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Old Surrey, Burstow & West Kent
Saturday 25th April 2009
by Simon McInnes

Photos by Adam Goodburn

Yet another huge crowd at Penshurst, and due to the lack of recent rain, the fields were mostly a little short on quality and quantity, despite the watering that had taken place. However, after opening with a two runner race in the sort of event that has been well supported in the south-east this season, things did not turn out as badly as may have been feared, and the continual scrum around the bookies showed that the fields (often with odds-on favourites, but not absurdly short priced ones) were stimulating interest from the crowd.

Going: Good (Good to Firm places)

Race 1: Lord & Lady Harris South East Hunts Club Members
1: Parkinson 2: Lord Atterbury
Winner owned & trained: JM Turner, ridden: James Owen
In a two runner race, the market was undecided what should be favourite, starting with Lord Atterbury and ending up with Parkinson. The initial position was a small surprise as Lord Atterbury really had been a pale shadow of his former self so far this term and was going to have to liven his ideas up a bit. Setting a sedate pace, he did manage to extract a few niggles from the saddle on Parkinson, whose prospects briefly looked shaky, but once he dashed for home at the third last, the result was quickly accepted.

Race 2: The Leicester Arms South East Hunts Club Members, Novice and Veteran Riders
1: Dad Says Heazle 2: Sharlom 3: Master T
Winner owned: Mrs JA Donergan, trained: Veronica Park, ridden: Stuart Spice
The biggest field and closest finish of the day was served up here. Sharlom set a good pace, with Dad Says Heazle his nearest pursuer. It looked like it may be unsustainable, but around about the fifth last it became apparent that, with one exception, the pack was not doing anything to suggest that they were going to reel the leading pair in. The one who did emerge was Master T, the favourite, who had been at the rear early on, when the field was spread over fifteen lengths or more. He made up plenty of ground on from four out to the penultimate fence and was right back in contention at the last. However, having got there in time, he failed to pass either of the leaders and it was left for Dad Says Heazle to outstay the pace setter by a short head, and another neck separated them from Master T. It did seem that Master T elected, of his own volition, not to perform the key overtaking late on, but he has never quite convinced as a three miler, despite winning a couple of points, and lack of stamina may have influenced his decision. At one stage it appeared that Reflex Blue may get involved as well, but he chose to take it easy before expending the full energy to close the gap. If he is going to run up the white flag, it was the wisest time to do it.

Race 3: Connolly's Red Mills Intermediate
1: New Street Express 2: Independent Trader 3: Misty Brook
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs P Blagg and Mr & Mrs M Boutcher, trained & ridden: Paul Blagg
Four lined up for this, and when three approached the second last with barely a hair's breadth between them, another top notch finish was threatening. Alas, Nessa, who was going best of all, faltered and ran out through the wing, and Independent Trader's effort ground to a near halt, leaving New Street Express to pick up a win that was a bit easier than seemed likely with just over a furlong to go. After a shaky UK start, this was the second week in a row that he has shown better form, and he will not be out of place in opens if he continues to work as hard as he has been doing. Meanwhile, Nessa has rather blotted her copybook at what is not a renowned blackspot for incidents of that nature. West country visitor Misty Brook was backed in from 8/1 to 3/1 but came under pressure at the twelfth and gradually dropped away.

Race 4: Elizabeth Champion Memorial Ladies' Open
1: Carryonharry 2: Fantastic Champion
Winner owned: Mrs H Silk and Mr R Purkis, trained: Emma Leppard, ridden: Cynthia Haydon
Another quartet of runners, another good finish looming, with Carryonharry and Full Irish eyeball to eyeball from the fourth last, and another odd outcome, with Full Irish (last year's winner) slipping up on the final turn, again an incident for which that part of the track has no particular worrying history. Fantastic Champion's chase had been a bit in snatches, coming from ten lengths down, to no more than a couple three from home, but back to almost tailed off in the home straight, so after a pair of defeats this season, Carryonharry was back on track with win number 1,644 (approx).

Race 5: Knight Frank Esate Agents Men's Open
1: Boy's Hurrah 2: Basic Fact 3: Theatre Knight
Winner owned: Woolpack Farm Partnership, trained & ridden: Phil York
Both Boy's Hurrah and Basic Fact had been placed here behind Master T at the beginning of the month, and they upheld the form a little more enthusiastically than T did. Big Al, winner of the members' on the same day, ensured a sound gallop at the front, and after a couple of miles he graciously conceded the lead to Boy's Hurrah. That horse was being ridden with urgency three out, but he kept responding, whilst his main threat, Theatre Knight was going better, only to be less responsive to the efforts from the saddle when they came. Boy's Hurrah outjumped the challenging pair at each of the last three fence, and sloppy leaps forced Theatre Knight out of the runner-up slot in favour of Basic Fact. Yet again, the main protagonists provided a competitive spectacle for the massed throng, even if the number participating was not great to start with.

Race 6: Grants Cherry Brandy Open Maiden
1: Midleton Madness 2: Young Emma 3: Kanga Gold
Winner owned: Catweazel Wizards Partnership, trained: Anna Hawkins, ridden: Gordon Gallagher
Without offering too many horses that look set to sweep into open company, the numbers in and general standard of area maidens in 2009 has not been at all bad, but I fear that this may be the exception to prove the rule. Midleton Madness has been on a run of places, and had earned being favourite, although his jumping history made him hardly one to be backing at odds-on. His only serious error came three from home, but runner-up Young Emma has even more to learn about jumping than Midleton Madness and was unable to cause him too much concern. A pair of perennial area maidens were next, with Carvilla pulling up before the last, and Kanga Gold (third last year as well) casting aside an uncharacteristic fall last time for yet another threat free completion. The field was completed by Ath Tiomain, who went round in rear until he pulled up a lap to go. On the upside, he was not really badly adrift at the time, the flipside of the coin being that he did not look to be travelling especially well. Might do better.

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