13th March 2005
by Richard Hall
Having grown accustomed to enjoying my Pointing through four layers of clothing these last few weeks, it was a pleasant surprise to feel uncomfortably hot after walking the course before racing. As the afternoon wore on and the sun’s strength diminished, however, I was glad that I had not been rash enough to remove a layer. Winter’s familiar traits were still with us; bitingly cold extremities, a dripping nose, and the Turner horses still struggling to find their form. The bare trees encircling the course also bore testimony that the season of discontent had not yet gone; their dull brown giving no hint of concession to the bright and youthful greenery of spring. The going provided the only clue that, in calendar terms at least, a fresh start was just around the corner. It was officially good, but (in my opinion) good to firm in places.
Racing begun with a familiar sight too; David Kemp bringing Madmidge with a smooth run to assert two fences from home and win with the horse’s head still very much in his chest. The opposition in today’s Hunt Race was nowhere near as strong as he had encountered in his previous three victories this year (two of which were in Mens Opens) and, at a best priced 2/5, it was difficult to see what connections were gaining by running him in such a lowly grade. James Crispe may have hit the nail on the head; - easy pickings in a quest to be the season’s most prolific scorer?
It was not long before David Kemp completed a stable double when Deckie went one better than last week’s second in a Higham Mens Open. There was no Cape Stormer to collar him on the run in this time, and, after seizing the initiative a mile from home, he had established such an advantage by the final fence that the combination were able to permit themselves the luxury of merely jogging up the final hill. Like Madmidge, Deckie was having his fifth outing of the current campaign. Unlike his stablemate, however, he has only passed the post in front on three occasions so far, although it would be a brave man who would bet against this figure increasing before the season ends. One remarkable thing about the Kemp horses is that whilst they always look fully tuned up in the paddock, they still prove themselves capable of withstanding plenty of racing and never stop improving!
Alex Merriam seems to have mastered the art of getting Minino to race (a feat that last year’s regular pilot , Christian Ward Thomas, was not always able to achieve) although today the horse displayed another sign of mulishness when trying to run out as he led the field past the horseboxes for the final time. It was a manoeuvre that set the race up for Deckie, not only allowing David Kemp’s charge the inner berth but also tamely converting a two length lead into a five length deficit before his jockey could get him running again. As a contest, the race was over from that point. Good Vintage, on whom Paul Cowley extracted the first signs of form since being acquired from Ireland, eventually caught Minino, who should be left alone as a betting proposition in future, for second.
The Kemp’s had to wait until the First Division of the Maiden before completing a treble with their third runner of the day; Baron Halebop. Despite being only a shade of odds against, and with the opposition ( bar a couple of very green debutants on schooling runs) all exposed and needing walkovers to stand any chance of winning a race before they retire, the manner of victory was far from convincing. Shannon Quest, a perennial short runner, stayed within a length until two fences from home. When his challenge petered out, Manhatton Storm, who was benefiting from the services of Nibby Bloom, moved menacingly close and looked to be travelling better. This was confirmed when Baron Halebop laboured over the last. Not for the first time in his career, however, Manhatton Storm found little on the run in, and David Kemp was able to keep Baron Halebop up to his work and maintain a length’s advantage all the way to the post.
The Second Division of the Maiden was the more competitive of the two. As in the first Nibby Bloom, this time on Alfie Moon, arrived at the second last gaining ground on the leader and looking to have the race at his mercy. On the run to the final obstacle he drew alongside that leader and, although it was no forgone conclusion, it seemed that a clean jump was all that was needed to secure the prize. It didn’t come. Alfie Moon hit the fence hard and, although Nibby somehow managed to stay in the saddle, his chance had gone.
Victory went to Philip (Genghis) Hall on Badgers Glory. He once again showed himself to be a fine judge of pace by copying the front running tactics he had employed when Terimon’s Dream ran the legs off the opposition at Cottenham earlier in the season. Although helped by Alfie Moon’s last fence blunder, the victory was thoroughly deserved, and he had even kept enough in the tank to allow his charge to sprint to the post!
As with Terimon’s Dream, Mr Hall will undoubtedly be counting ten pound notes for most of the homeward journey around the M25. Badgers Glory’s success was neither unexpected or unsupported in the betting ring, and I saw his price contract from 6/1 through to 2/1 clear favourite in the matter of a couple of minutes. I also noted a large proportion of the crowd queuing to be paid out after the race. It seems that whenever Genghis spearheads a raid into East Anglia no bookies satchel is safe!
