Newbury – Thursday 29 November 2012
In the Parade Ring,
Choc ahead of his ride aboard Lake Legend
I was umming and ahing about whether to go to Newbury today ... I’d booked a number of days annual leave this autumn with the intention of heading off to the races on a weekday but, so far, I’d only managed one day – Kempton Park on 05 November. And I felt guilty about not rolling up to Ascot on Friday or Saturday the previous weekend; or to Kempton Park the previous Monday. Although the weather had been awful on the latter two days and I just can’t face driving around the M25 late Friday afternoon. The M25 is a useful road I suppose ... provided it’s late into the evening when there’s little traffic about!!!
Even when I turned in on Wednesday I wasn’t 100% sure of my plans, but Thursday dawned bright and clear, although cold. I rather like cold autumn and winter days, provided the sun is shining. Besides, Choc had three riding engagements and, on form, a couple might have a chance of making the frame. So off I went to the races.
And I took with me a couple of woollen hats, hand knitted by yours truly, as presents for Choc and William; my favourite jockey having decided, this summer, that he would no longer allow his hair to grow to the extreme lengths of previous years. Choc believes it’s going to be a hard winter ... so he may just need a hat to keep his head warm. Do I miss his beautiful flowing locks? Maybe.
Today’s outfit was an M & S cream thermal vest, an M & S long sleeved burgundy thermal vest, a BHS long sleeved black thermal vest, an M & S purple sweater, an M & S purple fleece, an M & S burgundy Per Una cardigan, an M & S black gilet, a pair of M & S purple woollen tights, M & S brown leggings, M & S long heather shades skirt, M & S brown high-heeled granny lace-up boots, BHS mauve jacket, M & S lilac scarf and an M & S brown and sparkly gold Trilby hat. M & S is my favourite shop!
However, it was to be a disappointing day for Choc and my journey to the racecourse would prove to be an absolute nightmare!
I left home at around 09:15, dropping into the local petrol station to fill my car’s tank on the way out. Before reaching the garage, I realised that I’d forgotten my necklace and earrings, so I popped into M & S too, to purchase a pair of drop earrings ... I feel naked without my earrings. I set off from the retail park at 09:45.
Shortly after joining the M25 at Junction 22, travel information signs gave details of long delays on the M4 between junctions 11 (Reading South) and 12 (Reading West). I decided to continue my journey, hoping that whatever was causing the problem would be cleared by the time I reached this stretch of the motorway. But no such luck, the delays, which were caused by an accident, had grown to 50 minutes in duration and were now tailing back junction 10. So I left the motorway at junction 10, Reading East hoping to bypass the delays by using the A4 but, unfortunately, many other motorists had decided to do the same.
The queues through Reading were so bad that it actually took me an hour to reach the roundabout above junction 12. Whilst held up in the town, I also noticed warning signs which stated that Sonning Bridge was closed due to flooding; that would make Saturday’s visit after racing to see my friend Denise in Caversham more difficult, as I always avoid the centre of Reading by using that particular route over the Thames.
When visiting Newbury, I leave the M4 at junction 12 and head along the A4 for the remainder of the journey. And everything was going swimmingly until I reached the village of Padworth ... where I spent 30 minutes in a queue of traffic due to the re-surfacing of a 200 metre stretch of carriageway. Unbelievable.
And everything comes in threes ... because further road-works were in place close to the racecourse, where workmen were remodelling the junction leading to the industrial estate; so more temporary traffic lights were in operation. Finally, I drove up the roadway which runs through the golf course, was instructed to park my car on the end of the row, purchased a ticket and programme and set off to the Parade Ring. But I’d missed the first race! I didn’t see any of the horses which ran in it, just the presentation of the mementos.
Discounting my visit to the petrol station and M & S, my journey had taken three hours, instead of the usual 90 minutes by my chosen route, although that is a ‘Saturday’ journey time estimate.
Race 1: Novices’ Hurdle – 2 miles & ½ a furlong – 8 hurdles – 8 ran
Beginning at a sedate pace, the Rebecca Curtis trained Meganisi, ridden by AP McCoy, alternated the lead with Aaim To Prosper throughout the race and was driven out to win by 3¼ lengths. The latter finished second, Kings Lad third and Le Reve fourth.
Race 2: Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – 2 miles 1 furlong – 13 fences – 6 ran
The Donald McCain trained, AP McCoy ridden Khuzhlinin led at the off, being challenged for the lead by the grey Elenika heading down the back straight. Parsnip Pete made an error four out but closed again on the leading duo travelling up the home straight. He wasn’t fluent when upsides AP’s mount at the last but took the advantage and held the rallying Krushlinin to win by 1½ lengths at the line. Milarrow finished 3rd with Elenika fading into 4th. All six runners completed the course.
Race 3: Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – 2 miles 5 furlongs – 10 hurdles – 12 ran
Then they were off. The Colin Tizzard trained Ivor’s King led the field until shortly after blundering 3 out. Neither African Gold nor the Martin Keighley trained Faultless Feelings were inconvenienced by the soft ground and were soon prominent.
