DIARY – SANDOWN PARK SEASON FINALE

SATURDAY 28 APRIL 2018

 

 

 

Race 3 x Altior.jpg

 

The star of the day ...

Altior, winner of the Grade 1 Celebration Chase

 

 

 

My racing calendar had now arrived at the final day of the 2017/2018 National Hunt season.  This would be my tenth racecourse outing of the season, following on from the Saturday of Cheltenham’s November fixture, the final day of Newbury’s Winter Carnival (ex-Hennessy Gold Cup Day), all four days of the Cheltenham Festival, all three days of the Aintree Festival, plus Sandown today.  I’d missed Kempton Park on Boxing Day this season, having developed a streaming cold on Christmas Day. L

This left me one shy of my hoped-for total of 200 racecourse visits since my first, on this day in 2008 to Sandown Park; that was in the days when it had been a mixed jumps and flat card, and had included a jumps jockeys versus flat jockeys’ flat race too!  I’d seen Choc ‘in the flesh’ that day for the very first time.  I’d counted the Newbury ‘electrocution’ incident abandonment, as there was one race that day, but not the rain-related Cheltenham total abandonment in December 2008 when Lesley and I had walked the soggy racecourse with Choc.

Anyway, as has been the case for the past three years, Lesley accompanied me to this end of season fixture.  I’d purchased Premier Enclosure tickets on the day they went on sale – they were offered at a reduced price of £25 each. J  Although it was less than two weeks before the meeting before they arrived; by which stage I was almost panicking!

After a mini heat-wave the previous week, the weather had returned to its usual unpredictable self; the day would be colder than expected for the end of April, with one or two showers into the afternoon too.  The previous day had been wet, as it was during the early hours of Saturday too.

Today’s outfit was 2 x Prussian blue thermal T-shirts, a lilac thermal T-shirt, a blue M & S cardigan, a lilac fleece, navy blue gillet, silver-grey jeggings with black tights underneath, a grey herringbone-patterned fishtail with side-frill M & S skirt, a llama print infinity scarf, a teal-coloured padded BHS jacket, a pair of black Hotter ‘Danville’ ankle boots, and mauve ‘Defea’ Kipling handbag. 

I’d arranged for Lesley to pick me up at 09:45.  I was just preparing to wait outside my house, when I received a text message to say she was just filling up her petrol tank en route, somewhere on the A5!  I delayed going outside for a few minutes, as it was chilly.  She eventually arrived at 10:15, by which time I must have covered a fair distance pacing up and down, as you do!

We headed out to the London Colney roundabout, via Highfield Park, before continuing down the dual carriageway to reach junction 21 of the M25.  Being mid-morning, the motorway was quite busy.  We didn’t encounter any holdups until junction 12; this was due to traffic joining from the M3, but this soon dispersed.   

We left the M25 at junction 10, after which we continued up the A3 towards London.  We left this road at the second junction, heading down the slip-road to the roundabout, before turning left to head towards Esher.  As it was just after 11:00, traffic was beginning to tailback from the town centre. 

As we wanted to park within the racecourse itself, in the free car parking area, we continued ahead at the traffic lights situated at the top of the high street, entered the one-way system and crossed the A244 at Esher Green to enter More Lane.  Now heading downhill, we subsequently turned right to enter the racecourse itself. 

We continued along the driveway, and over the racecourse crossing.  The matting which covers the roadway, and forms part of the racecourse once covered further, is not easy to drive across; in fact it’s a peculiar sensation because the vehicle wants to head off in a diagonal direction rather than continue straight ahead!  Once on the other side, we journeyed along the driveway to where a steward was standing; he was directing us to enter the small tarmaced area across from the Golf Centre.  This area was filling fast, but we were directed to park adjacent to the flat 5-furlongs straight; a large 4x4 had parked just before us, but at a crooked angle.  They subsequently moved to a location nearby, with another vehicle taking its place.

Having left the car, we walked up the sloping car park to the main driveway, where we turned right to continue our journey to ‘gazebo’ which denoted the entrance to the Premier Enclosure.  A visitor ahead of us was asking about purchasing a ticket; he was instructed to head back down the driveway, to the other racecourse crossing point, where he would be able to buy one from the ticket kiosk nearby.

Our tickets were scanned and I purchased our race-cards before we crossed over the racecourse upon the white plastic pontoons which currently protected the racing surface.  Having reached the other side, we turned left in order to walk along beside the rhododendron walk, before turning left again and entering the Grandstand enclosure.  We stopped opposite the podium which had been erected ahead of today’s year-end prize giving ceremony.

Lesley headed off to the cash machine, and to buy refreshments too; I declined the latter, as it’s difficult to drink tea or coffee from flimsy plastic cups when ‘on the go’ without making a mess – last year I’d spilt coffee on the cuff of my cardigan!              

I was people watching whilst waiting for Lesley to return; I saw Ed Chamberlain, Oli Bell, Luke Harvey, Richard Johnson, Nico de Boinville, Cornelius Lysaught, and Francesca Cumani.  The latter was accosted by a number of race-goers as she walked towards the entrance to the Parade Ring; they wanted to take selfies with her!  I want a selfie ... with the lovely Tom Stanley ... and maybe Jeremiah McGrath too!  Teddy the Shetland pony also put in an appearance today; he’s two years old.

The Parade of Champions commenced at 12:30.  Appearing this year were the recently retired Cue Card, the retired Sire De Grugy, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, the King George VI chase winner and Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite, the 2017 and 2018 Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air, the Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai and, finally, the winner of this season’s Tingle Creek and Melling Chases, Politologue. 

It’s a pity that Terrefort and the recently retired Smad Place didn’t make an appearance in the Parade.  And, of course, it’s been a while since a southern UK-based horse has won the Grand National; perhaps next year there’ll be one to appear in Sandown’s Parade too.   

Cue Card remained in the Parade Ring whilst the first of the prizes was announced; he’d won the Sandown Park Special award this year.  Richard Johnson was presented with the trophy for the Jump Jockeys’ Championship, by a member of the Commonwealth gold winning netball team; she was very tall and Lesley suggested she’d play goal attack or goal defence.  Richard subsequently presented the Conditional Jockeys’ trophy to James Bowen, son of Peter, and brother of jockey Sean and hunter-chaser trainer Mickey too.

The Champion Trainer title trophy was presented to Nicky Henderson, his fifth win, and the leading owner trophy to JP McManus; JP is a good bloke, as his horses are placed with a number of different trainers, in both Ireland and the UK.  I’m also in favour of the horses owned in partnership by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede; their horses are trained in the UK, Ireland and France, so provide a living in all three countries.  They own the fabulous Terrefort, who is trained by Nicky Henderson.

I’d endeavoured to take photographs of the presentations, but was hampered by the photographers who stood in front of the podium, including one or two who stood on ladders!

As the presentations were drawing to a close, I noticed Meally Thornton walking towards the Parade Ring exit point close to the grandstand; she was accompanied by two blonde-haired boys who ran ahead of her.  They must have walked across in front of me whilst my attention was diverted elsewhere.  I can only assume that one of the lads was William, but I cannot confirm this as I had only a rear view and sadly didn’t see her or them again for the remainder of the day.  

Presentations complete, I headed to the area beside the rhododendron walk; Lesley went to place a bet, on Piton Pete in the first, before joining me. 

