DIARY – NEWBURY – SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY 2009
My day started with yet another trip to the local petrol station to fill up my car, arriving back just in time to watch the Channel 4 Morning Line programme. There was conflicting information regarding the time the gates at Newbury would open, I think the website stated 11:00 and The Morning Line 11:30. So, as I’d planned to leave at around 09:45, I stuck to my original arrangements, but decided to drop in at my local Next and M & S on route, as I wanted to see if Next had in stock a blue skirt which I’d seen in their catalogue, and I can never resist a visit to M & S!
In the event, Next didn’t have the skirt I wanted, but I found a brown one instead, and a grey top too, then I took a stroll (or should that be a route march) across the large car park to take a look in M & S, where I found a black skirt I really liked.
My girlie confessions on clothes are that I love shades of green/blue (viridian), turquoise and purple/mauve. I like skirts with hem detail, tops with frills or ribbons and ¾ length sleeves and, following Trinny and Susannah’s guidelines, definitely no high necklines (unless I’m trying to keep warm at the races!). I certainly won’t be found wanting for a Cheltenham outfit or four!
Having completed my shopping I set off for Newbury at 10:30; travelling via the M25, the M40 to High Wycombe, the A404 to reach the M4, then westwards to Junction 12, and along the A4 to Newbury. I then drove through the industrial estate, under the railway line, and up the drive which runs through the golf course to reach the car park, arriving at noon.
Having parked, I walked along to the entrance of the Grandstand Enclosure where I purchased an entry ticket for £15, and a race-card at the kiosk. As it was still nearly 90 minutes until the first race, I set off for the track-side rails, where I found an empty bench to sit on and then spent time reading through the race-card.
At around 13:00 I set off for the Parade Ring to listen to today’s tipsters giving their opinions on today’s runners … not that it makes a lot of difference to me as I haven’t placed a bet since 16 November last!
It was now time for the horses to enter the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race. Originally there were 8 entries in the event, but Choc’s intended mount, Aqualung, was a non-runner. It was a NH Novices’ Hurdle over a distance of 3 miles and ½ a furlong and therefore started half way down the back straight.
When the race began, it was initially led off by Fighting Chance, but soon Nahanni King took over. Run for Moor took a keen hold. The favourite, Definity, was in mid-field, with Anyauldiron bringing up the rear. By the time they had completed a circuit, Nahanni King had dropped out and was soon tailed off. Fighting Chance had taken the lead, with Definity in close attendance. Richard Johnson’s mount, Pubjabi Army, was in 5th place as they turned into the final straight. Anyauldiron was pulled up before the 3rd last flight. By the second last obstacle it had developed into a fight between Punjabi Army and Definity, but unfortunately the former made an error at the last, which allowed Definity, for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh, to win nicely.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure, where just 3 horses came back in, Punjabi Army having sustained a superficial injury when making his final flight error, so he was taken for veterinary attention. In 3rd place was Minella Theatre, Terry Biddlecombe doing the honours for his wife Henrietta Knight, with Run for Moor in 4th place.
The second race was a Novices’ Handicap Steeplechase with just 5 runners. Choc had no ride in this race. The distance was 2 miles and 2½ furlongs, so started at the beginning of the home straight.
When the race began, Oh Braga led off, followed closely by Fit to Drive. The leader made a mistake at the 8th fence. By the time the field had entered the final straight, Barry Geraghty’s mount, Schiehallion, was tailed off and then fell at the 4th last fence. The remaining 4 runners were all in with a chance as they travelled up the final straight, but despite wandering off a straight line before the last fence, and also making a mistake at it, Oh Braga ran on to win. A winner for Tom George and Paddy Brennan. Fit to Drive finished 2nd, Hill Forts Timmy was 3rd, and last was Amble Forge.
It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard Yardbird, in the Veterans’ Handicap Steeplechase (for horses aged 10 and above) over a distance of 3 miles 2½ furlongs. The start of the race was at the beginning of the back straight, so the 8 runners cantered straight there.
When the race began Puntal was sent into the lead. Choc rode Yardbird on the outside of the field, taking close order with the leader. Tom Sayers was the first horse to lose touch with the field. Darkness, the favourite ridden by AP McCoy, made a mistake at the fence before the water-jump. However, Venetia Williams’ charge, Go for One, with Aiden Coleman aboard left his hind-legs in the water, resulting in the unseating of his jockey.
When Puntal dropped back after the end of the first circuit, Irish Raptor took over the running. Choc had begun working aboard Yardbird by now, and blundered at the 12th fence. Unfortunately the loose horse, which was running to the inside of the fences, took the short route around the final bend, which resulted in Irish Raptor attempting to follow him, unseating Paddy Brennan in the process, as they hit the plastic running rail. Darkness went on the win, despite making a number of mistakes. The Irish representative, Church Island, finished 2nd, Puntal 3rd and I Hear Thunder 4th.
