DIARY – NEWBURY
SATURDAY 22 MARCH 2014
JUMP SEASON FINALE RACEDAY
Run Ructions Run and The Pirate’s Queen fight out the
finish to the Mares’ NH Novices’ Hurdle Finale
This would be my sixth visit to the races within 12 days; having attended all 4 days of the Cheltenham Festival the previous week, followed by Kempton Park last Saturday. On this occasion, and for the first time this season, my friend Lesley was available to accompany me to the races. Tentative plans had been made prior to Cheltenham, with Lesley reserving the date in her diary should my plans take me to Berkshire on Saturday 22 March.
By Thursday 20 March it was clear that Choc would have at least one riding engagement at Newbury, so I decided that I’d make arrangements for us to attend; Lesley volunteering to drive, as this would enable us to travel via the M25, M4 and A4, rather than go across country via Aylesbury, Bicester and Oxford. In the event, Choc had four rides. Wicked.
It had taken all week to select and upload my Cheltenham Festival photographs, which was far longer than I expected despite my staying up into the early hours of each morning and, once, logging on for an hour before setting off for work! Anyway, by the time I turned in on Friday evening ... or rather at 02:00 on Saturday morning ... I’d completed this task, along with transferring all bar part of Cheltenham Day 2 of RUK’s afternoon racing coverage to DVD. My daily RUK and ATR recordings to DVD transfers were also up-to-date.
As always, and especially after five recent days at the races, I couldn’t decide what to wear. I spent around 45 minutes searching through my wardrobe on Friday evening and, even just after rising on Saturday at 06:45, I was rummaging again. In the event, I settled for my original choice – casual following five days of smart racing clothes – dark rose, violet and plum thermal M&S long-sleeved t-shirts, lagoon coloured cardigan, purple fleece, black gillet, hanky-hem short skirt over brown leggings, burgundy biker boots, turquoise tights (because they matched my skirt colours of beige, burgundy and turquoise as does my lagoon cardigan – not that you’d see them), burgundy jacket with brown shoulder insets, burgundy/beige/brown material scarf, and horse-print snood. Lesley wore a dress, as she thought I always dressed up for the races!
Having showered, washed and dried my hair, I ate a breakfast of two croissants whilst tuning into the Morning Line; I then applied my make-up. Having chosen a necklace with matching earrings, I decided it was a little too long as it got caught in my cleavage; for some reason my bra, which I’ve worn many times before, seemed to be pushing my boobies up too high ... perhaps I’d hoicked up the straps recently!
This being the case, at 09:30 I decided to remove 4 large beads and two Swarovski spacers; easily done with a pair of jewellery wire cutters and chain nose pliers, especially as I’d constructed it in the first place! Sorted, and I was ready to go by 10:00, having put in my contact lenses too. Lesley had arranged to pick me up at 10:30; I began to delete old text items from my telephone to pass the time when a new message arrived at 10:10, it was from Lesley. She had been delayed by an unexpected issue at home and was just setting off; she also needed to purchase petrol for the journey.
It takes me 45 minutes to reach Lesley’s house on the other side of Dunstable, so I calculated that she’d be with me no earlier than 11:00, taking into account she’d buy petrol enroute. I decided to eat a crust of bread to keep the wolves at bay – tiger loaf! I love crusts. It came as a surprise when a further text message arrived, at 10:50 to say she’d arrived! That was quick. I grabbed my handbag and shopping bag and headed out to meet her; the shopping bag contained belated Christmas presents, as we’d not met up since Martin Keighley’s Open Day in September! I don’t like to send presents by post, being handmade, because I can’t bear the thought of them being lost, having gone to the effort of creating them.
She reached me earlier than expected having foregone the petrol station visit; this being the case, we decided to fill up the tank at Sainsbury in London Colney before joining the M25 at Junction 20. Because I’m so accustomed to my route through the residential roads of St Albans and we were busy catching up on gossip, I almost forgot to give Lesley directions, taking it for granted she’d know the way without a satnav!
