Good Friday 14 April





Picture of the Day




Pride of Pemberley



This year I decided to throw caution to the wind and attend the Lambourn Open Day for the first time since 2011.  I have a bad habit of allowing my website workload to rule my life; this can result in me missing out on horseracing-related trips solely because I worry about the time it will take me to write a diary describing my day out. 


But on the plus side, the more I venture out, the less apprehensive I become about my journeys.  Also, having visited Jamie Snowden’s yard on three occasions since August 2016, I’m now very familiar with Lambourn and its surroundings.


This year the event was named in honour of Many Clouds; the former Grand National winner having passed away as a result of a heart attack on Cheltenham Trials Day in January, having beaten the seemingly invincible Thistlecrack that afternoon. 


I set my alarm for 05:00, with the hope of setting off before 07:00; yard opening times being advertised as 08:30, closing time 13:00, with entertainment during the afternoon.  I awoke, showered, washed and dried my hair, applied my makeup and ate a breakfast of two toasted hot cross buns; it was Good Friday after all.


My outfit today was two thermal t-shirts – dark blue and pink, plus a v-neck sweater in a shade of pink described as orchid.  Also dark blue jeggings, neon blue fleece, burgundy and brown jacket; black and white graphic print Kipling handbag.  Dark blue and mid blue leaf pendant necklace and earrings which I’d made for Aintree; it disguised the strange tan I’d developed on my décolletage as a result of my visit to Aintree on Grand National day.  I’d worn my turquoise version of the identical necklace on that occasion. 


I also wore my black and white ‘horse design’ M & S snood.  I took with me an assortment of additional gear – a spare pair of jeggings (burgundy), a spare coat (purple/blue raincoat), a spare snood and my BHS faux fur trimmed waterproof hat. 


I took my M & S snow-boots, my brown M & S Footglove ankle boots and the moccasins I usually wear to drive.  Provided it didn’t rain, I intended to wear the ankle boots, as they were to most comfortable when walking distances over uncertain terrain.


I set off upon my drive before 07:00, my route taking me around the local ring-road.  The traffic lights at the junction with London Road were not functioning, so I had to ease my way out with the hope that nothing was heading in my direction along the aforementioned thoroughfare; fortunately being early on Good Friday morning, the road was almost deserted.


I then headed down to the London Colney roundabout and onwards to Junction 22 of the M25.  I continued around the orbital motorway in an anticlockwise direction to reach the M4, after which I joined the westbound carriageway.  I’d only consumed half a cup of tea earlier but, regardless of this, I decided to pop into the Reading Services situated just west of Junction 11 in order to spend a penny.  I don’t wish to sound like a snob, but the facilities were a bit rough, as were many of the people frequenting them!


It was around 08:10 when I re-joined the motorway to continue my journey to Junction 14, the Lambourn turning; there was a section of carriageway between 12 and 13 where road-works were being carried out and a 50 mph speed limit was in place.  Having left the motorway, I headed along the road to Wantage, the A338.  Knowing from previous visits that Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard is located a couple of miles north of Lambourn, I continued along this road instead of turning left and heading through Lambourn Woodlands; the normal route I would use.


Having reached the village of Great Shefford, I headed off to the left and continued along the lane which led through East Garston and Eastbury; Pat Murphy and Jo Davis’ yards are situated along here.  I encountered a slow moving tractor and accompanying vehicle along the lane ahead and this delayed me and those following in our wake.  It was difficult for vehicles heading in the opposite direction to pass by too.  At one point we even passed a horse and rider heading in the opposite direction. 


On the outskirts of Lambourn I took a right-hand turning, Mill Lane; this cut through to the B4001 which heads northwards out of the village. Fortunately the tractor continued straight ahead.  When I reached the T-junction at the far end of Mill Lane hoping to turn right, I had to wait for a steady stream of vehicles to pass … evidently everyone was heading to Nicky’s yard! 


