Choc was initially scheduled for 2 rides at Towcester today, both for Alan King.  His mounts were Starburst Diamond in the first race on the card (a 3-mile Novices’ Hurdle), and Charmaine Wood in the fourth race on the card (a 2-mile Novices’ Hurdle).  As entry to the course is free, I decided it was worth a trip to the fixture, and it was a bright sunny day too, although a brisk very cold wind was blowing.  

Having been to Ascot races the previous day, I had a few tasks to complete before setting off for the races, such as clothes washing, checking the previous day’s video tapes, and filling the car with petrol.   I was finally ready to depart for Towcester at 11:40. 

My journey took me north to join the M1 at Junction 10 Luton, and on this occasion I decided I would leave the motorway at Junction 14 Milton Keynes North, rather than Junction 15a Northampton.  Having left the M1, I travelled westwards through Milton Keynes to reach the A5, then turned in a northerly direction towards Towcester.  As I approached the town I could see the Art Deco style grandstand appear to my right, so I turned down the winding lane, signposted ‘Canal Museum’, to reach the car park.  As I was quite early, there was no queue of traffic today, unlike on 08 October 2008, so I arrived at around 12:50, the first race being scheduled for 13:40.

However, I’ve since noticed that perhaps Junction 15 would be best, as I could take the A508 in a westerly direction and then cut through the back lanes, thus avoiding any build up of traffic back to the A5 near the course.  So I will make a mental note for next time. 

Before leaving my car, I put on my fleece and gillet, plus coat and hat, and walked across the car park field to the marquee entrance, where I purchased a race-card for £2.50.  I crossed the horse-walk, and went to stand by the side of the Parade Ring in preparation for the first race of the day, in which Choc was due to ride the roan coloured Starburst Diamond for Alan King.  As there had been high winds and rain overnight, the going was changed to soft, but the course was more fortunate than Market Rasen, Cork and Fairyhouse which were all abandoned due to water-logging (Fairyhouse was covered in snow too).  It was still very windy, so I had to ensure that my brimmed hat was well secured by the tie beneath my chin!

The horses entered the paddock in preparation for the first race.  The runners included both Kilbeggan Blade, to be ridden by Tony McCoy, which had won the London National at Sandown Park on 06 December, and Mon Mome for Venetia Williams (who was now to be ridden by Sam Thomas who had transferred from the abandoned Market Rasen).  Both horses had been entered in this hurdle race despite them being accomplished handicap steeplechasers (possibly because they needed their handicap mark to be protected).

Starburst Diamond is an attractively coloured horse, described as roan in the race-card, Starburst possibly referring to the white blotches on his coat.  Noel Williams, Alan’s Assistant Trainer, was on duty for the stable today.  At Towcester the owners and connections tend to congregate near the top of the Parade Ring near the Winners’ Enclosure, so when Choc entered the ring, he soon located them.  Once the bell had been rung for the jockeys to mount, Choc and Noel walked over to the near side of the paddock and, as Starburst was led by, Choc was legged-up.  As is often the case, Choc was the first to leave the paddock, so whilst he exited down the horse-walk to the course, I walked over to the trackside rails in time to watch him canter past me on his way to the start, which is in the far left-hand corner of the track.

Once the race started, Choc rode Starburst Diamond along beside the inside rail, midfield, although there were only 6 runners, there having been 2 withdrawals.  As the ground was soft, the field took it at a steady pace.  However, by the time one circuit had been completed, it was soon apparent that Starburst Diamond wasn’t acting on the going, as Choc began to cajole him along.  However, both Kilbeggan Blade and Mon Mome had plenty of stamina and fought out the finish, with the former prevailing.  Truckers Lady held on for third place, despite Starburst Diamond’s best efforts to overhaul her.  The other two runners did complete, although a distance behind.

Having finished in 4th place, Choc came back to the Winners’ Enclosure to unsaddle, speak to connections, and then he returned to the Weighing Room.  Shortly afterwards it was announced that Charmaine Wood, Choc’s second intended ride, had been withdrawn – presumably due to the soft going and on recommendation from Choc too.  So I’d already had my first and last opportunity to see Choc today.           

As there were still 5 more races to be run, I decided to stay until after the 5th race of the day, which meant I’d only miss out on the Amateur Riders’ race at the end of the card. 

