DIARY – NEWBURY
GREATWOOD CHARITY RACEDAY
SATURDAY 02 MARCH 2013
Kauto Star is put through his dressage paces
by new partner, Laura Collett
The season was beginning to liven up as the Cheltenham Festival approached; after a very quiet period during late January and early February, this was the second consecutive Saturday that I’d made a trip to the races.
When in west Berkshire I like to visit my friend Denise on my way home but, on this occasion, she told me she had a ‘stinking’ cold, so I forewent that pleasure.
My outfit today was a black thermal vest, a cream long-sleeved vest, purple long-sleeved t-shirt, black tie-front sweater, black frilly-edged cardigan, new purple fleece, burgundy Per Una frilly-edged cardigan, black gillet, purple woollen tights, black treggings, long black handkerchief hem skirt, and purple winter jacket. Also black engineer boots, black/white horse design snood, and turquoise Big Bang loopy scarf. I put my Dappy hat in my handbag but, as it turned out, l didn’t feel cold enough to wear it today.
I decided to rise early, as I had chores to complete before heading to Newbury. I showered, washed and dried my hair, ate a breakfast of toast and croissants, and applied my make-up. I left home at 09:00, parking my car a 10-minute walk from the City Centre, close to St Albans FC’s ground in Clarence Park. I wanted to visit my bank to withdraw cash in order to pay a credit card bill at an adjacent bank. I also popped across to Argos to purchase a spindle of blank DVDs.
I had aimed to go directly to Newbury from here but in the event, and having returned to my car, I discovered that I didn’t have a sufficient number of tissues in my handbag; should I visit Boots, bearing in mind I’d missed this opportunity in town or should I return home, where I had a plentiful supply – I chose the latter. So I finally set off very shortly after 10:00.
I saw a number of magpies as I drove to join the M25 at Junction 20. Hopefully it would be a lucky day ... or, at least, not an unlucky one. My journey took me along the anticlockwise carriageway to Junction 15, where I joined the westbound carriageway of the M4. Being a Saturday morning, there were no delays on the motorway, apart from the enforcement of a 50 mph limit through road-works shortly before Junction 11 ... I’m sure that road-works had been carried out on this section not that long ago.
I left the motorway at Junction 12 and headed along the A4 towards Newbury. Shortly before Padworth, I was delayed by a car travelling at a mere 45 mph in a 60 mph limit – I overtook it as soon as we reached the dual carriageway section of the road. However, typically, I was then held up by another slow-moving vehicle just prior to Thatcham and they caught me up again. How annoying. Through Thatcham I was amazed to travel behind two vehicles who were breaking the law – the first had a rear number plate which could barely be read because it was so dirty ... and the second one had no rear numberplate at all!
Upon arriving in Newbury, I turned left at the traffic lights to travel along the Hambridge Road to reach the racecourse entrance. The road-works experienced during my Hennessy fixture visits had been completed, a new large roundabout now constructed at the entrance to the industrial estate, rather than the previous mini-roundabout.
I drove along the perimeter road just before 11:30; a queue of early arrivees had formed outside the Grandstand entrance waiting to enter the racecourse. The building development which was currently taking place close to the premier parking area had resulted in fewer parking spaces than usual; and the turf in the new centre course parking area had not established itself yet either. Therefore the area within the free car park closest to the grandstand entrance had been given over to premier ticketholders. However, I didn’t notice any special signage to this affect, apart from a ‘P’ for parking sign, so I‘d parked here before I overheard the car park steward speaking to the car drivers in adjoining vehicles to confirm that it was premier parking here. However, I wasn’t challenged, perhaps I appeared too well-dressed to be a mere grandstand racegoer! And, guess what? There were no didicoys in the car park either!
