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?"