Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brief notes on Goodwood (and Cartmel)

The feature on Saturday's Goodwood card is the Group 2 Celebration Mile due off at 3.10. Only seven stand their ground, with layers going 14/1 the field bar the top two - Delegator and Zacinto. I would have been interested in Mac Love each-way if eight or more had gone to post. Currently Delegator is priced at evens and Zacinto 7/4; Delegator is the form pick, Zacinto the improver. At those prices I'll maintain a watching brief.

In the Prestige Stakes (3.45) Sent From Heaven's third behind Long Lashes in the Sweet Solera Stakes reads well enough - that day Barry Hills' charge was noted flashing her tail out the back; she finished beaten two and a half lengths. On official ratings Full Mandate is the one although this filly steps up from six furlongs. I'll chance Sent From Heaven, although I would have preferred a slightly higher draw.

The winner has come from the top three in the betting on eight of the last ten runnings of the Windflower March Stakes (2.35); favourites have obliged on four of those eight occasions. Godolphin's Urban Poet will be popular with the weight for age allowance against Mourilyan. While looking for an each-way shot in this, I noted that only two of the field have won previously over the trip - Andrew Balding's Victoria Montoya and John Dunlop's King of Wands. On official ratings, the Dunlop horse looks well in, so I'll take an each-way interest in King of Wands.

At Cartmel, I'll watch to see if Tom George allows Invisible Man to take his chance in the 2.40. I'm not keen on four-year-olds running against their elders in novice chases but this one put up a good show over a slightly shorter at Market Rasen last time out. On the same card former Alan King inmate Noticeable will be worth noting if taking his chance in the competitive-looking handicap hurdle at 4.25; running over the larger obstacles at Southwell a fortnight ago, this one looked a big threat when coming to grief two out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Channel Four are forever encouraging viewers 'Come racing!' but a snippet in the Weekender provides a different point of view with this summary of a recent Chepstow card - '...two maiden handicaps, a couple of maidens and a seller. And it was still £19 to get in the premier enclosure. Come Racing! No thanks.'

Another item in the same paper quite rightly bemoans the BBC's racing coverage on the web but at least there's some good news for presenter Clare Balding. She reports on her website that the recent treatment for thyroid cancer appears to have been successful and there are no signs that the cancer has spread anywhere else.

This week's junk item came via snail (rather than electronic) mail and dropped on my doormat yesterday. Sun Life has kindly sent me literature incorporating a picture of Sir Michael Parkinson asking whether I was aware that the average price of a funeral was now in excess of £2,500. Parky may have run out of guests to interview but this looks a nice little sideline for him, endorsing products aimed ageing people such as myself.

Finally a one-liner from Alan Hanson at the end of yesterday's Match Of The Day... As Gary Lineker informed viewers Peter Reid was about to take up a post at Stoke City, Hanson jumps in with 'Peter Reid - great in the bar afterwards!' Mine's a Guinness, Peter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lord Mildmay Memorial Chase

I was on business in north Wales earlier today and called in to the Pant yr Ochain for a spot of lunch, only to bump into a number of very smartly dressed young people on their way to Chester races; favourites won three of the six races on the card so I guess there's a fair chance a few of them will have gone home smiling.

Chester race again tomorrow but I'm concentrating on the Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase at Newton Abbot run over a trip of two miles five and a half furlongs. Paul Nicholls fields four of the sixteen declared, while Peter Bowen runs three and Jonjo O'Neill two. The booking of Ruby Walsh for course and distance winner Roby De Cimbre indicates that one is the main hope for the Nicholls' stable - the Sporting Life tissue has the horse priced at 7/1 this evening.

If you're going to play in this race you have to look at the form of the Summer Plate run at Market Rasen five weeks ago. On that occasion Nostringsattached pipped stablemate Keepitsecret a short head on the line with Peter Bowen's No Panic a neck behind in third. The second and third re-oppose and are closely matched again; Keepitsecret looked unfortunate at Market Rasen - the slightly shorter trip here should help. Of the principals, I prefer Keepitsecret but the one that has caught my eye at a bigger price is Peter Bowen's Always Waining. Carrying top weight, this one finished fifth at Market Rasen just two and a half lengths behind the winner. That's his best effort for a long time - priced up at 12/1 in the tissue he's worth an each-way interest, although I will point out that stable form is worrying with no winners in the past five weeks.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A week away...

