DIARY – KEMPTON PARK
– SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2010
It was raining when I woke up on Racing Post Chase day, but that shower soon blew over and the sun appeared. Having felt unwell the previous day, which I believe was due to an allergy I seem to have developed related to a supposedly harmless henna hair dye, I was fine today, so decided I would go racing to Kempton Park.
However, having watched Channel 4’s Morning Line, for a short time I found myself in two minds when it was announced that the anti-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, the Alan King trained Mille Chief, would be a non-runner due to lameness in this afternoon’s Adonis Hurdle. But having mulled it over, and as I didn’t have any other plans and, besides, Choc still had 3 rides scheduled, my final decision was that I might as well go!
I set off from home at 10:00, as the gates were due to open at 11:00. Once again I popped into Marks and Spencers en route, as I needed a new lightweight umbrella. But, unfortunately, I had to walk through the shoe section to find the umbrellas and you don’t need to guess what happened ... I now have a new pair of mauve shoes (see photo above) to wear at the races this Spring!
I have been ‘relatively’ good about buying shoes/boots this winter – I’ve purchased two pairs of cowboy style boots (neither pair costing more than £35); 1 pair of black ‘granny’ shoes purchased for £15 in a sale (recommended for racing as the heels don’t sink too far into the grass); a pair of pink platform slingbacks (£25); plus this mauve pair (the most expensive at £39.50). Although, I suppose, my red Hunter wellies must be counted too, costing around £50! My excuse is that I can’t usually wait for bargains in the end of season sales, as I take size 8! Surprisingly shoe manufacturers still don’t seem to make enough pairs in my size ... although it’s a lot easier to find them now than when I was a teenager, but they still sell out quickly.
A conumdrum – why do shops put the smallest size shoes on the top shelf and the biggest size shoes on the lowest shelf? Just how many ‘vertically challenged’ people have huge feet? It is annoying, as sometimes everything goes ‘black’ when I bend down to pick them off the shelf, which I presume is low blood pressure! Although, as you can tell, it’s not a deterent!
Having completed my shopping, I joined the M25 motorway at the nearby junction. There were no problems through the road-works this week, but it was sunshine and showers until I reached Junction 15 (M4), when the skies noticeably darkened and the heavy rain began. There were blue skies to the west (my right) so there was the prospect that it would improve. It continued to rain heavily as I drove up the M3 towards Sunbury and, having parked in the free car park area in front of the ‘Festival’ stand, I remained in my car as it was still tipping it down. I was parked in the 7th row, despite having arrived only 5 minutes after the advertised gate opening time.
When the rain finally stopped, I set off to purchase my ticket at the grandstand entrance, plus a race-card for £2.50 from the kiosk. The guy in the kiosk kindly gave me a ‘dry’ copy, as those on the counter were a little soggy! I had decided to wear fewer layers today, as it was a relatively ‘mild’ 8ºC – thermal vest, long sleeved t-shirt, red cardigan, purple fleece, turquoise fleece gilet, and black faux sheepskin jacket. I could never survive without my trusty jacket or coat during the winter racing months, both being faux sheepskin. I bought them ‘donkey’s years’ ago, and they have never had so much wear! I also wore my brimmed Australian ‘Outback’ hat (see photo above) and my purple Frenzy ‘Octopus’ scarf (see photo above). Frenzy being the type of Sirdar wool I knitted it in, and Octopus is the style, as it has numerous fronds.
As I needed to spend a penny, I popped to the loo situated at the far side of the grandstand Betting Hall, returning to find an empty seat inside the hall, overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure. I sat for a while, reading through the race-card. At one point I glanced up to see Choc’s wife, Meally, exiting via one of the doors. She was accompanied by a friend, and she was wearing her yellow coat, a mini-skirt and stilettos today. They had a quick look at the items on the winter clothing stall situated just outside, before moving on.
The first race of the day was scheduled for 13:00 so, when the first horse entered the Parade Ring, I set off to find a suitable place to view the proceedings. This race was a specially arranged Champion Hurdle Trial, with the reigning champion Punjabi being one of the 6 competitors, the other 5 were probably classed as ‘also-rans’, possibly the best known of these being the consistent mare Treaty Flyer trained by Alison Thorpe.