I ate two of the cheese submarine rolls I’d brought with me then, having put on my gillet, burgundy cardigan, jacket, scarves and boots, I set off to the grandstand entrance to purchase a ticket. The price was £16 today, plus £3 for a race-card. My handbag, being large, was searched too. I headed to the Dubai Duty Free grandstand in order to visit the ladies loo. However, enroute, I decided to stop at one of the tables in order to pack my race-card and ticket away inside my handbag. Not a good move as, whilst I was there, a number of young girls from a nearby group headed across the concourse and disappeared through the doorway leading to the conveniences. So, much to my annoyance, a few moments later I discovered that they had formed a long queue which tailed out of the door to the ladies loos. I must have waited in line for 10 minutes before it was my turn. Damn.
Afterwards I set off to the Parade Ring to ascertain if the advertised ‘Equestrian’ activites had commenced yet. Having reached this area, I noticed that crowds were gathering around the Pre-Parade Ring, so I headed across the concourse to this location instead.
Upon my arrival I discovered that three Shetland ponies were being led around the ring by representatives from the Greatwood horse rehabilitation charity. The next item on the agenda was a demonstration by event rider Laura Collett and her Badminton horse Rayef. Yogi Breisner, World Class Performance Manager and
Following the demonstration, representatives from the Greatwood charity walked amongst the spectators standing around the Pre-Parade Ring to sell raffle tickets for the prize-draw which would take place later in the afternoon. I purchased two, blue 19 and 20. It was suggested that the purchaser’s name be written on the ticket stub if the buyer might not be staying until later in the afternoon; I didn’t bother, as I had no intention of departing before I’d seen Choc enter the confines of the Weighing Room following the final race of the day!
Once this had been completed, it was time to move across to the Parade Ring itself. I initially decided to position myself against the rails between the Pre-Parade Ring and the Paddock; but then changed my mind thinking ahead to the first race of the day. I moved to the end of the steppings closest to the entrance, where the jockeys would enter and exit during the afternoon. And I managed to nab this spot throughout the afternoon too; it was a very good vantage point for seeing Choc!
To give Laura the opportunity to swap from Rayef to Kauto Star, the next item on the agenda was the parade of equestrian disciplines – dressage, western, side-saddle, cross country/team chasing, pony club, tent-pegging, retired racehorse and endurance.
It was soon time for the arrival of Kauto Star. Clive Smith, the horse’s owner, was interviewed by and spoke about the horse’s change of career. Laura put the star ex-racehorse through his paces, mainly on the Parade Ring’s black rubber perimeter walkway, but also diagonally across the grass and circling on it too.
Shortly afterwards, the runners began to arrive ahead of the first race of the day, in which Choc’s mount would be Iron Chancellor. He had 6 riding engagements today, in all bar the penultimate race.
Both Racing UK and Channel 4 were represented at the track today, the former by Alex Steedman and Steve Mellish, the latter by Nick Luck and I also saw Emma Spencer.
The Philip Hobbs representative, Ballytober, was noticeably reluctant to head out through the exit point ahead of race one; Choc glancing back to observe the commotion as his mount was lead out along the walkway to the course. The starting gate for this race was half way down the back straight, with two flights to jump before the first bend, the horses heading around the top turn to reach it.
Noticeably, half the field of twelve were wearing running aids. Four horses were sporting blinkers – Kayf Aramis, Buck Magic, Iron Chancellor and Destroyed Deployed; the latter for the first time. Two horses were wearing cheek pieces – Water Garden and Bygones Sovereign – the latter also for the first time.
The girths having been checked and with the official start time approaching, the runners headed out of the holding pen and onto the track.
The runners began to approach the tape, hopeful that they’d get away first time, but Buck Magic wasn’t ready so his rivals were recalled. They returned to the start, the tape was stretched across the track once more, released again and then they were off at the second attempt.
The field was extended wide across the course heading for the first flight; Kayf Aramis marginally the first to rise from Bygones Sovereign. Also close to the pace were Destroyer Deployed, The Romford Pele and Buck Magic to the inside. Iron Chancellor was also to the inside, in Choc’s preferred position, travelling immediately behind the latter.
