Another day’s annual leave accounted for.  Choc had 4 rides scheduled at Sandown Park, so once again I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go watch him ride. 

I left home at 10:45 to drive to Sandown.  My route took me around the M25 and up the A3.  The trip went really well, with no traffic hold-ups, not even in Esher. I decided to park in the centre of the course, which is free and, as I had arrived early, there was space to park on the tarmac area.  Once I’d put on my gillet and coat, I walked down towards the racecourse crossing, and purchased a Grandstand ticket costing £18 from the kiosk.  Having crossed the course via the plastic walkway, I purchased a race-card for £2.50.

This was my second visit to Sandown Park, the first being at the end of April for the Bet365 Gold Cup, so I knew which route to take through the Grandstand to reach the Parade Ring area.  I positioned myself at the apex of the paddock, in the bright sunshine, to await the runners for the first race.  While I was waiting, Nick Luck and a colleague from Racing UK ran through the race-card making their ‘winning’ selections for the 6 races. The non-runners were also announced – 3 runners in the 5th race, and Tifoso in the last – Choc’s mount.  I noticed ‘Sandy the Owl’ atop the stump of an old beech tree to the side of the clock-tower. 

The horses came into the Parade Ring, followed by the owners, then the jockeys.  Choc’s first mount of the day was Tuanku. When the bell went to mount, Choc and Alan walked over to the side near the ‘jockeys entrance’ for his mount to approach, and Choc was legged up into the saddle.  As Choc went along the horse-walk, I walked through the Grandstand hall and out onto the tarmac area in front of the stand in time to watch him canter down past me to the start away to my right. 

Then they were off.  Tuanku raced in 3rd place, chasing the winner after the 5th flight, was being ridden out when he hit 2 out, but made no impression soon after, and finished in 2nd place.  The winner was Helium ridden by Liam Treadwell, trained by Nick Gifford. Once he had passed the winning post I walked back through the Grandstand and around to the Winners’ Enclosure to see him come back and unsaddle.  When he had disappeared inside the Weighing Room, I went back over to the Parade Ring to wait for the runners for the 2nd race to arrive.

The next race was a Steeplechase and Choc’s mount was Rustarix.  Choc came into the Parade Ring alongside Mattie Batchelor.  Tom Scudamore mounted Orphelin Collonges early and rode him around the ring – this was the horse which had bolted across the paddock at Huntingdon with Tom O’Brien aboard.  When the bell sounded, Choc and Alan walked over towards me, and Alan legged Choc up onto the horse.  Once Choc was on his way out onto the course, I walked through the Grandstand hall and positioned myself near the open-ditch so that I could take a photo as the field came over the fence.  The start for this race was over the far side of the track, so the horses cantered down past the stands and then across a track through the middle of the racecourse.

Soon the race was off.  Rustarix raced in 3rd, and tracked the leader from the 9th fence.  He had a narrow lead and was hit 3 out, then driven.  He was joined at the last, narrowly headed soon after, but rallied gamely under pressure to regain the lead in the last few strides.  There was a photo-finish and the result was announced that he had won by a short-head.  The runner up was Creinch ridden by Charlie Poste.

Back to the Winners’ Enclosure again to see Choc and Rustarix return.  I took photos as he unsaddled and spoke to connections.  Choc then had his official photo taken with the horse, before disappearing into the Weighing Room. 

Now it was time for Choc’s 3rd and final ride of the day, aboard Junior in the Novices’ Hurdle race.  This time Choc came into the Parade Ring with Jimmy McCarthy, who I gather often rides out at Alan King’s.  Again the horses cantered down past the stands to reach the start on the far side.  I positioned myself by the rails to see the action.

When the race started, Junior was held up in rear but well in touch, he hit the 6th, made headway to chase the leaders 2 out, led but hit the last flight, and was driven out to the line, beating On Raglan Road by a good margin. Again I returned to see Choc and Junior arrive in the Winners’ Enclosure.  I took a couple of photos, before Choc disappeared into the Weighing Room.

The 4th race of the day was an Intermediate Steeplechase, with 5 runners.  Unfortunately Sam Thomas had to pull up the Nicholls’ runner, Ornais, who went lame at the railway fences, the horse ambulance being sent to collect the animal.  The Queen’s horse, Barbers Shop ridden by Barry Geraghty, won.

I followed the same routine of watching the horses in the Parade Ring, going out racecourse side to watch the races, although the last 3 races were watched from the grandstand steps, and then returning to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses come back. 

The 5th race was won by River Indus ridden by William Kennedy – I thought the horse looked well when I saw it in the paddock.  The 6th and final race was again won by William Kennedy, this time riding Kadouchski.  So doubles for both William Kennedy and Choc today. 

After seeing the horses return to the Winners’ Enclosure following the final race, I walked back through the grandstand, across the course, back to my car.  I left straight away but got caught in the traffic queue leaving from the centre-course car park.  It took ages to travel through Esher, but the A3 was clear to the M25.  It was then hold-ups for most of the way on the motorway until Maple Cross.  I arrived back home at around 18:20.

Back to Sandown again tomorrow, to watch 6 races, including the Tingle Creek Chase, but I’ll travel down by train this time.

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