DIARY – KEMPTON PARK – WINTER FESTIVAL
DAY 2 – SUNDAY 27 DECEMBER 2015
Sprinter Sacre returns to the Winners’ Enclosure
following his victory in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase
Today was my 33rd visit to Kempton Park; excluding attendance of one bead fair. It used to be neck-and-neck with Cheltenham as regards to racedays attended at the two tracks, but that has changed since Choc’s absence and retirement. Cheltenham is now some way ahead, with 38 visits, especially as I attended the Gloucestershire track 6 times last season, but Kempton only once.
Once again I felt that I needed to attend, just in case Choc did, as Ned Stark was engaged to run in race 5 today. As you probably know, I’d rather attend and Choc not be there, than not attend and he is!
My alarm was thus set for 06:30, if not slightly earlier. Having showered and washed and dried my hair, I applied my make-up and ate a bowl of porridge for breakfast today.
Today’s outfit was two long-sleeved thermal t-shirts – dark blue and purple. Plus a red thermal roll-neck top, turquoise v-neck sweater, purple fleece, black fleece gillet, dark grey tweed double-frill hemmed skirt, grey thermal tights, burgundy pull-on jeggings, black Hotter lace-up ‘Cannes’ boots, black faux sheepskin coat, and a burgundy/brown/pink Next handbag. Also a multi-coloured River Island material scarf, plus long striped hand-warmers. No necklace was required, just a pair of multi-coloured Fired Creations earrings.
Yesterday had been dry, but today had started with drizzly rain ... just for a change, NOT! Drizzly rain had been one of the features of autumn and early winter this year, along with high winds and mild temperatures.
As per yesterday, gate opening time today was 10:00. My plan was to leave home at 09:15; and I left just prior to 09:20. I visited the local supermarket petrol station to top up my car’s tank ahead of the day; just in case I got stuck in any long traffic queues today – better safe than sorry. Following that task, my route took me along the ring-road, before heading down London Road to the London Colney roundabout and subsequent dual carriageway to join the M25 at Junction 22.
Traffic was moving freely on the motorway and I’d soon reached Junction 12; I took the slip-road onto the M3 and headed towards London. As a space in the main car park had to be pre-booked ahead of attendance today, and the usual free of charge parking area was being used to accommodate the Festival Enclosure, I left the M3 at Junction 1 and negotiated the roundabout beneath the motorway to head along Staines Road East.
I was thinking that the space in the centre of the racecourse would be in operation for parking again today, so I ignored the first sign pointing to a ‘free’ car park, instead heading to the furthest entrance which I’d normally use. However, having entered the gate, a steward instructed me to turn left in order to head along the driveway in the direction of the grandstands. I got as far as a driveway heading off to my left; it transpired that this led to the gate I’d seen earlier signposted as a ‘free’ car park. However, I’d now driven past the area where I was supposed to park and had to reverse in order to take up a space on the front row, three vehicles away from the aforementioned gate.
The rain had more or less stopped by now so, having put on my boots and coat, I walked up the driveway towards the Festival Enclosure where, upon reaching a barrier, I turned left and headed out onto the pavement alongside Staines Road East. I turned right and walked along to the South Entrance, where I purchased a Paddock Enclosure ticket from one of the kiosks; the price was £25 today. Once inside the grounds my ticket was scanned, and I also bought a race-card for £3.
I entered the lower floor of the main grandstand in order to visit the ladies’ loo, after which I returned to the far side of the Parade Ring. I noticed a robin hopping along the rubber pathway within the paddock; it found a dead worm, but didn’t seem keen on eating it – presumably the worm has to be alive to appeal! RUK’s Oli Bell and Dave Nevison were presenting from the track today. A short while later I headed around the side of the grandstand to reach the steppings; I stood for a while overlooking the betting ring, where the bookmakers were setting up their pitches. I also noticed children having a donkey ride within the Festival Enclosure. I then returned to the area beyond the far side of the Parade Ring.