Fortunately we didn’t take a wrong turning and had soon arrived at the London Colney petrol station. Being just after 11:00 the forecourt was busy, but we found a free pump almost immediately and were quickly on our way to join the M25. Traffic was moving freely on the motorway, until the stretch between the M40 and M4. It slowed as vehicles merged from the left; a coach or lorry almost ‘taking us out’ as it pulled into our lane as we passed by. Why do vehicles change lanes without first checking that the lane outside them is clear? Invariably it’s impossible to also move out one lane too, because someone is passing by in the outside lane and you end up becoming the meat in the sandwich.
As the traffic ahead slowed, Lesley steered to the inside lane in preparation for taking the slip-road onto the M4; the next junction. Traffic was also flowing freely on the M4 as we headed westwards; we were so busy chatting that the next thing I knew we had reached the Reading Central junction. Just a few miles later we’d arrived at Reading West, where we left the motorway and headed along the A4, through Woolhampton and Thatcham, taking a left at the second set of traffic lights as we approached the main residential area of Newbury.
At the roundabout, which after the redevelopment is complete will lead to the racecourse, we turned right and headed to the current entrance, a narrow bridge across the railway line. Inside, the building works soon became apparent, the roadway initially having been diverted from its original route before travelling alongside the perimeter fence to reach the free car parking area. We were directed to park beside the track which leads across the middle of the field. A gypsy selling lucky heather. In fact two gypsies. When will Newbury ever get rid of those awful gypsies? I could feel my hackles rising ... it happens each time I see a gypsy carrying heather!
Anyway, Lesley put on her boots and coat and we set off to the Grandstand entrance to purchase our tickets, £16 each today, plus £6 for two race-cards. We then walked along the concourse to reach the Dubai Duty Free stand where, on the ground-floor, Lesley purchased our hot drinks, latte for herself I believe and a Mocha for me. After waiting a short while, a table became available so we were able to sit down whilst we drank these refreshments and I lent her a pen so that she could outline her bets of the day (3) on her race-card. A couple of punters joined us, there being two spare seats at the table.
There was a lot of noise around us; due to the Chelsea vs. Arsenal football match being broadcast on the screens inside the grandstand. I hate football ... but I’m reliably informed that the former won! Having finished our drinks, we set off to sit beside the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race of the day. Time flew as we chatted, I recall we discussed clothes and the like ... girlie things!
As the horses began to arrive in the Parade Ring, I suggested that we climb up the steppings to get a better view of the proceedings, which we did. Alan King had two runners in the first race, Fred Le Macon to be ridden by Wayne Hutchinson and a flat race recruit Laser Blazer to be ridden by Choc.
Having put aside £12 to bet on three horses each-way during the afternoon, Lesley’s first choice was Huff And Puff, the 7-2 second favourite. The odd-ons favourite for the race was the Nicky Henderson-trained, Barry Geraghty-ridden Sign Of A Victory at 4-9.
As usual, once the bell had sounded to announce that jockeys should mount their horses, Alan King and his pilots headed to the area adjacent to the Winners’ Enclosure to await the arrival of the horses as they were led around the Parade Ring. As is his habit, Choc leant against the rails whilst he waited.
Once the jockeys were aboard, or at least once Choc was aboard his mount and being led towards the Parade Ring exit, we headed across the concourse, past the food outlet area, through the Betting Ring and down to the course-side rails. Being one of the lesser National Hunt fixtures at Newbury, with fewer attendees, there was plenty of room at the rails for us to stand.
The starting gate for this event was situated part way down the home straight, with one flight of hurdles to negotiate before passing the winning post with one circuit to go. This being the case the runners cantered down the all-weather strip on the far side of the home straight rail to arrive at a holding pen set within the in-field.