Once the horses had set off down the walkway, I walked around the south side of the grandstand, climbed the steps, and went down to the course-side rails. The area nearest the rails is grass covered and it was very soggy but I ventured out onto it regardless. I was in time to see the horses canter by on their way to the 2 mile start, which was at the beginning of the home straight. Plastic cones had been placed along the standside of the course, in order to guide the runners away from the hurdles ‘racing line’, which was centre course today. There was a lot of kick-back but, luckily, none of the mud hit me then or at any time during the afternoon! I recall my friend, Lesley, being hit by kick-back from the Cheltenham all weather track during one of our visits to the home of National Hunt racing.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Border Castle, who disputed it with Spider Boy, followed Treaty Flyer, Punjabi, Mon Michel and Supernoverre. As they headed away from the stands, Spider Boy held the advantage.
Having jumped the third flight well, Treaty Flyer fell at the next. Fortunately Punjabi, who was alongside her, avoided any interference, but Mon Michel did get hampered but survived. Treaty Flyer was fine although her saddle was askew, and she galloped after the field and cleared one of the steeplechase fences down the back straight too!
Border Castle had regained the lead by the 4th flight, which he held until they came off the final turn, when Punjabi took over, Supernoverre challenging Border Castle for second. Punjabi went on to win easily by 12 lengths, still on the bridle.
The rider-less Treaty Flyer cantered up the stand-side rails, following the field home, appearing none the worse for her adventure.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race, in which Choc would be riding the Ian Williams trained Rathcor. Due to the wet underfoot conditions in the Parade Ring, the majority of owners and trainers would remain in the Winners’ Enclosure section prior to each race. This being the case, and as I had positioned myself at the far end of the Ring, I was unable to get a clear view of Choc as he was legged-up, hence the lack of photos before this race.
Once the horses had started to leave the Parade Ring, again I ventured down to the course-side rails. The start for this race was at the far corner of the track, the horses cantering directly to it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Cabinet Minister, followed by Stripe Me Blue, Helpston and Wolf Moon. Choc aboard Rathcor was taking an inside line, mid-field. Numide and Dante Hall brought up the rear.
As the field headed up the straight with just over one circuit to go, Cabinet Minister had a clear lead, followed by Stripe Me Blue, Helpston, Wolf Moon and Clova Island. Turning away from the stands, near the rear of the field Ruby Walsh was already pushing the Clive Smith owned favourite River D’Or along, although he had made some ground on the leaders by the far corner.
Along the far straight, Cabinet Minister still held the advantage over Stripe Me Blue, Helpston, Clova Island, Sangfroid, and Stow. Wolf Moon, having dropped back, was soon struggling, Warren Marston pulling him up soon after 4 out. Rathcor was at the back of the main group of runners, but soon lost touch.
Stripe Me Blue led into the final straight, Cabinet Minister having lost his position was pulled up before 2 out, as was Rathcor. Clova Island had taken over the lead before the 2nd last and went on to win by 4½ lengths. Helpston followed him home, Sangfroid retaking 3rd as Stow fumbled the last.
As Choc had been unplaced, there was no opportunity to take photos until he arrived in preparation for the next race, in which he was due to ride the Alan King trained Salden Licht. Irish trainer, Gordon Elliott, had brought Grey Soldier to Kempton Park to run in this race, carrying the well-known burgundy and white colours of the Gigginstown House Stud.
Unusually, for an Alan King trained horse, Choc was legged up on the stands side of the Kempton Parade Ring, which enabled me to take a number of nice photos. Once he was heading down the walkway to the course, I set off and arrived in time to see him canter by on his way to the 2 mile start, which was at the beginning of the home straight.
Then they were off. Frascati Park led them away, followed by Dr Livingstone, Vino Griego, Cool Touch, Ghimaar, Salden Licht, Grey Soldier, with Escort’men and Ashammar bringing up the rear. By the time the horses galloped around the top turn, the leading 3 runners held an advantage over the remainder of the field. Frascati Park, Vino Griego and Ghimmar were not fluent at the 4th flight.
Salden Licht had made progress by the far turn. Frascati Park still led, Vino Griego was in second, with Salden Licht and Dr Livingstone disputing third.
Around the final bend Frascati Park was receiving encouragement to retain the lead from Vino Griego, with Salden Licht being pushed along in third. However, Ruby’s mount, Escort’men was going well and closing fast. Vino Griego took the lead approaching 2 out, but as Ruby came alongside at the last, the former fell, leaving Escort’men to win impressively by 14 lengths at the line. Despite being slightly hampered by the falling horse at the last, Frascati Park stayed on to take 2nd, with Salden Licht 1½ lengths behind him in 3rd.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back, speak with connections and return to the Weighing Room.
I was now time for the Novices’ Chase. This race is named after the famous and talented steeplechaser of the early 1970s, Pendil, who was trained by Fred Winter.
