Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

Over the Christmas period I have been playing The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game with the family and jolly good fun it is too. By suggesting the game is played for real money, astute parents will give themselves a decent chance to 'win back' pocket money which offspring would otherwise only fritter away on non-essentials such as CDs, DVDs and iPod accessories.

Players accumulate cash either by winning races or by betting. In a two horse race earlier in the week, the horses were priced up at 6/1 and 33/1; I'm only allowed to bet one horse but I happen to be in control of one of the horses. There are no odds on shots and in a matter of forty minutes I had over £4 million in my hand. Why can't real horse racing be like this?

There are some disadvantages. Although admission is free, viewing can be limited (I was squashed up on the stool next to the TV) and the living room could do with a lick of paint. In addition the catering was uninspiring (cold turkey sandwiches or a call out to Papa John's pizza house).

Still, these are small tribulations set against a potential earnings rate that would embarrass any Premiership footballer; I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day selection box

For those of you in the mood following your Christmas celebrations...

12.15 Christdalo - ran in much hotter company last time; stable in form.

1.10 Boychuk - trappy race but tough stayer; jumping concerns for Yes Sir and Knowhere.
1.45 Noble Request - conditions suit; Straw Bear vulnerable.
2.20 Kauto Star - unopposable.

3.30 What A Buzz - big horse who was backed from 18/1 to 9/1 here last time and made brave attempt to win.

1.25 King Killone - conditions in his favour.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Suggested TV viewing this Christmas

If East Enders and the impending death of Pauline Fowler doesn't make much appeal as your Christmas viewing, try following the series of Royal Institution Christmas Lectures delivered by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy which Channel Five are broadcasting daily at 7.15 from Christmas Day onwards.

The lecture on Tuesday 27th is billed as showing how maths can provide strategies for 'optimising success in game shows and gambling'. I'm hooked already.

In a similar mathematical vein, it looks as though the (rather modest) number of pounds I bid for a day at the races with The Times' Alan Lee as part of their charity auction event happened to be too small.

A happy Christmas to all (three) readers of this blog.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas is coming...

No matter what you say, there is something awful about Christmas. This year, as always, my survival pack will include a copy of The Weekender, published on Friday, which will give details of all the Boxing Day entries.

Traditionally Boxing Day is one of the biggest racing days of the year with eight meetings scheduled to take place, the highlight being the King George VI Chase run over three miles at Kempton. By way of contrast the week before Christmas tends to be pretty low key. Racing hacks with a hatful of tips 'to cover the Christmas expenses' tend to predominate.

At this early stage Kauto Star looks the proverbial good thing in the King George and is priced accordingly. Looking (somewhat forlornly) for something to upset the applecart, the two I will concentrate on are Monet's Garden and the French horse Mid Dancer should he take his chance.

In the meantime, sorting through some old mail, I came across an invitation to join The Racgoers Club. A year's single membership costs £20; I'll give that serious consideration in the new year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Racing Post put up for sale

With a move that was widely predicted in the business community, Ms Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror's chief executive, put the Racing Post up for sale yesterday with a price tag in the region of £200 million. I was intrigued to learn that the late Robin Cook, an avid racing fan, had tabled a bid for the title two years ago.

It's not really been a year for the racing press - the demise of The Sportsman a couple of months back also comes to mind.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Indecision is my downfall

Sometimes finding winners is as easy as bumping into a bishop with a black eye.

You wouldn't normally associate a Tuesday at Sedgefield with a reasonable card but today there were three Class 3 races and some decent prize money on offer. A couple of weeks ago at Towcester races I backed Tom George's Good Citizen and watched his rather indifferent jumping. Last night I'd spotted his entry in today's 1.50 at Sedgefield; it was hard to be confident, although I think the stable feel he has plenty of ability. Early in the morning Betfred had him priced at 9/1. I took the sensible option, left well alone. I knew my fate as soon as I came to check the results - he'd won at 4/1.

At that same Towcester meeting The Outlier was impressive carrying top weight to victory over 2 miles 6 furlongs on heavy ground. Tomorrow he runs over 3 miles 2 furlongs on soft ground at Newbury; that's a new trip but my guess is he'd stay. Priced up at around 4/1 he's in with a shout. Thing is, I don't know whether to have a bet or not.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cheltenham on Saturday

A trappy card looks on offer at Cheltenham tomorrow, particularly with the ground turning soft; here's a couple of selections opposing probable favourites. In the opener I'm siding with Katchit. General opinion is that he's not quite top class but he's done nothing wrong in my book; he'll be the value bet against Tritonix.

Only four runners in the race that was formerly known as the Bula hurdle which is due off at 3.15. The planners must be tearing their hair out as the first prize is worth over £114,000. Detroit City will be all the rage after a facile win at the track last time out but I'm going with Hardy Eustace who has the form in the book.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cheltenham on Friday

Having won over course and distance last time and having beaten two of tomorrow's four opponents in the process, Standin Obligation has the look of a standing dish in the opener. He's likely to go off at around even money.

Paul Nicholls' Kicks For Free will be a warm order in the last. I think Twiston Davies' Battlecry has potential and rates a decent each way bet at around 10/1; a small reverse forecast / exacta those two horses may be called for.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What price a day at the races?

As one of the lots in their Christmas Charity Auction, The Times is offering a day at Newbury races on Totesport Trophy Day in the company of their racing correspondent Alan Lee.

A few years ago I offered a day at Warwick races as a prize in a works' auction that went for £30. I suspect a significantly bigger bid will be required to land this particular lot. Surreptitious sorties, carried out in the dead of night on sleeping children's money banks, will be required to bolster limited funds.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Racing rations

For one reason or another, I only took in one race yesterday, the 2.05 at Sandown, which saw Fair Along beat My Way de Solzen in convincing fashion. Jockey Richard Johnson wrote a bullish note about Fair Along in The Times on Friday; those who took the hint were rewarded at odds of 2/1 in what was essentially a two horse race.

Kauto Star's victory in the Tingle Creek half an hour later made the BBC's main evening news sports bulletin. A clip of the horse jumping the last would suggest he won this without ever getting out of second gear.

It's interesting to note that Richard Johnson commented he wouldn't be in a rush to back Kauto for the Gold Cup, citing horses that have failed to climb the Cheltenham hill in recent years, One Man being the obvious example.

As an aside, whilst browsing in a Warwick bookshop, I came across a copy of Graham Sharpe's tribute to Frankie Dettori's seven winners at Ascot - details below.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fallon banned for six months

Kieren Fallon's annus horribilis is to culminate in the former champion jockey being banned for six months after testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Further details from the BBC at

I would imagine this news will be followed in due course by the announcement of his retirement from race riding.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Towcester talkback

There was plenty of mud flying at Towcester yesterday; BBC Ceefax reported before racing that the course had taken 16 mm of rain overnight. The car park was on the soft side of heavy.

The tannoy wasn't fully operational during the first but they went pretty steady. I overheard one of the jockeys say the horses were going through it but you wouldn't want to try going any faster!

The Outlier gave the day's most impressive performance by leading from the front and carrying top weight to an easy victory. This horse jumped superbly and will surely get three miles. I backed What'sonyourmind but he was struggling to go the pace down the back straight, even though he was benefitting from his rider's 7lbs claim.

In the novice chase Flintoff took a walk in the market from 7/2 to 6/1. This may have been on account of the performace of England's cricketers or perhaps, more likely, on account of the comment in the Racing Post that the horse had weakened alarmingly when last seen on heavy ground. Whatever the reason, nobody had told the horse as he looked the winner coming to the last but was caught by Henry Daly's Principe Azzurro on the climb to the line. I backed Tom George's Good Citizen in this race. The horse didn't look the most natural of jumpers, losing ground at some flights and jumping left at others. Twiston-Davies' Billyandi showed a bit of temperment going to post, raced off the main group for a way and was then pulled up before the last.

The horse to take from the concluding bumper was 9/1 shot What A Buzz. Having his first run in public, this 'giant' of a horse, to use the course commentator's description, made a bold bid for victory on the turn for home. He was caught by Henrietta Knight's Bally Conn but there is surely a race in him. Favourite Mole's Chamber was easy to back and the market vibes proved correct.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A trip to Towcester is on the cards

There are some big races this weekend, including the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. Having had my request for special leave approved by my wife, I'm travelling to Towcester. Towcester is still the best free view in sport.

The opener appears to be a penalty kick for Red Scally.