Then they were off, at a rather sedate pace. The field was led by Matripajo and She’s Late. In behind this duo was Huff And Puff then, line across the course, the keen running Sign Of A Victory, Herecomesthehollow and Miller’s Maverick; behind these to the inside Laser Blazer, to his outside Fred Le Macon, Gold Carrot and Devils Paintbrush. In rear, Upham Running and Kiama Bay.
The runners cleared the first flight without incident; the pace increased as they headed up past the winning post with one full circuit to travel. The leading duo had set up a four length advantage over Huff And Puff by the time they entered the back straight and he, in turn, was another four lengths clear of the main body of the field.
Heading down the back straight, the horses cleared the second flight of hurdles and began the run to the next. Considering the slow initial pace, the field was well strung out by this time. Matripajo held a one length lead over She’s Late heading over the next flight, Aidan Coleman’s mount still a clear third, then came the main body of the field, with Gold Carrot a couple of lengths behind this group and Miller’s Maverick, Upham Running and Kiama Bay even further back.
AP McCoy’s mount still led as they cleared the next, by two lengths now, although he demonstrated a tendency to jump out to his right. By the time the field reached the final hurdle in the back straight the backmarkers had begun to take closer order; however Miller’s Maverick, at the rear, clipped the top of the flight and appeared to trip on landing throwing Nick Scholfield over his head as he fell.
Matripajo still continued to lead as the runners headed into the far turn, his advantage three or four lengths; She’s Late and Huff And Puff disputing second position. In behind these Sign Of A Victory remained keen, to his outside Devils Paintbrush. Laser Blazer, Fred Le Macon and Herecomesthehollow travelled behind these, with Gold Carrot, Kiama Bay and Upham Running at the rear of the group.
Turning into the home straight, Kiama Bay received a few reminders. Again Matripajo jumped out to his right over the third last; this permitted Huff And Puff to the inside of the course to assume the lead at this point. However, just in behind, Barry Geraghty actually took a pull aboard Sign Of A Victory as he was travelling so well! Close behind these two, also to the inside of the track were Laser Blazer and Fred Le Macon.
Huff And Puff was permitted to lead the field over the second last, but it was just a matter of time before Barry Geraghty unleashed his mount. Choc’s mount held a very slight advantage over his stable companion clearing this flight. Close in behind these, Devils Paintbrush took a crashing fall; the tell-tale signs of a broken neck evident as the field drew away from his prostrate body.
Huff And Puff was now being vigorously ridden in an attempt to remain ahead on the run up to the final flight, but it was all in vain. Barry Geraghty’s mount cruised past and jumped it a couple of lengths ahead and extended the margin to six lengths on the run-in, easing up at the line. Laser Blazer on his hurdling debut finished 16 lengths back in 3rd, with a Fred Le Macon a further 2¾ lengths away in 4th.
With Choc having finished 3rd, we returned to the Winners’ Enclosure and positioned ourselves on the steppings opposite the 3rd and 4th placed horses, rather than the winner on this occasion; moving around to our left when Choc went to speak with connections before he returned to the Weighing Room.
Nick Scholfield, having parted company from Miller’s Maverick, was stood down for the remainder of the day. Fortunately Sam Twiston-Davies had been thrown clear when Devils Paintbrush took his fatal fall and thus avoided injury.
Lesley went to collect her winnings which, at each way on the second favourite, turned out to be an overall loss! Never mind, it always makes you feel better if you’ve won something back, however small. She also placed her second each-way wager on Grandads Horse at 7-1. The 4-1 favourite for this race was Tony Star, ridden by Richard Johnson and trained by Philip Hobbs. AP McCoy deputised for Nick Scholfield aboard Ulck Du Lin.
Choc didn’t have a ride in the next race, the start of which was in the far corner of the track; the cross-fence being the first obstacle. The horses having left the Parade Ring, once again we set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails.
