DIARY – SANDOWN PARK – SATURDAY 25 APRIL 2009
The day dawned cloudy, with the threat of showers. There were a few spots of rain as I drove to my local supermarket at 07:20 to fill up my car with petrol. However, the sky soon cleared and the outlook became good, with blue sky and fluffy white cumulus clouds.
I set out for Sandown at 09:50, as the gates opened at 10:30 and I wanted to park on the tarmac area in the centre of the course. My journey on the M25 and A3 went well, and there were no unexpected hold-ups through Esher, I arrived to park at 10:40 and, as hoped, there was still room on the tarmac area for my vehicle. I parked up, and walked to the centre course ticket booth to buy a grandstand ticket for £27, then walked across the course and purchased a race-card for £3, before going through the Surrey Hall to position myself on one of the seats next to the Parade Ring. I decided to sit with my back to the main stands, opposite the podium, so that I could get a good view of the pre-race presentations and, hopefully, take a photo of the Flat vs. Jump jockey competitors too as they posed prior to the race. There was quite a cold breeze but, when the sun appeared from behind the clouds, it was pleasantly warm.
The Parade of Champions took place at 12:15. Parading today were Kauto Star (Gold Cup winner 2009 – above right); Big Buck’s (World Hurdle winner 2009); Denman (Gold Cup winner 2008 and runner-up 2009); Mon Mome (Grand National winner 2009); and last but certainly not least, Voy Por Ustedes (Order of Merit winner 2009 – above left).
Whilst the horses were parading, Nick Luck from Racing UK interviewed Alan King, who spoke about Voy Por Ustedes’ exploits during the past season and his hopes for the new one. Alan hopes to have some better chasers in his string for 2009/2010. (Yes, I think it would be nice if Choc had some very good rides for his own stable in some valuable steeplechases.)
Sir Robert Ogden’s Racing Manager, Barry Simpson, collected the Order of Merit trophy on behalf of his employer. In addition to the prize money, there were large donations to two nominated charities. Paul Nicholls was Top Trainer. AP McCoy climbed onto the podium, holding his daughter Eve, to collect the prize for Top National Hunt Jockey for the season (with 14 consecutive wins now). The 1,000 Club also joined him on stage – jockeys who have ridden 1,000 or more winners during their career - appearing were Mick Fitzgerald, John Francome, Stan Mellor, Richard Johnson, Peter Niven and Adrian Maguire. JP McManus’ Racing Manager, Frank Berry, accepted the award for Top Owner on his employer’s behalf. Unfortunately Aiden Coleman was held up in traffic so missed the presentation for Top Amateur.
The horses from the Parade of Champions having left the Parade Ring, it was soon time for the first race of the day. This event is the annual Flat vs. Jump jockeys race. The jockeys representing flat racing were Ryan Moore, Darryll Holland, Alan Munro, Richard Hughes, Jimmy Fortune and Dane O’Neill. The jump jockeys were AP McCoy, Sam Thomas, Ruby Walsh, Jamie Moore, Richard Johnson and Choc. Ryan Moore and AP, as Champions of their respective codes, wore gold breeches.
Before joining their owners and trainers, the jockeys came up onto the podium, the Flat jockeys first, followed by the Jump jockeys, posing for a quick group photo or two. Choc’s mount in this race was chestnut, Carlitos Spirit. Once mounted, Choc exited the Parade Ring behind Ruby and they cantered to the start together. I set out to walk through under the grandstand and down to the course-side rails to watch the race.
The market leaders were AP’s mount, Nisaal, and Spotty Muldoon ridden by Dane O’Neill. Ruby’s mount, Collateral Damage, got a little worked up in the stalls. Then they were off.
Darryll Holland sent Twilight Star into the lead, and he was followed by Shanzu and Ocean Legend with, on the wide outside, Choc aboard Carlitos Spirit. At the back were Spotty Muldoon, Bustan and Mount Hermon. Soon Choc sent his mount into a clear second.
As they came into the straight, Twilight Star still had a substantial lead, and he ran on to win by a diminishing margin of 1¾ lengths. Ruby got serious on Collateral Damage and drove him into 2nd, which was where he finished, holding off a late drive from last year’s winning combination, Sam Thomas and Bustan. Ocean Legend under Richard Hughes finished 4th. Choc finished 7th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses come back. Choc unsaddled his mount at the top of the horse-walk and walked back to the Weighing Room with Tony McCoy. I then walked over to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race. Choc didn’t have a mount in this one.
There were 8 runners, and 3 of them were greys – American Trilogy, Sporazene, and Gringo. Once the horses had exited the Parade Ring I set out to watch the race, although I couldn’t quite reach the course-side rails as it was too crowded.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the home straight. Then they were off.
Sporazene took up his customary place at the front of the field. He was followed by Alsadaa, Cedrus Libani, and Songe. American Trilogy was in 5th. At the back was Numide.
The almost white leader was around 10 lengths in front as they turned into the back straight. The fancied Songe was getting reminders by the end of the back straight and was the first to be beaten. Upon reaching the home straight, Sporazene began to fade. Alsadaa had taken up the running before the 2nd last flight and went on to win. Numide took 2nd but he too faded, being overtaken by both Gringo and American Trilogy as they ran up the hill to the line.
I walked around to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the victor come back, before returning to the Parade Ring. It was now time for Choc’s 2nd ride of the day, and he would be aboard Rear Gunner in the Handicap Hurdle. Once mounted, Choc did one circuit of the Parade Ring before exiting via the horse-walk. I set off to view the race although, once again, I couldn’t get a position near the course-side rails.