Flintoff, owned by Paul Beck and Andrew Flintoff, is an interesting runner in the 12.45. I dare say 'Freddie' will be hoping his horse shows better form than England's cricketers have in Australia. Lydia Hislop gave some background on Paul Beck's racing year in her column in The Times on Wednesday.,,15009-2465078.html

This race looks a close call - in my book likely favourite Erica's Charm will be vulnerable on the soft going.

Alfa Sunrise could pop up at a price in the 2.15 while the stats point to Apple Joe in the 2.50. The Racing Post top rated horse has landed the spoils in each of the last six runnings; Apple Joe is top rated and, for good measure, won over course and distance last week, having been backed from 25/1 in to 12/1. Tomorrow's starting price will be around 7/2.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Living with administrative delay

Trying to get to the races this time of year is fraught with difficulties. I submitted the application for special leave form (ref: A12/BE) in triplicate to my wife some weeks ago but it's still waiting to be processed.

Every time I chase the matter, she throws terms such as 'Christmas shopping', 'presents' and 'the children', in no particular order, in my direction. Should my leave be approved, I intend to go to Towcester this Saturday; I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Times' new typeface

As if finding winners wasn't difficult enough in itself, The Times today added significantly to that challenge with the introduction of the new Times Modern fount and the redesign of its racing cards.

Yes, I'm over fifty, breaking in my first pair of varifocals, but this is a step backwards. I'm looking for enlightenment not obfuscation.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kauto Star - Superstar

What an exhilirating performance by Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Ruby Walsh's face returning to the paddock said it all; he thinks he can win a Gold Cup with this horse. After yesterday's performance I would be inclined to agree with him.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Haydock's Betfair Chase

Only six runners declared for tomorrow's Betfair Chase at Haydock but an intriguing race looks in store. The consensus opinion seems to be that if Kauto Star stays, he wins. With the going on the soft side of good, several of Kauto's opponents will be keen to ensure a true test of stamina. The value is L'ami priced up at around 9/2 on Friday evening. Trainer Francois Doumen has a decent record at Haydock, his horse has had a pipe opener over in France and L'ami's fourth in the Gold Cup looks good form.

Kanpai is a clear top rated in the concluding race at 3.55 and should not be opposed.

Over at Huntingdon Tritonix looks the winner of the 2.30 but will be long odds on. I take Monkerhostin to win the Peterborough Chase.

The concluding bumper at Ascot has some interesting sorts. Particulary noteworthy is Brendan Powell's West Ridge who finished third to the well regarded Kicks For Free last season. Priced up at around 8/1 this looked a horse to bet on but unfortunately the ground has turned up soft, thereby introducing an additional variable into the equation and effectively throwing the plan out the window.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Desert Orchid dies

Desert Orchid, one of the most popular horses in living memory, died today at the of age of 27. The distinctive grey's front running style and flamboyant jumping won him fans all around the world. I remember tipping him to win the Gold Cup; that day my washing machine broke down and flooded the kitchen but I didn't care. And then the following day, a member of library staff came up to me to complain his starting price had only been 5/2... Fond memories.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cheltenham on Paddy Power Gold Cup day

I think Katchit is the best juvenile hurdler seen out to date and he looks worth an interest in the opening race at 12.55.

All eyes will be on Denman in the next. Whilst I expect him to win, his cramped odds mean he will not be a betting proposition.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.40 is ultra competitive. Vodka Bleu, 7/1 earlier in the week, has been well touted and will be vying for favouritism. Chilling Place each way would be my selection in this race.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cheltenham Open meeting

Tomorrow sees the start of the three day Cheltenham Open meeting, the highlight being the Paddy Power Gold Cup run over two and a half miles on Saturday.

In recent years the Pipe stable has done particularly well at this meeting; all eyes will be on son David as he tries to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father. The media have played their part by running stories on several of their fancied runners.

David rates Standin Obligation the stable's best chance at the meeting; he runs in tomorrow's 4.10 race and I think the hint's worth taking.

On offical ratings two Irish horses, Cuan Na Grai, the likely favourite, and Kalderon have the 1.55 race between them. Cuan Na Grai won the Galway hurdle in impressive style over the summer. His trainer has opted for this race rather than the competitive looking Greatwood hurdle on Sunday. The negative is the stable hasn't sent out a winner for over three weeks. It's not certain Kalderon will appreciate the ground but he looks the value pick to overturn the favourite.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christmas is coming

Picture the scene. It's Christmas Day, you've had more than you can take of family and relatives and, to make matters worse, all the traditional Boxing Day fixtures have been frozen off. What are you going to do?

You're going to start reading a racing book you had the foresight to ask for as a Christmas present. Here's a couple of suggestions...

Gambling: a story of triumph and disaster by Mike Atherton

Riding the storm: my autobiography by Timmy Murphy

Mark Johnson: the authorised biography by Nick Townsend

The festive season is also the time of year the Injured Jockeys' Fund makes a lot of its money. If you fancy making a purchase to support the work of this deserving charity, check out details on their website

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend round-up

I found it difficult to winkle out a bet that made much appeal this weekend.

Katies Tuitor, highlighed earlier after his runaway success at Kempton three weeks ago, won at Sandown at odds of 6/5. This victory didn't look as impressive but I know the trainer thinks this horse is one of the best he has had. The plan is to run in the next month, avoiding Cheltenham, and then go for a big race over Christmas, possibly in Ireland. The horse appears better on good fast ground. I'll keep a close eye on this prospect.

The Channel 4 team made a big play on Paul Nicholls' chance of going through the card at Wincanton. With media interest like this, there's little value to be had backing his runners. His horses won the first three races at short odds. Perhaps the most surprising defeat was of Desert Quest who was talked of as a potential Champion Hurdle horse last week after hacking up in a competitive handicap at Ascot. Seven days later, the odds on shot was overturned by Crow Wood.

Well done to Nick Mordin who wrote a bullish piece in The Weekender touting Invasor as the best bet at the Breeders Cup; the horse won at 11/2.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Timmy Murphy otherwise engaged

Alan Lee, writing a plug for Timmy Murphy's autobiography in today's Times' Racing Diary, informs us that the jockey (pictured) has recently become engaged to Verity Green, son of owner Ray Green.
Hmmm... Verity, Verity, I say unto you, she will not be amused.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bad day at the office

A bad day at the Exeter office for Richard Johnson yesterday...

In the feature race, the two mile William Hill Chase, Johnson was on the only serious challenger to eventual winner Impek when a loose horse cannoned into his mount on the home run leaving the jockey sitting on the turf.

An hour later, Johnson held a slight advantage on the run-in only for his ride, Out The Black, to slip up and gift the race to Charlies Future. Apparently, according to Luke Harvey on Radio 4 this morning, the horse had seen the paddock and was on two minds whether to take a short cut under the running rail!

To cap it all, Johnson was beaten on a short priced favourite in the last.

It never rains but it pours.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Exeter's top meeting

Exeter's best card of the year takes place tomorrow, all races being sponsored by William Hill.

The main event, the Haldon Gold Cup, is run over all of 2 miles 2 furlongs bar a few yards and puts the emphasis on stamina as well as speed. Nine runners declared with most of the decent performers having their first run of the season. This being the case, unless you know specifically that a particualr horse is well forward, it's a race to note rather than a race to bet on.

The corresponding novice chase has attracted six runners; on hurdling form Denman looks the clear choice and is likely to be priced accordingly, although he has done all his winning to date over slightly further.

Interesting to see the Pipe stable hit form over the weekend with Our Vic winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the first big race winner for Martin's son David. Twelve Paces followed up at Carlisle on Sunday. That should keep David Johnson happy a little while longer.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jumping returns to Ascot

Jump racing returns to Ascot tomorrow and, despite trainers' concerns over the ground, the course appears to have done a good job in attracting competitive fields, especially as this meeting clashes with Wetherby's well established Charlie Hall Chase meeting.

Having watched Crossbow Creek win as he liked two weeks ago at Kempton, he makes plenty of appeal in the opening seven runner race, particularly as he is priced up at between 4/1 and 6/1 on the Sporting Life web site this evening. The going, the right handed track and his recent facile win are all in the horse's favour.

The main danger is likely favourite Andreas from the Paul Nicholls' stable. Of the other runners, Bleu Superbe is getting no younger at the age of 11, both Palua and Demi Beau have proved difficult to win with in the past, Stance needs to improve and Briscoe Place has done all his winning in lower grade events. Crossbow Creek looks a value bet to overturn Andreas.

In the 3.45 Charlie Mann's Moon Over Miami is likely to be sent off odds on. I bet this horse at Kempton last time; he ruined his chance by pulling too hard early on. If the freshness is out of his system he will be difficult to beat but may be worth taking on with Orpen Wide who is officially top rated and has a seven pound claimer on board. He's of interest priced at around 7/2.