John Powell of EPDS Racing passed by at one point, stopping for a chat too; one of their syndicate horses, Stynes, was running in the sixth race of the day. 

Ian Popham also passed by; I’d seen him at Cheltenham, and then again at Aintree, despite the fact he was sidelined currently by injury. 

Later in the afternoon race-goers had stopped on the concourse, as they’d heard parakeets, although I’m not sure they caught sight of them too.  We heard the parakeets, but have grown accustomed to them ‘hanging out’ at Sandown Park.  I saw some birds, sitting on branches way up in the tree canopy on the mound, but they didn’t look like parrots to me!

At various points during our walks to and from the race viewing area beyond the winning post, we would ‘mingle’ with trainers and connections I recognised, including Paul Nicholls. 

The joint-favourites for the first race were Ballymoy trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Daryl Jacob, along with the Philip Hobbs-trained Show On The Road ridden by Richard Johnson; price 13-2.  There was one grey in this race, namely Django Django ... so dark grey in fact that you’d never know he was one at present!

 

The starting gate for the first race was at the far end of the home straight; this being the case, the horses headed down beside the rails in front of the grandstands to reach it.  They circled within a small enclosure to the inside of the hurdles course.  Mont Des Avaloirs and Jaisalmer remained apart from the others as they took a final turn within the holding pen; they joined the others as they exited onto the racecourse. 

 

Race 1

Novices’ Championship Handicap Hurdle

Distance

1 mile 7 furlongs & 216 yards (8 flights)

No. of Runners

20

Mont Des Avaloirs, Highway One O One, Jaisalmer, Piton Pete, Ballymoy, Taxmeifyoucan, Burrows Edge, Act Of Valour, Friday Night Light, Show On The Road, Oistrakh Le Noir, Kelpies Myth, Going Gold, Django Dajango, Equus Amadeus, Notre Ami, Ar Mest, The New Pharoah, Enola Gay, Grapevine

 

The group headed away from the starting gate initially before turning back, although there was a little bit of barging, with Jaisalmer squeezed out as Ballymoy to his inside nudged the rail. 

 

However, the starter wasn’t ready or happy either, so the group was asked to take another turn; Mont Des Avaloirs was kept away, to the outside, of the others.  The runners trotted in and then they were off, to a nice even break with, to the far side, Highway One O One and Kelpies Myth leading the way as they headed towards the first flight.  Also to the fore were Notre Ami in the centre, and Enola Gay and Friday Night Light to the near side. 

 

A lovely jump from Kelpies Myth took him into a clear advantage as the runners subsequently headed on towards the second flight.  All 20 runners cleared the next okay, although the first-time visored The New Pharaoh was ridden away from it; he’d also been a little sticky at the first.  Bringing up the rear, as they headed up past the winning post with one circuit to go, were Show On The Road, Piton Pete and Burrows Edge.

 

Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung right-handed, crossed the matting which now protected the roadway into the car park, before travelling downhill and swinging right once again in order to enter the back straight.  Kelpies Myth with Highway One O One to his outer, continued to cut out the running, from Jaisalmer, Going Gold, Notre Ami, followed by Ar Mest to the inside of The New Pharoah; after these came Ballymoy, Django Django, Enola Gay, Oistrakh Le Noir, Grapevine, Equus Amadeus, Act Of Valour, Friday Night Light, Mont Des Avaloirs, Taxmeifyoucan, Show On The Road, and Piton Pete; Burrows Edge continued to bring up the rear.

 

Mont Des Avaloirs made progress to the outside of runners as they approached flight number three; Highway One O One led them over this one.  The horses continued down the back straight, heading to the next; they all cleared this one without incident, although Burrows Edge was three or four lengths detached in rear.  The runners jumped one more flight before they crossed the steeplechase track; the crossing point today, was located between the water-jump and the first of the railway fences.

 

The Chris Gordon-trained Highway One O One continued to spear-head the field as they approached three out.  Although there were no serious errors at this one, three of the panels were looking decidedly tatty as the runners headed away from it.  Burrows Edge, in the familiar colours of Michael Buckley, had improved his position, with joint favourite Show On The Road, Piton Pete and Taxmeifyoucan all being niggled along at the rear. 

 

Highway One O One was still narrowly ahead as the runners entered the home straight; to the inside his nearest challengers were Kelpies Myth and Ar Mest, to his outer The New Pharoah, Going Gold and Jaisalmer.  As they continued to the penultimate flight, Equus Amadeus began to lay down his challenge, as did Act Of Valour to the near side.  Going Gold and Mont Des Avaloirs squeezed up Grapevine at this point; the former was under a right-hand drive and definitely bumped Nico de Boinville’s mount in the process and he dropped back as a result.  There were no casualties at this hurdle.

 

Highway One O One continued to hold onto the advantage as they journeyed up the hill to the final obstacle.  Equus Amadeus and Mont Des Avaloirs were still laying down a challenge to the leader, as was Act Of Valour; however, it was Ballymoy that was making the most progress at this point, to the inside of the runners.      

 

Act Of Valour was just marginally ahead as the runners jumped the final flight.  Daryl Jacob’s mount subsequently took over the lead as the horses continued up the run-in to the winning post.  This seemed to spur on the long-time leader and he stayed on well, fighting off the challenge of Equus Amadeus and Mont Des Avaloirs; Act Of Valour, however, found no extra on the run-in.

 

Ballymoy went on to win by 1¼ lengths at the line, from Highway One O One, who completed three quarters of a length ahead of Equus Amadeus, with a further 1½ lengths back to Mont Des Avaloirs; Harry Cobden’s mount had snatched 4th-place from stable companion Act Of Valour by a nose.  Sam Twiston-Davies rode the latter, for owners The McNeill Family.  The owners spread their horses around different trainers these days, using not only Alan King and Tom George, but also Warren Greatrex and Paul Nicholls. 

 

When interviewed, winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said he thought the horse’s best distance will be two and a half miles going forward, now that’s he settles in his races; he wasn’t sure what next season’s plan will be, that’s up to the owners’ and their racing manager to decide.  It was three out of three wins since a wind operation evidently! 

 

Mont Des Avaloirs is the name of a mountain in France … but translates as Mountain of Drains!  It just hasn’t got the same ring about it in English!!!

The Stewards held an enquiry into the argy-bargy which occurred at the penultimate flight; details below.

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Ballymoy

Daryl Jacob

Nigel Twiston-Davies

2nd

Highway One O One

Harry Reed

Chris Gordon

3rd

Equus Amadeus

Robert Dunne

Tom Lacey

4th

Mont Des Avalois

Harry Cobden

Paul Nicholls

 

With the race over, we headed back up the hill to find a space beside the rhododendron walk so that I could take photographs of the runners as they headed back.  We remained at our chosen location ahead of the horses appearing on the rhododendron walk ahead of the next race.

There was a sad postscript to Act Of Valour’s career; he lost his life as a result of a fall during Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle a fortnight later.  RIP.

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 1 - 1:50pm
THE BET365 NOVICES' CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)

 

BALLYMOY (IRE) and GRAPEVINE (IRE) wore earplugs during the race.

Approaching the second last flight, GOING GOLD (IRE), unplaced, shifted left-handed at the same time as MONT DES AVALOIRS (FR), placed fourth, edged right-handed and, as a consequence, GRAPEVINE (IRE), unplaced, was left short of room, but after viewing a recording of the incident, it was found that no riding offence was involved and it had not improved the placing of any horse.

