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Mid Surrey Farmers Draghounds at CHARING
Sunday 4th February 2001
by Simon McInnes

Greetings from the Kent Festival of Mud 2001. Whilst there were seven races on the card, there is not a huge amount to report for future reference. This is mainly due to the ground, which was impossibly testing, causing a majority of the runners to pull-up as they went up the hill for the final time. The fields did thin out as the day went on, but those horses and riders that gave up can hardly be criticised for doing so, and the few that actually went three miles will probably take some time to recover. Additionally, my racecard was absolutely sodden by the end, so the notes that it contains have been of mixed value in writing this up (apparently Oxendale was very hrxsd in the parade ring). The upside of the day was that some of the south-east’s hardy perennials came back into action with a bang, or a least a noticeable resonance.

The season got off to a fine start, with the mighty Prime Course winning this for a second straight year. Given that he relishes a test of stamina, there were plenty of grounds for optimism, but he did have to lug 13 stone around, which was a feat not to be under-estimated. This got Chris Gordon off the mark for the season as well and following the well-known pilots would have been a good strategy on the day. Second place went to Three Of Clubs. The racecard sagely observed that he jumps and stays well, omitting to add that he gallops very slowly. His proximity proved that today was purely about stamina.

The market made this a two horse race and it almost went to script. Impossible Quick looked fit enough for the seasonal debut and scooted clear after a circuit. He was well in front, but possibly running out of puff when he ran out at the third last. There could be many reasons for this, but as it was exactly at the moment that the commentator chose to update us on the stragglers, it can be put down to Sod’s Law. This event left Belvento to stroll in unchallenged for the David Dunsdon/Nick Gifford combination. Some time later the slow and usually pulled-up Glenmont arrived for second place. He won a point in Ireland and might pop up in a weaker race over here, but this ground seems as fast as he can handle!

For a long while it appeared that the supreme entertainer, Jojo, was going to notch another win. However, from the second last, a challenge was laid down, and although Ben Hitchcott did his best to kid the horse home, the wily veteran was having none of it. Jojo did not exactly stop, but looked as if there was a bit more left if he cared to use it. Exploiting this situation, Wibbley Wobbley won, making a double for Nick Gifford. The horse picked up four successes last season and being only nine, ought to be up to tackling stronger races than this. With only a Members win to his name, Gypsy Gerry ran well enough in to be third and seems consistent in his own modest way.

Ladies Open
This was not a strong open, and Cracking Idea totally failed to act in the quagmire. Victory fell to race fit Burntwood Melody, chased home by Kincora. Both have proven their ability in the past but were so exhausted by the end of this that they will need a fair time to get over it.

Mens Open
A Chris Gordon double was completed when the great man guided local hero Seod Rioga to a facile victory. The only rival in the race and the betting was Nasone, who jumped terribly. Most fences he cleared by about two yards too much and then occasionally missed one out altogether. The other three all came to grief, but were outclassed and also included two jockeys having their first ride.

Open Maiden Div I
Success at a long price fell to Paddy Clyde, who set out in front and kept up a slow but unrelenting gallop. This was the weaker maiden (the decs for division II suggested that even before they had run) and none of the others managed to get round, although Dorans Joy jumped soundly and was denied second by refusing the last due to exhaustion. He made his debut on faster ground last season, so it is premature to dismiss him. Racecourse debutant Bold Baby may have been unlucky, as she was badly hampered by a loose horse approaching the twelfth. The rider had not regained a solid seat when the next loomed and the horse veered right and refused. She was very green in the paddock and this was a chain of events she was unlikely to have been ready to cope with. Worth another chance.

Open Maiden Div II
This race was notable for having four finishers, the busiest on the day, and the most impressive winner. This was not because of the margin of Buck Lock’s success but due to the fact he finished full of running and with his ears pricked despite slogging through the worst of the conditions. He had been runner-up in his first Irish point, and on this evidence can go on to much better things, even allowing for being much fitter than most of his rivals. Second place went to a five year old debutant, Leading Case. This was a remarkably good run in the circumstances and he was strong enough to edge out the oft-placed Ell Gee in a photo, but they were a bit flattered by the margin of defeat. John White’s runner, Stocks’n Shares was an interesting contender. She had one (bad) run in a bumper to her name, but drew a second glance, looking strongly enough built to go in the mud. During the race, she settled at the rear, jumping safely but not fluently, without being asked for much of an effort until she unseated three out. She is capable of better, but how much! The negative signals were for competent hurdler Bavardier. When a ten year old still needs two handlers in the paddock, it is rarely a good sign!

In conclusion, whilst these sort of conditions bring the nutters out in force, the ice cream man was being very optimistic, and the home made fruit cake from the hunt’s coffee shop comes appropriately recommended.