Ballytober hit the top of flight two. Heading into the first bend, Kayf Aramis had a 2½ lengths advantage over Bygones Sovereign, Destroyer Deployed matching strides to the inside of Dream Again Boys, then Ballytober, The Romford Pele, Buck Magic, Iron Chancellor to the inside of Water Garden; Off the Ground, Monetary Fund and Cuban Piece brought up the rear.
Turning into the home straight on the first occasion, Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount still led the field, the first four runners holding a three length lead over the remaining competitors as they straightened up to approach the next flight.
No noticeable errors over this obstacle, but Dream Again Boys trailed his hind-legs through the next. Crossing flight five, Bygones Sovereign took over the lead. Iron Chancellor now taking closer order on the inside; Off The Ground and Cuban Piece still bringing up the rear.
Dream Again Boys, sandwiched between Destroyer Deployed and The Romford Pele, was already being ridden along. Entering the back straight, Richie McLernon’s mount quickly began to drop back through the field.
Bygones Sovereign continued to cut out the pace, from Kayf Aramis; the runners soon becoming strung out in their wake. Ballytober was a little slow jumping the 7th flight. By the 8th flight Dream Again Boys had dropped to the rear of the field.
Kayf Aramis and Bygones Sovereign cleared the last flight in the back straight in unison; The Romford Pele and Ballytober close behind. Heading into the final bend, Cuban Piece, Off The Ground and Dream Again Boys were tailing off; soon to be pulled up. Water Garden, the grey, was making noticeable progress around the outside of the field. Destroyer Deployed coming under pressure at the rear of the main group but responding.
Bygones Sovereign led the field into the final straight and jumped three out in advance of Ballytober, Kayf Aramis, Water Garden and Iron Chancellor. Heading up beside the standside rail, Buck Magic had progressed to take the lead before two out, in his wake Water Garden, Ballytober, Monetary Fund and Iron Chancellor.
Ballytober capsized upon landing over this flight, Bygones Sovereign side-stepping the fallen horse. Buck Magic continued to lead; he jumped the last and was driven out to victory, the winning distance was 3¼ lengths. Water Garden kept on under pressure to finish 2nd, with Monetary Fund claiming 3rd. Destroyer Deployed finished in 4th, ahead of Iron Chancellor.
Ballytober was fine following his mishap, having got up and trotted away, as was his jockey, 7lbs claimer Chris Davies.
Having finished 5th, Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle his mount and speak with connections before returning to the Weighing Room.
Choc’s mount in the second event was Mortimers Cross. In his next Horse and Hound column, Choc mentioned that the horse’s trainer, John Needham, had given my favourite jockey his first ever Cheltenham Festival ride, way back in 1996. It was in the Kim Muir and Choc was 17 at the time; he’d finished in mid-field but will never forget his first experience of the flagship event.
The starting gate for the second race was at the beginning of the back straight, it also being that of the Hennessy Gold Cup.
Then they were off. Fortification was urged into the lead. Behind him, Mortimers Cross was on the inside, Desperate Dex to his outer, Tartak, wider still, then Sona Sasta. Behind Tartak was Posh Bird, to her inner Michel Le Bon sporting first-time blinkers, against the rail Hey Big Spender; in rear the almost white Idarah. The veterans all jumped the first well. Tartak rose slightly ahead over the 4th, Fortification now in 2nd followed by Sona Sasta and Mortimers Cross.
Fortification regained a narrow advantage heading around the first bend; the Venetia Williams trained Idarah still bringing up the rear. The horses splayed out approaching the cross fence, every jockey wishing their horse to get a clear view of this tricky fence.
Tartak joined Fortification once more at the head of affairs as they cleared the first in the home straight. All the runners jumped the next, an open-ditch, well; apart from Hey Big Spender who hit it and pecked on landing. Choc urged Mortimers Cross along between the next two fences. Tartak led over the next, where Fortification made a slight error.