Then they were off. Grandads Horse led the runners over the first fence, from the grey Greywell Boy, Ulck Du Lin, Pepite Rose to the outside of the field with Bally Legend and ex-Alan King inmate Balzaccio to the inner; Tony Star and Tara Rose brought up the rear, the latter putting in the least convincing jump of them all. Having cleared the cross-fence, the runners headed into the home straight on the first occasion.
Not yet warmed to her task, Tara Rose made an error at the second fence too. The third fence was the open-ditch, which they all cleared without a problem; Grandads Horse continued to lead the way. It was Tony Star’s turn to make a mistake; he blundered at the fourth fence. Ears pricked, the leader headed towards the fifth fence; he got a little close to it but retained a narrow advantage over his rivals.
Having passed the winning post with one circuit to go, the runners headed over the water-jump for the one and only time; Pepite Rose was a little awkward here. The horses galloped around the top bend and onwards towards the next fence, which they all jumped well. Having progressed on the outside of the field to take third position, Pepite Rose hit the open-ditch.
Grandads Horse continued to hold a narrow advantage from Ulck Du Lin as they travelled down to and cleared the middle fence in the back straight; Tony Star was slow negotiating it in rear, alongside Tara Rose. The leader hit the next but there were no noticeable errors at the final fence in the back straight.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners headed towards the far turn; both Greywell Boy in mid-field and Tara Rose in rear receiving reminders at this point. Bally Legend was being ridden along and appeared to be struggling as Tony Star relegated him to second last.
The runners then headed towards and cleared the cross-fence, five out. Grandads Horse dragged his hind-legs through the fence, and he was disputing the lead with Ulck Du Lin as they turned into the home straight. Close on their tails were Balzaccio and Pepite Rose; Tony Star travelled four lengths behind these but soon he’d almost closed the gap. Bally Legend had also begun to stay on and passed Greywell Boy.
Over the fourth last, Ulck Du Lin jumped into the lead; but both he and Balzaccio received reminders on the approach to the third last, the final open-ditch. Meanwhile, on the outside of the field, Pepite Rose was travelling well within herself; she jumped this fence upsides the leader, with Tony Star now just a length behind in third but demonstrating a distinct tendency to jump out to his left.
Pepite Rose took the lead as they galloped down to the second last; Richard Johnson’s mount now her closest pursuer. However between the final two fences, she began to draw away and sailed over the last, galloping on up the run-in to win by 12 lengths at the line. Tony Star finished a clear 2nd, with Bally Legend, who had faded and jumped the last in sixth place only to rally and claim 3rd another 12 lengths back.
Ulck Du Lin completed in 4th. Balzaccio claimed 5th, Greywell Boy 6th, Tara Rose 7th and long-time leader Grandads Horse a tailed-off last. With this win, Venetia Williams broke the £1,000,000 prize money barrier for the season!
We returned to the steppings beside the Parade Ring, overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure.
Grandads Horse finished last, so there were no winnings for Lesley to collect this time around.
There were two Alan King runners in the next event, The Pirate’s Queen ridden by Choc and Midnight Cataria ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; Wayne being the latter’s usual pilot. The favourite for this race was Run Ructions Run, trained by Tim Easterby and ridden by Dougie Costello, at 11-2.
Luci Di Mezzanotte, that’s one of the horses not a person, was representing the Sports Relief charity. So, whilst in the Parade Ring ahead of the race, her jockey Leighton Aspell, posed whilst photographs were taken.
Once the runners had left the Parade Ring, we set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails.
The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track.
Coming out of the holding pen onto the racecourse, Massannie was led forward having been a little behind the others but she then trotted across to take up a position on the outside of the group and, with a crack of the starter assistant’s whip, they were off.
The field was led away by Toubeera and, to her outside, Down Ace. In behind the leading duo were Fairytale Theatre, Lily Waugh and the very keen favourite, Run Ructions Run; to the inside of the latter Cabaret Girl. Behind these and to the inside of the track was Midnight Cataria and, in her wake, The Pirate’s Queen. Mrs Peachey travelled upsides Wayne Hutchinson’s mount, behind her Luci De Mezzanotte. To the rear of the group were Massannie, Joanne One and Molly’s A Diva.
