DIARY – NEWBURY
– SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2009
Denman is paraded following his win
A few weeks ago I’d asked my friend Lesley if she’d like to go racing with me to either Ascot or Newbury at the end of November. Originally we’d planned to go to Kempton Park in mid-October, but firstly it transpired that Choc was engaged to ride at Fontwell Park that day, and secondly I was still suffering the painful after-effects of my recent fall. As Lesley has never been to Newbury – she’s attended Royal Ascot in the past – she decided upon Hennessy Gold Cup Day at the West Berkshire track.
Decisions, decisions, decisions – should I wear my calf-length brown jersey skirt with kick hem, my knee-length brown skirt – also kick with hem, or my brown Next skirt with graduated kick hem – although a little short at the front? Shoes or boots? I finally decided on my knee-length brown skirt and brown ‘granny-style’ shoes – I need to wear grass friendly shoes when visiting the races, especially in autumn and winter! And, of course, I’m still paranoid about falling over following my close encounter with a pavement back in early October. No problems with tops – just wear as many as possible! Thermal vest, quarter-sleeved top, long-sleeved top, sweater, light-weight fleece, cardigan, gillet and faux sheepskin coat! Mittens and scarf and hat! Mind you, I might be using all my winter ammunition too soon – it’s going to get colder as the season progresses!
As the recommended route to Newbury is via the M25 and M4, Lesley decided to borrow her dad’s car (which is more reliable than her own) and drive down from Bedfordshire to collect me en route. I knew the gates at Newbury would be opening earlier than 2 hours before the first race, so suggested that she pick me up just before 08:00. Our trip via the M25 and M4 went well, and we left the motorway at the Reading West junction, travelling along the A4 for the remainder of the journey to Newbury – it’s a very pleasant drive which takes you through the village of Woolhampton, and on through Thatcham.
We were very early, arriving at around 09:20, the only hold-up we experienced having been between the M40 and M4 due to an accident which was in the process of being cleared away – the vehicles involved had already been moved to the hard-shoulder. Having parked the car, we walked around to the Grandstand entrance, having to wait a few minutes before the gates opened at 09:30. We purchased race-cards and then walked along to visit the marquees in the tented shopping village, Lesley promising to come back to buy Christmas cards from the Retired Greyhounds Trust Stand if she made a profit from today’s bets! I like to take a look at the merchandise on sale at any jewellery outlets – although I can never justify making a purchase, as I design and make so many items for myself, family and friends.
Having window-shopped at the marquees, we headed for the lower level of the grandstand to buy coffees, and sat down at one of the tables. Lesley took time out to go through her race-card to make her selections for a number of the races – she bets only £2 each way, but had a very successful afternoon ... but more about that later.
Following our break, we headed for the Parade Ring area which, as it was still early, was deserted. Derek Thompson was the race day presenter and, out on the concourse, firstly he interviewed Harry Findlay about the prospects of Denman, and then the proprietors of one of the marquee shops. Derek then went on a tour of the other marquees.
The first entertainment in the Parade Ring was the punters panel, introduced by Derek Thompson, and included ex-flat jockey John Reid. Ex-jump jockey Graham Bradley was expected to be part of the panel but had been held up in traffic. Graham did arrive eventually, and Derek asked him to give his views on the horses which had arrived in the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race. Derek also found Janice Coyle amongst the spectators – when Janice was a stable-girl, she looked after Desert Orchid. There was also a fashion item pre-racing, race-goers being invited into the Parade Ring to display their race day outfits. Later during the day, Derek interviewed Cilla Black, who was also in attendance today.
It was soon time for the first race. Lesley’s pick in this race was Finian’s Rainbow, because she remembered the 1968 film musical of the same name starring Fred Astaire, Petula Clark and Tommy Steele! Choc didn’t have a ride in this event. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, Lesley and I walked through between the stands to find a place to view the race. As there was a large crowd today, we couldn’t get as close to the rails as we would have liked – so remained on the tarmac area a few metres back.
The start of this race was halfway down the home straight, with just over one circuit to travel. The horses circled around an enclosure just to the inside of the racetrack, before walking across the steeplechase track to reach the hurdles course.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Sereth, followed by Finian’s Rainbow and the hard-pulling Sleepy Hollow. Bringing up the rear was Don’t Panic. Bizarrely, a helicopter landed centre-course whilst the horses progressed down the back straight.