Nick Scholfield switched his mount to the outside as they approached the water-jump, mindful that Tartak was demonstrating a preference to jump to his left. Heading around the top turn the order was Tartak, from Fortification, Sona Sasta with Desperate Dex, Mortimers Cross, Hey Big Spender, Michel Le Bon, and Posh Bird, with Idarah still in rear.
Fortification was ‘bumped’ along to keep tabs on the leader as they approached the first fence in the back straight; Hey Big Spender was a little slow at the fence, with Mortimers Cross beginning to struggle and dropping back through the field.
Travelling down the back straight, Tartak continued to lead, from the ridden along Fortification, Hey Big Spender now improved into third, with Michel Le Bon close up to his outside. Having dropped back into 4th position, Fortification received a couple of reminders as they reached the far corner of the track.
Heading into the final turn the order was Tartak, Hey Big Spender, Michel Le Bon, Fortification, Posh Bird, Sona Sasta, Mortimers Cross, Idarah and Desperate Dex. Nick Scholfield’s mount hit the cross fence. Tartak and Hey Big Spender disputed the lead heading around the final turn, with Michel Le Bon being ridden along to keep in touch with them, then travelled Posh Bird, with Mortimers Cross having improved again into 5th position.
Hey Big Spender jumped into the lead four out; Michel Le Bon then challenged the leader jumping the open-ditch, three from home. The two leaders bumped on landing over this fence. Tartak was now in third position. The Colin Tizzard runner still held a narrow advantage clearing two out but he stood off too far and almost banked the fence.
This handed the initiative to Michel Le Bon, who overtook him and had established a clear lead jumping the last; he extended this to 9 lengths at the line. Hey Big Spender completed in 2nd, with Posh Bird 3rd; the long-time leader, Tartak, completed in 4th.
Mortimers Cross finished 7th, ahead of Idarah; Fortification was pulled up.
Once again Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle his mount and speak with connections before returning to the Weighing Room.
Having ‘reserved’ the same Parade Ring spectator pitch during the racing interludes today ... because I walk faster than almost everyone else, despite the fact that I was suffering from a nerve-type twinge in my left hip joint on every other step I took at this particular juncture (I sustained the problem when I scrambled across my bed to pull the curtains – damn the creakiness of old age) ... I was able to get a very good view of Choc as he entered and left the Parade Ring, on this occasion signing autographs for young racing fans and having his photograph taken with them too.
The race-day presenter interviewed Nigel Bunter, owner of the Barbury Castle Estate, regarding his support for the Greatwood Charity and also about this summer’s Barbury Horse Trials. He revealed that two new cross country fences had been installed, having successfully applied to the London Olympics to give a couple of their obstacles a new home!
Choc’s mount in the next race was Turn Over Sivola for his retaining yard. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, I headed down to the course-side rails. Unfortunately, on this occasion, a drunk decided to stand beside me; he was mumbling on about A Bridge Too Far, he’d bet on the horse and it had caught his eye because it was the name of a film ... you don’t say! I recall my late father and my younger brother taking a trip to the local cinema to see it when it was released way back in 1977.
The starting gate for this race was in the home straight, with one flight to jump before heading out on one complete circuit. All The Aces appeared none too keen to move from the holding pen onto the racecourse and initially had to be led towards the enclosure exit point.
Then they were off. Meganisi and Tango De Juilley jumped the first flight in unison, prominent to the nearside was the flashy bay Sporting Boy (and I love a flashy bay, Mortimers Cross being one too), far side was Princely Player. Choc took a mid to inner line aboard Turn Over Sivola, four from rear; the Denis O’Regan ridden Cry Of Freedom was at the back of the field.
Heading up around the top bend the order was Tango De Juilley, Meganisi, Princely Player to the inside, Sporting Boy around the outside, from A Bridge Too Far, Knight In Purple, the grey Meetings Man, All The Aces to the inside of Turn Over Sivola, then flashy chestnut The Pier, The Betchworth Kid (ex-Alan King and now trained by Michael Bell), Cry Of Freedom and Zafranagar.
