DIARY – TOWCESTER
MONDAY 28 MARCH 2011
1000 CAREER WINNERS
1000 career winners
Choc enters the Winners’ Enclosure aboard Araldur
As it was a Monday, my first port of call on my way to work today was to the local supermarket to purchase a copy of today’s Racing Post. I quickly glanced inside to find out what Choc’s column topics were today ... one being 999 winners and counting. And I knew he had three rides at Towcester, including the talented Araldur; so today could easily be the day when he reached this very important milestone.
Despite knowing that Choc had ridden 6 winners on the flat (a fact already recorded on my career winners totals page) I hadn’t included them in my calculations, hence I thought he was 7 away, not 1. Doh! So there I was, with a full day’s work ahead of me and the possibility that I’d miss seeing the celebrations if today was going to be his special day.
Having arrived at work, I knew I had to ask my immediate Manager if I could take the afternoon off. Initially she wasn’t sure, as one member of my team was already on holiday. So the decision was in the balance; and I was becoming tearful (they weren’t crocodile tears I hasten to add). She relented; I could leave at 12:30. Although I had to walk home (very quickly) to change and collect my car, before setting off at 13:15 for Towcester, which is around 50 miles from my home.
Being lunchtime, the traffic was a nightmare; the blood pressure was rising but I eventually escaped the confines of my home city, travelling via Harpenden to reach the A5; which is the old Roman road that extends all the way to Anglesey, under the guise of different route numbers along the way and passing Towcester en route.
However, I chose to travel up the M1 to Northamptonshire, joining at Junction 9, because I knew there would be traffic problems in Dunstable, there always are! Although, when I made this choice, I didn’t realise the current contra-flow system and associated 50 mph speed limit was in operation from south of Luton until Milton Keynes. In hindsight, I should have left the motorway at Junction 14, Central Milton Keynes, or Junction 15a and travelled through Towcester itself. Instead I took the A508 at Junction 15, through the villages of Roade, Grafton Regis and Yardley Gobion; which although taking me to re-join the A5, also took me south again.
Oh well, it wasn’t as if I had got lost, my route just took me a little longer than necessary! Besides, I’ve often thought to cut across via Stoke Bruerne, as their Canal Museum is signposted from both the A508 and from the A5 via the lane which runs past the entrance to the racecourse. I just didn’t do it on this occasion.
Meanwhile, as I was still journeying to the course, the first race took place. Towcester’s track is not the easiest to describe. When all fences are jumped, there are 10 per circuit. Heading down the hill away from the grandstand there are two obstacles, the first of which is an open-ditch; along the main section of the back straight there are two more fences, a third situated at the ‘dogleg’ turn, followed by a fourth; and another fence on the lower side of the course; on the uphill home straight there are two plain fences before the winning post, and another one after it.
One circuit of the hurdles course, consists of 6 flights; one heading away downhill from the stands, one in the main part of the back straight, one after the ‘dogleg’, a third on the lower side of the course, and two in the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the Robin Dickin trained Graylyn Amber, closely followed by stable-mate Roxane Bruere. Drink Up was in third, then Earl of Thomond and Atared. In rear, Showtime Annie pecked at the first flight. The keen Contentwithmyluck jumped awkwardly at the second, as did French Leave.
The field passed the winning post for the first time and headed off downhill into the country. The ground appears to briefly rise before the third flight is jumped; this obstacle was hit by Meridiem. They turned the bend into the back straight and headed for the next.
However, the race ended here for Guarino, who fell, Mid Wicket and Earl of Thomond were brought down and, severely hampered by the melee, Mossman Gorge unseated jockey Matt Griffiths.
Graylyn Amber continued to lead down the back straight, Meridiem soon moving into second place, the latter going on after 3 out. Meridiem jumped to its left at the penultimate flight and again a little left at the last. However, he stayed on well and won by 2¼ lengths from the game Graylyn Amber, then a gap to French Leave who completed in 3rd, with Drink Up in 4th.
All four horses involved in the fourth flight pile-up were okay; of the jockeys, Andrew Thornton, Jeremiah (Jerry) McGrath; and Matt Griffiths were fine. Joshua Moore was stretchered off; and he was taken to hospital in Northampton for precautionary checks.
I finally pulled into the dusty racecourse car park as the horses taking part in the first event, at 14:30, were galloping up the final straight to the winning post, and included at least a couple of loose horses. However, I knew that Choc’s first ride of the day aboard Araldur was at 15:30, so I was in time for my main event!
