DIARY – KEMPTON PARK
– KING GEORGE VI CHASE DAY
WEDNESDAY 26 DECEMBER 2012
Champion Court ridden by Alain Cawley
parade ahead of the King George VI Chase
Boxing Day at Kempton Park is one of the fixtures I attend regardless of whether Choc is on the injured list or riding elsewhere that day. This year, much to my delight, he was due to ride at the meeting, with 4 engagements on the day.
I’d been to Ascot on the previous Saturday and, having been permitted to leave work at 13:00 on Christmas Eve, my Ascot photographs and diary had been completed and uploaded by early evening. With no website backlog worries, I was able to enjoy Christmas Day spent with my mum and younger brother and his family at Silsoe in Bedfordshire before arriving back home at 21:30.
During Christmas Day afternoon we played ‘The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game’; a couple of the features are forcing your rivals out of the race by playing one of the ‘fall’ cards and objecting to the winner once they’ve passed the winning post. In addition to winning prize money, you can place bets on your own or any of your rivals’ horses. The betting odds depend on the chosen grade of the horse and the race lane drawn. The rules seem complicated, but it was the first time anyone in our group had been played the game so it will get easier with familiarity. I didn’t win, but nor did I lose all my money.
We also played ‘The Cube’ on their Nintendo Wii. I can’t recall winning any of the games on that either, but my major handicap is unfamiliarity at handling the handset! I always finish last in the Mario driving events, invariably falling over the cliff each time I encounter them. However, the one event I do usually win is the horse race, because I remain at the rear of the field until the final furlong when I suddenly speed up to overtake everyone just before the winning line!
The extremely wet weather conditions had continued over the Christmas period, although one shouldn’t complain when living in the southeast, as the only flooding I’ve encountered has been limited to large puddles on road surfaces. The forecast for Boxing Day was a brighter start, with rain later.
I set out my clothes before turning in on Christmas Day night – three thermal vests, cerise pink frill-edged cardigan, new purple fleece (as opposed to my bright purple old one), burgundy Per Una cardigan, black gillet, Dottie Perkins grey flip-hem skirt, purple tights, black waterproof boots, purple anorak, wrist warmers, M & S material scarf and, having stepped outside to load up my car prior to setting off in the morning, grey leggings too … it was just too cold for solely thick winter tights! I wore my mauve ‘Keep Calm and Ride On’ necklace with matching earrings.
I set my alarm for 06:00; showered, washed and dried my hair, before eating a breakfast of toast and croissants. Having applied my make-up, I departed for Kempton at 08:55.
My journey took me to join the M25 at Junction 22; I then headed anticlockwise to Junction 12. It had been dry when I left home, although it had rained overnight … just for a change NOT … and I encountered a brief shower just before I left the aforementioned motorway and headed towards London via the M3.
On Boxing Day, traffic bound for the main car parking areas of Kempton Park are instructed to continue beyond Junction 1, the road becoming the A316 Country Way after this point. The yellow temporary signposts then instruct drivers to leave at the next junction, circumnavigate the roundabout beneath the carriageway before taking the slip-road to rejoin it, re-tracing one’s route and heading back towards the M25 once more. A few hundred metres along this section of the road, you take a slip-road to the left, turning left again at the end of it. Having driven over a narrow railway bridge, the trains serving the Kempton Park station, it’s a further left turn to enter main car park.
Having shown my parking pass to the security guard, I was directed along the roped-off roadway. In the far corner, and having shown my parking pass to another set of security guards, I was permitted to enter the cordoned off section, driving back across the tarmac to park mid-way along the second row of cars. There was a large puddle stretching across the two rows to the rear of where I’d parked. I’m not sure whether those flooded spaces would be used ... although the car park was fully sold out; if so, punters would probably need Wellington boots to keep their feet dry.