 

This was the fifth running of the Oaksey Chase; the now-retired Menorah had one each of the previous four races.  Today, in honour of the horse, the runners would compete for The Menorah Challenge Trophy.  And making a special appearance today was Menorah himself; he was led around the Parade Ring, before leading the runners down the walkway and being paraded on course in front of the grandstands.  In retirement, Menorah is in the care of Champion Jockey and regular rider Richard Johnson.  

As has happened before at this fixture, but not in this race, there were six runners representing three trainers – Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and Tom George on this occasion.  The odds-on favourite was Top Notch, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Daryl Jacob; price 4-5.  He represented owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, the owners and jockey having won the first race with Ballymoy.

There was one grey in this race, Alcala; I’d describe him as a very pretty ‘rocking-horse’ dapple grey!

We subsequently headed down the hill and passed between the Eclipse Pavilion and the main grandstand to reach our viewpoint beyond the winning post.  

The horses had already headed to the starting gate which was at the beginning of the back straight.

Race 2

Oaksey Chase (Grade 2) for the Menorah Challenge Trophy

Distance

2 miles 6 furlongs & 164 yards (21 fences)

No. of Runners

6

Top Notch, Alcala, Sadler’s Risk, Art Mauresque, Double Shuffle, O O Seven

 

The horses approached the tape at the walk, apart from Double Shuffle who was jogging along to their outside.  And then they were off, with O O Seven, Top Notch and Double Shuffle disputing the lead as the runners headed towards the first fence; Saddler’s Risk brought up the rear. 

 

Double Shuffle led narrowly as they jumped the fence, but O O Seven went on as they continued to the next.  However, he was a little bit slow over this one, which allowed Top Notch and Double Shuffle to draw alongside once more as the runners headed to the first of the open-ditches.  Sadler’s Risk was already detached by four lengths in rear.

 

All six runners cleared the fence in their stride, with O O Seven going on again as the horses headed towards the water-jump; Saddler’s Risk had reduced the deficit by which he trailed to just one length by the time they cleared it.  

 

O O Seven continued to spearhead the runners, ears pricked, as they approached the first of the three railway fences.  All six horses measured these well, with no errors to report; they subsequently travelled into the far bend with no change at the head of affairs.

 

Having then cleared the Pond fence, the runners entered the home straight, with O O Seven leading, flanked by Top Notch to his inner and Double Shuffle to his outer.  Art Mauresque held fourth position, from Alcala and Sadler’s Risk.  There were no issues at the first obstacle therein, the runners then tacking across to their left in order to take the open-ditch option at the next. 

 

Top Notch drew almost level with his stable-mate as they cleared this, as O O Seven continued to demonstrate a preference to jump out to his left.  The gallop continued to be a steady one as the runners headed up past the winning post with one circuit now to travel.  Having swung right-handed, the runners crossed the carpeted roadway and headed downhill towards the next, often tricky, fence; Alcala now travelled at the rear of the closely packed field.  Double Shuffle, to the outside of runners, pecked on landing over this one. 

 

Having turned into the back straight, all six runners cleared the next in their stride.  Saddler’s Risk had dropped to the rear once more and soon began to lose touch with his rivals.  The runners continued to the next, another plain fence.  Top Notch, who is diminutive in size but certainly not in talent, cleverly put in a short stride before this one in order to meet it correctly. 

 

The following fence was the final open-ditch and O O Seven continued to lead as they all negotiated this safely, although Sadler’s Risk now trailed the field by five lengths.  The runners then hopped over the water-jump before travelling onwards towards the three railway fences once more.  Alcala got a little bit close to the first of these but, other than that, there were no errors to report.

 

Double Shuffle was being pushed along, in fourth position, as the field headed into the far turn with just three more fences to negotiate.  Sadler’s Risk had continued to this point, but was pulled up before the Pond fence.  Top Notch jumped this fence upsides the long-time leader, with Art Mauresque shadowing their every move.

 

Having entered the home straight, Top Notch took a clear advantage once they’d cleared the penultimate fence; currently travelling in fourth position, Alcala pecked on landing over this one.  Thus Top Notch led them towards the final fence, with Harry Cobden endeavouring to close the deficit aboard Art Mauresque. 

 

Daryl Jacob’s mount jumped out to his left over the last, having done so to put himself right.  However, try as he might up the run in, Art Mauresque was soon outpaced by Top Notch as they headed to the line; the winning distance was 2¾ lengths.  O O Seven clung on to third place by a nose, over the plugging-on Double Shuffle, having finished 10 lengths behind the runner-up.  Alcala completed the course in last place, weary at the end.    

 

Trainer Tom George had earlier said that he’d never discovered the reason for Double Shuffle running badly at Aintree; he’d been runner-up to Might Bite in this season’s King George VI Chase and, of course, ran poorly again today too.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Top Notch

Nicky Henderson

Daryl Jacob

2nd

Art Mauresque

Paul Nicholls

Harry Cobden

3rd

O O Seven

Nicky Henderson

Nico de Boinville

4th

Double Shuffle

Tom George

Jonathan Burke

 

Having returned to the area adjacent to the rhododendron walk, we remainder there ahead of the next race.

The heavily odds-on favourite for this race was Altior, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 2-11.  He’d won this year’s Champion Chase, also this race last year too, when still a novice.  In fact he was unbeaten over hurdles and fences and was seeking his fourteenth victory today.

Interestingly, Altior ran in three bumpers at the start of his career; he won the first one, beating Double W’s; he finished 3rd of 11 to Barters Hill in the next, and 6th of 13 to Bellshill in the last of these!

There were no greys in this race.  However, Cue Card was led out onto the racecourse in order to parade in front of the grandstands ahead of this one.

The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, so the competitors cantered down past the grandstands to reach it.  Again Lesley and I headed to the slope above the track, just beyond the winning post, to view the event.

Race 3

Celebration Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

 1 mile 7 furlongs & 119 yards (13 fences)

No. of Runners

6

Altior, Ar Mad, Diego Du Charmil, God’s Own, San Benedeto, Special Tiara

 

The horses milled around at the start, Ar Mad at the head of the group; the runners were waiting for Cue Card to exit stage left, having paraded in front of the stands!  And, finally, the starter raised his flag and they were off.

 

Ar Mad led the runners away, from Special Tiara, Altior, San Benedeto, Diego Du Charmil and God’s Own.  The leader flew over the first fence, the Irish raider slightly less fluent.  The runners then tacked across to the stand side en route to the second; the first of two open-ditches.  Ar Mad jumped this with plenty to spare, whilst Daryl Jacob took a slight tug aboard Special Tiara to ensure his mount met it on a good stride.  As would be expected, Altior jumped it well too, whilst in rear God’s Own skewed slightly over this one.

 

The Gary Moore runner had gone a number of lengths clear, but Josh Moore restrained him slightly as they headed up past the winning past and this enabled Special Tiara and the others to close some of the deficit.  Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung right-handed, crossed the carpeted roadway, and galloped downhill to the next.

 

Ar Mad flew over this one too, whereas Special Tiara stuttered into it and lost ground, enabling the others to close upon him; God’s Own wasn’t particularly fluent here either.  Having turned into the back straight for the one and only time, Daryl Jacob’s mount closed upon the leader once more. 

