Martin Keighley’s Open Day
25 September 2011
Consult takes part in the Horse Parade
DIARY OF THE DAY
In mid-August it was with pleasure that I received an invitation to attend trainer Martin Keighley’s Owners’ Open Day; the event taking place on Sunday 25 September. Due to changes in the National Hunt racing calendar this season, there was no jump racing scheduled for this day.
The day finally arrived and it dawned bright and sunny in my home county of Hertfordshire. I set my alarm for 07:00, showered and washed my hair and selected suitable clothing for a day in the Cotswolds countryside. I had invited my friend Lesley as my guest, so at 08:50 I set off to pick her up from her home village of Eaton Bray near Dunstable in Bedfordshire.
Lesley has been a good friend since 1997, since we met as work colleagues; she occupied the desk opposite me. I still work for the same company ... although Lesley moved on to pastures new a few years ago.
I arrived in Eaton Bray at 09:20; we set off for the Cotwolds via Wing, Aylesbury and Bicester. We then took the B4030 across country through Middleton Stoney, Lower Heyford, Middle Barton and Gagingwell to Enstone, where we joined the A44 through Chipping Norton. We did get stuck behind a tractor for a short distance, but the driver pulled over the let the queued vehicles pass. Of course I have to remember that farming is a 7 day job and I was in a very rural area.
We then turned off to the left and took the road past Adlestrop to Stow-On-The-Wold. Coincidently, we got stuck behind another tractor as we approached the town. At the traffic lights at the top of the town, I turned right and took the A424 before turning off down the lane to reach Luckley.
Upon arrival we were directed to park in the field opposite, after which we crossed the lane and entered the yard. We were presented with an Open Day programme by one of the helpers and we set off to take a look at the horses within the main barn. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Consult, a 4-year-old chestnut gelding who had performed very gamely over hurdles during the summer. I wasn’t disappointed, as he proved to be very friendly; Marc Aurele was also very friendly.
Having seen most of the horses in the barn, a few being omitted because they were already the centre of attention for other attendees, we went to look at the horses housed in the row of loose boxes outside. These included Monty’s Revenge, Snake Charmer and Tri Nations.
We then did a second tour of the barn, saying hello to those horses we’d missed on the first circuit. We also returned to see Consult; he decided to have a roll in the hay but got a little too near to the wall and hit his leg against it, which seemed to surprise him! It was then time for a cup of coffee before the Parade of Horses.
ATR’s Luke Harvey was on hand today, to weld the microphone and ask Martin about each of his charges as they were paraded. Although the sound system was a little temperamental so, on occasion, we only heard intermittent words from Luke. But, fortunately, we heard everything Martin said.
The skies had become cloudier as we headed westwards; now it began to drizzle heavily. Luckily Lesley had brought her umbrella so we were able to shelter under it. Many of the owners and friends were able to shelter in the marquee adjacent to the parade area.
A number of the younger horses were wary of the marquee tent; two of them, including Manor Court, pulling away from the handlers and running loose. Fortunately they were soon caught. I took photos of the majority of horses, although I missed Snake Charmer as I was rummaging in my handbag for a pen and notebook so that I could record the names of each horse as I photographed them.
After the parade, four horses were ridden around the all-weather track. They were Havingotascoobydo ridden by Sam Drinkwater, Typhon De Guye with Harry Skelton aboard, Always Bold and Tom Bellamy and Caught By Witness and Danny Hiskett. As the weather had now cleared, everyone headed for the gallop across the road to watch these four proceed up the hill.
It was then time return to the marquee for lunch. Martin’s sponsors 7 Day Catering had laid on a lovely spread; I had chicken and salad; plus two desserts – chocolate cheesecake and apple crumble with cream. I’m very much a ‘pudding person’.
We took our leave at 15:00 but, as it was early, we decided to drive to Choc’s favourite hostelry, the Plough Inn at Ford. When we entered the bar, we found Luke Harvey and his other half Emily Jones had found their way there.
The afternoon was now sunny and pleasant for late September, so we sat outside in the smokers’ ‘gazebo’. Both Lesley and I are non-smokers but, as the shelter was empty, this was not a problem. Whilst we sat there, Martin’s now retired stable jockey, Warren Marston, walked by.
Having finished our drinks we set off home. Our journey took us back via the same route as we’d travelled out. Lesley had invited me to have dinner with her family, so I stopped off in Eaton Bray before returning home to Hertfordshire. I arrived back at 20:15.
I spent the remainder of the evening uploading my photographs in preparation for updating my website. I also logged onto Twitter to see if there was anything interesting to read ... Paddy Brennan had tweeted that he, Sean Quinlan, Noel Fehily and Choc had spent the day at the yard of trainer Fergal O’Brien, it being his Owners’ Open Day. Fergal, who was formerly Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Head Lad, had left the Naunton yard in April to set up his own establishment at the Cilldara Stud at Coln St Dennis near Northleach. Timmy Murphy is Fergal’s landlord; Choc has been riding out at the yard.