Fibresand legend General Tufto out of luck on 200th racecourse appearance
Were the town of Southwell ever to appear as a subject on Family Fortunes, the survey would say that General Tufto had only Bramley apples, first grown there back in 1809, to beat.
The General, as he is known to the public (he is 'Tufty' at home), took part in his 200th race on Thursday and ran as everyone knew he would, at least for seven of the eight furlongs.
Slowly away, headway turning in, the usual finishing rattle just tapering off slightly as his 12-year-old legs felt the effects of a first run since May.
Once winner Sunshineandbubbles had received her prize, the course presented a special memento to mark General Tufto's 110 runs on the Fibresand: two framed collages of some of his 15 wins at the track.
Owner John Theaker said: "I enjoyed it. He came round the bend with a bit of a chance, but racing wide and not having run for such a long time probably told in the end.
"He's been such a good horse to have and he'll hopefully be back for a race here on New Year's Day. He's won that before, too, though I dare say there won't be many races like that around here he hasn't won. He'll be 13 that day, of course. He's catching me up!"
Trainer Charles Smith could not be in attendance due to illness, but wife Janet said: "It's a long time since he'd had such a long break and he ran well. He's brilliant at home and still showing all of his enthusiasm."
Overshadowed by the understandable warmth towards General Tufto was Very First Blade, who made his 100th racecourse appearance in the closing 5f handicap. He could not match General Tufto's gallant effort, beating only one of his nine rivals home.
Watson gets more success on the sand
It is a quirk of the time of year that the best racing took place before most of the country had sat down for lunch. The 11.45 looked a strong race beforehand, bringing together several in-form sorts, and was won by Fibresand debutante Snowy Winter.
Trainer Archie Watson, who is making a name for himself everywhere but has built an especially good record at Southwell, said: "She's bred for the surface and now she's shown it suits her we'll probably come back here for a 0-90 rather than go for an amateur riders' handicap at Kempton. Simon Walker will be disappointed!"
Snowy Winter has now won four of her last six starts and Watson added: "She's been a great buy for £7,500 and she's the stable pet now. Anytime we suggest maybe selling her the girls in the yard won't have it."
Jockey Andrew Mullen secured a cross-yard hat-trick, through Snowy Winter for Archie Watson, Lean On Pete for Ollie Pears and Kommander Kirkup for Michael Herrington. It took him to 66 winners for the year, a career-best tally by four with a week or so left to extend it.
Rajasinghe on the way back
After Gustavo Fring won the 5f maiden, trainer Richard Spencer revealed that Coventry Stakes winner Rajasinghe will be back in on New Year's Day to begin his preparation, with the Guineas still on the agenda.
Thought for the day
They might start building the floodlights at Southwell during 2018, so it is somewhat fitting that in 2017 the track met on the winter solstice. By 2019 we may not have to start this fixture before noon.