by Simon McInnes

The guru of Jumping For Fun pays a visit, and just for once the South East fails to produce any moments of farce, or even anything vaguely comic. This is the showpiece meeting of the area, featuring the Kent National… surely someone was poised to do something idiotic? The best stab was made by the bookmakers, very few of whom were betting each-way, which just forced punters onto the Tote. A little sympathy is with them for the Ladies Open, where the favourite was 2/5, so not a great market for offering each-way, but the same applied in the National, where the first three opened approximately 5/4, 2/1 and 3/1. To atone for this, I have peppered the report with made up words, as an obscure tribute to George W Bush.

Kevin Ferrett Memorial Hunt Race
Only four of these went to post, and as far as predictication was concerned, would the race fall to the dour plodderation of Glenmont, or the more sparkling, but slightly unfulfilled, talent of Camden Road. The latter as it turned out, without much trouble from the opposition, but a certain inconvenience from indifferent jumping. Having led since the seventh, Honey Honey weakened three out and lost runner-up spot to Glenmont. On Amanda's Fancy, Barry Neaves was having his first ride, and after hitting the fourth he adopted an approach that made it clear that completion was the number one priority. Being on a mare that jumps carefully and shapes like she would stay six miles at her own modest pace, this was achieved, to a good reception from crowd and fellow jockeys.

Clutton's Confined Hunts Race
The betting market went bananas for the sentimentally inclined, as four greys went to post in a field of fifteen. The early leader was Night Thyne, who took them along at a decent pace. The first real enchallenging came from Borotown Lord, who promptly fell. The engine is there, but failure to complete is becoming a habit. Favourite Rustic Revelry was sneaking into the picture, and took it up going into the far turn. However, Martha's Boy was lurking ominously and he hit the front two out, and stuck to the task well. A few years ago, the winner was a decent handicap chaser, but had been injured a lot and never recovered his best form. Paired with a decent rider in David Dunsdon, he could win a few points yet, even though he has already turned twelve. Rustic Revelry held second from the rapidly finishing Galeaway, under Hannah Grissell. Night Thyne, whose form when failing to get round had suggested that he was up to this level, was fourth - it may prove to be a fairly decent confined. Second favouite Sean's Minstrel had won a poor race last time, and was always struggling to go the pace. He is also quite a lean individual and may not stand very much racing. The paddock pick, Lovely Lynsey, came a cropper at the first.

Gerald Lukehurst Ladies Open Race
Eight in a row for Sheriff's Friend, and the first leg of a double for Jenny Gordon. But it was not as easy as might have been expected. He was right behind the leader but requiring a little bit of niggling five out and when hitting the front did not shake off the pursuit at all easily. That was mainly Kincora, who had made the running and battled on gutsilifically once headed. Lisa Stock was on board, and hopefully such aggressive tactics will be employed on a couple more of her regular mounts that lack anything like the turn of foot required to be ridden from the back of the pack. Pride Of Kashmir did his best in third, but was not quite good enough. Bitofamixup replicated stablemate Galeaway in the previous race by charging home in eye-catching manner when it was far too late, this time for fourth. The worst case scenario for the south-east would be a Ladies Open with three runners - one that had to be held up no matter what and the other two ridden by Lisa Stock and Hannah Grissell. The recall flag man would never feel so safe.

