DIARY – KEMPTON PARK – WINTER FESTIVAL
BOXING DAY – THURSDAY 26 DECEMBER 2013
5-time winner Kauto Star leads the parade of runners
ahead of the Grade 1 King George VI Chase
With Alan King’s horses out of form since the end of November, a number suffering from snotty noses rather than coughs, I wasn’t hopeful that Choc would be at Kempton Park on Boxing Day this year. However, Grumeti passed muster and was declared to run in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle with my favourite jockey aboard so I would see him after all, and he picked up a second ride in the final race of the day, a handicap hurdle.
Again this year Christmas Day was spent at my younger brother’s home in Bedfordshire, along with Mum, and his in-laws. His children were home from university for the holidays and were on hand to play board games during the afternoon – Smart Ass and Pass The Bomb. I loved the latter game, although perhaps protective headgear might be advised as, on one occasion, I almost took out my niece and nephew when panicking between passes.
I usually record the Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing only to see it broadcast anyway ... so on this occasion I decided not to record it, but then didn’t get the chance to watch it. So I missed that; damn.
I left for home at 20:15, but not before I’d scraped off a covering of soft frost which had formed on the windscreen of my car. I thus thought it was going to be a cold night. I arrived home at 21:00, and sorted out my intended clothes for the following day before turning in.
My outfit would be three thermal vests, one short-sleeved and two long sleeved, burgundy and black in the latter instance; I knew there had been something missing from previous outfits this winter ... my long-sleeved BHS thermal vest! Over these I wore my black frill-edged cardigan, lagoon cardigan, purple fleece, black gillet fleece, heavyweight Cotton Traders fleece, black thermal tights, black/white horse design socks, brown leggings, long black handkerchief hem skirt, burgundy studded biker boots, Katia Big Snow mauve and grey scarf, black/white horse design snood and wrist-warmers.
Overnight it actually rained, so it wasn’t to be so cold after all; it would be dry, misty during the morning with the sun appearing as the afternoon progressed.
I set my alarm for 06:30 and rose before 07:00. I showered and washed and dried my hair. Breakfast was porridge today, plus two slices of buttered toast. I tuned into The Morning Line whilst applying my make-up and was ready to leave just before 09:00; gates opening time being 10:00.
My route took me around the local ring-road, thus avoiding the housing estate where ‘unlucky’ magpies are plentiful. With a car-style ambulance heading in the opposite direction as I arrived at a mini-roundabout on my chosen route, I decided not to rush across the upcoming road junction; a poor decision as I then got stuck behind a slow travelling woman driver! Fortunately she decided to head into London Colney later along the route, and I was rid of her.
Instead of my usual route to reach the M25, I decided to join it at Junction 21A; thus going via the Park Street and Noke roundabouts. Glancing across to the motorway whilst I drove down the slip-road, there appeared to be a warning message on one of the gantries referring to slow moving traffic ahead ... but fortunately this did not materialise. The traffic on the motorway between the M1 junction and the Rickmansworth turning was fairly sparse; it became a little more crowded approaching the M40 and even more so further along the route.
Not paying particular attention approaching Junction 13, I’d pulled over into the inside but one lane too soon, and ended up having to take the slip-road off the motorway. Doh! But I styled it out, negotiating the roundabout below and taking the slip-road back onto the motorway to reach Junction 12 for the M3. Although, in hindsight, I could have cut off the corner by heading along the A30 and A308 instead to reach Sunbury.
Again it was very quiet on the M3 and I soon reached the end of the motorway or should that be the beginning? Anyway, on Boxing Day the instruction is to continue onto the A316, take the slip-road at the next junction, and double-back on oneself to rejoin the A316 heading back in the direction of the M25, briefly. I then left the road once more at the next slip-road and joined Park Road; a left turn taking me over the railway line and onwards to the gate of the main car park.
I’d put my car park pass on the seat beside me before setting off today so, having shown this to the steward manning the gate, he moved a couple of traffic cones to my left to enable me to enter the car parking area; I found a space in which to park three or four cars along on the second row. In hindsight perhaps I should have chosen the next space along, as a couple of larger vehicles attempted to park therein, and I was worried that they might strike my passenger car door when climbing out of their vehicle; especially as their passenger-side access was restricted by the wooden protective surround of a young tree. The second occupier remained in the space, having initially attempted to park on the front row and then backed diagonally into the space beside me ... I held my breath during this manoeuvre, as I was very concerned he would bump into my rear wing!