Ivor’s King relinquished the lead three out, with African Gold and Faultless Feelings fighting it out all the way up the home straight before Martin’s charge conceded after the last; the former staying on to win by 3½ lengths. These two drew 18 lengths clear of the third, Regal Approach; early leader Ivor’s King finished ¾ of a length back in fourth.
There were six finishers, 5 pulled up; one faller, Bathwick Brave, ridden by AP McCoy came to grief 4 out when travelling okay.
Race 4: Novices’ Chase – 3 miles – 18 fences – 6 ran
Emma Lavelle’s Highland Lodge and the Irish raider, Benefficient, disputed the lead for much of the race; the field took close order until Makethe Mostofnow began to lose touch around the final bend. The Nicky Henderson representative, Hadrian’s Approach, fell 4 out when in third place, hampering Harry Topper who was now pushed along to keep up.
Benefficient led over the last, from Highland Lodge, Houblon Des Obeaux and Harry Topper; the former looking assured of victory.
However, although appearing to have far too much ground to make up after the final fence, Harry Topper stormed up the run-in to win by 1½ lengths. Benefficient completed in second, with Highland Lodge third and Houblon Des Obeaux fourth. The tailed off Makethe Mostofnow completed in 5th and last.
A winner for resurgent trainer Kim Bailey.
Race 5: Handicap Chase – 2 miles 6½ furlongs – 17 fences – 11 ran
It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the afternoon, his mount being Lake Legend.
The field was led away by Cedre Bleu; Fine Parchment then taking a narrow advantage. Choc decided to travel on the outside of the runners, in mid-field. However Lake Legend was being ridden along by the 10th, weakened after the 13th and Choc pulled him up before four out.
Rigidin De Beauchene, when in second position, ploughed through the fourth last; at first his jockey Robbie Dunne looked like he would fall off over the horse’s off-side; he then overcompensated and ended up with both legs over the near-side. But both his feet remained in the irons and, having clung on around the horse’s neck, he was able to regain his riding position and continue to race despite losing 6 places and 12 lengths. He didn’t lose his whip in the incident either!
Sizing Santiago led 3 out and jumped more fluently than the error prone Our Bomber Harris, the former driven out to win by one length. Amazingly, Rigidin De Beauchene recovered well enough from his blunder to chase these two home; a mere 2¼ lengths behind at the line. Cedre Bleu completed in 4th.
Eight finished, 3 pulled up.
Race 6: Intermediate Hurdle (Limited Handicap) [Gerry Feilden Hurdle] – 2 miles ½ furlong – 8 hurdles – 6 ran
Choc’s ride in this event was the grey Vendor, who had finished 3rd in last season’s Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and posted a win at Towcester in April.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by the Henry Brooke ridden Call Back, from Valid Reason (my local representative as he is trained by Dean Ivory near Radlett) and Lyvius. Call Back led until headed by Lyvius two out; the latter running on to win by two lengths from Edgardo Sol and Peckhamecho.
Having appeared to be going well, Vendor was pushed along briefly after four out and was then ridden approaching the third last. However, Choc got no response from his mount and soon weakened to finish last of the six runners. Very disappointing; especially following on from a poor performance on his seasonal reappearance run at Aintree at the end of October.
Having returned to the Parade Ring following this race, I took the opportunity to catch up with Choc as he returned to the Weighing Room to present the two woollen hats I’d knitted. He thanked me very much for the presents.
Race 7: Standard Open NH Flat Race – 2 miles ½ furlong – 16 ran
Choc had his third and final ride of the day in this race, aboard the Anthony Middleton trained Dontgoeasy. His mount was very ‘green’ in the Parade Ring, Choc keeping his feet out of the irons just in case of any problems. AP McCoy was riding the JP McManus owned, Alan King trained, Gone Too Far in this race.
The field was led away by Digger’s Mate, the keen running Mac’s Grey took second spot as the runners travelled around the top bend. The former remained ahead until 10 furlongs out, when O’Faolains Boy took over. Turning into the home straight, the Harry Fry trained Oscar Rock took the advantage 3 furlongs from the finish and went on to win by one length from the always held Gone Too Far. They pulled 14 lengths clear of O’Faolains Boy; Be Marvellous finished 4th.
Dontgoeasy finished 10th of the 16 runners, always behind in this event; the stragglers having been eased well before the line.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses return before setting off to collect my car from the cark park.
As it was a quiet weekday fixture, my drive along the roadway through the golf course was uninterrupted by queuing traffic, in fact I think I only saw one other vehicle ahead of me. My route took me back through the industrial estate, after which I turned right and headed up to the A4.
However, I did notice that many people seemed to be leaving their place of work before 17:00 which added to the congestion on the roads. Traffic on the M4 was okay, with no major delays and the only stretch of the M25 where it was slow moving was between the M4 and M40 junctions and then not unduly so.
Having left the motorway at junction 21A, I decided to head through Chiswell Green before joining the ring-road to reach my home. I arrived back at 18:25.
Racing UK’s Moment of the Day was Robbie Dunne’s amazing recovery aboard Rigidin De Beauchene in the 2 miles 6½ furlong Handicap Chase.
Friday was also an annual leave day, so I walked to the shops in the morning, and spent the afternoon watching Day 2 of the Newbury Winter Festival on TV and uploading the photographs I’d taken the previous day.