Over at Wetherby the soft / heavy ground will take its toll. The Charlie Hall Chase has ten runners but looks ultra competitive and full of imponderables; a race to watch and enjoy rather than bet on.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Martin Pipe day at Cheltenham

Tuesday was Martin Pipe day at Cheltenham. What the stable would have given for a winner on this day, but it wasn't to be.

This stable is a markedly different operation from the days when Pipe senior ran the show. At present there are more than 60 empty boxes in the yard; principal owner David Johnson owns more than half the inmates.

Son David has made Cheltenham's Open meeting next year his first major target.

On a separate note, if there's one thing worse than tipping a loser, it's tipping a winner and not having a bet yourself (to paraphrase the legendary Jeffrey Bernard). I missed Backstage at this meeting, one of three horses Sir Robert Ogden sent to Evan Williams. This may well have been because I had recorded his name as Backpage in an earlier post. The horse won at 6/1.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ascot changes

Douglas Erskine-Crum has been in charge at Ascot for over 13 years but yesterday he announced he would be leaving early in the new year to look for a new challenge.

To be fair, he has looked to modernise Ascot and reports suggest he has had some success. Forever he will be associated with Ascot's new grandstand which has received mixed reviews.

I've never been to Ascot and intended to get there this winter but major redevelopment work is now scheduled to take place following the furore surrounding the poor viewing facilities at ground level. At a recent flat meeting I noticed the stand cast a shadow right across the track; at least two horses drifted alarmingly towards the stands in their races.

One thing that comes with the top job at the Queen's racecourse is pressure.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Big guns getting ready for action

Over the past few days we've seen updates on the plans for a number of top drawer jumping horses.

Here's a swift compilation...

Kauto Star, favourite when falling in last year's two mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham, may return to action at Aintree this Sunday. He's entered in a two and a half mile chase; Paul Nicholls is convinced the horse will get three miles and is looking to enter him in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. What is this horse's best distance?

Racing Demon and Monet's Garden, two of last season's top novice chasers, could clash at Carlisle a week on Sunday and Alan King's My Way De Solzen could meet Black Jack Ketchum at Wetherby in a week's time.

On top of that a number of seasoned chasers are being aimed at the Charlie Hall chase at Wetherby a week on Saturday, as you would expect.

We've got it all to look forward to.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A day at Kempton races

A good day's racing was had by all on Saturday as Kempton Park racecourse held its first jump meeting of the season in glorious autumnal sunshine.

The course looked in tremendous condition. Horses raced over the all weather intersections with no problems at all.

Two winners really stood out - Katies Tuitor and Crossbow Creek. Katies Tuitor won very easily in a fast time. Making a play against Alan King's 4/6 favourite Urban Tiger, I bet a score this horse at 17/2; one sole bookmaker was offering 10/1 but wiped the price off his boards as I asked for the bet and then promptly refused me which was a little annoying.

Crossbow Creek, a decent hurdler, didn't appear to have the best of it in his first season chasing last year but he did absolutely nothing wrong here jumping well and winning as he liked. Favourite Tighe Caster made a bad mistake that cost him his chance but I still don't think he would have got close to Crossbow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Saturday's Betfred meeting at Kempton

Kempton sees the return of jumps action tomorrow, the first race starting at 2.30.

The turnout looks to be on the disappointing side with three of the races having less than eight runners and the £20,000 added Betfred hurdle attracting just four runners. Originally Channel 4 had planned to televise the Betfred hurdle at 2.30 along with the handicap chase at 3.50. It looks as though race times have been adjusted, with the listed novice hurdle now moved from 4.50 to 2.30; even so there are only seven runners in this £18,000 added race.

On official ratings Charlie Mann's Moon Over Miami appears to have a bit in hand over his rivals in the opener. His fitness has to be taken on trust but he looks a worthy favourite.

Self Defense is not a horse to trust implicitly and looks worth opposing with Kawagino in the Betfred hurdle at 4.50. Both horses are returning after a break; under the conditions of the race Kawagino has two pounds to find but at six years old the improvement could well be there. A tactical race could develop; however habitual front runner Castleshane should ensure a decent pace.

The Paul Nicholls' trained Pirate Flagship is my selection in the 3.10; this horse's dam is an unraced half-sister to the dam of top drawer two mile chasers Viking Flagship and Flagship Uberalles. Senor Rumbilita is a mare who settles well and has a decent turn of foot but she has done a lot of her racing on ground with plenty of cut.

I think Tighe Caster may be one to follow this season irrespective of the result in a competitive looking two mile handicap chase, the final race on the card.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jump racing returns to Kempton

Jump racing returns to Kempton this Saturday following a break while the all weather track was laid. It will be important for the course management that this meeting is a success and manages to attract decent sized fields and plenty of paying customers. From a marketing angle the 20% price reduction on advance bookings for groups of 6 or more is certainly an eyecatcher.

As ever, the ground will be a primary concern for trainers who will not wish to risk their animals on unsuitably firm going. In the past this has proved to be a particular problem at Kempton.

It will also be interesting to see how the horses adjust to the intersections where the turf and all weather courses meet.

I'm going to this meeting so will report back next week.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Sportsman fails to deliver

Seven months after first hitting the streets, The Sportsman newspaper has ceased publication.

I first heard the news on Saturday's 'The Morning Line'; the latest copy on the web site is dated Thursday 5th October.

The paper, which has been losing money hand over fist from the start, has bowed to the inevitable.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Chepstow's first meeting of the season

The first meeting of the season at Chepstow used to be seen as the proper start of the National Hunt season; this probably had something to do with the fact that it was traditionally the first jumps meeting of the season the BBC televised.

This week has generated plenty of interest with Tony McCoy riding the 2,500th winner of his career and Lydia Hislop asking some of the questions we'd all like the answers to regarding the Pipe stable...,,15009-2387601.html

David Pipe has set Cheltenham's Open meeting scheduled for November 2007 as his first target.

A decent card looks on offer at Chepstow tomorrow. Paul Nicholls trained horses are likely to figure prominently in the betting but in previous years this stable has taken a couple of weeks to get into gear and so the value is likely to be in opposing their runners.

Twiston Davies is flying at the moment and introduced an interesting newcomer in Battlecry at Worcester yesterday, the horse winning the concluding bumper by 22 lengths from the well touted odds on shot Adare Prince. Mahogany Blaze will be worth an each way interest at around 12/1 in tomorrow's opening race.

Only six runners in the novice chase at 3.00 with four of them liking to lead or race prominently. The official handicapper has Keepthedreamalive, Legal Glory and Lady of Scarvagh joint top rated but Lady of Scarvagh has a useful 7lbs mare's allowance and is of interest at around 6/1 in a trappy race.

Katchit is easily the best juvenile hurdler seen out to date and has the look of a good thing in the 3.35.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Superform Jumping Annual 2006

The Superform Jumping Annual was on my doorstep when I arrived home last night. I've purchased this tome for more years than I care to count; it's reasonably priced and a useful reference tool, enabling you to build up a decent pen picture of any particular horse. Perhaps it doesn't have the authority of Timeform's Chasers and Hurdlers but then it does cost rather less.

Last year saw a change in tradition with publication taking place in late September; previously publication was around June time.

I'd noticed it wasn't so easy to pick up a copy at W.H. Smith's so this time around I ordered direct from Superform who obliged with a £3 discount on RRP and free UK postage and packing.

Check out the supplier if you want to purchase a copy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not for the squeamish...

This evening's Celebrity Wife Swap on Channel 4 sees former Conservative MP Edwina Currie spending some quality time with racing pundit John McCririck.

Quite rightly, judging by the trailers we've seen so far, the programme is being aired after the 9.00pm watershed. I shall watch with interest.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Stable talk

The Peter Bowen stable has had a decent summer and won the summer jumping championship. Unusually I had the foresight on this one...

Fortunes at the Pipe stable have been in marked contrast. Figures in this week's Weekender indicate 32 runs and 43 days since a stable win.

Nigel Twiston Davies has been short on runners for this time of year. I looked at the stable entries at Perth last week and found his web site useful when assesing the form of his runners. Comments under the 'Today's runners' section are worth noting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

McCoy returns

Tony McCoy, out for eight weeks with a broken wrist, returns to action at Hereford today.

Sportsmen of all kinds suffer injuries; the accompanying boredom while recovery takes place often causes problems. During this particular period of inactivity McCoy has made things a bit more interesting for himself by going and getting married - a brave man indeed.