As always I’d brought four cheese rolls with me, and I ate two of these whilst sitting in my car. Passing by on their way to the stables, were two large Lambourn Racehorse Transport boxes, whose Managing Director is Merrick Francis son of the late jockey/author Dick Francis; David Pipe’s large horsebox and a small horse-box belonging to Paul Nicholls, presumably the latter would also use an additional large horsebox due to the number of runners he had today.
Having wrapped up warm, at around 10:15 I set off for the turnstiles at the South Entrance. A steward scanned my ticket, and I handed over a voucher at the nearby kiosk to obtain a race-card; I also asked one of the girls standing beside the concourse if I could have one of the sponsor’s pocket diaries she was holding.
In light of the fact the racecourse facilities would be very busy today, I decided that now would be the best time to nip to the loo! I then set off to find a suitable vantage point beside the course-side rails. Yes, already ... despite it being over two hours until the first race of the day. Normally I’d find somewhere to sit whilst I waited for the racing to start, but today everywhere was damp as a result of the overnight rain. Looking out across the racecourse itself, the back straight was almost shrouded in mist; the low lying ground each side of the M3 had also been obscured by mist.
Whilst I was standing beside the rails, Clerk of the Course ‘Barney’ Clifford passed by on the track having walked the course with colleagues. Racing UK’s Lydia Hislop and Jonathan Neesom headed down the racecourse, also walking the track. Jockey Denis O’Regan set off down the home straight to take a look at the going, and Daryl Jacob jogged past having completed a circuit of the racecourse. Today’s going was soft; heavy on the lake bend.
At midday, the now retired five-time winner Kauto Star was paraded in the Paddock. I watched him on the big screen located in front of the grandstand and he was full of himself, kicking out with his hind-legs as he was led around.
After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, it was now time for the first race of the day.
The favourite for this event was the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux, who had won at Sandown earlier in the month; his price today 9-4. AP’s mount, the grey Champagne At Tara, had a very sparse tail; perhaps a worrier who rubbed his tail against his stable wall! That is what Walkon used to do when younger!
The starting gate for the first race of the day was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstand to reach it.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Amore Alato, followed by Sgt Reckless, Sukiyaki and Vaniteux. The three held up in rear, Fascino Rustico, Dubai Prince and Champagne At Tara, were all pulling hard. The field cleared the first two flights without incident and travelled up past the packed stands, Richard Johnson’s mount leading by three or four lengths at the head of affairs; the spectators cheered as the horses passed by.
The runners negotiated the top bend and set off down the side of the track for the one and only time; Amore Alato led, and it was then two by two by two in his wake. The orange protective strip was kicked off the top of the third flight by either Vaniteux or Fascino Rustico, who travelled upsides in fourth position. The majority of runners clipped the top of the next flight and they then headed into the far bend beside the lake; a number of swans were sitting close by it, relaxing in the cool winter air.
Late arriving spectators were queued to the far side of the track, many standing beside their vehicles to watch the action as the horses galloped by; they would be permitted to drive across the track to reach the free car park shortly afterwards, once the racecourse was clear of runners.
The field set off down the back straight, clearing the two flights therein. Amore Alato continued to lead, from Sgt Reckless, Sukiyaki, Vaniteux, the still hard-pulling Fascino Rustico, Dubai Prince and Champagne At Tara. Heading into final bend it became noticeable that the favourite was already being pushed along by his jockey, Barry Geraghty.
Entering the home straight, Amore Alato led from Sgt Reckless, Vaniteux, Dubai Prince and Fascino Rustico; Champagne At Tara and the weakening Sukiyaki were at the rear of the field and losing touch. Dubai Prince soon joined these trailers. The leaders jumped the second last, Richard Johnson’s mount still slightly ahead, both Sgt Reckless and Vaniteux almost on terms, with the Paul Nicholls runner close on their heels; both Amore Alato and Vaniteux hit this flight.
However, the long-time leader clung on to his advantage as they approached the last flight, both Sgt Reckless and the Nicky Henderson runner unable to close further; it was thus left to Fascino Rustico to put in a final challenge to the far side and, although he initially got almost upsides Amore Alato, the latter gamely pulled away to win by 1½ lengths at the line. Sgt Reckless completed in 3rd, with Vaniteux 4th.
