DIARY – SANDOWN PARK – TINGLE CREEK DAY
SATURDAY 07 DECEMBER 2013
The Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Choc and Balder Succes centre frame
I’d booked the previous day as holiday, although not in the expectation that I’d go to Sandown Park for the first day of the Tingle Creek Christmas Festival and, as it turned out, Choc had one riding engagement at Exeter anyway. However, it did afford me the luxury of being able to complete my diary for last Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup Day at Newbury. It was a close thing though, as it took me until 22:15 to finish and upload it.
On Saturday, the gates opened at Sandown Park at 10:15, so I aimed to leave home at 09:00 if not before. Unbelievably, I hadn’t been to the Esher track for over two years, since early November 2011; in fact I prefer it to both Kempton Park and Ascot. On this particular day Choc had five riding engagements, including Balder Succes in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and Godsmejudge in the London National so I was hopeful that he might ride a winner too. Wayne Hutchinson had gone to Aintree to ride the Alan King horses who were due to run at the Merseyside course.
My alarm clock was set for 06:30, I showered, washed and dried my hair; ate a breakfast of two slices of buttered toast and two croissants. I tuned into The Morning Line, and it broadcast in the background as I applied my makeup.
Earlier in the week I’d been expecting the weather to turn colder, thus requiring me to wear either my faux fur jacket or my faux fur coat and my ankle-length skirt with warm jodphurs beneath so, when it turned out to be around 10 degrees with little breeze I decided to wear my cerise pink jacket and tweed knee-length skirt instead. But I didn’t discard all my warm clothes – I wore a black thermal vest, burgundy long-sleeved thermal vest, black frill-edged cardigan, purple fleece, black fleece gillet, burgundy frill edged Per Una cardigan, black/white horse snood, purple tights, and new M & S ‘clumpy’ burgundy ankle boots.
Additional time was taken to decide which hand-knitted scarf I’d wear; would it be the Katia Big Snow ‘Flower Garden’ or the Sirdar Snowball ‘Tutti Frutti’ or the Katia Big Bang turquoise loopy scarf. They all have matching shades or contrast with my cerise jacket perfectly; I chose the latter.
So much for my envisaged departure time; it was 09:15 before I left home. My route took me around the local ring-road; not along the edge of the housing estate where I would risk seeing a magpie. I joined the M25 at junction 22, and headed around the anti-clockwise carriageway to reach the A3; being later than my trip to Newbury the previous Saturday there was more traffic on the motorway. Any bad driving of note? Just one motorist who almost missed the M3 turning, driving across the white hatching lines to reach the slip road!
I left the motorway at Junction 10 and headed towards London; I used to drive this exact route to get to Wimbledon in my ‘Agassi’ days. The Esher turning is just 5 minutes away, the second junction reached; a car pulled into my braking space as I approached it between myself and a vehicle with a trailer, presumably a gardener as there was a rake standing vertically within it. I turned left at the roundabout beneath the junction and headed towards Esher, the road passing through Arbrook Common en route.
Having decided that I’d park within the centre of the racecourse, which is free, at the traffic lights on the Portsmouth Road I drove straight across to briefly join the one way system before crossing the Esher Road and entering More Lane. The car park entrance is just a short distance down this thoroughfare, on the right-hand side.
On my earliest trips to Sandown Park, having arrived around gate-opening time, I would park on the tarmac area adjacent to the Golf Centre. However, on more recent visits this had been given over to members and I’d been forced to park on the grass area. But, today, this area was open to me once more and I was instructed to park on the end of a row, next to the driveway in, about half way down the slope. It was 10:15.
I noticed that a number of cars were displaying parking dockets and, on closer inspection, these transpired to be complimentary ones. But, as other cars had no parking dockets hanging from their rearview mirror, I felt safe in the knowledge that the car park was not for restricted use. Excellent news, as I’d prefer not to get my car’s bodywork muddy having washed it the previous week!
Having eaten two of the cheese rolls I’d brought with me, I put on my jacket and headed along the driveway to my left, towards the marquee where tickets would be sold to race-goers arriving following their walk across the racecourse from the nearby station. Having bought a grandstand ticket for £26, I exited the tent and waited for it to be checked by a steward at the gate leading to the lower racecourse crossing. There was a slight delay whilst he worked his way through the ticket and attached vouchers of the race-goer ahead of me. A second steward soon coming across to instruct him upon exactly ‘what was what’ as regards to entry requirements.
Eventually it was my turn to have my ticket checked, after which I was permitted to walk across the home straight upon the plastic pontoon bridge which protects the turf from the footfall prior to the racing. Once at the other side, I bought a race-card at the kiosk for £3.00 before heading up the slope and into the Surrey Hall. Better safe than sorry, I decided to pop to the loo, there’s one located off the main foyer; a choir from local Esher Church Primary School was singing Christmas carols therein ... the foyer that is, not the loo!!!
