DIARY Ė STRATFORD UPON AVON
Ė TUESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2009
As I had lots of holiday leave still to take before the end of the year, I decided to take a day off to go racing to Stratford.† Choc was scheduled to have 3 rides, two of these being for his boss, Alan King.† Fortunately Choc was none the worse from having been stood down following a fall at Uttoxeter two days previously.
My first task of the day was to visit the petrol station to fill my Fiestaís tank, and also to visit the nearby Next store to collect an item Iíd ordered a few weeks ago and which was now ready for collection. I also paid a brief visit to the neighbouring Marks and Sparks store Ė I can never resist having a look around, but I was very good as I didnít purchase anything!†
I set off for Stratford at 10:25.† My route took me via Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury, and Bicester.† Then northwards up the M40 as far as Banbury, after which I took the A422 to Stratford, arriving at around 12:25.† As Iíd taken my lunch with me, I sat in my car to eat it before going in.† Unusually I was parked near the horse-box area today, so noticed a number of jockeys arrive too.† Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell sped in at 12.30 Ė he is sponsored and his name is emblazoned on his car.† I presume I also saw AP arrive, as surely it could only have been his car with that particular personalised registration plate!
Anyway, having eaten lunch I made my way to the turnstiles to gain entry and to purchase a race-card.† I was then waylaid by a representative from the O2 tent, who was trying to persuade people to enter their prize draw.†† Having excused myself from the invitation, I headed for the area between the Parade Ring and the course-side rails to await the horses entered in the first event.† I noticed Alex Quinn was doing the race day presentation for Attheraces today.
Chocís first mount, Aohna, is owned by the Jenny and Mark Pitman Racing Club syndicate, so a large group of owners was in attendance.† Jenny and Mark were not at Stratford today, however Alan King was, and a group photograph was taken by official photographer Les Hurley before Choc arrived in the Parade Ring.† Having appeared and received his riding instructions, Choc walked across to my side of the parade ring to be legged up.† Aohna is a tiny filly, especially when compared to a number of todayís other competitors.† She was on her toes and jig-jogged along the path with Choc aboard.†
Upon exiting onto the course, the runners went to take a look at the final flight before cantering to the start which was over in the far corner of the track.† Aohna was pulling hard as she went to join the other horses.†††
Then they were off.† AP aboard Mumbles Pier led them off.† Alfies Express and Jim Tango were also prominent, with the Irish runner Two Left Boots last but one, Choc holding up the hard pulling Aohna at the very back of the field.† Today the 2nd flight in the back straight was positioned before the mound, which meant a long run before the first flight in the straight.†
Having jumped the 5th flight slightly awkwardly, Choc gave the filly a mild reminder down her shoulder.† Initially Choc tried to sneak up the inside of the field, his preferred position, but Aohna lost her pitch.† Alfies Express was the first to tail off, and was pulled up.† As they went into the final turn, Aohna improved from 5th to 3rd position, although she did swing a little wide on the bend as they entered the home straight.† Mumbles Pier still led, but Aohna was closing and jumped the last the better.† However, although it looked like Choc would be able to collar the long time leader as they galloped up to the winning post, Mumbles Pier held on by a neck at the line.†
I walked around to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Choc return.† He pointed towards the second place spot, as the handlers seemed a little unsure as to the location of the unsaddling position for the 2nd placed horse!† Having unsaddled the filly, Choc and Alan headed for the group of syndicate members to provide a de-brief regarding the race.† Choc then returned to the Weighing Room.
It was now time for the second race of the day, a Novicesí Chase.† The fancied Seven is my Number was running in this event, having been withdrawn from a similar opportunity at Uttoxeter two days previously.† The ex-Alan King trained Ruff Diamond was also a competitor.† Heís only a 4 year old but seems to have filled out now, I remember the horse being very leggy and appearing indecisive when he approached his obstacles when hurdling.† The start of this race was at the top of the home straight.† Irish raider, Mustang Man, seemed a little reluctant and had to be led in at the start.†
Then they were off.† The grey Oscar Royal under jockey Liam Treadwell was keen and led them off.† Having his first outing over the larger obstacles, Ruff Diamond made an error at the second.† By the 5th obstacle, Oscar Royal had been headed by Matuhi with Noel Fehily aboard, although the former remained prominent.† Race favourite, the Tim Vaughan trained Shanballa, was not fluent early on.† Mustang Man was at the rear of the field as they galloped up the straight, Graham Lee giving his mount an audible crack with the whip as they approached the fence after the water!
