DIARY – NEWBURY – DAY 2 BET365 FESTIVAL
FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2015
Ardamir in the Parade Ring ahead of the Juvenile Hurdle
This particular trip was a late addition to my racing programme; I was already on annual leave and hopeful that Choc might attend due to one of the Dunkley and Reilly Partnership horses, Ardamir, who was also making his British debut, having an engagement in the first race of the day.
My outfit today was two long-sleeved thermal heatgen t-shirts – purple and plum, one long-sleeved heatgen teal coloured roll-neck top. Also a teal coloured cardigan, purple fleece, black gillet, grey thermal tights, beige zip-up jeggings, short floaty material hanky hem style M & S skirt in teal/beige/brown, flint-coloured Danville Hotter ankle boots and a pair of socks, a teal anorak, long striped multi-coloured wrist-warmers, a multi-coloured River Island fabric scarf, horse-design black/white cowl, and my capacious burgundy/brown/pink Next handbag. This sounds like items on the conveyor belt of the Generation Game!
And I almost forgot to mention my earrings – the Fired Creation ones I wore to Aintree. There was no need to wear a necklace, as I wouldn’t wear one over a roll-neck top because all of my necklaces are short ones. My boobs prevent me from wearing long necklaces, as they would be dangling off a cliff! Roll-necks are new to my collection too, again difficult to wear with a large chest, as are any form of high neckline; however, I’ve become delicate in my old age and now wish to keep warm at all costs!
I got up at my usual work day time, between 06:30 and 06:45 and, although this gave me plenty of time to get ready, I still didn’t leave home until 09:33; my aim had been around 09:15. I travelled via the ring-road, anti-clockwise, where a ‘white van man’ at the Ancient Briton junction decided to take advantage by entering the outside lane which is signed for turning right, only to cut me up having driven straight on; typical.
Subsequently I drove up Bluehouse Hill, along King Harry Lane, followed by Watford Road, down the dual carriageway, before turning right onto the M25 anti-clockwise carriageway at Junction 21A. I headed around to the M4 in order to join the westbound carriageway, but I had to stop off at the services between J11 and J12 to spend a penny! I ate two of the cheese rolls whilst I was in the car park, and then wended my way back along the service road to the motorway once more.
I left at junction 12 and headed along the A4 through Woolhampton and Thatcham to Newbury. There is a different road layout on what was a dual carriageway leading up to the Aldermaston roundabout – it’s now painted as a single carriageway. There was a group of workmen next to the main road just prior to Woolhampton; possibly working on the utility services for a number of new houses which had been built beside a service road to the left.
I’d received a tweet the previous day notifying attendees of the new road and car park layout which was in operation for the Hennessy Festival fixture. It was suggested that all traffic heading in from the west, north and east should use the new bridge, approaching via the A4; with vehicles arriving from the south using Racecourse Road off the A339.
I arrived at Newbury racecourse at around 11:30. The new bridge is impressive, arching high above the great western railway line, and towering over the fitness centre situated to the right-hand side upon entry. The golf course’s clubhouse appears to have become a victim of the bridge building; I’m not sure if they have a new clubhouse located elsewhere, but the club’s website suggests that golf continues to be played on the 9-hole, 18-tee course which lies within the track.
At the far end of the bridge is a roundabout, where I turned right to head towards the racecourse’s main enclosures. The tarmaced road soon bears to the right, at which point I was instructed to turn left and enter a muddy track beside a grass-covered parking area. Vehicles were parked along the right-hand side of the track, including the Fuller’s Brewery vehicle bringing a dray and two shires to the racecourse to parade ahead of the Grade 2 Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase. Cars belonging to a number of bookmakers were parked on the grass nearest the entrance, and a number were still unloading their equipment. There was also a large crane positioned within the cordoned off area to my right, where the old derelict stand used to be; indicating that another block or blocks of apartments were now under construction.