Racing UK presenter Lydia Hislop reported that winning jockey Richard Johnson only just made it to the races in time today, having got caught up in traffic despite leaving home in plenty of time.
Being a large crowd, I decided to retain my vantage point beside the course-side rails for much of the day so did not return to the Winners’ Enclosure area following the race.
The favourite in the second race of the day was the Paul Nicholls-trained Urbain De Sivola at 10-3.
The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track, by the lake. However, the excitement started before the event began, when Western Warhorse bolted out of the horse walkway despite the best efforts of the handlers and his jockey Tom Scudamore to restrain him. He headed off down the side of the track at the gallop, Tom without irons having had no time to place his feet in them. The horse didn’t stop at the starting gate but continued along the back straight and was nearer the home turn than the lake bend by the time Tom had regained control of his mount.
But the excitement wasn’t yet over as, once the race start time approached and the tape had been strung across the racecourse, Western Warhouse keen to begin charged the tape, Tom got caught up in it and was dragged to the ground, hitting the plastic rail on the way down. His loose mount then set off along the back straight at the gallop, negotiating the course to the outside of the bend and heading up toward the grandstand area. The commentator requested quiet from the gathered crowd, hoping this would help the handlers catch the horse ... but they didn’t take any notice and cheered instead. It makes you wonder sometimes ...
Having reached the top of the home straight, the handlers attempted to catch him, waving their arms in the hope it would break his stride; but he ignored them and headed around the bend to begin his journey down the side of the track. However, whether the horse soon realised this route did not lead back to the stables or perhaps there were people blocking his path, he halted and turned back towards the group of handlers, which included the trainer David Pipe and his father Martin. Once more they waved their arms as the horse approached but he evaded capture and for while it looked as though he would now undertake a reverse circuit of the track.
But one of the photographers, waiting beside the plastic rails which separated the hurdle and chase track on the run-up to the line, stepped out, arms stretched wide and Western Warhorse turned back towards the stables and was finally caught by his handlers having reached the corner. Having been withdrawn this left just 7 runners to take part, with the each-way payout now on just the first two to finish.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by the blinkered Loose Chips, from Oscar Magic, Ohio Gold, Urbain De Sivola, Roger Beantown, Ericht and Thunderstorm; the latter not fluent at the first fence. The leader received encouragement approaching the second fence, but blundered at it; appearing to bank the fence, he remained at the head of affairs. His jockey, Noel Fehily, ensured that he had enough momentum to clear the open-ditch, giving him two slaps down the right-hand side of his neck on the approach. Behind, both Oscar Magic and Thunderstorm were jumping out noticeably to their left; the former had soon dropped to the rear of the field.
Having negotiated the first four fences, the runners headed around the turn and into the home straight on the first occasion; Loose Chips leading the way, with a four or five lengths advantage over his pursuers. Roger Beantown was a little ungainly clearing the next fence, and Oscar Magic continued to jump out to his left and was now on the far outside of the chase track. Having cleared the next two fences encountering the same problem, Sam Twiston-Davies decided enough was enough aboard the latter and pulled him up as they approached the winning post. This left six runners to tackle the final circuit.
Loose Chips went a little wide when cornering at the top turn but remained in the lead. He was followed by Urbain De Sivola and Roger Beantown. At the rear of the closely packed field were Ericht, Ohio Gold and Thunderstorm; the latter sporting the green and gold McManus silks. Roger Beantown clobbered the first fence down the side of the course, skewing in the air before landing; he began to lose ground. Having cleared the open-ditch, he received a backhander from his jockey as he started to struggle; Dave Crosse glanced behind to see where the remaining opposition was.
Loose Chips continued to lead as the runners headed around the lake turn and into the back straight for the final time. At the next fence, Thunderstorm jumped out noticeably to his left once more. Urbain De Sivola leapt alongside the long-time leader as they cleared the following fence, but Loose Chips went on again as they approached the final open-ditch. The runners jumped this without mishap and also four out. Around the final bend Noel Fehily’s mount continued to lead, from Urbain De Sivola, and Ohio Gold; these three were well clear of Thunderstorm, Ericht and Roger Beantown.
