DIARY – VISIT TO CHURN STABLES IN BLEWBURY
TO SEE EPDS RACING’S HOMEBRED FILLY “CHAMPAS”
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER 2018
EPDS on twitter:
EPDS on facebook:
Noel Williams Racing:
Noel Williams on twitter:
This was my third stable yard visit during the autumn of 2018; the others being to Robin Dickin’s and Graeme McPherson’s yards. The arranged time for arrival at Noel’s yard was 09:15, so I set my alarm for pre-06:00, with the aim of leaving home at 7:30.
Noel had just one of EPDS Racing’s horses in his care at the present time – a homebred, unnamed filly, out of Shilpa – her first foal. Her pet name is “Champas” and, at the time of my visit, she was still waiting to be named and registered officially. I have a vague recollection that she suffered from a brief spell of hives when a foal and champagne was applied to stop the itching, hence the pet name ... or am I just imagining the story? She’d been broken-in and ridden away at Mark Grant’s, before arriving at Churn Stables to begin her racing career.
Former yard inmates, EPDS Racing’s Kincora Fort had been retired, due to fragile legs. Also their youngster Cecilator had been retired, having sustained a hole in one of her tendons; she’d failed to impress during her career, so another ‘life’ awaited her – maybe showing, as she’s very pretty too.
The previous evening I’d attended the show ‘Rip It Up the 60s’ at the local Arena; this year’s version starred Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold and Louis Smith. Jay McGuiness was in the audience – Lesley and I saw him in the foyer ... and I also saw him in Wetherspoons beforehand! Originally, I’d thought my initial sighting was a doppelganger, but evidently not!!! Jay had performed in ‘Rip It Up the 50s’ with Louis Smith and former Strictly professional dancer Natalie Lowe too. Jay is a previous Strictly Champion, as is Louis Smith and Harry Judd.
And I was reliably informed by my friend Lesley that Aston’s fellow JLS band member Marvin Humes was in the audience, along with his wife Rochelle Wiseman from the Saturdays. In fact they were sat just across the aisle from us, and one row forward!!!
‘Rip It Up the 70s’ was mentioned during the show, so I’ll have to look out for tickets, which I would imagine will go on sale next March for performances next autumn.
Friday was a good day ... it started off with me winning a ‘Best Dressed Lady in pink’ prize, at work, to mark ‘Wear it Pink’ day in aid of various Breast Cancer charities. The pink jeggings, pink sweater, pink fleece, pink scarf and Percy Pig socks did the trick – in fact I ‘out-pinked’ everyone!
Anyway, back to the task in hand. I showered, washed and styled my hair before eating one croissant for breakfast. I’d drunk a full cup of tea, prior to taking my shower; I’d forgotten that I usually drink just half a cup prior to going out on a long trip!
My outfit today was a pair of dark blue M & S jeggings (my current favourites), a cream and navy fleece-lined M & S thermal T-shirt, a purple-coloured fleece and navy blue fleece gilet. I wore my blue and silver butterfly wing earrings, and my burgundy/brown ‘stable visit’ jacket. I took my blue/navy/gold/white graphic print Defea-style Kipling handbag too.
I almost forgot a scarf, not realising it was cold, only 5 degrees, until I went outside. I chose a snood, knitted using Stylecraft ‘Candy Swirl’ in ‘Very Berry’ shade. It’s nice, but is knitted in semi-fisherman’s rib ... it’s a nightmare if you accidently drop a stitch, which I remember doing, and having to start all over again! One of the things I love about crochet is the fact it’s so easy to undo stitches, because you are only working with one at a time!
I took my snow-boots, which I wore, with my brown Footglove ankle boots as a back-up. I drove wearing my grey Hotter Aura shoes.
Having applied my make-up – foundation, eyebrow pencil and mascara – I was ready to depart at the hoped-for time of 07:30. Having set off, I took a brief detour via the local petrol station to fill up my car’s petrol tank. I then headed for the London Colney roundabout, before travelling down their bypass in order to join the M25 at junction 22.
There were no issues on the London orbital motorway and I continued in an anti-clockwise direction before transferring onto the westbound carriageway of the M4. There was currently a 50mph limit section after the A404(M) junction, but traffic was clear all the way to my departure point, junction 12 Reading west. I continued down a brief section of the A4 before turning right to head along the A340 to Pangbourne. I was held up by a cyclist, briefly, on the approach to the town. Having passed beneath the railway arch in the centre thereof, the road bears left to continue along beside the River Thames.
