Menace 3.jpg


Menace has been moved to a loose box

situated outside the main barn



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A further round of yard visits had been organised, beginning late January with Jamie Snowden’s stable in Lambourn.  The EPDS members visit to Noel Williams’ yard was the second one scheduled, for the morning of 06 Februrary.  Noel has three EPDS-owned horses in his charge, firstly Kincora Fort (aka Brian) who is out for the season following a leg problem. 

Secondly Daliance, who was bought cheaply at the sales due to an existing leg injury, but who has now been rehabilitated both physically and mentally in so much that he appears to be enjoying his career once again.  He’d become very sour in nature, due to mishandling by previous trainers, but is now far happier in himself; he’s a flat-bred horse with an excellent pedigree and had been purchased for £125,000 as a youngster with aspirations of winning the Derby!

And of course, last but not least, the Twitterati Syndicate’s horse, Menace.  His last race had been at Uttoxeter in mid-November when, having his first run in a handicap, he’d fallen out in the country; another horse had also been brought down in the incident.  It took a while for him to recover from this, but eventually he was given an entry at Taunton on 30 December ... only for it to be too wet for him to race on that day.  And, with the warm and wet winter weather continuing, it was decided to give him a mid-winter break and wait until the ground conditions improved.    

I waited until it became clear that I’d have no racing plans on this particular day before confirming my attendance; although, with no prospect of seeing Menace on the gallops at present, a further visit would be in the offing later in the season if I was unable to attend on this occasion.  But, of course, that might clash with a racing fixture.  Anyway, it transpired I was free this day anyway and, hopefully, will also be next time (later announced as 12 March).

It had been one hell of a week, following re-organisation at work which had resulted in my department being disbanded; I was moved to the Marketing Department, but took my workload and the workload of a colleague with me too.  The problem with the theory was that I already work more than my contracted hours every week.

On the first day it become apparent that I couldn’t fit the workload into a day extended by half an hour and then, the following day, even two hours unpaid overtime was insufficient to keep on top of it.  To make matters worse, Friday afternoon had been spent at home, due to using up outstanding 2015 holiday hours; stressful too, as it was time I couldn’t really spare.  In fact I worked the equivalent of a five and a half day week, when it should have been a four and a half day week. 

Anyway, on Saturday, I woke before 06:00 and began my day just after 06:30.  I showered and washed and dried my hair; I have a new hairdryer now, as the previous one burnt out a couple of weeks ago.  I loved that hairdryer ... it was, technically a hot air styler and I have replaced it with an updated model by the same manufacturer; although it’s not as good as the last one, sadly. 

I was well ahead of the game, and applied my make-up before eating a breakfast of two warm croissants.  In fact I had time to make a trip to the local supermarket petrol station forecourt to fill up the tank of my car just after 08:00, before returning to dress in my outfit for the day.  I wore black jeggings, deep pink thermal long-sleeved t-shirt, red polo-neck thermal top, purple fleece, burgundy jacket, pink/mauve scarf which my friend Denise bought me for Christmas a couple of years ago, black Next shearling handbag, and black snow-boots.

I took my black quilted faux trimmed hat too, as I didn’t think an umbrella would survive the gusts on the downs if it was to rain too!  I also wore a pair of ‘butterfly wing’ earrings which I purchased via Etsy from UniqueDichroic, a vendor based in Australia – they are shades of orange and red in colour; beautiful.   

Having been worried about the weather forecast – for heavy rain and very strong winds – I now felt so on edge that I almost decided not to go.  But it wasn’t solely the weather forecast which was affecting me; it was the work-related stress too.  Anyway, after deliberation, I decided I had to go, otherwise my very valuable weekend would have been spent worrying exclusively about what Monday would bring ... and just thinking about that made me feel sick.         

My aim had been to leave home at 08:30, giving me more than 20 minutes advantage over my previous journey times.  In the event, I departed just after 08:35.  My route took me around the ring-road to London Road, then down the dual carriageway to Junction 22 of the M25.  I headed in an anti-clockwise direction to reach the M4, before taking the westbound carriageway.  It began to rain as I headed through Berkshire; road spray was the biggest problem, rather than the rain itself.  However, not to worry, as motorways are the safest roads to drive upon!

