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20th February 2005
by Simon McInnes

With the excitement of other hunt related events in the last few days, the crowd for this was somewhat down on previous years, but perhaps also the weathermen's doom-laden forecast of Siberian blasts that may have caused racegoers to be snowed in, or worse, the meeting to be off, dissuaded some from turning up. Which was a shame, as there were plenty of runners, and most of the best that the south-east has to offer on show as well. Top performer on the day was Philip York, who won both maidens and the members.

Gillian Jarvis Memorial Open Maiden
The field for the two and half miler, limited to young horses, had an alarming quantity of Fs and Us in their form for a fairly lightly raced bunch, so it was sadly ironic that the favourite, Highfields Clover, should be the one to take a fatal fall when he had been previously sounder over the obstacles than his rivals. It also gave Chris Gordon a heavy tumble, which prevented him riding in the later races. The winner, who had a great deal in hand at the end, was Lady Mordaunt, who had fallen in both of her points before today, but had shown some physical ability in the process. She was left in the lead two out, which sealed the race at a time when she was travelling best of all. Shanghai Noon made the second spot, just ahead of Alittlemoreaction, who was demonstrating alittlemoreability than had been apparent so far. After her confidence booster at Godstone, Hills Of Rakaposhi took a big step backwards with another accident, four from home when she was in contention but just coming under pressure.

South East Bookmakers Restricted Race
Is this a record? No, not a round piece of black plastic on my gramophone player, but a race in which thirteen were entered and thirteen ran. Despite a pace that was modest to the naked eye, the field were soon well strung out, as if in some bizarre equine line-dancing ritual, and the gaps between them gradually increased. Across the top of the hill, It'sallinthestars and Miss Biddy had kicked clear, and although the latter had a small advantage there, her rival was biding his time and once taking it up three out was in little danger - especially as the second last was omitted due to an injured rider. It'sallinthestars did wallop the final fence, but recovered quickly and Miss Biddy's energies were by then spent. Midnight Lord and Kniveniven worked hard in pursuit without looking likely to succeed. The second fastest horse in the race actually finished seventh, as he sportingly gave his rivals a furlong start before Harry Fowler coaxed him round , narrowing the gap slowly throughout the race. The creature was Only Me, who needed constant reassurance in the paddock, had to be mounted on the course and went to post early. Clearly he is mad as a brush, but does have the raw talent. At the subsequent enquiry, the trainer (who was watching near me and was fairly livid with the misbehaviour) phlegmatically reported that he was 'proving difficult to race.'

Hobbs Parker Men’s Open
After an unexceptional win in the Members' at Godstone, we all may have drunk (to his health) and thunk (that age was catching up with him) on Struggles Glory, but he put us in our place today with an exceptional round of jumping, even by his own high standards. The oppo could not get him off the bridle, and late in the race, the horse had enough in reserve to defy the advantage his rivals had in younger, fitter riders on board. Little Farmer, proven in Opens, was second, just ahead of stablemate Tod's Brother. This was neither the best nor worst of opens, and the veteran winner is surely not finished yet - but it does make him look a bit of an underachiever in his prime!

Barfields Ladies Open
Ten lined up for this, and again the Godstone form stood up, as Millennium Way was delivered full of running after the second last fence and a brief snow flurry to double his seasonal tally. The runner-up, Little Worsall, lost his way last season but made a good start to this one, especially as he looked in need of the run. He also showed a tendency to jump right, which is especially inconvenient here as there is plenty of room for a horse to sacrifice lengths by doing so. Charing regular Storm Castle was third, and he also seemed not quite at 100% fitness, despite having had a race already. He is still capable of adding to his existing eight open wins. Market leader Belvento was in midfield when he quickly weakened and was pulled up after the thirteenth. An interesting recruit from Rules was Persian King, but he unshipped his rider on the first lap, long before his pointing prospects could be assessed with anything more reliable than astrology.

Princess Grace Hospital (London) South East Hunts Club Members Conditions Race
Another big field, this time fifteen, in a race populated mostly by horses that know their way round Charing blindfolded. The road side fences, which proved tricky all day, sorted this out early on, with Kenny Davis unseating at the first, favourite Sanamour falling at the second, and Glory Trail being brought down. This left the race open for an upset but Charlie's Angel, a likeable grey mare that underachieved a bit last season, saw off the challenge of Stylish Dave, a stroppy black Kiwi-bred that has struggled to see out the trip in the past. Tell The Nipper was third, having every chance four out, but his advancing years have rendered him something of a one-paced plodder. In fifth Perching ran in snatches, showing why he has failed to win a point since switching from Rules, where he had the form to suggest he ought to be able to pop up now and again in this sphere.

Grants Cherry Brandy South East Hunts Club Maiden
This came close to being divided, but as the cold weather and wind was beginning to wear hard on the crowd, nobody was heard to be complaining that we did not get an extra race. Perhaps one or two trainers, lacking confidence in their charges, took financial inducement not to declare, as the percentage turnout from the entries was the lowest of the day, and the course was still in pretty good nick by this time. The mentally challenged Hendrix took the field in a much improved frame of mind, only to ruin it by unseating at the second, where Mister Pearly hit the deck. The field thinned out rapidly on the last lap, and Blaze On (second in a novice hurdle last summer) pulled away from the pursuers fairly easily. He tired towards the end, giving the last fence a bit of a nudge, but on the whole looked fairly impressive and probably has plenty of improvement still to come. Blakes Road won a battle for second over Badgers Glory and some time later - he was taking four out as the winner came over the last - Moon Rising made up the quartet of finishers. Having been slowly away and never asked to close the gap, completion was presumably the objective, although had there been a seventh race, the leaders in it might well have overtaken him.

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