However, having jumped well throughout the race, Matuhi blundered badly at the final open ditch three from home, catapulting Noel Fehily onto the turf.† This departure left Seven is my Number in the lead.† Shanballa was being ridden along to chase the leaders when disaster struck having cleared the 2nd last.† The horse stumbled having sustained a serious leg injury, Richard Johnson pulling up his stricken mount as quickly as he was able.†
The leaders were preceded up the home straight by the rider-less Matuhi.† Seven is my Number went on to win by 2ľ lengths from Oscar Royal and Postmaster.† Green screens were erected around the unfortunate Shanballa, and the horse ambulance sent to remove him from the course.†††††††
As Choc had not been riding in the Novicesí Chase I remained in the area between the course-side rails and the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race.†
Chocís mount in this event was the David Gandolfo trained filly Broadway Allstar.† As his mount was due to carry a mere 10 stone 5 pounds, Choc was using his Ďtinyí saddle for this event.† (As a filly, Aohna had also carried 10 stone 5 pounds in the earlier race.)† The start of this race was at the beginning of the home straight and was just over 2 circuits in length.† Once the runners had left the Parade Ring, I decided Iíd move down the rails towards the final flight so as to take an action shot or two.†
Then they were off.† Evens favourite, the mare Honours Graduate, led them off.† On the inside, Chocís mount was keen and prominent, as were Arctic Watch and Ehowee.† The fancied Baily Storm was just behind them on the rails.
Choc pulled his mount to the outside as they galloped down the back straight, first time around.† He was still prominent just behind Honours Graduate as they passed the winning post with one circuit to go.† However, as they headed down the back straight for the final time Broadway Allstar began to weaken, dropping back to 5th.† Baily Storm was now stalking the leader.
Honours Graduate lead until after 2 out, when Tim Vaughanís Baily Storm took over despite landing a little awkwardly over that flight, and the last for that matter too.† Baily Storm ran on to win by 7 lengths.† Broadway Allstar finished in 6th place.†
Having been unplaced, Choc returned to the Parade Ring to unsaddle, giving a long debrief to the horseís connections before returning to the Weighing Room.
Having split the next race into two divisions due to the number of entries, disappointingly 4 horses were withdrawn from this event, including Chocís intended mount Sadlerís Star.† Noel Fehily, having been unseated during the second race of the day and presumably stood down by the doctor, was replaced by Richard Johnson aboard Wheelavit.†† The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track.†
The recent Worcester winner, Olympian Boy, again with Tom Scudamore aboard led them off.† Prominent were Wheelavit, So Determined and Priest Field.† Tomís mount held a clear lead by the time they reached the 3rd flight, but was headed 3 out by Wheelavit.† Kickahead was cruising just behind the leader as they turned in, with Oliver Greenall holding up the horse for as long as possible before delivering a challenge to win by 3Ĺ lengths.
It was then time for the second division of the Handicap Hurdle.† Alex Quinn, who was todayís Attheraces presenter, was in the Parade Ring to interview Carl Llewellyn about the chances of Weather Front.† There were no absentees from this race. Orpen Wide wore red blinkers to match the colour of his silks.† The Jimmy Lambe trained Galiana played up as soon as she exited onto the course.† Eventually AP dismounted and was legged up once she was going forward again to canter down to the start, initially with his feet out of the irons.
Then they were off.† The field was led away by Irish raider, Arondo.† Prominent were Orpen Wide, Weather Front, and So Brash.† Galiana brought up the rear.† Weather Front improved to chase the leader after the 5th flight.
Orpen Wide began to weaken as they travelled down the back straight for the final time, tailing off and being pulled up before 2 out.† Weather Front took the lead before 2 out, keeping on well to win by 9 lengths.† Initially outpaced, Peaceful Means improved after 2 out, running on to take 2nd place on the flat.† Long time leader Arondo held on for 3rd despite jumping the last two flights in a tired fashion.†
Iíd seen Weather Front win at Huntingdon on Bank Holiday Monday, Peaceful Means win at Worcester on 6th September, and also earlier winner Seven is my Number win at Worcester that day too!††† Iím becoming quite a regular on the National Hunt circuit these days!
As Choc had finished for the day, at this point I have to confess I decided it was time to set off for home too.† Being a weekday, I was concerned that Iíd get caught up in rush-hour traffic, and I also wanted to beat the queue to leave the car park!†††
However, I will give details and the results of Race 6:
And Race 7:
Having experienced nightmare traffic queues this summer when trying to reach the M40ís nearest junction, once again I decided to drive to Banbury via the A422.† Unfortunately it was after 17:00 by the time I reached the town, so I was delayed a little by people leaving work.† I then drove across country, heading for Milton Keynes, via Buckingham.† However, on this occasion I managed to miss the A5 turning signposted Dunstable ... well, all the roundabouts in Milton Keynes look the same donít they?† So I headed eastwards to join the M1 southbound instead.† I left the motorway at Junction 10 Luton, and drove down through Harpenden to reach home not long after 19:00.††