Kempton Park had organised a competition for local schoolchildren to design racing silks; the three winning entries were presented with prizes by Jon Ivan-Duke, the PR representative for the Festival sponsor William Hill. At one point, the pages of Jon’s newspaper blew away and he had to chase them down as they scattered across the Parade Ring! Raceday presenter, Anthony Kemp, and the PR representative worked their way through the race-card, suggesting possible winners.
The favourite for the first race of the day was Favorito Buck’s, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; price 11-8. Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Gibralfaro ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. The French-import, currently a colt, is owned by the McNeill Family and was making his hurdles debut for the yard; he’d won his last 3 starts on the flat in the French Provinces. Ashoka was an unusual colour; although described as grey, he resembled a red roan. Occasionally racehorses are listed as grey or roan, but very rarely just roan; red roan is not an official racehorse colour!
I remained alongside the Parade Ring until the jockeys arrived, after which I set off to find a suitable viewing position beside the course-side rails. 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.
And then they were off. The runners were led away by the blinkered Duke Of Medina, followed by Cabernet D’Alene and Favorito Buck’s; Gibralfaro was just behind these with Berland and Ashoka, and bringing up the rear was Darebin. All seven horses cleared the first flight safely and headed up the racecourse to the next; Ashoka was the least fluent at this one and was relegated to last place as a result.
Duke Of Medina continued to lead as the runners headed up past the grandstands; he was four lengths clear of Favorito Buck’s, followed by Cabernet D’Alene under yesterday’s heroine Lizzie Kelly, then a couple of lengths behind was Gibralfaro and Berland; completing the septet were Darebin and Ashoka. Berland was allowed to stride on as they rounded the top bend, and he was soon travelling upsides Cabernet D’Alene; the Skelton runner had now relegated Darebin to last place once more.
Gavin Sheehan’s mount continued with a clear advantage as they headed across the return strip of the all-weather track to approach flight number three. He did shorten up his stride to meet the hurdle correctly and this enabled the others to gain upon his slightly; Duke of Medina got in a little close to the next. The runners were closely grouped as they headed around the far turn, with Favorito Buck’s in second position, from Cabernet D’Alene and Berland, Ashoka, Gibralfaro and Darebin.
Having entered the back straight, Cabernet D’Alene made a small error at the first flight therein. He dropped back as Berland took a clear third, and Ashoka and Gibralfaro pulled alongside him; the Skelton runner to his outside, and the King runner to his inside. Lizzie Kelly’s mount made a further error at the third last and dropped into sixth position; meanwhile Gibralfaro crept steadily closer to the leading pair.
Gavin Sheehan kicked on once more as they approached the final bend and he’d soon put five or six lengths between his mount and the nearest rival. Favorito Buck’s soon began to struggle and, as he back-peddled, he interrupted Gibralfaro’s run; the latter was trapped on the rails as Ashoka and Berland attempted to close upon the leader. Finally, towards the end of the bend, Wayne found daylight and was able to set off in pursuit of Duke Of Medina. Both Favorito Buck’s and Cabernet D’Alene called it a day before reaching two out.
Meanwhile, the Harry Whittington runner still held a five lengths advantage as he cleared two out; although not as fluently as perhaps wished. Gibralfaro was a clear second and Wayne Hutchinson shook up his mount as they galloped down to the final flight; he was closing the gap despite wandering around through greenness as the partnership approached it.
Duke Of Medina put in a more fluent leap at the final flight and looked well in control as they began the gallop to the line. However, despite the leader keeping on, Gibralfaro suddenly sprouted wings in the dying embers of the race and collared Gavin Sheehan’s mount to win by half a length at the line. Berland finished 13 lengths back in 3rd, with Ashoka a further 8 lengths away in 4th; the only other finisher being Darebin.
Being a quieter day than Boxing Day, I was able to move between the Parade Ring and the course-side rails, and back, without any bother today.
