DIARY – NEWBURY
SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2011
HENNESSY GOLD CUP DAY
Mattie Batchelor celebrates his win aboard Carruthers
This fixture is one of the few for which I purchase a ticket in advance. I attended Hennessy Gold Cup Day last year, despite Choc not having returned yet from his serious knee injury. This year with a month to go, I decided to check out the Newbury racecourse website to buy a ticket; however it was impossible to load the correct webpage, there was a problem with the site. Having re-tried the website for a number of days, but without success, I had two options; to telephone the hotline or find an alternative website. I chose the latter, in this instance the BHA site. I thus ordered my ticket on 31 October.
Two weeks to go and still my ticket had not arrived in the post. I telephoned the contact number and was told that Newbury would be sending out everyone’s tickets the following week. However, seven days later, still no ticket. I made another phone call, and was told that tickets had definitely been posted out during the past few days and I should receive it in the next day or two. It arrived the following day, and I was all set for my 4th consecutive annual visit to Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup Day.
I had booked the Monday prior to Newbury as holiday, originally hoping that Choc might continue to undertake his final furlong course walks at Kempton Park. To my delight he’d hosted a walk on Sunday 16 October, despite having no riding engagements that day but, having visited the Sunbury track on Monday 31 October, there had been no course-walk. So I came to the conclusion that there would be no course-walks during weekday fixtures this season. I had therefore arranged for an engineer to fix my TV aerial problems on Monday 21 November, only to discover via a tweet from Choc, that he was indeed going to do a course-walk on that day.
It was too late to cancel and, as it turned out, the engineer had to replace the roof aerial and it took until midday to complete the task. Having been on 5 previous final furlong walks, I felt terribly guilty that I couldn’t make it on this occasion ... I’d let Choc down. L I was gutted, especially as I’d also missed an opportunity to give Choc a peck on the cheek ... something I always look forward to!!! I did apologise to him for not being able to make it; he said there’d be another opportunity. I hope so.
Anyway, as Newbury approached ... I noticed I had the first signs of a cold virus ... my throat had felt a little strange since Tuesday, and it was sore by Thursday, and my nose was running by Friday! Damn! Oh well, I’d purchased a ticket, which cost me £25, so I was going to attend regardless. I had arranged to visit my friend Denise on my way back from Newbury, so checked that it would still be okay to drop by, as I didn’t want to pass on any germs without advance warning. Yes, it was fine ... she told me she’d dose up on vitamin C and echinacea!
As always, the previous evening was spent rummaging through my clothes to find a suitable outfit to wear the following day. Two thermal vests, one with long sleeves, a black ribbed (and frilled) cardigan, another black frilled cardigan, purple fleece, purple frilled cardigan, turquoise gillet, black faux sheepskin jacket, purple thermal tights, long black handkerchief hemmed skirt, and black engineer boots.
As the gates opened at 09:30 I set my alarm for 05:30; I showered, washed and dried my hair, applied makeup, ate a breakfast of toast and croissants, watched the first few minutes of Channel 4’s The Morning Line before setting off on my drive to Newbury at 08:10.
My journey took me to join the M25 at Junction 21A, then anti-clockwise around the motorway before taking the M4 westbound carriageway to Junction 12, Reading West. I never see the point of driving all the way to Junction 13, the Newbury turning as, invariably, the signposts to the racecourse send one back along the A4 in a easterly direction!
Having left the motorway, I drove westwards along the A40, through the village of Woolhampton and on to Thatcham before entering Newbury. It’s a pleasant drive, much nicer than the motorway. As I had purchased a grandstand ticket and wished to park in the ‘free’ car parking area, I drove through the industrial estate. Part way down the road there was a learner driver attempting a 3-point turn, very slowly, so I waited for the manoevre to be completed before continuing. When I did my driving test (I passed first time), I had to do a 5-point turn, as the road was very narrow!
The surface of the lane leading to the bridge under the railway line had begun to deteriorate again; the huge pot-holes having been filled-in since my first few visits to the track. I had arrived quite early, as no cars followed me along the driveway through the golf course. This route passes the golf club-house and fitness centre. I was directed to park in the fourth row of cars, many of those already parked seemed to belong to bookmakers and the like. It was 09:40.