The start of this race was on the far side of the course. Then they were off.
The field was led off by Dantari. Prominent were Cockatoo, French Opera, and Tasheba; at the back was Silent Wind. Choc was taking an inside line in around 7th position. Up the straight for the first time, Dantari jumped the 2nd flight very slowly, losing the lead, but was soon disputing it again with French Opera.
Upon reaching the far straight, Rear Gunner began to drop back through the field. And, after making a mistake at the 3rd last, Choc then pulled him up before the 2nd last flight. Into the final straight, the lead changed hands a number of times before the race was settled. Outsider, Mister Benedictine, had taken the lead by the 2nd last, Tasheba then took over. He was challenged by Callisto Moon close home, but Sangfroid came on the outside of the field with a final burst to take victory.
Choc dismounted and walked beside his mount as he returned to the unsaddling area. He then walked back to the Weighing Room.
It was now time for Choc’s final ride of the day, and his final ride of the season for that matter! Choc was riding one of the three Paul Nicholls’ representatives in this race – Ruby Walsh was to ride Twist Magic, Sam Thomas was on board Oumeyade, with Choc aboard Andreas (last year’s winner of this race and one of Choc’s winning mounts at the Cheltenham Festival in 1997). All three jockeys stood together in a group when they arrived in the Parade Ring. Soon it was time to mount and, as Choc waited for Andreas to approach so he could be legged-up, he came across to the paddock-side rails just in front of me. He leaned back against the rails, and I had time to admire his beautiful blonde curls as they emerged from beneath the back of his helmet! (And I couldn’t help admiring his bottom too!)
Once Choc had set off down the horse-walk I went to watch the race. I would have liked to get close to the open-ditch as I do during the winter fixtures, but it was too crowded today. This prevented me taking any action photos.
The start of this race was at the start of the home straight. Soon they were off.
Oumeyade led them off, with Santa’s Son and Twist Magic prominent. Kalahari King, at the back of the field, made a mistake at the first obstacle. Choc was in 6th place at this stage.
Down the back straight, Mahogany Blaze started to make progress. Choc was relegated to last by Kalahari King, but regained 6th place with a better jump at the open-ditch. Choc took Andreas wide of the field and made headway into 4th by the end of the back straight. Enlightenment was the first to come under pressure and drop out.
Into the final straight, Twist Magic and Santa’s Son disputed the lead, with the former soon taking over and staying on strongly to win. Mahogany Blaze was his nearest challenger most of the way up the home straight, but he was overtaken just before the line by Kalahari King. Santa’s Son faded into 4th. Andreas had weakened to finish 5th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses come back. Choc dismounted in the unsaddling area and walked back to the Weighing Room for the final time today. After the race, Paul Nicholls confirmed that Twist Magic had been very temperamental this year and had even been playing up at home. But they had changed his routine, and it seems to have worked!
It was now time for the main event of the day, the Bet365 Gold Cup Steeplechase (formerly the Whitbread Gold Cup). I was disappointed that Choc had no ride in this year’s renewal. However, 14 horses did go to post, the fancied Darkness having been withdrawn earlier in the day.
I have to confess that I didn’t go to watch this race live, as I stayed by the Parade Ring and watched it on the big screen.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the home straight, so the distance is just over two circuits of the course. Then they were off.
The field was initially led by AP McCoy aboard Hennessy. Kilbeggan Blade was prominent, as was Lacdoudal. Oscar Park unseated Timmy Murphy at the 2nd fence, the open-ditch. As they travelled down the hill, the Irish raider, Church Island took up the lead as they cleared the 3rd fence. Verasi was at the back of the field, along with Laskari.
Church Island retained the lead to complete another full circuit, with Kilbeggan Blade, Lacdoudal and Hennessy still leading the remainder of the field. Briery Fox made a mistake at the fence down the hill, as did Hennessy. As the field travelled down the back straight, Lacdoudal set off in pursuit of Church Island, who was still well clear of the field. By the Pond Fence, Briery Fox had improved into 3rd place.
Lacdoudal had taken over by the 2nd last, but Briery Fox overtook him to take the last in front. However, they hadn’t counted upon AP McCoy and Hennessy, who came with a late final burst to beat everyone on the line! A big race victory for trainer, Carl Llewellyn.
I went over to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the victor come back, before returning to the Parade Ring to watch the horses and jockeys to arrive for the first of 3 flat races to end the card.
I know I went to the Sandown Park Mixed Card event last year, but I couldn’t have noticed how tiny most of the flat jockeys are! Jump jockeys are a variety of normal heights, they are just slim!
Instead of watching this race, I went to buy fish and chips, returning to settle by the Parade Ring to consume them. But I will give you the result!
It was now time for the 7th race of the day, in which last year’s Derby runner-up, Tartan Bearer, was competing. The horse was very excitable in the Parade Ring.
I did go to watch the race from near the course-side rails, and it was a very close finish with Tartan Bearer just getting up on the line to take the spoils, Pipedreamer having been sent clear by Jimmy Fortune just failing to steal the race.
Having seen the victor return to the Winners’ Enclosure, I went across to the Parade Ring to see the competitors for the final race before setting off to wait by the exit to the course-crossing in preparation to leave as soon as the final race had been run.
The horses having passed the winning post, the stewards permitted spectators to cross the course, so I set out immediately for the car park to collect my vehicle, and I made such a quick getaway, that there was no queue to exit the course, and I was held up in just a very short queue to join the one-way system out of Esher.
My route took me back to the A3, and then clockwise around the M25 to return to Hertfordshire and home. I arrived back at 17:55.