Those spectators who had already purchased tickets were able to enter via the same gate as the bookmakers; straight onto the area in front of the Dubai Duty Free Stand. As I didn’t have a ticket, and a lady steward did ask me whether I had or not, I had to walk around to the entrance I usually use, which faces the railway line. The old turnstiles had been removed, and replaced by a temporary marquee-like structure; next to the permanent gate structure was the owners’ and trainers’ entrance, then the ticket purchasing counter, the ticket holders entrance and finally the ticket collection point! Entry today cost £20.00.
Once inside I purchased a race-card for £3.00 and then headed along the concourse to the Parade Ring. Normally I’d reach the steppings above the paddock via a passageway to the left of the betting office but, for this fixture, a row of retail outlet tents had been erected – Hennessy High Street – along the rear of the main concourse and it was impossible to squeeze through the gap, unless you were particularly skinny! Instead, on this occasion, I passed to the right of the aforementioned betting office to reach the rails surrounding the Parade Ring before turning right to walk along the lowest level, stopping a little further along.
There were a number of hounds just leaving the Parade Ring, evidently huntsmen from the Vine and Craven had been in attendance at 11:30. There had been a jockey autograph signing session at 11:25 in the IJF tent on Hennessy High Street; I’d missed that, so don’t know which jockeys were in attendance. Although I do know that, on Saturday, it was Leighton Aspell and Sam Twiston-Davies doing the honours.
A large screen on which to view the racing has recently been installed to the far corner of the Parade Ring and; upon flicking through the race-card I found an artist’s impression of the intended development of the paddock area. The Winners’ Enclosure will be shifted to the south-western end of the Parade Ring and it appears that, when the separate Premier Enclosure is in operation on big race days, those customers will have better viewing access to this area than standard grandstand ticket holders; typical. This is not the case at present.
I recollect that the initial plan was to move the Weighing Room to the far side of the Parade Ring, from its current location within the Berkshire Stand. This appears to have been usurped by hospitality pavilions instead. This is presently the area where Alan King and other trainers saddle their horses, some in closed boxes to the eastern end of the area. The new owners’ and trainers’ facility will be reduced in footprint, but increased to two floors. The new Pre-Parade Ring and saddling boxes will be squeezed into the space between this facility and the hospitality pavilions. There will also be a brand new eastern entrance building. Work on this phase is due to begin in early 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in around 18 months.
The first stage of the racecourse development has more or less been completed. This includes the new eastern bridge, the newly laid out and landscaped car park 4, the owners’ and trainers’ car park, the stable staff accommodation building known as ‘The Lodge’, and also the Rocking Horse Nursery. However, work was still being carried out on a handful of dwellings adjacent to the 3 miles 2 furlong ‘Hennessy’ starting gate. The main Premier Enclosure parking area within the centre of the racecourse has been in operation for a number of seasons now ... but it’s not as nice as car park 4! I love car park 4, as I was fortunate enough to arrive early the following day to take advantage of it!!!
Olly Bell was presenting for RUK today, taking advantage of the overhanging roof to the back of the Berkshire Stand to provide protection from any showers today.
I didn’t have long to wait until the first race of the day, which was due off at 12:25; however, once the horses and connections had arrived in the Parade Ring it became apparent that although the blonde lady was in attendance, presumably a member of the ‘Reilly’ half of the Partnership, Paul Dunkley was not. Sadly, there was no sign of Choc either; perhaps he was looking after William today.
Oh well, I’d rather go to the races and then discover Choc is not there, than not go to the races and then later find out that he was! Fingers crossed he would be at Newbury the following day to see the partnership’s Ned Stark compete in the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Strangely, Ardamir has similar facial markings to Ned Stark – a star, although much smaller, and a long snip, although narrower!
Major Mac led having jumped the first flight and was well clear as they headed down the back straight. He was still ahead until Kasakh Noir, The Coffee Hunter and Ardamir joined him heading over the penultimate flight. At this point Kasakh Noir cruised into the lead and, having cleared the last, went on to win by 16 lengths.
It turned out to be a disappointing run from Ardamir; having been close enough to make a challenge two out, he began to lose touch with the front three and was then relegated to 5th on the run up to the line. Did he need the run, did he not like the soft ground, or was there something amiss?