Shepherd Neame Kent Grand National 4 Mile Mixed Open Race
No long distance raiders this time, and some people must have wished they had entered, as a trio of fourteen year olds headed the market. Seod Rioga understandably headed the market, having won this race last year and won at Charing last week. The spoils were duly landed, and on the Tote he paid £4.40 for the win and £4.10 for the place - presumably as he was just above evens with the bookies, nobody thought the place would be worth doing. Next in the betting was Peafield, who appeared fit enough for his seasonal debut. Having been rather unfortunate to be disqualified from a dead-heat in the 2000 renewal, Prime Course was third in the market, but he looked like he needed the race. Based purely on pre-race condition, thirteen year old whipper-snapper Dixon Varner would be the pick. The race was runnified quite slowly, as befits an equine OAPs event, and Seod Rioga took it up for good at the seventh, although Jenny Gordon had to get quite serious after the last. Runner-up was Dixon Varner, indicatoring the benefits of experience in the plate. A couple of years ago, only a crazed optimist would have bet on Frazer Marshall surviving twenty-seven fences in the saddle, but today he almost pinched the big one. Third placed was Nubro, who broke his run of either winning or pulling up. This was his first try at an extended trip and it appeared to suit. Next year? The postscript to this race was the first incidence I have come across in the south-east of very shoddy bookmaking practice. One layer, appropriately trading under the name of Rich, had not specified whether betting each-way on the race. I asked if he was, and the response was to enquire which horse was I interested in. This was Oxendale, who had less than a cat in hell's chance of winning, but could lumber on into a place - as it happens, he did not. However, knowing the horse, the bookmaker's offer was that he would take each-way, but not at the 22/1 on show, 'because I'm the best price.' For all the criticism that the NJPC get, this would not have been allowed had they had jurisdiction over this ring!

Mercedes-Benz Restricted Race
Ten lined up, but it lacked strength in depth, and the first two had seen off their rivals by the seventeenth. Itsmyturnnow got the best of Astley Gold. They both jumped well, but the latter looked very impressive in that sphere, hitting Itsmyturnnow up the backside with a huge leap at the fourteenth fence. They are both preparated to a step up in class. The pace looked quick to the naked eye, and the manner in which the first two tied up after the last confirmed it had been a bit too rapid. Naughty Dandy (third) and Carlton Brae (fourth) both closed up a great deal on what was a big gap as late as two out. Lady Dot looked fabulous before hand, but again showed little and there is no obvious reason why she will improve on it, even though it was her seasonal debut.

Hampton Charters Confined Maiden
A busy thirteen runner field thinned out quickly as four came to grief at the first, although I did not have a clear enough view to see if there were hamperments, or if they all did it of their own accord. Nigel Benstead kept Jack Of Kilcash out of harms way in front, and was still there as they crossed the line, paying a big compliment to Sendonthecheque, his conqueror last week. Give Us A Chance was a creditable second, as he looked as if he would come on for the race - not the first Jenny Gordon-trained horse to give that impression this season. He overhauled Bob Nickel late on, another seasonal debutant. These were the only finishers. Threes Company had been second most of the way and was running his best ever race three out. However, he hit the wall halfway up the straight and fell two out. A bit more promise, but some form of completion would do him a world of good. On his first racecourse appearance, Arctic Drift caught the eye in the paddock. He travelled well until a mistake at the eleventh. David Dunsdon just about recovered his irons for the next, but another mistake ensued. He popped the next couple and was then pulled up, having quickly lost touch. Improvement should be forthcoming.

McCabe Ford Williams Open Maiden
After the chaos in the last race, the first fence in the straight (numbers 1, 10 and 19) was omitted. It did not affect the outcome, which prompted a minor upsurgement of eyebrows, as the irresolute Tonrin finally broke his duck and long Tote queues as each-way punters nabbed a surprise win on top of their banker place investment. He looked in tip-top condition before the race and ran the race of his life, as he was all out on the run-in, not a condition Tonrin appreciates. Despite being flat to the boards, nothing was alongside, and that is when he is inclinated to run up the white flag. Having been subject to a waiting ride, The Wee General predictably failed to produce a Rooster Boosterish turn of pace and just grabbed second. Had he been closer to begin with, he may have had a chance to worry the winner out of it. Trinity Buoy, who was third, seems no more likely to stay three miles than when not doing so last season. Doomed to fourth at the time, To The Top showed a little promise, but eventually fell two out. He may do better if not disturbed by the experience. Pistol Knight was far too jittery in the preliminaries to do himself justice but was second in a maiden last term and can do better if less excited next time.