Meanwhile Tom O'Brien and Richard Johnson are snapping at his heels in the race to become champion jockey.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Recommended reading

This weekend saw the tenth anniversary of Frankie Dettori's famous seven Ascot winners. Graham Sharpe of William Hill has a book entitled 'The Magnificent Seven' due to be published at the end of this month; following Saturday afternoon's spat it's unlikely Aidan O'Brien will be purchasing a copy.

In The Times Critic's Chart column on Saturday, Sharpe revealed his list of top gambling books - details below:,,923-2369192.html

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mascot Grand National

Watching another of my selections trail in 73 lengths behind the winner is not amusing, whereas on the other hand watching the Mascot Grand National most certainly is amusing, with contestants dressed as football team mascots racing over a short course. This year's event takes place at Huntingdon racecourse on Sunday at 1.00 pm.

This is either the seventh or eighth running of a race which has stirred up a fair amount of controvesy in its short history. We're told the clerk of the course has closely scrutinsed entries to ensure no foul play takes place. I'm sure running spikes are now banned.

Skybet have priced up Graham The Gorilla and Lesotho The Lion as joint 9/2 favourites with Sedge The Mouse 11/2 and previous course and distance winner Chaddy The Owl 7/1.

I thought there was an 18 runner limit on fields around Huntingdon but I'm reliably informed 70 contestants are scheduled to line up. From a betting point of view it's not a race to get too heavily involved in given some of the stunts tried previously; a watching brief is advised.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mick Fitzgerald to retire

Mick Fitzgerald (pictured) yesterday announced his intention to retire from the saddle at the end of the current National Hunt season.

Closely associated with Nicky Henderson's stable, Mick is one of a handful of top jockeys to have won the Grand National and the Gold Cup. In recent years he has suffered more than his share of injuries.

A couple of my memories...

Early in his career I remember Mick being touted by John Francome as a claimer to look out for. At Exeter (or Devon & Exeter as it was then known) I'd had a fiver on an animal at 6/1 in a low grade hurdle race. Less than a mile from home the horse was a good ten lengths clear of his field and showing no signs of stopping when Mick went out the side door.

A few years ago he made amends in my book by winning the Bula hurdle on Geos at a tasty 14/1.

His most famous quote has to be describing the Grand National win on Rough Quest as 'better than sex'.

Enjoy your retirement Mick.

Allardyce allegations

BBC's Panorama programme investigating corruption in football was big on hype beforehand but failed to deliver. In the event Bolton manager Sam Allardyce was named by three separate agents as somebody 'who liked a deal'. The 'evidence' against Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp verged on the ridiculous; no wonder he described it as 'laughable'.

The programme, two years in the making, ultimately became rather tedious.

At the end we were informed that 18 past and present managers were implicated. BBC lawyers obviously made sure their names were not placed in the public domain.

Be reassured, the FA are to invesitgate any breach of the rules.

What surprised me most was the fact that the Panorama investigation into horse racing took place four years ago, not six to nine months as I stated in my previous post. Time flies when you're enjoying yourself.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Football's bung culture in the spotlight

Six to nine months ago Panorama took a pop at the horse racing industry with a programme investigating allegations of corrupt practice. The fallout from the programme was considerable.

Tonight Panorama turns the spotlight on football and the 'bung' culture which prevails in the Premier League. I would say that, down the years, the BBC has been particularly adept not only at repeating programmes but also at repeating recipes for programmes and it looks like that's what we have here.

At the same time one Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (honest), also nicknamed Captain Beaujolais, is carrying out an independent investigation; he is due to report his initial findings to the League's chairmen early in October.

Tonight's programme should make interesting viewing.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bidding for the Tote commences

Channel 4's Teletext service reported yesterday that a consortium of racing industry groups had tabled a bid to buy the Tote.

The bid came in at roughly £350 million. The Tote's assets are thought to be worth in the region of £400 million. We can expect to see other bids landing on the table from private equity companies in due course.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One Jump Ahead

Today I spotted Mark Howard's annual publication 'One Jump Ahead' on the shelves of my local W. H. Smith.

I've never been particularly keen on publications which give a list of horses to follow in the coming season but Mark Howard's book is generally well respected and rates extremely good value at £5.99.

Over the seasons I've heard it said, 'If you buy nothing else, make sure you buy this book', and I guess the same applies this time round as well.

The Sportsman: the next instalment

The Times City Diary reported yesterday that current investors at The Sportsman newspaper had stumped up another £400,000 which should cover losses for another month, or until a buyer is found.

I do think the paper has improved following the decision some weeks back to concentrate primarily on horse racing but the administrators have one big struggle on their hands trying to sell this business.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ogden sends three horses to Evan Williams

Talking to a fellow racegoer over the weekend, I was alerted to the fact that afluent owner Sir Robert Ogden has sent three horses to Evan Williams' small up and coming yard.

Since joining the training ranks 18 moths ago, Williams has done extremely well with the lower grade animals which have been sent his way.

The three horses are Backpage, Robin de la Gard and Royal Arms. I'll be keeping a look out for these horses over the next few months.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another doping scandal

Picking up the corruption theme again, BBC Radio 4 ran a story this morning which I only half heard through my crunching Corn Flakes.

A Pony Club competition in Jersey has been postponed pending further investigation after a number of ponies were found behaving in an 'irregular fashion' prior to a junior show jumping event.

A parent is alleged to have given polo mints to certain ponies after which the animals became very drowsy; one pony could barely make it back to his box. Speaking personally, several of my betting selections have behaved in a similar manner in the past so I see no immediate cause for concern.

It appears the ponies were given a sedative which is often used to calm fractious horses; obviously a complete investigation is to be carried out and the competition rearranged for a later date.

It would appear that, just as in any other walk of life, you need to get the kids involved from an early age.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Corruption and treachery at every turn...

Last week I was at a conference in Stockholm. On my retun home I'm greeted with news of treachery in the Labour party and the arrest in the United States of another executive of an internet gambling firm.

My Sunday evening relaxtion consists of watching an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe that paints horse racing as a corrupt activity dogged by dodgy trainers, dodgy punters and dodgy vets.

Where is the respite?

Incidentally, I'm sure many of you spotted that the racing scenes for the Dalziel and Pascoe yarn had been filmed at Warwick racecourse.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A sense of expectation

There's no denying, as I walk in to work in the morning, it's just that little bit cooler.

Early autumn is a time of year I like; there's the new National Hunt season to look forward to.

For years I've been going to the first meeting of the season at Ludlow (pictured above), usually held on the second Thursday in October. It's an informal meet held in the picturesque Shropshire countryside; it's also one of the very few courses where I've done reasonably well on the betting front.

This year, as my fiftieth birthday approaches, we're breaking with tradition and going to Kempton for Kempton Park Gold Cup day.

More often than not though the expectation generated at this time of year is replaced by crushing disillusionment when next April is upon us.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A cautionary tale

Mike Atherton's new book 'Luck be a lady tonight: gambling - a story of triumph and disaster' is due to be published early in September.

The Guardian recently published the extract below which generated a fair deal of discussion in our staffroom and should serve as a cautionary tale to us all.,,1857974,00.html

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

David Nicholson dies aged 67

Twice champion trainer David Nicholson died suddenly over the weekend aged 67.

Tributes have been made by many in racing to 'The Duke', a man who influenced a number of top jockeys' careers.

A larger than life character, he'll be missed by many in the sport. The link to BBC's report is at:

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jacob's Cracker

5lb claimer D. Jacob is booked to ride Cream Cracker in the 3.15 at Newton Abbot tomorrow and they can prove a winning combination provided the rain doesn't spoil the party.

The 8 year old mare is officially rated 123, 9lbs higher than the less experienced Barton Flower, yet both horses are set to carry the same weight under the conditions of the race.

Of the other runners, Sakenos' debut over fences at Fontwell just two days ago was less than impressive while Arresting won nicely enough at Perth.

Cream Cracker looks more experienced than her rivals but wouldn't want the ground too soft; she rates a value bet at 9/4, the tissue price quoted on the Sporting Life website today.

Incidentally, I'm surprised to see Is It Me declared for the 6.20 at Market Rasen, given connections rate the colt a potential Triumph hurdle candidate. I expect the horse to win, but at long odds on he's not a betting proposition.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Under Orders

I'm not the biggest Dick Francis fan. I've read a few; after a while they tend to 'merge' into one another.

His new title, Under Orders, is to be published in early September and will be his first book for over six years following the death of his wife.

Details below if you're a fan...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is It Me?

