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Sunday 8th January 2006

by Simon McInnes
photos by Graham Fisher

It was a pretty bleak day in Hampshire, drizzly to start with and gradually getting heavier and chillier. What made it worse was that the rain was blowing in from the direction of the airfield, and even on top of the hill, visibility was restricted as binocular lenses became watered. Brown shapes with four legs could be made out, fairly often with someone or something on their back, but details were at a premium. Unlike previous years, the maiden was not divided despite being under the safety limit, leaving a five race card. With even some of the more weather-beaten and outdoor acclimatised racegoers becoming saturated (and worse, the racecards disintegrating) there was not much complaint at this policy – cue allegations that the sport is going soft. As far as the going was concerned, it started officially good to soft, soft in places, but was clearly much easier by the end. As nobody had thought to bring waterproof marker pens for the number board, it was unclear if an official update was made.

Incidentally, the air traffic into Farnborough was much heavier than noticed in past years, so I will take the opportunity to start the rumour that the CIA were bringing in terror suspects to specially rendition them by means of riding newcomers in the open maiden. If pointing is helping the CIA in this way, you would think they would cough up and sponsor a race.

Country House Company 9 year olds and over Tweseldown Racing Club Members Race, Veteran & Novice Riders & City of London Club Members
1: Quickswood 2: Father Jim 3: French Boy

Quickswood and Godfrey Maundrell take the Veteran & Novice Riders Race

Winner owned, trained & ridden: Godfrey Maundrell The winning team from 2004 came up trumps again, despite the horse having missed all of last season. It appeared in the prelims that Quickswood might have a hint of a fitness disadvantage against some of his rivals, but if he had retained his ability, only a couple had serious prospects of worrying him. Gola Cher faded from the third last as if he himself needed the race and Guilsborough Gorse, who did not handle cut well under Rules, never got into the race. Father Jim ran one of his better races, and occasionally picks up a decent place, but he last won four years ago, and has a poor winning percentage – three out of thirty. Although given an awful lot to do as he settled at the back early and drawing attention with his progress in the final mile, French Boy is still a maiden, and having made the frame now on more than half of his runs, you have to wonder how bothered he is by the prospect of a win. To the surprise of many, the unrelentingly unsuccessful Fruit Defendu had every chance when he blundered at the last and flung the rider over his head. Given that Quickswood did not exactly sprint clear on the run-in, this might have been his golden opportunity squashed like a rotting lemon.

Volkswagen Touareg Mens Open
1: Irilut 2: Killard Point 3: Barton Baron

Irilut and Sam Waley-Cohen are clear at the last in the VW Touareg Mens Open

Winner owned & trained: Robert Waley-Cohen, ridden: SamWaley-Cohen In advance this race looked a fairly competitive affair, with a good ten runner field, but the first pair home demolished their rivals. Irilut made a couple of mistakes early on but warmed to the task as they went further. He made ground with some big leaps in the last mile, but within the proviso of the blurred view mentioned in the intro, it did appear that one or two might have contained an element of guesswork. With his form on soft having coming at the lowest levels contested, Killard Point ran an admirable race to not be beaten far on ground that may not have been ideal. He looks a very promising seven year old that ought to go one better sooner rather than later. Lightly raced Moonoki was travelling well when he unseated, but the race was only beginning to unfold in earnest and how he would have fared afterwards cannot be predicted. There were some negative performances. Even allowing for the unsuitable going, Ball In The Net was struggling absurdly early in the race, reasonable handicap chaser El Bandito had a massive attack of the sulks when his attempts to dominate were finally foiled at the sixth, and the politest view of Tanager is that he ran in snatches, mostly bad ones, not for the first time.

Astaire & Partners Ltd Ladies Open
1: Ask Henry 2: Boyarsky 3: Cedar Chief

Cary Buckler and Ask Henry return after their win in the Ladies Open

Winner owned & trained: Mrs P Buckler, ridden: Miss C Buckler And sporting a rug from trainer Bob Buckler! So it was an all round family success! Although not wining often under Rules, Ask Henry took on some good opponents, and his long distance hurdle win proved his stamina. Like the previous race, the first pair battered the oppo into submission in a healthy turnout of ten. Everything, including the rain, had fallen right into place for Ask Henry, and he took advantage without too much fuss. Boyarsky had two wins last season in weak races so it was an interesting challenge to leap into an open, which he did not quite pass, but did well enough to be referred for another attempt. If he stays in Ladies’ races, Cedar Chief will no doubt find a small field or two to intimidate in the south-east. My pre-meeting notes on Sir D’Orton were ‘engine but mental,’ but today there was little s ign of either. Although he only won small field races last year, do not write off Minino on this evidence, as he had a decidedly gentle warm-up and can do better.

Astaire & Partners Ltd Tweseldown Racing Club Members’ Moderate
1: Ballyvaden 2: Lord Of The Bog 3: Bolide Du Aunay

Ballyvaden and Jamie Snowden impress in the Club Members Moderate

Winner owned: MJ O’Connor, trained: Caroline Keevil, ridden: Jamie Snowden Victory fell to the favourite, winner of an Irish maiden making his UK debut, in a very dour fashion. Although it was not a flashy performance, the impression created is that Ballyvaden keeps working to get the job done, and is the sort who could raise his game at a higher level when required. The appropriately named Lord Of The Bog put in an outstanding round of jumping, but got outstayed by the winner from the second last. It is possibly significant that both runs last year were two and a half mile maidens. Bolide Du Aunay was on face value disappointing, in that he usually finishes first or second, but he also gives cause for concern on his staying power. Despite being named after a meteor, he does not have much in the way of meteoric characteristics, as far as speed is concerned. Another Irish import, The Camerengo found it all too much hard work and struggled over the final obstacle for fourth. After a win and a fall in 2005, Sanamour set out as if he was in line for a schooling session, but when he was asked for a bit of effort there was not much zip forthcoming. Lightly raced Astley Gold, a winner last season, was never involved, but definitely needed the race.

Richard Robinson Horse Transport Open Maiden
1: Fully Loaded 2: Sigma Three Gee 3: Butcher Bayes

Fully Loaded and Charlotte Tizzard are clear going to the last in the Open Maiden

Winner owned & trained: Adrian Tizzard, ridden: Charlotte Tizzard An oddity for this was the market, which had several runners vying for favouritism, when the winner’s credentials of one run, second behind a good rival, and representing successful connections would normally have earmarked him for the spot. Support did eventually leave him there, with Capricorn second in the betting, also backed. In the end, Fully Loaded was a comfy winner, although understandably a bit tired in the straight. However, it may have been a bit flattering, as Killarney Prince was well clear when disappearing about five from home. I was watching from near the winning post, and did not encounter anyone who was certain of what fate befell Killarney Prince. Although the pursuit never got anywhere near Fully Loaded, Sigma Three Gee, who was a serious handful in the paddock, gave connections a pleasant surprise by being well clear in second. Butcher Bayes, an eight year old making his debut, will presumably improve for the experience and outbattled Parsons Fancy for third, but they were an awful long way behind Sigma Three Gee. Another who was a bit lively in the paddock was Henry’s Luck Penny. His best Rules run came when second in a selling hurdle, but today he had what appeared to be an educational until pulling up and ought to be up to a significant step up on the bare form.

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