The start of this race was in the far corner of the track.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Mount Oscar, Othermix, and The Nightingale. Viking Rebel made an error at the first obstacle, Red Admiral at the 3rd, the open-ditch. The Nightingale flew the 4th fence, jumping so well he was now in the lead. However, Ruby steadied him up the home straight first time, Mount Oscar taking over again.
Around the top bend, Mount Oscar, Othermix and The Nightingale held the advantage and jumped the next in unison. Red Admiral made an error at the next, the second open ditch (9th). The Nightingale had settled into third position now, Mount Oscar wasn’t fluent at the 10th and was headed by the grey Othermix.
The Nightingale was travelling so well that he jumped into the lead 4 out and was clear before 2 out, galloping on to win impressively by 18 lengths. Othermix finished 2nd, Mount Oscar 3rd, Viking Rebel 4th. Red Admiral was well behind when he was pulled up before 2 out.
Having returned to the Parade Ring, I watched the horses arrive in preparation for the feature race of the day, the Racing Post Chase. Ruby Walsh had wasted down to 10 stone to do the weight aboard the Paul Nicholls trained Fistral Beach.
There was an on-course parade before the race, the horses breaking into a canter by the time they reached the area where I was standing. Having examined what would be the final fence, the horses then turned and cantered to the start, which was at the beginning of the short straight running away from the stands.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Nacarat and Madison Du Berlais, the latter wearing first time blinkers. Razor Royale was also prominent. Ruby Walsh’s mount, Fistral Beach, paddled through the 2nd fence, an open ditch, the jockey ending up on the turf. The favourite was out of the race.
Around the far bend, Madison Du Berlais, Nacarat and Atouchbetweenacara were disputing the lead, with Bible Lord and Something Wells at the rear of the field. Atouchbetweenacara had taken a clear lead by the time they had turned into the straight for the first time, and stayed in front until headed at the 10th by Nacarat, the former soon dropping back having made an error at the 11th. Razor Royale made headway, despite an error at the 12th.
Still leading, Nacarat got too close to 4 out, which allowed Razor Royale to be almost upsides as they turned in. Although not fluent 2 out, Razor Royale took the lead, but almost blundered away his advantage at the final fence when he ploughed through it. This enabled AP McCoy to re-galvanise Nacarat for one final challenge but Razor Royale, reins flapping, held on by a neck at the line.
I returned to the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure to see Razor Royale and his jockey, Paddy Brennan, return. As trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies was at Chepstow today, his Assistant Trainer, Carl Llewellyn, went to the podium to accept the trainer’s prize.
The next race had been selected as the final tune-up race for Mille Chief before his Triumph Hurdle engagement at Cheltenham. However, following yesterday’s final exercise session at Barbury Castle, the horse was found to be lame in his near fore. So no ride for Choc in this race. That left 5 runners, 3 of them grey in colour. The Paul Nicholls trained Toubab was the prettiest horse in the Parade Ring, although a tall leggy animal, his colouring was attractive, as he had a blaze and four white socks/stockings despite his grey coat! I confess I’m not normally a lover of greys, although my favourite all time racehorse has to be Desert Orchid. If I could choose a colour, it would probably be bright bay, with a blaze and four stockings/socks. I like duns and palominos too – but obviously they are not ‘thoroughbred’ colours!
Then they were off. The field was led away by the hard pulling Ultimate, following by Toubab. There was then a gap to Taste The Wine, Soldatino and Windpfeil. The horses in rear had closed up the gap by the time the field headed away from the stands. Taste the Wine blundered at the third flight.
Soldatino wasn’t fluent at the fourth last, and Ultimate landed on all fours over the third last. As they turned in for the final time, Taste The Wine and Windpfeil were struggling. Ultimate, although still in the lead, was being pushed along, and made a mistake at the second last. Toubab was still on terms, but Barry Geraghty drove Soldatino between his two rivals, quickening well and winning by 7 lengths. Toubab got the better of Ultimate and took 2nd place by a length. Windpfeil was a distant 4th, Taste The Wine finishing a couple of lengths behind him in last place.
I returned to the Parade Ring to see the horses prior to the next race. The owner of Soixante looked very smart, as she was dressed in the same colours as her silks, as she wore a red coat and had a green scarf wrapped around her neck.
Whilst I was waiting for Race 7 to start, it began to rain, squally at first, then heavily once the horses were running. There was even a pale rainbow to be seen. However, I remained at the course-side rails, whilst less resilient punters retired to the stands!
Then they were off. The field was led away by the mare, Noun De La Thinte together with Babe Heffron, followed by Soixante, and The Hollow Bottom. The latter horse, which is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, is named after the trainer’s favourite hostelry in Guiting Power, and owned by The Hollow Partnership which presumably is connected with the pub. Now the sole leader, Babe Heffron was jumping noticeably to his left as he travelled up the home straight with one circuit to go.