So, having route-marched to the temporary steppings to the side of the Parade Ring ahead of Gibralfaro returning, I noticed the man and the blonde lady from the Dunkley and Reilly Partnership standing outside the doors of the Owners’ and Trainers’ bar, overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure; the ‘Reilly’ half of the partnership. So I presumed there was no Paul Dunkley or Choc in attendance today; oh well, it was probably what I had expected anyway!
Owner Max McNeill and his daughter Ellie were on hand to accept the winning memento following their horse’s victory.
Alan King was interviewed by Oli Bell following the race; the trainer was pleased to have three very good juveniles in his yard this season – Sceau Royal, Who Dares Wins and Gibralfaro – having had none last season. His plan was to send Sceau Royal to Huntingdon for the Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle, Who Dares Wins to Cheltenham on Trials Day, and also find an as yet undecided target for today’s winner. He thought all three could be Triumph Hurdle horses.
Alan said that Smad Place was fine following yesterday’s exertions and would probably have one more run before the Cheltenham Festival. He thought the King George had been a ‘marvellous’ race but it had been a big step up for the Hennessy Gold Cup winner to run in such a high quality event as yesterday’s renewal had been.
The favourite for the next race was the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux, ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 10-11. I stood to the far side of the Parade Ring whilst the horses arrived within, setting out on my route march to the course-side rails prior to the jockeys mounting their horses.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight; the competitors rode their mounts down past the grandstands in order to reach it.
Then they were off. As expected, Ar Mad took the led as the runners headed to the first; he was pursued by Arzal, Vaniteux, Ittirad and The Saint James. It was nearly curtains for the favourite at this obstacle, as he got in too close, clouted the fence and pecked on landing; his jockey was momentarily unbalanced and nearly departed via the offside door before regaining his equilibrium once more. At the rear of the field, Ittirad was a little less than fluent at the second, and again at the third.
Meanwhile Ar Mad continued to bowl along at the head of affairs, as the five-strong field continued up past the winning post with one circuit still to travel. The runners negotiated the top bend upon the all-weather surface and headed out into the country for the one and only time, encountering the second all-weather strip on their journey to fence number four. There were no mishaps at this fence and the runners headed down to the first of the open-ditches; Arzal trailed his legs through the birch but continued in second position, although this did allow Ar Mad to extend his lead as they entered the far turn.
The advantage had diminished slightly as they approached the first in the back straight; Arzal clobbered the fence, skewing in the air but the partnership survived. However, this error enabled Vaniteux and The Saint James to slip through to his inside; the latter got a little bit close to the next fence. Meanwhile Ar Mad continued to lead and jump well.
The following fence was the final open-ditch. The Saint James, under Richard Johnson, blundered badly at this one and was relegated to last place as a result. Vaniteux had closed upon the leader by the time they’d safely negotiated the final fence in the back straight; in third position, a number of lengths back, was Arzal, ahead of Ittirad and The Saint James.
Ar Mad headed into the final turn with Vaniteux close on his heels, although the latter wasn’t travelling quite as well as the leader. Behind the duo, Ittirad and Arzal were being ridden along but not losing further ground. Ar Mad and Vaniteux jumped the third last in unison and the latter began to move ahead and cleared the penultimate fence with half a length advantage. His lead was stretched to a length on the run down to the final fence but Joshua Moore had not given up the fight and his mount began to rally.
They reached the final fence, where Ar Mad launched himself over the obstacle and they landed together. Gary Moore’s runner was the quicker away from the last and, despite Vaniteux staying on again and narrowing the advantage as the line approached, Ar Mad won by a neck. He’d added this Grade 2 victory to the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase he’d won at Sandown on Tingle Creek day.
Arzal claimed 3rd place, a further 5 lengths back, with Ittirad 4th and The Saint James a tailed off last.
Again I returned to the steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure following the race, before heading back to the far side of the Parade Ring prior to the horses arriving ahead of the next event.
Having demonstrated a preference to jump right when running at left-handed Plumpton, the initial feeling from connections was that the horse needed to run on a right-handed course; thus ruling out Cheltenham and Aintree. But, after this, they felt they would try Ar Mad on a left-handed course again to see if the problem had been ironed-out; especially with the horse loving to front run.