 

Ar Mad continued to jump with speed and fluency, gaining ground at the next fence; meanwhile God’s Own was detached from the back of the field by three or four lengths.  The following fence was another plain one and, once again, the leader was far more fluent than Special Tiara.  In contrast at the next, the final open-ditch, Ar Mad took it slower than his rivals having put in a short stride just before it.

 

The runners galloped on towards the next, the water-jump; God’s Own had now begun to close the gap.  Having cleared this in their stride, the six runners then continued to the first of the railway fences; Ar Mad still with the advantage. 

 

However, for some inexplicable reason, having jumped like a stag thus far, Ar Mad got far too close to the fence, breasted it and crashed out of the race.  Fortunately San Benedeto was nimble, and sidestepped the fallen horse, Josh Moore having been thrown clear.  This left Special Tiara in the lead.  As the horses galloped on towards the middle of the railway fences, Ar Mad tried desperately to get to his feet; he could not.

 

The remaining five cleared the middle fence without incident, Special Tiara leading from Altior, Diego Du Charmil, San Benedeto and God’s Own.  The latter had closed to dispute fourth place by the time they cleared the third of the railway fences and were entering the far turn.

 

Special Tiara continued to lead the way as the horses approached the Pond Fence, he was flanked by Altior to his inside and Diego Du Charmil to his outer; these three jumped the fence in unison.  Nico de Boinville sent his mount on as they headed around the home turn and approached two out.  There was almost a coming together with Special Tiara, as Altior jumped out to this left over this one.  Meanwhile, San Benedeto was improving to the inside, but God’s Own landed in a bit of a heap, having put in an extra stride before take-off.

 

Nico changed his whip into this left hand as the runners approached the final fence; he administered a couple of cracks to his horse’s rump subsequently.  San Benedeto was now Altior’s closest pursuer and he was less than a length down as they jumped it.

 

Initially, the Paul Nicholls second-string was able to go with Altior but, as he’d shown at Cheltenham, the ‘turbo boost’ kicks in when rousted, and he drew away up the hill to win by 3¼ lengths at the line.  God’s Own kept on to take 3rd position after the last, a further 3¾ lengths further back.  Special Tiara completed in 4th, the same distance behind him.  Diego Du Charmil completed in last place.

 

It was an excellent run from San Benedeto; he’d had a 98 day break having disappointed in January at Ascot.  The winter ground did not suit him, and Paul Nicholls said he’d be kept going over the summer; he’d also got a rating of 155 having benefited from the Politologue tripping incident at last year’s Aintree Festival.

 

There was an extremely sad postscript to the race; Ar Mad’s fall proved to be fatal as he’d fractured a shoulder, his off-side one, as a result of the fall.  RIP.  Josh Moore had also sustained a shoulder injury, not his first – reported as dislocated at best.  

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Altior

Nicky Henderson

Nico de Boinville

2nd

San Benedeto

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls

3rd

God’s Own

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

4th

Special Tiara

Daryl Jacob

Henry de Bromhead

 

Once more we remained beside the rhododendron walk, having returned there following the third race. 

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

 

Race 3 - 3:00pm
THE bet365 CELEBRATION STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

 

ALTIOR (IRE) wore earplugs during the race.

Nico de Boinville reported that he had dismounted the winner, ALTIOR (IRE), on the walkway as he was concerned the gelding felt overly tired. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding failed to reveal any abnormalities.

 

The favourite for the feature race was Blaklion, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by his son Sam; price 6-1.  The partnership had been brought down at the first fence in this year’s Grand National, run a fortnight ago.

 

The 2016 winner, The Young Master took part again, but he was ridden by Conor Shoemark today because Sam Waley-Cohen couldn’t do the weight!  I believe last year’s winner Henllan Harri was also an entry, but failed to make the cut due to oversubscription today, the maximum number permitted being 20.  There had been only 13 runners last year. 

 

Another competitor was Domesday Book, his first run since winning last season’s Kim Muir; also running was this year’s Kim Muir winner, Missed Approach.

 

There were no greys in this race.  Three runners wore first-time cheek-pieces – Rock The Kasbah, Carole’s Destrier and Step Back.  The former had finished 6th in this race last year and had missed both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals due to unseasonably soft going.

 

Bigbadjohn was led down the walkway; this was to avoid any repeat of the antics which had occurred in the tunnel at the Aintree Festival!

 

Evidently there was confusion regarding the pre-race parade, with a number of horses breaking the parade early; an explanation for this was given by the Clerk of The Course Andrew Cooper in the Stewards’ Report below.

 

The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight, with this and two full circuits to travel. 

 

Meanwhile, Joe Tizzard was stood immediately in front of us whilst we watched the race; the yard had two runners in the event, namely Theatre Guide and Royal Vacation.  He chatted to Coral’s Simon Clare; Corals sponsor the Tizzard yard.

Race 4

bet365 Gold Cup [Grade 3 Handicap]

Distance

3 miles 4 furlongs & 166 yards (24 fences)

No. of Runners

20

Blaklion, Regal Encore, Theatre Guide, Rock The Kasbah, Present Man, Missed Approach, Royal Vacation, Houblon Des Obeaux, Domesday Book, Benbens, Carole’s Destrier, Bigbadjohn, Minella Daddy, Sugar Baron, Relentless Dreamer, Step Back, Rathlin Rose, Dawson City, The Young Master, Band of Blood

 

Step Back had to be re-saddled at the start; jockey Jamie Moore doing the business.  It was a tiny saddle, as the horse was carrying a mere 10 stone!  There were actually five horses carrying 10 stone. 

 

And then they were off, first time.  Up with the pace were Rock The Kasbah and Carole’s Destrier to the far side, and Missed Approach to the centre.  All 20 horses cleared the first without incident, although Sugar Baron was a little slow towards the outside, at rear of the field.

 

They subsequently tacked across to the nearside in order to take the open-ditch option at the next.  Rock The Kasbah and Missed Approach led over this one, from Domesday Book, Present Man and Step Back.  At the rear of the field, Royal Vacation made an error; birch flew as a result.

 

Heading up past the winning post of the first occasion, with two full circuits still to travel, Domesday Book held the narrow advantage from Missed Approach, followed by Step Back, Rock The Kasbah, Present Man, The Young Master, Carole’s Destrier, Blaklion, Benbens, Houblon Des Obeaux, Band Of Blood, Minella Daddy, Regal Encore, Theatre Guide, Relentless Dreamer, Rathlin Rose, Dawson City, Bigbadjohn, Sugar Baron and Royal Vacation.

 

Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung right-handed and crossed the carpeted roadway, before continuing downhill to the third fence; Missed Approach had now taken up the running, with Step Back on the outside of runners moving into second position on the approach to the obstacle.  All of the runners cleared this one well. 

 

The horses then continued around the right-hand turn and into the back straight for the first time.  They streamed over the first fence therein, with both Royal Vacation and Sugar Baron already becoming detached at the rear of the field.  It was quickly on to the next, which they all negotiated safely.  The following fence is another open-ditch, at which Step Back took the lead.

 

Next up was the water-jump, which the leader skipped over, followed by Missed Approach, Domesday Book, Rock The Kasbah, Present Man and The Young Master.  The runners continued on to the first of the railway fences, which they cleared without incident, although Adam Wedge aboard Relentless Dreamer subsequently had to re-gather his reins.

 

All twenty subsequently negotiated the second and third railway fences successfully, before heading into the far turn still led by Step Back.  The leading group also comprised of Rock The Kasbah, Missed Approach, Domesday Book, Present Man and The Young Master; Carole’s Destrier and Houblon Des Obeaux spearheaded the remainder. 