Soixante made an error at the 8th, William Bonney with Peter Toole aboard crashing out at the 9th, the open-ditch. The horse had seemed in two minds, and stepped at the fence, turning a somersault. Luckily the horse and jockey appeared fine.
Babe Heffron still led Noun De La Thinte, The Hollow Bottom, Soixante, Wee Robbie, Sharp Rigging and Oracle Des Mottes as they headed down the back straight. Noun De La Thinte blundered at the 12th, soon weakening, and was finally pulled up before the last.
Turning in, it was Babe Heffron and Soixante with the advantage, followed by Sharp Rigging, Wee Robbie and Oracles Des Mottes. Soixante took up the running approaching 3 out, at which Wee Robbie was hampered as Sharp Rigging jumped across him. Despite this small set-back, Wee Robbie continued to make progress on the leader all the way up the straight, and was still closing on the run-in, but Soixante held on to win by a neck following an all-out drive from AP.
Having returned to the Parade Ring area, I was one of a number of spectators who sought shelter near the grandstand as the rain continued to fall. But luckily it had stopped raining before the horses for the next race entered the Parade Ring.
It was now time for Choc’s third and final ride of the day, aboard Awesome Freddie in the NH Flat race. Alan King had two runners in this race, the other being Soleil D’Avril (in other words April Sun) ridden by Gerard Tumelty.
Once Choc had been legged up into the saddle and had left the Parade Ring, I set off for the course-side rails and was in time to see Awesome Freddie canter by, Choc chatting with Gerard who was close behind him.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Empty Scabbard, Ballagio, Mic’s Delight, and the Queen’s runner, Morcambe, with Barry Geraghty aboard. Choc held up Awesome Freddie on the inside in around 6th or 7th position.
The field was closely packed around the top turn, Awesome Freddie slightly losing his place as they headed away from the stands. Baron Imp was pulled up over 5 furlongs out having suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury.
Morcambe, Ballagio, Setter’s Princess, Mic’s Delight and Shammick Boy were all prominent as they turned into the home straight. Choc was just behind them aboard Awesome Freddie. Setter’s Princess was the first to go for home, chased by Mic’s Delight, Shammick Boy and De Forgotten Man. However, the former was overwhelmed by firstly Mic’s Delight and then Shammick Boy as they ran to the line. Golden Chieftain made late headway to take 4th ahead of De Forgotten Man, with Awesome Freddie in 6th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return, trainer Victor Dartnell having trained the winner and the runner-up. It was starting to spit with rain again by this time, so I decided to return to my car.
With no winners for Choc; he rode a 3rd, and an unplaced and a pulled up ... I came away feeling a little disappointed with my day, and thinking perhaps that I should have stayed at home ... However, that was before I had a ‘surreal’ moment on the M25 as I was driving home!
Having returned to my car, I sat in the car park in the hope that the worst of the traffic had already cleared, which I discovered it hadn’t, as it still took around 10 minutes of queuing to reach the nearby M3 motorway. So, as a result, I found myself in the second lane on the clockwise carriageway of the M25 approaching the junction with the M40 at around 17:45. I always leave plenty of ‘braking space’ between me and the car in front, so it didn’t surprise me when a black BMW pulled over into that space from one of the outside lanes, intending to cross to the inside lane in order to take the M40 westbound carriageway. However, I got the surprise of my life when I read the number-plate (which I mustn’t disclose) and realised that it was Choc’s car! As we were approaching the M25 road-works, a 50 mph limit was in operation at that point so, the BMW having now pulled over to the inside lane, it travelled along just over to my left until it disappeared down the M40 slip-road! Oh my god ... what are the odds of that happening? I could understand it if Choc’s vehicle overtook me on the M3 or the M25 without me noticing, because I’d be sedately driving along in one of the inside lanes paying attention to what I was doing, but to have a ‘Close Encounter of the Chocolate Kind’ is something else! I have to confess, it made my day. I don’t know whether it was Choc or Meally driving, although I do recall her mentioning she is a bad passenger due to travel sickness.
I decided to pay a visit to the petrol station, located on the same Retail Park as the aforementioned Marks and Spencers, to top up the car before I returned home. My first task was to wash my grey pull-on ‘suede effect’ boots and place them on the floor of the airing cupboard (they dried well and looked as good as new the next morning). Then it was another evening spent updating my blog, and uploading photographs, whilst watching Most Haunted in the background, before crawling into bed at 23:15!