The favourite for the third race of the day was the Nicky Henderson-trained Sprinter Sacre, ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 8-11. Following a heart-scare two years ago, when he had been pulled up in this same race, Sprinter Sacre had returned to form when winning the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham in November. Also competing in this race was Sire De Grugy; the horse is also a former Champion Chaser and the winner of the 2013 and 2015 Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase. A race which Sprinter Sacre had won in 2012.
I remained beside the Parade Ring until the jockeys arrived; I then headed back to the course-side rails.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight; the competitors rode their mounts down past the grandstands in order to reach it.
Then they were off. Somersby and the grey Vibrato Valtat led them away, from Sire De Grugy, Sprinter Sacre and the outsider Sir Valentino. Sprinter Sacre was keen to get on with the race, and Sire De Grugy was probably the least fluent at the first fence.
Somersby continued to lead as they headed over the second; Sire De Grugy skewed slightly as he cleared it. All five runners made a good shape over the third before heading up past the grandstands with one circuit now to go. Heading around the top turn, upon the all-weather strip, it was almost Indian file; Somersby led from Vibrato Valtat, Sire De Grugy, Sprinter Sacre and Sir Valentino.
The runners fanned out as they began their journey down the side straight to the next, heading across the second all-weather strip as they did so. There were no mishaps at the fence, although Sir Valentino must have brushed through it slightly as a plume of birch flew up. The quintet headed down towards the first of the open-ditches, which they cleared well.
Somersby headed into the far turn a couple of lengths ahead of Vibrato Valtat and Sire De Grugy which disputed second. Three lengths behind this pair was Sprinter Sacre, followed by Sir Valentino a further three or four lengths behind him. The leader got a little bit close to the next fence and this allowed Sire De Grugy to close up to within half a length to his outside. Jamie Moore’s mount jumped into the lead at the following fence.
Nico de Boinville began to move up on the outside of the runners as they approached the final open-ditch; the leading four were closely grouped as they cleared it safely. The veteran Somersby now began to drop back, as the other three moved on towards four out. Sire De Grugy was only marginally ahead as they jumped it.
Vibrato Valtat held the rail position, with Sire De Grugy to his outside and Sprinter Sacre widest of the three as they headed around the long sweeping bend and into the home straight for the final time. The chestnut was still half a length up as they cleared the third last, with Sprinter Sacre marginally ahead of the grey. Vibrato Valtat was the first to drop away as the two former Champion Chasers continued to lock horns on the run down to the penultimate fence. The duo jumped it in unison.
Between the last two it appeared that Sire De Grugy had the other horse’s measure as he stretched his advantage to a length but, as they approached the fence, Sprinter Sacre got back on terms again and put in a better leap than his rival. Upon landing, both jockeys drove their mounts out to the line, with Sprinter Sacre winning by three quarters of a length. Sire De Grugy’s last fence mistake had proved costly.
Vibrato Valtat completed in 3rd, 3¾ lengths further back, with Somersby 10 lengths back in 4th and Sir Valentino in 5th.
The horses having crossed the finishing line, I route-marched back to the steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure once more.
Alan King was standing beside the rails outside the Owners’ and Trainers’ area and he applauded as the winning horse arrived back.
There were two joint-favourites for the next race; The Last Samuri trained by Kim Bailey and ridden by David Bass, and Ned Stark trained by Alan King and ridden by Denis O’Regan. Their price 9-2.
Once again I left the Parade Ring area prior to the horses heading out to the track.
The starting gate for the race was situated at the beginning of the side straight, with the horses cantering down past the grandstands to take a look at what would be the final fence, before heading to the start.
