Hennessy Gold Cup Day


I purchased a ticket for Hennessy Gold Cup day at Newbury two or three weeks prior to the fixture. Choc didn’t have a ride in the feature race, but he did have 5 rides scheduled on the day, all for Alan King.

Having driven down to Kempton Park on Wednesday, I needed to fill my car with petrol, and as I was due to stay overnight at my friend Denise’s house in Caversham, I popped into M & S to buy a tin of biscuits and a bottle of wine.  I also decided to take a quick look at their shoe section (but they didn’t have the style I wanted in size 8 in black) but I purchased two belts and a purple top. I’d set out for the petrol station at 07:55, returning at 08:45, ate breakfast and changed into my ‘racing’ attire. 

It was 09:30 when I set out for Newbury.  My route took me via the M25, M40, A404, and M4 to Junction 13.  As it was before 11:00 when I drove south from the Motorway junction, the traffic into Newbury was free moving, but ‘ordinary’ race day traffic was then diverted eastwards along the A4, down through the industrial estate, under the railway line, along the golf course drive to the racecourse car park.  It was probably 11:15 when I parked.

I walked around to the gate to have my ticket scanned at the nearest Grandstand entrance.  I took a look around, noticed the Weighing Room, which is situated under the Premier Stand, and then went to the Parade Ring to listen to the Tipsters views on the best bets for the day.  Luke Harvey was one of the tipsters.

During the afternoon I saw John Francome, Jonathan Neesom, Nick Luck, Alistair Down, Tanya from Channel 4 Racing, Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber, Lady Lloyd Webber (Madeleine Gurdon as was), Harry Finlay, and Lady Gabriella Windsor.

Prior to the first race, the local drag hounds were displayed in the Parade Ring.  Throughout the day, Alan King’s horses were saddled in the enclosed loose boxes.  Choc’s limp is becoming less pronounced each day, so that is a very good sign. 

Harry Finlay sponsored the first race, which was to publicise retired greyhounds as pets.  Tanya from Channel 4 Racing also spoke to the announcer before the race began, as she owns a retired greyhound (or two). Choc’s first ride of the day was in this race, a Novices’ Hurdle, aboard Norman the Great.  Once the horses had exited the paddock, I went over to the rails to watch the race.  He was in touch, made headway to chase leaders 3 out, then driven but made no impression from 2 out, finishing a moderate 3rd. Throughout the day I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to watch the horses come back in, the unplaced horses being unsaddled in the paddock too.

Choc didn’t get very far on his second ride, Sharajan, when the blinkered runner fell at the first fence, the last down the back straight, as did another of his rivals, Turbulance.  However, both he and Nick Scholfield were picked up by Landrover and driven back across the course to the vicinity of the winning post, Choc crossing over to speak to Alan at the entrance to the slipway.  The loose horses continued to gallop around and completed the course.  Mister Potter fell two out, and Apocal at the last, both when very tired, and the green screens were erected around each horse.  I think I heard cheers as I walked back to the Parade Ring, so I presume that one or both of the animals were okay.  Once Sharajan had been caught and lead back to the paddock, Alan removed the saddle to take it back to the Weighing Room in preparation for Choc to weigh out for his next ride.

Choc wasn’t riding in the 3rd race of the day, which I watched from the Grandstand.   He rode in the next, a Long Distance Hurdle, aboard Blazing Bailey.  The horse chased the leaders, being driven along approaching 3 out, but blundered and weakened at the next, he also hit the last and finished the race in 4th place. 

The 5th race of the day was the Hennessy Gold Cup, which was won by Tom Scudamore aboard the David Pipe trained Madison Du Berlais.  His father, Peter Scudamore, had won the race 20 years ago, aboard Strands of Gold. 

Choc 4th ride of the day was aboard Pur De Sivola in a Handicap Chase.  However he was always towards the rear, became tailed off and was pulled up before the last fence.  So on this occasion he unsaddled in the main paddock area.

Choc’s final ride was aboard Squadron, who I’d seen run at Cheltenham on 16th November when ridden by Christian Williams.  Choc raced in mid-division, made headway but hit 3 out, was driven and had every chance 2 out, but weakened between the last 2 to finish in 5th place.  When Choc exited the paddock after unsaddling, he was waylaid by autograph and photograph hunters, but eventually reached the Weighing Room. 

I returned to my car, but my fingers were so frozen that I had difficulty operating my key fob to unlock the car doors!  I took off my coat and scarf, drank some black coffee, mindful of my two ‘dozy’ incidents in recent weeks.  I also opened a packet pretzel sticks to eat - I currently find these strangely addictive!  It was then time to set off to see my friend Denise, in Caversham. I exited via the same route as I’d reached the car park, but it took until around 17:00 to reach the A4, traffic being at a standstill for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

I decided to go back via Thatcham and join the M4 at the Reading West Junction 12, driving around to Reading East Junction 10, then drove through Sonning, over the narrow bridge across the Thames and back up Henley Road to Den’s.  It was 17:50 by the time I rang her door-bell. 

Den, her husband Terry and I went to Wetherspoons in Caversham for our evening meal, and I stayed overnight, leaving their house at 10:45 to drive home to Hertfordshire, in time to watch Choc’s Sunday rides at Leicester.

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