Ardamir’s next run, on 16 December again at Newbury, proved to be even less memorable when he pulled up in the home straight having dropped to the rear of the 8 runner field. There must be something amiss ... as both Alan King and Choc think a lot of the horse.
Kasakh Noir sports the familiar racing colours of Tim ‘Somersby’ Radford; it’s the first horse he’d sent to the Skeltons and had now won on debut for them. Tim’s company, Timico, was subsequently announced as the new sponsor of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
There were no Alan King-trained runners in the next race.
Vision Des Champs led for much of the race, and was well clear of his rivals beginning the journey down the back straight; his lead much reduced by the end of it. Rouge Et Blanc took over at the head of affairs having cleared four out, and he was shadowed by Mon Successeur.
Heading down to the last, these two were pulling well clear of the others and Rouge Et Blanc was faster into his stride having jumped it. Now over a length down, Mon Successeur did rally under pressure and although he closed the gap slightly, the Oliver Sherwood runner won by three quarters of a length.
Jockey Tom Garner explained that the winner has a mind of his own, but he loves the horse regardless!
There were no Alan King-trained runners in the next race.
One of the two mares Grape Tree Flame led the field until after the 5th flight; Missed Approach took over and remained ahead of his rivals to win by 12 lengths from Billy No Name. The winner had been absent from the racetrack for almost a year.
I liked Billy No Name, which had travelled quite close to the pace for much of the race, and there’s a picture of him amongst my photographs. Sykes threw away his chance of being runner-up with a blunder at the last flight.
Alan King ran the mare L’Unique in the next race, a Grade 2 Novices’ Chase. She is a Grade 1 winning hurdler, having captured Aintree Festival’s Juvenile Hurdle in April 2013. However, she’d finished a remote third on her chasing debut at Wincanton on 07 November but there were extenuating circumstances that day; firstly she’d been frightened during the race by a steward wearing a yellow hi-viz jacket and almost ran out as a result then, subsequently, she’d been hampered.
The larger and lighter grey Maximiser led until the 11th fence, at which point he crumpled on landing and fell; having been badly hampered by this incident, Sametegal unseated Sam Twiston-Davies and Three Musketeers was also hampered. Quickly on his feet, Sam rushed across to check that Joe Colliver was okay because Maximiser had rolled over him. This departure left Activial in the lead until the next fence, where he blundered and was headed by Ubak.
The strongly travelling Three Musketeers then took the lead when Ubak made at error 4 out. The Dan Skelton runner was soon in command and went on to win by 4½ lengths from Activial; the latter’s jumping having let him down during the race. L’Unique, having been outpaced in the home straight, outjumped Ubak at the last to complete in 3rd. The latter did well considering he’d been off the track for 945 days; a smart hurdler in his time, having won a Grade 2 Novice hurdle at Aintree.
Maximiser lay on the ground for quite some time, but did eventually rise. It transpired he’d been kicked by Sametegal, was sore behind and had also sustained a problem with his tail. More
I should have had a bet on Three Musketeers, being a big fan of the BBC Musketeers series – I like Santiago Cabrera.
There were no Alan King-trained runners in the next race.
According to his preferred style of racing, Next Sensation took the lead and remained ahead until the 9th fence, at which point Little Jon took over. The Paul Nicholls representative, Howlongisafoot, having made an error at the first fence, subsequently fell at the 10th; Sam Twiston-Davies was quickly on his feet, as was the horse and he was able to catch hold of him. It wasn’t Sam’s day!
Approaching the second last, the strong travelling Upepito looked a major danger but, when asked for his effort on the run-in, he found nought whereas Little Jon stayed on gamely to win by 2 lengths.
Alan King had a representative in the next event, the chestnut Board Of Trade.
Champers On Ice made all, despite not being fluent at many of the obstacles, including the last. Minella Awards, having been held up but in touch, overtook the second placed Board Of Trade shortly after the last but was always held by the winner despite staying on.
