APRIL 2004
by Simon McInnes

And Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all! A huge crowd for what is a fairly small course, no doubt drawn by the good weather, but the wet spell in the week kept the ground fresh enough to ensure a better quality racing than has often been the case for this meeting.

Erith Waste Management Confined
There were a couple of odd incidents on the far side of the course in this race. Firstly, Glenmont unseated his rider on the flat between the ninth and tenth fences, and a lap later Kilvoydan veered sharply right and conceded a lead of a few lengths. Both horses have had their moments of mental frailty in the past, but this double act did make me wonder if there was another factor - sun reflecting off of car windows parked on that side of the course perhaps? After conceding the advantage, Kilvoydan did get back on an even keel and battled hard, but Peter Bull jumped at the chance given and sent Oxendale on immediately. Over the years Oxendale has been a reliable jumper

with an unexceptional winning strike rate, but he usually finds one race per season, and this was his moment. The only other finisher was Live Wire, who was never much of a danger to the winner. After his good effort at Charing over Easter, Commasarris was never travelling well today and pulled up. Granny Smith also called it a day after two out, when well beaten, and although I suggested that her form figures were compiled in duff races, there may have been an element of this coming a bit too soon as well.

Polebrook Restricted
A race where the memory played tricks - and nostalgia is not what it used to be! The racecard implied that Sliabh Foy’s third place at Easter was his first run in five seasons. I was sure that he had run under Rules in the meantime, but when I checked after the meeting, even that was as three years previously! It seems like only yesterday. He made the running and came home a tidy winner. At various points Midnight Lord closed up on Sliabh Foy, but was often out-jumped by the leader, and from four out Sliabh Foy only needed to pop the rest to see off his labouring challenger. Catsfield maiden winner Siobhans Quinner appeared to have reached the end of her tether when she fell at the fourteenth.

Marco Weighing Systems Veteran & Novice Riders
A race also for veteran and novice horses, with seven year old The Grey Baron representing the kids, and sixteen year old Algan on hand for the pensioners. After tipping Oxendale in the first race, the commentator sat on the fence a little here, and merely expressed doubt (as opposed to conviction) that a King George winner had ever run at Penshurst. The race produced a cracking finish, with Lively Lord, ridden by Gareth Wigley just holding on from Cloudy Creek. The runner-up lost far more than the neck he was beaten with some scrappy jumping, and Lively Lord was recording his fourth course win. He is a funny horse, in that he has looked a tricky customer at times, but since gaining cheekpieces has managed three wins for novice riders. Although he lost a clear advantage from the second last, it was more likely to be fatigue, having set the pace, rather than misbehaviour. Algan was in third pretty much most of the way, and was not subjected to a hard race in vain. After the race, Cloudy Creek seemed a bit distressed, but was calmed down by the application of plenty of water, and will need some time to get over this.

James Millard Ladies Open
Five went to post, and on recent form, two of them stood out. That pair did fight out the finish, with Spring Gale getting the verdict. He had not appeared to be travelling especially well, but his rival, Cedar Chief, appeared to stumble after the fourteenth and lost the lead. It took a while for him to regain equilibrium, by which stage Spring Gale had built up a margin that he was not prepared to concede. Third was Kincora, who ran an odd race. He was always a bit off the pace, but from halfway did not lose any more ground and after not completing in his last two, this was a fair confidence booster.

Testers Of Edenbridge Land Rover Men’s Open
Just four runners, but they were all potentially interesting. The race was won by Sheriff’s Friend, who did attract some bettors at odds of 2/7 or shorter, and those people may have been having a heart flutter or two as Chris Gordon gave the horse an extremely confident ride, still five lengths down but on the bridle approaching two out. He made smooth progress going to the final obstacle and in the end won with plenty in hand. Funnily enough, this was one of Sheriff’s Friend’s more impressive efforts as his succession of wins has been characterised by gutsy, rather than flashy, performances. The runner-up was King Of The Dawn, who has regained his old jumping confidence after a couple of accidents when he first went pointing. Royal Action was not too far behind in third, with Leatherback whipper-in. Based on his Rules form, Leatherback has been a bit of an underachiever in winning just a confined this year, but he is only six and has plenty of time to get it together.

Shepherd Neame Open Maiden
There was not an outstanding candidate in this, although several had shown hints of ability. The bookies were equally unsure, and as a result career non-completer Sawbridge was initially priced at 4/1 - presumably the combination of Ann Blaker training and Chris Gordon riding being to blame. Paul Chinery ran out the winner, on the slowly improving Baron Bernard. He was much too good for most of them, but a tactical faux pas made his task easier than it need have been. Given an intentional waiting ride, Abbey Days was still well off of the pace when he was slow at the fifth last. This gave him an impossible task, and although much of the gap was closed, there was not a chance of winning. Definitely a horse capable of better. Third placed

Blakes Road was not disgraced in his second run, and a bad mistake three out cost him the chance to put pressure on Baron Bernard. The only newcomer was Sir Henrik, who was a little excited before the race, and looked in need of a tongue strap just wandering around the paddock. He eventually pulled up, but improvement cannot be ruled out.