As I was washing my hands, one of the support staff began to chat to me. She said “you’re wrapped up warm”. I agreed and told her that sometimes I wore so many layers that it was difficult to negotiate the turnstiles!
I then set off to find a spare seat beside the main Parade Ring; there were plenty to choose from, it still being early in the day. Over by the Winners’ Enclosure, Racing UK presenter, Stewart Machin was preparing ahead of today’s broadcast. Colleague Angus McNae, appeared to be on a ‘busman’s holiday’, taking his young kids to the races and he went across to chat with Stewart.
A little later, @orse_racing_lad Steve Ayres, who looks after both Balder Succes and Tante Sissi, walked by me on his way to the Surrey Hall. Before racing, I relocated to a seat close to the Parade Ring access point just across from the Weighing Room.
The first race of the day was to be run in memory of prolific racehorse owner David Johnson, who had died earlier in the year. At 11:40 three of his ex-racehorses – Well Chief, Comply Or Die and Ashkazar – were paraded in the Paddock. The horses live at Timmy Murphy’s yard in the Cotswolds; the jockey was on-hand to talk about his charges with race-day presenter Anthony Kemp. He explained that Well Chief is no longer ridden due to his fragile legs; Comply Or Die has been taken hunting by Timmy, which he confessed was certainly an ’experience’; and Ashkazar acts as his wife Verity’s hack.
Following a racing preview with BetVictor’s Charlie McCann, it was time for the first race of the day; off-time 12:20. Choc’s mount in this event was Money For Nothing at 9-1; the race favourite was the Paul Nicholls trained Vibrato Valtat ridden by Daryl Jacob, a 6-4 shot.
Note to self: I shall buy a premier ticket on a future visit, as it will give me additional and varied photo opportunities because I’ll be able to reach the raised steppings above the Parade Ring and the rhododendron walk too; although I will still use the Picnic Enclosure as my base during races. Perhaps I will give myself a birthday treat in early January ... post-Christmas finances permitting!
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it. Being a little out of Sandown Park practice’, I didn’t quite make it to the Picnic Enclosure in time to get myself organised with my camera before Choc cantered past aboard Money For Nothing.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Comte D’Anjou and Rhapando, the latter displaying white sweat marks on his coat; to the inside Choc’s mount tracked the latter in third position, behind him Vaniteux. To the nearside Sweet Boy Vic and Area Access; in rear were the three shades of greys, namely Morning Reggie, Vibrato Valtat and the JP McManus runner Champagne At Tara. All nine runners cleared the first two flights competently and headed up past the winning post with one circuit to go.
Having climbed the hill, they turned the top bend and set off down it once more to reach the back straight; Money For Nothing still travelling quite keenly just behind the two leaders. He jumped the next flight quite slowly and was joined by Vaniteux; having dropped out quickly, and early, Sweet Boy Vic was now in rear. Choc’s mount took the clear advantage from his companion again on the flat, but was less fluent than the Nicky Henderson runner at fourth.
Heading further down the back straight, Comte D’Anjou and Rhapando continued to lead, both with their ears pricked as they looked ahead to the next obstacle. The struggling 100-1 shot Sweet Boy Vic stumbled slightly upon landing over the sixth flight, the final one in the back straight, and his jockey Tom Cannon bailed out over the horse’s off-side; he walked away unscathed.
The runners then headed into the final bend, with still no change at the head of affairs, Money For Nothing, Vaniteux, and Morning Reggie line across the track behind these, followed by Vibrato Valtat and Champagne At Tara; Area Access continued now detached in rear. Choc administered a tap down the shoulder of his mount as they travelled around the turn and was the first to become animated upon exiting into the home straight.
The flights were positioned against the nearside hedge and the jockeys’ preference was to travel up the stand-side of the course when jumping them; joint-leader Comte D’Anjou jinking slightly at the junction where the rail commenced. Money For Nothing dropped out very quickly and was a number of lengths behind the leading group of six as they reached the penultimate flight, where Vaniteux and Vibrato Valtat came to lay down their challenges to Rhapando; Comte D’Anjou having already lost his share of the lead.
Vaniteux made an error here, permitting Daryl Jacob’s grey to take the advantage on the run to the last; but he was soon back on terms and, although he again lost ground at the last, a determined Barry Geraghty drove his mount out to win by 1½ lengths at the line. Champagne At Tara finished a further 6 lengths back in third, with long-time leader Rhapando 10 lengths behind in 4th. Money For Nothing, eased, coasted home in 7th.
