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2nd March 2024 6:27 am

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

Another memory for the filing drawer marked “Ultra”

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No word, for me, can conjure the beauty of youth, the imperiousness of real skill comfortably worn, the vast grandeur of imagination, quite like hearing ” ‘Orance”. I hear that, and I can see O’Toole, camel mounted, singing in the Jordanian valley “The Man Who Broke The Bank at Monte Carlo” and the echoes coming off the walls. I can see him looking past Jack Hawkin’s Allenby, himself no slouch at nicking a scene, and saying, “The best of them won’t come for money or Damascus. They’ll come for me.” I can weep at the despair on the face of Sharif Ali, played by Omar Sharif, as ‘Orance massacres the retreating Turkish division on Allenby’s right, with the command “No Prisoners.” There is this myth that Peter O’Toole was somehow some young ingenue, fresh from RADA, as opposed to the Bristol Old Vic’s main lead. Indeed there weren’t many on that set that didn’t meet the 10,000 hours of practice rule, in which all Genius has its foundations. It was on the television the other night, and at lunch the next day, I found myself in Hungerford with The Hon. Plantagenet in a cramped little traiteur with a few bistro seats in The Funghi Club run by Laurent. As lunch progressed the 10,000 hour rule became more and more apparent.

I should make clear that I had been to see one of our collaborators before lunch, where a swift sharpener of a bottle of Burgundy and some extraordinary crisp things made from Lentils, set the tone for the rest of the day. (Rarely can one have a perfect day of eating and drinking without encountering some disappointment. Lentil Crisps thank Heavens appeared early!) More Burgundy and a trio of Madiran from Alain Brumont’s Château Bouscassé swiftly followed in The Funghi Club. M. Brumont is almost single-handedly responsible for keeping Madiran going and should be a Vicompte or whatever they hand out in France. I love the wine, which is wonderful with a good meaty dish, and lunch was thus a triumph. Outstanding Chicken Liver Parfait with cornichons and a little bread (my little, not yours), and then a dish of the day of a Boar and Chestnut stew. We had a little cheese, again handling the Madiran, and as the host was going to Lester’s memorial, we spoke about the genius and about some of the strange things happening in racing. The staff had gone home when we left and Laurent was looking a little hacked off and rightly so.

Later it was confirmed that Musk would complete on Twitter and that trainers in Lambourn had been buying and selling land – again – and with all this money sloshing around, I started to think of Laurent, and how one might invest. You all deserve to eat that well at least once a quarter, and much like Lawrence and Lester, there was a sense of genius about the Laurent experience.

Talking of discovering real talent, you must sadly wait until we find another tipster. Meanwhile here are my thoughts for tomorrow.

It’s been a long week, and not just for lunches, so I am just going to rattle off some quick bits.

I cannot help but see the name Kirwan without thinking of that great Irishman and greyhound trainer Fenton Kirwan. An evening with himself and Sir Mark Prescott could make the following 48 hours slightly blurry. I fancy DANNY KIRWAN from Paul Nicholls’s yard will be up with the pace in The London Gold Cup (Ascot 3:15) alongside NTD’s POPPA POUTINE who is being backed like a crazy thing as I write. The spread on the boards is from 8/1 to 14 and the colour is blue everywhere. However last weekend I noticed that Christian Williams had a lot of horses out and about and I suspect his string is primed for an early campaign. To that end I suggest

KITTYS LIGHT 3:15 Ascot 3 pts e/w

Over at Wetherby, Sue Smith’s PRAIRIE WOLF in the first, is worth 2 pts e/w and the market has it right in the next and I suspect the favourite takes it. MARTELLO SKY 4 pts win. In the 3:00 go with SPORTING JOHN in 2 x 1pt doubles with the first two.

The must-watch is The Charlie Hall Chase.  Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor will battle it out at Wetherby and it is currently 2-1 AHOY SENIOR , both coming at Aintree., but then BRAVEMANSGAME has had a wind-op and has won at Newbury… as has AHOY SENIOR, but not against BRAVEMANSGAIN.  I mention Newbury because it is much like Wetherby, being left-handed. That is a summary of about six newspaper reports I have read and rather misses the point. There is no value in a five runner-race and the only surprise might be ELDORADO ALLEN. Stick him in for 2 pts win and 3 x ½ pt doubles with the other Wetherby nominees.

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