The chestnut Urbain De Sivola had closed to within half a length of the leader as they cleared the third last fence, although the former did jump out to his left; Ohio Gold was just a couple of lengths behind them. All three jockeys were hard at work approaching two out, but the Paul Nicholls runner could gain no further ground upon the leader. In contrast, as they cleared the final fence, Ohio Gold gained more momentum and landed running; suddenly he began to eat up the ground as the line approached.
Would he or wouldn’t he hold on ... the two galloped past the winning post locked in battle. The result was announced, Loose Chips had won by a short-head. Phew, that was a close one. The winner is a quirky horse, full of character, but very game today. And he loves Kempton, having won on this card last year too. His sire is Sir Harry Lewis ... and that explains a lot!
I believe the horses were meant to look at the final fence before heading to the start ahead of the next event but, having been delayed by Western Warhorse’s antics prior to the second race, this option was foregone on this occasion in order to make up time.
The odds-on favourite for this race was the Paul Nicholls-trained Just A Par, at 8-13. The Martin Keighley yard was represented by Annacotty, the horse sporting first-time blinkers today. Annacotty’s ‘stable name’ is Gerry.
The starting gate for this race is the same as the one for the later King George, being at the beginning of the side straight.
Then they were off. The runners headed over the all-weather track and approached the first fence; Annacotty at the head of affairs by around five lengths as they reached it. He made an error at the jump and stumbled slightly on landing, but this didn’t inconvenience him. Travelling in second position was Just A Par, then stretched three across the track, from the inside were Third Intention, Green Flag and Buachaill Alainn. The next obstacle is an open-ditch, Third Intention was in a clear third position having cleared it.
The runners headed around the lake bend, where the ground was at its softest, and began their journey along the back straight; Annacotty had been eased a little, allowing Just A Par and the others to close upon him. However, as he travelled over the four fences therein, all the horses jumping well, he was able to set up a clear advantage once more. The outsider, Buachaill Alainn, was ridden away from the final of these fences in order to keep tabs on the others.
Around the turn and entering the home straight on the first occasion, Just A Par made progress to get within half a length of the leader. The runners cleared the 7th with ease; in last place, Richard Johnson’s mount received a backhander from his jockey in the hope of staying in touch, but it was to no avail as the gap continued to grow between him and the other runners.
Travelling around the top bend with one circuit to go, Just A Par came alongside the leader, but went a little wide; Third Intention continued in third position, with Green Flag 4th and Buachaill Alainn last. The Paul Nicholls runner received a slap down the neck approaching the next fence. Annacotty cleared the two fences on this stretch of the track with a clear advantage, although Just A Par pulled alongside again as they travelled into the lake bend. Green Flag remained close on their heels, but Third Intention began to struggle and was now four lengths adrift.
Annacotty went on again heading over the next fence, Just A Par receiving a number of slaps down the neck from his jockey approaching each of the next two obstacles; Green Flag was then switched to the inside of the Paul Nicholls runner as they galloped towards the final open-ditch. The horses successfully negotiated four out; Annacotty was definitely travelling the best of the five and remained at the head of affairs entering the home turn. Both Just A Par, in second position, and Green Flag, in third, were being ridden along by this stage.
Approaching three out, the gap had widened and he flew over the fence; Green Flag jumped into second place as Just A Par began to fade. Jockey Ian Popham glanced over this left shoulder to see if there were any dangers; there were none within striking distance. However, Annacotty did get a little close to the penultimate fence but the Scottish raider still didn’t gain any ground on him; Just A Par had weakened markedly and was overtaken by Third Intention before entering the final furlong.
Annacotty cleared the last safely and galloped on to win by 10 lengths at the line; Green Flag finished 2nd, with Third Intention 3rd, Just A Par 4th and the tailed off Buachaill Alainn 5th. It was Martin Keighley’s first Grade 1 winner, and owner Liz Prowting’s too. The horse obviously loves running around Kempton Park, having won well here in early November too.
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard Grumeti, who looked really well as he cantered to the two mile start, which is situated at the far end of the home straight. The odds-on favourite for this race was the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained The New One.
Then they were off. One of the outsiders, Duke Of Navan led them away, from The New One, Grumeti, Sametegal, My Tent Or Yours and Chapel House. The order didn’t change as the runners headed over the first two flights, with Grumeti jumping the best, and headed up past the packed grandstands.
Having negotiated the top bend the horses headed down the side of the track for the one and only time; the pace remained fairly steady. There had been little change in the order by the time they reached the lake bend; Duke Of Navan remained at the head of affairs, Chapel House still at the rear of the field.