Is It Me is certainly one of the better novice hurdlers to have been seen out so far this summer, if not the best.

Not overly big, the horse has taken to jumping like the proverbial duck to water. Early on trainer Paul Blockley commented that he wouldn't want to see the horse lumbered with too many penalties.

Today the Racing Post reports that the owner has refused two offers of £80,000 and then £100,000 for the horse from an anonymous Irish businessman.

The long term plan is the Triumph hurdle in Cheltenham next March. It's early days yet but it is clear the owner feels he has a horse to go to war with. In the interim, the aim is a race at Cheltenham's October meeting.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Sportsman's revamp

On Saturday I purchased the revamped edition of The Sportsman.

From a racing perspective big improvements have been made, although I had to try four retail outlets before I could find a copy. In addition the cards for both Bangor and Market Rasen didn't contain insight notes for individual runners which is disappointing for a specialist newspaper.

To ensure its long term survival the paper needs to concetrate on the horse racing product, improve distribution and maintain its pricing differential with the Racing Post.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Saturday selections

Bangor On Dee 2.20
The favourite has won this race five times in the last ten years. The winner has come from the first three in the betting in each of the last ten runnings. Looking at tissue prices, the Racing Post and the Sporting Life quote Silver Jaro at around 7/2. The horse has form on soft ground in France and rates a value bet at that price.

Bangor On Dee 3.20
I had On The Outside as the selection provided the ground was no worse than good. Given the amount of rain that's fallen here over the last two hours, the going is likely be soft. That being the case, a chance is taken with Lucinda Russell's Catch The Perk in a race where there are a number of question marks over most of the other runners. The stable is in form, the horse will handle the ground, stay the distance and the course will suit his prominent running style.

Future reading

Following on from my recent LibraryThing explorations, I came across a couple of interesting titles which are not yet published.

Kieren Fallon: the biography by Andrew Longmore
Alan Lee had a snippet in his Times Diary a couple of months back which talked about publication this September but looking at the synopsis on Amazon it appears that date has been put back to May 2007 so the result of the forthcoming trial can be included.

Riding with the devil: my autobiography by Timmy Murphy
Publication date: November 2006.

Mark Johnston: the authorised biography by Nick Townsend
Publication date: October 2006.

The art of bookmaking by Malcolm Boyle
Available from the end of August 2006.

In racing the anticipation is half the fun; a few ideas for Christmas presents there.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

For sale: one daily newspaper, nearly new

The Times reported yesterday that administrators for The Sportsman were going to place an advertisement in The Sunday Times under the heading 'Business For Sale' in an attempt to find a buyer for the paper.

One of the administrators was quoted as 'confident' a buyer would be found within the next two weeks.

I would suggest that if the business is being advertised in this manner then it's more in desperation than confidence and it is unlikely a buyer will be found.

As the paper starts to sack employees, there are a couple of rumours doing the rounds - one that it will relaunch as a freesheet and one that a revised business plan will concentrate on horse racing.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The gentle art of race reading

I have nothing but the utmost admiration for professionals such as Channel 4's 'languid' Simon Holt who describe the cut and thrust of horse racing live as it happens.

My race reading is somewhat different.

I've been using LibraryThing to create a catalgoue of some racing related books I've read over the years.

Sad, I know, but take the trouble to check it out:

Monday, August 14, 2006

Five Live tip September Moon

September Moon runs in the 2.45 at Southwell today. In a five runner race, the mare represents decent value for money at 5/1 with Totalbet but there's no denying she has her own ideas about the game.

In her last race she lost touch on the second circuit only to fight back to be going best of all with two to jump but then ran out.

I daresay breeder Queen Elizabeth would not have been impressed. Equally unimpressive is the writeup for the BBC's Five Live tip which describes September Moon as a gelding. A case of mistaken identity perhaps?

Friday, August 04, 2006

McCoy's broken wrist

Quoting John McCririck on the back cover of McCoy's autobiography: 'The man is a colossus, we have never seen his like before'.

For once McCririck is right.

When McCoy broke his wrist in a heavy fall at Galway earlier this week, Richard Johnson will know that this particular misfortune presents him with an opportunity.

McCoy will be back by October as the core National Hunt season gets into swing.

In the meantime, Johnson can build up a lead in the champion jockey title race. Make no mistake, in any other era Johnson will have already achieved his goal of becoming champion jockey.

I don't currently have any prices but I suggest a wager on Johnson to achieve his lifetime's ambition this season.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Glorious Goodwood

Goodwood has been described as a garden party with racing tacked on.

The irony is that after 50 years, this year will be the BBC's last year of coverage.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fallon's High Court appeal fails

Fallon's appeal to the High Court to lift his current UK riding ban has failed.

According to representations made to the Court yesterday, this decision will have 'disastrous' financial consequences for 41 year old Fallon. Many will see it as signalling the end of his race riding career.

The trial is set take place sometime in 2007. Fallon's retainer with Coolmore expires in November and is unlikely to be renewed.

It certainly is a sorry state of affairs for a jockey Aidan O'Brien has recently described as 'the best in the world'.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

King George at Ascot

Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot has eight entries at the five day stage - a small but select field.

Three horses have form at the highest level - Hurricane Run, Electrocutionist and Heart's Cry; unsurprisingly they occupy the top three positions in the betting.

Today the Racing Post report William Hill had 'laid one five-figure wager and a number of "significant four-figure bets"' for Hurricane Run, forcing the price to odds on. Andre Fabre has booked Soumillon to take the ride in Fallon's absence. The general opinion seems to be that the Hurricane will blow away the opposition provided he's on top form. Of course, we don't know if he is.

Frankie Dettori riding Electrocutionist will be hoping to rescue Godolphin's season with victory at his favourite course while Japanese entry Heart's Cry is tough and cannot be discounted.

At the moment 100/30 Heart's Cry looks the value; a classic race is on the cards.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ladies' Day at Stratford

Sunday was billed as Ladies' Day at Stratford but it's likely the ladies will have been singularly unimpressed with Paul O'Neill's antics.

Naughty boy O'Neill was caught on camera head butting City Affair after the rather excitable gelding had deposited him on the ground.

To be fair, O'Neill has apologised to all concerned. A good ticking off at Portman Sqaure together with an enforced holiday now look on the cards.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shetland Pony Derby

Following on from the Jump Jockeys Derby recently run at Epsom which was won by Tom Scudamore, a Shetland Pony Derby was run yesterday as part of the Epsom Trainers' Open Day.

The appropriately named ten year old, Daniel Little, rode Tangies Sovereign to victory.

A name to look out for in the future perhaps.

Friday, July 21, 2006

BBC commitment to horse racing

If you feel dismayed at the BBC's lack of commitment to horse racing, you'll be glad to know you're not alone.

Barbara Slater, Head of General Sports at the BBC, has written an article on the BBC Sport Editors' Blog in which she affirms that 'we remain committed to racing...'

Check out the replies on the link below and you'll see a lot of people remain unconvinced.

The Sportsman enters administration

Barely four months after its launch, BBC Ceefax reported last night that The Sportsman newspaper had entered administration with immediate effect.

Publication is set to continue while chiefs attempt to secure additional funding.

The Times' City Diary reported a week or so ago that Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun, had looked over the books and decided to walk away.

With that sort of recommendation, the odds look stacked against this betting newspaper surviving much longer.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Market Rasen on Saturday

The biggest jump meeting of the summer racing season takes place at Market Rasen on Saturday, with the highlight being the Summer Plate worth £65,000.

At the moment Peter Bowen, based in west Wales, heads the jump trainers' title race. I haven't sat down and done the homework but it has always struck me that there must be money to be made by identifying National Hunt trainers who seriously target races run during the summer period; many races look decidedly uncompetitive.

For the last three or four summers now, Bowen has certainly had his string fighting fit. He has three declared for the Plate on Saturday, his best chance being Yes Sir. A high class hurdler, Yes Sir has taken his time to get to grips with the larger obstacles; recently he has done well in novice company but this is a step up in class.

Our old friend Full House is likely to run

Going well when falling in this race last year, I'd expect a bold show from Paul Webber's horse.

With the hot weather likely to continue, we can expect a bumper crowd on Saturday.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Food for thought

Racegoers at York today are likely to be hungry for more than just success.

Races on the card include the Hovis Maiden Stakes, the Cuisine De France Summer Stakes, the John West Tuna Stakes, the Mr Kipling Exceedingly Good Stakes and the Fit As A Butcher's Dog Stakes.

After racing, anybody fancy a steak?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fallon appeal fails

Kieren Fallon's appeal against his UK riding ban has been dimissed

Hmmm, nothing unexpected there then.