I ate two of the four cheese-rolls which I’d brought with me before setting off to the turnstiles. I was relieved that there no longer seem to be gypsies plaguing the car park. After a brief trip to the loo within the Dubai Duty Free stand, I sat for a while within the concourse, before heading to the Parade Ring. Unfortunately the seats and steps around the Paddock were damp, so I was unable to sit down; but fortunately it wasn’t a particularly cold day to be hanging around outside, although there was a wind chill factor.
Emma Spencer was presenting on behalf of Newbury TV, and she broadcast from a number of the stands in the Shopping Village. These shops are never quite my scene! I don’t do tweed or fur ... and I create my own exclusive jewellery originals!
At 11:45, Emma Spencer was joined in the Parade Ring for ‘Mark Your Card’ by Tom Segal and Mick Fitzgerald ... although the latter arrived late due to another engagement within the racecourse!
The first race of the day, with an off time of 12:20, was an Amateur Riders’ Handicap Steeplechase. This race took place over the same distance as the Hennessy Gold Cup; the start being at the beginning of the back straight, with two circuits to travel. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, I headed to find a vantage point as close to the course-side rails as possible.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Battlecry, from Noakarad De Versee; Meet The Critics jumped the first slowly. It was noticeable that dust was being generated from the fences when any of the horses brushed through them.
By the end of the back straight the order was Battlecry, Double Dizzy, Noakarad De Versee, Earth Planet, She’s On The Case, Meet The Critics and the favourite Horsham Lad. Battlecry, jumping boldly and a few lengths clear, led up the home straight on the first occasion.
Heading down the back straight on the second occasion, the order was Battlecry, Double Dizzy, Earth Planet, She’s On The Case, Meet The Critics, Noakarad De Versee and Horsham Lad; the latter making an error at the 12th fence. The Sam Waley-Cohen ridden She’s On The Case fell at the middle fence in the back straight; Horsham Lad swerved to the left to avoid the faller and unseated his jockey Tom Weston.
Battlecry held the advantage over the cross fence, closely pursued by his remaining 4 rivals; Meet The Critics continued to jump out to his right and pecked on landing.
Battlecry wasn’t fluent 4 out, but retained the lead. He put in a big leap over the open-ditch, cleverly put in a short stride to clear two out and took another big leap at the last. However, he veered towards the stand-side rails and it looked like he might throw victory away. But his jockey urged him on again and he won by 7 lengths at the line. Noakarad De Versee finished 2nd, Earth Planet 3rd and Double Dizzy 4th. These were the only finishers, Meet The Critics having been pulled up before 3 out.
It was the 10th ride under rules for jockey Ryan Hatch; his first win. Battlecry had been purchased for £800 by Nigel Twiston-Davies for his sons Sam and Willie to ride, but they had never won aboard the horse; it was the first time he’d won under rules in nearly 4 years!
Jokingly, Nigel said they’d stopped calling the horse Battlecry, and were now calling him Cry ... because there had been so little battle in recent times!!!
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back. Then, once the horses competing in the next race had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a position near to the course-side rails from which to view the race.
This event began in the home straight, with one flight to negotiate before travelling a further circuit.
Then they were off. The field was led away by North Cape, from Dr Rock, Billion Dollar Kid, All The Aces, Prospect Wells, and the keen running Carrigmorna King.
North Cape continued to lead down the back straight, from All The Aces, Carrigmorna King, Dr Rock, Prospect Wells, Able Deputy, Billion Dollar Kid; Wisecraic and Carriglea Wood the first to lose touch, Dr Rock soon also. Able Deputy made an error at the final flight in the back straight.
Around the bottom bend, North Cape still led, from All The Aces, Carrigmorna King and Prospect Wells; there was then a gap in the field to Able Deputy and Billion Dollar Kid.
All The Aces was pushed along to lead before two out. North Cape made an error at this flight. Ruby Walsh cruised up on the outside of the leader aboard Prospect Wells and led over the last, his jockey shaking him up as he idled on the run to the line. The result was never in doubt though, Prospect Wells winning by 4 lengths from All The Aces, Carrigmorna King and the long time leader North Cape.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.
It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Iron Chancellor. Once Iron Chancellor had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point near to the course-side rails.