Into the back straight, The Pier blundered at the first flight therein. Sporting Boy soon coming to dispute the lead with Tango De Juilley, with Meganisi in third. Barry Geraghty’s mount, All The Aces, hit the top of the 4th flight and sprawled on landing, his jockey falling off backwards as he tried to regain his balance. Zafranagar, still in rear, received a reminder having cleared the next.
Entering the far bend, Aidan Coleman’s mount still led; Turn Over Sivola held 7th position, next to the rails. All the runners were still in contact with the leader turning into the home straight, apart from the now struggling Zafranagar.
Tango De Juilley led over the third last, Meganisi laying down a challenge to the near side. Behind these, spanning the breadth of the track, were Princely Player, A Bridge Too Far, Sporting Boy and Turn Over Sivola.
Having cleared two out, Meganisi challenged and was soon upsides the long-time leader; Cry Of Freedom driven through runners to close too. Turn Over Sivola had now dropped back to 8th. Meganisi led over the last, ears pricked and with the lead narrowing between himself and the strongly driven Denis O’Regan mount. However, he clung on to win by a length. Tango De Juilley completed in 3rd, with The Pier 4th.
The beaten Turn Over Sivola was eased and finished 10th. Having expected a big run from his charge, Alan King was very disappointed and reported in his Weekender column that the horse was a little distressed after the race. He thinks there are ‘issues’ with the animal, who underwent later checks.
Yet again Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle his mount, brief connections before returning to the Weighing Room.
It was soon time for Choc’s 4th ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Midnight Sail. The horse had won a handicap chase at Kempton Park the previous Saturday.
The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track, the first obstacle being the cross-fence.
The horses came out onto the track. Initially heading away from the tape in order to kill time before the off, as it wasn’t yet 15:50. They circled briefly and then they were away.
Mr Gardner was the first to rise over the cross-fence, from Pacha Du Polder, Midnight Sail and Big Fella Thanks. Micheal Flips jumped slightly to his right; Mahogany Blaze was in rear.
Turning into the straight on the first occasion, Mr Gardner and Pacha Du Polder disputed the lead, from Big Fella Thanks, Midnight Sail, Garynella, Saved By John, Micheal Flips, Pepite Rose, Tony Star, The Knoxs and Mahogany Blaze. The latter blundered at the second fence, sending Sam Twiston-Davies into orbit, the horse’s reins now flailing about the horse’s head.
Saved By John made an error at the third, the open-ditch, and Big Fella Thanks hit the next and lost a few places. Pacha Du Polder out-jumped Mr Gardner at the 5th and took a clear advantage over the field.
Ryan Mahon’s mount was less fluent at the water-jump, which allowed Mr Gardner to re-join him heading into the top bend. Midnight Sail was on the outside of Garynella, from The Knoxs and Big Fella Thanks, Pepite Rose, Saved By John, Micheal Flips and Tony Star.
Into the back straight, Pacha Du Polder and Mr Gardner had gained a four length advantage over Midnight Sail; the loose Mahogany Blaze managed to fall at the first in the line of five obstacles. The next was an open-ditch, where Micheal Flips fell; jockey Nick Scholfield was slow to rise.
The field closed up as they headed over the next two obstacles. Out of the back straight the order was Pacha Du Polder, Mr Gardner, Midnight Sail, Garynella, The Knoxs, Saved By John, Pepite Rose, Big Fella Thanks and Tony Star. Saved By John made an error at the cross-fence, he was low and skewed, and was pushed along having cleared it.
Pacha Du Polder still held the advantage heading towards four out; the other runners, all still in contention, splayed out approaching the fence. However, the runners having cleared it, Midnight Sail found himself in last position. The open-ditch claimed the improving Pepite Rose, and she hampered the gaining Tony Star, the weakening Garynella and Saved By John. The Knoxs also blundered here. This left Big Fella Thanks to launch a one-horse challenge upon the long-time leader.