Having negotiated the first bend the runners headed up the home straight on the first occasion, Toubeera spearing heading the field; Fairytale Theatre her closest pursuer to the inside of the track, and Down Ace to her outer. Leading the main pack was Lily Waugh. The Pirate’s Queen was travelling alongside her stable-mate; Choc steering his mount along his favoured shortest route along the inside. All of the horses negotiated the three flights safely as they headed up towards the grandstands.
Passing the winning post with one circuit to go, Aidan Coleman’s mount continued to lead the field; Massannie brought up the rear along with Molly’s A Diva. The runners headed around the top turn and began the journey down the back straight. Toubeera continued to lead from the chestnut Down Ace. In third position was Fairytale Theatre, with Lily Waugh almost upsides. These four held a clear advantage heading over flights four and five. In the main group were Run Ructions Run and Mrs Peachey, ahead of Cabaret Girl, Midnight Cataria and Joanne One. Luci De Mezzanotte travelled alongside The Pirate’s Queen; this duo ahead of Molly’s A Diva, with Massannie soon tailing off in rear.
Awake to the possibility that the small leading group might get away from them, the main body of the field pressed on and closed the gap before they headed over flight seven. By this stage, Lily Waugh had joined the long-time leader at the head of affairs and, having clear the final flight in the back straight, this duo led the runners into the far turn. Fairytale Theatre and Down Ace disputed third, with Midnight Cataria and The Pirate’s Queen close on their heels having improved through the field to take closer order; both were travelling well.
The runners travelled around the final turn and entered the home straight with just three more flights to negotiate; Massannie was pulled up in rear. By this stage Lily Waugh had assumed the lead from the fading Toubeera, The Pirate’s Queen cruised up into second position as they straightened up heading for the next hurdle; Run Ructions Run followed through in her wake, recovered from having lost her position around the far turn.
Lily Waugh held a narrow advantage over three out but Choc’s mount continued to reduce the margin and took over at the head of affairs jumping the penultimate flight. However, under a strong drive from Dougie Costello, the favourite began to close slowly but surely as the final obstacle loomed. The Pirate’s Queen took off first but they landed together; the battle to the line had commenced.
It was neck and neck as the winning post approached, initially Choc’s mount seemed to have the favourite’s measure but then Run Ructions Run just got that little bit more momentum for a few strides to get her nose marginally in front and, although The Pirate’s Queen tried her heart out refusing to give best to her rival, she went down by a mere short-head at the line. How frustrating; Choc must be so fed up with finishing second by very short margins.
Lily Waugh stayed on at the same pace to finish 3rd, with Molly’s A Diva in 4th and Midnight Cataria 5th.
We returned to the steppings above the Parade Ring to see Choc arrive back.
Dougie Costello had to rush off after the race due to his wife Aimee going into labour. Daughter Aoife Margaret arriving shortly after midnight, and weighing in at 7lbs 4ozs.
No ride in the next for Choc; the favourite was one of the two greys in the race Roalco De Farges, ridden by Richard Johnson and trained by Philip Hobbs, at 7-2. Personally, I particularly liked the colouring of the other grey, Sivola De Sivola, who was the perfect ‘rocking horse’ colour!
The starting gate for this event was at the beginning of the back straight, the same as for November’s Hennessy Gold Cup; the horses, upon exiting the horse-walk, cantering just a short distance around the top-turn to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by No Secrets, to the fore were Niceonefrankie, Highland Lodge, Upham Atom, Sivola De Sivola, and Ballypatrick; the back marker clearing the first fence was Bertie Boru. The second fence is the open-ditch, which they all cleared well, apart from Major Malarkey who dragged his hind-legs through the fence. The leader hit the third fence but retained his advantage.
