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2nd March 2024 7:20 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

94 Not Out – a beacon of indomitability

These Donors Are AMAZING Thank You

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This week The Hon and I headed off to Warminster for a family Lunch to celebrate my Aunt’s 94th birthday. Recovering from the scourge of cellulitis, this extraordinarily adroit, cogent, witty English woman is the last surviving Kneesup Aunt. She had organised coronation chicken and salads and asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon, new potatoes, puds, wines and coffees and never broke into anything like a sweat. She has raised three children who have all turned out, in their turn, to be brilliant parents, financially and intellectually independent and have never been, as far as one knows, a significant cause of concern. Their father loyally served Her Majesty and became the town’s mayor when he retired from HM Vineyards, and collectively they are, all in all, the epitome of all that is good in England – balanced, measured, fair and, in the main even-handed. These are all traits I much admire and wish I had more of. Sadly those traits in the general population are on the decline as pressure mounts from social media to “take a view”.

In the days before this lunch, I had been reading Robert Harris’ excellent novel An Act of Oblivion, a tale surrounding the hunt for The Regicides over the three decades following the King’s execution in 1649 and the restoration in 1660 of his son. A cracking and exciting tale based on much honest research, as one might expect from a storyteller with integrity. I was struck by the ardency of the Puritans’ religious zealotry, which firmly, indeed unshakeably, believed that the Second Coming was due in 1666. Their certainty was fueled, as every right-thinking preacher pointed out at the time, by the arrival in England of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the form of The Second Dutch War (1665-6), The Great Plague (1665-6), The Fire of London (1666), and a severe Famine in London and some parts of Kent as a result of these privations. Nothing could shake them in this – and when confronted by the absence of the arrival of God, they suggested that the [mis]calculations had been based on a paganised calendar. This strength of purpose wasn’t just in England, but in the American colonies and wherever Puritans had missionary pulpits. The whole ethos of their faith was that they were saved because the non-believers did not have the same level of belief, manifested in strict adherence to a Godly lifestyle. Thus you were easily condemned and worse, not worth the saving.

In fact, their 350-year-old prayers and sermons reminded me of the same unwavering self-righteousness of the various zealous platforms we are constantly being told to mount – or suffer damnation. Climate – Gender – Fossil fuels – Inflation – Transport and each platform desperately seeking a unifying Cult figure that will solidify their position, as the preeminent clan of bigots on the coast surrounding the Sea of Despond. Comparatively, the Family lunch and its genial acceptance of the individual and collective status quo might perhaps be regarded as a microcosm of a modern, pluralistic society, which tolerates a wide range of zealous groups because pluralism implies tolerance. But such easy-going attitudes are under constant threat, thanks to the endless barrage of propaganda from the zealots. Perhaps I’m being silly, but as each day passes, and the apparent existence of my (and yours) bank account relies on the whim of a Woke management team, I wonder whether the days of pluralism might not be numbered.

A few days later, The Racing Post told me that the days of Singapore Racing were also numbered. I was there some years ago when I arranged for the CEO of Blue Square to address the Asian Racing Conference -the first time a bookmaker had ever spoken to that august body. It was a brilliant track, and we were treated very well as we watched some high-quality racing.  Let me give you a dozen critical quotes from the RP article – then think about the state of English racing and tell me you don’t feel a frisson of fear.

  1. It took just 15 minutes to end 180 years of history. Kranji, Singapore’s only racecourse, is now due to stage its final meeting on October 5 next year and because of a national land shortage, the 120 hectares will be returned to the government by 2027.
  2. …betting turnover topped S$1 billion (£588m) in 2012 for the fourth consecutive season – there were nearly 1,500 horses in training, and a record number of races took place that season.
  3. Singapore [lost] its big international races in 2015. The Turf Club said it was because they had served their purpose of raising the quality of horses in the country, but the cost of staging them and subsidising travel were also said to be factors.
  4. Domestically, public interest dwindled, and attendance fell from an average of 11,000 in 2010 to 6,000 in 2019 before dropping to a nadir of 2,600 last year.
  5. Reversing the trend has not been made easier by government restrictions, which prevent the Turf Club from promoting or marketing racing due to its links to gambling.
  6. A 2022 YouGov poll/ found that almost six in ten people in the country said they felt online gambling should be illegal.
  7. senior officials installed by the government were said to have limited racing knowledge.
  8. officials did not have a clear idea of how the sport could grow following the coronavirus pandemic. In contrast, other countries such as Malaysia were thinking more creatively with new bet types and deals with overseas tote operations.
  9. The concern now turns to how the winding down of the sport will be managed before next October’s final meeting with a total of 716 horses to deal with, not to mention over 300 stable staff who care for them.
  10. It is far from the only country in which racing has fought to remain relevant and has lacked support from the government.
  11. In Europe, Estonia and Slovakia are among the nations with one track. Further afield, the same is true for the likes of Mauritius and Kenya.
  12. More immediately, the end of racing at Kranji will have a knock-on effect on nearby Malaysia and Macau racing clubs, both of which have struggled in recent years.

As I write, the Australians are winning the third test despite the wonderful welcome given on Thursday to their keeper’s arrival at the crease; and despite being all out before tea. The British GP practice rounds are underway at Silverstone with Qualifications on Friday and the GP on Sunday. Tomorrow is the Eclipse, Wimbledon, sans Brits, and there may even be a fourth day in The Test – subject to some ropey play and apparently some really ropey weather as well.

Talking of struggling with the team selections who while capable of putting some decent runs together, can just as easily be gone even before scoring, here are the selections for Saturday’s TV races.