The runners began their journey along the back straight, and cleared the fourth last flight; The New One closing up on the leader, with My Tent Or Yours and Sametegal now to the inside of Grumeti. Chapel House was being pushed along and had begun to tail off. Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount was alongside Duke Of Navan as they cleared the next flight, My Tent Or Yours shortly afterwards a clear third; Sametegal had almost walked through it. Grumeti was being pushed along in fourth position as they entered the final bend.
The New One was sent into the lead as they travelled around the bend, Duke Of Navan and My Tent Or Yours disputed second position, the latter cruising along to the outside, whilst Sametegal and Grumeti disputed fourth position. The two favourites began to pull away from their rivals as they entered the home straight and approached the penultimate flight; Duke Of Navan still held third position, with Sametegal a length behind him and Grumeti now relegated to 5th.
My Tent Or Yours travelled in The New One’s slipstream approaching the flight; having cleared it, Sam Twiston-Davies raised the whip to his mount hoping to fend off the challenger. Initially he appeared to be holding his own, but AP McCoy become more animated as they headed for the last and he began to close upon the leader. The New One was just half a length ahead as they cleared it, and he blundered and skewed; Sam lost his right iron as a result and was unable to regain it on the drive to the line. This error had permitted AP to draw alongside on the run-in and his mount went on to win by half a length at the line.
Sametegal completed in 3rd, with long-time leader Duke Of Navan 4th, Grumeti a very disappointing 5th. It was Nicky Henderson’s 6th winner of the race and AP’s 5th; both record-breaking efforts.
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
It was now time for the feature event of the day. The horses were paraded down past the stands, led by Kauto Star who was ridden by his current ‘caretaker’, event-rider Laura Collett. Being in alphabetical order, Al Ferof was the first runner in the line, Silviniaco Conti the last. Martin Keighley had a runner in this race, last year’s 4th placed horse Champion Court; an unlucky runner-up to Riverside Theatre in this year’s Peterborough Chase when his saddle had slipped in the home straight.
Having reached the far end of the parade area, the jockeys seemed in two minds as to whether they should take a look at the final fence or not, before cantering to the start. Most did, but not all; others took a look at the first fence instead.
The joint-favourites were Cue Card and Dynaste at 10-3. Riverside Theatre was sporting first-time blinkers, and Long Run a first-time visor. The Irish runner, Mount Benbulben, had undertaken a very long journey to reach the track due to problems caused by the stormy weather – The Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, then down through England, with I believe a stop-off at Warwick overnight en route.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Cue Card, from Silviniaco Conti, Long Run to the wide outside, the two greys Dynaste and Al Ferof, Mount Benbulben, Riverside Theatre, Champion Court and Menorah. The two leaders bumped in mid-air as they cleared the first fence. Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti and Long Run cleared the second, an open-ditch, in unison.
The field then headed into the lake turn, the swans still gazing on from the inside of the track. Having taken the shortest route, Cue Card held a slight advantage as the runners cleared the next fence; Mount Benbulben was now at the rear of the field. The horses jumped the fourth fence without problem and headed towards the second open-ditch; Riverside Theatre blundered at the fence and unshipped Barry Geraghty and the horse, unbalanced by the jockey falling off to his offside, bumped into Champion Court and dislodged Ian Popham. I couldn’t believe it; two doses of misfortune in relation to Riverside Theatre. The race continued, 7 runners now remaining.
Heading over the sixth fence Cue Card continued at the head of affairs, from Silviniaco Conti, Long Run, Dynaste, Al Ferof, Menorah and Mount Benbulben; the two loose horses travelling in their wake. The horses headed around the turn and into the home straight on the first occasion. Menorah made an error at the middle fence in the line of three; Cue Card adding a short stride to put himself right before the next. There being about nine lengths covering the field as they headed up towards the lollipop.
The horses initially swung a little wide around to tight top turn and headed out onto the final circuit. Cue Card continued to lead from Silviniaco Conti and Long Run, the latter again taking a route wide of the others. Dynaste and Al Ferof travelled just behind these, from Menorah and Mount Benbulben. The rider-less Champion Court continued to follow the others; Riverside Theatre having, presumably, returned to his handlers. The runners cleared the two fences in the side straight without incident and headed around the lake bend for the second and final time; Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti continued to lead the way, Long Run soon pushed along.