Heading over the final two obstacles in the back straight, No Secrets led from Upham Atom, Ballypatrick, Sivola De Sivola Loughalder, Niceonefrankie and What A Warrior. Highland Lodge having begun up with the pace had slipped back through the field; Major Malarkey brought up the rear. The horses headed into the far turn, negotiated the cross-fence and then entered the home straight on the first occasion. No Secrets continued to jump markedly to his right.
The thirteen runners continued their journey up the home straight; there was no change at the head of affairs, no noticeable errors as they cleared the four obstacles, followed by the water-jump therein. Highland Lodge, having lost his place earlier in the race, was now disputing second place with Ballypatrick. Niceonefrankie had drifted back through the field and was nearer last than first by this stage; the favourite Roalco De Farges currently the back marker, but the runners were currently travelling very much as a group.
The field galloped up around the top bend and began their journey down the back straight for the final time, with five fences ahead of them before the far turn; the second of which is an open-ditch. No Secrets continued to bowl along at the head of affairs, from What A Warrior and Upham Atom. As they progressed, Roalco De Farges began to make ground on the outside of the field; the other grey Sivola De Sivola headed in the opposite direction, losing ground on the leaders, as was Highland Lodge once more. Major Malarkey still brought up the rear.
Having cleared the final fence in the back straight, the runners headed towards the far bend. No Secrets continued to head the field, from Ballypatrick, Niceonefrankie, What A Warrior, Samingarry, Roalco Des Farges, Loughalder, Bertie Boru and Upham Atom. Beginning to lose contact by this stage were Highland Lodge, Sivola De Sivola, Reblis and Major Malarkey; Highland Lodge made an error at the cross-fence.
Turning into the home straight with just four fences to go, No Secrets still led. The favourite was travelling well, to the outside of the field and continued to make progress; so much so that he jumped into the lead as the runners took the final open-ditch, three out. This left No Secrets, Ballypatrick, What A Warrior, Niceonefrankie and Samingarry clear of the remainder and fighting it out for minor honours as they approached two out.
Roalco Des Farges cleared the next obstacle three or four lengths ahead of his pursuers, extending this to around five lengths jumping the last. No Secrets continued in a three way battle with Samingarry and Ballypatrick for the places as they approached the winning post; closing slightly upon Richard Johnson’s mount towards the end. The winning distance 2¾ lengths at the line. No Secrets held on to claim 2nd by three quarters of a length, with Samingarry 3rd and Ballypatrick 4th.
All thirteen runners completed the course; Sivola De Sivola finishing a tailed-off last.
Again we returned the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.
Choc’s ride in the next race was Brave Helios trained by Jonathan Portman. The race favourite, priced at 10-3 was the Richard Johnson-ridden, Nick Williams-trained Dolores Delightful.
Lesley’s final bet of the day was on Cafe Au Lait at 10-1.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Cafe Au Lait, from Seeyouallincoppers and Fitzwilly; a slightly awkward jump at the first flight by the latter resulted in Keychain being bulked and he, in turn, collided with Brave Helios to his outside. Fortunately no damage done. There was still not much room over the second flight for Choc’s mount, and again he appeared to receive a bump as he landed.
Cafe Au Lait led the field over the third flight; bringing up the rear was the favourite, Dolores Delightful. The horses headed up past the grandstand and around the top bend; Shalianzi was now disputing second position with Seeyouallincoppers and Fitzwilly. Choc’s mount travelled widest of all upon the track as they negotiated the turn, keeping well clear of any trouble.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners headed down the back straight. Shalianzi had dropped back to dispute fourth place as they cleared the next flight and he was a little slow here, and then made an error at the next, his jockey now pushing him along. The leader hit the top of the next flight, the sixth. Having cleared the final obstacle in the back straight, and currently disputing sixth position, Choc began to show distress signals aboard his mount as they entered the far turn. At the rear of the field were Andi’Amu and Stiff Upper Lip.
