by Simon McInnes

There might have been a very chilly, swirling wind, but my third dry Charing in a row was much appreciated, even though some people, obviously not regulars, found the weather not to their liking. What was much more positive
was that despite the possibility of some very one-sided racing being posed by the advance cards, there was some quite evenly contested stuff on show.

South East Bookmakers Restricted
This race was enlivened by one of the most brazenly doggish performances that the area has seen in some time. The animal concerned was early season maiden winner Kilvoydan, who clearly decided that the spoils of success were an experience that did not live up to it's promise. He started the race fairly prominent in the eleven runner field, but failed to react when the leaders kicked clear at the fifteenth, conceding a good twelve lengths. Turning back down the hill, he made very rapid and unflustered progress to get on the heels of the first pair by the next fence. A stylish success looked on the cards, but then Kilvoydan swished his tail a few times and fell five lengths or so adrift. Inspired by being ruled out of contention by crowd and commentator, he then awoke again, and cruised past labouring leader Dancing Fonsenby on the home turn, with his rider motionless in the saddle. Kilvoydan leapt the last fence with a two length advantage, and sensing a chance for some extreme theatre, pulled himself up. Despite the short run-in, Dancing Fonsenby, upon whom Mark Holdforth had never surrended his hope, was thus able to win with a bit to spare. This was fair reward for a game front-running effort. Third went to Mr Chataway, who weakened quickly when the nutter overtook him at the second last. One interesting performer that failed to figure was No Win No Fee, who went to post early and pulled like a train from the off until unseating when in front at the seventh. His jumping up to then had been low and fast, giving the suggestion that he would happily go round on his own but found having a jockey on board a tiresome chore. No Win No Fee had not run since a couple of bumper tries three years ago, and left the impression that if he can be calmed down a bit, there is some raw material to work with.

Marsh Private Clients / TBA PPORA Club Member Mares Maiden
When the declarations were announced, my first jotted note was, 'surely there must be some better maiden mares than this?' Connections of Lady L'Orelei must have been kicking themselves for not having pursued their entry, if the indignant horse was not doing it for them. As for the nine that lined up, any form of previous completion was an achievement, and for punters the best guess was working out which contender would improve her competitiveness for tackling the lowest level of opposition. It proved to be Second Thoughts, who has been placed in maidens but has run badly equally as often. Having come from the West Norfolk, connections must have been delighted to find such a golden opportunity - once in a lifetime may not be an exaggeration. It nearly went begging, as The Flying Dragon (ironically, she has tended to find the airborne part of the race a big problem in the past) plodded on in the last half mile to be beaten barely a length, although at the speed she was going, much further would have been required to overtake. The lesson to take from it all was that in a trace where the horses provided no inspiration, following the most experienced riders would have found the first three home, with Messrs Bloom, Bull and Dunsdon on board them. After having jumped right, Victory Salute jogged off the course when presented with a big open space after the clump of trees on the uphill section. She did that last time, and clearly finds the field at far end of the course a very appealing location.

The Princess Grace Hospital (London) Mens Open
After the outcome of the last open here, another favoured veteran, 14 year old Seod Rioga, delivered the goods. He headed the early leader after about a mile and was in the van all the way home, hardly even threatened. Favourite Tough Terms was never foot perfect, perhaps remembering his fall here last time, and had lost third place when pulled up after two out. Kenny Davis was runner-up and as much as he has improved in the last couple of years with vastly better jumping, he has never struck as a potential open-class winner, unless finding a weak one. Satcotino, being her usual lazy self, gave Philip York plenty of work to do for third. Slightly disappointing was Night Thyne. He has always had ability, but shown a tendency to blunder away his rider. This time he was pulled up, defying the view that he had possibilities if completing. On the other hand, he is not the first Hickman horse this season to look fit first time out but run as if needing the race.

Hobbs Parker Ladies Open
A Simon Tindall-owned double was completed by the now prolific Sheriff's Friend, who was pestered by Jolly Minster for all of the second circuit, and only made certain of success by being foot perfect at the last two, after
pecking on landing quite badly at the fourth last. With Hunter Chase wins to his name already, Jolly Minster should win an open or two. A little way behind him, Dook's Delight held the belated run of Gypsy Gerry for third.
The race might have unfolded in an even tighter finish had Celtic Duke not uncharacteristically come to grief at the fifteenth. In a scenario possibly unique to point-to-pointing, Silk Vestments was greeted enthusiastically happy connections as he walked back down the hill, the only logical reason being because he had pulled up instead the more usual unseating of the rider.

Gillian Jarvis South East Hunts Club Members Conditions
This did turn into a cakewalk for the winner, as the much improved Star Glow brought his seasonal tally to four out of four. He burst ten lengths clear after the fifteenth and bucked the trend for tight finishes, never subsequently being in any danger, except for an overdose of star-related puns. Lively Lord showed the benefit of having a run under his belt by leading the distant pursuit home, with Sound Gossin hot on his heels. Whether it is the ground or the sunshine, Sound Gossin seems to be at his best later in the season (despite already having won this term) and this was a fair prep for that period. Another already on the winning trail, Always On The Line, looked a bit one-paced in fourth, but this race - barred to Rules or open winners since the start of 2001 - was of a fair quality for its type and he will find easier openings. That had presumably occurred to the rider of Commasarris, who had lost the lead but still held fourth when pulled up after the fourteenth fence.

Grants Cherry Brandy South East Hunts Club Maiden
Not the greatest of races, but a big step up on the mares maiden earlier! A voyage of atonement was completed by Sendonthecheque, who last week at Parham pulled up on the run-in when in second place. He was held up in last early on, which can cause problems when waltzing through the stragglers later in the race. But not this time, as he defied a couple of slow early jumps to close on the leaders in comfort approaching four out, led two
fences later and won quite easily. The Irish-placed Jack Of Kilcash ran quite well for second, having led most of the way and dug deep to hold Bavardier's late rally - neither Glen Amber (shown some ability) nor Going Primitive (not shown the slightest trace of any), both of whom gave chase were able to last what looked a decent pace for a maiden.