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.