Less than five minutes after I’d arrived, Alan King’s large blue horsebox entered through the gate and headed for the stable area – I hoped it was a good omen. Then a small horsebox, with the name ‘Neptune Collonges – Grand National winner’ painted on it, appeared. As Neptune wasn’t due to appear today, perhaps it was the box bringing Kauto Star to parade prior to the King George. Trainer John Quinn’s horsebox arrived after that; bringing Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame to the racecourse.
Having changed out of my driving shoes and put on my black waterproof M & S Thinsulate boots (a very useful recent purchase), I set off to walk to the Paddock enclosure turnstiles. The gates were due to open at 10:00 but the security guard had difficulty in finding the keys for the padlocks! Having pre-purchased a ticket, I was able to enter via the nearby gate, handing over a voucher to obtain a race-card and collecting a William Hill 2013 diary freebie too.
I decided it was a good move to visit the ladies at this point, before queues formed later in the day! I then exited via the side door of the grandstand, climbed the steps and headed down to the course-side rails; I’d remain there until after the fourth race of the day.
But I was able to watch the world go by ... at least on the racecourse that is! Barry Geraghty was the first jockey I saw, he had jogged around the steeplechase course before setting out for a second circuit on the hurdles course. That’s 3 miles ... but he didn’t see out the trip, as he was walking by the time he passed by on his way back to the Weighing Room! Before Barry had completed his second circuit, Dominic Elsworth had jogged by; he’s going grey, but not as quickly as Ruby.
I think Colin Tizzard walked the chase course, at least I think it was him, from his clothing and demeanour! Jason Maguire, still wearing a suit and shoes, walked down the home straight, digging his heel into turf to test the surface. Barney Clifford, Clerk of the Course, re-walked the course, checking the going with the meter. He carried a small piece of birch which he must have found when walking around. The going was officially heavy.
Others spotted walking the course included Denis O’Regan, Sam Waley-Cohen and his father Robert, Tom Scudamore, John Quinn with, presumably, his two sons; finally Felix de Giles. And I saw a mouse run from the racecourse before heading into the nearby hedge.
There was a chill wind blowing today, more so than at Ascot the previous Saturday. I was cold but not freezing; and definitely not ‘roasty toasty’ today.
Throughout the morning, songs from Michael Buble’s Christmas album were being played over the sound-system. I cannot get away from him ... he had been played at Ascot on Saturday, my brother had played his CD during Christmas lunch and now Kempton Park was doing so too!
The regular raceday presenter, Anthony Kemp, was joined by Tom Scudamore to give their tips of the day. A little later he also interviewed AP McCoy.
Spectators continued to arrive as the time of the first race approached, many having parked centre course today. The first race was due off at 12:50. The plastic pontoons at the crossing point removed before the racing began.
Choc was riding in the first event, his mount Hung Parliament. As mentioned earlier, I had decided to remain beside the course-side rails, so didn’t see Choc whilst he was in the Parade Ring ahead of this race.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it. Choc’s mount, Hung Parliament, who was accompanied by the blinkered Asker on the way to the starting gate, was making his debut over hurdles and was a little bit of a head shaker. The runners circled on the steeplechase track before exiting through a gap in the rails to begin.
Then they were off. It was not a surprise when the first time hooded Professeur Emery led them away, sidestepping a couple of paces before he did so; close behind him was the pale chestnut Rysbrack and Avison. The 9/2 chance, New Year’s Eve made an error at the first flight. Choc’s mount, on the inside of the field nearer last than first, was keen. Cosimo de Medici, in rear, cleared the second flight slowly.
Around the top bend the order was Professeur Emery, from Rysbrack, Avison, Zebrano, Kings Lad, River Maigue, Asker, Hung Parliament, New Year’s Day and Cosimo de Medici. The leader extended his advantage as the field galloped down the side of the track and crossed flights three and four.
The runners were travelling at a good pace around the far bend and were reasonably strung out as a result, although none struggling as yet. Along the back straight, the Nicky Henderson trained River Maigue was going particularly well, now disputing second position with Rysbrack. Avison, having been prominent early, had dropped back through the field and began to tail off. Hung Parliament, having made an error at the 5th flight, and Cosimo de Medici were also losing touch. Zebrano hit the next flight and lost touch even more quickly.
