DIARY – KEMPTON PARK
– SUNDAY 27 DECEMBER 2009
I spent Boxing Day at Kempton Park, despite Choc being at Wincanton that day, and I decided to make a return trip the following day as Choc had 4 riding engagements at the Sunbury on Thames track. It would be Choc’s second day back in action following his horrific fall at Newbury on 16th December, when Minella Four Star had accidentally kicked him in the face. Choc had lost 2 teeth, and had required numerous stitches in his lower lip and chin. Choc’s wife, Meally, had published a photo of Choc on the Eclipse magazine website, showing his repaired face:
I set off from home at around 09:10, which gave me plenty of time to drive to the fixture as it takes less than an hour, and the gates opened at 10:00.
As I didn’t have a pre-ordered ticket or parking slip for the Sunday fixture, I had to park in the centre of the course. Therefore having driven around the M25 and up the M3 to Junction 1, I took the A308 to reach the farthest course entrance, drove along the track to the course crossing, where I purchased a standard entry ticket costing £10 from the steward, and then continued across the main track, past the reservoir, and over the all-weather track to reach the free car parking area.
Once I’d parked my car, I set off to walk across the all-weather and main grass track, visiting the kiosk to exchange my ticket for a Paddock Enclosure one. At the gate, a steward scanned my new ticket and I headed off to purchase a race-card and then went to sit inside the Betting Hall to wait until the horses appeared in the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race of the day (yes, I spent ages doing not very much at all!). And, despite knowing that I would be sitting in a cold draft by the doors, once again I sat facing out towards the Parade Ring, watching people arrive. Nick Luck and Jamie Moore were presentating for Racing UK today. Jamie Moore having been sidelined, following surgery on his shoulder.
The first race of the day was at 13:00, so at around 12:30 I went to sit beside the Parade Ring to await the arrival of the horses. Choc’s mount in this event was Mille Chief, a highly thought-of juvenile, who had been brought down at Market Rasen on his first excursion over hurdles.
Choc soon arrived, dressed in the maroon, blue and white silks of owners the McNeill family, the same ownership as Walkon. Once the bell had sounded for the jockeys to mount, Alan King legged Choc up onto Mille Chief and they set off down the walkway to exit onto the course. I set off to find a suitable position beside the courseside rails and was in time to see Choc’s mount canter past the stands on his way to reach the start, which was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Westlin’ Winds, followed by Mymateeric (My Mate Eric!) and Father Figure. Choc took up his customary position on the inside aboard the keen running Mille Chief and was in fourth position. The Richard Phillips trained runner, Pezula, made a mistake at the second flight when in rear.
As the field headed away from the stands, Mille Chief paddled through the fourth flight, but it didn’t stop his momentum. He gained ground along the inside as the field galloped down the back straight, and was in second position behind the long time leader Westlin’ Winds as they turned into the home straight for the final time.
Choc stayed on the inside to make his challenge, there being nothing between the two leaders as they took the final 2 flights. However, Mille Chief was more fluent at the last and went on to win by 2¼ lengths from Westlin’ Winds, with Mymateeric a distance back in third.
Choc dismounted at the entrance to the walkway, as Mille Chief had twisted one of his shoes, the lad pulling the shoe off before Choc was legged into the saddle again to be led back in.
I walked back around the grandstand to reach the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back. Once he’d unsaddled and spoken with connections, he weighed out in the ‘gazebo’ alongside the Parade Ring (having removed his helmet, as safety equipment is not included in the weight carried by the horses) before returning to the Weighing Room.
As there was a presentation to be made to the winning connections, Choc soon returned – his hair had definitely been recently trimmed. Choc joined everyone on the podium and received a bottle of champagne, and a group photo was taken. He then walked across to be interviewed by the Race Day Presenter, Choc’s face being displayed on the large screen overlooking the Parade Ring. Although it seemed as though his lower lip may have been sub-consciously bothering him (which was only to be expected when he’d lost 2 teeth and had a number of stitches), his injury was barely discernable – had he already had remedial work carried out? Anyway, I’m pleased to report that Choc looks as gorgeous as ever! I eagerly await an update from Meally, or from Choc himself in his regular Horse and Hound diary column.
Having completed the interview, Choc returned to the Weighing Room, his next ride being in the third race of the day.
