28 February 2011 Scene & Heard: Thurlow - Horseheath
by Carolyn Tanner
Caroline Fryer, whose recent Higham runner-up Leo McGarry broke down so badly that he had to be put down, gained some compensation when saddling her mother Sandra's Ide No Idea to take the Intermediate under Rupert Stearn.
"He wasn't enjoying that," said Caroline, whose charge made hard work of things on the rain-softened ground. "I thought that if he hacked up today he could have gone to Leicester on Tuesday, but he won't now. We'll wait for it to dry up."
Ide No Idea, whose cause was helped by the final fence error of Thatmakestwoofus, still had a few lengths to find on the flat, but he stayed on dourly to gain a short-head verdict. The outcome was probably correct, but most experienced racegoers feel that in such a case a dead-heat would be the fairest result.
Ide No Idea's victory gave an obvious pointer to the chance in the Restricted of Galway Jack, who had finished three lengths adrift of him at the previous meeting here, and Margaret Moody's six-year-old duly obliged, making all and scoring unchallenged in the hands of trainer Gerald Bailey's son Johnny. His next target could be an Intermediate in an attempt to qualify for the Connollys Red Mills final at Cheltenham.
"Tom's all geared up and ready to go," smiled Margaret, referring to Galway Jack's lad Tom McClorey, who had popped the horse over some fences the previous day. Tom missed out on his intended first ride when the majority of the card at Eyton was abandoned, but hopes his chance will come before long.
Galway Jack was purchased at Doncaster in May and was turned out in the Baileys' fields prior to going to the Moodys' Yorkshire home for the summer. Unfortunately it proved impossible to catch him, so he had to spend his holiday at Holdenby!
35 minutes earlier, a double for the Bailey yard was initiated in the Men's Open by Shillingstone, who came from a seemingly hopeless position running down the hill to join issue in the straight and cling on from the rallying Northall Lad. "I thought he didn't want to do anything except plod round," admitted George Greenock, who was partnering the chestnut for his mother, Countess Viv Cathcart.
Shillingstone, who was purchased at the Cheltenham May Sale from his breeder and former trainer Robert Alner, was due to have run a month ago, but his appearance was delayed by a minor setback explained Caroline Bailey, representing husband Gerald who was at Brocklesby Park.
Both first and second, though, may have had to give best to The Hairy Lemon, who was given a positive attacking ride by George Saunders and who held a fractional lead at the last when getting in far too deep and giving his pilot no chance of staying on board. George, 17, for whom it was a first ride of the season, was kicked on the leg but was able to hobble away.
"I think I'll get a few nails to stick in his other tyres." Andrew Braithwaite, for whom Northall Lad was a chance ride after a flat tyre had scuppered Nick Pearce's chance of getting to Horseheath.
Andrew later opened his account for the season when making all to win the Maiden on Jane May's home-bred Punjabi Army, trained by the rider's wife Lauren (nee Michelli), for whom it was an initial success in her married name. "We thought we might have a winner, but not this one," smiled Lauren, whose earlier runner Evening Echo had finished third in the Members' race.
Punjabi Army, who was in training with Lucy Wadham, has had more than his share of problems. "He's never been the same mentally since damaging his hock badly when it got caught between two hurdle sections," explained Lauren, whose charge had to spend five weeks at the vet's. "We've spent thousands on vet bills!" laughed Jane, who had sat up for several nights waiting for his dam to foal him.
There was a sting in the tail for connections, who had forgotten to declare the blinkers in which he ran and were fined £75. "It's worth double that," joked Andrew, adding "Jane has supported us since we started and this is the first winner we've had for her, so I'm really pleased."
The ride of the day surely belonged to Jody Sole, who conjured a last-gasp victory in the Members from Castleconner Lad, who was the proverbial mile behind entering the straight. "I thought I'd be fourth, then when I saw Gina's horse [Bluegun] fall I thought I'd be third," commented Jody, who was deputising for trainer Andrew Pennock.
Andrew, who received a battering in a Higham fall four weeks previously, had considered a return here but thoughts of another fall persuaded him to defer his comeback. "Then I had a fall at home this morning and felt fine, so I know I'm okay," he said. He hopes to be back at Marks Tey, but admitted "It will be difficult to take Jody off now."
Octogenarian owner Robert Clifton-Brown has himself been hunting Castleconner Lad, who is not the quickest but who, opined Jody, needs a ten-mile race somewhere for his stamina to come into play.
The eight-year-old disgraced himself in the unsaddling enclosure by kicking Andrew's wife Ruth, who is pregnant, on the leg. Although she was in some pain, Andrew reported later that there were no broken bones.
"I'm not a girl today but they've spelt my name wrong," grinned Jody, who has become accustomed to being listed on the number board as "Miss J Sole." Today, though, to ring the changes, he was down as "Jodie."
Bluegun looked to have the Members in safe keeping until landing too steeply at the last and knuckling over, but owner Penny Rogers and rider Gina Andrews enjoyed better fortune when Delighful Cliché took the Ladies' Open, being left clear when Champtho came to grief three out. "I thought he'd hate the ground, but what do I know?" laughed Penny.
Delightful Cliché's poor performance at Higham six days earlier was put down to the fact that he lost a shoe during the race.
"You realise that was her bus pass." Simon Andrews points out to the person manning the gate that the grey-haired woman purporting to be a member of the Press had probably gained free entry by showing false identification........