One for the notebook I think, the winning horse has a good attitude and plenty of size too. Not only a winner for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, but also for owners, the Kelvin-Hughes; welcomed following Invictus’ career-ending injury incurred in last Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup. Having sustained an injury to the same leg as previously, although not in the same place, Alan King promised that they would endeavour to ‘patch him up’ and hopefully find Invictus a new role somewhere. I have a soft spot for Invictus, as I think he has a ‘kind eye’. Fingers crossed his recovery for a new far less strenuous career will go well.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back. Having not been to Sandown Park for over two years, I’d forgotten the long uphill trek from the Picnic Enclosure through the betting ring, the difficulties of negotiating punters and the like within the Surrey Hall, through the doors into the main reception foyer and through another set of doors to arrive on the concourse which surrounds the Parade Ring. And that is followed by a brisk walk to reach the Winners’ Enclosure, located in front of the Weighing Room. But I still made it before any of the horses arrived back for, after all, they have to return via the long rhododendron walk to reach it.
The unplaced horses are unsaddled in a small tarmac area beneath trees located beside the intersection of the rhododendron walk and the Parade Ring exit. Once Choc had unsaddled his mount, and debriefed connections, he set off down the turf walkway which leads into the Winners’ Enclosure in order to return to the Weighing Room.
I returned to the Parade Ring once more, just a few yards away, ahead of the next race. Throughout the afternoon I would watch races from the Aintree fixture as they were broadcast live on the large screen to the side of the Paddock. Besides, it helped to pass the time.
Choc’s ride in the second event was Tante Sissi; the mare returning to hurdles following her chasing debut at Wincanton last month when she’d been pulled-up having sprawled on landing mid-race. On that occasion she’d jumped well up to that point, despite what can only be described as having ‘bolted’ with Choc; she was unbelievably keen that day! The mare was led up by lad Steve Ayres.
The starting gate for this race was mid-way down the back straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstand to reach the track which led through the in-field golf course to reach it.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Lady Kathleen and Teochew; Choc held up Tante Sissi at the rear of the field. They crossed over the steeplechase course and jumped one flight in the back straight before the far turn. Lady Kathleen continued to set the pace, from Teochew, Alder Mairi, Tigresse Bleue, Synthe Davis, Golden Gael, Scholastica, In By Midnight, Benefique Royale, Top Totti, Mrs Peachey and Tante Sissi.
Having negotiated the bend, the runners headed up the home straight for the first time; Benefique Royale taking a very keen hold near the rear of the field. The horses cleared the two flights without mishap and passed the winning post on their way to the top of the hill; having turned to top bend and galloped over the carpet protecting the driveway, they set off downhill to enter the back straight.
Lady Kathleen continued to lead the way; she was joined by Teochew as they approached flight five, Tigresse Bleue also moving up to their girth on the outside of the field. But, having landed, the latter lost her action and AP McCoy pulled her up. The remaining runners successfully negotiated another flight before crossing over the steeplechase course intersection once more and heading towards the final two flights in the back straight. There was a little bit of bumping and barging as they jostled for a position over these; Top Totti was now detached from the main group.
Alder Mairi, Lady Kathleen and Teochew disputed the lead as they headed into the final turn; they were followed by Scholastica, Golden Gael, Benefique Royale, In By Midnight, Tante Sissi, Synthe Davis and Mrs Peachy; Top Totti struggling in their wake. Choc‘s mount was still travelling well as they exited the bend; initially it appeared that he only had to press the button and she would cruise up to join the leaders once the railed section ended and room became available. But instead, she came off the bridle on the approach to two out.
Lady Kathleen was now outpaced and dropped back, Alder Mairi and Teochew soon joined by Benefique Royale; close on their heels, to the nearside, Mrs Peachy and Scholastica, Tante Sissi under pressure to the far side. Brendan Powell’s mount took the lead clearing two out; the Kim Bailey runner blundering here. Teochew fought on gamely as they approached the last, and was almost upsides again as they reached it; from being tailed off, Top Totti was staying-on through beaten runners.
But, on the run to the line, Benefique Royale pulled away from the field once more, winning by 2¼ lengths from Teochew at the line. Scholastica stayed on up the hill to overtake Mrs Peachey just before the line. Lady Kathleen finished 5th, Top Totti 6th, Tante Sissi a disappointing 8th. It was victory for the bottom weight.
Having experienced traffic problems following the last race, on this occasion and for the remainder of the afternoon, I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the lower level Esher Hall instead. There was a pantomime taking place on a stage within the hall, children seated in the area in front of it. Also, evidently, a Victorian carousel giving complimentary rides to race-goers was set up outside the Esher Hall turnstiles. I’d have loved to have had a ride on it, if I had discovered its location earlier in the day for, once known, there was little time available between races.