Then they were off; with the blinkered Loose Chips and the white-faced Harry’s Farewell leading them on the way to the first fence. In rear, the also blinkered Shangani needed reminders to even get off the starting line! Ned Stark had a good position, three from the outside with a clear view of the first fence but, sadly, Harry’s Farewell fell immediately in front of him. Ned managed to avoid the horse’s flailing back legs but was caught across the forelegs by the prostrate horse; he survived but had been severely hampered. Open Hearted was also badly hampered in the incident.
Meanwhile, up front, Loose Chips was a clear leader from Ballyheigue Bay as they cleared fence number two, the first of the open-ditches, before heading around the far turn. Disputing third were Ardkilly Witness, The Last Samuri and Viva Steve. Meanwhile Ned Stark was now four from the back, just ahead of Open Hearted, Shangani and Sands Cove.
Loose Chips continued to lead from Ballyheigue Bay as the runners entered the back straight and headed over the next obstacle; there were no mishaps at this fence. The rider-less horse was fine, as he galloped along to the wide outside of the track, against the rails. There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners continued down the back straight and over the next three fences; no noticeable errors either.
Loose Chips led the field around the home turn, from Ballyheigue Bay, Ardkilly Witness, The Last Samuri, Viva Steve, Howlongisafoot, Ballinvarrig, No Buts, Opening Batsman, Foxbridge, Shangani, Open Hearted, Ned Stark and Sands Cove.
The fourteen-strong field headed over fence number seven without incident; at the next obstacle, Ballyheigue Bay nodded on landing. Sands Cove continued to travel slightly detached from the main group and wasn’t particularly fluent at his fences. Howlongisafoot had begun to lose his place as they headed up the home straight; he made an error at the final fence in the line of three.
Heading up towards the top bend, Denis O’Regan’s mount was short of room between Howlongisafoot and No Buts; Open Hearted was squeezed out by this incident and relegated to last but one. Having negotiated the top bend upon the all-weather strip, the runners then headed across a stretch of turf, followed by the return strip of all-weather. Loose Chips continued to lead as they jumped the next, with Viva Steve now his nearest pursuer. Open Hearted was travelling at the rear of the field, with Ned Stark just in front of him; the two horses which had been hampered at the first fence appeared to be struggling.
Having cleared the open-ditch, Ned Stark was three from the rear of the field and jockey Denis O’Regan administered a reminder as they entered the far turn. Viva Steve jumped into a narrow lead over the first fence in the back straight, as Loose Chips had been less than fluent at the obstacle. Further back in the field, No Buts blundered badly at this one. Viva Steve held a narrow advantage as the runners headed over the 13th fence, with Loose Chips, Ballyheigue Bay and Opening Batsman disputing second.
The Last Samuri was pulled out wide as the runners approached the final open-ditch; Open Batsman was now the leader’s closest pursuer, as both Loose Chips and Ballyheigue Bay were less than fluent at this fence. There was another error from Ballyheigue Bay at the final fence in the back straight and he began to drop away.
This left Viva Steve to lead the runners into the final bend, from Opening Batsman, The Last Samuri and Loose Chips. On the wide outside, part-way around the bend, Shangani lost his footing and slipped up; he also nearly brought down the improving Sands Cove.
Viva Steve led into the home straight, but blundered at the third last and was joined by Opening Batsman. These two continued to battle as they headed to the penultimate fence; they jumped this one in unison, although Viva Steve was the more fluent and took the lead once more. Meanwhile, David Bass had continued to drive The Last Samuri and overtook Opening Batsman; he now had Viva Steve in his sights as he flew the final fence just a length behind the leader.
The Last Samuri landed running and, although Viva Steve didn’t appear to falter, the former found too much speed on the run to the line and won by 1¼ lengths. Sands Cove, despite having jumped poorly throughout the race, finished 14 lengths away in 3rd and just half a length ahead of Foxbridge. Opening Batsman faded into 5th.
Howlongisafoot and Open Hearted had been pulled up before the third last, but Denis O’Regan had persevered with Ned Stark; he got to the last, but slowed and stopped just before it. He rode back, initially, before dismounting and examining his mount’s legs before leading him the remainder of the way. Meanwhile Alan’s Travelling Head Lad, Matt, and the stable-lass headed down the racecourse to collect their charge.
