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Mid Surrey Farmers Drag
Sunday 10th February 2008
by Simon McInnes

An absurdly pleasant day for early February, and what seemed a bigger crowd at Godstone – or was the slightly rejigged layout of refreshments, bookies and stalls cramming people into a smaller space? Also, the number board had been moved from by the paddock to over in front of the horsebox park. It’s amazing how disorientating one minor deviation from the norm can be! Also slightly odd for the track were bigger fields and probably better quality of runners than has often been the case in it’s relatively short history. The two week gap since the area opener at Detling helped, with plenty from that meeting reappearing.

Going: Good

Race 1: Goring Hotel Members
1: Bee An Bee 2: Jack’s Present 3: Westfield John
Winner owned, trained & ridden: David Robinson

In a way, you had to feel sorry for Bee An Bee, as with his 66 year old jockey emerging from a brief retirement, the horse was being asked to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Struggles Glory. Not easy shoes to fill, but Bee An Bee managed a respectable imitation, with some pretty bold jumping, only ever being harassed by a brief challenge three out from Jack’s Present, who had won a mares maiden at the Barbury double header. Exodous’ fall at halfway prevented seeing any evidence as to how much he had come on for his comeback run at Detling.

Race 2: Countryside Alliance Club Members
1: Merchants Friend 2: Nathos 3: New Street Express
Winner owned: Mrs Andrew Wardall, trained: John Dufosee, ridden: Ryan Bliss

A massive turnout of fourteen, and it was quite competitive in terms of ability. However, watching the horses in the paddock on a day when many bloomed in the warm sun, Merchants Friend stood out on wellbeing and fitness, and the fact that he had travelled a few miles more than most was not off putting either. Settled at the back early, he hit the front three from home and was soon clear, possibly tying up a little on the run-in as Nathos rallied with a bit more vim than he was showing at Detling last time. The first two were, I think, contemporaries in Charlie Mann’s yard and perhaps Nathos just disliked Merchants Friend more than he disliked working hard! Very inconveniently, we had New Lodge Express and New Street Express in the same race, and the latter made the frame despite having the least encouraging form of the pair. Having made a moderately promising return from injury at Detling, Charm Lord fell at halfway. Research has failed to unearth any other spooky coincidences between him and Exodous, other than they both have Carry On Screaming as their favourite film.

Race 3: Global Food Technologies Men’s Open
1: Noakarad De Verzee 2: Turnstile 3: Ice Cool Lad
Winner owned & ridden: David Maxwell, trained: Kim Smyly
The usual open roster for the track was approximately doubled as nine lined up, and things were a mere matter of progression, as Noakarad De Verzee took his British record to P21. At Detling, he had finished just in front of Turnstile, but had a bit more in hand this time and with hindsight my suggestion at the time that Honourable Spider had not been at his best looks to have underestimated the two behind him. Although Turnstile did at no stage look likely to catch the winner, he has at least been losing to decent horses and as he again seemed to stay the trip, a race must come his way at some point. Ice Cool Lad is in the veteran stage and this better effort possibly coincided with the presence of a more experienced jockey not taking any nonsense from him – the usual partner having suffered a hefty tumble in race 2.

Race 4: Highfields Farm Ladies’ Open
1: Heaven Is Above 2: Millenium Way 3: Lile Na Casca
Winner owned: Anthony Ward-Thomas, trained: Jenny Gordon, ridden: Claire Allen
The champion lady rider followed up her Detling win on Heaven Is Above by taking the scalp of prolific winner Millenium Way, on a course where he has proved almost unbeatable in the past, although not often against this quality of opposition. Both horses won last time, but the impression was that Heaven Is Above had achieved more, and odds-on for Millenium Way was a bit short. Lile Na Casca had every chance four out but a blunder there resulted in her dropping off of the front two very quickly. Full Irish was a casualty at the fourth last, having begun to lose touch with the main three at the time.

Race 5: Intermediate
1: Merry Vic 2: Beareen Lad 3: Lady Edison
Winner owned & trained: Mrs C Gorman, ridden: Nick Pearce
There looked to be four serious contenders in this, and three of them filled the frame, but not in perhaps as competitive manner as seemed on the cards. The one who missed out was Theatre Call, who was one of many to have problems with the fourth last on the day, which results in a long, forlorn uphill walk back for the jockey. Merry Vic had won a restricted at Larkhill easily and did not have to be too stressed to double up in an impressive style. Beareen Lad, second in a restricted at Detling, had since taken on Thisthatandtother in a hunter chase with predictable results, but he does not seem to be too far off of winning in points. Lady Edison, a rather big mare, caught the eye in the paddock, but was seen off a bit too readily in the race. She did pull a little early on, and as this was only her fourth race, there is probably some improvement under her hat.

Race 6: Ward-Thomas Removals 4-7 year olds Open Maiden (2m 4f)
1: Reymysterio 2: Iphar 3: Lillie Lou
Winner owned & trained: NW Padfield, ridden: Joe Owen
Although only four ran, there was a serious upset in the closer, as Reymysterio turned over the long odds-on Iphar, and was clearly going to do so from a long way out. The racecard reported that he ‘showed loads of ability in Irish point to points and will soon be winning’ but Reymysterio did seem to lack a little in fitness compared to Iphar, and also took a discouraging objection to being saddled. Neither caused him any problem once battle was joined. Iphar, placed in French cross country races in the provinces, had been favourite on both point runs, failing to stay at Tweseldown and then unseating when leading at Barbury. This looked a backward step, as Lillie Lou had not really given much cause for optimism in the past and she was only beaten a handful of lengths in the end.

Plus Points
New Street Express (race 2)
Ran his best race since coming to the UK, and as a mere seven year old, it might be genuine progress rather than a one-off.

Clock House (race 3)
Won a couple of two mile hurdles on heavy and was in the process of having a nice pipe-opener until he fell late on. If he stays he might make an impact in points.

Heaven Is Above (race 4)
Apparently revitalised at the age of thirteen!

Merry Vic (race 5)
On the upgrade quite rapidly.

Reymysterio (race 6)
Should be capable of much better than it took to win a weak race

Lillie Lou (race 6)
If the bare result can be believed, made a massive improvement on all known form.

Down Arrows
Jack’s Present (race 1)
With the benefit of age and recent activity on her side both in equine and human parts of the team, it was a little disappointing that Bee An Bee shrugged her aside so readily.

Winters Beau (race 2)
Had his unbeaten run (2 members and an intermediate) ended in tougher company and will be hard to place outside those members races.

Lord Atterbury (race 2)
Was a bit flattered to be second at Higham, and was a laboured fifth in this, to temper thoughts of a sudden revival.

Danaeve (race 3)
Made it 2 from 2 this season, if the unit of measure is disappointing runs.

Clock House (race 3)
In contradiction to the Plus Point is that as well as falling today, he also fell late on in both attempts under Rules. It did not seem to bother him early, but there is a clear concentration issue to be addressed.

Theatre Call (race 5)
Has been cunningly placed to win three races of unexceptional standard, but has not completed in either run in 2008.

Iphar (race 6)
Has contrived to be beaten as favourite three times already this season and in a glorious variety of ways. There could be some sort of legendary anti-hero in the making.

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