As I read trainer, Martin Keighley’s blog on a regular basis, it was interesting to see that Poliglotti was racing in the 2nd event on the card, a 2-mile Handicap Steeplechase.  The animal is an enigmatic character, which was trained by Alan King before transferring to Martin’s yard last summer, having promised a lot but delivered little.  Martin and his staff were all turned out in his yard’s new sponsorship clothing.  Warren Marston gave Poliglotti a positive ride, and he finished 3rd.

Shelomoh, who had looked well in the paddock before the race, and was ridden by Paddy Aspell, took up the lead after 3 fences out. However, as he was galloping up the stand-side of the course towards the finish, he jinked and hit the plastic rails just in front of me.  As this is very close to the horse-walk exit point from the Parade Ring, the horse was probably looking for an escape route back to the stables.  Luckily Paddy managed to get his mount going again, and held off the persistent challenge of Thievery under Richard Johnson. But at least it gave the TV commentators something to talk about, as they debated whether the horse-walk should be relocated to a position beyond the winning post.  As the course is currently up for sale there are no current plans to re-design this, although I wouldn’t have thought it too difficult as the exit from the course is beyond the winning post so why can’t they use it as an entry and exit point?

The third race, a 3-mile Handicap Chase, was won by the grey blinkered runner, Man of the Moment, ridden by Seamus Durack.  Another grey horse, Smart Thinker, finished 2nd.  Both these horses were sired by Silver Patriarch, which is presumably where they inherited their colour.   Martin Keighley’s runner, Ross Leader, was given another positive ride by Warren Marston and lead for much of the race, but was headed 2 fences out, although held on to finish in 3rd place.  

The 4th race on the card was a 2-mile Novices’ Hurdle, the race which Charmaine Wood had been withdrawn from, as were a number of other horses.  It was won by Kilvergan Boy, ridden by Paddy Brennan (another jockey who had transferred to Towcester following the abandonment of Market Rasen).   The horse is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and was having its first run in England.

The 5th race was a Beginners’ Chase, over a distance of 3 miles.  One of the horses, Pancake, has very unusual markings, being a chestnut with large white blaze, white legs and splashes of white on his belly too.  A number of spectators commented on his colouring, but I knew what to expect as I’d seen him on TV before today.  

As the sun was bright and low in the sky, all 3 fences in the home straight were omitted, so at one stage there was a run of 4 to 5 furlongs between the fences and a very long run-in too!  However this was probably fortuitous, as Pancake made a number of jumping errors, the most notable of which happened at the 5th fence with his jockey, Richard Johnson, nearly being unseated and briefly losing a stirrup too.  However Pancake did take 2nd place at the finish, with the race being won by Woodlands Genpower, ridden by Jack Doyle.

The 6th race, which I didn’t stay to see, was won by Low Delta ridden by David Cook.

As it was getting very cold, and I’d watched five races, I decided it was time to leave once I’d seen the winner of the 5th race return to the Winners’ Enclosure.  Besides I still had a number of tasks to complete once I reached home – like uploading photos to my gallery for 26 April 2008, 15 June 2008, and today, then completing yesterday’s diary, today’s diary, and today’s blog too!   As my memory isn’t what it used to be, and hopefully with more race meetings to attend soon, I must keep up to date with my website!

Many race-goers leave after the penultimate race of a fixture to avoid any traffic jams, so a number of people were already heading for the exit as I walked back to the car park.  Although I’d worn my boots to drive to the course, they were now very muddy, so I changed into a spare pair of shoes before setting off for home.  There was a brief queue to leave the car park and again as I reached the A5, but after turning left at the main road I was soon on my way.  As I’d done on my first and only other trip to Towcester, I decided to take the A5 all the way home.  The only hold-ups were as I drove through Dunstable, which is always the case.  It was not quite dark as I pulled into my drive, which came as a relief, as the street lamps haven’t been working for the past few days and it’s difficult to see the driveway entrance!  It’s been a nightmare walking home from work too, as I can barely see where I’m going for the final 100 metres!

Once I’d eaten my evening meal, I settled down to watch Dancing on Ice whilst logged onto my laptop to update this website.  Photographs were uploaded, blog updated and my Ascot diary completed.  It was around 10:30 when I went to bed, and I watched the beginning of my recorded tapes of Towcester races, and made a few notes ready to write this diary entry, before going to sleep.

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