1:50 SANDOWN Coral Charge (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 5f 11 run

The trends leave me with LADY HAMANA, TIBER FLOW and DILIGENT HARRY, but the last two seem better over 6f. LADY HAMANA had her last race at Sandown where she won The Scurry Stakes, but it wasn’t an impressive performance and she looked exposed before that. That said backing fillies in form isn’t the silliest thing to do according to the trends so I might have the smallest of pops at MAKAROVA who won a competitive Ayr Listed race LTO and now looks ready for a step up into Group company.

MAKAROVA 1½ pts e/w 

2:05 HAYDOCK bet365 Hcap Cl2 (3yo) 1m6f 14 run

STRUTH failed to establish an early lead in the King George V Handicap and then spent the rest of the race playing catchup at the wrong pace. Forget that race and remember that Clan Johnston has farmed this race historically with a Royal Ascot runner. Three of their 4 winners ran in the 1m4f handicap at the meeting where they had finished 7th, 8th and 13th so has history on his side. Sir Mark’s PLEDGEOFALLEGIANCE is Timeform top-rated with 109p and theoretically faces his stiffest task to date – or maybe not – given that his victory LTO looked a tad easy. (Crikey. A Prescott runner not necessarily showing his full hand! Astonishing!) By the by, I wouldn’t dismiss the other Johnston runners BULLDOG SPIRIT and MIDNIGHT LION. IO might throw them in for some exotic chancers

PLEDGEOFALLEGIANCE 3 pts Win – STRUTH 2 pts e/w – 12 x ¼ pt CFC Selections with BULLDOG SPIRIT and MIDNIGHT LION

2:25 SANDOWN Coral Challenge (Hcap) Cl2 (3yo+) 1m 15 run

The trends narrow the field down to POSITIVE – PEROTTO – DUTCH DECOY – BALTIMORE BOY. I don’t fancy any of them much and my eye is drawn to David O’Meara who as I have mentioned before is a proper farmer when it comes to big pot handicaps. His two are ESCOBAR and ORBAAN and whilst every drop of rain will help their cause, both are on or 1 lb, better than their last winning mark. POSITIVE is being backed.

ESCOBAR – ORBAAN 1¼ pts e/w both 

2:40 HAYDOCK bet365 Lancashire Oaks (G2) (Fillies & Mares) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m4f 9 run

John Gosden has won this four times in the last ten years and his runner this year MIMIKYU is race favourite and looks nailed on. Apart from SEA SILK ROAD, I can’t see much to threaten her although the bookies are desperately trying to shorten any e/w value in this race. You can still get 12s about PERIAPATETIC and that would be my e/w selection, if I were going to do such a thing

MIMIKYU 4 pts Win

3:00 SANDOWN Coral Distaff (Fillies) Cl1 (3yo) 1m 12 run

A potential cross-course double here with the Gosden’s BRIDESTONES who was effectively taken out in the Sandringham, having been knocked sideways when racing on the far side, finishing 9½l 12th (of 29), and she was fourth home on her side of the track. She would definitely have made the frame.

BRIDESTONES 3 pts e/w

3:15 HAYDOCK bet365 Old Newton Cup Hcap Cl2 (4yo+) 1m4f 17 run

The trends only give me two and they are MAKSUD and GAASSEE.

MAKSUD 5 pts win – GAASSEE 1½ pts e/w

3:40 SANDOWN Coral-Eclipse (G1) (Cl1 (3yo+) 1m2f 4 run

A truly dreadful turnout for the prize money and significant in both historical and Pattern terms Fillies’ records in this race are woeful which makes it PADDINGTON’s race.

No Bet or just for the craic DUBAI HONOUR to win for 1 pt

THE BRITISH GRAND PRIX – SILVERSTONE

As you might imagine, I am often mistaken for a film star from a more glamorous era, or even on occasion with my Scandinavian good looks as some sort of Northern European racing driver. This would make it sensible for me to avoid Silverstone this weekend, lest I spoil the weekend for actor Brad Pitt, who has been cast as an F1 driver in a film currently in production. He will be seen racing at Silverstone during the weekend, driving an adapted Formula 2 machine between practice sessions on Friday. Lewis Hamilton is helping the film, currently titled “Apex” at a technical level. The 59-year-old Oscar-winner is playing the role of a veteran driver returning to the grid after a 30-year absence.

Whether his new best mate was the cause of Hamilton’s delay at the first Silverstone press conference this week is unknown, but he was and will probably pick up a fine as a result. When he did get there we had a lot of guff about his new contract which he and Toto Wolfe are confident will be with Mercedes. In the ever-friendly, always deceitful world of F1-speak, that simply means Ferrari has to offer Lewis more cash, the number one team spot and a five-year contract. Mercedes meanwhile has unveiled a new front wing today, and according to the upgrade document published by the FIA, the changes are aimed at achieving “cleaner [air] flow and redistributed vorticity”, improving flow to – and therefore the performance of – the bodywork and the floor.

McLaren has brought the second step of its ambitious three-stage upgrade plan to the British Grand Prix. The new package includes a new front wing, nose, rear corner, and rear suspension. Lando Norris is confident that the upgrades will help him to be the top British driver in the race. McLaren is currently 18 points behind Alpine in the fight for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Alpine has also brought a new front wing to the race. The team hopes that the new wing will improve its low-speed performance and reduce drag. Haas is currently seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. The team has brought a new front suspension, front corner, and beam wing to the British Grand Prix. Haas is looking to extend its two-point lead over Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo has responded with a revised diffuser, floor body, floor fences, rear corner, and rear suspension. The team is hoping that the new parts will improve its performance in the high-speed corners.

Lando Norris is 4/1 for a top-6 finish and 40/1 for a podium. I’m going to see if his confidence in the new alterations is justified.

LANDO NORRIS Podium Finish @ 40/1 1 pt – Top 6 finish at 4/1 3 pts 

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