One spectacular gamble that did go astray was that on Holy Moses in the Restricted. A course winner a couple of year’s ago, Eric Cantillon’s charge was punted from 3/1 into 6/4 favouritism – presumably on the assumption that Hi Tech Man’s success last week was signalling a return to form for the stable after a long period in the doldrums. Punters knew their fate very early on as Holy Moses seemed content with a five length deficit at the first fence and, from there on, kept drifting further and further away from the main body of the field until eventually being pulled up with over a circuit still remaining.
Ironically, and with the obvious benefit of hindsight, a clue to Holy Moses’ performance was evident in the riding arrangements. Nick Moore, who had given Hi Tech Man such a positive ride at Higham, had deserted the Cantillon stable to partner McAttack for Tim Bryce. Freely available at 10/1, he showed considerable improvement on his remote third to Rathbarry Lad at Marks Tey. He led for most of the contest and comfortably held the late challenge of James Owen on the Turner’s John The Mole. Third home was Parsonhumfrywebber, who looked a picture in the paddock and was Andrew Hickman’s only ride at the meeting. He was ridden handily and overcame a few novicey jumps to still hold every chance as the leaders turned for home. Despite a history of being a strong finisher, he found little when asked for a renewed effort and may still be a run or two short of his best.
On an afternoon where examples of good jockeyship were easy to find, my vote for ride of the day has to go to Hannah Grissell for her efforts on Little Worsall in the Ladies Open. This event clearly benefited numerically from the cancellation of the South Eastern fixture at Detling, and five runners from that region were in the ten strong field. The short priced favourite was Milennium Way; rejuvenated since joining Caroline Taylor at the end of last season, and Little Worsall’s five length conqueror three weeks earlier at Charing.
Ms Grissell committed to her tactics from the word go, and drove her horse into pole position. She had to keep him concentrating for most of the journey, but still led as they approached the fifth last. The advantage was a diminishing two lengths from her Charing conqueror, with Dick McCarthy a fair way behind in third. Caroline Taylor had ridden a patient race and was sitting pretty on Milennium Way. Her charge had enjoyed plenty of cover for the first two circuits, and seemed to have plenty still available under the bonnet. With Little Worsall having to continually be kept up to his work, it appeared just a matter of when and where.
Little Worsall was booted into the fifth last and given a sharp slap on the backside as he came out of it. He responded immediately, his two length lead doubling to four in a matter of strides before his main pursuer could respond. Rounding the bend and coming up the hill Milennium Way ate into it, but he could not fully devour it. At the last Hannah Grissell’s mount was still a length up. It diminished still further on the run in but at the post, where it mattered most, Little Worsall was still a neck to the good.
The Confined was yet another contest that produced a thrilling finish. Despite the bookies efforts to install King Plato as favourite to give the Turner’s a winner at their home course, a flood of apparent early money at 2/1 for Mister Ringa saw the Sporborg horse usurp that position to go off the even money market leader. I use the word “apparent” because I never actually saw 2/1 (if I had I would have quickly joined the queue) and the only person I could find who had been accommodated at anything greater than 6/5 was the legendary Ray Newby!
On paper Mister Ringa should have won easily. In reality he was made to struggle as Dunmanus Bay, piloted for the first time by Paul Cowley, produced a glimmer of the form that he had achieved under Rules two years ago when assisted by A.P. McCoy. Every time Andrew Braithwaite tried to kick Mister Ringa on, Dunmanus Bay went with him. At the last Paul Cowley had nosed Dunmanus Bay into the lead. A less sturdy horse would have given in but Mister Ringa showed real determination to dig deep and find more. He responded well to his jockey’s stylish driving, and regained the advantage on the run in. Time may prove it to be a decent effort.
Before I close I have to make an appeal on behalf of the ordinary racegoers. Please, please, please, can event organisers arrange for alternative toilets to the portaloos that now seem to be as omnipresent on our courses as Daleks will soon be on our T.V’s? This may not be immediately possible for the Ladies, but it certainly should be for the Men. What is wrong with the Tents and Troughs that sufficed for so many years before the blue monsters were invented? They seemed so much more practical. Indeed, I cannot think of anything in favour of the portaloo, they are certainly not as hygienic, and to spend ten minutes or so at a time standing in a snake of a queue waiting to relieve yourself is neither pleasant, dignified, or a particularly good advert for the sport, is it?