Being on a lower level than the Surrey Hall, I had to climb a staircase to reach the upper level and Parade Ring/Winners’ Enclosure. It would be no laughing matter as the afternoon progressed ... a climb through the betting ring, followed by a flight of steps within the grandstand. Last Saturday’s vigorous route marches between Newbury’s paddock and course-side rails had seemed so easy. This certainly wasn’t; my poor aching legs!!! Damn old age.
Choc’s mount in the third race of the day was Salmanazar; the horse having been pulled-up on his seasonal reappearance at Huntingdon having sprawled on landing over the third last flight. The race favourite was the Nicky Henderson-trained Whisper at 5-2.
While I was heading back to the Picnic Enclosure ahead of the next race it was announced that Tigresse Bleue was okay, she’d been loaded into a horse ambulance in order for veterinary care to commence. The injury was of a hindquarters nature.
No photographs of the horses heading to the start on this occasion, the runners cantering directly up around the top bend having exited the rhododendron walk.
Then they were off. The runners were led away Oscar Magic, from the blinkered grey, Bourne, and Problema Tic; Choc was against the inside rail in 6th position. Another to the greys, Darroun, had to be ridden away from the start, and also blundered at the first flight. It was Bourne who had led them over the hurdle, but he was soon overtaken by Oscar Magic, who demonstrated a tendency to jump out to his left.
The Jamie Moore-ridden runner held a clear advantage as they travelled around the far turn and into the home straight on the first occasion. The horses were well grouped as they headed towards the next flight, Oscar Magic leading from Bourne, Act Of Kalanisi, Utopie Des Bordes, Problema Tic, Salmanazar, Oscar Prairie, Whisper to the far side, Darroun to the nearside, Malt Master, Saphir Du Rheu, Experimentalist, Liberty Court, Upswing; Drum Valley and Home Run brought up the rear.
Having cleared the two flights within the home straight, the runners headed up past the winning post with one circuit to go; Problema Tic beginning to drop back through the field. Seagulls scattered as the horses headed around the top turn and down the slope to enter the back straight once more; Oscar Magic continued to lead from Bourne. Problema Tic continued to lose ground and drop back through the field as they travelled down the back straight; Darroun had become detached from the main body of runners and soon tailed off.
Salmanazar was in 7th position heading into the final turn, but Choc was bumping him along and signs didn’t look good. Bourne and Oscar Magic led into the home straight, from Act Of Kalanisi, Utopie Des Bordes and Whisper. The blinkered Home Run had made progress from the back of the field and crept into contention along the inside of the field. The Paul Nicholls runner, Saphir Du Rheu, also cruised up to join the leaders between the last two flights.
The latter led over the last, Home Run close up to his inside, Whisper almost the meat in the sandwich back in third. And, having jumped it, Saphir Du Rheu pulled clear on the run to the line to win by 8 lengths. Home Run finished 2nd, with Whisper 1¼ lengths back in 3rd and Upswing 4th.
The other qualifying finishers for the Pertemps final at the Cheltenham Festival were Utopie Des Bordes, Drum Valley, Oscar Magic and Bourne. Salmanazar completed in a disappointing 13th.
Once again I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Esher Hall to see the placed horses arrive back.
The favourite for the next race was the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Taquin De Seuil, at 9-4. Choc’s mount in this event was Balder Success, a 7-2 shot; Alan King’s second representative being Manyriverstocross, the outsider of the field, ridden by Dominic Elsworth. The expected front-runner De Faoithesdream having been withdrawn, there was no confirmed front-runner in the field.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it. The runners having left the Parade Ring, I made my way to the Picnic Enclosure via the Esher Hall once more and arrived in time to see the Alan King horses canter by.
Then they were off. Heading to the first fence, Claret Cloak rose slightly ahead of, to the nearside Balder Succes, from Grandouet, Taquin Du Seuil, Hinterland and Manyriverstocross. The second fence is an open-ditch, again the Emma Lavelle runner took off ahead, Balder Succes putting in a short stride to ensure he took off at the correct point. Choc’s mount held a slight advantage as the runners headed up past the winning post with one circuit to go; Taquin Du Seuil had taken a keen hold since the beginning of the race and travelled in third position.
Having reached the top of the hill and negotiated the turn, they headed to the downhill fence, where Hinterland landed a little steeply at the rear of the field, jockey Daryl Jacob adjusting his reins as a result. The runners then turned into the back straight for the one and only time, Balder Succes holding a one-length advantage over Claret Cloak at the head of affairs; the latter drawing alongside to jump the next fence in unison with his rival.
