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Southdown & Eridge
Saturday 28th February 2009
by Simon McInnes

photos by Adam Goodburn

A very decent crowd (and more dogs than you can shake a stick at) turned out and were witnesses to what was without doubt the strongest meeting that the course has staged to date. Divided races have been few and far between in the south east for a while, and for the second fixture in a row there was a divided maiden. In the past, Godstone has been more associated with small fields to the extent that it was an unlikely candidate to stage eight senior and three pony races on one day, at least without an array of matches and walk-overs. It was as bemusing to the regulars as those episodes of 'Quantum Leap' when Sam and Al were travelling back in time to save themselves from gruesome fates.* Congratulations to the organisers for attracting past doubters, and for advertising on the gate that the admission was £25 per car, or £10 for single occupants, rather than wait for people to ask. The main change to the course is that the awkward, steep descent from paddock to start has gone, and the runners go on a gentler sweeping arc to get there. One or two horses still played up slightly, but all in all it seemed to be a big help.
* Perhaps they had come from the future to save Godstone pointing from itself? You never know, and if they had, they would be locked up before you could say "Run your time travel theory past me again."

Going: Good (Soft places)

race 1: Southdown & Eridge 'Best Mates' Open Maiden, Div I
1: High Toby 2: Star Gift 3: Prince Rodney
Winner owned & trained: Mr E George, ridden: Phil York
Star Gift was a warm order for this after having finished second on his debut, in amongst horses that had substantial racing experience. He was ridden confidently by Phil Hall and finished strongly. The only flaw in the plan was that High Toby, having made the running, stubbornly and unsportingly refused to fold in the latter stages and just held off Star Gift's challenge. With the benefit of hindsight, it can be argued that Star Gift could have made a move earlier, but he did get close enough to worry the winner, but it was not quite do enough to pass him and just left the impression that High Toby performed a bit better than anyone might have anticipated. The pair were well clear of Prince Rodney, who was completing for the first time in points or French hurdling, and Caged Tiger.

race 2: Southdown & Eridge 'Best Mates' Open Maiden, Div II
1: The Last Optimist 2: Smolidor 3: Middleton Madness
Winner owned: Mrs P Glenn, trained: Guy Landau, ridden: Claire Allen
Another short priced favourite turned up for this, although Last Optimist, having washed up in what looked a weaker half, possibly got the jolly's honour by default. He had pulled up in his only run, but the idea that he will have learned some lessons from it, and had travelled a long way for the race, as well as having Claire Allen on board was more than enough to stand out from the opposition, most of whom were conspicuous for their long absences from racing. The Last Optimist proved far superior in reality as well as speculation, although speeding clear of Smolidor, who had not set pulses racing in the past, Midleton Madness and Golding Hop (both inclined to stimulate cardiac activity in their rider for all the wrong reasons - form like an alphabetti spaghetti tin) hardly marks him out as a superstar in waiting. Cherokee Indian was not humiliated in a bumper in 2006, and on his comeback today appeared fit enough to be of interest. Alas he fell at the fourth, so the jury is still out on his pointing prospects, but it was an inauspicious beginning.

race 3: South East Hunts Club Members
1: Letterman 2: Exodous 3: Good Vintage
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
I used to work with someone who was a dead ringer for David Letterman. There was no stronger reason than disdain for coincidence not to back Letterman the horse, as he was a decent handicap chaser in Ireland, even if he did not actually win very often. He found pointing very much to his liking, which was unfortunate for Exodous. You can never quite be sure what you are going to get from Exodous, and on a going day he was tackling what may seem, in time, to be a rather stiff task, even though paddock checking suggested that Letterman was nearly fit rather than as spot on as the two that chased him home. Good Vintage is now fourteen but showed that he can turn up and add to his tally of Members' race wins. There was an odd moment in this at the seventh, when the leader It's Showtime (an eye-catching grey that had been off course since 2005) pulled up suddenly. He was ridden back to unsaddle, and the stewards seemed to call for the rider. Nothing more was heard, and the rumour went round that the cause was 'jockey fatigue.' Even though the horse was an outsider, someone in a big crowd always backs a grey and it would have been helpful to have made an official announcement on the topic.

race 4: Southdown & Eridge 'Best Mates' Ladies' Open
1: Blue Business 2: Carryonharry 3: Duchamp
Winner owned: Mr & Mrs William Rucker, trained & ridden: Angela Rucker
This was without a shadow of doubt the pinnacle of sporting excellence at Godstone (in it's shortish history), with quality horses appearing in numbers. And ghostly area legend Carryonharry, now a fifteen year old, almost maintained his winning run in points, which goes back to at least the Vietnam War. He was narrowly denied by a very determined effort from Blue Business, already an open winner this season. However, the pair may have been fortunate as Glenbower Woods had taken the lead and was still travelling well when he blundered and unseated at the second last. He badly hampered Wain Mountain, upon whom Claire Allen had a fight with gravity, which she eventually lost. There is an obscure classic bluesrock album by the band Burning Tree which includes a track "Can't Fall Off The Mountain." Not as true as it used to be, we now know. Had that not happened, Wain Mountain may well have played a part in the finish and these events allowed Duchamp to inherit a third place that had seemed beyond his powers. There was a sad footnote to the race, as the very likeable mare Scare Lotte suffered a fatal fall at the last fence.