 

Not much ever happens at the Pond fence … they all jumped it well, although there was a collision between Houblon Des Obeaux and Theatre Guide; the former getting the better of the argument.  The runners headed around the turn and into the home straight with one circuit now completed.

 

In the lead, Step Back continued to jump well as the field cleared the next; bringing up the rear were Bidbadjohn, Sugar Baron and Royal Vacation.  The runners tacked across to the nearside once more, in order to jump the open-ditch.  Having jumped this one, Royal Vacation received a number of slaps down his shoulder and Minella Daddy, who had now dropped back through the field, received two strikes from James Bowen’s whip.

 

Meanwhile, up front, Step Back continued to travel sweetly; he held a two or three lengths advantage over Rock The Kasbah, followed by Missed Approach, Present Man, Domesday Book, Houblon Des Obeaux, The Young Master, Carole’s Destrier and Theatre Guide as the field headed up past the winning post with one circuit to go. 

 

Having reached the top of the hill, they swung right-handed and crossed the carpeted roadway once more on their journey downhill to the next fence.  Band Of Blood landed awkwardly over this one, with jockey Brian Hughes re-gathering his knitting afterwards.  Carole’s Destrier was slow, losing a number of lengths as a result, and Dawson City had to be cajoled along having jumped it.  Having dropped to the back of the field, Minella Daddy was pulled up before the next; it had been doubtful that he would stay, regardless. 

 

Meanwhile, Step Back continued to lead as the runners turned into the back straight for the final time; Rock The Kasbah travelled at his quarters and these two had clear daylight over their rivals.  The runners streamed over the first in the back straight, the next too.  Houblon Des Obeaux had dropped back rapidly through the field and was now disputing second last position with Royal Vacation; only Sugar Baron was behind them.

 

The following fence was the final open-ditch, where Missed Approach made an error.  Step Back and Rock The Kasbah continued to lead as the runners cleared the water-jump, from Present Man, Theatre Guide, The Young Master, Missed Approach and Rathlin Rose.  The signs were looking ominous for top-weight Blaklion and the JP McManus runner, Regal Encore; in fact Richie McLernon pulled up the latter before the next, which was the first of the railway fences. 

 

Having jumped this fence, the present state of play was that Step Back continued to lead, from Rock The Kasbah, Present Man, Theatre Guide, The Young Master, Rathlin Rose, Relentless Dreamer, Carole’s Destrier, Missed Approach, Dawson City, Band Of Blood, Bigbadjohn, Benbens, Domesday Book, Royal Vacation, Blaklion, Houblon Des Obeaux and Sugar Baron; it had seemed like a huge effort for Blaklion to get over this one.

 

The eighteen remaining runners negotiated the final two railway fences safely, although Bigbadjohn made an error at the second one.  The leading duo kicked-on as they headed into the final bend, setting up a five lengths advantage over their nearest pursuer, Present Man.  He, in turn, was clear of Theatre Guide, Relentless Dreamer, The Young Master and Carole’s Destrier; this group was well in advance of the remainder.

 

Step Back was still ahead as he reached the Pond Fence; his pursuers were strung out, one by one, behind him.  He continued to draw away from Rock The Kasbah as he headed towards and over the second last and no challengers were coming from further back either.  His jockey, Jamie Moore, administered a few taps with his whip approaching the last and his mount continued to respond to his urgings. 

 

In fact there was no sign of the leader stopping as he flew the final fence and galloped up the hill to the line to win by an incredible 13 lengths.  Rock The Kasbah completed in 2nd position, 14 lengths ahead of Present Man, who held on by half a length from Relentless Dreamer, with Carole’s Destrier just half a length further back in 5th.  Dawson City was 6th, Theatre Guide 7th, The Young Master 8th, Houblon Des Obeaux 9th, Band Of Blood 10th and Benbens 11th, last of the finishers.  I believe Benbens finished lame, as Aidan Coleman returned on foot along the walkway; there was no sign of his mount.

 

For the record, Domesday Book, Missed Approach, and Blaklion were pulled up before the Pond fence.  Sugar Baron, Royal Vacation, Rathlin Rose and Bigbadjohn before two out.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Step Back

Jamie Moore

Mark Bradstock

2nd

Rock The Kasbah

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

3rd

Present Man

Bryony Frost

Paul Nicholls

4th

Relentless Dreamer

Adam Wedge

Rebecca Curtis

 

We returned to the area adjacent to the rhododendron walk following the race, so were able to watch the presentations via the big screen which overlooks the Parade Ring; we then realised we’d followed the owners as we headed down to the viewing area beyond the main grandstand – the lady wore an unusual striped coat!

The winner is by Indian River, as is Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River.

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 4 - 3:35pm
THE bet365 GOLD CUP HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)

 

Prior permission had been granted for the runners for this race to Parade out of race-card order.

An enquiry was held to consider why some of the runners in this race did not Parade, as required in the Conditions of the Race. The Clerk of the Course explained that the initial runners had paraded as required. He added that BIGBADJOHN had been given permission to break the Parade due to its known unruly behaviour, at which point the remainder of the runners followed. Being mindful of the tight timings and the fact that this was the feature race of the afternoon on ITV, Cooper felt it prudent to allow the remainder of the runners to canter to post, rather than parade. His explanation was noted.

BIGBADJOHN (IRE) and RATHLIN ROSE (IRE) wore earplugs which were removed prior to the race.

The performance of BLAKLION, which started favourite and was pulled up, was considered. Nigel Twiston-Davies explained that the gelding was unsuited by the ground which was Good to Soft, Soft in places and would prefer a quicker surface; his explanation was noted. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of BLAKLION during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.

Following the race, James Bowen reported that his saddle slipped on MINELLA DADDY (IRE), which was pulled up. The Veterinary Officer reported that BENBENS (IRE), which finished unplaced and was dismounted on the course, was lame on its right-fore.

The next race was a Grade 2 event.  The joint-favourites being Wholestone, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by Daryl Jacob; also Call Me Lord trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 6-4.  Both horses are owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Jamie Moore replaced his brother Josh aboard the grey Diakali trained by his father Gary; Josh having sustained a a shoulder injury, as had his ill-fated mount Ar Mad.

The starting gate for this race was part-way down the back straight; the horses would jump 3 of the four flights therein.  This being the case, the competitors headed up around the top bend to reach it.  Meanwhile, Lesley and I headed down the concourse to find a good vantage point upon the slope above the track, just beyond the winning post.

Race 5

Select Hurdle (Grade 2)

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs 110 yards  (11 hurdles)

No. of Runners

6

Lil Rockrefeller, Old Guard, Wholestone, Boite, Call Me Lord, Diakali

 

And then they were off, with Diakali and Old Guard leading the way to the first flight; Lil Rockerfeller was close up in third.  Wholestone almost matched strides with the Neil King runner, and Boite along with Call Me Lord brought up the rear.

 

The closely packed field cleared the obstacle in their stride and continued down the back straight to the next.  Diakali led over this one, with Jamie Moore endeavouring to anchor his mount as the runners headed across the chase course on their way to the third.  They all jumped this one well, before continuing into the far turn; Wholestone, Old Guard and Diakali disputed the lead.

