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Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent
Saturday 4th April 2009
by Simon McInnes

Having often been the palace of small fields, due to tending towards late season meetings, Penshurst took the risky decision to go head-to-head with the Grand National. The crowd was decent, but below par for a track that can draw in monster attendances irrespective of the conditions, but a concerted attempt to water the racing line meant that there were more runners than average - forty four in all, including a rare double figure field. All in all, the adjective that summed up the day was civilised. There were a couple of places to watch the big race, which were crowded, and someone had the excellent idea of putting a microphone near a TV and broadcasting the commentary over the PA. It was a success as the mike also picked up the ebb and flow of emotions coming from people watching near it, however none was feeling every fence and yard as much as a Jack Russell whose owners were sitting near the paddock. This dog is hero of National Hunt racing, and one that only seeks a small sliver of a burger as a reward.

Going: Good (Good to Firm places), changed to Good to Firm for race 5

Race 1: Villagate Properties Ltd Members
1: Big Al 2: Satco's Deception 3: Billie Bay
Winner owned: Peter Crate, trained: Helen Sarchet, ridden: James Sarchet
The betting for this was 4/5 Sheriff's Friend, the former dominant force in the area but now fourteen, 5/4 Satco's Deception, once a reasonable chaser but missing in 2008 and pulled up his only run this term, and 10/1 the other three. Sheriff's Friend did not jump especially well, and eventually made a bad mistake and unseated Hayley Moore at the fifth. After that, Satco's Deception failed to travel like the remaining good thing, and a persistent ride from James Sarchet was enough to allow Big Al to cling on. Billie Bay was sung to whilst being led up and also by his rider going to post. Given the weights were 12-5, surely there was enough in hand to carry round an mp3 player?

Race 2: Graham & Daryl Addiscott Restricted
1: Boulliac 2: Reymysterio 3: Ten Horse Power
Winner owned: David O Moon, trained & ridden: Ben Manning
With a field declared that was mentally challenging to dissect, the betting market was a very volatile, but after opening as a short price favourite, the consistent theme was that Reymysterio was a steady drifter. When they jumped off, Boulliac, putting up four pounds overweight, was a touch tardy, but the field was going so slowly, that even imperfect jumps at the first two did not prevent him quickly getting back on terms. The favourite took the lead at the tenth, blunder two fences later, kept his position and was six lengths clear at the last, where he was also a bit slow in the air. However, if there is one horse that nobody minds having a lead on them at the last it is Reymysterio, and Boulliac plugged away and pinched the win, his rider's second from just five rides. The team recovered from a flat spot after three out, and had the pace been sharper, his iffy start might have been more expensive. Sironi was second favourite, but was never going that well and his jumping was indifferent as a result. He is very inconsistent.

Race 3: The Court Group Of Companies South East Club Members
1: Cape Stormer 2: No Reward 3: Delgany Gale
Winner owned & ridden: Marcus Gorman, trained: Carolyn Gorman
Despite being the biggest field of the day, this turned up the easiest win as Cape Stormer showed a glimpse of the form that saw him the country's most prolific winner in 2006. He led at halfway and gradually went further clear, coming home unflustered in the end. No Reward won the separate race for second with a bit to spare, and looked like he can pick up a late season win or two when avoiding the likes of Cape Stormer. Stable mate Delgany Gale has a couple of years on the two that beat him, and had already won a confined this year, so the margin by which he was seen off was a touch disappointing. After pulling up every race since the start of 2008, Dans Blarney improved his efforts to finish fourth, but has already won a restricted, so might be short of options to build on the progress.

Race 4: John Coldman Men's Open
1: Master T 2: Basic Fact 3: Boy's Hurrah
Winner owned & ridden: Peter Bull, trained: Suzy Bull
Quite a fascinating Men's Open, which went to the enigma that is Master T. Anyone who has set foot on a racecourse in the south-east will be familiar with the horse and his foibles, and any time he is persuaded to pass the post first (it happens, but less often than it ought to) is a tribute to the jockey. The Master outlasted Basic Fact, some might say outbattled but we should remain in the realms of realism. The runner-up came close to being another success for the Turner yard on the back of a run of pulled-ups. Boy's Hurrah still led at the final fence, where he made a mistake which knocked the last of his energies out of him, but for his first run in aeons it was a decent comeback. The first two in the betting were flops. Elenas River simply did not perform well enough, possibly due to the fast ground, but Glenbower Woods, who has unseated in his last two, seemed to be ridden with completing being the sole objective, and made no attempt to keep tabs on the first quartet in the last half mile. He did have a battle for last with Lord Atterbury on the run-in, but I was not near enough to see who won that thriller.

Race 5: Savills Ladies' Open
1: Tikram 2: Leatherback 3: Carryonharry
Winner owned: Rodger Sargeant, trained: Rose Grissell, ridden: Hannah Grissell
This was the final marker that Carryonharry's unassailable reign is over, as although Tikram would have given him a race in his prime, Leatherback would have been cannon fodder for the grey machine, now a fifteen year old. The positions in the race chopped and changed a lot as Fantastic Champion moved up and down the field in fits and starts, but Tikram led for most, if not all, of the way, and is surely worth trying in hunter chases. After a couple of falls, and he was unconvincing in a chase or two under Rules, Brendar's trainer observed that 'the problem is that he can't ******* stand up' but he completed here, and despite the fatigue resulting from a having a full three miles under her belt, rider Carly Stewart was chuffed. Onwards and upwards?

Race 6: Nick Finegold Execution Ltd Open Maiden
1: Dane Run 2: Heynewboy 3: Master Shuil
Winner owned: John Rowsell, trained: Robert Rowsell, ridden: Terry Ellis
A maiden of exceptional weakness was fought out by two runners that had at least racked up a few travelling miles to get to Penshurst. Dane Run had managed his first completion last time, and was all the rage in the betting. Heynewboy, a bumper winner who has been utterly confounded by any form of obstacle placed in his way, at least made Dane Run work for the spoils, but the punts were landed with a bit in hand. The were well clear of Master Shuil who invariably completes but without threatening to win, a concept he considers vulgar, but he finished ahead of Kanga Gold, the only other finisher. In the maiden at Catsfield last year, that Kanga Gold and Master Shuil were placed, and a rematch there in a few weeks is something to look forward to. Any bookies looking for an unusual betting line may note that Kanga Gold is also a serial finisher, so there is a world of possibilities.

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