DIARY – SANDOWN PARK
– SATURDAY 05 NOVEMBER 2011
Choc and Hold On Julio,
winners of the 3 miles ½ furlong Handicap Chase
Today I was hoping that Choc would be riding at Sandown Park, as opposed to the meeting at Wincanton. Sandown is my favourite ‘local’ racecourse and I always look forward to visiting the track.
Having checked the internet at lunchtime on Friday, I discovered that Choc was due to have 5 rides at the Surrey venue the following day, all for Alan King:
Race 3: Volcan Surprise, a 3-year old French import, having his first outing in this country after running twice in France.
Race 4: Midnight Appeal, his first run of the season and hoping to continue in the same vein after running up a sequence of 4 wins over the larger obstacles last term. He runs in the familiar yellow with red spots colours of owner David Sewell.
Race 5: Pantxoa making his seasonable debut, running in the familiar orange and black colours of Medermit.
Race 6: Hold On Julio. Purchased for £28,000 at the Doncaster sales, the lightly-raced 8-year-old was making his debut for the Alan King yard, having won point-to-points and a maiden Hunter Chase last season.
Race 7: Frizzo having this third run in a bumper, with two fifth placed efforts already to his name.
And a special bonus to attending this particular Sandown Park fixture ... my work colleague Sue found a Free Entry offer printed in the Daily Mirror earlier in the week, the newspaper was sponsoring the first race to advertise their ‘Punters Club’. So, armed with my voucher, all I had to pay for was the cost of my petrol and my race-card! An absolute bargain.
With racing on the agenda for Saturday, I spent time on Friday evening deciding what to wear. It was still mild for the time of year but an indeterminable amount of rain was forecast for the following afternoon. Anorak ... no, to wear, not to be one! Purple anorak, I bought two coats a few weeks ago as I couldn’t decide which one I liked best (both purple) – but, as they were from BHS, they cost less than £80 for the two! Black jeans, blue boots, long sleeved thermal vest, purple sweater, purple fleece, purple cardigan. There’s the usual theme running through my choices ... purple!!! Even the jewellery I chose to wear was purple, black and turquoise.
Having rained in recent days, the going at Sandown was good to soft, good in places on the chase track; soft, good to soft in places on the hurdles track. The day dawned misty, although this was probably due to fireworks affecting the atmosphere overnight – it was 05 November today but a number of displays and garden events had taken place on Friday evening. Personally, I’ve hated fireworks since I was quite young ... it always seems such a waste of money for so little enjoyment.
I woke at around 06:30, tuning into the early morning news on TV. There had been a massive pile-up on the M5 yesterday evening, near Taunton. There had been fatalities as a result. Tragic for those involved, and not particularly confidence building with a trip around the M25 planned by me today. I hoped that the forecasted rain would not arrive to make conditions on the motorway treacherous.
I took a shower, washed and dried my hair and watched the Morning Line whilst eating a breakfast of toast and croissants. Having applied my make-up, I set off for Esher at 10:05. My route took me to join the M25 at Junction 21A; the motorway was very quiet between there and Junction 17, Maple Cross. However, traffic increased as I approached the M40 junction and remained quite heavy until leaving the motorway at Junction 10, the A3. I headed towards London, taking the Esher exit, the first hold-up I encountered was at the first set of traffic lights. There was a further delay at the second set of traffic signals; I had to wait for 2 changes before I was able to join the one-way system, and cross the A244 to drive along beside the green and enter the driveway which took me across the racecourse to the free parking area.
On the first few occasions I’d visited the track I was able to park on the tarmac area; this is no longer permitted, or at least not for ‘ordinary’ punters. Today I was directed to park opposite the Premier Enclosure entry point, close to what I presume is the judge’s box for the five furlong flat track. It was 11:10, gates having opened at 11:00.