Professeur Emery still led but was no longer clear of the field as they progressed around the final bend; River Maigue going well upsides Rysbrack, New Year’s Eve tracking them in 4th, Kings Lad ridden along in 5th, Asker receiving whip encouragement in 6th.
New Year’s Eve snuck up the inside approaching two out. River Maigue headed straight up the middle, Rysbrack switched behind him to travel up the stand-side rails. Barry Geraghty’s mount held a half length advantage over two out; New Year’s Eve wandering around as he came under pressure and lost ground on the leader heading for the last.
River Maigue cleared the final flight and went on the win comfortably by 7 lengths. Denis O’Regan’s mount finished 2nd, with Kings Lad staying on to take 3rd ahead of Rysbrack. Long time leader Professeur Emery and Asker also completed. Zebrano was pulled up before the last; Hung Parliament, Cosimo de Medici and Avison before two out.
The starting gate for the next race was in the far corner of the track. The horses cantered down past the stands to take a look at the final obstacle before heading back past the winning post and along the side straight to the start.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Coole River; the grey Elenika fly catching as Ruby held him up at the back of the field. Heading along the back straight the order was Coole River, Valmari, Rajdhani Express, Aikideau, Grove Pride, Milarrow, Elenika and Monarch’s Way. Milarrow wasn’t fluent at the first fence, Elenika made a mistake at the second. Grove Pride, who’d also hit the second fence, blundered at the 4th too.
With the benefit of the rail and less distance to travel, the mare Valmari assumed the lead as the runners headed around the bend and entered the home straight on the first occasion; Coole River was in second position, followed by Rajdhani Express, who was being restrained by Sam Waley-Cohen, Aikideau, Milarrow, Grove Pride, with Elenika and Monarch’s Way bringing up the rear.
The runners were strung out heading up the home straight on the first occasion; a gap had opened up between the front five and Elenika, Monarch’s Way and the already struggling Grove’s Pride. Valmari hit the first fence down the side of the course, Coole River slightly impeded as a result. The leader took off early at the open-ditch catching her jockey, Felix De Giles, by surprise; she dragged a hind-leg through the birch as a result and her rider went to the buckle end of the reins before re-gathering his ‘knitting’.
Valmari continued to lead as the runners headed around the far turn, from Coole River, Aikideau and Rajdhani Express, after which there was a gap to Milarrow, Elenika and Monarch’s Way; then 15 lengths back was Grove Pride. Coole River cleared the next with an excellent leap, taking the lead once more. Aikideau now narrowly in second, Valmari third, with Rajdhani Express swinging along behind them.
Valmari stepped through the open-ditch and fell. Coole River held a very narrow advantage as the leading group headed into the final bend. Radjhani Express was going so well in fact, that Sam Waley-Cohen took a pull to prevent his mount from going on too early. However, he still held a one length lead over 3 out. Then his jockey sent him on, quickly extending the margin.
Aikideau held a very narrow advantage over Coole River jumping two out but he crumpled on landing; slightly hampering Coole River as a result. Having jumped the last a distance clear of his rivals, Rajdhani Express was eased at the line, winning by 34 lengths. Milarrow stayed on to take 2nd, Coole River the only other finisher.
Aikideau struggled to rise, unlike his jockey Noel Fehily who was quickly to his feet. The green screens were erected around the stricken horse; trainer Richard Rowe heading down the racecourse to reach his charge. However, just before he reached the animal, it regained its feet; being led back to much applause from the anxious spectators. Shortly afterwards, Valmari was led back too; presumably she’d taken a while to be caught after her mishap.
Choc’s mount in the next race was Lovcen, making his debut today over the larger obstacles. He was also sporting the new silks of owners ‘The Barbury Apes’. The Geoff Lester’s blog on Alan King’s website mentioned that they would be garish ... maroon body with pink spots, pink sleeves with orange spots, and orange cap with pink spots. The maroon representing syndicate member Max McNeill, it being his company’s corporate colour, that of Ultima Business Solutions.
