by Brian & Gill Armstrong

The meeting was moved from Easter this season, and the weather gods smiled upon Godstone, providing a spring wet spell to keep the ground under control. In contrast, a dry spell in the last few days saw the course drying quickly and by the time racing got under way, it was probably riding good to firm - the runners were not making much of a print, but there was a good covering of grass.

Lane & Sons Building Solutions Ltd Open Maiden (Div I)
To the best of my recollection, the first divided race at the course, thus justifying the change of date. This appeared to be the division that attracted the better contenders, but the way the race panned out gave reason to doubt the advance view. Calling Home shed his rider at the fourth, Sir Henrik bounced off of the wing of the twelfth and fell and Divine Mist looked quite tired when he flopped to the ground four out. All of these might have been contenders at the business end of a race where the lead chopped and changed amongst the runners quite often. In the end, it was won comfortably by Paul Blagg on board Private Percival, after they kicked on at the thirteenth and found no rival able to live with them. The winner was not proven to last three miles, and the fast ground was no doubt a huge help.
Also, the only two other finishers were uncertain to see out the trip. Barbed Broach put up his best effort to date in being second, ahead of Lady Mordaunt, who looked weary enough that she may have been pulled up had the
last fence not been bypassed thanks to the damage wrought by Sir Henrik.

Lane & Sons Building Solutions Ltd Open Maiden (Div II)
Am I a stalker, or am I being stalked? An important question, because the key yardstick in this race is Sawbridge, who appears at every point that I attend. If I am the stalker, I ought to be celebrating his first ever completion. If I am the stalkee, perhaps an increased uneasiness as Sawbridge gets more confident would be necessary. The fact that he was close up in third does not advertise the form terribly well, but he had run more encouragingly in non-completion two times recently, and could be argued to be progressing. The same could be said of Mr Know What if his earlier placings are given more credence than pulling up last time. The race itself became a war of attrition, as first Marsden took them along at a good pace, and then See Red Billdan at a suicidal one. There were those who feared that the latter rode a finish a circuit too soon, but the headstrong horse was probably genuinely coming to the end of his tether - the sharp downhill paddock exit had given the rider a couple of nervous moments as See Red Billdan nearly pulled him out of the saddle over the horse's neck! Runner-up Born Winner had previously looked very badly named, and although benefiting from having Philip York on board, the race ultimately took little winning for Mr Know What. The Lawrence Wells trained debutant Cowanstown King showed little aptitude for racing. 

Questgates Intermediate
Quite possibly the most competitive race that I have seen in the area all season. Five of the seven had obvious credentials, and another did not need a long memory to find form that gave him a squeak. Glenmont had found
himself struggling after a couple of mid-race errors, and Owneabue Valley could not handle the pace when the main bunch quickened. This left four serious late contenders. Penshurst winner Sliabh Foy had made most of the running, but seemed done for when ridden four out. He actually stuck to the task extremely well, and got his two main rivals off of the bridle as well. Once under pressure, Nomadic Star did not find as much as might have been hoped, only heading the leader after the last. This was too late, as James Owen had asked Persian Hero for a big leap at the final fence, and the horse responded by going from third to first in mid-air, and landing running. The racecard notes that he did not start last time (The abbreviation T presumably standing for tantrum) but this seemed an honest enough performance. Nowornever was fourth, unable to go the pace when the first trio went for home, but staying on belatedly without looking a danger.

Highfields Farm Ladies' Open
Only two of the seven runners weighed in below 13 years old, and the race provided more glory for the East Anglians, as Spring Gale confirmed the form of his earlier win over Cedar Chief in no uncertain terms. Although Cedar Chief was unusually held up, the race looked a two horse contest in advance, and the main pair played hare and tortoise around the others for two miles. Cedar Chief made the first move, but Spring Gale had him covered and was in little danger from three out. Glory Trail was a distant third, and Prime Course (15 years old) led the schoolmasters home in fourth. Useful rules performer (at Huntingdon only!) Solo Gent is missing his usual headgear in points, and as the owners colours are lime and lilac, this cannot be for the sake of appearance. At the age of 15, he still merits two handlers in the preliminaries! The third of the veteran horses educating novice pilots was
Golden Savannah. He seemed half asleep in the paddock and even once mounted, he ambled round slowly enough to be lapped. He travelled a bit more energetically during the race, but found the youngsters a bit too nippy.

Ian Askew Men's Open
Just five ran this time, and it was another race where two of the runners seemed a step ahead of the ability of their rivals. One of these was Militaire, who was involved for a long way, but dropped out of it quickly from the fifth last. This was too bad to be true, and perhaps something was amiss. This left the race at the mercy of Bard Of Drumcoo, who had set the pace and recovered well from an thumping blunder at the twelfth to land the spoils. Non-stayer River Bailiff made a decent stab at worrying the winner out of it, but was unable to complete the task.

Dodson & Horrell PPORA Club Members Restricted
Even with the benefit of knowing the result, it is hard to explain how this result came about. Always travelling well, Magic Lodge made it five on the bounce for the East Anglian visitors - the course is far too accessible - and saw off the challenge from On The Day and Lord Of The North. As Magic Lodge had only completed once and won by reason of the first past the post being disqualified, it was quite a reach to pick him out. The possible upsides are that he appreciated the faster ground and being only a five year old is getting stronger with the passage of time. The latter could apply to the pair of placed horses, as they are both only seven. Lord Of The North's win was a two and a half miler, and for the moment at least, the full trip is proving too much for him.

Calcutt MacLean Standen Confined
A double on the day for Paul Blagg, as he single-handedly stemmed the tide of trophies heading north of the Thames. Even though I had no financial investment, it was a pleasing result as area stalwart Kenny Davis finally got back in the number one spot, having gradually emerged from his spell of jumping doldrums. He hit the front five out, but a couple of rivals would not be denied, and three horses flashed across the line together. The official distances were a neck and a neck, but from where I was (a mere couple of hundred yards away, and the other side of the trade stands!) it seemed closer. Second went to Brackenheath, who seems to run well at Godstone, and third was Tell The Nipper. The last named looked to be travelling best of the trio two out, but just lacked a little toe at the
business end. Slightly disappointing in fourth was Mister Pepper, as he is an eight year old that has been on the upgrade for the last two seasons. Perhaps the ground caught him out, or it was a race too many for the year.

Watson Of Heathfield Hunt Race
A late jockey change gave Jenny Gordon the chance of a steering job on her last ride, but a couple of disappointing efforts from her string earlier in the day sowed a few seeds of doubt. However, the animal chosen for the task was Lively Lord, who had won at three of Godstone's five previous meetings, and appeared a class ahead his rivals. On ideal ground, Lively Lord extended his track record to U11211. That after having unseated at the first ever fence jumped in anger at Godstone, which should probably be named after him. The horribly inconsistent Spy Boy had a going day and at least made the winner put a bit of effort in, but he only had a brief moment on the sharp home turn when he truly threatened, and Lively Lord comprehensively outjumped him at the last two.