Pacha Du Polder continued to gallop on relentlessly over the final two obstacles, extending his lead over Big Fella Thanks and Tony Star; they held an even greater advantage over Mr Gardner, The Knoxs and Garynella.
The Paul Nicholls 18-1 second string went on to win by 5 lengths at the line. Big Fella Thanks took 2nd by a neck from Tony Star, with Mr Gardner 6 lengths back in 4th.
Having fallen out of contention, Choc had pulled up Midnight Sail before two out. Mahogany Blaze, Micheal Flips and Pepite Rose were all fine following their falls. Nick Scholfield, having been trodden on when Micheal Flips fell, missed his later rides and was on the sidelines for a few days.
Choc returned once more to the Parade Ring to unsaddle his mount and speak with connections before returning to the Weighing Room.
It was soon time for the Greatwood winning raffle tickets to be drawn. The first one pulled out of the ‘hat’ was ticket 19 ... yes ... pink ... no! Right number, wrong colour – my ticket 19 was blue! In fact, the majority of winning tickets were pink.
During the interval between races, the race day presenter interviewed Paralympian dressage competitor, Deborah Criddle.
It was then time for the next race, in which Choc would be riding the James Eustace trained Go Set Go. The starting gate for this race was in the far corner of the track, the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it.
Again, having exited from the holding pen onto the course, the horses headed away from the tape whilst waiting for the start time to arrive. Then they were off. The field was led away by Wychwoods Brook, from Willow’s Saviour, Ray Diamond, Bradbury, Go Set Go to the outside, wider still Den Of Iniquity, Hatters River to the inside, Johnny Red, Gay Sloane, I Know The Code, Life Of A Luso, Arctic Wings, Valid Point and Psi.
Having cleared the first flight, Daryl Jacob steered his mount to the inside, pulling him up and dismounting. The favourite was out of the race. Ears pricked, Wychwoods Brook continued to hold the advantage as the runners headed up the home straight on the first occasion. Psi continued to bring up the rear.
Heading into the back straight, Tom Scudamore’s mount led by three lengths from Willow’s Saviour; Choc aboard Go Set Go travelled on the outside of the field in 4th position at this stage. Ray Diamond, in midfield, was the first to send out distress signals; by the far turn he’d dropped to the rear of the field and was receiving reminders.
Turning into the home straight on the final occasion, Wychwoods Brook still led from Go Set Go, Willow’s Saviour and Den Of Iniquity. A number of runners laid down a challenge to the long-time leader approaching two out, noticeably Arctic Wings, Hatters River and the rallying Willow’s Saviour.
It was Arctic Wings, against the stand-side rail, who now took the lead, Hatters River, Willow’s Saviour and Valid Point all continuing to challenge to his far side. Den Of Iniquity blundered and unseated two out, hampering Bradbury. Hatters River made an error at the last, leaving Willow’s Saviour to become Arctic Wings’ sole remaining challenger and they battled it out to the line, the latter prevailing by half a length.
Hatters River finished 3rd, with Valid Point 4th. Go Set Go faded into 10th.
A winner for the in-form trainer, Tony Carroll, who stated in a post-race interview that his charge had a preference for running on left-handed courses. It was the yard’s 7th winner of the week!
Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle his mount and to brief connections before returning to the Parade Ring.
No ride for Choc in the next race, the penultimate event.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. Red Rouble led them away, from Miss Tenacious, Marie Des Anges, then Prolinx to the inside and Border Station to the outside. The second is the open-ditch, the leader jumped it slightly big and landed a little steeply but it didn’t affect his momentum; Border Station put in an awkward jump here too. Once more at the third, the latter jumped out to his right.
The leading horses closed up as they approached the water, Miss Tenacious jumping into the lead over this one. By dint of taking the inside line around the top bend, Red Rouble went on again as they travelled around it. Miss Tenacious jumped into the lead once more at the next obstacle.