Fitzwilly began to press Cafe Au Lait for the lead as they travelled around the bend and into the home straight; this duo had set up a three or four length advantage over Seeyouallincoppers and Aldopicgros at this point. Behind these were Refer, Dolores Delightful and the improving Stiff Upper Lip. The leaders cleared three out and headed down to the penultimate hurdle.
Harry Derham had initially intended to squeeze between Cafe Au Lait and Fitzwilly to make his challenge but the gap closed and he switched to their inside. He was almost upsides as they jumped the flight and he cruised into the lead shortly afterwards. Having cut out the pace from the outset, both the long-time leader and Fitzwilly began to quickly fade; Refer and Dolores Delightful were now set to fight it out for second place, Aldopicgros having already flown.
The Paul Nicholls runner won by 9 lengths at the line, easing down to a canter. Dolores Delightful claimed 2nd, five lengths ahead of Refer, with Fitzwilly just holding on to 4th by a neck from a group of three horses headed by Seeyouallincoppers. Brave Helios finished a very weary 10th.
We returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back; although my attention was drawn to Choc unsaddling his unplaced mount in the Parade Ring, rather than the winner!
Cafe Au Lait finished 7th so, again, Lesley had no winnings to collect. Having won just a small amount back today, her betting kitty was almost empty and contained less than the minimum amount needed to place any further each-way bets but, for the record, she would have placed a last bet on Alwaystheoptimist in the last race of the day had she been in sufficient profit.
Alan King had three entries in the next event; all runners qualifying for this race having been sold under the hammer at DBS Spring Store Sales of May 2011, 2012 and 2013; L’Amiral David ridden by Choc, Springboks ridden by Wayne Hutchinson and Hurricane Vic ridden by Gerard Tumelty. Personally I like the latter horse, having seen him make his debut at Kempton Park in February; a big baby of an animal but showing promise for the future. And he has big ears!!!
The race favourite was Tea For Two, trained by Nick Williams and ridden by his stepdaughter Lizzy Kelly, priced at 10-3.
The starting gate for this national hunt flat race was part way down the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.
Choc took up an inside berth as they trotted in, standing up in his stirrups as L’Amiral David side-stepped towards the starting gate; Gaitway got a little excited too, having been bumped from behind by one of the closely bunched field. Then they were off.
Initially setting the pace were the very keen Another Bygones, Tea For Two to his outside, Knight’s Reward to his inside, further to the inside were Ticinese and Apachee Prince. AP McCoy soon won the battle with his mount, easing Another Bygones back into the group behind. Ticinese led the runners into the first bend. The first of the Alan King runners was Hurricane Vic around two thirds of the way down the field; L’Amiral David travelled just behind him, both runners taking an inside berth. Wayne Hutchinson took a central course aboard Springboks, four from the rear of the field.
Having entered the back straight, Tea For Two took the lead, setting up a two or three lengths advantage over the main body of the field which was initially led by Ticinese, then Knight’s Reward. The second-favourite, Gaitway, travelled to the inside in around sixth place, with Hurricane Vic in his wake. After having completed approximately six furlongs, Ticinese was being pushed along.
Tea For Two continued to lead as the runners headed into the far turn. Disputing second were Knight’s Reward and Apachee Prince, these were followed by Rainy City, Ticinese, Murray Mount, Sassanova, Gaitway, Another Bygones, Midnight Spin, Domino King, Hurricane Vic, L’Amiral David, Storming Strumpet, Sandy Beach, Springboks, Terra Firma, and Alfiboy.
Having entered the home straight and travelled between the wings of the absent third last hurdle, Lizzy Kelly took a peek under her right arm to see where the opposition might be; Barry Geraghty was travelling to the inside of the track aboard Gaitway and was gradually reeling in the leader. Making progress to track this duo were Rainy City and Midnight Spin. Staying on best from the back, and just behind this pair was Hurricane Vic. Moving into seventh position, L’Amiral David.
