DIARY Ė KEMPTON PARK Ė BOXING DAY 26 DECEMBER 2008

 

King George VI Chase

 

A number of weeks ago it was confirmed that Voy Por Ustedes would run in the King George VI Chase, all things being well.So it was only to be expected that Choc would ride him on Boxing Day.†† I therefore purchased a ticket for the fixture a number of weeks ago. As I fully expected Choc to then ride at Chepstow on Saturday 27 December, I didnít buy a ticket for the second day of the Stan James Christmas meeting.

Despite it being a Bank Holiday I set my alarm clock for 06:00, and dragged myself out of bed at around 06:10 Ė this is the first year that Iíve ever had problems getting out of bed in the morning!All my life Iíve been such as early bird!Anyway, I showered and washed my hair, put on my make-up, ate breakfast, watched the Channel 4 Morning Line, and left home to drive to Kempton Park at 08:50.

The gates opened at 10:00, I arrived at 09:45. My route had taken me via the M25 and M3, then following the AA road notices for Kempton Park, I didnít leave the M3 at Junction 1, but continued to the next junction, down the slip-road, circled the roundabout, and drove up the slip-road onto the main road again, heading in the opposite direction, before bearing off to the left, along the lane and into the Main Car Park.

Although there was plenty of room in the car park, I parked over near the railway station. Being early I decided to wait in my car for a while, especially as it was bitterly cold outside.Whilst waiting, I noticed horseboxes for Philip Hobbs and Jonjo OíNeill arrive.

At around 10:20 I left my car, having wrapped up very warm (7 layers plus coat) and walked around to the Paddock entrance, as Iíd only purchased a medium range ticket Ė but it still cost me £30 plus £15 for parking!†† As I never venture into the bars when Iím alone, I went to sit on a bench overlooking the Parade Ring, ensuring that I sat in the sunshine!

The first race was at 12:55, so I remained sitting on the bench until around 12:00 noon, when I walked over to the Parade Ring to listen to the tipsters giving their opinion of the likely winners of the upcoming races.The grounds were fairly crowded by the time the horses appeared for the first race.For all the races, apart from the last one, I walked around the side of the grandstand, going through the food area, to stand either near the rails or on the tarmac area above it.For the final race I stood in the small uncovered stand adjacent to the large grandstand.

Choc didnít have a ride in this race, a Novicesí Hurdle.It was won by Micheal Flips (the spelling is correct) ridden by AP McCoy.Choc wasnít competing in the second race either, the Feltham Novicesí Chase.The race was won by Breedsbreeze, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Ruby Walsh.There were two fallers, the French representative Ė Millenium Royal (again the spelling in correct) and Shining Gale ridden by Timmy Murphy replacing the injured Noel Fehily (cracked collarbone).The Market Man ridden by Barry Geraghty was expected to give a good showing but, having made a mistake, he seemed to lose his confidence and came in last of the 4 remaining finishers.Massiniís Maguire was 2nd, with Hold Em 3rd.

It was now time for Chocís first ride of the day.In order to take photos I walked around to the back of the Parade Ring, so that the sun was behind me.Choc was riding Afsoun for Nicky Henderson in this race, the Christmas Hurdle. It was an incident packed event and unfortunately, Chocís mount having taken a keen hold, was the first to fall, at the 4th flight.Afsoun had fallen in his last start, a Steeplechase, and he was no better over hurdles this time around. Luckily Choc was thrown clear and walked back unscathed.But more was yet to come.The next to fall was Punjabi at the 2nd last when disputing the lead, and again Pierrot Lunaire came to grief at the last fence when tired.All three horses were okay, as were the jockeys.

The winner was Irish representative, Harchibald, who had won the race in 2004.Second was Snap Tie, third Blue Bajan and fourth Straw Bear (the only other finisher).

It was now time for the big race of the day, the King George VI Chase.Kauto Star was bidding to win the race for the third consecutive year, despite the recent set-back at Haydock Park where he blundered and unseated Sam Thomas at the last fence.As mentioned above, Choc was riding Voy Por Ustedes, who was trying the trip for the first time.Choc was interviewed by Derek Thompson when he entered the Parade Ring.Once mounted, Choc did an extra circuit of the paddock as he needed to be in last position for the pre-race parade.

When Choc was heading down the walkway to the course, I walked around to take up a position as close to the rails as possible, although I couldnít quite get to the front as these positions were already taken.The horses paraded past, but unfortunately Choc sent Voy Por into a canter just as I was about to take a picture so I missed it.The runners took a look at the last fence in the straight, and then cantered to the start away to our left.†††††

Then they were off for the big race.Voy Por Ustedes was held up and not always fluent at his fences, he hit the 10th, made headway to the chase leaders from the 12th fence, but hit the next.He was chasing the leaders approaching 3 out, and kept on to press for 2nd place on the run in, but had no chance with Kauto Star under Ruby Walsh who won very easily, with Albertas Run finishing 2nd for Jonjo OíNeill and Tony McCoy. Briareus was 4th, Airforce One 5th (having run through beaten horses), Imperial Commander 6th, Snoopy Loopy 7th, and Tamarinbleu last.Our Vic and Mont Misere were pulled up.

Kauto Star and Ruby returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to be met with cheers and applause.I was more interested in Choc and Voy Por Ustedes.Choc could have been riding a donkey and Iíd have taken more interest in him than Kauto Star!†† Following his debrief, Choc returned to the Weighing Room.The prize was awarded to the winning owner, Clive Smith, who having injured his foot in a golfing accident was wearing an orthopaedic shoe.Paul Nicholls and Ruby climbed the podium to receive their prizes too.

Chocís ride in the next race, a Novicesí Handicap Steeplechase, was Paradise Regained.His mount was held up, but ridden and hit the 10th fence, soon struggled and became tailed off.Martin Keighley had a runner in this one, Rodrigo Gonzales, who finished a close 2nd.The winner was Pressgang ridden by Timmy Murphy, trained by Paul Webber.It must be a talented horse, as it jumped out severely to the left as it cleared the final few fences, thus having to make up much ground on its competitors.When Paul was interviewed he said the horse had been jumping out to the right on its previous runs, so he couldnít explain it at all.††††

Alan had two horses running in the 6th and last race of the day, a Handicap Hurdle, top weight, Your Amount, ridden by Matty Rowe, and Pagano ridden by Choc.When the race started Pagano was held up in mid-division, but was ridden and struggling in rear when he hit 3 out, then he tailed off and was pulled up before the next flight.

I waited for Choc to canter past before I returned to view the Winnersí Enclosure, despite him not being placed.The race was won by Royaleety trained by Nicky Henderson.Shortly afterwards I left via the Premier entrance to return to my car in preparation for the drive home.I waited a while before setting off for home, drinking black coffee from my thermos and eating pretzel sticks (my current addiction ... along with Choc!).

The traffic hadnít cleared in the slightest, in fact it was probably worse, when I finally decided it was time to go.I drove across to the car park to the exit, waiting until the queuing drivers let me in, which someone did.Outside the gate the queue turned right and went around to join the M3 Junction 1 roundabout.

Once on the M3, I drove down to the M25, around to the Junction 21A and home, arriving at 17:30.††

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