A slow and steady start to the day after a delicious beano last night. Chums from Warwickshire who had been dining elsewhere came to inspect the property and deemed it Good. With some alacrity, much instant planning took place, the Garage had been converted to a swimming pool and spa, and my study was moved to a small tent at the bottom of the garden, once the Leylandii had been torn out. I was surprised at how understated the proposals were.
2021 has been, in so many respects, momentous. Quite apart from the Kneesups moving from the Chateau d’If in lovely Longcot to the Cair Paravel in leafy Lambourn, we had a second full year of Covid – with variations that would/wouldn’t destroy the NHS and kill/feel-like-a-cold to everyone, providing it was/wasn’t serious. On the back of this definitive advice, the WHO provided irrefutable proof that coughs and sneezes did indeed spread diseases – except in China, where coughing at the wrong time can lead to a short period of terminal lead poisoning.
Covid aside, if you took yourself off now to lie in your sensory deprivation floating tank, sans sound, sans sight, sans everything, and in your head, simply remembered the newscasters’ voices for the last year, you’d be mad as a hatter in seconds. The bleating of the self-righteous sheep as they glued themselves to a road; Prince Harry giving the world a valuable insight into his Work Ethics; Keir Starmer’s bewildered ordinariness; Scientist upon Statistician upon Engineer all snuffling away at the media gravy-train and a limitless budget of unaccounted-for tax pounds; Boris heading for the exit door being held open by “Livia” his wife; Joe Biden having the door held open by Nancy Pelosi; the blocked Suez Canal; the still-born European Super League; Italy beating England on penalties; Root explaining about the sunny uplands of English cricket; the Olympics and Paralympics that came and went, as did the most misspelt world leader, Aung San Suu Kyi; Cop-Out 21 held in an aircraft hanger with thousands of worthies agreeing to agree, before they flew off somewhere nice and with Lord Attenborough of Death Star and The Prince of Wales Check both failing to explain where the odd £20k of loose change needed for our heat exchanger would come from, and throughout it all the ever-present question as to whether we will ever see Radacanu on a tennis court again.
In racing, the passing of Prince Khalid and Shk Hamdan tolled a doomsday bell according to many, but we all forgot that we still sit centre-stage in terms of status and the Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris and Bahrainis all seemed to be frightfully busy in the bloodstock markets. Throughout the year Godolphin – mostly through Charlie Appleby – just kept adding Silverware to the groaning sideboard and bloodstock value to the global operation. The BHA started 2021 badly lacking respect from almost every quarter. By the end of this year, they had completed the job and were widely despised by everyone including the press corps. The result of their failed mission? They have effectively decided to abandon any future role in commercial discussions and simply become a regulator. Can someone explain therefore why we got rid of the Jockey Club – other than the fact that the Duke of Devonshire thought it would be more egalitarian?
However, we did have some rare old times, didn’t we? Willie Haggas’ unbeaten star Baaeed; Oisin Murphy and William Buick battling it out to the wire for the Championship; Charlie Appleby with Adayar winning The Derby and The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes – the first time since Galileo; Hurricane Lane, taking the Irish Derby and St Leger; the forgotten German Torquator Tasso winning the Arc; Sir Mark taking three German G1 with little Alpinista for Kirsten Rausing, (Note to HM – she’s a magnificent Grand-Dame in every way and her consideration of others and her charitable works should be recognised.) Then Saffron Beach and Pyledriver and Trueshan and Starman all gave their trainers a first-time G1 flat victory. We had Rachel Blackmore and all her various victories with the media focussed on her sex rather than her skill and her empathy for the beasts she was coaxing home. If you had one Rachel Ride for 2021, would you choose Allaho in The Ryanair? I did.
It was majestic, it was destructive, it ended reputations and it was the single most powerful statement of Irish supremacy that I think I have ever seen.
I still believe racing is in deep trouble. We need to start collectively managing the problems that will be caused by the Gambling Commission, the fast-approaching Tsunami of animal welfare and the young’s indifference to horseracing in general. We need to reform for the benefit of the sport, rather than for the bookmakers or The Woke.
In the meantime and while we still can without providing a P60 or a blood sample, I shall be having a lurch at the following:
1:25 CHELTENHAM Paddy Power Novices’ Chs (Registered As The Dipper Novices’ Chs) (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f ITV 9 run
Between L’HOMME PRESSE and
THE GLANCING QUEEN Win
1:40 MUSSELBURGH Betway Hair Of The Dog Hcap Hdl Cl3 (4yo+ 0-140) 2m4f ITV 8 run
AURORA THUNDER e/w
2:00 CHELTENHAM Paddy Power New Year’s Day Hcap Chs (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f ITV 16 run
COOLE CODY – KAUTO RICKO e/w – GALAHAD QUEST for forecasts
2:10 MUSSELBURGH Betway Hogmaneigh Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 1m7½f ITV 7 run
TOMMY’S OSCAR Win
2:20 TRAMORE Savills New Year’s Day Chs (G3) (5yo+) 2m6f ITV 6 run
AL BOUM PHOTO Win
2:35 CHELTENHAM Paddy Power Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 3m ITV 14 run
DOLPHIN SQUARE e/w – THE MIGHTY DON e/w – ASK DILLON e/w
2:50 MUSSELBURGH Betway “Auld Reekie” Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+ 0-145) 2m4½f ITV 5 run
ARMOUR DE NUIT Win
3:10 CHELTENHAM Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hdl (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f ITV 6 run