The start of this race was near to the far end of the back straight, with one fence to jump before entering the turn.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Wyck Hill.
Ravastree took over the advantage approaching the second fence; turning into the home straight on the first occasion, Iron Chancellor was in 11th position on the inside of the field. Wyck Hill fell at the 3rd; Master Fiddle made a mistake and was hampered at this fence by the faller, as was River D’Or.
Made In Time led from the 4th to 6th obstacles. There was a bad mistake by Oscar Papa at the 4th and he lost his place, hampering Double Whammy. River D’Or made a mistake at the 5th.
Ravastree led again at the 6th, but made a mistake at the water jump and was headed by the grey Roalco De Farges soon afterwards. Oscar Papa was pulled up after the water.
Made In Time unseated his jockey, Will Kennedy, at the open-ditch. Arturo Uno was now in 2nd position. River D’Or blundered at the 10th, hampering Very Stylish. Master Fiddle also blundered at the 10th, unseating Barry Geraghty; The Falklander fell. Roalco De Farges made a mistake at the 11th; Double Whammy hit this fence as did Ring Bo Ree. The former also hit the next and blundered at the fence after that too; the latter hit the 13th.
Heading out of the back straight, Choc was in sixth position. Into the home straight for the final time, Iron Chancellor had soon progressed into third position, but tended to jump to his left. Roalco De Farges was clear of his pursuers before the last fence and went on to win, ears pricked, by 9 lengths. Arturo Uno stayed on to finish 2nd, Iron Chancellor 3rd, and Ravastree 4th. Despite all the jumping errors made by his competitors, Iron Chancellor had barely touched a twig!
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.
It was soon time for the fourth event of the day, in which Choc would be riding the Alan King trained Raya Star. Once Choc had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point close to the course-side rails.
Like the second race of the day, this event began in the home straight, with one flight to negotiate before travelling a full circuit.
Then they were off. It was three abreast at the first, Ultravox, Titan De Sarti and First Fandango; Non Dom close up in fourth. Around the top turn the order was Ultravox, Titan De Sarti, Non Dom, First Fandango, the grey Empire Levant, Dream Function, Rock On Ruby, Rumble Of Thunder, Alarazi, Raya Star and Rebel Dancer.
Dream Function made a mistake at the second; Rumble Of Thunder blundered at the third. Raya Star progressed from the rear to accompany Rock On Ruby. The horses were going a good gallop.
Around the far bend the order was Ultravox, Titan De Sarti, Empire Levant, First Fandango, Non Dom, Rock On Ruby, Raya Star, Alarazi, Dream Function, Rumble Of Thunder and Rebel Dancer. The final three losing touch. Dream Function was pulled up before 3 out.
Ultravox led into the home straight, Empire Levant challenging three out and soon taking the lead. Rock On Ruby cruised into second position; Raya Star now in third. The grey held a narrow advantage over two out, Rock On Ruby taking a narrow lead at the last, which Empire Levant hit with his hind legs. Ruby Walsh pushed his mount out to win by 6 lengths at the line. Empire Levant completed in 2nd; with Raya Star, who had been unable to make any impression on the leaders from the last, 4½ lengths away in third. First Fandango was 4th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back. As Raya Star was led around having been unsaddled, I noticed that he had been wearing earplugs, these now hanging from his bridle.
Soon it was time for the next race of the day, the Long Distance Hurdle, in which Big Buck’s would be making his seasonal reappearance. Not surprisingly, he started as 8-1 on favourite.
Timmy Murphy, who was riding Sparky May, regularly patted the mare’s neck to keep her calm as she was led around the Parade Ring ahead of the next race.
I remained beside the Parade Ring instead of heading for the course-side rails to watch this race, as I wanted to retain a good vantage point beside the Parade Ring ahead of the Hennessy Gold Cup; I was hoping the jockeys would be gathered together on the podium for a photo-call ahead of the feature event of the day, as had been the case in 2009.
The start of this long distance hurdle race was half way down the back straight, with two hurdles to negotiate before the far turn.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Cerium, from Pettifour, Duc De Regniere, Five Dream, Big Buck’s and the keen, as always, Sparky May.