 

The runners soon entered the home straight for the first time, and headed towards the fourth flight; Old Guard jumped this one more slowly than his rivals and was rousted along briefly by jockey Harry Cobden.  Wholestone landed marginally ahead when they jumped the following flight.

 

The horses continued to climb up the hill, passing the winning post en route with one circuit now to travel.  They subsequently swung right-handed, crossed the carpeted roadway, before heading downhill and turning into the back straight once more.  The six runners were still well-grouped.

 

Wholestone led the field over the next, from Old Guard, Diakali, Call Me Lord, Boite and Lil Rockerfeller.  The grey began to lose ground on the way to the following flight, and he found himself in last place having jumped it; the leader had made an error here.  It was Old Guard’s turn to land awkwardly when the runners cleared the following obstacle.  Diakali had now lost touch with the other five.

 

The horses continued on their journey to the third last, crossing over the chase track as they did so.  Lil Rockerfeller, having moved up to the outside of runners, had subsequently left his mark upon the hurdle and was pushed along as they headed away from it.  They headed into the final turn with five horses still in contention; Wholestone led, from Old Guard, Call Me Lord, Boite and the pushed along Lil Rockerfeller.  Diakali would come home in his own time.

 

They entered the home straight, with Call Me Lord to the inside, tracking Wholestone.  Old Guard was now under pressure, receiving encouragement.  Having looked beaten, Lil Rockerfeller began to stay on between runners.  Call Me Lord took up the running approaching two out, with Wayne Hutchinson’s mount now his closest pursuer.  Wholestone continued in third position, from Old Guard and Boite.

 

Call Me Lord continued to sprint away from his rivals as he headed towards the final flight.  However, he made a total mess of this one; Nico de Boinville didn’t expect him to put in an extra stride before take-off!  However, the Nicky Henderson-runner still had many lengths in hand despite this; his jockey glanced over his left shoulder and pushed his mount out hands and heels to the line, easing down close home.  The winning distance was 16 lengths!

 

Runner-up Lil Rockerfeller finished 6 lengths clear of Wholestone and he, in turn, completed 8 lengths clear of Old Guard; Boite was 5th and Diakali 6th. 

 

Daryl Jacob congratulated the winning jockey but, presumably, it would be the last time that he would choose another mount over Call Me Lord!  There is one draw-back with the winner however – he must run on a right-handed track. 

 

Call Me Lord had won on this day last year; the first race on this card.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Call Me Lord

Nico de Boinville

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Lil Rockerfeller

Wayne Hutchinson

Neil King

3rd

Wholestone

Daryl Jacob

Nigel Twiston-Davies

4th

Old Guard

Harry Cobden

Paul Nicholls

 

We didn’t go back to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race.

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 5 - 4:05pm
THE bet365 SELECT HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 2)

 

Following the race, the Veterinary Officer reported that BOITE (IRE), placed fifth, had lost its left-hind shoe.

The favourite for the penultimate race was War Sound, trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson; price 9-4.  Also taking part was Altior’s half-brother Silverhow, trained by Colin Tizzard; he was formerly trained by Nicky Henderson.  He has the tell-tale patch of white hair at the base of his tail, just like Altior – they must have inherited this from their dam, Monte Solaro. 

As mentioned earlier, there was also an EPDS Racing representative in this event, namely Stynes trained by Graeme McPherson and ridden by Kielan Woods.  He was returning to action following 306 days on the injury sidelines; although the winter ground would definitely not have suited him! 

There were no greys in this race.

Having spent time watching Stynes in the Parade Ring, and then as he was led down the rhododendron walk, I completely forgot there were other runners heading down to the racecourse behind him … so not all of the horses were photographed!  Doh!

Heading down to our favourite vantage point to view the race, we turned the corner to be confronted by the lovely Tom Stanley interviewing trainer Oliver Sherwood.  I stopped momentarily ... as you do ... taking the opportunity for a rear view photo and a front view photo too, once I’d decided upon my viewing position on the grass embankment beyond the winning post!  Sadly the interview wasn’t one of those broadcast on RUK.

Joe Tizzard was stood behind us for this race.

The starting gate for this event was just prior to the first of the railway fences.  The horses headed across the in-field golf range and, of course, the straight 5-furlong track, with yellow posts to guide them, in order to reach the back straight.

Race 6

Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs and 10 yards (17 fences)

No. of Runners

11

Geordie Des Champs, Midnight Shot, Solighoster, Markov, Deauville Dancer, Monbeg Charmer, Rayvin Black, War Sound, Stynes, Ramonex, Silverhow

 

And then they were off, heading towards the first of the railway fences, with Ramonex spearheading the field.  Stynes was travelling to the outside of runners, tracking Silverhow.  All eleven cleared this fence without incident and Markov brought up the rear.  Having soon jumped all three of the railway fences, the field was already quite strung out. 

 

Ramonex continued to lead the way as they entered the far turn, from Midnight Shot, Monbeg Charmer, Silverhow, Deauville Dancer, Stynes, Geordie Des Champs, Solighoster, Rayvin Black, War Sound and Markov; the latter was a little detached from the others.

 

The runners continued to the Pond fence, which they all cleared well.  Harry Cobden let Silverhow stride on into the lead as they headed around the bend into the home straight for the first time.  Ten of the runners jumped the next okay, the exception being Solighoster who capsized on landing.  However, both soon got to their feet, uninjured, and Robbie Dunne would subsequently lead his mount back.

 

Silverhow continued to lead the way, as the runners tacked across to their left in order to tackle the first of the open-ditches.  Ramonex blundered here; he’d left his hind-legs in the fence, pitching James Bowen up his neck as a result.  However, the partnership survived and they continued to hold second position as the field headed up the hill towards the line with one circuit now to travel. 

 

Heading towards the top turn, Silverhow led from Ramonex, Midnight Shot, Deauville Dancer, Stynes, Monbeg Charmer, Geordie Des Champs, Rayvin Black, War Sound and Markov.  The runners subsequently swung right-handed, crossed the carpeted roadway and headed downhill to the seventh fence; Markov had relegated War Sound to last place by the time they jumped it.  However, once in the back straight, Richard Johnson’s mount progressed to the outside of runners and Markov was demoted to the rear of the field once more.

 

The competitors having jumped two fences in the back straight, Midnight Shot now found himself one from the back of the field and niggled along.  The following obstacle was the final open-ditch, with Harry Cobden riding his mount towards take off … one, two, three, up!  His mount had delivered each time he’d been asked and he was two lengths clear of his nearest rival, which remained Ramonex.

 

They continued to the water-jump, where the leader was a little bit clumsy; Rayvin Black had now progressed into second position, with Geordie Des Champs in mid-field being pushed along for a few strides.  Silverhow led the runners over the first of the railway fences, followed by Rayvin Black, Stynes, the pushed-along Geordie Des Champs, and then Deauville Dancer.  Ramonex had now dropped back through the field and only had Midnight Shot and Markov behind him.  Having jumped the middle of these, he was then last.

 

The ten runners cleared the next and headed into the far turn; Silverhow, Rayvin Black and Geordie Des Champs had set up a clear advantage over the remainder of the field, which was currently led by Stynes.  As the leaders continued towards the Pond fence, Richard Johnson’s mount began to make good progress to the outside of the field.  Silverhow had a length in hand as he jumped it, with War Sound now upsides Rayvin Black, disputing second position.  Ramonex was pulled up before the fence. 