Jump Jockeys Derby

Several top drawer jump jockeys including Richard Johnson, Timmy Murphy and Paddy Brennan have the chance to ride the Derby course at Epsom this evening in the Sodexho Prestige Jump Jockeys Derby Handicap.

A competitive race it looks as well.

Philip Hobbs' Fair Along is likely to start favourite, the horse having finished second in the Triumph hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Whatever happens, quizmasters up and down the country will be able to ask 'Who was the last jump jockey to ride a Derby winner?'

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Sportsman on the ropes

This piece from today's Times highlights the increasing commercial pressures facing The Sportsman following its lacklustre performance during the World Cup,,9071-2264239,00.html

Monday, July 10, 2006

Zidane's quick return to action

After being sent off in the World Cup Final on Sunday, Zidane is due to return to action in the Ladbrokes Bunbury Cup at Newmarket on Friday, but only provided the ground is good.

A whiff of corruption in the air?

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority's decision to suspend Kieren Fallon from riding in the United Kingdom pending the outcome of the forthcoming trial has generated differing opinions.

Fallon has stated publicly that if the decision is not overturned his career will be in ruins.

In other professional walks of life the accused are usuallly sent home on gardeneing leave - that is to say on full pay pending the outcome.

Fallon has the luxury of a lucrative retainer with the Aidan O'Brien stable based in Ireland. Financially the other two jockeys suspended, Fergal Lynch and Darren Williams, will be worse affected as they ride freelance; in effect their ability to earn a living has been taken away from them.

On Sunday John Francome set the cat amongst the pigeons by estimating that up to six races a year may be fixed

One thing we can expect over the next few months is a period of moralising and soul searching, and it looks like it's already started...,,1816209,00.html,,1817483,00.html

The wretched irony is we go racing to try and escape this sort of stuff.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

McCririck in Wife Swap

An interesting snippet in The Times Racing Diary caught my eye today.

It seems that Channel 4 racing pundit John McCririck is to take part in that well known TV programme Celebrity Wife Swap.

The unfortunate lady who will be McCririck's wife is Edwina Currie.

Brings to mind the old saying 'The Lord makes them but The Devil pairs them.'

The programme is due to be shown October time; I'll certainly be watching.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rosemauve at Stratford this afternoon

Rosemauve is top weight in the 4.20 at Stratford this afternoon.

He certainly has his quirks and is not an easy ride; however, when he puts his best foot forward, he has plenty of ability. A couple of years back I had a decent win with this horse in a D rated handicap hurdle on firm ground over three miles at Ludlow.

His latest effort appears to have been particularly stubborn. Looking at the form, you could take the view that he hasn't taken to chasing all that well. If the return to hurdles today where to signal a return to form he wouldn't be without a chance in what looks a pretty competitive race.

Several bookmakers, including Stan James and Totalbet, offer 20/1. That looks a big price for a horse from the Pipe yard. If you're tempted, an each way wager is affordable at that price.

Fallon - Saint and Sinner

Whatever you may think about Kieren Fallon, two things can go undisputed.

Firstly, he's an exceptional jockey. In my opinion his record around Epsom is bettered only by Lester Piggott.

Secondly, he's already had his fair share of scrapes. Years ago in a Coral shop in Plymouth I remember watching him ride a close finish and then drag the other jockey from his mount just after the horses had past the winning post. I'd never seen anything like it at the time and still haven't to this day.

Whatever the outcome of the charges brought against him, racing will need to remember that he should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

John Terry on form ahead of Saturday's game

Following a light training session in Baden Baden this morning, John Terry ran a creditable third in the one and half mile Goadsby Bilbury Handicap Cup at Salisbury this afternoon.

A little slow at the start, he warmed to his task and finished strongly. At the end fans gave him an affectionate round of applause. Asked for a comment, his travelling head lad said, 'He'll get better with time.'

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

England & Sven - two schools of thought

It seems there are two schools of thought on England's performances in the World Cup to date.

The first school is of the opinion that the team has reached the quarter final stage of the competition without playing well. Nonetheless the opposition has been beaten; if a team can reach this stage without playing well, it augurs well for the future. Proponents of this view affirm there's a big game in this England team and we're going to see it in the next match.

The second school of thought also acknowledges that the team has not played well. The prevailing view is that the team has been performing way below expectations and when the stiffer opposition comes along the side's inherent weaknesses will be fully exposed.

Quoting from today's Times, "If Luiz Felipe Scolari beats Sven-Göran Eriksson for the third time, perhaps he will get to keep him. It is a prospect that seems probable on form and history..."

If you subscribe to this second viewpoint then 11/4 Portugal to beat England in 90 minutes with both Victor Chandler and Betdirect looks very good value indeed.

Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup fans better behaved than Ascot punters

The Sun leads today with the story that more drunken punters have been arrested during the first three days at Royal Ascot than England football fans following their team in Germany.

HRH The Queen will not be amused.

Rumours that Prince Philip was found drunk in charge of a horse and cart are wide of the mark.

Ascot this year seems to have centred around opinions on the new stand, Jodie Kidd peering over Willie Carson's top hat to front the BBC's fashion coverage and popped-up punters taking a pop at one another.

Whatever happened to the racing?

More to the point, does anyone know when's the next meeting at Newton Abbot?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ascot Gold Cup

Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot today with the main feature being the Ascot Gold Cup.

An open looking renewal with Sir Michael Stoute's Distinction having an obvious form chance and likely to start favourite.

In The Weekender Mark Winstanley is very bullish about Reefscape's chances but I'm siding with Sergeant Cecil from Rob Millman's small Devon yard. The horse has been trained with this race in mind; 9/2 is generally available and looks decent value.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Topical longshot at Ascot

The first day of Royal Ascot and some old jumping friends are running in the 2m 4f Ascot Stakes at 4.55pm, including Full House, Admiral, Football Crazy and Tikram.

With 29 runners in the field, it's obviously a bit of a lottery but, given we're in the midst of the World Cup, Football Crazy looks a fun each way bet at 50/1. Trained by Peter Bowen whose yard is in good form, Football Crazy is better known as a 3m hurdler who handles fast ground well.

Paddy Power offer 50/1 and are also paying on the fifth place.

The horse will certainly stay - the question is will he stay fast enough.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Buying money when England play

The best money I've made on the World Cup so far was in Liverpool on Thursday evening when England were playing Trinidad & Tobago.

I walked into a bar which offered the following deal - all beers £1.50 until the first England goal.

After 70 minutes I asked the barmaid what would happen if it was 0-0 - would I be allowed to camp over until the Sweden game.

Two of us in a round - that's £3 a round; it was literally like buying money.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Full House

Full House runs in the Tony Bethell Memorial Handicap (7.15) at Pontefract this evening.

Better known as a chaser, his recent return to the flat at Sandown was a nice preparation for this race. He will certainly appreciate the extra distance here, the stiff track and quicker ground. To temper that I note the trainer hasn't had a winner in more than 30 days.

The Chamberlain Addiscott Partnership own this horse. These names can be seen over the door of The Exmouth Arms public house which is situated just around the corner from Euston station in London. If I have to wait for a train at Euston, I like to pop in for a pint of Guinness or two; Carl Llewellyn's silks from his National victory on Earth Summit are on the wall.

Nine runners in this evening's race and the 3/1 available generally looks a fair price.

Prescott scores with Confidential Lady

Well, bless my old boots, Prescott scored with that Confidential Lady (see item below).

After the event, Prescott was quoted as saying 'It's a relief after 37 years of trying.'

I'm getting a little confused here. Who are we talking about, John Prescott or Sir Mark?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Prescott fancies Confidential Lady

The headline writers can have some fun at a certain politician's expense as Sir Mark Prescott runs Confidential Lady in the Prix de Diane Hermes at Chantilly on Sunday.

BBC Sport has already come up with 'Prescott hopeful of Lady chances'.

I prefer 'Prescott fancies Confidential Lady'.

If the filly does the business, I predict 'Prescott joy with Confidential Lady'.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Small bet advised

With a lot of the media attention focused on the World Cup at present, it's important we don't let any decent racing propositions pass us by. One I'll be keeping an eye out for next time he runs is Buster's Boy.

He's not the biggest of animals but he's tough and consistent.

Last time out in a handicap hurdle at Sedgefield he lost valuable ground at the start and could never get into the race. (See picture.)

The jockey commented 'They went off like scalded cats and he couldn't go with them. I think he'll be better suited by some cut in the ground and a slower pace.'