Alan King later reported that Ned Stark had finished sore, and had also lost a shoe during the race; they were unable to replace the shoe until the soreness had eased a few days later.
I returned to the steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back.
The favourite for the next race was the Harry Fry-trained Desert Queen, ridden by amateur Mr M Legg; price 2-1.
The starting gate for this event was at the beginning of the side straight. Again I had stayed beside the Parade Ring until the jockeys had arrived, before setting off to find a suitable pitch beside the course-side rails.
Then they were off, with the diminutive Cannon Fodder leading the way to the first flight; however, she was being shadowed by the much larger Desert Queen, and the latter jumped into the lead over it. Disputing third place were Minnie Milan and Broxbourne, followed to the outside by Titch Strider, with the grey Tara Mist and Tagrita bringing up the rear. All seven runners had soon cleared the second flight too.
Desert Queen was keen as they headed into the far turn, initially extending her lead until her rider Mikey Legg regained control and Cannon Fodder closed up on her outside to dispute it once more. Upon entering the back straight, Desert Queen began to stretch away from her rivals once more; they headed over flight number three without incident. The others closed upon the leader once more, before she pulled ahead again when heading to and jumping the next.
The seven mares headed around the bend and into the home straight for the first time. Desert Queen continued to lead, from Cannon Fodder, Minnie Milan disputed third with Broxbourne, behind this duo were Titch Strider, Tagrita and Tara Mist; little change in the order in fact!
The favourite continued at the head of affairs as the runners progressed up the home straight; Broxbourne was a little untidy at the next flight and Cannon Fodder was slightly less than fluent at the sixth. Desert Queen led by around four lengths as the mares headed up past the lollipop and around the top bend upon the all-weather section of the track.
They began their journey towards flight number seven, crossing a further section of the all-weather on the way to it. Cannon Fodder landed on all fours over this one, and Tagrita kicked off the orange protective strip. As they headed down to the next flight, Desert Queen again began to pull away from her rivals; she hit the top and loosened the protective strip. A piece of debris fell from the flight as the others jumped it.
The long-time leader remained two lengths ahead as they travelled around the far turn; Richard Johnson had begun to take closer order aboard Tara Mist by this stage of the race. Desert Queen led over the next, from Cannon Fodder, Tara Mist, Minnie Milan, Tagrita, Broxbourne and Titch Strider; the latter was now a number of lengths adrift of the others.
The leader bunny hopped the third last, but it did not stop her momentum. Cannon Fodder was being ridden along in second as they headed into the home turn, with Tara Mist at her girth still travelling well; the others were being ridden along too. The grey also came off the bridle as they entered the home straight.
Meanwhile Cannon Fodder had tenaciously tracked the leader, despite being under pressure; further back in the field Broxbourne was staying on. They cleared the penultimate flight, with Desert Queen jumping across in front of her tiny pursuer. But Marc Goldstein’s mount raised her game as she galloped to the last, her little legs carrying her faster than her rival. Cannon Fodder was marginally ahead as they cleared it and she headed up to the winning post to triumph by 1¾ lengths.
The good little ‘un had beaten the good big ‘un. Although the latter had probably ruined her chances by pulling too hard for most of the race. These two had pulled 17 lengths clear of the 3rd, Broxbourne. Tara Mist completed in 4th, Minnie Milan 5th, Tagrita 6th and Titch Strider 7th.
I returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure following the race, before relocating to the far side of the Parade Ring.
The favourite for the final race of the day was the Dan Skelton-trained, Harry Skelton-ridden, Two Taffs; price 7-2.
Having stood to the far side of the Parade Ring whilst the horses were led around therein, I then headed to the course-side rails ahead of the horses exiting onto the track.
The starting gate was situated at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstand to reach it.
Whilst I was waiting for the race to begin, there was a traffic announcement made via the loudspeaker system. Evidently there were severe delays on the north-bound carriageway of the M25; this was subsequently clarified as the anti-clockwise carriageway between Junctions 12 and Watford. Great; that was me done for then!
