keep in touch.† Having negotiated the far turn, Choc glanced behind him, to ensure he didnít hamper the one runner in his wake, before pulling his mount to the inside of the track to canter back.†
Dantari having regained the lead, then lost it to Ashbrittle approaching 3 out; he retained the advantage as the runners headed into the final turn.†† Still in the leading group were Oscar Prairie, Semi Colon, Dantari, Glenstal Abbey, So Fine, Mister Snowball and Woolfall Treasure.†
Oscar Prairie led over the second last flight, his pursuers unable to gain upon him; his winning margin extending to 3 lengths at the line.† Ashbrittle completed in 2nd, with So Fine 3rd and Semi Colon 4th.† The front running Dantari finished 5th; Alan Kingís second runner, Balzaccio, stayed on to finish 7th.† A treble for jockey Paddy Brennan today, following Oscar Prairieís win.
A number of horses had been pulled up; I waited for Choc to canter past aboard Like A Hurricane before returning to the Parade Ring once more.† My last glimpse of Choc today.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses arrive back, and to view the runners ahead of the next race.† On this occasion I remained on the steppings close to the grandstand building.†
One of the horses in this last event, Virginia Ash, became rather excited when mounted in the Parade Ring, plunging along as his lad tried to hold onto him; but his jockey, Joe Tizzard, remained in control.†
For the final race of the day I decided to head through the Grandstand hall and out onto the front lawn to take up a vantage point close to the winning post.† Security guards had been posted along the rails in this vicinity.† Evidently they were worried that streakers, possibly attending a stag-do, might attempt to climb the rails and run across the course; the cameras being trained upon the finishing line making it attractive for drunken revellers!† I know it was a pleasantly warm day for the time of year, but I donít think Iíll be stripping off any time soon ... besides, it would definitely frighten the animals!!!
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.
Then they were off.† The very small field was led away by Off The Wall, from Virginia Ash, This Is Me and the very keen Starving Marvin, restrained by Barry Geraghty, in rear.
The order was still the same as the runners negotiated the top bend; a magpie taking flight as they headed down the side of the course.† The sedate pace ensured the field remained closely packed.† At the beginning of the back straight it was now the turn of a pheasant to dart towards the infield to avoid the hooves!
Off The Wall continued to lead, from Virginia Ash and This Is Me.† The wide running Starving Marvin soon came under pressure and began to lose touch.† Towards the end of the back straight Virginia Ash took a narrow advantage, This Is Me taking up the challenge on the outside of the 3 runners.† Into the home turn, these two runners went on, as Off The Wall began to lose ground.
This Is Me was steered towards the stand side rails to make his challenge but Virginia Ash was too strong and ran on to win by 5 lengths at the line.† The eased Off The Wall finished 3rd, and the tailed off Starving Marvin 4th.
The final race of the day having been run, I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses return before heading to the car park to collect my vehicle.† Yippee ... no bird poo on my car today; that makes a change from my previous two visits to Kempton Park!
I took a few minutes to eat the two remaining cheese rolls Iíd brought with me before I sent off to the drive back to the entrance, joining the A308 once more, to head towards Junction 1 of the M3.† The traffic tailback was bad; in fact it stretched all the way from the derelict George pub to the roundabout beneath the M3 junction.†††
Stop, start, stop, start; I finally reached the motorway and I was on my way.† My journey took me back around the M25 in a clockwise direction, leaving at Junction 21A.† Back along the North Orbital Road and returning to my home city.† I arrived back at 18:40; spending the evening uploading and selecting photographs for my website ... the replay of the Kempton Park action being broadcast in the background, over and over again; each time Chocís interview was replayed, I stopped to watch it.† Very nice!†
Bedtime was at around 22:30 ... although I always find it difficult to switch off my laptop when Choc is tweeting, which he was tonight!†