Cerium had established a clear lead by the time the runners turned into the home straight on the first occasion. He hit the third flight. Cerium was headed after the 5th, dropping out quickly before being pulled up. The order now was Pettifour, Duc De Regniere, Big Buck’s, Five Dream and Sparky May.
Big Buck’s assumed the lead over the first in the back straight, from Duc De Regniere, Pettifour, Five Dream and Sparky May, the latter taking closer order now. Big Buck’s and Pettifour went on as Duc De Regniere dropped back a little.
As the track ran downhill around the far corner, having gained momentum Sparky May was zig-zagging under restraint from her jockey, Timmy Murphy.
Three out, Timmy took Sparky May towards the stand-side rails, before rejoining the others; Duc De Regniere soon began to lose touch. Big Buck’s led over 2 out; Pettifour, Sparky May and Five Dream close enough to launch a challenge if good enough. Ruby glanced behind, shaking up his mount to assert before the last.
After the last, Ruby glanced under his arm to see if there were any remaining threats ... but, as usual, there were none! Big Buck’s won by 5 lengths, easing down towards the line. Stable-mate Five Dream finished 2nd, Pettifour 3rd and Sparky May 4th.
By winning 13 consecutive races, Big Buck’s had equalled Bula’s long-standing record. A treble for Ruby Walsh today ... nothing changes!
Unfortunately there was no photo-call before the Hennessy, so I needn’t have missed watching the race from beside the course-side rails. Shame. Never mind, at least I had a good view of the horses in the Parade Ring ahead of the feature race. Choc’s ride in this race was the Alan King trained Blazing Bailey.
Having remained on the steps beside the Parade Ring until the majority of the runners had headed out to the track, I was surprised that I was able to find a position very close to the course-side rails from where to view the pre-race parade; albeit next to a group of noisy racegoers in fancy dress. They were so noisy that Choc glanced across as he was led past aboard Blazing Bailey!
After the parade, the horses headed for the start, which was at the beginning of the back straight, with almost two full circuits to travel.
The Giant Bolster was reluctant to join the others and had to be encouraged forward. Then they were off. Fair Along, also reluctant, was led in at the start and held a narrow advantage until jumping the first slowly; Beshabar taking over at the head of affairs. Choc took up a mid-field berth on the outside of the runners.
Travelling down the back straight on the first occasion, the order was Beshabar, Sarando, Billie Magern, Carruthers, Michel Le Bon, Wymott, and Aiteen Thirtythree. Fair Along had soon dropped to the back of the field. Michel Le Bon led over the 4th, which Carruthers hit; Aiteen Thirtythree took the lead briefly at the 5th fence, before Matty Batchelor’s mount took the advantage; Carruthers also hit the 7th and the field was soon headed again by Aiteen Thirtythree. Wayward Prince made a bad error at the 8th.
Over the water-jump, Carruthers led again. The order setting off down the back straight for the final time was Carruthers, Aiteen Thirtythree, Michel Le Bon, Beshabar, Planet Of Sound, Sarando, Wymott, Balthazar King, Blazing Bailey and Tullamore Dew. Aiteen Thirtythree took a narrow advantage from the 13th to the 16th fence. Sarando, ridden by Will Kennedy and in close contention, fell at the final fence in the back straight, the 16th.
Over the cross fence for the final time, the order was Carruthers, Aiteen Thirtythree, Planet of Sound, Michel Le Bon, Wymott, Blazing Bailey, Beshabar, Tullamore Dew, The Giant Bolster, Balthazar King, Great Endeavour, Fair Along, Billie Magern, Muirhead and Neptune Collonges.
Carruthers was narrowly headed by Planet of Sound 4 out but regained the lead by 3 out. Great Endeavour crept stealthily up the inside under Timmy Murphy and had every chance 2 out; but Carruthers was not for passing, and went on to win by 3¾ lengths from Planet of Sound; Fair Along ran on after the last to steal 3rd from Great Endeavour at the line.
Choc finished 8th aboard Blazing Bailey. Carruthers wore a tongue-tie during a race for the first time today.
In his Horse and Hound column, Choc said he and his colleagues were willing Mattie Batchelor and Carruthers on, once their chances had gone. Choc was at pains to point out that he didn’t kiss Mattie when he congratulated him after the race ... Mattie kissed him!!!