Alan King had a representative in the next event, the chestnut Big Chief Benny; this was his hurdling debut, having been runner-up in both his first and third bumper appearances.
The favourite Wait For Me led the field until the headed at the last by Buveur D’Air; the latter going on to win by 11 lengths. Having tracked the winner throughout the race, Big Chief Benny was close enough to make a challenge when he blundered 2 out; however he was able to improve into 3rd by overtaking the weakening Bun Doran before the last flight and claimed this prize at the line.
There was confusion regarding the name of the third placed horse – the screen and the judge called it as one of the non-runners; when pointed out to Wayne Hutchinson by someone beside the Parade Ring, the jockey jogged back to the Weighing Room to ensure the error was corrected.
Apart from Choc failing to make an appearance, it had been a good day at the races. The weather had been okay, give or take the odd shower and, being a weekday, there was plenty of room to stand on the steppings overlooking the Parade Ring, also beside the course-side rails, and all points in between!
Racing over, I thought it sensible to pop to the loo within the Dubai Duty Free stand before I began my return journey to Hertfordshire. I exited via one of the rear doors to the stand, and headed out of the gates next to the entry marqees.
I headed back to collect my car from the grassed area beside the racetrack and departed at around 16:25; the trackway was even muddier than it had been when I arrived and wet mud splashed up the side of my car once more. It was dirtier on the driver’s side too. Upon reaching the roadway I turned right and headed to the roundabout, where I turned left to drive over the bridge. As it was going home time for many of the workers employed at the nearby industrial estate, a queue of traffic had formed on the bridge; so not only was traffic heading down Hambridge Road towards the roundabout with much frequency, but also out of the Hambridge Lane Industrial Estate to our right, also with priority over ourselves.
Having finally exited onto the Hambridge Road, I headed up to the traffic lights where I turned right in order to return along the A4 via Thatcham. I’d reached the M4 by 17:00 and joined the eastbound carriageway to head towards London. And everything was going really well until further into my journey when signs upon the motorway warned of severe delays between Junctions 16 and 17 on the M25; that’s the M40 and Maple Cross. Great. What to do next?
I’m the kind of person who would rather take a longer route than sit in stationary traffic, so I decided to leave the M4 at Junction 9/10; the Maidenhead turning. I thus headed along the northbound carriageway of the A404 towards High Wycombe. There was a slight delay at the first roundabout I encountered; this was possibly due to a broken down vehicle in the outside lane. It was parked mainly in the central reservation, so didn’t pose too much of an obstruction as such.
Having negotiated the roundabout, I continued in a northerly direction, leaving the dual carriageway at the Marlow junction. This was due to there being no point whatsoever in joining the M40 at the High Wycombe Central junction because that motorway joins the M25 at Junction 16 so I’d still get stuck on the latter! I turned right at the Marlow roundabout and headed through Little Marlow, Well End and Bourne End; yet again I was held up in a jam, this one just prior to Well End.
I turned left at the junction at the far end of Bourne End High Street, then left again further along to reach Wooburn Green. I took a right at the green and headed up the steep hill, over the M40 to reach the A40, where I turned right at the first of a set of double mini-roundabouts and continued in an easterly direction to Beaconsfield. Having negotiated the roundabout at the western end of their main thoroughfare, I encountered another queue of traffic. But, fortunately, the long tailback was entirely in the outside lane, so I was able to travel to their inside to reach the next roundabout where I turned left. There was the odd vehicle or two which cheated and stayed in the inside lane to gain an advantage before pushing their way into the outside lane further along. Don’t you just hate drivers who take advantage like that?
I headed towards Amersham; visibility was awful, not because of the weather particularly, although it was a bit damp, but because of glare from the headlights of oncoming vehicles. I can see perfectly fine when there’s nothing heading from the opposite direction, but you add headlights to the equation and it’s almost blinding. I hate it, but it’s a common problem for many I understand, especially as they get older.
