DIARY Ė NEWBURY Ė MONDAY 29 DECEMBER 2008

 

As I was still on leave from work, I decided to take a trip to the races at Newbury where, initially, Choc had 5 rides scheduled. However, Tarotino came through as a non-runner in the 6th race, having been self-certified (that makes it sound like the horse wrote its own certificate!), so Choc now had 4 rides on this day.The distance to the course, although mainly via motorways, is around 70 miles each way.

I left home a little after 09:00, visiting the petrol station to fill up on the way out.Then, deciding to be a little obscure, I drove around the M25 to the M40 junction, where I took the latter motorway to Junction 4 High Wycombe west, turned down the A404 to reach the M4 and then along to Junction 12, Reading West, where I took the A4 through Thatcham to Newbury.Iíd driven to Junction 13 on my first visit to Newbury, only to be directed back eastwards along the A4 so thought it probably best to leave the M4 at Junction 12 this time around.

I arrived at the course at 11:00, this time having been directed to the main entrance, as opposed to through the nearby industrial estate.Having parked my car, and wrapped up warm Ė 8 layers plus coat Ė I walked around to the Grandstand Entrance to buy my ticket (£15 today) plus race-card £2.50.

It was bitterly cold, so I decided it was probably best to remain in the sunshine, so I walked around to the course-side rails to sit on a bench.Iím still not brave enough to frequent the bars on my own.I stayed there until it was time for the horses to arrive in the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race.

For every race today, I stood on the grass at the front of the Grandstand area, next to the rails, returning to the Parade Ring after each race to view the winners and then the competitors for the following races.

The first race was a Novicesí Chase, and Choc was not riding in this one.There were 5 runners and the contest was won by Planet of Sound under Richard Johnson, trained by Philip Hobbs.The horse led for most of the way and held off the challenge of Iím So Lucky.

The second race was a Juvenile Novicesí Hurdle, no mount for Choc again in this one.The race was led out by Nino Cochise under AP McCoy, Moment Present fell and brought down Shaftesbury in the back straight. By the last flight, Higgyís Boy was stalking the leader, and went on to win from Blues in Cee.Victory for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.

It was then time for Chocís first ride of the day, Trigger the Light, in the Mandarin Graduation Chase.He had just 4 rivals.As it was very cold, and my fingers were freezing, I decided not to take any photos of Choc in the Parade Ring, and was hoping Iíd get an opportunity after the race as the odds were that he would return in one of the first four places.Although, of course, the horse had fallen at Wincanton first time out this season and blundered badly at Cheltenham on his second appearance.

When it was time to mount, Choc was legged up over the far side of the paddock and walked around in front of me before exiting onto the course.The race started over the far side of the track.Once they were off, Sir Bathwick and Gone to Lunch under AP McCoy led the way.Trigger the Light was held up at the back, along with Mr Pointment.Choc took closer order into 3rd place as they travelled down the back straight for the final time.

However the grey, Money Trix, put in an extra stride at the fourth last and fell. Unfortunately, the animal fell into the path of Trigger the Light, who tried to jump him but was brought down.Luckily Choc fell into the gap beneath the horseís belly as it rolled over.Both horses got up quickly and galloped away up the course.The jockeys remained down for a few short minutes, but then rose under their own steam to walk to the ambulance unassisted.They were then driven back up the course.The race winner was Gone to Lunch.

I stayed at the rails a little longer than usual, Choc having come to grief, but then returned to the Parade Ring to take up my position in preparation for the next race.As I walked across the concourse, I glanced across to the Weighing Room and noticed Chocís valet, Phil, was taking a break with one of his colleagues.I didnít see Choc return, but the rider-less Trigger the Light was led into the Parade Ring to be unsaddled, and Alan returned with the saddle to the Weighing Room in preparation for weighing out for the next event.

Chocís ride in the next race, the Greatwood Introductory Hurdle, was China Gold.There were 9 runners in this race, Tigger having been withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice.This time Choc mounted on the nearside of the Parade Ring and exited immediately onto the course.The start for this race was halfway down the home straight.

Once they were off, Choc raced in 4th or 5th place, on the inside rail.At the end of the back straight Davidís Dream Ďcut-upí Gremlin (Alan Kingís second runner) as they neared the turn.China Gold chased the leaders and challenged as they approached the 2nd last flight.But, despite chasing the eventual winner, Davidís Dream, he could make no impression and finished in 2nd place.A second winner of the day for the team of Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.The Stewards held an enquiry into the interference between Davidís Dream and Gremlin, and awarded Barry Geraghty a 5-day ban for improper riding.

Choc came back into the Winnersí Enclosure aboard China Gold to unsaddle and speak to connections before returning to the Weighing Room.His ride in the next race, the Challow Novicesí Hurdle, was the blinkered runner, Junior.He was legged-up into the saddle on the nearside of the Parade Ring, the horses having been arranged in number order in preparation for the pre-race parade.The 6 competitors paraded down in front of the Premier and Grandstand areas, before cantering to the start in the far left-hand corner of the course.

Once the race began, Choc held up his mount in 5th position, Massasoit led them off, with Talenti in 2nd and the favourite, Diamond Harry in 3rd. Junior made headway to chase the leader from the 3rd flight out, at which Massasoit made a bad mistake, but Chocís mount made no impression after 2 out, edging left before the last flight.Diamond Harry under Timmy Murphy won, with Junior finishing 2nd.Again he returned to the Winnersí Enclosure in 2nd place spot.Having unsaddled he returned to the Weighing Room, stopping on the way to sign a number of autographs for some young lads who were waiting at the Parade Ring entrance.

Choc no longer had a ride in the 6th race of the day, Tarotino having been withdrawn. This event was a Novicesí Handicap Chase. The race was led off by Present Oriented, who stayed in front for the first circuit.Freeze the Flame and Plein Pouvoir then took over the lead, with the eventual winner, Shouldhavehadthat, hitting the front at the 2nd last obstacle.South Bank and Poker de Sivola chased the winner, with the latter almost beating him on the line.Yet another winner for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson, their 3rd of the day.

Chocís final ride of the day was aboard Chapolimoss, for owner Sir Robert Ogden and trainer Jonjo OíNeill, in a NH Flat race.Choc mounted over the far side of the Parade Ring and rode around in front of me before exiting onto the course. The horses cantered down past the stands to the start half way down the home straight.Once the race had started, Chapolimoss was held up in rear and could make no impression, finishing 11th of the 16 runners.

As he had finished unplaced, Choc and his mount returned to the far end of the Parade Ring to unsaddle, after which Choc took a shortcut across to the Weighing Room and disappeared inside.Having seen him for the last time today, I left via the Grandstand entrance gate to return to my car.

Having arrived back at my car, I drank a cup of hot black coffee from my thermos and ate a few pretzel sticks, then I set off for home.There was a queue of traffic heading towards the main entrance, so I was directed out via the golf course, where there were no traffic hold-ups.Upon reaching the roundabout at the far end of the industrial estate, my queue of traffic had priority over the race-day traffic from our left, so we exited onto the main road very quickly.

Then it was a right turn at the traffic lights, back through Thatcham (which annoyingly has many traffic light controlled junctions) to return to the M4 at Junction 12.Being a little paranoid about my concentration (or rather lack of it) on motorways during the hours of darkness, I turned off at the Maidenhead Junction to travel up the A404 towards High Wycombe.I left this road near Marlow, and travelled via Bourne End and Wooburn Green, Beaconsfield, Amersham, and Chesham to return to Hertfordshire, arriving home at around 18:20.

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