As there is no entry fee to Towcester racecourse on the majority of racing days, today was one of those free days. So, having parked up, changed into my boots and locked my car, I walked over to the entrance marquee to purchase a race-card for £2.50. For the record, my outfit today was blue denim jeans, dark purple sweater, neon blue fleece and grey raincoat ... and just one thermal vest, long-sleeved. And I was comfortable in this outfit throughout the day, which was warm and sunny for the time of year!
I then went to find a vantage point beside the Parade Ring in preparation for the second race of the day. Towcester’s fixtures are broadcast on ATR; today’s on-course presenter being Matt Chapman – he had actually been let out of the studio for the day! Matt had interviewed Andrew Thornton, mentioning that the jockey was having success this season riding front running steeplechasers. Andrew also mentioned that it might be Choc’s special day.
Nawow, owned by ATR’s Luke Harvey, was discovered to be lame on the morning of this race, so was a non-runner. It was, evidently, also Luke’s birthday today.
Once the horses had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails from which to watch the race. The start of this event was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Tooka, the four other runners clearing the first fence almost in line across the track.
Past the winning post with one circuit to go, Tooka led from Autumm Spirit (yes, correctly spelt), Good Old Days, Digital Media and Liberty Seeker, the latter jumping more slowly than his compatriots at the third. The runners headed out into the country and downhill into the dip; they then cleared two more fences, the first of which is an open ditch, before turning into the back straight. Autumm Spirit came to join Tooka at the sixth obstacle; these two horses exchanged pole position a couple of times before Tooka went on again after 3 out. Digital Media had made an error three from home.
Tooka remained in the lead and although driven and edging towards the rails on the flat, which resulted in his sole challenger Digital Media being switched to the outside, the former held on to win by 1¼ lengths at the line. Autumm Spirit finished 3rd, Good Old Days 4th, with Liberty Seeker well adrift in 5th.
I returned to the Parade Ring, in preparation for the next race, and possibly the most important one of the day; as it was Choc’s first ride of the fixture, aboard the Alan King trained Araldur.
I’ve seen Araldur before; having been at Sandown Park when he won the Henry III Novices’ Chase in 2008, but I’d forgotten just how huge he is! He is a flashy chestnut, Alan King having a liking for this particular colour trait. I totally agree; I have a preference for horses with socks or stockings and stripes or blazes. This is the version I know of the rhyme relating to white feet:
One white sock buy a horse
However, there are other versions of this rhyme which say the opposite!
Once Choc and Araldur had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a good vantage point beside the course-side rails. The start of this event was at the far end of the home straight. In this race, Matt Griffiths replaced the injured Josh Moore aboard Stapleton. Araldur was the 3-10 on favourite to win the race.
Then they were off. Choc sent his mount into the lead from the start. He was followed by Break The Chain, Rockoboy, Overlay, Stapleton, Lombardy Boy, the horse diving at the first flight, Patrick’s Secret and Mutanaker. Break The Chain was close up over the second, noticeably dwarfed by Araldur as, for that matter, were all the other runners!
The horses passed the winning post for the first time and set off into the country; one circuit to go. The runners galloped down into the dip, Araldur putting in a short stride before the third, so he wasn’t quite as fluent as he might have been. Around the bend and into the back straight, Araldur continued to bowl along at the head of affairs. His nearest pursuer, Break The Chain, made an error at the 4th. Rockoboy appeared to go lame and was pulled up; Patrick’s Secret had lost touch and made an error at the 5th; he was subsequently pulled up too.
As the field approached 3 out, Lombardy Boy was being ridden along in an attempt to close on the leaders. Araldur had a one length advantage at this point. As they began the final climb to the line, Choc continued to apply pressure to his rivals; turning into the home straight he was 4 lengths up. The partnership cleared the penultimate flight, lengthening their lead to 6 or 7 lengths between the last two flights.
With a good jump at the last, victory was sealed, Choc easing his mount as they approached the line. He gave Araldur a well deserved pat on the neck too.
Once it had become obvious that Choc would ride his 1000th winner, ie. Araldur had safely cleared the final hurdle with no challengers in sight, I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure in order to get a good view of the proceedings. As requested by Matt Chapman, everyone gave Choc a warm welcome as he arrived back. Both Choc’s wife Meally and baby son William were in attendance today and they came into the enclosure too.