The traffic lights adjacent to Beale Wildlife Park, which control the flow of vehicles across the single track bridge over the railway, changed to green as I slowed down on the approach. Having reached the far side thereof, I noticed that there was a newly constructed wall to the left, surrounding Basildon Park. I continued through the 30mph limit at Lower Basildon village and onwards to Streatley.
I continued ahead at the cross-roads, where I’d waited briefly at a red light, before bearing left to continue past a golf course adjacent to the A417 and out onto the Oxfordshire downs. Annoyingly, at this point, I encountered two cyclists on their racing bikes ... it took quite some time before I was able to get a clear view of the road ahead in order to overtake them, due to the meanderings of the route and also the undulations.
Having reached Blewbury, I slowed down upon entry; the speed limit being 30mph. Boham’s Road is located at the far end of the village, opposite a garden centre; I turned left and headed up the hill towards the yard. Further along my route I encountered dog-walkers, thanking them for moving off the roadway as I drove by. The lane bears left further along, with the driveway leading to the yard situated on the left shortly afterwards. The roadway, close to this entrance, was now potholed.
Having followed the one-way system, I parked up alongside a number of vehicles upon the grass beyond the barn; it was 09:05. Everyone left their vehicles at 09:15, including EPDS’ John Powell, and we headed into the barn aisle which housed the majority of Noel’s horses.
Five horses were being prepared for second lot – Champas, Pure Country, Percy Prosecco, the giant Drunken Pirate and Drift. Our group loitered, waiting as the horses were led out and mounted before they headed to the indoor school to warm up. Katie was riding Champas; Noel said she really liked the filly and got on well with her. Shilpa’s daughter has a few quirks, being only a youngster; the trainer is happy that the filly is building up a rapport with someone who rides out for him. He said some horses can be ridden by anyone and will perform well regardless, whereas some suit certain riders better than others. Noel mentioned that the filly has a habit of ‘painting’ the walls of her stable with poo! The yard’s nickname for her is ‘Pumbaa’!
We headed over to the indoor school to see the five horses warming up, before returning via the barn and continuing through to the parking area to collect vehicles in order to drive up the hill to the top of the gallops. Four 4-wheel drive vehicles were required to carry the group; I rode in the front seat of Noel’s 4x4. He apologised for the state of the interior ... I really don’t mind ... I’d rather sit in a ‘horsey’ vehicle than on any form of public transport!!! Noel’s wife Clare accompanied us; she brought a camera in order to take pictures of the string.
On the journey up the hill, Noel pointed out tyre tracks across the neighbouring ploughed field – evidently they have a problem with hare coursing in the area; it’s illegal in this country. Once we’d arrived at the top of the hill, everyone parked their vehicles and alighted, waiting for the horses to appear. It was a bright sunny morning, and fairly still; this would have accounted for the slightly misty conditions across the distant downs.
Pure Country led the string, followed by Percy Prosecco, Drunken Pirate, Drift and, finally, Champas. Having reached the top, the horses headed back down upon the grass adjacent to the vehicle track-way to reach the beginning once more, before doing it all over again. Having arrived at the top for a second time, Noel requested the riders to circle close to the vehicles so that we could take a closer look at them, and especially Champas. She’s gradually becoming fitter, only running a little bit out of puff towards the top of the second gallop.
The horses began their walk back to the yard, whilst we got back into the vehicles and followed them down the hill before overtaking the string further along the track. Having reached the yard, we alighted and headed into the barn for refreshments. Our hosts provided croissants and pain au chocolat; I ate two of the latter, passing on the tea or coffee as I didn’t want to be caught short on the way home. Meanwhile, Noel hurried off to book a jockey for Pure Country which had, to his surprise, made the cut to run in a Novice Stakes at Kempton Park the following Monday; it was John who had pointed this out to Noel whilst we were still on the gallops!
Noel booked Rossa Ryan, who’d ridden Authorized Too for him at Haydock Park the previous day; Pure Country subsequently finished 3rd of 13 at Kempton, at a price of 66-1!
I spent time chatting to Philippa; she’d also attended the recent visits to the Robin Dickin and Graeme McPherson yards. Many of Noel’s boxes were now empty, their occupants having been put on the walker to warm down following their visit to the gallops. Third lot also went out to the gallops.
Noel currently had three ‘store’ horses for sale – including an American bred one by Gio Ponti named Gino Wotimean. He had intended to run the horse recently, but wasn’t permitted to do so because the horse had no import licence. Noel was surprised to learn this, as the horse came via Ireland ... and the previous owner didn’t have an import licence for there either! Anyway, this is now sorted so, presumably, he will run soon ... or was he the one which Noel said had ended up in a ditch recently, sustaining a longish cut to a hind-leg?