I left at Junction 12, Reading West, initially taking the same route as I would to go to Newbury races.  I took a right-turn at the third roundabout, and drove along the very straight A340, which heads over the M4 and winds through the village of Tidmarsh before reaching Pangbourne.  There’s a 20 mph speed zone in the centre of the town; I negotiated a mini-roundabout to join the A329, headed over a raised zebra-crossing, under a railway bridge arch, before bearing left to travel along beside the River Thames.

The Beale Animal Park is a short distance along the road, on the right-hand side.  Traffic signals regulate vehicles crossing the narrow railway bridge shortly afterwards; the road bears left and then right at this point.  I continued past Basildon Park, through Lower Basildon village where a 30mph speed limit is in place, before descending the hill into Streatley, adjacent to the Thames with Goring on the opposite bank.  I’ve rambled out of Goring, with Mark, and visited Basildon Park and Beale Animal Park with my friend Denise. 

I continued a short distance along the A329 before bearing off to the left along the A417 sign-posted Wantage.  The road passes a golf course on the left, before heading out across the downs to Blewbury.  The road is designated as 50mph but, not being a local, and with the road rising and falling and wending through the countryside, it was difficult to travel much faster than 40mph.  Rainfall in the vicinity had also caused water to collect along the road gutters.  

I reached Blewbury eventually; this stretch of the route between Streatley and Blewbury always seems to take longer than expected, despite it being my third visit to the yard.  I always think that familiarity gives an impression of shortening a route but, in this instance, it hasn’t happened.  Shortly after reaching the edge of the village, I took a left turn and headed up Woodway Road and White Shoot.  On this occasion the road was clear, no cyclists or racehorses.   

I arrived between 10:05 and 10:10, deciding to turn the car around to head down hill ready for my escape.  Vehicles were already parked on the verge further up the lane but, although there would have been sufficient space for me to park also, I decided to use a tarmac passing place a little further down the hill.  I’m paranoid about getting stuck in the mud – with the Lambourn Open Day springing to mind and the near-miss of Cheltenham Gold Cup Day last year also. 

As the driver’s side of the car was against the grass verge, I put on my boots before walking around to the road-side to get my jacket and handbag.  As I headed up the lane, I passed by another member of our group – it was Dawn Spooner who is a friend of the Keighley’s, an enormous fan of Champion Court, and also a friend of Hannah Bishop’s.  We chatted as we entered the yard and soon found a number of EPDS members standing within the large barn, including syndicate manager John Powell and his partner Ellie; their baby son Archie was wrapped up against the cold – he was wearing a waterproof romper suit designed to look like a fox.  It transpired that I had arrived nearer last than first once again!  

One of the guys in the party had driven over from Hemel Hempstead, my neighbouring town; he’d travelled via the scenic route, through Princes Risborough – you’ve guessed it ... I know it well from my rambling days.  Dawn, who had arrived just after me, had travelled in from her home in St Neots.  Another couple had driven over from Cheltenham; I wish I lived in the spa town.      

Third lot was due to head to the gallops at 10:30; the four horses were being saddled up ahead of this.  Their pilots having mounted, they were ridden around the small hay-barn to warm up before heading up the road – the horses were Theatre Goer, Midnight Jitterbug, Friendly Society and Daliance.

Our group followed, Noel leading the way up the lane, before we briefly diverted through a gateway and along a tree-lined drive.  At the far end of this we headed along the side of a muddy track which wound its way to the all-weather gallop; I managed to keep up with Noel and a couple of guys, the remainder tailed off behind us.  The rain had blown over by this time, which was fortunate, as it would have been impossible to use an umbrella without it sustaining serious damage!  The wind was so strong that it was almost impossible to hold a camera still enough to take photographs.  John and his wife and baby drove up to the gallops. 

Noel had asked the riders to take the long route to the gallops, in order to give us time to reach our vantage point.  But, once we were ready, they rode the quartet up the all-weather, before turning around to walk back down the slope to reach the beginning of the gallop and repeat the feat.  We then headed back to the yard once more, along the same route as we came.  This time I noticed a number of horses in the paddock next to the tree-lined drive; presumably part of Eve Johnson-Houghton’s operation.   

