DIARY – VISIT TO CHURN STABLES IN BLEWBURY
TO SEE MENACE, THE TWITTERATI SYNDICATE HORSE
SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2016
Menace and me
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Today was to be a busy day; firstly a visit to Noel Williams’ yard in Blewbury, followed by Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury, and finally I’d be dropping in to see my friend Denise in Caversham on my way home.
Yard visits to Noel’s usually start at 10:00 but, today, the time had been brought forward to 09:00 to 09:15 to take into account that a number of EPDS Racing syndicate members wanted to head to Newbury like myself. I had been in two minds about attending but, as Hannah Bishop had kindly agreed to return the now retired Menace to the yard for a special appearance, I thought I should head there first.
I set my alarm for 05:30 with the aim of setting off at 07:30; I’d set out my clothes the previous evening – grey with black doves thermal T-shirt, violet thermal T-shirt, cherry red polo-neck t-shirt, bright blue oversized cardigan, bright purple fleece, black fleece gillet, and dark grey tweed double-frill M & S skirt, together with burgundy-coloured jeggings. I took both my black snow-boots and my black Hotter ‘Cannes’ boots; the former for the stable visit and the latter for Newbury. Two coats – a burgundy jacket and my black faux sheepskin long coat; again the former for the stable visit and the latter for Newbury. I wore my pink dragonfly/mauve butterfly Fired Creations earrings and took my violet loopy scarf and neon pink Fab Big knitted hat to wear once at the racecourse. The handbag I chose was my capacious black and white Kipling shoulder bag.
Having showered and washed and dried my hair, I ate a breakfast of two Weetabix with blueberries, sultanas and banana; I only had three sips of tea, as it was likely to be late morning before I could spend a penny! And, of course, I’d also consumed liquid with my cereal – Alpro Original in fact. I don’t have a problem with milk but tend to drink Alpro in my tea and coffee too. I usually have a cup of warm milk before I turn in each night.
Having applied my make-up, I actually set off at 07:42 … according to the clock in my car. My route took me around the ring-road to London Road and down to the London Colney roundabout, after which I headed down the dual carriageway to reach Junction 22 of the M25. I joined the anti-clockwise carriageway of the motorway and travelled to Junction 15, for the M4. I then drove along the westbound carriageway of the latter to reach Junction 12.
I didn’t notice Windsor Castle on this particular day, and there was still a brief speed restriction approaching Junction 10 due to the possibility of a tailback on the slip-road as a result of road-works. There was low lying mist in the surrounding fields following the junction and this, intermittently, drifted across the carriageway.
I left the motorway at Reading West and briefly headed westwards along the A4, before taking the turning to Pangbourne. It had been overcast for most of my journey but, at this point, the sun was trying to break through. Having reached the Berkshire village, I headed under the railway bridge and along beside the Thames before passing Beale Park wildlife centre.
The traffic lights prior to the narrow bridge over the railway changed just before I got there and I continued through the village of Lower Basildon and onwards to Streatley. I’d noticed warning signs along the route regarding a road closure at Streatley Hill and, having seen an arrow on a map of the area denoting a steep gradient, I surmised that it would be the B4009. Upon reaching the traffic lights in the centre of Streatley this was confirmed, as workman were working at the entrance to the road, which is very narrow and heads between buildings.
Anyway, my route continued along the A329 for a short distance before I bore off to the left to head along the A417 to Blewbury. It’s strange, but instead of this section of my route seeming to get shorter with familiarity, the opposite is true! Having reached Blewbury I travelled through the village and turned left opposite the garden centre to head up Boham Road. After the first initial section close to a sports club, the road heads uphill; as the thoroughfare is narrow, a vehicle waited at the top for me to drive up the hill. I then pulled into the side of the road, at an entrance driveway to a couple of houses, in order for a taxi which was heading in the opposite direction to pass me.
The road eventually bears left and, shortly afterwards, I turned into the entrance driveway to Churn Stables. Following the road along, I turned right and headed between hedges until I reached a car park area beside Noel’s main barn; this area, however, is for the residents of the adjacent cottages, so I followed the road around to the right and headed onto the grass to park within the second row of vehicles thereon. It was between 09:10 and 09:15 when I arrived; there must have been a dozen cars already there, despite requests that no-one arrive too early!
Anyway, I changed into my snow-boots and headed into the right-hand corridor of the barn. I think every box was full within the two rows of stables; I didn’t recognise every horse, but I did make a beeline for Chance Taken … no surprise there then! Shortly afterwards, John from EPDS requested that everyone should head around to the other side of the barn, as Menace was stabled in one of those boxes. This also ensured that no-one obstructed the work-riders as they led out Midnight Merlot, Midnight Jitterbug, Daliance and the unnamed Delegator filly. Menace was one of five horses occupying loose boxes in the other passageway of the barn.
Hannah had put Menace in the stable and he’d already had a roll; this meant that his blanket was covered in sawdust! He’s infamous for rolling evidently. Hannah greeted me with a hug and spoke to Menace’s gathered fans. Evidently when he’d first arrived at Mrs Prowting’s Buckinghamshire yard, they’d turned him out in the field and he didn’t know what to do; Menace just stood by the gate. Bless him. This happened three days in a row, so Hannah just took him out for a pick of grass instead; he’s accustomed to his freedom now though. Hannah said that Menace had seemed excited about going on a trip in the horsebox today!