Once Choc had unsaddled, the photographers took photos of him; then pictures of Choc and Araldur; followed by a group shot of Meally, William and Choc. Choc returned to the Weighing Room to weigh in, before returning, helmet-less, to the Winners’ Enclosure. Initially Choc went to speak with Alan’s group, laughing and joking with owner David Sewell and his companions. Matt Chapman then called Choc over for a chat, which was filmed and broadcast on ATR. Meally, who had been chatting with Alan King, joined them, carrying a very sleepy William.
During the interview, Choc mentioned that he’d like to continue riding until he is 40, and said he had now set his sights on being the third winning-most National Hunt jockey in history, behind AP McCoy and Richard Johnson; Choc is hoping for 100 winners per year. Choc said the highpoint of his 1000 winners was winning the 2007 Arkle Chase aboard My Way De Solzen. Choc spoke about David Nicholson instilling discipline in his stable-lads and jockeys, but was the first to admit that the Duke may not have always found this an easy task in Choc’s case.
At the end of the interview, Matt Chapman asked everyone to give three cheers for Choc; which we did. Champagne bottle in hand, it was then time for a final photo-call, Choc being held aloft by two England rugby players, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton.
Choc had also revealed that, the following day, he had booked an appointment to have his hair cut and someone, jokingly, handed him a pair of scissors. Celebrations complete, Choc returned to the Weighing Room.
Matt interviewed a number of jockeys throughout the afternoon, many of the well-known ones congratulating Choc on his accomplishment; including AP McCoy.
It was now time for the fourth race of the day, a handicap chase. Once the runners had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a good vantage point by the course-side rails. The start of this race was on the side of the course, with one plain fence to be jumped before heading into the back straight. This being the case, the jockeys directed their mounts to canter up past the winning post to reach the starting gate.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Crank Hill, Daryl Jacob replacing the injured Josh Moore aboard this horse. Woodmore, initially in second, slipped on landing over the first obstacle but survived. The grey, Terrible Tenant, soon took over the running. Silver Bay was at the rear of the field; Speed Bonnie Boat preceded him.
The field headed down the back straight, Andrew Thornton’s mount retaining the lead until they turned into the home straight for the first time, when Von Galen took over. The initial leader, Crank Hill, had lost his place and would lose touch as they headed out into the country again. Terrible Tenant soon began to struggle too.
Speed Bonnie Boat, running in snatches, started to close on the leaders; although she made an error at the 10th, the open ditch. Woodmore, having recovered from his bad early error, took over the lead from Von Galen at the 14th, but had relinquished it to Jolly Boys Outing by the next fence, which was 4 out; the latter soon going clear. AP McCoy’s mount, Filippo Lippi, chased the leader but could make no impression on him.
Jolly Boys Outing jumped out to the right over the last but ran on to win by 9 lengths from Filippo Lippi. Speed Bonnie Boat completed in 3rd, with Silver Bay in 4th. Von Galen finished 5th and Terrible Tenant 6th. Woodmore and Crank Hill were pulled up.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for the next race of the day, in which Choc would be riding the Alan King trained Lidar.
Once Choc had exited the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails. As the start of this event was over in the far corner of the track, the horses cantered up past the stands to reach it.
Then they were off. Once again, front running tactics had been decided upon, Choc taking the lead aboard Lidar; he was followed by Earcomesthedream, Premier Des Marais (AP McCoy deputising for Josh Moore), Whitewater Dash, Kilbeggan Blade, Connectivity and She’s On The Case; Prophete De Guye brought up the rear. By the second flight, Lidar held a 3 length advantage, although he did jump out to the left slightly.
Lidar retained the lead as the field turned into the home straight for the first time; although again he marginally jumped out to the left at the first of the flights therein. Kilbeggan Blade was a little awkward at the second of these, more so She’s On The Case. Turning the top bend and heading out into the country again, She’s On The Case was at the back of the field.
Lidar remained 3 lengths ahead of the field as they entered the back straight; a group of 6 ahead of Kilbeggan Blade and She’s On The Case. However, Choc’s mount soon came under pressure and Earcomesthedream took over. Lidar didn’t respond to Choc’s urgings and soon dropped tamely away.
Earcomesthedream led them in, Connectivity was in second, Prophete De Guye followed with She’s On The Case staying on. Connectivity took the lead at the second last and went on to win easily by 11 lengths. Prophete De Guye took 2nd from Earcomesthedream on the run-in. She’s On The Case finished in 4th, Kilbeggan Blade completed the finishing line-up; three having been pulled up, including Lidar before the second last.