Then they were off. The runners were led away by the chestnut Ryeolliean, from Emperor Commodos. Behind these were the now very light grey Starluck (I didn’t recognise him initially), Zulu Oscar, Draytonian, Affaire D’Honneur, Canadian Diamond, I’dliketheoption, Monsieur Gibraltar, Two Taffs, After Eight Sivola, Exitas and Un Beau Roman.
The thirteen-strong field headed up the home straight, clearing the first two flights in their stride; Exitas was a little awkward at the second of these. Ryeolliean continued to lead as they passed the winning post and headed up around the top bend, crossing the first of the all-weather strips as they did so. The runners then began their journey down the side of the racecourse and over the second all-weather strip before reaching flight number three. Zulu Oscar took a narrow advantage as they jumped it.
The Harry Fry runner was a little less than fluent at the next flight and, as a result, Ryeolliean took up the running once more. Heading into the far bend, Emperor Commodos crept up beside the inside rails to dispute the lead. Zulu Oscar now followed these, from Draytonian, Starluck and Canadian Diamond; Un Beau Roman continued to bring up the rear.
The runners cleared the next flight without incident; although Monsieur Gibraltar appeared to jump the roadway shortly after the obstacle! Emperor Commodos, Ryeolliean and Zulu Oscar led the field over three out, although Ryeolliean was a little awkward at this one; just behind the leaders, Draytonian blundered badly, with Richard Johnson clinging on to the reins in order to regain his balance. As a result, his mount began to quickly drop back through the field.
Meanwhile, Zulu Oscar had assumed the lead as they headed into the final turn. Emperor Commodos and Ryeolliean were now being ridden along but, to their outside, Canadian Diamond was travelling okay. Exiting the turn, Harry Skelton was seeking to make further progress aboard the favourite Two Taffs but, initially, his path was blocked by a wall of horses. With the rails terminating, he pulled his mount to the inside of these runners.
Zulu Oscar continued to hold a clear advantage as they jumped the penultimate flight; his nearest pursuers were Canadian Diamond, Affaire D’Honneur and Monsieur Gibraltar. Two Taffs was in fifth place presently and appeared to be having difficulty in picking up the leaders. Noel Fehily was pushing his mount along as they approached the last, with just the Harry Whittington-trained runner in close pursuit, the others having tired.
The leader jumped the flight well; his rival less so. Thus Zulu Oscar kept on well on the run-in to win by one length from Affair D’Honneur. Two Taffs had finally made up enough ground to claim 3rd place, a further 7 lengths back, with Canadian Diamond 3½ lengths away in 4th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the winner and placed horses arrive back. I always think it’s rude to head straight to the exit, if you’ve decided to stay for the final race of the day!
Before leaving, I thought it wise to spend a visit to the little girls’ room, presuming that my journey home via the M25 would take longer than expected if the promised congestion materialised. There was just a short queue in the ladies’ loos today, unlike yesterday.
Having walked back through the ground floor of the grandstand, I exited via one of the doors overlooking the Parade Ring and headed out through the South Entrance. The charity collection today was for retired racing greyhounds. I walked out to Staines Road East and turned left. I took a left turn a little further along, although this wasn’t the pedestrian route via which I’d arrived earlier; this one took me into the Festival Enclosure itself.
I walked down the slope towards the course-side rails, before turning right and walking along the edge of the tarmaced area and out into the car park. Vehicles were already queuing to leave, and I had to weave my way between them in order to reach my car. From the positions of the remaining parked cars, it appeared that Kempton Park had underestimated the number of attendees today; vehicles were parked in every available space, including in an area which is normally part of the exit driveway.
I also had to move a couple of plastic cones which had been placed in front of my car, thus preventing me from driving out onto the adjacent exit road. I must have arrived back at my car at around 16:10 and I decided to wait a few minutes in the hope that the queue to leave would ease.
