The A14 is an infamous road that has held up many a racegoer, jockey or trainer en route across the Midlands, and so it was as I made my way yesterday from Gloucestershire to Norwich. A crowded highway thins out beyond Newmarket en route through the picturesque Thetford Forest, a horse I well remember winning a Sun Alliance Hurdle trial staged at Warwick's mid February day back in 1992 before following up in the middle distance novices' championship now known as the Ballymore the next month for Oliver Sherwood.
The reason I mention this ghastly road is that I was sorely tempted to abort my mission and stop off at Huntingdon for their opening fixture of the autumn. Road improvements sadly mean the A14 no longer passes within view of the racecourse that I first visited in 1987, but spectators will likely appreciate that all the more. It never failed to quicken my pulse en passant.
East Anglian trainer Sarah Humphrey was prominent among the winners, when winner Railway Muice, who we touted for further honours only last month after his victory at Market Rasen plugged a lengthy winnerless gap for the trainer. The eight year old, still owned by his trainer, will surely have a new name in the owner column after once again hitting the sweet spot in the Clive Graham Memorial Novices Handicap Chase, by a winning margin of 2 1/4l that would have been more had the race carried on someway further. The Humphrey yard is evidently running into some sort of form.
I might be an old grump, or a bit long in the tooth, but this seemed a particularly poor contest to attribute to one of racing's great race callers. Old Etonian Graham partnered the peerless Peter O'Sullevan as paddock commentator on BBC TV for 25 years until his death in 1974. Some of you may even remember when the BBC covered horseracing!
The concluding race of the day saw a familiar face in unfamiliar circumstances as Archie Watson, winner of nearly 450 of Flat racing's finest contests worth nearly £4.5m over the past five years, tried his hand in the Jumps game. The gelded Alazwar, a Hannon cast-off, ran out a comfortable winner of an 11 runner bumper to set some hares running for next year's Champion Bumper.
Is Alazwar catching pigeons on the Lambourn downland? Let the bush telegraph do its work!
Meantime, it's welcome back Huntingdon. We've missed you.
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