A number of the horses had lost touch by the end of the back straight, including Flying Squad, Mykingdomforakiss, and Catholic Hill. Marley Roca came to grief at the 3rd last flight, jockey Liam Treadwell sustaining a broken collarbone in the fall. Having tracked the long-time leader Sereth throughout the race, Finian’s Rainbow took over the lead before 2 out, and galloped on to win by 15 wins. A winning debut over hurdles. And Lesley had won her first bet! Many of those horses which did complete were tailed off.
We returned to the Parade Ring to see the horses arrive back. It was announced that a Stewards Enquiry was being held into why a helicopter had landed mid-course whilst a race was in progress. Of course, helicopters are permitted to land at the course, but presumably for Health and Safety reasons this is not permitted to occur during a race.
Soon it was time for the second race, in which Choc would be riding the blinkered Sharajan, a horse which had taken part in the same race last year, only to capsize at the first fence. Our chosen vantage point didn’t allow me to take any photos as Choc was legged-up into the saddle, so I decided that I would stand on the raised steps when we returned to the Parade Ring at the end of this race.
Lesley didn’t have a punt in this event but, had she placed a bet, it would have been upon Hey Big Spender – perhaps thinking of the 1967 hit recorded by Shirley Bassey! Once the horses had exited the Parade Ring we set off to view the race from a viewpoint as close to the course-side rails as we could get. The race started near the end of the back straight and Choc arrived first at the gate – more often than not he’s the first competitor out onto the course.
Then they were off. The field was led away by South Bank, followed by Kawagino, Fistral Beach and Bobby Gee. Choc chose to take an inside line aboard Sharajan as he raced midfield. The first casualty was Be Definite, who unseated Sam Thomas at the first. Next to depart was Kilvergan Boy, who unseated Paddy Brennan at the 5th obstacle. Bobby Gee made a jumping error at the 6th, and then fell at the 10th. Jockey Sam Jones broke his collarbone in the fall. Having dropped back, South Bank fell independently at this fence.
Hey Big Spender was travelling nicely on the outside of the field. Having led since the water-jump, Kawagino blundered and relinquished the lead to Fistral Beach at the 11th. Sharajan dropped to the rear of the field, and Choc pulled him up before the cross-fence. Finney took a horrible fall 4 out and for a moment it looked as though the horse might be badly injured, remarkably the animal did get to its feet quite quickly and cantered away. It was reported that he was taken to the veterinary area for a precautionary check over.
Fistral Beach led until Hey Big Spender took over before the 2nd last, the latter running on to win by 3¾ lengths.
We returned to the Parade Ring to watch the horses return, this time I stood high up on the steps, and I was able to take a number of photos as Choc walked back to the Weighing Room.
It was soon time for the third race of the day, the hot favourite for this event being the Paul Nicholls trained World Hurdle winner Big Buck’s. Choc was engaged to ride Blazing Bailey for his first run of the season, the horse having undergone a wind operation during his summer break from racing. The ever popular and very game Lough Derg was also running today.
Having arrived in the Parade Ring and spoken with Alan King and the horse’s connections, I had a good view of Choc as he walked across to the nearside rails where he was legged-up into the saddle by Alan. Once again Choc was first out onto the course and arrived at the start before his 6 rivals. The start of this race being halfway down the back straight.
Then they were off. As is customary, Lough Derg was sent into the lead. The grey, Nacarat, was steered on a very wide course in second, followed by Big Buck’s, Duke de Regniere, and Blazing Bailey on the outside. Soon Lough Derg had a clear lead. Choc administered reminders at the 5th, Blazing Bailey having made an error.
Down the back straight, Nacarat was again ridden very wide, Blazing Bailey flattening the 7th flight. Going into the final bend, Lough Derg was encouraged by Tom Scudamore to keep up to his work. Big Buck’s was cruising in 2nd position, followed by Duke de Regniere, Blazing Bailey in 4th. Nacarat soon dropped out.
Big Buck’s took the lead approaching the last, Lough Derg although beaten refused to relinquish 2nd, Barry Geraghty checking behind for challengers as Duke de Regniere settled for 3rd place. Blazing Bailey finished in 4th. Nacarat and Souffleur were pulled up.
Having finished 4th, Choc returned to the Winners’ Enclosure on this occasion. I believe the area reserved for the winner has been made larger this year, so the 4th place spot is now facing towards the side of the paddock. This being the case, I climbed the steps nearby to get a better view of Choc as he returned.