 

Heading around the home turn, a group of five had broken away from the others; namely Silverhow, War Sound, Rayvin Black, Geordie Des Champs and Deauville Dancer.   Harry Cobden’s mount flew over the penultimate fence, whereas War Sound wasn’t as fluent, with jockey Richard Johnson going to the buckle-end of the reins as he landed.  Rayvin Black weakened rapidly after this fence; leaving Geordie Des Champs and Deauville Dancer to pursue the two leaders.

 

Meanwhile, Silverhow was powering his way down to the last obstacle, where he jumped slightly out to his right in order to put himself right.  The Colin Tizzard-trained runner then continued to stay on strongly up the hill all the way to the line; the winning distance was 4 lengths.  War Sound had completed in 2nd, but had been no match for the winner today, although he had stayed on up the hill.  Geordie Des Champs had completed a further 8 lengths back in 3rd position, and Deauville Dancer claimed 4th, a further 3¼ lengths behind. 

 

Monbeg Charmer and Stynes had been pulled up before two out, leaving solely Midnight Shot and Markov to follow the others home, in 6th and 7th places respectively; they were closing rapidly upon the tired 5th-placed Rayvin Black at the post. 

 

EPDS were very happy with their horse’s run, as Stynes had been out of action for many months, and the ground would not have been in his favour today either.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Silverhow

Harry Cobden

Colin Tizzard

2nd

War Sound

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

3rd

Geordie Des Champs

Niall P Madden

Rebecca Curtis

4th

Deauville Dancer

Brian Hughes

David Dennis

Having returned to our regular spot beside the rhododendron walk whilst the horses passed by, we then headed further along, to where the unplaced horses are unsaddled.  I took a number of photos whilst Stynes was attended to by his trainer. 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 6 - 4:40pm
THE bet365 JOSH GIFFORD NOVICES' HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 2)

Permission was given for MONBEG CHARMER (IRE) to go early to post.

The favourite for the final race of the 2017/2018 season was Soul Emotion, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 5-1.

Alan King had two runners in this race, namely Wilde Blue Yonder ridden by Tom Cannon and Fidux ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.  I had my only bet of the day, placed upon Wilde Blue Yonder.  He’d been plagued by injury since his novice season in 2013/2014, but had also been Choc’s final ride at Aintree back in 2014, so I’ve always have a soft spot for him.  This was his fourth run this season, having hit the frame – 334 – on his previous starts.   

Skipthecuddles (otherwise known as the ‘tongue-less’ horse) was another competitor, trained by Graeme McPherson and ridden by Kielan Woods.  He’d won four days previously, at Ludlow.

Also, Ordo Ab Chao was an entry; previously trained by Alan King, he was now trained by Olly Murphy.  The trainer said that Ordo Ab Chao may be kept on the go during the summer, having been lightly raced.  Jumping is on the agenda too.  Olly Murphy had clocked up 47 winners in his debut season.

Aidan Coleman replaced the injured Josh Moore aboard Wolf Of Windlesham.

The starting gate for this race was on the far side of the track, with one hurdle to jump before the far corner.  This being the case, the horses cantered down past the grandstands to reach it. 

Once again, for the final time today, Lesley and I headed down the concourse to find a suitable vantage point near the top of the grassy slope just beyond the winning post.  I have to say that Sandown Park is probably one of the least suitable tracks for someone with a pelvis issue, or at least my particular pelvis issue, due to the slopes encountered!  I’m in pain when I walk on the flat, but it’s even more painful when going up and down hills!!!

Race 7

Handicap Hurdle

Distance

2 miles 3 furlongs & 173 yards (9 flights)

No. of Runners

19

Ballotin, Le Breuil, Stowaway Magic, Enniscoffey Oscar, Dashing Oscar, Jester Jet, Zubayr, Soul Emotion, Lough Derg Spirit, Stamp Your Feet, Wilde Blue Yonder, Skipthecuddles, Landin, Psychedelic Rock, Wolf Of Windlesham, Fidux, Ordo Ab Chao, Destiny’s Gold, Mystic Sky 

 

The 19 runners milled around, in an anti-clockwise direction at the start before weaving through between a hurdle and the water-jump to reach the starting gate.  However, they were a little too eager and were requested to take another turn; it would now be a standing start.  It was a little bit of the ‘Grand Annual’ mentality; on this occasion the jockeys were keen to ride the final winner of the 2017/2018 season.

 

The first attempt to line up was a no go; the starter telling the jockeys to take another turn.  And then they were off, finally.  Four of the runners were slowly away, having been short of room; these were Le Breuil, Soul Emotion, Wolf Of Windlesham and Stamp Your Feet.  Meanwhile up front, Dashing Oscar, Landin, Lough Derg Spirit and Skipthecuddles led the way as they safely negotiated the first flight.

 

Heading into the first turn, Skipthecuddles took up the running, with Dashing Oscar and Landin at his quarters.  They were now followed by Zubayr, Wilde Blue Yonder and Lough Derg Spirit; having been slowly away, Le Breuil had joined this group, with the favourite tracking him through on the outside too.  At the rear of the field was Ballotin.

 

The runners had soon entered the home straight, for the first time, with Skipthecuddles leading the way, ears pricked.  Dashing Oscar took a narrow advantage as they cleared the second flight.  He continued to spearhead the field as they headed to the next, with Skipthecuddles, Landin, Le Breuil and Lough Derg Spirit his nearest pursuers.  Behind these, from the far side, were Fidux, Wilde Blue Yonder, Zubayr, Mystic Sky and Soul Emotion.  In the second half of the field travelled Stowaway Magic, Enniscoffey Oscar, Destiny’s Gold, Wolf Of Windlesham, Ballotin, Jester Jet, Ordo Ab Chao, Psychedelic Rock and Stamp Your Feet.

 

With no casualties thus far, the nineteen runners continued up past the winning post and swung right-handed at the top of the hill.  They continued over the carpeted roadway and headed downhill before bearing right-handed once more in order to enter the back straight for the final time. 

 

Dashing Oscar had a half-length advantage as they jumped the first flight therein; however, he made a mistake and Skipthecuddles then took over at the head of affairs.  Dashing Oscar, who was being ridden by the trainer’s sister-in-law Aine O’Connor, rejoined the leader heading to the next, only to be out-jumped once more.  Meanwhile, at the back of the field the JP McManus runner, Stamp Your Feet, was beginning to lose touch.

 

The Graeme McPherson runner continued to lead as the competitors cleared the sixth flight, before heading across the chase course on their way to the last obstacle in the back straight.  The favourite, Soul Emotion, continued to travel on the wide outside of the field.  Skipthecuddles had a narrow advantage as they cleared three out, from Dashing Oscar, Le Breuil and the Jeremiah McGrath-ridden Lough Derg Spirit!  Near the rear, Zubayr didn’t jump this one particularly well and Stamp Your Feet continued to trail the field and would soon be pulled up.

 

The tongue-less Skipthecuddles led the runners into the home straight, his nearest pursuers remained Dashing Oscar and Le Breuil.  Just behind these as they headed towards two out were Lough Derg Spirit, Wilde Blue Yonder, Mystic Sky and Soul Emotion.  Wayne Hutchinson had angled Fidux to the inside and was beginning to make his challenge too.

 

And it was Soul Emotion, to the stand-side, which rose in front over the penultimate flight; Dashing Oscar took it in second position.  Under pressure at this stage, Wilde Blue Yonder stepped on the flight and took a tumble, literally; he’d fallen on a couple of occasions as a novice (at Newbury and Ascot) when Choc had ridden him.  He’d have won on each occasion too. 