Into the back straight they headed, just seven obstacles still to jump; the runners more closely packed than before; the Irish raider was less than fluent at the first in the line of fences. Long Run began to lose ground and had dropped to the back of the field as they jumped the final open-ditch, five from home; Dynaste made an error here. In contrast, Mount Benbulben had made progress along the inside and now disputed third position with Al Ferof; but he dropped back again with a poor jump at the next.
Heading around the final turn, Joe Tizzard’s mount held a one length advantage over Silviniaco Conti; the other runners now six lengths adrift. Dynaste and Menorah were struggling; the latter would be pulled up.
They cleared three out, and Cue Card still led; the staying-on Long Run blundered here. The long-time leader jumped two out and appeared to have the prize within his grasp, however as they drew towards to the final fence, Silviniaco Conti found extra strength and took the advantage as Cue Card’s energy appeared to drain away.
The Paul Nicholls runner cleared the last in the lead and galloped on to win by 3½ lengths at the line. Al Ferof, also a Paul Nicholls charge, finished 3rd, Mount Benbulben 4th and Dynaste a distant 5th; dual-winner Long Run having unseated his jockey at the last.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure for the first time today although, in hindsight, I should have remained at the rails to see the winning horse parade in front of the grandstand!
It was now time for the final race of the day; Choc’s mount in this race was Ourmanmassini trained by Lewes-based Suzy Smith; probably her most well-known charge is Aimigayle. The favourite for this event was Kim Bailey’s Twelve Roses at 5-2. Martin Keighley also had a runner, Georgian King, an ex-Alan King charge who had run very well to finish 2nd upon his return from injury at Exeter.
The starting gate being at the lake bend, the horses headed out of the horse walkway and along the side straight to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Georgian King and Ashdown Lad; to the rear were Twelve Roses and Quaddick Lake. Choc preceded these, and had chosen a position on the outside of the field. The twelve runners headed over the first two flights without incident and entered the home bend on the first occasion. Big Casino now led the way, from Georgian King, Ashdown Lad, Billy Twyford, the visor-wearing Whipcrackaway, Beyeh, Junction Fourteen, Experimentalist, the white cheek-pieced Ourmanmassini, Twelve Roses, Mcllhatton and the hooded Quaddick Lake.
The field headed up the home straight, clearing the two flights therein and up past the grandstand; Big Casino continued at the head of affairs. Ourmanmassini travelled the widest of all as the runners turned the top bend and headed down the side of the racecourse for the one and only time. Again there were no casualties as the horses cleared the next two flights; Twelve Roses having made noticeable progress on the outside of the field by the time they’d reached the lake bend, he was now in fifth position. At the back of the field, detached and ridden along, was Whipcrackaway.
Heading down the back straight, Big Casino and Ashdown Lad led the way, from Georgian King, Billy Twyford, Twelve Roses and Junction Fourteen. Having cleared the seventh flight, 4 out, Choc’s mount dropped to the back of the field and began to struggle. The now tailed off Whipcrackaway was eased. There was a little bit of argy bargy as Mcllhatton tried to take advantage of a gap between Twelve Roses and Experimentalist, but he was nudged out of the way by the latter and he dropped back.
Having cleared the third last, the field headed into the final bend where Big Casino was challenged for the lead by Ashdown Lad and Twelve Roses, with Experimentalist soon challenging to their outside too. Ashdown Lad now began to lose his position and dropped back; Junction Fourteen taking his place, and Georgian King was still travelling against the rail close behind them.
Straightening out on the approach to the penultimate flight, Big Casino held the inside line, with Junction Fourteen to his outside, Georgian King was pulled off the rail to challenge three wide and Experimentalist travelled to their outside; Mcllhatton was close on their heels. Junction Fourteen held a narrow advantage crossing two out, and he drew clear on the run to the last, which he cleared with ease and galloped on to win by 11 lengths at the line, jockey Leighton Aspell glancing over his left shoulder on the run-in to see where the opposition was.
Big Casino, Georgian King and Experimentalist were left to fight out the minor honours, with the Martin Keighley charge winning this battle and coming home 2 lengths ahead of Big Casino; Experimentalist was 1½ lengths back in 4th. I’d stroked Georgian King when I attended Martin Keighley’s Open Day!
Exhausted, both Ourmanmassini and Whipcrackaway were pulled up.