The horses cantered down past the stands to take a look at the final fence before heading back past the winning post to reach the starting gate, which was at the beginning of the side straight. Valmari’s mishap in the previous race had resulted in the open-ditch in the back straight being damaged. It was therefore omitted for the remaining two steeplechases of the day.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by the cheek-pieced Poungach upsides Third Intention, then the dark grey Molotof. Dynaste, held up at the rear of the field, was slightly hampered as Hadrian’s Approach blundered at the first fence. Heading around the far turn, Third Intention and Poungach disputed the lead, from Molotof, Lovcen on the inside, Hadrian’s Approach, Theatre Guide and Dynaste.
Lovcen was a little slow at the first fence in the back straight. Having cleared the next fence, the runners had to bypass the open-ditch. Dynaste going easily within himself had pulled his way into mid-field as they headed towards the end of the back straight; Tom Scudamore easing him back to sixth place around the bend. Lovcen, although not making any errors, had continued to fence more slowly than his adversaries.
Having cleared the first in the home straight, Choc changed hands on his reins and again pushed his mount along after the next. The seven runners were still closely grouped around the top bend but Lovcen was travelling the least well of them and received a few minor slaps down his neck.
Heading over the first in the side straight, a length covered the first four runners, Poungach, Molotof, Dynaste, and Third Intention, then Hadrian’s Approach; Lovcen and Theatre Guide bringing up the rear. Lovcen again the slowest at the next, the open-ditch.
Rounding the far turn, and all the horses still closely grouped, Poungach and Third Intention continued to lead, from Molotof; Hadrian’s Approach and Dynaste close on their heels. Lovcen, having been rousted into the mix, lost ground again at the first in the back straight; just Theatre Guide now behind him.
The runners jumped the next before heading around the open-ditch, Dynaste travelling easily on the inside, upsides Poungach, Third Intention and Molotof. Lovcen, in 6th position, received a few reminders now as he began to lose ground. Dynaste, with a narrow advantage, flew the next and gained two lengths in the air; gasps emanating from the assembled crowd. Theatre Guide trailed the field around the final bend and was soon eased. Lovcen had also lost touch, and Poungach had now been dropped too.
Dynaste held a clear advantage over three out and extended it over two out, Tom Scudamore glancing behind to check on the opposition. Hadrian’s Approach, Third Intention and Molotof were fighting out the minor places. Dynaste flew the last and went on to win by 9 lengths, easing down. Hadrian’s Approach got the upper hand over his two rivals to take 2nd; Third Intention finished 3rd, Molotof 4th, Poungach 5th and Lovcen came home in his own time to claim 6th and a prize of £448.00. Theatre Guide had been pulled up before 3 out.
Having been threatening for quite a while, it was at this point that the heavens opened. I’d decided upon a standard size umbrella today as there was unlikely to be enough room to use a large one without fellow spectators suffering serious injury! Despite my umbrella I did get quite wet ... poor Choc and the other jockeys must have got soaked ... but I suppose they are accustomed to that. And, because of the heavy going, they were also plastered with mud!
The starting gate for the next race was situated at the far end of the home straight with that and one complete circuit to travel; the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it.
The rain was pelting down as the runners headed through the gap in the rails which separated the steeplechase and hurdles courses; Punjabi, returning after a 978 day absence, well ahead of the others as they walked in. Barry Geraghty’s mount jinked upon arrival at the tape, his jockey turning him around to approach once more, the others standing grouped beside the inside rail. The tape pinged back, Punjabi being sent into the lead as the remaining jockeys restrained their horses for a split second before going in pursuit.
The order heading up the straight, over first two flights and past the ‘lollipop’ on the first occasion was Punjabi, from Cinders And Ashes, Countrywide Flame, Darlan, Raya Star, Dodging Bullets and Get Me Out Of Here. There was no great pace; Barry Geraghty restraining his mount as the runners travelled around the top turn.