Having parked, and eaten just one of the cheese rolls I’d brought with me (I was still full from the two slices of toast and two large croissants I’d eaten for breakfast), I set off to walk to the large white tent which served as the ticket office. Having handed over the Daily Mirror voucher, I was presented with a Grandstand Ticket which was ‘punched’ by one of the stewards before I entered the plastic pontoon walkway across the racecourse. Arriving at the area in front of the main grandstand, I purchased a race-card for £2.50 before heading through the Surrey Hall to reach the Parade Ring area. I found a seat in my preferred spot, with my back facing the Weighing Room, in preparation for the first race; although that wasn’t due off until 12:45. The day was very overcast, but dry and, being well wrapped up, I did not feel cold at all. However I did put on my wrist-warmers to protect my hands, as I prefer to be ‘roasty toasty’ if possible!
At 12:15 AP McCoy, who was acting as the Sandown Park ‘Ambassador’ for the 2011/2012 season, joined raceday presenter, Anthony Kemp, to share his thoughts on the day’s racing. Following this, David Yates of the Daily Mirror discussed his tips for the day. His choice in the first race was Sentimentaljourney, ridden by a jockey he expects to go far, Maurice Linehan. In the second race, which was a match, he thought Pacha Du Polder might win, although Eradicate would probably go close. His tips for the third race were Volcan Surprise and Mentalist, the latter having excellent flat form. In the fourth race, Frankie Figg was his selection. In the fifth race, the Philip Hobbs trained Tony Star; in the sixth race, Alan King’s Hold On Julio. His tip for the final race was Jayandbee, again trained by Philip Hobbs.
Soon it was time for the first race of the day, a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle over a distance of 2 miles 4 furlongs. The Alan King yard had one representative, Kings Troop, ridden by Charlie Huxley. There were also two ex-Alan King trained horses taking part in this event – Gilded Age, now trained by Chris Gordon, and the white faced Enfant De Lune, now representing the David Pipe yard.
Racing UK’s main fixture today was Wincanton so, whilst there were no presenters at Sandown, Niall Hannity and currently injured jockey Aidan Coleman were in the studio commenting on the racing; Aidan having broken his collarbone when unseated at Ascot the previous Saturday.
The start of this event was half way down the back straight, the runners cantering down past the stands, stewards holding checkered flags to direct the jockeys to the stands-side to avoid damaging the course unnecessarily. The runners then headed through the area in the centre of the racecourse to reach the start.
I stood in the grandstand to watch this event; the favourite for this race was Trafalgar Road, Niall and Aidan’s selection was Enfant De Lune.
Then they were off ... at a pedestrian pace. The field was led away by Enfant De Lune, from Theologist, Amore Mio, Niceonefrankie, Fabulous Fred, Alcalde, Sentimentaljourney, Silver Accord, Gilded Age, Amirico, Kings Troop, Share Option, Phare Isle, Ravenclaw, Posh Emily, Cotillion, Trafalgar Road and the initially reluctant Warsaw Pact.
Up the straight and around the top turn Enfant De Lune disputed the lead with Fabulous Fred; the field closely packed. In rear, Warsaw Pack blundered at the sixth flight, his jockey having to regain his left iron.
Conor O’Farrell set off for home having entered the home straight; Alcalde now his closest pursuer. Enfant De Lune was well in command over the last, although jumping to the left, and went on to win by 1½ lengths easing down. Having been outpaced early in the straight, Sentimentaljourney stayed on under pressure to finish 2nd, Cotillion caught Alcalde on the line to claim 3rd. Kings Troop, having occupied third position before hitting 2 out, weakened on the flat to finish 6th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the victor arrive back, before re-locating to the Parade Ring to see the runners arrive prior to race 2. There were just 2 competitors for this Beginners’ Chase, Pacha Du Polder representing the Paul Nicholls yard and Eradicate from the Nicky Henderson yard; both horses making their chasing debuts.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel. Once again I stood in the grandstand to watch the event.
Then they were off. The two runners cleared the first in unison, Pacha Du Polder going one length up over the open-ditch; extended to 2 lengths as they passed the winning post with one circuit to go.