race 5: Highfields Farm Men's Open
1: Bee An Bee 2: Valley Henry 3: Noakarad De Verzee
Winner owned & trained: David Robinson, ridden: Stuart Robinson
Even though only six lined up, four had won this year or last so it was not a bad race, and it was enlivened by another front-running triumph for Bee An Bee, who goes from strength to strength, and clearly felt no after effects of a hardish race six days earlier. Noakarad De Verzee, reputedly having a last minute stab at Cheltenham qualification, was outpaced and no longer contending before they had been two miles, and Valley Henry tried to keep up, but just found his talents exceeded by the winner in the last half mile. Armoury House was unable to repeat the effort that worked for him at Tweseldown.

race 6: Gordon Racing PPORA Clun Members mares' Maiden, 4-7yo, 2m 4f
1: Say Grace 2: Present Love 3: Trenley Lawn
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
This was much more like the normal Godstone, with only five runners and all of them presented with a chance of a lifetime to notch a win, and one that will not be repeated until, erm, this race in 2010. That said, they did manage to serve up an exciting finish, with Say Grace just outrunning (outspeeding would be a misleading description) Present Love as they bypassed the last, with Trenley Lawn snapping at their heels. As it was Present Love who damaged the omitted fence, she only has herself to blame for not taking advantage of the situation that she created.

race 7: Hazeley Estate Property Management Company Restricted
1: Iphar 2: Parzando 3: Reymysterio
Winner owned: D Maxwell & S Angel, trained: Kim Smyly, ridden: David Maxwell
Anyone familiar with the horses in the frame will be able to anticipate the entire story of this race. Iphar looked set to make a career of being a beaten favourite last season, until accidentally winning race. In the interest of balance, his defeat to Glenbower Woods has been smiled upon by subsequent events, but there were no real excuses for the rest. Parzando? He was the usual Parzando, a bounce back to his not-winning best for his new yard. Reymysterio won a four runner 2m 4f maiden at this very course, beating Iphar in the process. Unless Iphar is a reformed character, this is a race to regard with deep suspicion - rather like the labrador that today tried to pick a fight with two rottweilers (who were impeccably behaved). The one lightly raced horse that may have been able to rise above the morass of indecision in which most of the field were trapped was Sironi, but he foolishly unseated at the third.

race 8: Wellingham Members
1: Jack's Present 2: Winters Beau 3: Daretobedifferent
Winner owned: Simon Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
An even more Godstonian event than the mares' maiden. A four runner members, two in serious contention four from home and the Tindall horse wins it. Both the first two home have won at Intermediate level, but Jack's Present is a progressing youthful mare and Winters Beau, who was not given a hard time once the winner opened a gap on him, is finding living up to that level a bit tougher.

Plus Points
Star Gift (race 1): Worth another chance, but perhaps not at very short prices.

Mad Genius (race 2): Ended up beaten a long way, maybe pulling up, but he stayed in contention for much of the distance despite having not raced since September 2002 (yes, 2002, not a typo). If he made a bit of progress with the run under his girth, who knows???

Letterman (race 3): Should be up to open class, and although not proven to get three miles in a decent standard of race, the Tindall team overcame that hurdle in no uncertain terms with Fiery Ring a couple of years ago.

Glenbower Woods (race 4): Was running the race of his life and looked the likely winner when he unseated. Being only eight, there is no reason to think that this was a fluke, and he could be poised for an outstanding season, having worked his way through the ranks in 2008.

Wain Mountain (race 4): Had a run of pulled ups in handicap chases, but pointing seemed to have returned him to peak enthusiasm, and he was very unlucky not to end up in the frame.

Winters Beau (race 8): Two of his three wins have come in Members races, and he showed enough to imagine that he is not a spent force in that area.

Down Arrows
Caged Tiger (race 1): Did enough for Charlie Mann to think a maiden in the south-east would be eminently winnable, but he is not even getting close at the moment.

Little Saltee (race 3): Probably was not a potential winner, but should have been in the mix for a place instead of dropping away steadily after the thirteenth fence.

The Bandit (race 4): What's in a name? he has all the credentials to be a good pointer but was a law unto himself under Rules, and set out his stall the same way today.

Attorney General (race 4): Once a top staying handicap hurdler, he posted a second lacklustre pointing run and has a bit to prove in the case for his defence.

Armoury House (race 5): Could not get competitive in this better race, and will be hard to place to find winning opportunities.

Present Love (race 6): Has been placed in every pointing run, but the two that have been witnessed were not the sort of races that only been placed would merit boasting about.

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