Following his jumping error, Yardbird had soon dropped to the rear of the field and was never travelling after that, Choc pulling him up before the last fence. He returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle and speak with connections, then set off for the Weighing Room. He kindly stopped to sign autographs when requested.
It was now time for the big race of the day, the totesport.com Gold Cup Handicap Steeplechase over a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs. There were 15 runners, Choc’s mount being Ouzbeck, making a quick comeback following his mishap at Kempton Park last Saturday when he unseated Choc at the 3rd fence. The horse just tries too hard! Ouzbeck went off as 3rd favourite. The start of the race was in the far corner, so the horses cantered down past the stands, their first obstacle being the ‘cross’ fence.
When the race began, The Package led them off, with Sir Bathwick and Natal in close order. Choc pursued an inside line in midfield. In rear was Mr Pointment. The fancied Hold Em, with Richard Johnson aboard, fell at the last fence down the back straight as they completed a circuit. Choc made headway from the 11th fence, coming into the home straight in 3rd place, chasing the leaders (The Package and New Little Bric) all the way to the line. However, having weakened significantly from 2 fences out, he was overtaken by Mister Quasimodo (3rd) and then Stan (4th) close to the line.
The winner was New Little Bric, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Nick Scholfield. The jockey having won the race last year aboard Natal (who was ridden by Ruby today). The Package ran very gamely to finish 2nd. Again Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle and then he returned to the Weighing Room.
Choc’s next ride was Norman the Great in the Handicap Hurdle race, over a distance of 2 miles and ½ a furlong, with 8 runners. The start of the race was halfway down the home straight.
When the race began, the horses set off in ‘Indian’ file – 4 on the outside and 4 on the inside. Choc was on the inside, 2nd behind the leader of the group. Amour Multiple dived at the final flight in the back straight but survived the blunder.
As they turned into the home straight, Wingman, Procas de Thaix, and Norman the Great were all vying for the lead, in fact the only horse to have been dropped at this stage was Good Spirit. The next to drop back was Amour Multiple. At the last flight, Norman the Great was slightly in the lead, but he was overtaken by Secret Tune (1st) on the run in, then by the grey, Mutual Friend (2nd) close to the line. Another winner for Tom George. Procas de Thaix finished 4th.
As I did after every race, I returned to watch the horses come in to the Winners’ Enclosure or to see Choc unsaddle in the Parade Ring area when he was unplaced. On this occasion he made his first (and unfortunately last) visit to the Winners’ Enclosure today.
When Choc came out for his 4th ride of the day, an ‘older’ female owner who was part of another group, who he obviously knew, accosted him in the Parade Ring and gave him a kiss (or two in fact) on the cheek! But who can blame her?
Choc’s 4th ride of the day was aboard Aypeeyes in the Novices’ Handicap Hurdle event. There were 10 runners, over a distance of 2 miles and ½ a furlong – the start being halfway up the home straight.
At the start, a horse called Theft appropriately stole 7 or 8 lengths on the field! He was followed by Clova Island and Blues in Cee. Choc and Aypeeyes were on the inside in 6th position. Kevcat raced very keenly, and appeared to still be pulling as they exited the back straight!
Choc was pushing his mount along after 3 out, and soon weakened out of contention. As they approached the last flight, Clova Island and Indian Blood were disputing the lead, but the former fell, handing the race to Ruby’s mount. Luckily the horses which were following quite close behind managed to avoid the jockey, Darren O’Dwyer. Kevcat finished 2nd, with Theft in 3rd and Halfway Cut in 4th. The 3rd success of the day for Paul Nicholls. Choc finished 8th.
The last race of the day was a NH Flat race, over a distance of 2 miles and ½ furlong. Choc’s mount in this event was a flashy chestnut, Kauto the Roc, owned by Alan’s wife, Rachel.
When the race began, Squinch was the first to show, Choc holding up his mount on the inside of the field near the rear. Choc began to push his mount along from 4 furlongs out, pulling his mount to the inside to challenge but to no avail.
Having blotted his copybook at Kempton Park last Saturday (although that was a misunderstanding between jockey and starter) Bellvano suddenly appeared at the head of the field as they galloped up the home straight and won by 7 lengths pulling up on the line. Tail of the Bank finished 2nd, with Shooters Wood 3rd, and Oh No Not Harry 4th. Choc came 9th.
Having seen Choc unsaddle and return to the Weighing Room, I set off for the car park to collect my Fiesta for the long drive home. It was 17:15 when I drove out via the golf course and industrial estate. Once again I took the A4 through Thatcham, joining the M4 at the Reading West junction. I decided to return via the quickest route, which was M4 and M25, so I arrived home at 18:45.