Eradicate was a little slow at the third, the downhill fence, initially losing ground as they headed down the back straight. But the Nicky Henderson trained runner had closed on his rival by the first of the railway fences, being just one length adrift; Pacha Du Polder brushing through the top of the middle obstacle. AP’s mount extended the advantage again heading into the far turn.
David Bass drove his mount along and joined Pacha Du Polder over the Pond Fence. Having the inside line, AP’s mount took a slight advantage heading into the home straight; both horses hit 2 out. Eradicate was ridden to take a narrow advantage before the last but his rival was more fluent and rallied strongly on the flat to take the honours by a nose at the line.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see AP McCoy unsaddle his winning mount before re-locating to the Parade Ring ahead of Choc’s first ride of the day, Volcan Surprise.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the stands to reach it. I went to stand beside the course-side rails to watch this event.
Then they were off. Taking up the running was Choc aboard Volcan Surprise with, to his immediate outside, AP McCoy aboard Dark And Dangerous. They were followed by Captain Sharpe, Mentalist, Nothing to Hide, Rasam Aldaar, Kambis who blundered at the first flight, the hard pulling David’s Dilemma and finally Target Score.
As the field turned into the back straight, Dark And Dangerous became the outright leader, Volcan Surprise remaining in second, with Captain Sharpe and Mentalist on his heels. Four out, when in rear, David’s Dilemma skewed over the flight and fell, sliding on his side along the ground before stopping. Both Mark Bradburne and horse were none the worse for this mishap; I later saw the jockey ride him back in along the horse-walk.
Around the final bend, Dark And Dangerous continued to lead from Volcan Surprise, Captain Sharpe, Mentalist, Kambis and Rasam Aldaar. These 3 runners were clear of the field as they turned into the home straight. Choc drove his mount to close on the leader, but Dark And Dangerous had reserves and was in command before the final flight; galloping on to win by 2½ lengths from Volcan Surprise. The tired Captain Sharpe flattened the last with his hind-legs but held on to third ahead of Rasam Aldaar.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc unsaddle Volcan Surprise before he headed inside the Weighing Room. I then re-located to the Parade Ring ahead of the runners arriving prior to the next race. Choc mount in this races was the David Sewell owned Midnight Appeal.
With the Alan King trained, David Sewell owned, Jetnova running in the 2.15 at Wincanton, Alan and the owner didn’t put in an appearance in the Parade Ring prior to this race; Choc looked a little lost as he stood waiting for the bell to signal to the jockeys to mount their horses.
For the record, Jetnova with Wayne Hutchinson aboard fell 3 out; and both horse and jockey were fine.
The horses cantered down past the stands on their way to the starting gate; it was on the far side of the course, the first obstacle being the initial Railway Fence. I went to stand beside the course-side rails near the open-ditch.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Frankie Figg and Rougham; Fruity O’Rooney hit the first fence. Midnight Appeal, just warming up, wasn’t foot perfect at all three of the Railway Fences, but was never in the slightest danger of falling. Frankie Figg and Rougham, both confirmed front runners, were soon clear of the field. They were followed by the Martin Keighley trained Pilgrims Lane, Fruity O’Rooney, Whinstone Boy, Roudoudou Ville, Red Admiral, Midnight Appeal and Songe.
Rougham had taken the lead by the time the runners cleared the Pond Fence, Frankie Fig was now in second, then Pilgrims Lane, Fruity O’Rooney, Roudoudou Ville, Midnight Appeal, Red Admiral, Whinstone Boy and, last year’s winner of this event, Songe. The latter, already detached in rear, was pulled up after jumping the open ditch.
Rougham led over the downhill fence; Frankie Figg, who had been travelling in second position, lost this to Roudoudou Ville, having jumped slowly at this obstacle. Midnight Appeal made progress up the inside of the runners to dispute fourth place. Rougham held the advantage until the 9th fence, at which he lost momentum, Roudoudou Ville now taking the lead ahead of Frankie Figg. The latter assumed poll position again 4 out.
