How sad that Janice Long should die so young of something that always sounds so trifling, Pneumonia. One always rather thinks it is curable, manageable, survivable. Not for poor Janice who was a good egg in the Kneesup pantheon. I had forgotten that her brother was Keith Chegwin, who, while an ass on so many levels, showed endless good-humoured resilience to earn a crust at any price. They will be pleased to see each other again in God’s Studio 1.
A sobering start to the day after an especially convivial Boxing Day night. Having been metaphorically wrapped in swaddling bands on Christmas Day in the bosom of our Alvescot chums, we found ourselves for St Stephen’s feast, being fed royally and drinking well en famille with Fat Cash, his always shining mama, and Rumpole. Swathes of their siblings, aunts, uncles and liggers like ourselves, assembled in Blighty’s longest village and had the jolliest time catching up, perhaps bewildered by the fact that despite all Government advice to the contrary, we had survived. We ended the evening when I let FC win at Backgammon – which seems the least a pathetically grateful guest can do to give the young confidence. To be fair he was better than decent and should young FC turn his hand to spinning wealthy toffs at Clubland’s backgammon tables, I might offer to fund him!
On the subject of spinning, Lloyd-George would surely be clocking 78rpm on the current Welsh political form. I know this because there are some members of the Plantagenet clan who live near Wales in the Forest of Dean and if they take a wrong step in any direction they are immediately threatened with spending the rest of eternity locked up in The Leek Cellar, watching Daffodils being forcibly grown for the amusement of The Mad Bard and Head Druid, Mark Drayford.
His demonstration of the art of Political Leadership might well have been written by any slightly deranged third-world dictator. You think me harsh? How quickly you forget his pointless and stupid political posturing, when he demanded tape across the non-essential Welsh supermarket aisles. This week he announced you will be fined for working from your office without a reasonable explanation… but the pubs remain open. Similarly, you can meet all your mates in the bar on the third floor of Cardiff Arms Park – but not on the Terraces. He also refused (Because I Can!) to allow the Welsh NHS to co-mingle with its near neighbours, which meant that the cousins’ mates who live literally two miles away in Wales, could not come to England for a jab which as the Welsh say was Gwaharddedig. Instead, they had to drive to Cardiff, over an hour and a half away, for a test. These aren’t a few remote examples, they are the systematic politicisation of the pandemic in order for Drayford to get some traction going for his pro-European independence stance. As ideas go, I suppose it isn’t bad – it either results in a huge cash injection from Johnson OR political longevity from the unthinking voters of Wales, as the man who took the English yoke from Welsh shoulders. However – and as I sincerely hope – he might and should be remembered as the loon who managed to end all hope in the Valleys of a better time ahead without industrial grime. Confirmation if any were needed that not all public service is good. I won’t be at Chepstow Racecourse – nor will anyone else – but I might be in the pub next to the racecourse watching it on the big screen.
Talking of a really poor public Service – here are the tips for the TV races tomorrow.
Monday 27th FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
1:05 CHEPSTOW Watch Racing Online Free With Coral Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 2m3½f ITV4 24 run
PAINT THE DREAM is having his first run since a wind operation and at 5/1 looks like a reasonable price. WHEN YOU’RE READY had a couple of pounds hidden away LTO and if the headgear continues its work then he deserves to be favourite. Being offered 33/1 an hour ago about a Paul Nicholls runner should always make you stand to attention, and CUT THE MUSTARD is now 25/1 and falling. She has some minor Listed form to her credit, and she loves deep ground. All rain will be welcome, and I suspect the ground will already be holding. First-time cheekpieces give me some small confidence.
PAINT THE DREAM Win – CUT THE MUSTARD e/w – WHEN YOU’RE READY combination forecast
1:20 KEMPTON Ladbrokes Wayward Lad Novices’ Chs (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m ITV4 5 run
EDWARDSTONE meets the main trends and should follow up his Henry VII win from last time out. It’s not a sex price, but hey, you can’t have everything.
1:40 CHEPSTOW Coral Finale Juvenile Hdl (G1) Cl1 (3yo) 2m ITV4 16 run
I struggle to see past the first three in the betting. FOREVER BLESSED, PORTICELLO and SKYCUTTER have nothing to separate them. Being pernickety PORTICELLO looks a bit untidy at some of his jumps so I suggest dutching the other two.
FOREVER BLESSED – SKYCUTTER Dutch Win
1:55 KEMPTON Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Mares’ Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 3m½f ITV4 10 run
BOURBON BEAUTY has some merit, but last year’s runner-up EMPRESSIVE LADY is the likely winner, given she was a 1lb heavier last year and the winner then is a now rated as stone better .
EMPRESSIVE LADY Win – BOURBON BEAUTY e/w
2:10 CHEPSTOW Coral “Fail To Finish” Free Bets Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 2m7½f ITV4 18 run
KATESON, AL DANCER, TAKE YOUR TIME are the three to be of interest, and if it were only those three in the race, I might suggest AL DANCER who looks as though 3m+ is going to be his future. However, my eye was taken LTO by FLASHJACK who was 6l behind TAKE YOUR TIME and is the wrong price at 10s. An e/w shot and I’ll have the first three mentioned in 3 x ½pt SFC with FLASHJACK to be second.
FLASHJACK e/w – 3 x ½pt SFC
2:30 KEMPTON Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chs (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m ITV4 5 run
Surely this is a straight battle between SHISHKIN and GREANETEEN. The former gets the vote based almost entirely on Nicky’s race record, and the favourite looks an exciting prospect on his first run outside of novice company
2:50 CHEPSTOW Coral Welsh Grand National Hcap Chs (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m6½f ITV4 30 run
As always, the shortlist is a long one. Last year’s winner SECRET REPRIEVE returns with a 6lb higher mark on his seasonal debut! The talking horse is HOLD THAT TAUGHT from a stable in super form – but he can be a cack-handed jumper. Sam Thomas runs IWILLDOIT who might be deemed to lack experience but he has won two of his three chases to date. Sadly those three all fail various key trends – which as we have discussed many times before simply means they might not win. One however that does meet all the trends is MAC TOTTIE and more importantly, he went into the Watch book after his Grand Sefton victory when he picked up a career-best RFR of 171+. He fell at the Chair in the Becher and I know this is Peter Bowen’s big Grand National hope. I’m tempted to suggest backing him now ante-post just in case he gets a podium finish here today. MIGHTY THUNDER is sent down by Lucinda Russell, and he developed into a very useful novice chaser last season, going up 21lbs in the handicap and winning 66% of his races. He’s won The Scottish National and was a surprise 4th in the Charlie Hall, despite running over at least 3f shy of his optimal distance. I wouldn’t want the ground to be heavy, but he’s the wrong price for a proven National winner. DEISE ABA can be inconsistent but is capable. He has got decent form (beat Cloudy Glen 3½l in 2020 who went on to win the Ladbrokes Trophy and then won it himself this year, carrying 2lb more.) He’s run well a couple of times so far this season and was beaten a head by HIGHLAND HUNTER LTO. He is too big a price for a decent Hobbs horse.
MAC TOTTIE e/w – MIGHTY THUNDER e/w – DEISE ABA e/w
3:10 KEMPTON Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 3m ITV4 17 run
Only 6 previous runnings of this race, but they were all aged 6 or 7; ridden by non-claiming jockeys; rated 134-144 and carrying 11st 1lb. All of them had their last run over fences in the last 48 days. There’s only one to meet the trends and that is: