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Southdown & Eridge
Sunday 14th February 2010
by Simon McInnes

Having set off to deliver dog treats to the injured greyhound earlier in the day and passed the course in heavy, settling snow, it was quite a pleasant surprise to find that the subsequent rain had washed away the new fall (without rendering the entrance impassable), and the racing took place in very pleasant, slightly above zero temperatures. The mechanics of the situation where the patches of blue sky with a bit of sun caused the warmth to fade are hard to comprehend, and mid-meeting the North Downs ominously disappeared into cloud, but the rain that the clouds brought arrived after the meeting was over. Who needs Spring racing?

The course has had a little rejigging, moving the home straight nearer Tandridge Lane, which eases the bends into and out of it considerably and will hopeful combat the spate of attempted run-outs to the horseboxes that erupted at the track last season. No doubt the fashion conscious but effort shy members of the horse population will find another tactical wrinkle to fascinate them for 2010.

Going: Good (Good to Soft places)

Race 1: Wellingham Members
1: Winters Beau 2: Super Kay 3: Magnus Veritas
Winner owned: Mrs PA Wilkiins, trained & ridden: Philip Hall
The level of entries for the meeting was disappointingly low, but the percentage turning out to run was not at all bad, and the small fields produced competitive racing. The Members was priced as if an exception, but the market's over rating of Super Kay was probably a reflection of the frequency with which connections win this race (and that she was the anointed pick from their three entries). It was an oddly uneventful race, as the runners set off in the same order that they finished and there was no real change throughout. Super Kay did make a couple of bids to take on Winters Beau, but she killed off her chance with errors four out and three from home. In any case, Winters Beau looked the fitter of the pair, and once he successfully popped the final obstacle, the situation was accepted on Super Kay.

Race 2: NFU Mutual Centenary Open Maiden
1: Spartan Place 2: Durante 3: Caged Tiger
Winner owned & trained: R Gurney, ridden: Philip York
From a field of nine, there was plenty of history to go on, lots of hints of ability and completions, and probably a bit more depth to the talent than is typical for the south-east. So for those reasons, it was slightly surprising that only three finished. Another surprise was that Peadar was a hot favourite, especially as a look in the paddock suggested that whilst he was fit(ish), he did not appear as match sharp as some of his rivals. Spartan Place was a really good novice hurdler (second to Pole Star, fourth to Denman) before injuries derailed him and he did not quite take to fences under Rules. He was ready to go today, and despite sweating up badly when mounted, which I recall him doing in the past and not under-performing, his jumping was spot on. Durante made a good pointing debut, and although seeing a twelve year old in a maiden can dissolve the enthusiasm, bear in mind that he was still rated 118 as a handicap chaser when he last tried that just under a year ago. Peadar was third and dropping away when he hit the third last hard and was pulled up, leaving Caged Tiger to be a tailed off fill-in for the minor placing. Oddly, another that looked as if the race was needed was Katepast, who had already run this season and been in the frame. He strolled around for a mile and a half then pulled up, early enough to imply an underlying problem, and not a schooling session.

Race 3: Mitchell & Cooper SE Hunts Club Members
1: High Toby 2: Jazz Attack 3: Bucket Awl
Winner owned: E George, trained & ridden: Phil York
A brief pre-race conversation narrowed this eleven runner field down to five strong contenders and one interesting outsider. Some years at Godstone that would be half a meeting's worth of runners! A major shock nearly ensued because the not-so-short list held no mention for Jazz Attack, who was a mere neck away from worrying the more obvious pick of High Toby into defeat. Turning for home, High Toby looked to be asserting his control, but at the last Jazz Attack was right back with him, and as the pair drifted to their left, High Toby just kept finding enough to keep his rivals nose out of his line of sight. The only thing that can explain Jazz Attack's result is track affinity, as both wins came here - in 2006! Bucket Awl was a noteworthy visitor from the south-west and he gave the first pair very close attention, being less than a length down at the final fence, but he could not go with them on the rise to the line. A good run in defeat. Considering that they both looked fit enough to give things a good go, Little Bit Of Hush and Captain's Legacy performed with a slight shortage of verve, although the former looked unhappy from the off and trailed around at the rear in a manner that indicated that fitness was not the problem.