Choc didn’t have a ride in the next race. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring we set off to view the event. This time, however, we stood on the lower steps of the grandstand, so that we didn’t have so far to walk when we returned to the Parade Ring prior to the big race, The Hennessy Gold Cup. I was hoping to get a good view of Choc aboard Nenuphar Collonges as they walked around the paddock.
Lesley’s selection in the 4th event was Isn’t That Lucky, ridden by Richie McGrath.
There were 3 greys in this race. The race was to start in the far corner of the track, the first obstacle being the cross-fence. Then they were off. The field was led away by Mount Oscar and grey Misty Dancer. Another of the greys, the Paul Nicholls trained Pasco, had assumed the lead as they reached the straight, then Calgary Bay came through to take up the running, with the former remaining handy. The next horse to lead was the keen running Moon Over Miami.
Or Bleu fell at the 10th obstacle. The third grey, Pirayi, was in close contention. As they took the cross-fence for a second time, Moon Over Miami, Pasco, Au Courant and Mount Oscar disputed the lead. Wee Robbie having made progress, departed at the 4th last fence, Finger Onthe Pulse unseated too. Pasco, with Ruby Walsh aboard, led all the way up the home straight, until headed close home by Mount Oscar, the winning distance ½ a length.
We returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the feature race – The Hennessy Gold Cup. Having found a position high on the steps surrounding the ring, we had a good view of the proceedings. The jockeys left the Weighing Room and, upon reaching the Parade Ring, were directed towards the podium for a group photograph to be taken. Following this, the riders went to find their respective trainers and owners.
Another bet for Lesley – this time on What A Friend – she’s a Manchester United fan and the horse is part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson. For the record – I HATE FOOTBALL!
The Parade Ring was crowded, as there were 19 runners in this race. Choc was legged up aboard Nenuphar Collonges on the far side and came along the pathway in front of where I was stood, Denman with Ruby Walsh aboard followed shortly afterwards. Once the majority of the horses had left the Parade Ring, Lesley and I set off for the course-side rails, hoping to get as close as possible to the action.
The riders organised themselves in race-card order, Denman at the front, Choc 4th from the back. The horses were led down past the stands before they turned and cantered to the start, which was at the beginning of the back straight. On the big screen you could see that Ruby was endeavouring to keep Denman on the move at the start, trotting him around in a circle.
Last to leave the start enclosure, Ruby rushed Denman up on the outside to get a good position as the race began. Then they were off. The field was led away by Joe Lively, War of Attrition, Niche Market, Gone to Lunch, then Denman. One of the Irish raiders, Offshore Account, unseated its rider at the first. Choc rode Nenuphar Collonges towards the outside of the runners, in midfield, administering encouragement after the cross-fence. By the second open-ditch, Niche Market had taken up the running. Ballyfitz and My Will brought up the rear of the field, the former making jumping errors at the 9th and 10th fences.
Denman put his head in front as they cleared the water jump, although Niche Market regained it shortly afterwards. Cappa Bleu, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, lost his place and then fell at the 15th fence. Choc was pushing Nenuphar Collonges throughout much of the race – however this is the horse’s usual style of running!
Denman led from the 15th fence, What A Friend making steady progress. Around the final bend, the race order was Denman, Barbers Shop, Niche Market and What A Friend. Denman continued his relentless progress up the home straight, his only challenger being stable companion What A Friend. However, despite the latter’s persistence, Denman drew away again to win by 3½ lengths. Another winning each-way bet for Lesley!
Nenuphar Collonges finished 9th, one place ahead of Joe Lively.
The spectators had been very vocal, cheering Denman home, and many of them had already arrived at the Parade Ring before us, so we were unable to get a position on the raised steps and had to settle for a space one back from the rails. Denman was greeted by rapturous applause and cheering as he arrived in the Winners’ Enclosure. The celebrations continued whilst the horse was unsaddled. Before returning to the stables, the stable-lass led Denman around the pathway in front of his adoring fans.
As many of the winning connections and members of the media, etc, were still in the Winners’ Enclosure area, the horses for the 6th race could not be lead around part of the perimeter of the Parade Ring, and took a shortcut across the middle. This meant that we couldn’t get a good view of Choc as he arrived for his final ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Silk Hall. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring we walked down to the course-side rails – and on this occasion we managed to find a spot right beside the rails to view the race. The start was halfway down the home straight, with just over one circuit of the course to travel.