Having passed between the wings of the second last, Lizzy Kelly resorted to giving her mount a number of cracks with her whip; there was no such urgency from Barry Geraghty until after he’d overtaken the long-time leader just before the half furlong post when a number of backhanders were administered to keep him up to his work. The latter’s mount, which was making his racecourse debut today, won by a length at the line.
There was a very big gap to the third horse, Hurricane Vic, who took that position in the closing stages, L’Amiral David three quarters of a length away in 4th, and he was a neck ahead of Rainy City.
We returned to the steppings above the third and fourth placed ‘markers’ in the Winners’ Enclosure; Hurricane Vic and L’Amiral David having filled these places.
Choc debriefed the owner of his mount, David Sewell, and returned to the Weighing Room for the final time today.
The starting gate for the last race of the day was situated part way down the home straight. The favourite for this race was Sands Cove, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies and trained by Charlie Mann, price 2-1.
Then they were off. The very small field was led away by the blue visored Dark And Dangerous; to the inside Sands Cover, Alwaystheoptimist in the centre and Prince of Dreams to the outside jumped the first in unison, and bringing up the rear was Olympian Boy. Having taken a keen hold, Alwaystheoptimist had soon drawn almost upsides Brendan Powell’s mount.
The runners cleared the water-jump and headed out into the country for the one and only time, Dark And Dangerous bowling along at the head of affairs and with a two lengths advantage as they headed towards the first in the back straight, which they all jumped well. However, Alwaystheoptimist made an error at the next, an open-ditch, and dropped back into fourth position. Prince Of Dreams had closed the gap upon the leader to one length by the time they reached the next fence; Sands Cove and Alwaystheoptimist disputed third place, three lengths back, with a break of another three lengths to Olympian Boy who continued to bring up the rear.
Having negotiated the final two fences in the back straight without incident, the runners then headed into the far turn; Prince Of Dreams now disputed the lead with Dark And Dangerous. Having landed over the cross-fence, Felix De Giles’ mount took over at the head of affairs and led the runners into the home straight. He cleared the next fence with ease and began to extend his advantage over his rivals.
Sands Cove out-jumped Dark And Dangerous at the final open-ditch and assumed second position; Alwaystheoptimist made an error here, which relegated him to last place as Olympian Boy overtook him. Meanwhile, Prince Of Dreams continued to put distance between himself and his four rivals and, despite brushing through the top of both the second last and last fences, he galloped on to win by 15 lengths at the line.
Sands Cove finished a clear second, with Dark And Dangerous staying on at the same pace well enough to retain 3rd from Olympian Boy. Alwaystheoptimist finished a tailed-off last.
Having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back; it was soon time to head home. We visited the loo within the Dubai Duty Free grandstand before returning to the car.
It was time for a quick snack before we began our journey home; guess what? Two cheese rolls each! Lesley also opened the belated Christmas presents – a mono-coloured Katia Big Snow scarf and a black/brown/white Murano necklace and earrings. We set off home at around 17:45.
Upon reaching the perimeter fence we turned left and headed along the road towards the main entrance. We joined a queue of stationary traffic as we approached the new road layout; it was impossible to take the short-cut, as taxis were blocking the road. But, once the queue had cleared, we turned right at the next junction and headed past the stables and over the railway bridge to reach the road outside. Turning right we travelled through the industrial/retail park area, turned left at the new roundabout and soon arrived at the traffic light-controlled junction with the A4.
We re-traced our journey back through Thatcham and along the A4 to reach the M4 motorway, where we headed east towards London. We encountered no travel problems during our return trip, on the M4 or on the M25; we left the latter motorway at Junction 22. Lesley dropped me off at home at 19:15.
After a supper of baked potato and salad, I settled down to upload my photos onto my laptop and write my blog before turning in for the night. I decided to go to bed quite early, with the hope of rising early the next morning, which I did at 06:00 to continue working on my backlog of website work.