 

Anyway ... back to 2018 … Soul Emotion continued to extend his lead on the run to the final flight; Wolf Of Windlesham was staying on well and had moved into second position at this stage.  Fidux, Dashing Oscar and Le Breuil headed the remainder, but the tiring Skipthecuddles caught a leg on the flight and also took a tumbling fall.

 

Meanwhile Soul Emotion galloped all the way to the line; it was a little reminiscent of Altior earlier in the afternoon, and he won by 4 lengths.  The runner-up Wolf Of Windlesham had pulled well clear of the others too, he beat Fidux by 11 lengths who, in turn, had beaten Dashing Oscar by a head.   Le Breuil claimed 5th, Psychedelic Rock 6th, Jester Jet 7th and Zubayr 8th.  Ninth was Enniscoffey Oscar, 10th Lough Derg Spirit, 11th Ordo Ab Chao, 12th Stowaway Magic; last of the finishers was Mystic Sky.  The others had pulled up.

 

Wilde Blue Yonder had got to his feet quickly, as had Tom Cannon; Tom managed to catch hold of his mount’s reins but the horse wouldn’t stop, so he had to let go again!  Likewise, both Skipthecuddles and Kielan Woods were quickly to their feet; the horse trotted off before breaking into a canter in order to follow the herd to the line!

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Soul Emotion

Nicky Henderson

Nico de Boinville

2nd

Wolf Of Windlesham

Aidan Coleman

Stuart Edmunds

3rd

Fidux

Wayne Hutchinson

Alan King

4th

Dashing Oscar

Miss A B O’Connor

Harry Fry

 

There was a discussion on RUK, between Nick Luck and David Cleary, about the problems of handicapping French import horses, such as Soul Emotion.  This was his second run on British soil; he won his first race over course and distance too.   His initial rating had been awarded on his record of one decent run and a number of moderate ones in France, and then been increased by 12, to 137 after his win.  French imports have to start in handicap races evidently, due to the nature of our racing programme ... oh well.  Winning jockey, Nico de Boinville, said he’d stuck to the outside to get the better ground.  

 

I guess it was fitting that the 2017/2018 Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson would have 4 of the 7 winners today.  Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede had three winners.   

 

And it had been damp today, like much of the season, and freezing according to Nick Luck too ... my friend Lesley would agree with him about that!  I was pretty much okay having treated it, clothes-wise, as a normal National Hunt winter’s day!!!

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 7 - 5:15pm
THE bet365 HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)

 

Having reviewed recordings of the false start, the Starters were satisfied that no riders should be reported for contravening the starting procedures.

 

Following the final race, we stopped off beside the rhododendron walk so that I could take photographs of the returning horses, before we headed over to the Winners’ Enclosure; we stayed there until the prizes had been presented ... although the winning jockey, Nico de Boinville, didn’t make an appearance.

There had been no winnings to collect today; both Lesley and I had drawn a complete blank. L  But at least Wilde Blue Yonder appeared to be okay following his mishap, as did Skipthecuddles. 

Racing over, we headed into the reception area within the main stand in order to visit to little girls’ room.  The queue wasn’t quite as bad as might be expected at the end of the day, only to the door!  The loos had been refurbished since our visit last April, with new cubicles being introduced; 12 in total, I believe, four of which were situated beyond a doorway.  When it was my turn, I used one of these four ...more information than you needed! 

The after-racing party ... featuring the Chip Shop Boys ...  had commenced so, instead of heading through the main grandstand to reach the betting ring beyond, we exited back onto the area adjacent to the Parade Ring and headed back via the inbound route we’d taken at the start of the day.  This meant heading down beside the rhododendron walk, across the racecourse where only a few plastic pontoons remained, through the gazebo and out to the driveway.

We took a right turn and headed along to the entrance of our parking area before turning left and continuing down the slope to reach the car.  Having eaten two cheese rolls each, which I’d brought with me, we then began our journey home; I believe we set off at 17:55.    

We headed back across the racecourse, the tarmac of the roadway now completely exposed.  A group of young lads were wandering along the driveway as we headed towards the exit; we thanked them for moving to the side as we passed.  There was a queue of traffic heading up the hill towards Esher, so we decided to turn right in order to head in the opposite direction, soon entering Lower Green Road. 

Having passed beneath the railway line, we were delayed by oncoming traffic due to a narrowing of the roadway caused by vehicles parked in this residential street.  At the subsequent cross-roads, we headed straight across into Weston Green Road, where cottages to the left faced out onto a green on our right; very nice. 

At the far end we turned left to head up Hampton Court Way. We continued across the bridge over the River Thames, before reaching the roundabout outside Hampton Court Palace itself. Having turned left, there was a short holdup whilst traffic merged into one lane; this was exacerbated by a cyclist riding across a pedestrian crossing ... this annoys me, zebra crossings are for pedestrian use, not for cyclists.  I noticed a blue plaque on one of the nearby buildings – Sir Christopher Wren had once lived within; he worked at Hampton Court Palace from 1689 to 1700. 

We continued along Hampton Court Road, Upper Sunbury Road, and Staines Road East; this took us past Kempton Park racecourse latterly.  There was a queue of traffic tailing back from the roundabout beneath Junction 1 of the M3. Once the traffic lights allowed, we headed up to slip-road to join it, having negotiated cones which initially cordoned off the inside lane of said slip-road. 

We travelled down the M3, before joining the clockwise carriageway of the M25 to return to Hertfordshire.  We left the motorway at junction 22 and headed up the dual carriageway which bypasses London Colney, before entering St Albans.

Lesley dropped me off at 19:15.  There was a minor panic with regards to recording the RUK coverage, as there was no signal ... but I checked near the end of the recording and it was okay; besides, once I’d reset the Sky box, I recorded the highlights programme too.  I was a little disappointed though, as there were no interviews included within the highlights; it appears RUK now cover too many racecourses (there were highlights from Haydock Park and Leicester too), so time is tight.   

When interviewed on RUK’s Luck on Sunday the next day, the bet365 Gold Cup winning trainer, Mark Bradstock,  explained that he’d been obliged to run Step Back in a race at Fakenham in order to qualify his charge for today’s race; it was his third chase under rules.  And, as he’d won that race, the rise in handicap mark had also helped to gain entry into today’s oversubscribed race. 

Mark explained that his horses jump well because his son (Archie) and daughter Lily teach them to do so; cheap labour he joked.  He also mentioned that Step Back has very flat feet, but his farrier had done an excellent job in compensating for this.  Next season’s targets will be staying chases, with a possible tilt at the Grand National. 

This is a recording of Step Back’s appearance at Fakenham; 21 days previously.  He’d won the race by 16 lengths:

http://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Fakenham/07-April-2018/1635/

He was also asked about Coneygree.  Mark said the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner’s rehab was progressing well; he was doing gallops the previous week.  Connections are endeavouring to make one more comeback attempt, as the horse is still in a good place, mentally; although he did say that, as Coneygree is still high in the ratings, there are few race opportunities currently.

Mark admitted to having a ‘thick head’ following the previous day’s celebrations!

Ian Popham was a studio guest on Luck On Sunday.  He announced his retirement on the programme; he was going to become a jockeys’ agent, his main aim being to make Harry Skelton Champion Jockey!

 

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