There was still no change in the order as the field headed down the side of the racecourse, all the runners jumping well. They headed around the far turn and then set off along the back straight, the horses remaining closely grouped as no pace had yet been injected.
As they galloped around the bend into the home straight, Countrywide Flame came up the inside to join Punjabi; Cinders And Ashes now to their outside. Raya Star, beside the rail behind the leaders, received a few slaps down his neck as Choc began to ride him along. In contrast, Darlan cruised up to join the leaders; four were in a line entering the home straight.
The latter led over two out; Raya Star having responded to pressure, was now disputing third place with Cinders And Ashes as Punjabi dropped out. Choc’s mount then overtook the diminutive Countrywide Flame as they approached the final flight; Dodging Bullets staying on under pressure on the stand-side.
Darlan jumped the last flight 2 or 3 lengths ahead of his nearest rival and extended this to 4½ lengths at the line. Raya Star, who enjoys a battle, claimed 2nd, with Dodging Bullets continuing to stay on to claim 3rd from Countrywide Flame.
At this point I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure as I wanted to see Choc arrive back. Although I did dither at the rails for a short while, so Choc had already dismounted before I got there.
Having seen him set off towards the Weighing Room, I decided not to wait for the King George competitors to arrive in the Parade Ring; instead I headed back to the course-side rails to ensure that I could be at the front for a good view of the race.
No ride in the event for Choc, but Martin Keighley had his first runner in the race, Champion Court, ridden by Alain Cawley.
Kauto Star was paraded around the Paddock and preceded the runners as they set off down the racecourse, being led before the grandstand enclosures in number order. However, having passed the Premier Enclosure area, his handlers decided it was time to lead him back up the course. I know it was raining but to deny those in the Paddock Enclosure the opportunity to see him if they’d not been to the Parade Ring was extremely mean. The competitors continued to the end of the rail separating the hurdles course from the steeplechase course before cantering back up the latter to the start; this was situated at the beginning of the side straight.
Strangely, three of the nine runners had both names beginning with the letter ‘C’. Captain Chris, Champion Court, and Cue Card! For Non Stop was a late non-runner, preferring to take his chance in the re-scheduled Peterborough Chase being run at Kempton the following day; but he’d finish last of the five.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Junior and Champion Court. They were followed by Long Run and Cue Card, both keen; the latter stumbled upon landing over the first fence. Further back were Captain Chris, Riverside Theatre, Kauto Stone and The Giant Bolster; the grey Grand Crus held up at the rear of the field. Cue Card made an error at the second fence too.
Junior and Champion Court continued to dispute the lead heading around the far turn, now 3 or 4 lengths clear of their pursuers. Martin Keighley’s charge cleared the next with more fluency than Junior and took a narrow advantage. However, the latter jumped the next well and took over at the head of affairs.
The runners were travelling at a sensible pace in the heavy ground, the field closely grouped as a result. They then bypassed the damaged open-ditch; Cue Card now travelling amongst runners as opposed to on the outside of the field as previously. Junior flew the next and held a slight advantage over Champion Court as they entered the home bend on the first occasion. The order now was Junior, Champion Court, Long Run, Riverside Theatre, The Giant Bolster, Cue Card, Captain Chris, Kauto Stone and Grands Crus.
Alain Cawley’s mount held a narrow lead as they cleared the three obstacles in the home straight, Junior in second spot, with Long Run bowling along to their outside in third. All the runners were still closely grouped as they headed around the top turn; Grand Crus travelling particularly well, his jockey Tom Scudamore having to restrain him. However, The Giant Bolster was soon being ridden along by AP McCoy on the outside of the field, having cleared the next fence.
Long Run joined Champion Court to dispute the lead as they headed over the open-ditch; Junior now began to drop back off the pace. These two continued to cut out the running as the field galloped around the far bend, from the ridden along Junior, then Grand Crus and Cue Card. A gap had opened up between these and the remaining runners. Sam Waley-Cohen’s mount led over the first in the back straight, but he hit the next, permitting Champion Court to rejoin him as they bypassed the open-ditch once more. Close behind were Grands Crus, who still appeared to be travelling well, Cue Card and the driven along Captain Chris; although the latter was beginning to stay on under pressure.