Around a mile outside the village, having passed William Muir’s yard, a lane bore off to the left; I took this route and now headed past the yard of Charlie Hills.  Having reached Seven Barrows, there was a queue of traffic waiting to enter the field in order to park; some vehicles were also heading in from the opposite direction.  I purchased my entry badge and a programme – total cost £20, the proceeds of the day were going to the Lambourn Valley Housing Trust and other Lambourn charities.


By now it was 08:50 and numerous vehicles were parked within the sloping field above the yard.  Having put on my jacket and stuck my entry badge to it, I headed across the grass to the entry point.  A food wagon was doing a roaring trade just outside the yard; presumably for those who had not had time to eat breakfast before departing from home.


There was a horse occupying the nearby water-treadmill.  The first named horse I encountered was L’Ami Serge, there were one or two more before the first of two small barns; there was a queue to enter the first one and not much room inside.  I also ventured into the second barn.  After that I headed around to a row of boxes close to the covered schooling area; further along, there were more boxes to the right-hand side.  At the far end was a large barn with two aisles and loose boxes along both sides thereof.  


Having completed my tour of these, I then perused the horses in the L-shaped yard close by.  Different Gravey was housed in a single box overlooking the nearby lawn; his box backed onto the main yard.  I headed along a narrow pathway and entered the aforementioned yard via a roofed and gated entrance.  Once inside, I turned right; Vaniteux occupied the first box.  He likes to lick the salt off people’s hands! 


Next to him was Altior, his neighbour Cocktails At Dawn; a first fence faller in the previous Saturday’s Grand National.  The grey Vyta Du Roc was next, with Top Notch in the corner box.  Fixe Le Cap, Christmas In April, Premier Bond, My Tent Or Yours, Beyond Conceit and Beware The Bear, O O Seven, Volnay De Thaix, Buveur D’Air, and Full Shift occupied the next side of the block.


Beat That and Sprinter Sacre occupied the two standalone boxes at one corner.  Near the house were two further standalone boxes; Ericht and Whats The Scoop lived here; the latter seemed fond of gurning!  On the next side of the yard are a number of enclosed loose boxes with a corridor running alongside them; Gaitway, Top Ville Ben, the grumpy Lessons In Milan, Cultivator, Pougne Bobbi (a strapping 6-year-old), Courtesy Call, Malachite, and Kayf Grace were currently housed here. 


Divine Spear occupied the next box, outside directly overlooking the lawn.  Peace And Co was next door, with Hargam next to him; the grey has a friendly outlook.  Whisper was living in the box to the far side of the yard’s main entrance, with Josses Hill in the corner.  Jenkins occupied the next stable, then Might Bite and, further along, Claimantakenforgan.


The yard explored, I set off back to the car park.  There was a horse in the large loose box to my right – Theatre Territory.  One of the grey-coloured yard occupants was now in the water treadmill; one of the lesser known ones, so I cannot recall which one!


I notice that the programme still states the name of Hadrian’s Approach which lost its life at the Cheltenham Festival.  Nicky’s other Festival fatality, Consul De Thaix has been removed.  I left the yard at 10:30.


The Neolithic burial site comprising of seven barrows, is located to the left-hand side of the road, almost opposite the yard, as you head back to Lambourn; just before the lane bends to the right.       


Had there been the time available to visit more of a selection of yards, rather than just 4½ hours, I would have visited Harry Whittington’s establishment which is two miles up the road, along the B4001.  Also, Clive Cox’s yard, along Sheepdrove Road; he trains one of Apple Tree Stud’s fillies, Tazmania!  John Francome owns his yard, and is a neighbour.


However, as my time was limited, I drove straight back to the village, along the High Street and turned right into Crowle Road.  The field to the left-hand side was designated car park no. 1, so I turned in here to park.  It’s the field I got stuck in at the end of the 2010 Lambourn Open Day.  The issue can occur because there is a raised platform around the perimeter of the field where an all-weather track runs or used to run.  This means there is then a short slope down into the field which, during wet weather, can be difficult for vehicles other than 4x4s to get a purchase on.