Having pulled up Lidar, Choc returned to the Pre-Parade Ring to unsaddle. I’d not wished to intrude earlier, it being Choc, Meally and William’s moment, so when he walked back to the Weighing Room I went across to congratulate him on his 1000 winners, telling him well done, and giving him a peck on the cheek.
It was then time for the penultimate race of the day. Once the horses had left the Parade Ring I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails, in the first instance I sought out a position near the final fence, in order to take a photograph as the horses cleared the obstacle on their first circuit. The start of this race was on the ‘dogleg’ section of the track, with 2 fences to jump before turning into the home straight for the first time.
The favourite for this race was Lonesome Boatman, although he had never won a race outside point-to-pointing; but was lightly raced, and had run well at Towcester 11 days previously.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Ilongue, followed by Bohemian Rock, Mister Watzisname, Monsieur Georges and Lonesome Boatman. Carmond was in rear.
Travelling up the home straight for the first time, Bohemian Rock lost his position at the fourth fence and was soon pushed along by Andrew Thornton. Turning into the country, down into the dip, Ilongue still led; Lonesome Boatman not fluent at the 6th, the open-ditch.
Over the 7th, Ilongue failed to get his landing gear out on time and fell, he slightly hampered Monsieur Georges, Lonesome Boatman and Carmond; Mister Watzisname fared worse, having caught his hind-legs as he vaulted the prostrate horse. His jockey, Andrew Tinkler, glanced down to check his off-hind and, fearing he was lame, pulled him up shortly afterwards. Ilongue’s departure left Jolibob in the lead; followed by Monsieur Georges, Royial and Lonesome Boatman. Jolibob hit the 10th but continued in front; Monsieur Georges then took the lead after 3 out.
Lonesome Boatman took 2nd as Jolibob dropped out; and came to challenge Monsieur Georges as they approached the last. The former galloped on to win by 3 lengths, Monsieur Georges in 2nd; Bohemian Rock overtook Crystal Prince at the last to take 3rd. Carmond was 5th and Jolibob was last of those who completed.
It was jockey Josh Wall’s first winner under rules; he is the son of former jockey Trevor Wall.
I returned to the Parade Ring in preparation for Choc’s final ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained No Substitute in the Bumper; the horse having returned from a lengthy absence of 353 days.
Once Choc and his mount had set off down the walkway to the course, I set off to find a suitable vantage point beside the course-side rails. The start of this event was at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Bally Gunner, Ripoff, Preferred Lies, So Fine, Trojan Sun, Tony Dinozzo, and Make A Track; No Substitute travelled against the inside rail and was pulling hard.
Heading down the back straight, Cavite Eta ran ‘green’ and lost touch with the field. Bally Gunner retained the lead until 6 furlongs out, when Ripoff took over. Tony Dinozzo was the next to head the field, 4 furlongs from home.
The final challenger was the favourite, Make A Track, who took the lead over a furlong from home and ran on to win by 3½ lengths. Tony Dinozzo stayed on to finished 2nd, and Willow’s Saviour was 3rd.
Having made headway since before 3 furlongs out, No Substitute had tracked the leaders, was soon ridden, but kept on to finish 4th of the 13 runners. Cavete Eta had stayed on too, completing in 7th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back. Charlie Longsdon (who Matt Chapman jokingly calls Prince William due to his likeness to the Royal Family member) was in the enclosure, his charge having finished 3rd. Charlie Longsdon called across to Alan King to introduce his mum to the trainer.
As No Substitute wasn’t the last competitor to arrive back, Alan King beckoned for the horse to be led into the main Parade Ring area to be unsaddled. Choc having returned to the Weighing Room, it was now time for me to leave.
I returned to the car park, the leaving vehicles producing clouds of dust as they drove out. I’m getting very accustomed to my car becoming dusty, having suffered the same fate at Cheltenham on both the Wednesday and the Friday of the Festival!
I exited the car park at 17:50; waiting in a queue of traffic until 18:03 to join the A5. The journey went smoothly until I arrived at the southern end of the dual carriageway which bypasses Milton Keynes; the tailback from the roundabout being quite considerable. Having cleared this, traffic again was free flowing until I arrived in Dunstable, where I encountered traffic light hell! And I just can’t believe there’s so much traffic on the road at 18:40 in the evening!
Anyway, I had no further traffic related problems on the way home; arriving at 19:10. There was just time to eat an evening meal, before uploading my photographs onto my laptop (but not onto the internet); writing my blog and an overview of Choc’s Racing Post column before turning in.
It was later reported that Josh Moore was okay, just a little battered and bruised following his mishap in the first race of the day.