Champion Court and Long Run cleared four out in unison before heading into the final bend. Then the ‘wheels’ suddenly came off Grands Crus; he was now struggling and could make no further impression on the two leaders. Cue Card and Captain Chris were being driven along and disputed 4th.
Long Run held a very narrow advantage over 3 out and was driven to go clear as Champion Court began to struggle. Having earlier looked in trouble, Captain Chris had now progressed to within a length of the leader as they reached the penultimate fence; although he did jump to his right, as is his preference.
Between the last two, Long Run and Captain Chris slogged it out, the latter jumping the last more fluently to take the lead. Champion Court and Grands Crus were fighting it out for third place at this stage. However, although Captain Chris held a one length advantage having landed over the last, Long Run gradually wore down his rival as his stamina kicked in.
In a pulsating end to the race, the former winner grabbed the prize by a neck at the line. Grand Crus claimed 3rd, 14 lengths back, from the extremely game Champion Court 2½ lengths behind him in 4th. Cue Card completed in 5th, Riverside Theatre 6th, and Junior last of the finishers. Both The Giant Bolster and Kauto Stone were pulled up before 3 out.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back. Martin Keighley, owner Mark Boothright, and the other connections were thrilled with Champion Court’s excellent run.
The winner was unsaddled too; shortly afterwards the prizes awarded, the owner, trainer and jockey mounting the podium to receive them. Long Run was then led around the Parade Ring before he was taken back to the stables.
Despite the damp weather, spectators had gathered around the Winners’ Enclosure; it was difficult to get a clear view to take a photograph, and the gloomy conditions didn’t help either.
It was now time for the final race of the day, in which Choc would ride the top weight, Secret Edge. Martin Keighley also had a runner in this race, Faultless Feelings.
Having entered the Parade Ring, Choc chatted with Alain Cawley until their respective connections arrived. It was now so dark and gloomy that the photographs I took were very blurred. Time to put my camera away for the day.
Choc having left the Paddock aboard his mount, I headed back to the course-side rails for the final time today. The start of this race was in the far corner of the track, the runners heading out of the walkway and immediately along the side straight to reach it.
Then they were off. The blinkered Loose Chips led them away, from Lighting Strike, Faultless Feelings, Valid Reason, Cloudy Bob, Filbert, Saint Roque, with Secret Edge to the inside; in the rear group were Banyan Tree, Bathwick Brave, Katkeau and Quaddick Lake.
There was little change in the order as the runners headed around the turn into the home straight on the first occasion and passed the stands. Loose Chips continued to lead the way as the horses entered the side straight, from Lightning Strike, Faultless Feelings, Filbert, Valid Reason, Secret Edge, Cloudy Bob, Banyan Tree, Saint Roque, Bathwick Brave, Quaddick Lake and Katkeau.
The first incident occurred when Banyan Tree, in midfield, fell at the 6th flight. The horse was quickly to its feet and continued after the others. His jockey Richie McLernon soon on his feet too. Loose Chips continued to lead as the runners headed around the far turn, his advantage 3 or 4 lengths.
Faultless Feelings was disputing second and going well. In contrast, as they headed down the back straight, Secret Edge was soon being ridden along. Katkeau had made noticeable progress through the field and was now disputing second position. On the wide outside of the runners, having begun to make ground, Quaddick Lake blundered and sprawled on landing over the third last, unseating jockey Matt Griffiths.
Loose Chips led around the final bend, from Kateau, Faultless Feelings, Bathwick Brave progressing well on the outside of the field, then Saint Roque, Lightning Strike and Cloudy Bob; the latter two struggling in the their wake.
The long-time leader was three lengths clear entering the home straight, Katkeau now giving way as AP drove Bathwick Brave through into second; Faultless Feelings now in 4th. Katkeau was so tired that he kicked the orange protector panel off the top of the second last.