I returned from a week's holiday to reports of a record crowd at Newbury, explained by the fact that Simply Red were playing after racing... Godolphin's Kite Wood took the Geoffrey Freer in fine style and is now quoted second favourite with most firms for the St Leger which is set to be run on September 12th - William Hill offer 5/1. Godolphin's other high profile runner at the meeting, Evasive, was sent off the 10/11 favourite for the Hungerford Stakes but disappointed, trailling in a well-beaten sixth behind the quirky but talented Balthazaar's Gift.

At Newmarket sixteen grey horses contested the snappily-named 'Win £100,000 With Soccer Saturday Super 6 Grey Horse Handicap'; Sarah's Art, trained by Steph Liddiard, collected the spoils. The same trainer had provided something of a shock two days earlier when 25/1 shot Mac Love took the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes run over a mile at Salisbury, beating odds-on hotpot Confront one and a half lengths.

York will be the centre of attention this week. On Tuesday Sea The Stars faces just four rivals in the Juddmonte International while current St Leger favourite Harbinger doesn't appear to have the easiest of tasks in the Great Voltigeur. Wednesday's main feature is the Ebor, in which I'm looking to have an each-way bet on Alan King's Manyriverstocross. In the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday Michael Bell's Sariska could make her reappearance after winning the Irish Oaks in sensational style. I think regular pilot Jamie Spencer is set to serve a suspension so it will be interesting to see who gets the ride if the filly is allowed to take her chance. The Nunthorpe run over five furlongs is Friday's highlight - Kingsgate Native won the race two years ago when trained by John Best; Sir Michael Stoute will be hoping for a repeat in this year's renewal.

I'm not keen on holidays for a variety of reasons, one of which is that when you return from the horror of it all, you then have to wade through hundreds of emails, thousands if you're popular but I wouldn't know about that, the vast majority of which are of no interest whatsoever. Two from this year's trawl...

Firstly, Ashley Rumney's Trainers Jumps Statistics 2008-2009 was published on Friday (according to Amazon) and is available with a 15% discount from that supplier. Secondly, readers may be interested to learn that the Racing Post continues to pursue my custom. A fortnight after helpfully bringing to my attention the fact I could subscribe to their Members' Club at the price of a third of a loaf of bread a day, the RP has been shopping down Sainsbury's again. This time I'm informed the cost of the Members' Club is half the price of a bottle of water a day - the water in question being the 500ml Highland Spring Sportscap (June 2009 price). Bread, water, whatever will be next on the RP's shopping list? And will they continue to shop at Sainsbury's? To find out the answers to these burning questions, I'm deliberately going to refrain from subscribing. Rest assured though, I shall keep you informed of all developments.

Friday, August 07, 2009

A longshot coupled with a news update...

Notwithstanding cheerleaders, an open-topped bus and jockeys from sunnier climes, Ascot's Shergar Cup meeting has never been one of my favourites - I shall steer well clear.

Just one hopeful (rather than confident) selection to waste your money on this week, in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock. Nine go to post for this Group 3 event which is run over ten furlongs. On official ratings John Gosden's Duncan looks the one they all have to beat and consequently the bookmakers make him their market leader. He ruined his chance last time in the Group 2 Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket by pulling hard early on - that run is best ignored. He's my idea of the winner but I'm going to look elsewhere for some value. We've had enough rain recently so I went searching for something that would definitely handle soft ground and came up with Traffic Guard. Last September on soft ground at Leopardstown this horse finished half a length second to New Approach in the Irish Champion Stakes. At that time he was trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam but he was moved to one H. Brown (no trainer details available on the Sporting Life site) from whence he was sent out to race three times at Nad Al Sheba. He's back in this country now with Paul Cole and finished a staying-on third in a listed event at Newbury three weeks ago; I'd like to think he can progress from that. The effort behind New Approach is at the back of my mind; any more rain will suit - I'll have a small each-way interest.

The decisions earlier this week, firstly by William Hill and then by Ladbrokes to move their online operations to Gibraltar, will have a major impact on racing's finances in this country. If, as is likely, their telephone betting businesses follow suit, a number of UK call centre jobs will be at risk. Both bookmakers talked of stringent times, in marked contrast to betting exchange opeartor Betfair who reported a 29% jump in underlying earnings and hinted that a public flotation on the stock market may be a possibility.

