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REVIEW

OLD SURREY, BURSTOW & WEST KENT
PENSHURST
Sunday 2nd April 2006

by Simon McInnes
photos by Adam Goodburn
http://www.reflexdigital.co.uk

An overnight downpour had resulted in very testing conditions, heavy and very holding, which is a very big contrast to the usual rule here - frantic watering to try and ensure ground that will attract a modicum of runners. Presumably the going was too tough for some, and from a promising number of entries, the field sizes were solid but unspectacular. Villains of the day were the bookies, who were operating a blatant cartel to the detriment of fun punters. In the seven runner men's open, one bookie was admonished by his colleagues for offering a price in excess of 14/1, and in the ladies open, the ceiling was 18/1, which led to absurdities such as a horse that had won two of his last three, including a confined, opening at 14s when a rival that had pulled up in all runs since 2004 was only 18s. Surely this price fixing is not legal in any industry.
As an aside, the car broke down when trying to get out. As we parked it by the entrance awaiting the AA, it was amazing how many people assumed we were course officials and commented on what a good day it was. Rather than cause embarrassment by correcting them, the thoughts and thanks were graciously accepted!

Leicester Arms OSBWK Members, Subscribers & Farmers
1: Funny Money 2: May Zee Wong
Winner trained: Helen Sarchet, ridden: James Sarchet, owned by them both

Alas, another non-event in the members. With only four entries, a cavalry charge was not expected, but although the pair had both started the season as maidens, Funny Money had achieved an awful lot more throughout the last three months. The slow pace gave May Zee Wong a stab at a challenge four out, but she had been outjumped all the way round, and this continued, and she was well beaten when clambering over the last.

Broadfeed South East Hunts Club Veteran & Novice Riders
1: Honourable Spider 2: River Bailiff 3: Bustling Rio
Winner owned: Mr EMG Roberts, trained: Suzy Bull, ridden: Peter Bull

Nine lined up, and from eight of them you could fashion a nicely competitive race. Unfortunately, the numbers were completed by the rising force of Honourable Spider, who opened at 2/5 and did not go unbacked. He was to the fore from the off, and despite a tendency to jump right - which he has done on occasions in the past - he slowly drew clear from the fifth last to win by a distance. It did not improve anything on known form, but hinted that he is not totally at home in very bad ground, despite having won on it. After his Godstone success, Tim O'Callaghan gave River Bailiff another good, patient ride. Never close enough to threaten the winner, he took second two from the finish, and then clung on gamely as Bustling Rio, under Camilla Ewart, rallied surprisingly well on the rise to the line, after looking like he had had enough as they left the far side. The only other finisher was Avalon Buck, who did try to make a game of it with Honourable Spider and paid the price at the business end. In 2005 Gola Leader appeared to be a good sort to be in these races with a novice rider, but his confidence at the fences has gone astray since and he fumbled along at the back until the towel was thrown in.

Please Support Kent Air Ambulance Restricted
1: Nicodemus 2: Pampered Lad
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Helen Williams

At Penshurst, the restricted is usually second only to the maiden in numbers, but a mere four chose to take on this challenge. Pampered Lad earned the mantle of favouritism, mainly because he tends to finish, and the other three do not. However, things proved a bit different today. Nicodemus is not an untalented horse, but his owner/rider/trainer has not proved the most stickable in the saddle so far - three unseateds this season tell a fair story. However, Helen Williams had bought up all the superglue in the area, and Nicodemus played his part by avoiding any meaningful errors. Even after the second last, they were still eight lengths down, and seemingly accepting the defeat. However, Pampered Lad had been hesitant at several fences and with fatigue becoming a factor, he was very slow at the last. From this point Nicodemus sprouted wings (relatively speaking, winged sprouts may have sufficed) and led with a few yards to spare. Battle Honours pulled up very tired, but Alazylady seemed to suffer a slipped saddle, so had a better excuse than not being up to it. Novice rider David Rose on Alazylady also referees non-league football, so obviously has an unhealthy obsession with poorly rewarded sporting endeavour.

Mens Open
1: Sheriff's Friend 2: Little Farmer 3: Altareek
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained & ridden: Chris Gordon

A triumphant return after missing 2005, and all the better as Sheriff's Friend looked to have a bit of a fitness disadvantage against his rivals. He nosed ahead with a lap and a bit gone, and maintained a steady gallop that none could match. Altareek tried but failed and was well seen off in second when he refused at the last. He had a second bash at it, successfully, by which time Little Farmer, who did not go unsupported in the betting, had plodded past him for the second spot. Altareek had mostly jump out to the right, and although the kink in the back straight gives moments where this could help, it was a net overall loser for him. Although meetings in the south-east start to thin out rapidly in April, Sheriff's Friend will hopefully start making up for lost time, possibly in hunter chases. Another that missed last season was Asthefellowsaid, and he had pulled up on his comeback run. He caught the eye in the paddock, but showed very little sparkle in the race itself, even early on when the pace was not overly strenuous (but still about the fastest of the day) and has a bit to prove.


Savills Ladies Open
1: Stylish Dave 2: Indoux 3: A Few Bob Back
Winner owned: Mrs J Plumptre, trained & ridden: Lisa Stock

Both numerically and in quality this race held up well and was won by a performance notable for guts more than temporary style. Making all the running, Stylish Dave found various rivals nipping at his heels at different parts of the race, but he shook them off, and went further clear with every stride from three out, when he could be forgiven for wilting. The effort took it's toll on the run-in, but there were no dangers by then. Indoux, now proven at four miles, stayed on best of the rest, after losing a good position at halfway, with favourite A Few Bob Back in close pursuit and posting a slightly disappointing hat trick bid. For a horse whose stamina seems suspect at the best of times, it was a touch surprising that Exodous was the biggest danger as late as the third last, but his limits were met rather quickly after that point and the proven stayers shuffled him back to fourth. Not for the first time at Penshurst, Minino staged a performance of astonishing light and shade. He planted himself at the start, giving up a good thirty lengths before jumping off, but gradually edged back into contention. Last year he was not left so far and still won, so presumably Minino was not going to be fooled again. Incredibly he joined the pack at halfway, and four out even edged into second. Either the effort told or the mood swung back, and he soon dropped out again, pulling up two from home. He is best avoided at most locations for now, but especially here.


Chapple Chase Open Maiden
1: Napolito 2: Buster Mai
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained & ridden: Chris Gordon

Napolito was fairly prominent in the betting for this, but how much of that was owed to the yard's return to form in the men's open and how much to the horse's racing record of run twice, pulled up twice. This was much better, even though only two finished, as he was made to fight both by Buster Mai and Luteur Des Pictons, the latter having a heavy fall at the second last from which he eventually rose unscathed. Buster Mai has now been runner-up three times and just seems unlucky to meet a superior horse each time. Sharon's Delight looked in good nick in the paddock, but appeared to down tools a lap out - next to the horse box park, by coincidence. The grounds might have annoyed him but he is perhaps one to be wary of. Apart from the two finishers and the faller mentioned, the rest all pulled up, but their histories indicated that this was not to be unexpected. The only one that figured in the betting was Flecthefawna, presumably because Rilly Goschen turned up to ride and in defiance of his two unseateds and a pulled up in the last four runs.

 

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