Loose Chips continued to gallop on, heading for the final flight, Bathwick Brave being urged along to remain competitive. In fact the latter was upsides clearing the final flight but, having been joined, Noel Fehily’s mount was not for passing and found an extra gear on the run-in, going clear to win by 3¾ lengths at the line. Faultless Feelings kept on to complete the race 15 lengths back in 3rd, with Katkeau 4th.
Secret Edge, who had been in touch until the 7th, before tailing off, completed in 8th place.
As Choc would not be returning to the Winners’ Enclosure, I remained beside the rails until he’d disappeared from sight. My final glimpse of him today.
Nicky Henderson runners had almost swept the board, with four winners and a second place in the six races; including two of the three Grade 1 races.
I returned briefly to the Paddock, before entering the lower floor of the grandstand to join the ‘loo queue’ for the ladies! The racing having been completed, I then headed out to the car park, via the main entrance. As yet, no queue of vehicles had formed. I decided to make a quick exit, rather than wait as I’d done on previous Boxing Days.
However, by the time I’d taken off my coat, gillet and cardigan and placed them along with my damp boots in the car, a queue had appeared. Damn. I was still determined to make my escape, so I backed the car out and headed briefly back along row of cars until I found a space through which to drive; I entered the queue, thanks to the courtesy of one of the car drivers ... whilst ensuring that a nearby Mercedes didn’t barge in before me; as I’d got there first!
There were, in fact, three separate queues waiting to join the road outside the racecourse, one from the owners and trainers section, one consisting of drivers who’d cut across the area where I’d been parked and my queue which, in the main, was probably made up of vehicles from the centre of the course plus horseboxes!
Stewards were standing at the main gate, allowing each queue in turn the opportunity to leave; both lanes of the road outside were being used, and it was a right turn only today. I joined the left hand lane of the road and it was stop start, stop start, over the bridge and along the road as it turned left and joined the roundabout beneath the M3. Vehicles from Car Park A were merging from the right after the aforementioned bridge too. Some of the delay was also a result of vehicles having to merge into one lane as it joined the Junction 1 exit slip-road just before reaching the roundabout.
Having negotiated the roundabout, I set off up the entry slip-road to join the motorway, heading towards the M25. It was raining, but not particularly heavily at this point, although there was a lot of water spray from the road surface. However, having joined the orbital motorway’s clockwise carriageway, and driven to the Hertfordshire border the heavens then opened. It was a deluge ... almost a white out in fact. I kept my vehicle’s speed to around 50 mph and remained in the inside lane, but others still sped past. Fools!
I had arranged to drive to my older brother’s house on the outskirts of Luton after racing, in order to pick mum up and return her home. It would have been easier to take the M1’s northbound carriageway having reached Junction 21 but, because of the spray from the saturated road, I left at Junction 21A instead. I drove through the outskirts of St Albans before taking the road to Redbourn. The heavy rain had resulted in a number of large puddles forming in the kerb; on a couple of occasions I hit puddles which stretched out across the carriageway, as it was difficult to see them in the darkness. Fortunately, again, I wasn’t travelling particularly fast ... but it was still a little bit scary.
My route then took me to Harpenden and Luton. My brother’s wife, Anita, had prepared turkey and bacon sandwiches for tea, so I stayed for a while before mum and I returned home. It also gave me the opportunity to see the Nike shoes which my niece Lydia had bought with part of the Christmas money I’d given her.
I wasn’t sure whether I’d be attending Kempton Park races again the following day but, upon logging on, I discovered Alan King had just two runners on the Thursday, McVicar to be ridden by Choc and Kumbeshwar to be ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. Choc had been scheduled to ride at Chepstow’s Welsh Grand National meeting but that fixture had been abandoned before Christmas, resulting in this re-routing for my favourite jockey. As a result I would be spending the day at home, giving me the opportunity to begin this diary.
Friday was a work day for me; Choc rode at Doncaster on Saturday as opposed to Newbury, so I was able to complete my diary before the end of the weekend and thus begin the New Year completely up-to-date once more.