No selections for Lesley in this race, not even a ‘no bet’ fancy.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Dunaskin, followed by Gee Dee Nen, Benfleet Boy and Fairyland. Choc was travelling midfield, taking a centre line, aboard Silk Hall. Dani’s Girl was in rear.
Silk Hall needed to be pushed along after the 5th flight. Know The Law unseated its rider 3 out. Gee Dee Nen relinquished the lead to Fairyland 2 out, the latter galloping on to win. There was a blanket finish for 2nd place, with Frontier Dancer prevailing by a short head from Trafalgar Road.
Silk Hall was eased down by Choc and finished last of the 11 which completed.
Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle Silk Hall, before walking back to the Weighing Room for the final time today, stopping en route to speak with friends.
It was now time for the last race of the day – a handicap chase for amateur riders. Lesley’s final selection was Shillingstone – chosen with no particular reason in mind! I’d seen the horse win at Kempton Park earlier this month but I’m not sure that I mentioned it to Lesley at the time.
Once the riders had left the Parade Ring we set off to view the proceedings from alongside the course-side rails. Gloom was descending as dusk approached, the day having started off sunny. This race was run over the same distance as the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Then they were off. Putney Bridge jumped into the lead at the first, Alfadora unseating its rider at the same obstacle. Borero blundered at the 2nd when in rear. Shillingstone was taking the shortest route on the inside. Into the straight for the first time Putney Bridge still led, last year’s winner, Jim Bobs Girl a clear second, followed by Kennel Hill and Scots Dragoon.
The Real Deal made a couple of jumping errors up the straight. When Putney Bridge blundered at the 15th, Jim Bobs Girl took over the lead. Sadly, having jumped the 16th fence, Jim Bobs Girl had to be pulled up, having broken down, the rider quickly dismounting. At the rear of the field, Borero was pulled up before the cross fence.
Into the home straight the contenders were Shillingstone and Scots Dragoon, ahead of Baron Windrush. It was neck and neck up the home straight, with Shillingstone pulling away from Scots Dragoon after the last, and running on to win by 4½ lengths.
We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return. The riders having weighed in, Lesley went to collect her winnings. Having already made a profit, she’d been to purchase a pack of Christmas cards from the Retired Greyhounds Trust stand earlier in the afternoon. We returned to the car, pausing for a few minutes to eat a packet of cheese-straws and a few chocolate biscuits – our favourite post-races snack!
We then joined the queue of traffic to leave the parking area. Cars were filtering into the main stream of traffic, but we wanted to turn right not left, to drive down through the golf course area. However, no cars were willing to let us pass through in front of them, to join the ‘golf course’ route, so we had to re-think our options. Once the cars had cleared behind us, we reversed and headed back through spaces between the parked cars, through the coach park, and through a gap in the hedge into the health centre car park next door – we were following 2 other vehicles!
Traffic on the road through the golf course was travelling smoothly and we soon exited the gates. This year, stewards were situated on either side of the single track railway bridge and directed the vehicles through beneath the line even when the lights were showing red, as they could check that nothing was coming in the other direction. There had been a problem last year, when it took around an hour to exit the course because cars were being held up by the red light.
Having driven through the Industrial Estate and arrived at the mini-roundabout, we had right of way over traffic which had exited the racecourse from the main entrance – there being a tailback for as far as you could see! Turning right at the traffic lights on the A4, we took the road back through Thatcham – unlike last year, there were no traffic queues today - and joined the M4 at the Reading West Junction.
On the way home we discussed ‘girlie’ topics like outfits for forthcoming Christmas parties, or at least Lesley’s Christmas parties – I don’t do parties as, being shy and retiring, I’ve never enjoyed attending them! Earlier in the day we’d discussed whether we could wear leggings (under dresses I hasten to add) ... or were we too long in the tooth to do so?... although there is also the memory of wearing them in the early 1990’s when they were last in fashion! That definitely wasn’t a good look!
Being a Saturday, there were no hold-ups on the M25 through the road widening section on the clockwise carriageway – although there was a queue anti-clockwise near Maple Cross. Lesley dropped me off at home at around 17:30. Time to eat a quick snack before settling down to watch Strictly Come Dancing – surprisingly Ricky Whittle and his professional partner Natalie Lowe were in the dance-off today, but they were voted through by the judges, with Natalie Cassidy partnered by Vincent Simone being eliminated. The correct decision.