Around the final bend, Roudoudou Ville regained the lead, when Frankie Figg brushed through the Pond Fence. Midnight Appeal, who had been pursuing the leading trio from 4 out, had progressed up to second position two out but made a mistake and it impeded his momentum. Roudoudou Ville, despite also making an error 2 out, retained the lead and went on to clear the last and win by 4 lengths from Midnight Appeal. Rougham, who blundered at the final fence, finished another 4 lengths back in 3rd. Pilgrims Lane stayed on to be 4th, although never a threat.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc and Midnight Appeal arrive back, before re-locating to the Parade Ring area. Choc’s ride in the next race was Pantxoa; also competing was the Alan King trained Levera.
The start of the next race was at the far end of the home straight, with one full circuit and the straight to travel. The horses were directed to canter down the course beside the near side rail. However, being of an excitable nature, Choc decided to canter his mount down the far side of the course, the course stewards looked a little perturbed by this!
I stood beside the grandstand-side rails to watch this race.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Spear Thistle, from Pateese, the hard pulling Tony Star, Safran De Cotte, Twist Pistol, Paintball, Levera, Sircozy, Switched Off, Numide and Pantxoa; at the rear of the field, Don’t Panic veered left and lost ground at the start.
Spear Thistle led around the top bend, Pateese almost upsides. Heading down the back straight, the hard pulling Twist Pistol took over at the front of the field at the third flight. Having tracked the leaders, Tony Star stumbled badly at the fourth, initially losing his place. The order over 3 out was Twist Pistol, Pateese, Spear Thistle, Tony Star recovering his position, Safran De Cotte, Sircozy, Paintball, Pantxoa, Levera, Numide, Switched Off, with Don’t Panic still in rear and soon to be pulled up.
As the runners turned into the home straight, Matt Griffiths sent Patesse into the lead and drew well clear of his rivals before the penultimate flight. Paintball was now in second position, with Pantxoa staying on in third. The former blundered at the final flight and was overtaken on the run-in by Choc’s mount; but Patesse had gone beyond recall and won by 8 lengths pulling up. Safran De Cotte stayed on well after the last and almost snatched third from Paintball.
Alan King’s other representative, Levera, completed in 11th, last of the finishers.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back in second place spot. The excitable Pantxoa had been wearing ear-plugs, once removed they dangled from his bridle. Once Choc had returned to the Weighing Room, I re-located to the Parade Ring area ahead of the horses arriving for the penultimate race.
The start of this race was at the top bend, so the competitors headed straight to the gate. I ‘set up camp’ near the open-ditch. Choc’s mount, Hold On Julio, was the favourite for this event.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Moleskin, from the grey Appleaday, Craiglands pitching on landing over the first, Soixante, Pak Jack, Earth Planet, Very Stylish, Hold On Julio and Local Present. Moleskin and Appleaday soon set up a three lengths lead over the remainder of the field. Craiglands stumbled after the fourth; Choc was now travelling towards the outside of the field, his mount jumping boldly.
The order at the railway fences was Moleskin, Appleaday, Craiglands, Soixante, Hold On Julio, Earth Planet, Very Stylish, Pak Jack and Local Present. Moleskin and Appleaday were still disputing the lead over the fences in the straight, followed by Soixante, Craiglands and Hold On Julio.
Moleskin hit the downhill fence, losing the lead; Appleaday going on from Hold On Julio. Pak Jack soon tailed off and was pulled up. Over the railway fences, the leading trio was Appleaday, Hold On Julio and Earth Planet. In 4th position, Soixante blundered at the middle of the ‘treble’.
Earth Planet took the advantage when Appleaday blundered at the Pond Fence; the upsides Hold On Julio hit the obstacle too, slightly affecting his momentum. However, Choc drove his mount to close before the second last, with Earth Planet and Hold On Julio soon neck and neck heading towards the final fence. Choc’s mount flew the last, whereas Earth Planet made a mistake. Hold On Julio galloped up the hill to the line, winning by 11 lengths. Long time leader, Appleaday finished 31 lengths back in third, with Moleskin in 4th.