I watched as Choc rode his tired mount, at the walk, up towards the top of the course; he was in company with the other pulled up runner, Whipcrackaway. With no expectation that I’d see Choc again today, it was time to begin my journey home.
My route from the course-side rails took me through streams of people heading out via the gate which leads into the Festival Enclosure, no doubt on their way to collect their vehicles from the free car park located in the centre of the racecourse. Having descended the steps to reach the area to the side of the main grandstand I headed around the corner and onwards toward the Winners’ Enclosure.
Normally I’d stop to see the placed horses being unsaddled following the final race, but today my best hope of exiting the racecourse before queues of traffic built up would be to return directly to my car at this point in time. My route took me across the horse-walk, where I crossed paths with Richard Johnson who was on his way back to the Weighing Room having finished fourth in the final race.
There were few vehicles heading to the main gate at this stage, with no tailbacks as yet across the car park. Having found my car, which was parked on the second row back from the exit road, I hurriedly took off my jacket and boots before turning on the engine and backing out of my parking space. I had hoped to drive through the ‘clearway’ between the end space and the fence, adjacent to the main gate, which should have been clear as it had been my entry point this morning, but discovered a parked 4x4 was blocking the route. Typical.
So I backed up, hoping to find a route through the two front rows of parked cars, which I did, but not before someone else had nipped-through the space before me. Despite it being just minutes since I’d returned to my car, a double-queue of stationary vehicles had already built up. Fortunately it didn’t take long for a well-mannered driver to let me out into the queue and I had soon exited the gate onto the road outside. The two streams of traffic merged into one prior to the railway bridge; it was an obstacle course with pedestrians wandering along the side of and across the road at this point, and then vehicles merging into the queue when exiting from the car park further along on the right, aided by the stewards.
The stewards were also encouraging vehicles to reform into two lines as they moved slowly around the corner on their way to the junction where the road joins the M3 Junction 1 exit slip-road. I decided to stay in the inside lane, as I knew the outside lane would have to merge into mine just prior to this slip-road. Once the lights at the roundabout had changed to green, I had a clear route along the inside (Choc would have been proud) and I took the third exit thereon; this slip-road took me up an incline to join the M3. It was 16:10 and I’d escaped from Kempton Park in very good time this year.
The motorway was fairly clear, although I had to overtake a number of slower moving vehicles travelling in the inside lane. Being a motorway to motorway junction with the M25, the slip-roads lead directly onto the latter, unlike the A3/M25 junction 10 to/from Sandown Park where a traffic-lighted roundabout breaks up the flow of traffic. Again, traffic was moving well on the M25, although there were a number of vehicles which caused braking on the approach to the M40 junction due to them being in the wrong lanes. But, after my earlier ‘blip’, I shouldn’t really moan!
As in 2012, I had been asked to collect Mum from my older brother’s house where she’d been invited to spend Boxing Day. This being the case, upon reaching Junction 21 of the M25 I took the slip-road to join the M1 northbound carriageway and headed towards Luton. As it was late afternoon/evening, lorries had begun to travel once more following the Christmas break and, as the motorway rises upon its journey through the Chiltern Hills, many of these were moving slowly in the inside lane.
I left the motorway at Junction 10 and headed down the slip-road to join the A1081. I dislike travelling on unlit country roads now I’m getting older, as the glare from oncoming headlights is a menace. After leaving the A-road at an unlit junction, I had to head down a lane which is used as a busy cut-through to reach the nearby residential area where my brother lives. I arrived at 17:00. Door-to-door from Kempton Park, a very good journey time.
Having spent the day on meagre rations, I was kindly fed and watered by my sister-in-law. Mission accomplished, I arrived home at 19:30 with the prospect of a trip to Kempton Park the next day too, as Choc was scheduled to have two rides, including the talented novice chaser Valdez; although there was the prospect of further high winds and rain overnight, continuing the weather pattern of the past few days. Stormy weather, followed by two or three days of calm before the next storm blew in from the Atlantic.
In the event, racing went ahead despite rain and high winds overnight. But my trip was called off at 09:10 the following morning when, having checked teletext, I discovered that both of Choc’s intended rides were non-runners. I had, however, already showered, washed and dried by hair, applied minimal make-up and got partially dressed in my race-day clothes! Oh well, every cloud has a silver lining as I had been a little apprehensive about setting out into the unknown on a very windy day.