DIARY – TOWCESTER
– SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 2009
Having discovered that Choc would be riding at Towcester and he had 5 riding engagements, I decided I had to make my third visit to the course. In addition, Martin Keighley had 2 runners – Won More Night and Hareem. Besides, I’d not been racing since 22 September, partly because there had been no suitable fixtures and partly because of injuries sustained in a fall on 09 October (when I’d had a very close encounter with a very hard pavement – ouch!).
As my car was running low on petrol I set off just before 08:00 to go to the local supermarket to fill the tank. I returned, took a shower, washed my hair, applied make-up and took a painkiller to combat any residual pain following my fall.
I left home at 09:45, as I wanted to travel via Milton Keynes to pay a visit to their Hobbycraft store to purchase a few odds and ends for my Christmas craft projects! And, as usual, I spent more than I should have done ... but I just cannot resist craft shops!
Anyway, I arrived at Towcester racecourse at 11:35, and parked close to the horsebox area. I noticed a number of trainers’ boxes - Brendan Powell, Henrietta Knight, Paul Webber, Jonathan Portman, and Caroline Bailey.
Having purchased a programme, I went to stand by the Parade Ring. It was sunny but there was a very strong breeze, and I was very glad that I’d decided upon 3 layers of clothing plus coat! At one point it began to spit with rain, although the sun still shone. A bad hair day according to Matt Chapman of ATR ... how right he was!!!
The first race of the day was due off at 13:25. Choc was to ride Lord Generous – an ex-Paul Nicholls inmate. When Choc arrived in the Parade Ring he walked across to meet the trainer, who was alone. Once mounted, and as is usually the case, Choc was the first competitor out onto the course, cantering up past the winning post to reach the start.
The field was led off by Palypso De Creek, a recent French import and winner over both hurdles and fences in France. All For A Star soon took over the running, with the hard-pulling Cheapside close up too. Choc was travelling in mid-field, in his preferred inside rail berth. Silver Bay brought up the rear.
As they travelled down the back straight, having completed one circuit, Choc started to ease Lord Generous out from the rail until, by the time they were approaching the home straight, he was on the outside of the field and had a clear run. Global Flyer briefly held the lead as they approached 3 out, then Palypso De Creek took over, Choc close behind. Varekai fell at the 3rd last, when in rear.
Choc administered two smacks with his whip around the final bend but, although with every chance two out, the French import had too much in hand (and too much experience) for Lord Generous, who finished in 2nd place, 4½ lengths behind the winner on the line.
Despite having finished 2nd, Choc unsaddled Lord Generous in the Pre-Parade Ring, where the unplaced horses are unsaddled. Then Choc ducked under the railings to return to the Weighing Room. The horse was led into the Winners’ Enclosure so that he could be washed down. I noticed the horse had a cut to his off-hind heel, which the trainer did examine.
Choc’s mount in the second race of the day was a large dark brown horse named Ballygalley Bob, trained by Oliver Sherwood, and a previous winner at the track. Once mounted, the horses cantered up past the stands to the reach the start, which was over on the far side of the track. Whilst everyone was waiting for the race to start, the course caught the edge of a shower cloud and, as the sun was still shining in the vicinity, a rainbow appeared too.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Cold Mountain. Choc was close up, disputing the lead, the horse taking a couple of fences to warm to his jumping task. By the 6th fence, Choc had taken the lead from Cold Mountain as he was travelling the better of the two. Aberdeen Park, on her first outing over the larger obstacles, made a mistake at the 12th and was pulled up 3 out.
As they reached the end of the back straight for the final time, Flemish Invader put in a challenge, but to no avail, as Choc drove his mount up the steep incline and over the final two obstacles to win by 6 lengths from the staying on Harris Bay and Cold Mountain. Flemish Invader finished last, as Sam Twiston-Davies pulled the horse up on the run-in having suffered a problem.
So Bob and Bob had won! Choc’s 26th winner of the season. I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc being led back in, unsaddle and pose for a photograph before returning to the Weighing Room.
It was now time for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, in which Choc would be riding the Alan King trained runner, Asturienne – a half sister to Lough Derg. It was very noticeable how slightly built most of the mares in this race were, especially when compared to the big burly chasers competing in the previous race!
Garafena and Elegant Olive had been given permission to go to the start early but, as it turned out, they were the last out onto the course instead! The start of this event was at the beginning of the home straight. As it was autumn and the sun was low in the sky, there were concerns that it would be shining in the horses’ and, presumably, the jockeys’ eyes as they travelled up the home straight. With this in mind, the Clerk of the Course, Robert Bellamy, was on hand to speak with Choc and Roddy Greene, who had cantered their mounts up to the first flight to take a look at the problem. They decided it was safe and no flights were omitted.
Then they were off. Oh No Rosa led them away, but was very awkward at the first flight, jumping severely to the left and interfering with those following her. The mare jumped to her left over both the second and third flights too, but luckily the remainder of the field were wise to this by now. However, she still retained the lead.
Choc travelled one out from the inside rail aboard Asturienne. Having moved up through the field, Choc made a decisive challenge 2 out and galloped on to win by 11 lengths from the staying on Naughty Naughty. The two riders who had been consulted about the ‘sunshine’ problem completing in first and second. Choc had been particularly keen on the mare’s chances, as he had turned down the opportunity to go to Wincanton where, I understand, he would have had the opportunity to choose from 3 Alan King horses running in 2 separate events at the fixture.
