Surrey Union at PEPER HARROW

Saturday 6th May 2000
by Simon McInnes

My first visit to a course that was designed as a satire but some how got the go ahead to exist. The fields were mostly large and apart from one or two spoilsports, it turned into veterans day. The combined age of the open winners was twenty-nine and both divisions of the maiden went to eleven year olds, with a twelve year old winning the hunt race.

There was a brief pre-race confusion as Bit Of A Do was announced as a runner instead of stablemate Bit Of An Idiot. As any fule noe, these minor hiccups have a way of generating greater confusion later and of course, Bit Of An Idiot overturned the long odds-on Time Enough under a well timed ride. The price of the Idiot was considerably less than that briefly offered on the Do, but no great commotion was noticed in the ring.

This was a fair heat, and the market leaders dominated – Belvento edging Oxendale and Brodante King in the no-holds barred battle. An intriguing performance was by the close fourth, Sliabh Foy. Earlier in the season it was taking only minor errors to unseat his owner-rider, Fraser Marshall, but as the jockey has improved with experience, the horse is also beginning to show plenty of ability and has gone 414 in his recent races, after starting UPUUU. His future progress is worth keeping an eye on. One fence, equating to three jumps, was omitted whilst rabbit holes on the take-off side were filled in, which can have only been a relief to some of the iffy jumpers wobbling around at the back.

Mens Open
The victory here went to Equity Player at the ripe old age of fifteen. Even in his prime, he was a relentless galloper rather than fleet of finishing foot, but with the leaders setting off at an unsustainable pace, his tendency to maintain the same steady speed to the line was sufficient to overtake his main rivals. Jumping was critical as Kenny Davis was a threat when unseating at the second last and Prime Course’s error five out cost him more than he was beaten by. The rabbit saboteurs had by this stage been foiled and the full eighteen fences were jumped.

Ladies Open
This was a great finish with the first four all within a couple of lengths. The group of racegoers watching from head on by the open ditch (best view of as many fences as possible) mostly favoured Nordic Spree in the photo, with a couple inclined towards Velka. Thus the nomination of For William as the winner was a minor surprise. Fourth was Pride Of Kashmir, who is only seven and has more wins in store if kept to a realistic level and/or softer going.

Open Maiden (Div I)
It may seem at times that these reviews are the journal of the Chris Gordon Appreciation Society. Well I have to report that the great man again struck on a horse who was far from a certainty. With a suicidal pace set by UK Eurolad and debutant Strawberry Blossom, he kept tabs at a sensible distance on Graphic Designer, before closing gradually from behind the plantation and going clear for an easy win. The victor has some fair hurdles form but this is the first time he has replicated it in a point. UK Eurolad needs a two and a half miler or an easy track where the finish is downhill – he ran well at Bexhill recently. Strawberry Blossom kept third and will have learnt much from this, although she needs to brush up her jumping.

Open Maiden (Div II)
After threatening to win a race on several occasions – but letting some good openings go begging on others - Oisin Dubh finally got off the mark with a quietly efficient round of jumping, comfortably accounting for Ell Gee, who maintained the usual sequence of unseating or being placed. A previous report gave a fair review to Sunley Spring, but he ran out as early as the third or fourth (I did not have a clear view). If it was the latter, he may have an aversion to filled in rabbit holes. When Moon Rising fell disputing the lead at the fourteenth – well clear of the third - Peter Bull was pretty disgusted and he might have taken some catching if lasting home. Tonrin conspicuously failed to get the trip having been left well clear by Moon Rising’s departure and would be of interest in a two and a half mile maiden.

This was a massively competitive race, with many of the field capable of winning if all went their way. And that was vital as damage to the open ditch caused it to be dolled off on the last circuit and favourite Some Tourist went to the left hand side of it, not the right as instructed. Our old friend Jojo made the running but some point around the thirteenth fence he decided enough was enough. Jenny Grant was then able to complete a double on Billie’s Mate.