Betfair co-founder Andrew 'Bert' Black has other things on his mind these days. He has provided financial backing for Michael Owen's new trainer Tom Dascombe. The dream team of Owen, Dascombe and Black were all interviewed at length by Brough Scott at Owen's Manor House Stables on Tuesday.

Finally, something for those who appreciate the finer things in life... Lord and Lady Derby are to open their private horse racing painting collection at Knowsley Hall to the public for one week.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

John Parrott and the infernal pub quiz machine

Last week I had to stay over in Cardiff one night with a couple of work colleauges; before our evening meal we decided to sample the local Brains' beer. The hostelry chosen was somewhat bereft of other customers with the result that the pub quiz machine in the corner proved just too much of a temptation. I should point out that my visits to public houses have been drastically reduced since the day I got married twenty two years ago; these days I frequent such establishments so infrequently, I can't remember how they work and have to be reminded to go up to the bar and pay for drinks. It follows, therefore, that I have no previous experience of the pub quiz machine. Having said that, my younger colleagues have had some experience with this type of equipment, so we decided to play.

Very quickly I detected a pattern emerging. Each game cost £1, we were asked ridiculously easy questions to start but as soon as we had the chance of merely winning our stake back we were asked ridiculously difficult questions with the result that we didn't win any money at all. This cycle generally took no more than four minutes to complete and, to me, became somewhat disheartening.

Having shoved at least ten of our one pound coins into this infernal machine, we decided to cut our losses and play just a couple more games of 'John Parrott's Sports Quiz'. True to form, John asked us really easy questions at the beginning, giving us the big thumbs up and words of encouragement when we correctly answered the sort of question to which my mother would have known the answer. Then came the obscure question, we guessed wrong and lost our money.

John encouraged us to have another go and, like mugs, we did. This time we were doing quite well and were on the verge of collecting £1.50 when this horse racing question came up...

What type of horse racing takes place at Epsom Downs?

A. Flat
B. Jumping
C. Both Flat & Jumping

I was confident we could collect on this; 'It's A!' I cried.

We selected answer A and, bless my old boots, a big fat red cross came up on screen telling us that was the wrong answer. John Parrott chipped in with a sympathetic 'Hard luck!' and we just stood there, dumbstruck.

John Parrott, sir - I shall never trust you again.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Odds 'n' ends...

The final day of the Glorious Goodwood meeting was anything but glorious - the rain came, along with the sea mist. Alan Lee wrote a piece in Saturday's Times commenting on the recession and falling attendances, pointing out that the free view from Trundle Hill had proved popular this year. Anyone who took the option to watch Saturday's racing will have seen next to nothing; from the racecourse stands visibility stretched to two hundred yards at most.

Two performances caught my eye during the week. On Friday at Bangor Beherayn won his first chase. In the past this one has either gone off like a scalded cat or pulled hard when held up, often failing to give the obstacles the respect they deserve. Have connections finally tamed him? The form book reports that he pulled hard in rear, made jumping errors but eventually won with something in hand. On Thursday The Betchworth Kid, a 33/1 shot, ran a huge race to take third place in the Goodwood Cup. He's set to go jumping this winter with Alan King.

Recently a colleague spent a few days walking in Northumberland, staying at The Blink Bonny, Christon Bank. The hostelry is named after Blink Bonny, a remarkable filly who won the Epsom Derby and two days later the Oaks in 1857. The horse's skeleton is preserved in the museum at York racecourse but two of her hooves are kept in a glass case above the fireplace at the pub.

That story brought to mind a time Mrs Tips and I lodged in a hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet, South West Scotland. Our stay coincided with the annual 'riding the marches', a tradition which, according to Wikipedia, 'celebrates the ancient custom of riding the boundaries of the parish/marches'. Townsfolk rode through the streets on all manner of different sized horses; the people of Langholm have recently celebrated the 250th anniversary of their Common Riding. Of course, you couldn't get a bet on for love nor money...

Finally, four footballers who did manage to get a bet on will perhaps wish they hadn't after they were banned for a breach of betting rules. Jay Harris (Chester City), Robert Williams (Accrington Stanley), David Mannix (Chester City) and Andrew Mangan (Forest Green Rovers) have all been fined and hit with playing bans of up to one year.

By the way, the new season kicks off on Saturday.