Briery Express, niece of Briery Queen, is an inmate of the yard; she bites, so the grill in her stable door was locked! She ran in a Mares’ bumper at Aintree, on Sunday 28 October ... and won!
Anyway, Noel said he would be visiting a Horses in Training sale within the next few weeks; he had one definite order and one ‘let me know if you see something nice’ order! I’m sure John would love to have more horses with Noel, but it’s difficult to sell syndicate shares or racing club memberships when there are so many other racing clubs around for people to choose from. It’s just unfortunate that Menace, Daliance, Kincora Fort and Cecilator have all succumbed to injuries which curtained their careers. It’s not until you become closely involved as a syndicate member that you realise just how many injuries NH horses sustain during the course of their careers.
Fortunately Mrs Prowting’s Drunken Pirate had been returned to his box prior to my leaving. Myself, and two others, made a fuss of him before returning to our vehicles. Everyone loves “Big Sam”; in fact both Philippa and I had mentioned that we were looking forward to seeing the gentle giant again, when we chatted during our visit to Graeme McPherson’s yard the previous week!
I left Churn Stables at 11:40 and headed back from whence I came; same route. There were a couple of ladies hacking their horses down the driveway leading out from Churn Stables; once out on the lane, they hopped onto the verge and I drove slowly by, thanking them as I did so. Further along the lane I encountered a walker, then a 4x4 heading in the opposite direction; the latter turned into the driveway of nearby houses just before I reached the point where I’d have needed to squeeze through on this narrow thoroughfare.
Having returned to Blewbury itself, I turned right at the t-junction opposite the garden centre and headed back through the village at the prescribed 30mph. I continued out across the downs, where the road undulates and winds through the countryside; there were no ‘obstacles’, unlike during my inbound journey along this stretch!
Having reached the Wallingford Road, I turned right at the T-junction. I continued through the village of Streatley, and onwards to Pangbourne. The traffic lights en route, at the narrow railway line crossing, changed almost immediately to green; there were three cars travelling ahead of me. The A329 travels alongside the River Thames, before bearing right to head under a railway arch. Just beyond the aforementioned, there is a speed limit of 20mph; I drove over the pedestrian crossing before taking a right at the mini-roundabout just beyond.
Having negotiated the narrow ‘chicane’ which denotes the corner of a old white brick and timbered cottage, I continued along the A340 Tidmarsh Road. The speed limit soon increases to 30mph, then 40mph, before decreasing to 30mph once more when driving through the village of Tidmarsh. Beyond said village it increases to 50mph, and the road heads through a couple of bends before travelling over the M4 and continuing in a straight line to join the A4.
I subsequently took the dual carriageway which leads up to the motorway, before turning right and heading down the slip-road to join the eastbound carriageway. Despite it now being gone midday, traffic was flowing freely upon the M4. However, being October with the sun low in the sky, I found it very annoying and difficult to drive with the strong rays streaming in through the driver’s window of my car. I wish I had brought my sunglasses; I did have my anti-glare night-driving pair in the glove compartment, but I only use those after dark ... not least because they aren’t actually ‘cool’ ... besides it was too late to retrieve them once I was already on the motorway. The temperature recorded in my car was 17 degrees at lunch-time today.
I was feeling quite tired too and lost my concentration on two or three occasions too ... oops, dangerous! Following the Langley junction, the motorway becomes four lanes, so I moved into the nearside lane in preparation for transferring onto the M25. There was a long queue, prior to the junction, so this delayed me for a few minutes. The driver of a coach, which had been speeding along towards London, jumped the queue by making a last minute manoeuvre to enter the slip-road at the point it diverged ... why can’t everyone wait their turn?
I continued along the slip-road and onto the clockwise carriageway of the M25. Initially the traffic was slow moving, but it soon cleared and I was able to transfer into the second lane in good time so as to travel past the M40 junction where the inside lane leads down the slip-road thereof.
There were no subsequent delays on the London orbital motorway and I continued to retrace my journey, leaving at junction 22 in order to continue up the London Colney bypass and back into St Albans and home. I arrived back at 13:15, my return journey having taken 1 hour and 35 minutes. This autumn, it appeared that I wasn’t in the mood for taking the scenic routes home following my yard visit outings! Mind you, I wish I’d taken my cushion to sit on today, as my pelvis was slightly achy by the time I’d reached home. L
Once home I’d switched on the TV; I’d missed the first race from Ascot on Champions Day – which was Stradivarius winning the long-distance race - but I did see the other races, along with coverage from Stratford and Market Rasen on RUK.