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Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent
Saturday 24th April 2010
by Simon McInnes

Was this the first day that it became too hot for racing? Not quite, but it was a major contrast to the weather that most of the season has staggered through - although I do recall making a facetious comment about a rare sighting of the sun at Cottenham back in December. Suitably chastened by the events that those few word provoked, let no more be said about it - the huge crowd, which left the ample car park at the course nigh on full, spoke for itself.

Going: Not stated. The course had been watered which left the horses making a print on the surface, but it also gave the impression that it was merely a soft cushion on a very firm base. Does that average to good?

Race 1: Lord & Lady Harris Countryside Alliance Club Members
1: Mr Tee Pee 2: Garundi 3: Captain's Legacy
Winner owned & ridden: Matt Braxton, trained: Rose Grissell
Beating a solitary opponent, who eventually ran out, in the Catsfield members race did not necessarily indicate that Mr Tee Pee had completely returned to form, but routing five opponents that showed, mostly, a more total comprehension of the racing concept did. Admittedly that quintet did not enter the fray in the peak of their form, and all but Garundi was brushed aside before the third last, but some superior jumping was noteworthy from Mr Tee Pee and perhaps he will repeat the performance in another rise in class. After pulling up in his last three, Garundi raised his game a great deal, after a lack of fluency at the early obstacles left him dallying at the rear for the first lap.

Race 2: Hospitable Hunt Hostelries South East Hunts Club Members, Novice and Veteran Riders
1: Parkinson 2: Long Courrier 3: Durante
Winner owned & trained: JM Turner, ridden: Ed Turner

A disappointing turnout of three for this, and the market made Durante favourite, based on three wins already this season. However, Parkinson, who won at this meeting in 2009, would have been giving him lumps of weight in a handicap chase, and had arguably been getting placed in tougher contests. Long Courrier managed to get himself detached from the other pair before the first fence, and watched Parkinson and Durante (also a long lost chat show classic) go round head to head in the lead. There was never more than half a length between them, until Parkinson kicked on before the third last. After that, it was all over, and Durante was sufficiently eased when beaten to lose second on the run-in, to the angst of those who had gone for a forecast option.

Race 3: Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate
1: Lillie Lou 2: Karingabay Queen 3: One To Note
Winner owned & trained: R Fielder, ridden: Phil York
A rather sub-standard intermediate as most of the runners would have been qualified for a restricted had there been one. This played into the hands of Lillie Lou, who has been prolific compared to most of her rivals, and has only slowly been easing back to form after missing 2009. She was going well in front after the fourth last, and rather than accelerate away, just gradually increased the lead as her challengers faded. Karingabay Queen plugged away gamely to earn second after making much of the running, and as a mere five year old probably still has improvement in her. In the opening shows One To Note was odds-on, but he drifted to odds against by the off, and after hitting the fifth hard, again looked a hard ride. Ilikehimmac, who had a tough race last week at Catsfield, was ridden more patiently this time, and was still in contention when falling at the fourteenth. If the quick reappearance was no problem, he could well have given Lillie Lou some hassle.

Race 4: Knight Frank Elizabeth Champion Memorial Ladies' Open
1: Badger 2: King Du Berlais 3: Fantastic Champion
Winner owned, trained & ridden: Caroline Taylor
Last year's 1-2 of Carryonharry and Fantastic Champion reopposed in this, with a much bigger than normal field of seven. However, Carryonharry, possibly recalling this as the scene of his only defeat of 2010, threw a wobbly at the first fence and got rid of his rider. This unexpected turn of events left the crowd a little bemused, as they were clearly expecting the usual outcome. Realistically, this left two serious contenders, Badger and King Du Berlais, as Fantastic Champion is not the heartiest competitor, Reymysterio is the similar but worse and The Model Rebel has shown no form since coming to the UK. The potential spanner in the works was Soldershire, who gave no sign of the mean streak shown at Catsfield, but was weakening when he fell at the third last. In the end Badger was a comfortable winner, bearing the burden of expectation to seal the race in the middle of the back straight, and having enough in hand to ease off considerably after the last.

Race 5: Polebrook Brian Perring Memorial Men's Open
1: Cape Stormer 2: Master T 3: Reflex Blue
Winner owned: The Gorman Family, trained: Carolyn Gorman, ridden: Marcus Gorman
With five runners, this was another better than expected field for the course, although the standard was not especially high - Sharlom and Master T were placed in the vets & novice riders race at this meeting last season. Cape Stormer is a bit too old at fifteen to recreate his year of being the most prolific winner in the country, but is still good enough when the best that the oppo can muster is a rogue like Master T, and he was not hard pressed to pick up the trophy on this occasion. Reflex Blue looked as if he was on one of his rare going days, but in the latter stages his jumping became very scrappy and it knocked the stuffing out of him completely. Sharlom did not fancy this at all and pulled up at halfway. The other runner, Art Trend, took a heavy fall at the thirteenth.

Race 6: Grants Cherry Brandy Open Maiden
1: Royal Russet 2: Humbel Tricks 3: Top Society Girl
Winner owned & trained: RH York, ridden: Philip York
In a real rarity, the maiden had fewer runners than either of the opens, and the four that raced should have put the fear of God into punters, other than those with a perverse love of a token bet in the worst races that can be found – being inclined towards the latter, this has been arguably my favourite race of the season so far. And no, I had no money on Royal Russet. Flora Ana came into this with form of P5PP. Humbel Tricks had PP from a couple of Irish runs in 2007. Royal Russet had P. Top Society Girl had finished a couple of times in the distant past, missed last year and gone UUPPP in this one. Obvious expectation of improvement led Royal Russet to head the market, and he obliged despite some pretty shoddy jumping in the first half of a race run at a crawl (the final time was over seven minutes). For a long while Top Society Girl was a visible danger, but her stamina lasted only until the fourth last, and she dropped out fairly abruptly, losing second to Humbel Tricks. Flora Ana pulled up. The form is probably worthless, but Humbel Tricks, who is still only seven, has some scope to improve for the run, whereas Royal Russet will find even restricteds a much tougher proposition.

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