After the race the trainer told us he thought the horse was still a big baby. 'The plan had been to go novice chasing with him but that has been put on hold for the moment. In the long term we think he's a typical National type.'

A small each way bet is advised next time he runs.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The World Cup and The Sportsman

Just four days to go before the big kick off.

The new paper The Sportsman will be hoping for a good World Cup; daily sales are currently below 20,000 with 40,000 established as the break even figure.

I've bought the paper on a couple of occasions. I'd have to say I haven't seen another single customer buy a copy; it's not available in a lot of newsagents.

Priced at £1 I think it's fair value but others disagree. Many commentators think the paper will be out of business by the end of the year.

Come on guys - if your circulation figures need increasing, why not offer the punters a free bet on the football?

Derby debrief

As dramatic a Derby as I can remember, with a neck covering the first four finishers.

At various points in the final furlong I thought Dylan Thomas, Dragon Dancer, Hala Bek and then Sir Percy might win. You would have to say that the gaps came at the right time for Sir Percy who squeezed home by a short head.

Hala Bek looked unlucky as a violent jink right in the shadow of the post almost certainly cost him the race. Jockey Philip Robinson put it down to the horse's immaturity.

Dragon Dancer was within a whisker of becoming the first maiden to win the Derby in over 100 years. As Daryll Holland said - he'd look a good thing in a maiden now.

The events surrounding Horatio Nelson's run are necessarily tinged with sadness. Allowed to take his chance after extensive examination by connections at the start, the horse broke down badly three furlongs out when called upon for his effort. He was destroyed later. Fallon was clearly affected as he gave up his final ride at the meeting, a sad footnote to the most dramtaic of Derbies.

Friday, June 02, 2006

One adult return to Wrexham

Last weekend I went back to Wrexham for the first time in ages. Destination: The Racecourse Ground - to check out for the first time a brick my brother and I had purchased when The Pryce Griffiths stand was under construction.

It's been a traumatic time for the club over the past 18 months but hopefully now there's a sound foundation on which to build.

It's all a world away from the Premiership with players earning over £100,000 a week, or from the World Cup which kicks off in seven days.

Maybe one day in my lifetime Wales will get to the finals; I'm not holding my breath though.

Derby Day

It's Derby Day tomorrow.

I've followed racing for over 25 years and I've never managed to pick the Derby winner. With 18 runners this time around I don't think I'm about to break the habit of a lifetime.

Still, the likes of John Rickman and Lord Oaksey carried on regardless; if it's good enough for Lord Oaksey, that'll do me.

Generally, over the years, the market has been a reasonable guide in this race, so my two against the field are the favourite Visindar and Horatio Nelson (with the added bonus of Kieran Fallon on board).

Whatever happens, we won't have Sue Barker taking us through the preliminaries this year; let's be grateful for small mercies.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Oaks update

Last month I highlighted the chance of Speciosa

Currently the best price is 11/2 with Paddy Power. Jockey Micky Fenton has been particularly bullish, saying she's the one they have to beat.

The market doesn't see it that way. Personally I think the drying ground is a major concern.

Best each way longshot - Prowess @ 66/1.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Never a dull moment

One thing you can guarantee with racing is there's always something happening.

When the racing isn't of the best quality, or yet again my tips have failed to oblige, there's always the characters to distract the attention.

Today I see that Paul Carberry has been given a two month jail sentence for deliberately starting a fire on an aeroplane.

What's next?

Ascot pre-opening meeting

Ascot, complete with new grandstand, holds its first meeting since 2004 on Saturday. The official opening of the new facilities will take place at the Royal Ascot meeting in June.

I think I'm correct in saying that attendance at Saturday's meeting is by invitation only. There will be no more than 11,000 spectators present; the idea is to have a 'dry run' before the royal meet.

I'd imagine the new facilities will be well received.

More to the point, the building work was finished on time, in stark contrast to what happened a few miles down the road at Wembley.

Calamity Jane fired

Lingfield judge Jane Stickels hit the headlines back in March when she incorrectly announced 9/4 favourite Welsh Dragon the winner of a race which 14/1 shot Miss Dagger had won.

The mistake was noticed by Channel 4 race commentator Simon Holt who had been examining the official photo. As the 'weighed in' had already been called, the result could not be amended.

Many bookmakers paid out twice, costing the industry around £2 million.

Yesterday 'Calamity Jane' was fired; she can't have any complaints there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Epsom Oaks

The Epsom Derby is less than two weeks away but the fillies with entries in The Oaks have been attracting more of the attention.

At York last week, the headline writers have had great fun with Sir Michael Stoute's filly Short Skirt; examples included 'Short Skirt raises a few eyebrows' and 'Short Skirt a cut above rivals'.

Pam Sly looks as though she'll supplement her filly Speciosa at a cost of £20,000 following her victory in the 1000 Guineas. An Oaks victory for this small jumping yard based in Peterborough would be the fairytale story. To draw a rather trite footballing comparison, Speciosa winning The Oaks would be on a par with the local football team winning the F.A. Cup.

On Saturday Channel 4's John McCririck pointed out that 1000 Guineas winners have a decent record in The Oaks. Speciosa will need some cut in the ground to be seen at her best. We've had a bit of rain recently; Speciosa is currently 8/1 with Betfred.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

7.45 @ Ludlow this evening

Although the 7.45 only has five runners, it looks a trappy affair.

Business Traveller is dismissed. Musally is regularly placed at Ludlow but rarely wins. Three Lions is not one to trust but has the potential to win.

One that is consistent and can be relied upon to run his race is the top weight Moscow Whisper. That leaves Reem Two. This mare has drifted out to 5/1 with some bookmakers which is a big price; has not won over the distance (three miles), but looks as though that distance could suit.

Hedging my bets, I'd back the proven performer, Moscow Whisper, at around 7/4 and Reem Two at 5/1 in the hope that she'll get home.

The combined odds come in at roughly 10/11 but in my mind that approach covers the main chances.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Graham Lee and the Howard Johnson stable

Graham Lee's departure from the Howard Johnson stable comes as a shock.

Last year Lee won three races at the Cheltenham Festival on Johnson trained horses.

Just over twelve months on and the partnership has come to an abrupt end; racing can be a fickle business at times. The rumour is that Paddy Brennan has been offered the job.

The Johnson stable has been quiet for much of the season. The logic appears to be - the horses are out of form, so let's sack the jockey.

Lee, who has suffered from a virus in recent weeks, is widely recognised as a top class jockey; Ferdy Murhpy has done well to secure his services. I wish them both well in the future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

World Cup nostalgia from Wales

I grew up in Wrexham, north Wales, something of a footballing backwater. The two teams I supported then, and still do now, are Wrexham and Wales.

Recently a colleague has loaned me a copy of 'When Pele broke our hearts - Wales & the 1958 World Cup' by Mario Risoli. This book is an enlightening read in an age when many footballers are paid tens of thousands of pounds a week.

Here's a taster.

May 1957 and Wales face two World Cup qualifying games behind the Iron Curtain, East Germany in Leipzig and then Czechoslovakia in Prague seven days later. On the flight out the non-playing staff outnumber the players 13-12.

After defeat in Gemany, Wales are forced to call for replacements. One player targeted is Sunderland centre half Ray Daniel. At the time Daniel was on holiday in Swansea; he contacts Sunderland and asks them to send his boots to London. Sunderland send him a brand new pair of boots; this proves to be a bit of a problem.

Quoting another squad member...
"The boots in those days were thick and heavy-leathered with hard toes and knock-in studs.
It would take you about 12 months to break them in. They were very, very uncomfortable. We would put them in soapy water to soften them up and then stuff them with brown paper so they would fill out."

Daniel was in agony in his new boots, so much so that for the last 10-15 minutes of the match he took them off and played in just his socks.

Tell me, where did it all go wrong?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chester May meeting

The Chester May meeting is one of my favourite flat meetings; it gets pretty busy though.

Stephen Cartmell in his book 'From Aintree to York: Racing Around Britain'
pokes fun at the 'intimate' description of the course; he describes it as a crush and he's absolutely right.

The view of the racing from the city walls was once described as 'the best free view in sport'.

Not any more - that accolade now has to go Towcester.

Flat Champion jockey bet

Robert Winston can win the Flat jockeys' championship this year.

In my opinion he would have gone close last year if he hadn't suffered injury; Dettori had tipped him prior to the injury.

Last week Ladbrokes cut his odds from 3/1 to 5/2.

Victor Chandler still offer 3/1; that looks a decent price.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Question of Sport

Overheard by my wife yesterday while waiting to pay at the tills in Marks & Spencer...