I headed down the steep hill to Old Amersham in a low gear. Having negotiated the busy roundabout at the bottom of the hill, I headed straight across and turned left at the one situated outside a large Tesco store. A short distance along the main High Street, I turned right just before the old Town Hall, drove past St Mary’s Parish Church and up the hill to Amersham-On-The-Hill; strange that! I then took the road to Chesham; at Chesham Bois a driver pulled out in front of me from a road on the right-hand side, despite there being barely time for him to do so.
Just prior to the road descending into Chesham I encountered a long tailback of traffic again. It came as no surprise when the driver of the aforementioned car quickly decided to do a u-turn to head back in the other direction. Patience was obviously not their strongpoint! I eventually reached the bottom of the hill and headed along the Chesham ring-road. At the far end, I turned up White Hill; the area is so familiar, as Mark and I used to begin rambles from Chesham on a regular basis. Their Waitrose branch was also visited many times during our travels. You’d be surprised at the number of different Waitrose stores I’ve visited ... Berkhamsted, Marlow, Thame, Chesham and St Albans!
Anyway, back to the journey in hand. Having reached the top of White Hill, I headed along the road to Bovingdon. I’m not particular keen on this road, as there are a number of 90 degree turns en route; signs suggested 40mph ... you’d be lucky to do anything over 30mph in the dark! From Bovingdon I headed to Boxmoor where, at the traffic lights which were on green, I turned right to head under the railway bridge that carries the trains heading to and from Euston. The railway station is situated a short distance further on and, on a busy Friday evening, it was difficult to find a break in the traffic exiting the forecourt in order to cross over the next roundabout.
Having finally negotiated the traffic island, I continued along the A4251 before bearing left and heading over the river and canal to reach the ‘Magic Roundabout’; as I was heading to St Albans, I took the right-hand option; that’s right, left, left, right in order to head up the steep St Albans Road, whilst being mindful to stay within the 40mph speed limit because there’s speed camera near the top of the dual carriageway. There’s a single lane roundabout bypass at Jarman Park, which I followed before I reached another roundabout where I continued straight ahead.
At the following roundabout I turned right and headed through Leverstock Green, and began the journey along the Hemel Hempstead Road, again mindful to keep within the zoned speed limits of 30mph, 40mph and 50mph; it’s an authority ‘cash cow’ along this stretch of the road, with motorists regularly receiving tickets for speeding.
The road passes over the M1 and under the A414 before arriving at a roundabout at the top of Bluehouse Hill. I then headed down to the Batchwood roundabout. In hindsight it would probably have been quicker to travel around the ring-road before heading briefly away from home, to reach my preferred petrol forecourt to top up my tank again. Instead, I decided to go via St Albans City Centre and thus encountered a queue of traffic in Folly Lane, tailing back from the main shopping thoroughfare, St Peter’s Street.
I eventually reached the supermarket forecourt and topped up the tank before continuing to my destination. There was no queue at the petrol station, although I did have to use pump number 11 in the rear line of pumps. I arrived home at around 19:15; it had taken almost 3 hours to travel just 70 miles, thanks to the Friday evening rush-hour. However, I did catch the tail-end of It Takes Two, which was running a little late due to the coverage of the Davis Cup Final overrunning.
Having been damp for much of my journey home, there was a sudden heavy shower as I was unloading my car at the end of the day; I decided not to venture out again in order to put the car under the carport.
The weather had been okay today, for November. It was drizzly in St Albans early; as I got wetter than expected when opening the gates to the carport first thing this morning and also subsequently when loading my belongings into the car. This continued, on and off, as I headed to Newbury. It was damp when I stopped off at the M4 service station just prior to junction 12 too. The afternoon was brighter, with sunshine at times, but also the occasional shower, as I remember needing my umbrella at one point. It was drizzly again when I headed home, followed by the heavy downpour as just mentioned.
There was time to eat an M & S pasta bake meal, before uploading photographs and updating my blog, then heading to bed earlier than usual, at around 22:00, ahead of a further day at Newbury races; namely Hennessy Gold Cup Day.
Photos - Newbury – Race 1 (Ardamir’s Race)
Photos - Newbury – Races 2 & 3
Photos - Newbury – Races 4, 5, 6 & 7