Race 4: Highfields Farm Ladies Open
1: Carryonharry 2: Honest Endeavour 3: Full Irish
Winner owned: Mrs Heather Silk & RK Purkis, trained Emma Leppard, ridden: Cynthia Haydon
As the three rivals and disloyal punters* found, woe betide those who insult the elderly. The ghostly legend in his own lifetime that is Carryonharry has become accustomed to being unbackably odds-on at Godstone, but it was Honest Endeavour who filled that role today, probably helped by being an eleven year old taken on by a fourteen year old and two sixteen year olds. Well the whitening maestro was having none of that and led for all but five yards or so on the final bend. Once he had an inch lead at the last, there was no way that Carryonharry would concede, and having a rider as strong in a finish as Cynthia Haydon was a big help. Unlike the betting, the result was business as usual and Honest Endeavour will have later made his way home feeling like the mugger who tried to steal an OAPs shopping, only to find the intended victim won a karate silver medal at the 1954 Olympics.
* Carryonharry did receive a loud and highly appreciative reception, enough to think he was being honoured even by those who backed against him.

Race 5: Southdown & Eridge Foxhunters Men's Open
1: Letterman 2: Garundi 3: Thoutmosis
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
Another four runner race from what started out as a very low entry, but in this case it was a much needed tonic for the Tindall/Pearce team, who had suffered reverses and misfortunes up to this point. Letterman would have been most people's idea of a sure thing, but when someone's luck is out, it can stay there for a while. The race was run at a complete dawdle, and after a bit of a disagreement with the third last, Letterman was sent on and gradually shook off Garundi, a youngster who improved a lot from pulling up on his debut. The fact that he had the speed to win a hurdle at Auteuil is appealing, but the counter balance is fourteen defeats at the same venue. He seems to be progressing all the same. The main talking point here was an eccentric looking ride on fourth placed New Street Express. After initially setting off in rear, he thumped the fifth and came up the hill so heavily restrained it seemed he was to be pulled up. Soon detached in last, he kept going, but a lap later charged through the second and third to sit on the heels of the leader, before weakening again five out. However, on returning, his rider was covered in blood and presumably got a bang in the face when New Street Express blundered, hence the odd course of action between fences five and eight.

Race 6: Gordon Racing mares' Open Maiden
1: Florence Mary 2: Karinga Bay Queen 3: Royal Gesture
Winner owned: SP Tindall, trained & ridden: Nick Pearce
The pendulum of fortune completed it's swing from one extreme to the other, as Florence Mary, a runner-up on her only previous appearance, was granted a fairly straight forward run round to see off some modest opposition. As well as the experience doing her good, the race will probably bring her on as well. Karinga Bay Queen, who showed ability before she fell on her last run, was quick enough covering the ground but lacked fluency at the fences, which ultimately allowed Florence Mary to dismiss the threat. Royal Gesture ran fairly well, or at least as well as can be deemed when never threatening to win. Not for the first time, a horse turned up here and caught the eye by having Ben Pollock down to ride for her racecourse debut, only to then show nothing. This year it was Commanche Finale, but is this a long term ploy to catch the Godstoners unawares on the day a newcomer is backed off of the boards? I want to believe...

Race 7: CBRE/LIM Bexleyheath Restricted
1: The Humbel Monk 2: Sebber Bridge 3: Premier Buck
Winner owned: The All Or Nothing Partnership, trained & ridden: Philip York
Something else that has changed in racing is that the restricted did not seem as chock full of deliberately disruptive head bangers as they used to be. There were actually several participants that could be backed with a small amount of confidence that they would make some form of effort to complete the course. In the end, nine of the ten runners did finish, and they were not scattered randomly over the last half mile either. After hitting the deck when going well at Detling last week, The Humble Monk opted not to give up in despair, but was pretty determined to prove that he would have been in the shake up but for the accident, and having made most of the running, every attack from his rivals was repelled. Sebber Bridge was more patiently ridden, but having stylishly eased through the pack, his progress was halted by the The Humbel Monk's resolve. After really catching the eye in the paddock, Premier Buck did not run with quite as much sparkle. He needed a reminder after a mid-race mistake and whenever effort was asked, it always seemed that the winner was beyond reach, however little the physical distance between the two. Cotton Bay looked like the run was needed and to be beaten a manageable distance was an encouraging outcome.

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