Monday, 14 November 2011

A Day At The Races - Queen

Could any day start better than with bright early morning sunshine pouring into the house, a springlike temperature, no wind, a friend arriving with what has to be one of the most stunning creatures on earth and 3 other friends waiting in the wings to embark on a day out?

It was Paul Harris who arrived first with this Death's-head Hawk Moth he had caught in his garden moth trap the evening before and put me right off my porridge!

I have seen some of the most stunning and large moth of the world including Emperor Moth, Lunar Moth, Atlas Moth and Oleander Hawk Moth to name but a few, but this beast brought a new dimension to me in terms of Lepidoptery. Not only for its size, colour and mystique (circa Silence of the Lambs) but also what has been discovered as a result of this 'first time' experience.

As if to add an extra excitement to the moment Lorne & Sheila were also here to share the thrill, and after cocking up on the Clifden Nonpareil it's clear they have now forgiven me!

Just thought you'd be interested in a follow up on our discussion about the fluffy yellow legs on the Death's-head Hawk Moth which I thought looked like the clumps of pollen you'd see on a Bee. I asked Phil Stirling (Dorset County Entomologist) about this and he tells me that they are exactly that, an adaptation to make the moth look like a Bee when it raids their hives for honey. Apparently the long tongue is also exactly the right length to reach the end of the cell and drink the honey.

It seems the 'squeak' is also supposed to be a defence mechanism, it is thought to mimic the squeak made by the Queen Bee. This noise evokes a freeze mechanism in the worker bees so they stop moving! What a creature, stunning and interesting to boot! - Paul Harris.

It would be safe to say that this is the best Moth I have ever seen and probably the best Insect in the world.

There was for me a feeling of Good Luck in the air as I said goodbye to Paul, Bowie and Sheila and as if to confirm it a party of at least 6 Common Crossbills flew overhead calling. This was a 'first' sighting from home and is added to the appropriate list.

It must have been a full 4 weeks ago when my Taxi Driver friend Lindsay Fox ran over from the rank outside Asda and simply said "would you like to go horse racing on the 13th November"? My reply was an immediate "yes" which I think startled him as he had to point out he wasn't joking, and nor was I!

Yesterday was the day, and in blazing sunshine we headed to the east for Fontwell not far from Arundel, West Sussex.

The party included Lindsay's partner Roni Butler, 'Foxy' himself, Yours Truly along with my friend Lesley Brown.

Before long we were getting amongst the 'big guns' of the racing game,

and made our entrance via the Show Ring.

Even at the turnstiles the luck was prevailing as the SOB's got a £4.00 concession, while Lindsay & Roni had already saved £7.00 each by dealing with the touts. We were all ahead of the game at this early point.

We had made excellent time from Weymouth with none of the predicted delays, but were only just in time for the start of the first race, as we joined the crowd in the stand, with me managing to get a 'tenner' on the nose of the favorite moments before 'the off'.

Tribal Dance romped it coming in at 2-1 making me £20.00 richer, so quickly on to the next.

What I know about the 'Sport of Kings' could easily be written on the back of a definitive postage stamp, so a fat lot of good it was 'studying the card', via the Sun newspaper, on the way here. In fact neither Lesley or I had ever heard of Mr Barry Dennis who is by all accounts a luminary on the BBC TV Racing programme, but one thing had stuck and that was my choice of horse in the final race.

A quick look around the Course, including the Winner's Enclosure, between races and a chance to view my next selection,

No.6 and 'rank outsider' at 25=1

which can just be seen here coming home 6th as there was no 7th!

It would be churlish to complain about the Sun as we are about to see less and less of it but the course is ill placed when it is so bright for either viewing or photographing.

In the 3rd race my loosing streak continued,

with my running total now standing at £5.00 down - time to lob a few toys out of the pram me thinks!

A further look around, a pint of (red berries) Cider - that's just what I said "ya wot"? - and a burger

and it was back for the 4th race and to restore my better fortunes with a place via the mighty Rimini chosen because I had only recently stayed there on my last trip to Italy. Winning a quarter of the 20-1 odds I was now back to £15.00 ahead of the game

which came to grief in the next 2 runs.

It was now time for the final race on the card, and for me to play my trump card. There were 2 very good reasons for selecting Fox Appeal, seen here romping it at 20-1, first because of the name of our very kind host and secondly for what has become something of a tradition when dining with my very good friends the Dampney's down at Partly Court. There, we have taken to doing an after dinner music quiz, via the i-Phone random select, which is great fun but also playing a collective favourite Fox On The Run by Sweet, the lyric to which go something like

Fox on the run, you scream and everybody comes a running
Take a run and hide yourself away
Foxy is on the run
F - foxy
Fox on the run and hide away

which gives us all an opportunity to say "put The Sweet on F - Fox Sake" naught eh?

As the runners and riders made their way back to the paddock

we caught sight of the 4 year old Irish Bay Gelding No8 Fox Appeal and jockey Stephen O;Donovan (in white). Out of Lady Appeal on 15 May 2007, sired by Brian Boru, Trained by Miss EC Lavelle and owned by Fox Inn Syndicate 3 which sent me home £135.50 better off. Looks like 'The Milky Bars are on Me'!

That only left Foxy to pick up The Wheels and we were on our way back home. A delicious Pasta Carbonara and a bottle of red at Lesley's was a perfect end to a perfect day - here's looking to the next time!

As readers will note we are now one day behind publication. We'll keep it this way until the next rainy day when things should right themselves.
Thanks For Watching

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