Choc’s mount was jumping well, but Claret Cloak was jumping even better, gaining ground in the air at the following two fences, the second of which was an open-ditch. The middle fence in the back straight is the water-jump, Balder Succes almost upsides once more as they cleared it; Taquin Du Seuil almost bunny-hopped the smallest fence on the course.
The final three fences in the back straight are the railway fences; the first of which Choc’s mount got a little too close to, as did Manyriverstocross. Claret Cloak held the advantage over his rivals clearing the middle of these; AP’s mount sharing 4th place blundered and stumbled, the horse’s nose kissing the turf as a result. Claret Cloak hit 4 out but led the runners into the final turn, from Grandouet, Balder Succes, Hinterland, Taquin Du Seuil and Manyriverstocross; however Choc had begun to ride his mount along by this point in the race. AP was bumping his mount along.
Balder Succes lost third place as they cleared the pond fence; and was demoted to fifth place before they reached the penultimate one; Claret Cloak held a one-length advantage over this fence, Hinterland and Grandouet close on his heels disputing second. To the far side, the Paul Nicholls runner took over the lead heading to the last fence, Grandouet to the nearside didn’t find quite as much acceleration, but still overtook the long-time leader.
The latter kept on under heavy pressure as they headed up the hill to the line, rallying to close upon Hinterland, but he’d already flown and held on to win by a neck. Taquin Du Seuil stayed on to take 3rd, 8 lengths back; Claret Cloak finished 4th. Balder Succes came home in his own time in 5th, with Manyriverstocross completing in last place.
Unusually, Hinterland had qualified to run in this novices’ race two years running; last year he’d finished 2nd to Captain Conan.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Esher Hall to see the placed horses arrive back.
Having unsaddled his unplaced mount in the area above the Winners’ Enclosure, Choc jogged back to the Weighing Room on this occasion. Perhaps he was eager to get back in time to watch the Becher Chase, which would be off at Aintree very shortly although, having said that, the Alan King-representative Walkon was now a non-runner in the race. For the record, it was won by the Philip Hobbs-trained Chance Du Roy, who narrowly beat Baby Run; the latter returning to action following 959 days off the track, an excellent training feat by Nigel Twiston-Davies.
No ride for Choc in the fifth race of the day. The favourite was 10-3 shot, River Maigue trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. My pick of the paddock, for looks, was Ruacana ... or at least he was the one which most appealed to me!!!
The runners having left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point beside the rails overlooking the Picnic Enclosure. The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstand to reach it.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Specialagent Alfie, from Vulcanite, Seventh Sky and Calculated Risk; bringing up the rear, the hooded Deep Trouble. The horses cleared the two flights in the home straight, travelled up the hill and past the winning post with one circuit to go; the pace was pretty steady, although it did quicken up as they headed down the slope towards the back straight.
Specialagent Alfie continued to hold the advantage, from Vulcanite, Seventh Sky, Whitby Jack, Calculated Risk, Urbain De Sivola, Ronaldo Des Mottes, Ruacana, River Maigue, Waterunder, Milord, Radmores Revenge and Deep Trouble. The runners remained tightly packed as they headed over the four flights therein and, by the end of which, Radmores Revenge had become slightly detached from the others.
Nick Gifford’s charge continued at the head of affairs around the far bend, Seventh Sky upsides. Vulcanite had weakened rapidly and, having entered the home straight, was now one from last with even Radmores Revenge gaining on him. Seventh Sky took over the lead heading for two out, but flicked the top and was swallowed up by his rivals shortly thereafter.
As Seventh Sky dropped back, Specialagent Alfie went on again, along with the white-faced, Urbain De Sivola; also throwing down their challenges were Deep Trouble and Ruacana to the nearside, with Calculated Risk and River Maigue not far behind to the far side. Then, all of a sudden, Deep Trouble burst through into the lead as they approached the last.
However, he jinked away to his right, perhaps the noise of the crowd unnerving the hooded runner. He took the flight at an angle, jockey Leighton Aspell unbalanced as he cleared it. With nothing to initially prevent him from continuing upon his wayward course, he veered towards the far rail despite his jockey’s best efforts; then, having reached the rail, he straightened up. During the course of this manoeuvre, Leighton had lost his right iron so, to even up his balance and prevent loss of momentum, he decided to kick away the left one too.
It was then reminiscent of the Pony Club mounted games, as he booted his mount home to win by one length from Urbain De Sivola. River Maigue stayed on to finish 3rd, with Ruacana 4th. Excellent, I love a bit of harmless excitement at the races!
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Esher Hall to see the placed horses arrive back.