All the horses were fencing well, apart from Border Station who lacked fluency at most of those in the back straight and remained in rear. The runners grouped up on the flat as they headed towards the cross-fence, where Marie Des Anges was the least fluent.
Red Rouble and Miss Tenacious continued to lead as the field turned into the home straight; the latter making an error four from home and losing ground on her rivals. The other mare quickly travelled up to challenge the leader. Prolinx, to the inside, hit the open-ditch.
Marie Des Anges had assumed the lead over two out, and her jockey pushed her out to extend the lead over Red Rouble, Miss Tenacious, Prolinx and the outpaced Border Station. The leader stuttered into the last, which gave her rivals a glimpse of a chance, especially Red Rouble, but the diminutive mare wanted to win and she galloped on to the line, triumphing by 1¼ lengths from the Sam Twiston-Davies mount, the staying on Prolinx was a further 1¼ lengths back in 3rd. Miss Tenacious completed in 4th, with Border Station trailing home last.
I returned to the viewing area beside the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back. The winning jockey was Charlie ‘Jockey Style’ Huxley ... and don’t forget to view the outtakes version.
Alan King was nowhere to be seen ahead of the final race, with Assistant Trainer Noel Williams doing to honours of saddling up the horse, meeting up with connections and legging up Choc.
Once the bell had sounded to signal to the jockeys to mount, Choc began to head towards the usual spot, immediately beside the Winners’ Enclosure. However, Noel called across, suggesting they go to the Parade Ring exit point to meet up with Simply A Legend; as the newcomer would probably be calmer if they waited until the last possible moment before Choc was legged aboard.
Being a ‘junior’ bumper for 4-year-olds, the race was run over a shorter than usual distance, in this case 1 mile and 4½ furlongs; the starting gate is situated at the beginning of the back straight (the Hennessy starting gate in fact) with the competitors in this race racing over slightly less than one complete circuit of the course. I know that Newbury has one of the longest circuits in the country … which was why I chose to undertake my second course walk with Choc at this particular venue (I’m not as daft as I look!)
A number of the inexperienced horses were nervous at the start, Major Martin lashing out at his rivals as they circled at the start; fortunately he didn’t make contact. The excitable Seedling was kept away from the others and was walking around to the far side of the rails near the start. The filly, Seedcracker, wasn’t at all keen and initially was led around at the start. However she did consent to join the rear of the main pack as they approached the tape but, when they set off, she lashed out with her hind-legs and refused to jump off with the others. Seedling was in rear of the main group, slightly detached.
The field was led away by Stereotypical, from Amore Alato, Major Martin, Zayfire Aramis, Willpower, Java Rose and Ifits A Fiddle. Before the runners had even reached the far corner, the Nicky Henderson trained runner, Act Alone, was being pushed along by Barry Geraghty.
Into the far bend, the blue jacket and yellow stars of Simply A Legend were visible on the inside of the field, nearer last than first. Heading around this turn, Stereotypical led, from Zayfire Aramis, Amore Alato, Ifits A Fiddle, Major Martin, Green King, Bay Fortuna, Java Rose and Agincourt Reef; Willpower was now at the rear of the field, receiving strong reminders from his jockey, David Bass before tailing off. The Mark Johnstone charge has been a slow developer, but this was a definite step backwards from his second placed effort at Wetherby just eleven days ago when ridden by Choc.
Simply A Legend had closed up to the leaders and was visible to the inside, almost first rank, as the runners spread out wide across the course to make their challenges. Barry Geraghty had given his horse a backhander heading out of the turn, the horse responded, but his jockey was still forced to apply non-stop pressure in order to hold his position.