It was now time for the second race of the day. Once the horses had set off down the walkway to the course, I walked around the side of the grandstand to find a position beside the course-side rails from which to view the race. This event also began at the far end of the home straight, so I arrived in time to see the competitors canter to the start.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Rory Boy and My Moment, followed by Riverside Theatre, then El Dancer with Noble Request in rear. My Moment briefly took the lead as they headed away from the stands but, as he was jumping less fluently, this enabled Rory Boy to take up the running again as they rounded the far turn.
Riverside Theatre was going well on the outside under Barry Geraghty down the back straight. The grey, Noble Request, was pushed into contention as the field rounded the final bend, and moved into second place on the outside. My Moment made a bad error at the second last having fallen to the rear of the field.
Riverside Theatre galloped on to win by an easy 12 lengths from El Dancer and the rallying Rory Boy, Noble Request fading into 4th by the line.
It was later announced that Barry Geraghty had been awarded a 3-day suspension for dangerous riding – his manoeuvre on the final turn having had a knock-on effect on 3 of his rivals – Noble Request being the only horse deemed to have been unaffected.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race. I watched the presentation ceremony for the second race from my vantage point at the far end of the paddock, the owner of Riverside Theatre being actor James Nesbitt. He and his two daughters, Peggy and Mary, climbed onto the podium to accept the prize.
Martin Keighley was running the very consistent Love of Tara in the third event of the day. Choc was riding Quaspia for French trainer Francois Doumen, and Gerard Tumelty rode the Alan King trained Gold Reef, claiming 3 lbs off her back.
As Francois wasn’t at the track today, his representative spoke with Choc and legged him up onto Quaspia. It was amusing to see Choc (who isn’t short at 5 ft 7 ins) walking beside this French guy who towered above him! Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, once again I set off to find a position beside the course-side rails.
The start of the event was at the beginning of the straight heading away from the stands, and consisted of almost 2 circuits of the course. The horses therefore cantered down past the stands to view the final hurdle before turning and cantering to the start.
Then they were off. The runners were lead away by Ambrose Princess on the inside and Strawberry on the outside, with Love of Tara tracking the latter. Dansimar was following Ambrose Princess and Gold Reef was in mid-field. Quaspia was at the back of the field initially, Choc taking her wide.
Inghwung made a bad error at the fifth last when in mid-field and dropped to the rear of the field. As Ambrose Princess started to be pushed along, Strawberry took over and led them down the back straight for the final time. Around the final bend, Love of Tara had closed up into 2nd place with Quaspia and Gold Reef close behind.
In 5th position and seemingly closing was Amber Brook, but she fell at the penultimate flight bringing down Argento Luna. The latter was quickly to her feet, and Amber Brook rose after a delay. Both jockeys were okay too.
Choc brought his mount to challenge Strawberry on the inside, Love of Tara producing a challenge on the outside. However, Strawberry was too strong for both of them and galloped on to win by 1½ lengths from Martin Keighley’s Love of Tara in 2nd and Quaspia in 3rd.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see both Choc aboard Quaspia arrive back, and Love of Tara return. Once Choc had set off for the Weighing Room, I walked around to the other side of the Parade Ring in preparation for the feature race of the day, the Desert Orchid Chase.
Choc’s mount in this event was the Andrew Balding trained Briareus. Also taking part was the talented but fragile-legged Well Chief, and last year’s runner-up Petit Robin. Once Choc had been legged-up aboard Briareus I set off to view the horses cantering down to the start.
Another 2 mile event, so the start of this race was at the far end of the home straight. The grey, Doctor David, renowned for his temperamental behaviour, initially refusing to set off for the start. Paddy Brennan noticed that Tom Scudamore was having difficulties with his mount so returned to the racecourse exit point, taking hold of Doctor David’s reins to get him started on his way, the grey then cantered down to the start in close company with Paddy’s mount Mahogany Blaze.
Again, Doctor David seemed a little reluctant to jump off with the others, but after some extra encouragement agreed to participate. Away they went, Fix The Rib leading the field, with Briareus a very close 2nd, Crack Away Jack making a mistake at the 2nd fence. Doctor David jumped into 2nd place over the third, but Briareus soon regained that position. At the rear of the field was Mahogany Blaze.