It was now time for the second Grade 1 race of the day, the Tingle Creek Chase, named in honour of the ex-US National Hunt star of the 1970s, the flashy chestnut having saved his best performances for races at the Esher track. This race has been won by many 2-mile stars over the years, including Desert Orchid, Viking Flagship, Kauto Star and Master Minded. Last year’s winner, Sprinter Sacre, was unable to take part today due to a dirty scope earlier in the week.
Street artist Olivier Roubieu had created a mural of Sprinter Sacre on the wall outside the main entrance. I didn’t get to see it though, as I had arrived via the centre-course entrance. Is it sacrilege ... or should that be ‘Sacrelege’ to admit that I’m not a fan of the Champion Chaser! He’s just too good, which makes him less than interesting to me. I like horses with a little less talent; ‘genuine’ horses who put in lots of effort and, every now and then, they are rewarded.
The biggest question ahead of the race was ... would Mad Moose consent to ‘jump off’ today? It was reported that the horse had undergone a session or sessions with the ‘Horse Whisperer’ Gary Witheford – and had he managed to get inside the brain of this far too clever horse?
Moosie stopped right in front of me whilst walking around the Parade Ring, waiting as connections entered via the access point; he was sporting a hood again today.
In my rush to reach the small section of rail above the Picnic Enclosure, I encountered traffic problems on exiting from the Esher Hall into the betting ring. In fact I knocked a half-empty plastic beer glass from someone’s hand. Tough luck mate! The refreshment outlets really shouldn’t be placed so close to the main thoroughfares, as it only encourages people to congregate around them and cause unnecessary congestion for those wishing to pass through the area at pace. Fortunately only my boots were splashed with the liquid as it splattered onto the tarmac surface.
Personally I’d set up specific beer areas and ban glasses from being taken elsewhere; and also have specific smoking areas, so as to reduce the risk of smokers carrying around lighted cigarettes which might singe the clothes and belongings of non-smokers. Can you tell that I don’t drink or smoke?
The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering down past the grandstands to reach it. Eight of the runners milled around together, with Mad Moose kept apart from these by his jockey today, Dave Crosse.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Kauto Stone, from Tataniano and Captain Conan. Mad Moose did jump off on the stand-side of the field, but ... he was very reluctant, cocking his jaw to his right, and slowing down with every stride. “If you think I’m going to jump even one fence today, you’ve got another think coming!” Despite Dave Crosse’s best efforts, he’d pulled himself up before the first; where Tataniano nodded on landing.
Having all cleared the first obstacle, Daryl Jacob’s mount continued to lead the way, from Tataniano and Captain Conan; they were followed by Oiseau De Nuit, Somersby, Sire De Grugy, His Excellency and, currently outpaced at the rear of the field, Viva Colonia. The second fence is an open-ditch, Somersby skewing slightly over it; His Excellency and Viva Colonia not jumping at their best as they attempted to keep pace with the runners ahead of them.
The blinkered Kauto Stone held a clear advantage as they galloped up the hill in front of the packed stands and passed the winning post with one circuit to go. In contrast, Mad Moose cantered up beside the rails, his adoring fans giving him a loud round of applause!!! Everyone loves Moosie, despite his antics ... apart from those who are foolish enough to bet on him!
Meanwhile, the horses headed downhill towards the third fence, Kauto Stone a clear leader, the runners becoming strung out behind him as the pace increased. In second was Captain Conan, Sire De Grugy and Oiseau De Nuit (one of RUK’s Lydia Hislop’s favourite horses) shared third, Somersby had improved into fifth place, His Excellency travelled sixth, Tataniano had dropped back to seventh; Viva Colonia still brought up the rear.
Having exited the top turn, the remaining eight runners began their journey down the back straight; clearing the two plain fences followed by the second and last open-ditch well within their strides. Kauto Stone bunny-hopped the next, the water-jump, almost landing on all fours; his lead began to diminish, his rivals close on his tail as they negotiated the railway fences. Somersby, in mid-field, blundered at the middle of these.
The field set off around the final bend and headed to the pond fFence, three out; where Captain Conan and Sire De Grugy joined him and soon went on. Still in contention were Oiseau De Nuit and Somersby. Although hoping for a run through on the inside against the rail, Jamie Moore’s route was shut off by Daryl Jacob and he had to pull around the long-time leader in order to follow Captain Conan who had now assumed pole position.
Barry Geraghty got into drive mode approaching the last fence hoping to fend off the chestnut’s challenge, but it was to no avail as Sire De Grugy passed him, clearing the obstacle with a one-length advantage. He then stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 4 lengths from Somersby, the latter overhauling Captain Conan on the run-in. Oiseau De Nuit claimed 4th, with Kauto Stone in 5th.