Hannah said, initially, she’s been tasked with assessing his capabilities, following a short holiday in the field. Being not overly big, this will probably be something along the lines of Pony Club activities with the most suitable rider being a teenager. Her son Toby, she said, is going to be too tall, but Menace might be suited to her younger son Noah. Anyway, regardless, Hannah doesn’t think they will be able to part with our Twitterati pony, because he’s so sweet natured and both of her sons and Mrs Prowting adore him already. Mrs P even lets him go into her kitchen. I saw a photo recently of Presenting Lisa at her kitchen door, having returned to the yard prior to the commencement of her stud career. Evidently Lisa and Menace have since become firm friends; previously they’d had a problem finding an equine companion to suit her! The mare obviously has a discerning taste when it comes to choosing a boyfriend!
The horse next door to Menace was named Balli Martine and was very sweet too. Soon we were ushered outside ahead of a drive to the gallops; Hannah stayed with Menace in order to tidy him up again by dusting down the sawdust from his blanket, despite the fact that both of Mrs Prowting’s horses Midnight Merlot and Midnight Jitterbug were heading to the gallops today.
John had requested that people with access to 4x4’s should bring them along, in order that everyone could be transported to the top of the gallops. I was assigned to the back seat of possibly a Nissan Navara? Cars aren’t my specialty! Anyway, a lady drove a number of us to the gallops, with her young son in the front seat; her son’s comments were rather amusing. A couple of blokes shared the back seat with me, and three guys hopped into the open back too.
We stopped at the top of the hill and pulled off the track in order to alight and wait for the horses to appear at the far end of the gallops; they’d already warmed up before heading out of the yard.
Merlot and Jitterbug led, from Daliance and the Delegator filly. Having reached the top of the gallop, Noel asked the riders to circle around so that we could have a look at the horses at close quarters. Noel requested that the Delegator filly was returned to the yard after the first gallop, as he didn’t wish to overwork her at such a young age. The work riders were David who’d worked for Henrietta Knight for many years, Jan from the Czech Republic, a recently arrived French guy who spoke English with an Irish accent having worked in Ireland for a while, plus Noel’s new conditional jockey from the Czech Republic. The latter’s English isn’t brilliant, but they get by with Jan translating where necessary.
The trainer said he liked the Delegator filly; she was sassy but nice natured and ‘threw some shapes’ when ridden in the barn a week or two ago. Noel had been surprised that the rider managed to stay aboard her on that occasion. I wonder if EPDS will be requesting name suggestions for the filly in the near future? Her dam is named Cecily Parsley, so I have a couple of names in mind, Beatrix Potter related!
Noel mentioned that the Stewards had called him in when Daliance won at Fakenham recently:
The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, DALIANCE (IRE), ridden by William Featherstone and trained by Noel Williams, compared with its previous run at Ffos Las on 15 October 2016 where the gelding finished ninth of twelve, beaten 24˝ lengths. They noted the trainer could offer no explanation, other than the gelding had appreciated returning to a track where has always run well in the past. They ordered DALIANCE (IRE) to be routine tested.
Of course he couldn’t explain it, because Daliance is Daliance and you just never know when he’s going to put his best hoof forward – it just depends what kind of a mood he is in on that particular day!
Noel also spoke about something similar happening to Alan King, at Huntingdon I think, when the trainer was quizzed following the apparent improvement of one of his charges which surprisingly won. Alan pointed out that this was the horse’s first run since transferring to his yard and that his charge was now under to tutelage of a good trainer! The stewards checked their records and then apologised!
Only one of the guys shared the back seat on the way back, with his colleague deciding to hop into the open backed vehicle with his mates this time. We chatted on the way back, he was from Birmingham and had originally intended to head to Newbury like myself; however, alternative plans had been made for him so he had to forego a day at the races. It was difficult climbing into the vehicle because it was so high, it probably didn’t help that I had worn a skirt too; we spoke about the issues of getting old, and especially about not realizing that we could no longer do those things which we could as a youngster, although he was a spritely 71.
Noel had suggested the three remaining horses return to the yard via the back route; this meant we didn’t have to worry about encountering them on the track as we returned.
Having arrived back, everyone headed into the main barn once more. I stopped off to see Chance Taken, although she wasn’t feeling particularly friendly and remained at the back of her box. I also stroked Authorized Too (aka ‘Arthur’) who had run in a Novices’ Chase at Newbury the previous day, finishing 6th. I took a photo of the injury sidelined Kincora Fort (aka ‘Brian’) and also Bingo D’Olivate; I stroked the latter’s face rather than his nose, so that he couldn’t lick my hand as he was wearing the bib contraption again.
I then headed around the corner to enter the other side of the barn to see Menace once more. Whilst we’d been on the gallops, Hannah had dusted him down so his rug was pristine again. Our Twitterati pony had been trace-clipped but she said he’d broken out in a bit of a heat rash whilst we’d been gone. Menace had recently sustained a small cut to his left cheek – evidently one of Hannah’s ponies had bitten him. Hannah asked me if I’d like to go into the stable, so she put a head-collar on him (a new one with name plate) and I followed her in. She also took three photos of Menace and me whilst I held the rope of his head-collar, although I was on his right-hand side rather than his left as should have been the case.
Mindful that time was getting on, and at least two people had already left for Newbury, I thanked Hannah for bringing Menace along and walked back to my car in preparation for my subsequent trip to the races. She also mentioned that Menace might make another guest appearance at the yard once he’s being ridden again.
Click here to read my Newbury Hennessy Gold Cup Day diary
Click here to view my photographs taken on the gallops and of other horses at Noel’s yard
Click here to view my photographs of today’s special guest star Menace