Stereotypical still held a very narrow advantage as the runners travelled between the wings of the absent second last flight. Having been held up in rear for the early part of the race, Dubai Kiss came through strongly to take up the running a furlong and a half from home; Seedling, who’d set off in rear of the others, had now taken 2nd position, the earlier driven along Act Alone was in 3rd, and long-time leader Stereotypical still battled on in 4th spot.
And this was the order they finished in too, the official winning distance 5 lengths at the line … but it looked more than this to me! A 50-1 winner for, unknown to me, trainer Harry Whittington. Anyway, Simply A Legend acquitted himself well and finished 7th, having been outpaced in the closing stages. Alan King expected a lot of improvement from the horse next time out.
I returned to the Parade Ring area to see Choc unsaddle his mount and debrief connections before he headed back to the Weighing Room for the final time today.
A disappointing day with regards to Choc finishing in the first four in none of the races but, having had 6 riding engagements, I’d seen Choc for, when added together, many minutes today!
It was now time for me to leave. I set off along the concourse and out through the Grandstand entrance. Many vehicles had already left or were in the process of leaving; I crossed between queued vehicles in order to reach the area where my car was parked. It was stood almost alone in that section of the car park.
Having taken off my coat and boots, I sat in my car and ate the two remaining cheese rolls. It was just gone 18:00 when I left. I decided to take the exit route via the golf course; the lane between the gate and the beginning of the industrial was severely pot-holed, deteriorating with every visit – no wonder it cost over £700 to have my car serviced recently ... and that was including my service plan discount! Mega-ouch.
The road now rises up to join the new roundabout on the Hambridge Road. There appeared to be a dead-end exit to my left, so presumably this is in preparation for a road to join up with a planned bridge which will span the railway and lead to a new Newbury racecourse entrance. Having checked on the map, it would also provide immediate access to the health centre and golf club house opposite.
I turned right at this roundabout and drove up to join the A4; waiting in a queue at the traffic lights before turning in an easterly direction. My route took me back through Thatcham, where I got caught by almost all of the traffic lights on red, on through Woolhampton, to eventually join the M4 at Junction 12. There was also a 50 mph limit in place on this carriageway just east of Reading Central, mirroring the one on the other side of the motorway.
It was dark by this time, the motorway being lit between Junction 12 and Junction 10 Reading East. The next section has no lighting, but I was able to follow a lorry which had 4 lights and a luminous orange border around its rear door. The lighting reappears before Slough, and I continued along the motorway to join the M25 clockwise carriageway.
With no need to fill up my car’s petrol tank this week, upon leaving the M25 at Junction 20, I drove straight home, arriving at 19:40.
As I’d done last week, I ate a ready-meal of Penne Mozzarella, followed this week by cherry crumble with cream. And an end crust from a tiger loaf ... I love bread crusts!
I uploaded my photographs onto my laptop, made a note of which ones I’d use on my website and wrote my blog before turning in at 23:00. I felt more tired than I had the previous Saturday following my day out at Kempton Park.
The next day I formatted a number of DVDs, transferring RUK’s Newbury coverage to disk in preparation for writing this diary. I also did my pre-Festival washing ... to freshen up all those skirts, jumpers and fleeces which I’d maybe worn a couple of times without throwing them in the washing bin afterwards! And I formatted and uploaded the aforementioned photographs; also began drafting this diary. Post racing, there’s no rest for the wicked!
But, little did I know, Choc would be injured two days later, when suffering a heavy fall which brought down another runner at Southwell. Initially it was thought that he was merely badly bruised, but later x-rays revealed that he’d broken his upper right arm again and sustained minor spinal damage too. So it meant no Cheltenham Festival or Aintree Festival participation this season.
The broken bone in his arm had not been displaced due to the metal plate which was inserted in December 2011 holding it in place. At the time of writing, Choc was due to consult a specialist on Tuesday 12 March (the first day of the 2013 Festival) to discover whether an operation would be necessary; but he remained hopeful that this could be avoided.
Oh dear, that’s twice now he’s been back from serious injury for a year and a handful of days, only to be hurt once more.