Having parked up, I set off on foot at pace in the direction of Upper Lambourn; my mission - to visit as many yards as possible before 13:00.  The first yard I encountered was Jamie Snowden’s at Folly House … no surprise there then!  I arrived at 11:05 and began my tour around the boxes, starting with Adrrastos.  EPDS Racing’s Our Reward was occupying a box two doors down the row from him.  Crowne Theatre was in semi-quarantine at this time; he was recovering from a breathing operation. 


Having checked out the horses in the range of boxes closest to the house, including Dans Le Vent and the children’s ponies Bindy and Sherbet, I encountered Jamie on my way back into the main yard.  He greeted me with a kiss on each cheek. J  I like Jamie; he’s such a nice bloke.  We had a brief chat before being interrupted by another yard visitor; I said goodbye and moved on.


I continued my tour, heading through the archway and into the rear yard; Pride of Pemberley (Pop) occupied the first box on the left-hand side as I entered the small barn.  My photos suggest I initially spent 20 minutes with the EPDS horse, bonding!  You know the usual thing, gentle blowing into his nostrils, and scratching his neck, etc.  He seemed content to gently rest his nose on the back of my hand as I placed it at the bottom of the anti-weave grill.      


Every now and then Pop seemed to be listening to what I interpreted to be plastic sheeting rustling in the wind.  Ardkilly Witness, who was living in the box next to Pop, was being a noisy neighbour, kicking out at the partition wall.  Jamie had earlier likened the Open Day visitors to a team of footballers arriving in your kitchen; some of the horses get a rather excited by the unusual circumstances. 


I checked out the other horses in the barn before returning to Pop once more.  I finally left at 12:05, with just 55 minutes remaining to visit other yards.  I decided to continue a short distance along the main road, before turning right and heading down Drain Hill; the bridleway which runs parallel to the road, between that and the cricket-field car park, exits here.  Presumably when heading to the Mandown Gallops, the racehorses turn right upon reaching the Hill then, a short distance along, take a left to continue along the roadway past Malt Shovel Lane and Oliver Sherwood’s yard, subsequently re-joining the driving route taken by the trainer and any connections at the junction beside Jamie Osborne’s yard.  Evidently Jamie Osborne has two yards, the other being along Drain Hill, beyond Uplands.


Despite a number of previous visits to the Lambourn Open Day, I’ve never been to Uplands; it’s the former home of the legendary jockey and trainer Fred Winter.  And, being of a certain age, I well remember him training and even riding when I was younger.  I can see why it is named Uplands, as much of the terrain is situated on a slope!  It’s amazing the number of boxes which have been fitted in despite this. 


The stables formerly occupied by Fred’s famous racehorses still sport metal plackets recording their exploits – those detailed included Pendil, Bula, Jay Trump, Anglo, Crisp, Midnight Court, Lanzarote and Celtic Shot.       


Current inmates include the McNeill’s Chef D’Oeuvre, Keeper Hill and Portrush Ted, the Waley-Cohen’s Black Thunder (in partnership with others), one was called Well Smitten – the 5-year-old gelding was very sweet, so I can understand the reasoning behind the name.  One mare was named Ilovemints so, presumably, she does!  Also Out Sam; the box next door belonged to Cole Harden, but there was no sign of him today. Perhaps the 2015 World Hurdle winner becomes too excited in the face of so much activity in the yard or maybe he’d already headed off for his summer holiday. 


I also met La Bague Au Roi (The Ring for the King); I’ve seen her at the races a number of times and she’s a big girl up close!  Also Paint The Clouds and Shantou Bob. 


I think Warren must have the most horses with ‘biting’ issues that I’ve ever encountered.  There were numerous warning signs; most yards have just one or two serious nibblers!


It was 12:50 by the time I’d left Uplands; did I have time to fit in one further yard visit?  Maybe just a quick one.  Sadly Oliver Sherwood’s yard was too far away, but I had a choice of Seamus Durack or Sam Thomas; no surprise that, as a National Hunt kind of girl, I chose the latter.


Sam moved to Lambourn in October 2016, and is based at the Saxon House Stables; the yard is the same one where Fulke Walwyn trained, with Mill House and Mandarin being former occupants!  Being pretty ancient I remember Mill House well, and even have vague recollections of Mandarin!  Sam’s got 31 boxes available for use with 15 horses in training on this day … he might be one for EPDS Racing to consider in future, along with Harry Whittington!


