Easter Monday 13th April 2009
by Simon McInnes
Going: Good to Firm (Firm in places)
One of the things that often seems to stand in the way of Aldington's success is the obscurity of it's location - the fact that it is staged by the East Kent tells the tale that the place would be on the wilder reaches of the south-east - but a later Easter, and consequent lack of snow compared to last year, resulted in a monster crowd, all of whom seemed to have a jolly pleasant time of things. There was even a decent smattering of people who ambled over to the first fence on the far side, negotiating the largely hidden stream that runs down the centre of the course. One unfortunate note was that both opens cut up into two runner affairs, and in what has generally been very successful season in the south-east for runners, participation (including plenty of rides for promising young jockeys) and crowds, the lack of numbers in a lot of opens has been a small downer. Maybe the time is right to bite the bullet and stage more mixed opens, with extra confined or intermediate races to fill the gap. As most of the riders in Ladies' Opens have ties to the horses anyway, it would probably not have an adverse effect on riding opportunities.
Race 1: S Fuller Open Maiden
1: Master Shuil 2: Good Gordon 3: Midleton Madness
Winner owned & trained: Wendy Good, ridden: Harry Miller
Double figure fields at Aldington are very much the exception rather than the rule, and the fact that eleven lined up for the maiden was a big plus, counteracted for the beaten horses by the fact that although Master Shuil has been a model of reliability as far as completions go, he had never really looked like he was poised to win a race, and often his attitude was part of the equation of failure. Perhaps the fast ground was a help to him, although three out he seemed likely to be third, and simply outstayed the other two placed horses. Or was it the contribution from the saddle? Winning rider Harry Miller was making his debut as a jockey but looked very accomplished in delivering the successful challenge at the final fence. Good Gordon had been under pressure a long way out, but rallied to meet the rider's demands and seemed to be back on the bridle turning for home. It turned out that there was not as much in reserve as seemed possible. Midleton Madness has been a reformed character of late, getting round in four consecutive races, but he gave a reminder of older foibles as errors four from home and at the next cost him ground and energy when he had a serious chance of winning. Flora Ana completed after pulling up on her debut, but she did so behind Carvilla, which means there is still a lot of improvement required to get competitive.
Race 2: Hallett & Co Restricted
1: Man From Moscow 2: Finnow Shan 3: Not Another Barney
Winner owned: Mrs H Norman, trained: Alison Hickman, ridden: Philip Hall
After a good battle for the first race, things were even tighter in this, as Man From Moscow repeated the winning effort from half an hour or so earlier, seeming set for a respectable third until rallying from the second last. He only got home by a short head, and the fact that the long absent Finnow Shan just looked a fraction short of peak fitness helped the cause. Finnow Shan had been runner-up at Cottenham back in 2006, and if he can reproduce this form then there are races to be won.
Race 3: Paddy Hughes Memorial PPORA Club Members Novice Riders
1: Lord'n'Master 2: It's Showtime 3: No Stranger
Winner owned: Mrs & Mrs P Hickman, trained: Alison Hickman, ridden: Will Hickman
With decent turnouts in the last two races, and the fact that novice riders events are usually well supported numerically, it was a little surprising that only five of the twenty-four entries declared, but it was a sign of things to come. To steal an old joke (no longer in copyright?) people were beginning to think that the winner's name was Lord'n'Master Unseated, but he set off in front at a fair old lick, and appeared fairly safe at his fences this time. Favourite Nessa was taken off of her feet and although she was trying to get back into things when she blundered three out and was pulled up, it was not looking as if the fight back was destined to succeed. It's Showtime had run once since 2005, pulling up at Godstone due to rider fatigue, but with his pilot better prepared the team posted a decent effort in defeat - ironically it is now the horse that has a bit to prove as far as stamina is concerned. No Stranger was also coming back from an absence dating back to 2005, but had some encouraging form and although he is fourteen, the light career means there may be enough left in his legs to win a race like this. In the interest of completeness, it is necessary to give the remaining runner, Harrycone Lewis, a mention, although interest was something he did seem quite short of - having got detached very early and given up in a race where his form dwarfed that of the opposition.
Race 4: Hythe Bay Fish and Seafood Restaurant & Bar Men's Open
1: Hatsnall 2: Sharlom
Winner owned: W Poulton, trained: Chris Lawson, ridden: Jody Sole
Just two runners, and Jody Sole made sure that he was not upset in a cat and mouse game by putting distance between Hatsnall and Sharlom early in the race. Thus, from quite early in the race, Sharlom was running for a completion and Hatsnall had an unflustered three mile exercise gallop.
Race 5: McCabe Ford Williams Ladies’ Open
1: Sheriff's Friend 2: Major Jon
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained: Nick Pearce, ridden: Hayley Moore
After returning to action with some iffy jumping at Penshurst, Sheriff's Friend had a vulnerability for this match, but after watching Major Jon jump right most of the way round, his only scare was when that horse went down the inner three out, forcing Hayley Moore into the danger zone on Major Jon's right hand side. After that, she kicked on quickly, and the race was over. Although most of the bookies were offering novelty bets to drum up business, the opening show of 4/6 joint favourites (which moved to 1/2 and Evens) smelled greatly of rip-off - by comparison the previous race was roughly 1/5 and 3/1.
Race 6: S Watts Leadwork & Roofing Members
1: Prince Rodney 2: Supreme Vintage 3: I Had A Sister
Winner owned: Richard Britten-Long, trained: David Phelan, ridden: Will Hickman
Of the five that went to post, four were trained by the Lawson family, but for a smallish field Members, the race produced a few talking points. The start was a bit ragged with the first three home getting a jump on the other pair. Major Blue, on which Libby Lawson was having her first ride, was slowest away and Sadler's Lamp filled the gap between leaders and last. It then appeared that Chris Lawson on Sadler's Lamp may be taking a pull to coach Mrs Lawson round, but once Major Blue caught up, he quickly left Sadler's Lamp trailing, making it clear that it was the horse that had elected to slow down, not the rider. Meanwhile the others were putting on a fair race up ahead, and Prince Rodney came out best. He had won at Charing two days earlier, when the obvious explanation for improvement on two mediocre Godstone runs was the drop back to two and a half miles. In fact, this long looking three miles did not foil him, although Supreme Vintage had missed last season, and failed to finish both runs this term, and I Had A Sister pulled up in his only point so perhaps the challenge was less well qualified for triumph than Prince Rodney himself.