Choc’s 27th winner of the season. I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back. As the horse runs in the pale blue and brown colours of the Million In Mind Partnership, there were a group of owners to greet him. Choc acknowledged the applause as he was led back in to unsaddle, speak with connections, and pose for a photograph before returning to the Weighing Room.
Shortly before the jockeys arrived in the Parade Ring for the next race of the day, it was announced that David England would be riding Ammunition, replacing Choc. I later read (in Alan King’s blog) that Choc was feeling ‘one degree under’ and had decided to give up his remaining 2 rides. Perhaps the after-effects of last Thursday’s Ludlow fall, combined with having to waste down to 10 stone to ride Bakbenscher at Chepstow the previous day.
Anyway, once the horses had exited onto the course, I decided to cross the horse-walk exit track and I moved down beside the rails towards the last fence to get a better view of the proceedings. Although, on the down side, it was very difficult to see the big screen from that position! The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track, down by the riverside.
Auditor was initially reluctant to line up, but once he had consented to start he soon went into the lead alongside Ronald Jack, followed by Jacarado, Ammunition and Sarobar.
Auditor lead until approaching the 9th obstacle, when he was headed by course and distance winner Jacarado. Ronald Jack weakened and was pulled up before 2 out. Auditor faded into last place. Ammunition chased the Robin Dickin trained Jacarado to the line but could not peg him back. The grey, Sarabar, finished a close 3rd. It was Jacarado’s 4th win at the course.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race, in which Martin Keighley had the first of his two runners.
Whilst the horses were parading prior to the fifth race, it was announced that William Kennedy would replace Choc aboard Alfatrix. Young Tom Bellamy was leading Won More Night around the Parade Ring, and Belinda and Martin Keighley were joined by Tom’s dad (and Clerk of the Course), Robert, in the paddock. Won More Night was to be ridden by stable jockey, Warren Marston. I knew it was Tom, as I’d seen him interviewed on TV the previous weekend in connection with the Pony Race finals held at Cheltenham.
Once again, the horses having exited onto the track, I headed down towards the final fence to get a good view of the horses as they jumped it, which they would do twice during this event. The start of the race was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. Unfortunately the starter had let the horses go before Won More Night was ready, and she set off behind the remainder of the runners. The field was led by Intense Suspense, alongside Bennynthejets, with Musical Weld and Croon in close contention.
Won More Night, having travelled in rear, was brought down when one of the greys, What Happened, fell at the 5th last fence. The other grey, Wherrimon, was also brought down in the mêlée. As I was standing down by the last fence, I was unable to view the incident on the big screen, but the commentator said that all the horses had got up okay. Although a long way away, I could just make out the horses galloping after the field, however I think Won More Night soon stopped, and turned around to trot back in the opposite direction.
Croon briefly took over the lead 5 out but was headed by both Bennynthejets and Rince Donn as they turned in. However, Croon rallied approaching the final obstacle for one last challenge but Bennynthejets was too good and went on the win by 3¼ lengths. Alfatrix ran on to take 2nd, with Croon finishing in 3rd place. Rince Donn faded into 5th.
The piloted horses having finished, one of the groundsmen ducked under the rails, saying he’d better get off the course as there were 3 loose horses. The 2 greys soon galloped by, none the worse for their mishap, and Won More Night was not with them. A number of vehicles set off down the track towards the site of the incident, I understand one was carrying Belinda Keighley and Tom Bellamy. After a while I decided to set off back to the Parade Ring, and overheard another conversation, informing me that number 5 (Won More Night) had been caught and led back across the course. I was relieved that she was okay.
The fallen jockeys, Andrew Thornton and Warren Marston were fine. James Halliday, the rider aboard What Happened, was taken to Northampton Hospital for precautionary tests.
As I had arrived late at the Parade Ring, I couldn’t get close to the rails to see the horses competing in the next race. Martin Keighley also had a runner in this event, Hareem, ridden by Danny Hiskett. Danny had ridden his first winner the previous Tuesday, when triumphing aboard Love of Tara at Exeter. Dave Cull was leading Hareem around the Parade Ring.
Gemma Tutty was also taking part in this race, her first under rules, aboard a horse called Insignia. She’s one of the two point-to-point riders who are being sponsored by Choc.
Again the start of this race was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Nearly A Breeze. Hareem runs better when handy, but unfortunately he set off near the back of the field. Classic Fly took over the lead after the 2nd flight, with Don’t Think Twice assuming it by the third.
Classic Fly resumed the lead 3 out along with Amwell Brave, but the former was caught close to the line by the Oliver Greenall ridden Vincenzio. It was a blanket finish between the next 8 runners, 3 lengths covering the distance from the 3rd to the 10th placed horses – the handicapping working out well! Hareem was never closer than at the line, and he finished in 6th place.
Two horses failed to complete, Fixed Interest having fallen 3 out and Kingscourt Lad unseating its rider at the last.
As Hareem had been unplaced and would not be returning to the Winners’ Enclosure, I decided it was time to leave. Once I’d arrived back at my car I spent time waiting for the queues to clear. I eventually left as the sun was beginning to set, just before 17:00, although I did have to join the back of a queue of vehicles on the lane leading to the A5.
There was a 50 mph limit on the A5 past Milton Keynes due to road-works to resurface the dual carriageway. I’d reached Dunstable by 17:30 but there was a long tailback due to single file traffic through more road-works. It took me over 20 minutes to travel through the town, and I reached home at 18:15.