Sam was on hand to speak with visitors and was busy being the subject of selfies too!  I slightly overran visiting time, departing at 13:05.    


Flicking through the programme booklet, I later noticed that a number of the yards opened later than 08:30.  Nicky was an early starter – he’s always the most popular destination for visitors, so needs every minute of the four and a half hours!  I’ve warmed to Nicky in recent times; he is eccentric, referring to his charges in terms of being people.  But who am I to argue, as I always want to refer to horses as a ‘who’ or ‘he/she’, not ‘which’ or ‘it’ if possible!


Warren Greatrex’s yard also opened at 08:30, as did Oliver Sherwood’s.  Both Jamie and Sam’s opening time was 10:00.  I’ll have to look out for that detail in the programme the next time I attend the Open Day, just in case it affects my intended route around the yards.


The afternoon events had already commenced by the time I reached the nearby arena; it’s situated in the field next door to Folly House and the Valley Equine Hospital.  The first was the Vine and Craven foxhounds parading; children were invited in to meet the dogs, accompanied by their parents.  There were probably a few childless adults too … not my scene though, as I don’t generally ‘do’ dogs!  I’ve not been keen since being chased by a Border Collie whilst riding my bike during my paper-round!  The canine bit me on the leg too; fortunately I was wearing Wellington boots that day.


The next event was the Ridgeside falconry and lurcher display; or, if I listened correctly, one of the dogs may have been a ‘longdog’.  In this case a cross between a greyhound and whippet.  Research tells me that a longdog can also be a Deerhound/greyhound cross or a Saluki/greyhound cross. 


The longdog chased the lure, as did a Jack Russell type; they had a problem re-catching the latter as it was so keen!  It was no surprise that dog-owning spectators were then invited into the ring so their pets could participate too.


Following this was a dressage demonstration by disabled rider Ed Chanin.  Having represented the Silverton Pony Club as a youngster and competed at national level in affiliated show-jumping, Ed then rode in point-to-points whilst working in Philip Hobbs’ yard.  He’s also won a National Hunt amateur riders’ hurdle race.


However in 2001, aged 18, he suffered a near fatal fall in a jump schooling accident.  He had sustained a serious head injury, crushed vertebrae, was unconscious and needed to be resuscitated twice.  As a result, he was placed on life support for several weeks; in addition, he was completely paralysed on his right side. 


However, during two and a half years of constant therapies, he learnt to walk and talk again.  Also, despite being in a wheelchair, he also learnt to ride again.  He’s progressed to compete at National and International level in his chosen field, although he did miss out on the 2012 Paralympics due to his then horse being retired because of ill-health. 


Today Ed was riding a Hanovarian named My Rubicon.  He carried out the current dressage test, with instructions being announced over the loudspeaker system by his mother.  After this, he did his own demonstration to music – much of which was from the musical Oklahoma, also The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, plus Land of Hope and Glory!


Following this, the majority of attendees headed across to the nearby gallop where a schooling session took place.  I had to walk quite a way up the slope of the field, beyond the final of three hurdles, in order to get a better view.  Each pair of riders did the ‘run’ twice.


The first of three pairs taking part were lady jockey Page Fuller, riding Jamie Snowden’s Grand Gold, along with Gavin Sheehan on Ballyculla. Evidently Page Fuller is a member of the Fuller’s Brewery family. 


The commentators, Merrick Francis (son of Dick and brother of author Felix) and Richard Pitman didn’t actually tell anyone who the horses were; they thought that unfair.  However, many photographs were posted on social media, with the names of the horses stated thereon!  Grand Gold wasn’t too keen, so Jamie Snowden had to lead him in!


The second pair was Nico de Boinville and Leighton Aspell; they were riding Towering I believe, and definitely Milgen Bay.  Finally it was the turn of Sir AP McCoy and John Francome, riding Lough Derg Farmer and Brave Eagle respectively; initially neither of their mounts seemed keen to head up the all-weather strip.  However you can easily forgive the equines, as they wouldn’t be particularly accustomed to the crowds being quite so close to what was essentially a ‘start’, on all but the rarest occasion at the races.  Besides, on the majority of those race-days, their herd would be substantial in number rather than just a pair. 