Little old lady turns to her husband and says 'So, is there something happening with the football this year?'

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two thoughts for the 2000 Guineas

I don't have a real passion for flat racing; still, here's two thoughts for Saturday's 2000 Guineas.

George Washington is a lay on at least two accounts; his temperament and the fact that the stable is in indifferent form. The 2/1 currently on offer is no value whatsoever.

On the other hand Barry Hills' Red Clubs stands out as each way value at 25/1 with Hills

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pipe dream

Martin Pipe's retirement announcement came as a complete shock. The man's record is second to none; it speaks for itself.

Top owner David Johnson hinted that perhaps in the latter years the yard had failed to attract enough new owners. Alan Lee in The Times,,379-2159338.html intimated that the real question now is how badly does son David want the same success as his father.

Bookmakers are offering prices on next year's trainers' championship. All quote Nicholls as the favourite but there are differing views on the chances of the Pipe stable. Stan James has gone out on a limb with a price of 10/1; others offer a more conservative 5/2 and 7/2.

If you are of the opinion that the next generation Pipe trainer, with the help of his father, can work the oracle, 10/1 is a huge price.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sandown finale

The National Hunt season comes to an end at Sandown on Saturday.

In a nutshell...

Two favourites, Best Mate and Rooster Booster, pass away;

Several equine stars out through injury including Kicking King, Azertyuiop and Well Chief;

Irish domination of top races continues;

War of Attrition establishes himself as a chasing star;

Paul Nicholls wins the trainers' championship for the first time;

Pipe stable endures its longest run of poor form in recent memory;

Richard Johnson comes close but is unable to wrest jockeys' title from A.P. McCoy;

For me, a disappointing season with so many horses absent from the championship races.

Not to worry, it all starts again at two o'clock on Sunday with the Ludlow Golf Club claiming hurdle.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Totesport and Teletext

Totesport recently sent me a questionnaire. You know the sort of thing, fifteen minutes to fill in, containing questions on different aspects of the services they provide.

One of the questions asks to what extent I agree with the statement 'Teletext is getting a bit dated'.

Twenty years ago when working at the University of Plymouth I used a 5.25 inch floopy disk and a software package called EduFax to create Teletext like content to run on a BBC microcomputer.

The thing about Teletext is the content is fine; it's the presentation that's the issue.

Teletext getting a bit dated? Just a little.

Friday, April 21, 2006

FA Cup semi final bet

It's the Scottish Grand National at Ayr tomorrow; a difficult race.

The best bet I've seen today is West Ham 15/8 with Totalbet to beat Middlesborough in 90 minutes on Sunday.

I'm not big on football but Middlesborough have played four games in the last eight days and have just travelled back from Bucharest having lost 1-0 to Steaua.

The manager, interviewed on radio, admitted the players were tired.

West Ham look the value.

Bank Holiday racing at Warwick

Racing on Bank Holidays isn't always of the highest quality but you can usually guarantee a larger than normal crowd.

Warwick is my local track

I'm not in love with the place. The viewing leaves a bit to be desired - there's a hill in the middle of the course - and it's a right treck from the betting ring to the paddock.

Here's a tale from Warwick races this Easter Monday.

A couple known to a colleague of mine go racing occasionally. At Warwick on Monday the lady decides to place a two pound each way bet with a bookmaker on a 16/1 outsider. The horse duly finishes third. When she goes to collect, the bookie chappie dismisses her with a wave of the hand telling her there was nothing to collect on her ticket.

The lady concerned confirms the official result and then sends her husband back to collect. As the bookie pays out, the husband enquires why his wife was refused payment. The reply: 'Oh, sorry mate, I was in the toilet when the result was announced.'

Call me a cynic but that looks like a blatant attempt to welch on a bet; that always leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fresh Ayr

Over Easter I was up in Scotland. In that country it is now illegal to smoke in a public place. Unsurprisingly off course bookmaking outlets constitue a public place. As I ambled past Ladbrokes in Dumfries, I noticed a small mountain of stubbed-out cigarettes outside the door; intrigued, I went in. No more fug, the air was pure and clean and I could see all the screens quite clearly. Disconsolate I trudged out - where has it all gone wrong?

I have long used the quality of the air inside bookmaking establishments as a reason not to enter, thereby saving myself hundreds of pounds in losing bets over the years.

These developments have all the traits of yet more bookmaking trickery - by improving the environment of the shops, the punters will want to come in, will stay longer than before and will lose even more money.

Let's hope it's not introduced south of the border.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Position vacant - Grand National starter

As a race starter, you know it's not going to be your day when the crowds start to boo you.

Perhaps the occasion had got to him, but for whatever reason the starter mounted his rostrum far too early @ 16:14.

Everybody knows a race cannot be started early.

Somewhere in the region of £250 million at stake and we see firstly a false start and then a couple of guys tie a knot in a piece of ribbon before the field finally gets away.

It was not far short of a fiasco. How close were we to another void race as in 1993?

Jockeys and their racing demons

Tony McCoy gave an interview to the BBC after last year's National in which it was clear he was tormented by his demons. Travelling well in the lead on the second circuit, Clan Royal had been taken out by a loose horse.

This year both Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh were interviewed by the BBC. McCoy appeared relaxed; he'd had his wish for a 'proper race' and his horse had been found wanting, finishing a gallant third. His questions had been answered.

Ruby on the other hand looked perplexed. Hedgehunter had finished second conceding 18lb to Numbersixvalverde. Had the weight told? Was it the soft ground? Should he have gone for the horse earlier? Had he concentrated too much on McCoy's horse?

A mention for two other jockeys. Leighton Aspell was 6 lengths clear when 80/1 shot Ballycassidy fell at Valentine's on the second circuit. What must he be thinking? It wasn't a tired fall - the horse was travelling well within himself but appeared to put down right in front of the fence.

Nina Carberry did well on Forest Gunner. Given the right ammunition she must have an excellent chance of becoming the first woman to win the race.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Aintree bumper

Mam Ratagan is one of 22 runners declared for tomorrow's final race at Aintree.

As I said in an earlier post, Nicky Henderson marked this horse out as one readers [of The Weekender] should keep an eye on.

Let's make no mistake, this is a very competitive race.

The Sporting Life tissue prices up Mam Ratagan @ 12/1. I'm tempted to have an each way wager on this one.

Grand National tip

In the past couple of days we've seen a few stories about Paul & Nina Carberry being the first brother and sister to ride in the same National.

I mention this fact because the best value bet I've seen for this year's race is 2/1 Nina to get further round than her brother Paul.

I saw that bet advertised somewhere a couple of days ago but I can't track it down at the moment.

It's well recognised that Nina is an acomplished jockey; last season she became the first female jockey to win at the Cheltenham Festival in 18 years.

The horse she rides on Saturday finished fifth in last year's National; Paul's horse, Sir OJ, fell last time out.

Given the nature of the race, I'd say it's an even money bet who gets round the furthest.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Aintree & Mam Ratagan

About this time of year I get asked what I fancy in the National. I rarely answer correctly. Of course, this meeting is now so much more than just the Grand National.

A couple of months back Nicky Henderson's stable was featured in The Weekender. Mam Ratagan was the name of a horse readers were advised to look out for. The horse has a five day entry in the bumper to be run on Saturday @ 5.30pm. I'd be interested in this one if he makes the final line-up.

The Sportsman

Cards on the table - I'm not very good at tipping. If I was, I'd be betting not blogging. The old adage says only bet what you know and, as I don't know all that much, I don't bet all that often; when I do I concentrate on jump racing.
Generally the racing coverage in The Catholic Herald isn't up to the mark; last Friday a guy called Nick Thomas tried to redress the imbalance in that paper by writing a piece about The Sportsman. The very same day I bought a copy of The Sportsman which, as Nick Thomas points out, is the first new daily since The Independent twenty years ago. The Sportsman is an interesting read - an ambitious project. What do others think? It's reasonably priced but I wasn't struck with the racing selections, not at Musselburgh anyway. No winners, but the advert at the top of the page claims 'The Sportsman Knows'. Hard to take these claims seriously sometimes, isn't it? Still, it's early days yet...

Monday, April 03, 2006


At a wedding in York on Saturday. The river was high but my spirits were low. No matter what you say, I always think there's something terrible about a wedding. Anyway, at the reception met a decent guy called Mike who told me his one true horse racing tale.
A young lady who'd never been racing before goes to the races for the first time with her boyfriend. They pop over to the paddock to see the runners before the first and she comments "Well, this is a small racecourse, isn't it?"