He may appear to not particularly like Cheltenham, although it was discovered after his last run that he’d been plated with too-wide shoes, but Sire De Grugy certainly loves Sandown Park. And I’m looking forward to a future clash between Sprinter Sacre and today’s winner; provided the latter doesn’t head over to France to run instead as mooted by his trainer following the race.
Until today, Kauto Star had been the only horse to win the Tingle Creek at their first attempt in a Grade 1 race.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure via the Esher Hall once more to see the placed horses arrive back.
Parakeets! Flying over the Winners’ Enclosure was a flock of parakeets; that would explain the strange bird calls I’d been hearing all afternoon originating from the wooded area behind the Parade Ring! I’d forgotten that south-west London is a hot-spot for wild colonies of the escapee birds.
Choc’s mount in the final race of the day was last season’s Scottish Grand National winner, Godsmejudge. He carried top weight today and was a 13-2 shot on this, his second appearance this term having run well, although unplaced, at Cheltenham last time out. The favourite was the David Pipe-trained Buddy Bolero ridden by AP McCoy.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with over two circuits to travel during the event; thus the horses cantered down past the stands to reach it. And I managed a ‘clear round’ on my journey back to my vantage point above the Picnic Enclosure on this occasion!
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Alfie Spinner and Hunters Lodge. Almost upsides them was Godsmejudge, who skewed awkwardly in the air over the first; to his nearside was American Spin. Bringing up the rear were nearside Top Smart, There’s No Panic and far side Michel Le Bon. The next fence was the open-ditch, Choc’s mount putting in a short stride in order to meet this one correctly, although he did skew very slightly once again.
Heading up to the winning post on the first occasion, the white cheek-pieced American Spin took the lead, from Alfie Spinner and Hunters Lodge; Godsmejudge was upsides Buddy Bolero, between them Soll. Choc choosing to travel on the outside of the field on this occasion. In seventh position came Franklin Roosevelt, he was followed by Bradley, Court By Surprise and Well Refreshed. Michel Le Bon was three from the back, the Paul Nicholls-runner There’s No Panic two from the back and, in rear, Top Smart.
Having reached the top of the hill, the horses negotiated the top bend and set off down the slope to the third fence; they all cleared this fence well, Top Smart already detached at the rear of the field, and soon began their journey down the back straight for the time. Alfie Spinner and American Spin headed the field, taking it in turns to lead depending on how well they’d cleared the most recent obstacle. Close up to their outside was Godsmejudge.
Having cleared the middle of the line of fences, being the water-jump, the field headed to the railway fences where Barry Geraghy’s mount Caught By Surprise blundered at the first of these, his jockey reaching down to retrieve his left stirrup as they continued towards the middle in this line of obstacles. At the back of the main pack, Well Refreshed pecked badly on landing over this fence. All the runners successfully negotiated the final railway fence and headed into the far turn.
Leading, line across the track were Alfie Spinner, American Spin and Godsmejudge; behind them Hunters Lodge, Soll, and Buddy Bolero, followed by Caught By Surprise. After these came Bradley and Franklin Roosevelt; then, at the back of this main group, Michel Le Bon, There’s No Panic and Well Refreshed; Top Smart was a few lengths detached. The runners cleared the pond fence and headed into the home straight once more.
Michel Le Bon crashed through the next fence, but survived. However, having begun to lose ground and confidence too, he took off far too far away from the open-ditch and landed on top of it; this relegated him to last place. As the other runners headed up past the stands with now one circuit to go, jockey Tom Cannon eased his mount and pulled him up, dismounting as he came to a halt. The other runners disappeared into the distance.
The injured horse had hurt his off-fore, having appeared to clout his elbow against the fence; he refused to put weight upon it, and it was so tender that every now and then he attempted to rear up. The vet was soon on the scene, feeling the horse’s leg from pastern to elbow ... no bones broken? The green screens were erected in accordance with standard procedure.
The race continued ... American Spin and Alfie Spinner continued at the head of affairs as the runners headed around the top turn, seagulls taking flight having been disturbed once more. Godsmejudge wasn’t travelling quite as well as would be expected and had to be ridden in order to re-join the two leaders as they began their journey down the back straight for the final time.
Having made headway, Well Refreshed blundered and stumbled badly at the second fence therein, losing ground once more. Both Caught by Surprise and There’s No Panic were less fluent than their rivals at the final open-ditch. The field headed over the water-jump, Choc was niggling at his mount in an attempt to keep tabs on the leaders, but to no avail; he began to drop back through the field and was in 7th position exiting the railway fences.
Soll took the advantage as they headed into the final turn; he dwarfed American Spin who now continued in his wake. Runners began to queue up behind him as they approached the pond fence, where Court By Surprise jumped into the lead. Having completely lost his position, Choc checked behind to make sure there were no runners in his slipstream and then steered his mount to the inside of the fence, pulling up and cantering back past the grandstands in his own time.