It was then time for the parade of equine heroes, past and present – Sprinter Sacre, Buveur D’Air, Might Bite (who doesn’t – it’s a fishing term, and is related to his dam’s name ... Knotted Midge … I love names where the connections have thought outside the box so to speak, and have come up with a clever name), also Long Run and Bobs Worth.  Altior didn’t take part; I think he still had a race date in a fortnight’s time, at Sandown Park.    


I wonder which horses will parade at Sandown on the final day of the season?  Hopefully One For Arthur, Sprinter Sacre, Buveur D’Air, Might Bite, Native River; maybe Thistlecrack and possibly a Potts horse or two.  There aren’t many GB Cheltenham Festival winners to choose from this season, but plenty from Aintree, as GB-based runners won every race; the Irish-based trainers decided to concentrate on their Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals instead … fortunately!  


Anyway, back to the Lambourn Open Day proceedings.  The majority of spectators returned to the perimeter of the arena ahead of the Mounted Games; eight current or former jockeys joined teams from Sussex, Kent, West Glamorgan and Dorset.  The jockeys were Gavin Sheehan, Jerry McGrath, Leighton Aspell, Brian Toomey, Jamie Osborne, Sam Thomas, Noel Fehily and Sir AP McCoy. 


There were a couple of spectacular falls, from Brian Toomey and Jamie Osborne.  I recall these were related to bucking ponies; the jockeys had to vault onto their mounts whilst taking part in a number of the races.  This proved difficult for many, because the ponies were eager to continue, with or without a rider.  Also, even if they had managed to remount, the jockeys were often sitting too far back and this caused objection from their mounts, hence the bucking.


The team from Dorset won, aided by Sam Thomas and AP.  I think Jeremiah McGrath is quite cute! 


The final event was a show-jumping competition, with just four jumps to be negotiated; there were 10 points awarded for each of the first three fences cleared, plus 20 points for the joker fence.  A dealer from Hampshire had brought along a number of ‘proper’ show-jumpers for the competitors to ride.  Taking part were Nico de Boinville, Sir AP McCoy, Jamie Osborne who was riding his own grey mare Florence, John Francome, Noel Fehily and Jerry McGrath.  Jamie was forced to ride topless, as penance for riding his own horse, rather than an unfamiliar one provided by the dealer.  


However, after two rounds John Francome gave up, complaining of hip pain.  But, instead of his horse dropping out of the competition, AP took over his ride (I think the horse was named Digger) having failed to gain enough points to qualify for the final aboard his original mount.  This left Nico de Boinville and AP to take part in the final jump-off … with no surprise that the latter won.  Merrick Francis joked that it had been written into the Champ’s contract that he had to win, regardless, with the rules liable to change at any point during the competition to guarantee the outcome thereof! 


Jamie Snowden enjoyed the afternoon entertainment, along with his young son:


It was just gone 16:45 by the time the final event was completed, with solely the announcement of the best turned out yard competition to be announced, along with the results of the raffle.  Oliver Sherwood won the best turned out yard for the second year running, with Sam Thomas as runner up. 


I walked back along the road to reach car park number 1; vehicles were now sparse therein.  I popped to the portaloo before leaving; better safe than sorry, especially as I had an inkling that I would be heading home via a more scenic route than the M4 and M25 and would therefore not pass by a motorway service station!  Despite weather forecasts for possible rain showers, the day had remained dry.


I consumed a couple of cheese rolls which I’d brought with me, before leaving at 17:00.  I headed out of Lambourn via the steep hill, before turning left at the T-junction and driving through Lambourn Woodlands and Woodlands St Mary.  There was a queue of traffic waiting at the T-junction to join the A338; the Wantage Road seemed rather busy for a Bank Holiday afternoon.