Having arrived back at the yard, we waited while Noel hosed down each horse’s legs; they were then returned to their respective boxes.  I took my time walking around the barn, to see all the horses, and was very pleased to see that Bingo D’Olivate was very much alive – despite being mentioned on the Racing Forum’s Memorial page.  There had been a fatality at the final hurdle during his race at Huntingdon, which Bingo had also taken a tumble at, but I’d clearly seen him gallop past the winning post on four legs on the RUK replay.  I’d thus been very dismayed to see his name mentioned in ‘dispatches’.    

However, he has been fitted with a headcollar and bib, to prevent him from chewing sundry items whilst in his box.  Bless him!  Menace had been moved from his earlier location, at the far end of the barn; the box was now occupied by a mare named Tigers Rock.

I decided to forego the croissants and tea/coffee which were on offer, the latter because I didn’t wish to be caught short on the journey home!  A member of the syndicate had made cup cakes too.

Having not yet located Menace, I decided to check the small haybarn which housed three horses – and was very pleased to see a face that I recognised – namely the sweet mare Chance Taken.  Also in the barn was Kincora Fort, who was due to soon return home to Ellie and John to continue his recuperation.  Across the way was Theatre Goer.         

I’d noticed a number of people congregating behind the main barn, so I headed in that direction and found two small loose boxes – and the nearer one was occupied by Menace.  His neighbour was listed as an unnamed filly; research tells me it was Kokomo (now a mare).  I spent time with Menace.  I think he may have been rather bored with his location, as he did a little bit of weaving, as it had no view apart from a couple of rear windows of the main barn; boxes occupied by Daliance and Authorized Too.  There were no bars on the outside loose boxes to prevent weaving either.   

Anyway, having seen all the horses, and said my farewells, it was time to leave; but not before John had mentioned that there might be a possibility for EPDS to lease Chance Taken. 

Bingo and Daliance were scheduled to run at Fakenham on Monday. William Featherstone taking 7lbs off the latter’s back; Bingo would be ridden by an experienced pilot, Tom O’Brien initially booked but replaced by Leighton Aspell on the day, following his 2 out of 3 mishaps recently.  Wayne Hutchinson would have been first choice but was still suffering from the foot injury inflicted by The Tourard Man at Doncaster on 29 January.  Noel Fehily wasn’t available at the time of booking, as he was originally expected to go to Musselburgh to ride in the bumper, although latterly re-routed to the Norfolk track. Tom Cannon was away for 3 days, another who I can’t remember was due to undertake a speed awareness course on that day!!!  

I headed back to my car, and drove down the lane to Blewbury.  A right turn took me in the direction of Streatley; a vehicle was following close behind me until part way there, I presume the driver must have taken the turning to Cholsey or Moulsford. I’d soon reached civilisation once more and retraced my route back to the M4; it was 12:45 when I joined the eastbound carriageway of the motorway.   

There were no traffic issues as I headed towards the M25; it was moving a little less freely between the interchange and the M40.  There was also a driver who pulled into my braking space, and I had to do just that, because he’d made a late decision to enter the correct lane for the Birmingham-bound motorway.  The only driver who is permitted to do that without annoying me is Choc ... and he did it once, on the same stretch of the motorway, when we were both heading homewards from Kempton Park!  It had been a disappointing afternoon at the races, but that made my day!

It didn’t take long to reach my exit point at Junction 22; glancing across from the motorway I noticed the car park at M & S was jam packed.  A new hotel is being constructed adjacent to the slip-road, beside the retail park petrol station. 

The roundabout at the far end of the slip-round was busy too but, having negotiated it, I headed up hedge-lined dual carriageway to the London Colney roundabout.  As I passed by a gap, where a road leads to a supermarket supply depot, the very strong wind buffeted my vehicle; it even affected my steering briefly!

I returned via the ring-road route to reach home at 13:50.  As my car was due to be serviced the following Monday, I decided to hose it down.  I also hosed down my boots, whilst I was wearing them.  Fortunately the mud hadn’t been ‘holding’ today, so this made the job easy; it’s so unpleasant to clean boots when claggy mud has become stuck in the treads. 

I then settled down to watch racing on TV for the remainder of the afternoon; Sandown Park being the feature fixture today.


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