Briareus didn’t jump the fourth obstacle fluently and quickly dropped back through the field, Choc pulling him up after the 6th fence. I’msingingtheblues hit the 7th fence, and Fix The Rib fell at the last open ditch having retreated through the field.
Petit Robin, led into the final straight, pursued by Well Chief, Doctor David, and I’msingingtheblues. By the second last, there were just 2 contenders – Petit Robin and Well Chief, the former giving a better jump at the last and galloping on to win by 3¾ lengths. Choc cantered Briareus up the straight not far behind the competing runners.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for Choc’s fourth and final ride of the day. Choc’s mount in this event was the Alan King trained West End Rocker, and he was wearing the same colour silks as when riding the recently retired My Way De Solzen. Once Choc was aboard, I set off to view the race from beside the course-side rails.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight heading away from the stands. The horses cantered down past the stands to take a look at the final fence before returning to the starting gate.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Dark Ben, Soixante, and Lodge Lane. Little Josh, held up in rear, fell at the first obstacle. Horse and jockey, Paddy Brennan, were okay, although Paddy appeared to have ripped the knee of his breeches! Choc aboard West End Rocker was near the rear of the field.
The next horse to come to grief was Lodge Lane, who fell at the open-ditch. The field turned into the home straight for the first time, Soixante and Dark Ben still holding the advantage. The 2 grey runners, Fortification and Piraya, were in 3rd and 4th. Pretty Star blundered at the 12th, slightly hampering West End Rocker in the process.
The field was waved around the final open-ditch, the green screens having been erected around Lodge Lane. The horse was on his feet, but presumably had suffered a bad injury when falling on the previous circuit. Au Courant made a jumping error at the fourth last.
Into the final straight, Fortification and Piraya disputed the lead, with I’moncloudnine also poised to make a challenge. However, none of the runners could catch Fortification, who galloped on to win by 10 lengths. I’moncloudnine overtook Piraya to take second. Choc finished 7th aboard West End Rocker.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses come back in. It was then time for the final race of the day. Presenter Jeremy Kyle was in the Parade Ring, as owner of one of the competitors in the next race, Sonning Star. And, no, I’m not a fan of his show! Evidently Jeremy attended the Reading Blue Coat School which is based in Sonning – I know Sonning quite well, as I drive through the Thames-side village on my way to visit my friend Denise in Caversham. Wikipedia is very useful!
Again I set off to view the race from beside the course-side rails.
The field was led away by the flashy Ray Diamond, followed by Wester Ross. Royal Rationale made an error at the second flight. High Bird Humphrey and Numide were held up in rear.
Ray Diamond led or disputed the lead with Wester Ross until Ronaldo Des Mottes took over at the second last, galloping on to win by 5 lengths from First Avenue and Know The Law. Long time leader, Ray Diamond held on for 4th.
Evidently this was jockey Timmy Murphy’s 1,000th career winner.
Instead of returning to view the horses in the Winners’ Enclosure, I exited via the gate and went to wait beside the course crossing point. The pontoon crossing was being laid over the grass track and, once complete, we were permitted to walk across.
Having reached my car, I ate a quick snack (not having eaten since breakfast) and then set off for home. Cars were directed back along the track to cross the all-weather and then the grass course, but this time I decided to turn left, taking the route out via the stable-block area. The queue out of the main car park was much shorter today and, although it took some time to travel along the road to reach the roundabout beneath the M3 at Junction 1, I was soon on my way heading towards the M25.
At one point I found myself behind a green horsebox which, on inspection, had the name ‘Larkinglass’ painted on the back – it was Neil Mulholland’s horsebox! As I approached the M25 there were signs warning of congestion on the motorway. I discovered there had been a shunt between 2 vehicles, and there was an ambulance waiting on the hard-shoulder too. However, the traffic was moving better than on Boxing Day, when I’d travelled between the M40 and the Chorleywood junction at around 5 to 10 miles an hour for most of the way!
As my petrol tank was now under half full, I decided to leave the motorway at the London Colney junction, so that I could fill up at the Sainburys petrol station before returning home. As it was 17:30 on a Sunday afternoon, I was surprised that most of the petrol pumps were already in use. Having filled up the tank it took me around another 10 minutes to reach home.