Having driven a short distance, I arrived at Junction 14 of the M4.  It was fortunate that I had no requirement to head westwards towards Swindon, as there had been severe congestion during the day due to a bad accident on that section of the motorway.  I joined the eastbound carriageway of the M4, but only drove as far as junction 13, Newbury; I wanted to travel via the A34 to Oxford and then on to Bicester, Aylesbury and home.  As it was now overcast, I switched on my headlights. 


It was a pleasant drive on the northbound dual carriageway, which was soon up hill and down dale as it encountered the Downs.  The three towers of the Didcot B natural gas power-station are still standing, whereas the three towers of Didcot A, which was a coal and oil powered one, have now been demolished.  Sadly four men had died early last year during preparation work for demolition of the latter.


Along the route, prior to Oxford, there was a fantastic vista as the roadway headed over the top of a hill.  Having soon reached the Peartree junction, I was now in very familiar territory!  I continued onwards to the M40 interchange at junction 9, where I headed straight across and onto the A41 dual carriageway to arrive at Bicester.


There is a new road layout at the junction with the Bicester bypass; probably a result of the opening of a new supermarket at this corner.  I was expecting to negotiate the original roundabout but, now, a roadway for traffic wishing to continue on the A41 to Aylesbury appears to slice through the centre of it, the flow controlled by traffic lights.  As result of choosing the wrong lane, I got stuck behind a slow moving foreign driver!  Damn.


However, at the far end of the bypass, I was able to ease by the vehicle using the outside lane at the roundabout and then high-tailed it along the next section of the A41.  In fact he was soon so far behind me that other vehicles, which must have eventually overtaken the car, didn’t catch up with me until after the village of Kingswood. 


There was a minor scare just west of Waddesdon, when a foolish driver heading in the opposite direction decided to overtake and I had to brake to ensure clearance.  There are just so many idiot drivers on the roads at the moment; speeding when they shouldn’t be.  My mum had a close encounter with one the previous week, or at least a fellow driver did in the first instance.  The latter actually stopped, blocking the roadway and had words with that particular fool.  However, when he sped off again, said fool carried out another dangerous manoeuvre and nearly collided with mum’s car as a result.


And there was a further one on the road when I was heading back from Silsoe on Easter Sunday; again another dangerous overtaking manoeuvre at speed, when heading towards me; I had to brake unnecessarily.  They should be reported and removed from the roads permanently, before they kill innocent people.


Anyway, returning from my Good Friday day out, I headed around the northern section of the Aylesbury ring-road before joining the A41 bypass and continuing to Hemel Hempstead.  I left the dual carriageway here; the slip-road remained in a disgusting state of repair.  I headed down the hill, along Two Waters Road, around the ‘Magic Roundabout’ and then up the St Albans Road hill.  I travelled through Leverstock Green and back to my home City along the A4147. 


Excellent; my journey took me around the ring-road where I encountered two ‘Smiley SIDS’; I think the first one may have frowned once … oops … before I slowed down and he smiled.  I arrived home at 19:00, although expected at 18:45.  Upon pulling up at the side-gates, I noticed the headlight reflection looked a little strange.  I hopped out of the car; the near-side headlamp had failed. 


The car which had been overtaken by the stupid driver just outside Waddesdon had flashed; perhaps he was trying to warn me that one of my headlights wasn’t working.  It hadn’t been too serious though as, although daylight was fading, it could not be described as anywhere near dark throughout my journey.


I checked the Halfords website; I had an inkling that they offer to replace bulbs, windscreen wipers, etc, for a small fee.  So that was now a job for Saturday morning.   I wonder when the bulb had actually failed, as I didn’t notice anything amiss when I set off in darkness for Aintree the previous week; I think that was the last time I’d driven in the dark.


As I was tired, I aimed to turn in at 22:30.  However, I discovered that Racing UK had been broadcasting highlights from the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals today, so I stayed up to catch Day 3 of the former as I was missing this from my RUK library.  But I was a little disappointed to discover that the coverage for that particular day contained moments when the picture froze.  Initially I thought it was my Skybox which had an issue but no, the broadcast was repeated on Saturday morning and the same thing occurred. 


I eventually turned in at an ungodly hour of 03:30.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 





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