Meanwhile, Caught By Surprise continued to lead over two out, followed closely by Well Refreshed, who made an error at the fence. Soll was now back in third position, with There’s No Panic closing in 4th. It appeared that Barry Geraghty may have stolen the race, but Daryl Jacob had other ideas as he drove his mount up the far side and was upsides as they cleared the last.
With stewards waving chequered flags to notify the riders of the injured horse, There’s No Panic was driven out to the line and although Caught By Surprise began to claw back some of the deficit, he won by three quarters of a length. Well Refreshed finished a further length and a half back in 3rd, with Alfie Spinner half a length back in 4th and Soll 5th.
I returned through the Esher Hall for the final time today, and headed over to the Winners’ Enclosure ahead of the placed horses arriving back. It was the second winner on the card for owners the Stewart family, the other being Saphir Du Rheu.
And it was a treble on the card for the Paul Nicholls’ stable and a five-timer for the yard when their two Aintree winners were added to the tally. Yes, it is boring when the same old people win the races!
There was good news regarding Michel Le Bon; the problem was diagnosed as a muscle injury and, having been driven off the course in the horse ambulance, he was later taken home to make a recovery.
I confess to feeling a little disappointed, as Choc hadn’t made it into the Winners’ Enclosure, winner or placed, aboard any of his five rides. Later in the week, on his website, it was confirmed that Balder Succes would now have a short break having already competed in four novice chases this season and not run up to expected form today. Manyriverstocross would be stepped up to two miles and four furlongs next time out.
As for the uncharacteristically poor run from Godsmejudge, he would be given an MOT to see if any reason could be found. The stable having been in top form during November, a December slump had set in, with just one winner from around two dozen runners by the end of the following week, described by blogger Geoff Lester as a ‘sharp change in their fortunes’, which began when Invictus suffered his injury. Indeed. Although I didn’t see any gypsies at Newbury to inflict a curse ...
Racing over, and having seen Choc return to the Weighing Room for the final time today, I set off through the Surrey Hall and down across the betting ring to reach the racecourse crossing. The pontoon bridge no longer needed, I walked back across the turf; a group of young race-goers ahead of me deciding they wanted to have their photo taken showing one of the fences in the background, stopping off en route. Having reached the far side of the course, I turned left and walked along the roadway, cutting across the turf in order to find my car; I noticed there was bird poo on the bonnet, typical.
Many race-goers had already made an attempt to leave, and the car park was gridlocked. I wasn’t going anywhere for the moment; it was 16:00. Perhaps I should have stayed for the Winter Festival Preview held in the Surrey Hall following racing; Nick Luck was hosting a panel including Nicky Henderson and AP McCoy.
I was forced to wait in my car; consuming the remaining two cheese rolls. It took until around 16:45 before I could have actually moved from my parking space; owners of cars parked nearer the exit entering the traffic stream were preventing those further away from moving far.
In fact it wasn’t until shortly after 17:00 that I decided to start the engine and join the back of the queue exiting the racecourse. Traffic was still very slow moving; exacerbated by having to join an existing queue of vehicles heading towards Esher upon More Lane. It would have been far quicker if I’d wanted to turn right, those race-goers doing so encouraged to take a track within the grounds in order to exit via a different gate.
Anyway, I was finally able to exit onto the roadway when a vehicle turned right into the racecourse, thus forcing the next vehicle in the More Lane queue to give way to it and allow me out of the driveway. It was then stop start stop start, past the Wheatsheaf pub, to reach the one-way system. I turned left, waiting for one change of traffic lights to enter the high street. The right turn was followed by a left turn; although first I had to wait for a couple of taxis to move on in order to proceed to the latter.
Now in Claremont Lane, I had to wait at the set of traffic lights before continuing forward into Copsem Lane. Having travelled through Arbrook Common, I reached the A3 at 17:27. Unbelievably, it had taken me 25 minutes to travel two miles! I headed down the A3 in the direction of Guildford, negotiating the roundabout and joining the clockwise carriageway of the M25 at Junction 10. Fortunately traffic was moving smoothly on the motorway. I left it at Junction 22 and returned home to St Albans.
I arrived home at 18:25. Door to door, it had taken me nearly two and a half hours from getting into my car at Sandown Park. Thinking about it ... I could have driven to Cheltenham in that time!!! That’s crazy ... I must get over this aversion to queuing; car queuing that is, not people queuing. Basically, it’s the waste of petrol which I’m adverse to. Also, how come there were no holdups whatsoever at Newbury the previous Saturday, despite it being Hennessy Gold Cup Day?