Just before 16:30, the stewards decided to send the remainder of the queuing vehicles along to the end of the driveway, rather than divert them out via the gate near me. I thus decided it was time for me to leave, as I no longer needed to push my way out into the queue, I could just join the end of it! Unfortunately I soon discovered that all vehicles exiting via this gate were prevented from turning right upon the main road outside. This meant I was heading away from the M3, towards Hampton Court.
It would not have been any different had I been instructed to head along the main driveway to the furthest gate, as vehicles using that exit point were being directed to turn left also; stewards were holding up the line of traffic ahead of me to enable them to join the road, so this delayed me further. It would have been difficult for me to do a U-turn at this point of my journey due to there being a long tailback of traffic heading in the opposite direction, towards the M3.
I initially had it in my mind to do a 180-degree turn at the first roundabout I reached but, in the event, there wasn’t one until outside Hampton Court Palace. By that time, however, I’d formulated a new plan, which was to go via Esher, which meant driving past Sandown Park racecourse. If I’d known in advance about the diversion of race-day traffic, and if I’d taken with me a map, which on this occasion I hadn’t, I might have chosen to turn left once in Hampton and make my way back to the A316; this A road transforms into the M3 at the junction near Kempton Park. Although it would not have been easy to find my way in the dark.
Many moons ago, I stayed in Hampton whilst attending a training course in Teddington; prior to that I’d stayed at a residence situated in one of the roads to the north of Bushey Park, also whilst attending a training course at the same location. I didn’t realise these locations were so near to Kempton Park.
But, with my new plan formulated, and my new night vision glasses put in place whilst I waited in the slow moving queue tailing back from the roundabout, I turned right; Hampton Court must have been open today, as tourists were leaving the historic attraction. The road, the A309, crosses the Thames and heads down to the Scilly Isles roundabouts; I negotiated one roundabout en route. The Scilly Isles double roundabouts on the Portsmouth Road were originally nicknamed ‘silly islands’ by locals and this then evolved to become its politer present name! But it’s not as unusual as the Magic Roundabout in Hemel Hempstead! Fortunately I’d driven from Sandown Park to Kempton Park on one previous occasion, in January 2011, so recalled my route although vaguely.
I turned right at the ‘silly islands’ and headed up towards Sandown Park, passing through a green filter traffic light en route. The trees lining the main car park driveway were adorned with white Christmas lights; very pretty. I drove along Esher’s main shopping street, taking a left to head down the A244, through the wooded Arbrook Common before reaching the roundabout beneath the A3. As I wished to join the M25, I headed around the large island in order to drive up the slip-road and join the inside carriageway of three.
There was one junction prior to the M25; being an A-road, one has to exit the A3 via a slip-road and negotiate traffic lights upon a roundabout before heading down a slip-road onto the London Orbital motorway. Traffic was moving on the motorway, although at around 40mph. Fortunately there was sufficient space between vehicles to enable me to move into lane 3; I stayed in that lane until after Junction 16. The inside lane or lanes join and leave the motorway at various points, but lanes 3 to 5 remain a constant for through traffic.
My choice of route had resulted in my joining the motorway at Junction 10, as opposed to 12, with my destination being Junction 22. As warned by the announcement made at Kempton Park, traffic was moving slowly on the clockwise carriageway – between zero and 50mph – from Junction 10 until Junction 16, the M40. Fortunately the promised congestion between the latter and Watford did not materialise; apart from a warning near Junction 20 about an ‘incident’ which no longer existed but which briefly caused traffic to slow.
Having left the motorway at London Colney. I travelled up the A1081, where articulated lorries were parked upon an exit road to a nearby supermarkets depot, before heading around the ring-road to reach home; it was 18:20 when I arrived. My homebound journey had taken one hour and 50 minutes!
Although my drive didn’t seem particularly stressful at the time, my neck was stiff and my shoulders were beginning to ache quite badly by the time I’d reached home. So much so that, having eaten an evening meal, I retired to bed at 20:30 in the hope of easing the discomfort.