Choc mentioned how deserving it was that Lord Oaksey was the winning owner, especially after he’s done so much for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund over the years; it was such a shame he was too unwell to attend on this day.
After the post race celebrations, it was time for the final race of the day. Choc’s mount in this race was the Richard Lee trained, Hector’s Choice.
The start of this race was in the far corner of the track, the cross fence being the first obstacle negotiated.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Dinarius; Fistral Beach blundered at the first, hampering Safari Journey.
Heading up the home straight on the first occasion, the order was Dinarius, Consigliere, Crescent Island, Hector’s Choice, Chance Du Roy, Edgbriar, Persian Gates and Fistral Beach. Both Consigliere and Chance Du Roy made mistakes at the second fence. Coup Royale, towards the rear of the field, hit the third.
Turning into the back straight, Dinarius was still at the head of affairs, from Hector’s Choice and Crescent Island. Riguez Dancer unseated his rider at the open-ditch; Forzy Origny who made an error here too, was hampered by the loose horse, and soon pulled up. Fistral Beach hit the 10th and lost his place.
Over the cross-fence the order was Crescent Island, Chance Du Roy, Hector’s Choice, Edgbriar, Persian Gates, Osric, Consigliere and Coup Royale. Fistral Beach, having hit the obstacle, was pulled up before the next.
Crescent Island continued to lead over 4 out, but was soon being ridden. Chance Du Roy continued to challenge the leader; Hector’s Choice, who was close up in third, made an error two out. Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount led over the last, Chance Du Roy driven to challenge on the run up to the line, the latter winning by a neck. Hector’s Choice complete in 3rd, with Edgbriar 4th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back at the area reserved for the runner placed third. Having seen Choc walk back to the Weighing Room for the final time today, it was time for me to leave.
At 16:15 there was a DBS Hennessy Breeze Up Sale; I was in two minds as to whether to stay to watch but, as Denise was expecting me to arrive in time for dinner, I decided against it. Having returned to my car, I waited a few minutes for the worst of the traffic to disperse.
Being parked near the front of the car park, I was able to weave my way back through the remaining cars, to exit via the golf club entrance. There are plans to redevelop the racecourse facilities, including building apartments beside the racecourse and re-building the narrow bridge over the railway, thus improving access via the main entrance. More
The roadway was clear until I approached the far gate, when I became stuck in a queue. This was caused by a coach, possibly broken down; eventually we were waived around the vehicle, driving past on the grass. We were also delayed by another coach, which had to slowly manoeuvre around the sharp turn to enter the lane outside. However, the vehicle was able to negotiate the very low and narrow bridge under the railway line and my route was clear through the industrial estate and out onto the road leading up to the A4.
I turned right at the traffic lights and set off through Thatcham. The road was surprisingly quiet; I recall being held up for ages on this stretch of the road on my first ever visit to Newbury, on Hennessy Gold Cup day, in 2008. It was another pleasant drive back to join the M4 at the Reading West Junction. I then headed towards London, leaving the motorway at the Reading East Junction, travelling down the A329(M) to reach the A4, before turning eastwards. I then turned left and drove slowly through Sonning, there being a 20 mph limit with speed bumps on the narrow lanes; across the single track bridge over the River Thames and westwards towards Denise’s house in Caversham. I arrived at 17:35. Amazing that it took 90 minutes to drive from St Albans to Newbury and 65 minutes to drive the short distance from Newbury to Caversham, although this included a short delay when leaving the racecourse.
It was a pleasure to see Denise and her hubby, Terry, again, as I haven’t visited her since August, although we talk on the telephone regularly. Denise had kindly prepared a chicken hotpot as an evening meal, which I enjoyed very much; we watched Strictly Come Dancing, and I left for home at 21:30. I wasn’t feeling too brilliant late into the evening, as I was still fighting the cold virus which I’d caught a few days beforehand.
I decided to travel back through Sonning to re-join the eastbound carriageway of the A4; before heading southwards down the A404(M) to join the M4. My journey took me back to the M25, then clockwise to Junction 21A; I arrived home at 22:30.
I was in two minds ... it seems I often am(!) ... as to whether to log on so late in the evening to update my blog; but I did, before turning in for the night. Besides, I needed to know if Choc had any riding engagements the following day; he hadn’t.