Craiglands completed in fifth, although very tired and clambering over the last obstacle. Local Present finished 6th, tailed off. Having blundered 2 out, when in 4th position, Andrew Thornton pulled up Soixante. Very Stylish was also pulled up.
In the Racing UK studio, Aidan Coleman commented that Choc would probably enjoy reading a few ‘well done’ tweets from his followers on Twitter that evening! Probably!!! LOL. Yes, I was one of those tweeters!
Having returned to see Choc arrive back in the Winners’ Enclosure, pose for photos and, after weighing in, return to collect his memento, I re-located to the Parade Ring area once more. Choc’s mount in the final event was Frizzo.
Darkness was beginning to fall as the final race of the day approached; this being the case, to watch the race I remained on the concrete area just outside the doorway to the Surrey Hall. There was no point in taking photographs in these conditions, as they would be blurred due to shutter speed caused by lack of light.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Rhinestone Rebel, Frizzo and Drinking Song. They were followed by the keen Clever Dick, Syndication, Jayandbee, Keep Kicking, Power Man, Craigmure, Billy Bonkers, Circular Quay, Cruz On Ted, Sussex Lass, with Carbis Bay in rear.
Down the back straight, at the front of the field, Drinking Song held the inside line, with Rhinestone Rebel to the outside, with Frizzo sandwiched between these two runners. Carbis Bay and Sussex Lass still brought up the rear; Circular Quay made progress on the outside of the field.
Choc was the first to commit for home, over 4 furlongs out but Frizzo was headed inside the final 3 furlongs. Circular Quay took over, chased by Clever Dick (same ownership, different yard) then Keep Kicking; the latter becoming the nearest pursuer as Clever Dick faded. Circular Quay winning by 1 length at the line. Power Man stayed on the finish 3rd, with Cruz On Ted in 4th. Frizzo completed in 5th; his third 5th place from 3 outings.
A winner for Noel Fehily, who had diverted from Bristol Airport, having been unable to catch a flight to Northern Ireland due to fog. He had been due to ride the Paul Nicholls trained Kauto Stone, a half brother to Kauto Star, at Down Royal; the horse had won and was also the 2000th winner for the trainer.
Sadly, Drinking Song broke his near hind leg early in the straight and lost his life.
Having seen Choc return to the Weighing Room for the final time today, it was time for me to leave. I made a donation to the Poppy Day appeal as I passed through the main entrance hall. I also thought it wise to nip to the loo before setting off for home. However, I had to wait in a queue for around 10 minutes, as there are only 6 cubicles available at that location! As my car was parked in the centre of the racecourse, I walked back through the Surrey Hall, which was rather noisy now as a band, Indie Patrol, was performing.
My route then took me down across the betting ring area to the walkway across the course and back to my car. Many of the vehicles had already left, there being no queue to exit so, after consuming a cheese roll and removing my contact lenses to replace with glasses, I set off for home. However, upon turning left at the racecourse gates I soon encountered a hold-up; eventually the reason for the delay became apparent, a stationary lorry was blocking one of the lanes leading to the traffic lights, hazard lights flashing.
However, once through this set of lights, the next set of lights was green, the final set red. My route took me back to the A3, and then onto the clockwise carriageway of the M25. As it hadn’t rained at all during the afternoon, conditions on the M25 were very good, traffic flowing smoothly. I left the motorway at Junction 21A, heading via the North Orbital Road to the Park Street roundabout. The first spots of rain appearing on my windscreen at this point, but it was only light rain.
I arrived home at 17:45; with the changing of the clocks I had plenty of time to settle in before watching Strictly Come Dancing this week. After the programme, I logged onto my laptop to write my daily blog, upload my photographs, and tweet Choc to congratulate him on today’s winner and wish him luck for Ffos Las the following day.
It was time for bed at 11:00 but, before settling down to sleep, I watched the Racing UK replay of the action from Sandown Park and made notes in preparation for this diary. Lights out at midnight ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz