You get weeks like that, don’t you? You can have month after month when the papers are full of horror stories, and the TV and radio stations spout doom and gloom every hour on the hour. A relentless montage of death, destruction and loss. Friends, neighbours, citizens, strangers all weeping and wailing, and all being endlessly told, by people standing in panelled rooms, that despite everything working out well, all hope of personal liberty should be extinguished on the high altar of necessity.
This week, by contrast, however hard one tried, there was absolutely nothing to comment on. It was a veritable Gobi Desert of news and opinion. How I longed for the good old days when you’d read in the Sunday Papers some tale of a sportsman involved in some scandal. A brawl in an illegal bar involving the jilted girlfriend, the girl who should have known better, the TV personality and the Hero Villain, who was always just about to go and win some huge sporting occasion – the pride of his country and beloved by most in his sport. I can remember when you’d gasp in disbelief that the girl could have been so stupid as to reveal everything to the world’s media. But then you’d discover that the hero had been crassly and indefensibly badly behaved, and perhaps you’d just wonder at the various dark characters lurking in the background, and who had been doing what to whom, and yet, we all knew why.
This complete absence of news was also mentioned when I was lunching remotely with a courtier chum on Wednesday. He commented that it was a rare moment for him to have time for lunch and a chat. But as he said, everybody is fit and well, all the different families are getting along, everyone is following Royal Protocol to the letter, and even the USA, who had been so busy with Andrew earlier in the year, appeared to be leaving well alone. We agreed that the 2010 Ch. Haut-Bailly had a great deal of merit, for a wine that was slightly cheaper than a day’s living wage – if one didn’t take a break. That led to us chatting about the Chancellor and wasn’t it about time that he sorted out the country’s finances. We agreed that were we in charge, we would remove VAT entirely and introduce a 20% purchase tax on everything bought online. We also agreed that CGT and IHT could both do with a haircut but, sadly, just as we were getting our legs firmly under the table in terms of solving the country’s finances, I was reminded that I was going to a Zoomed drinks party in the evening.
I don’t like the real things much, and I have to be pretty fond of you to turn up to one, but the Zoom versions are totally unintelligible. They tend to be full of images of a hundred people eating crisps and trying to talk over each other, but Noblesse Oblige and duty called. I am a huge supporter of an integrated European approach to medicine, vital in ensuring that there will be a wider, faster and more equitable distribution of all the many European discoveries that their Universities have bought to the Pandemic table in recent months. This in turn would benefit countries as far away as say, Australia, who in turn could then benefit and continue to trade with their partners across the world. The drinks were hosted by the always open-handed Italians and I noticed that many of the European delegates had bought special guests from China and Russia, one assumes to show just how widespread their support is for all their global trading partners. So having paid my respects, and with little else happening in the world, I took the opportunity to have an early night.
A dreadful spasmodic sleep followed, caused perhaps by the heartburn of a diet of raw pettiness and overcooked hubris. It was only when I eventually awoke, that I realised it had all been a grotesque nightmare, that there had in fact been plenty of relentless global pain, and selfishness on an epic scale. My mind had simply been trying to blot out the memories of a truly joyless week, which I fear, is far from over.
Talking of frightful nightmares, here are the suggestions for tomorrow, as well as my prayers for the recovery of a gallant naval officer.
1:15 NEWBURY BetVictor Veterans’ Hcap Chase Cl2 (10yo+ 0-150) 3m2f
I suspect there will be flip-flopping favourites for this, and SHANTOU VILLAGE is likely to go off at around 3s. He’s been quietly fancied for this since the decs, and he benefits from Millie Wonnacott’s 7lbs, which will give him the advantage over PRESENT MAN, who beat him 2l on good ground back in October. He has a decent rating profile and the only runner that would concern me is SINGLEFARMPAYMENT. He hasn’t run too badly for his new trainer, (2 runs) and he is partnered again by J J Burke. A decent mark, some good recent form and he must surely be in the mix. When I say “… the only runner…” I should also mention Richard Hobson’s VALADOM whose front-running style might be an advantage off a low weight. Hmmm
VALADOM win – SINGLEFARMPAYMENT win dutched for 4 pts
1:30 KELSO bet365 Premier Nov Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m2f
A cracking race with Dan Skelton’s MY DROGO heading the market. He won the Kennel Gate, beating Soaring Glory who went on to take a G3 Newbury handicap and who has entries for both the Supreme and County. The unbeaten BAREBACK JACK, who won the Scottish SupNov LTO, (although he was I suspect lucky with the fall of a protagonist), is a danger, together with Neil Mulholland’s ANY NEWS looking for an ITV across the card double, and ALRIGHT SUNSHINE, who is massively overpriced. Given the jockey bookings for the first three mentioned, this is patently being considered a proper sounding board for Cheltenham. My daily TrainerTrend report suggested Neil is coming out of his doldrums and I suspect his horse in this is better than his mark
ALRIGHT SUNSHINE Win and take the 66/1 e/w for the Ballymore at Cheltenham.
1:50 NEWBURY BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup Hcap Chase (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4f
This might be a lot trickier than I’m seeing, but the one that I am firmly focused on is Alan King’s SENIOR CITIZEN, who was having only his sixth start over fences LTO at Aintree and was a real eyecatcher. Almost immediately the race was over, he went into the notebook for The Topham in April. He travelled smoothly and jumped well and cleanly. The ground was dreadful that day and his tank emptied quicker than a Dakota over Arnhem. This fast ground and his ability make him an ideal e/w shot. I will have two in this race for safety’s sake, and the other is the Noel Williams-trained ANOTHER CRICK. He was an excellent 4½l 4th to Two for Gold and Aso at Warwick LTO. He was 10lb higher than his last win, it was a highly creditable performance and despite some absences, I think he’ll go on again.
SENIOR CITIZEN e/w – ANOTHER CRICK e/w
2:05 KELSO bet365 Hcap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5f
Now that Nicky Richards has reverted MAYO STAR back to hurdles, after his chasing debut at Ayr last November I think his price looks attractive. He has ability and has an e/w chase. MEGA YEATS moved from Ruth Jefferson to Mark Walford, having missed last season entirely due to a setback. She debuted for Mark in a Kempton bumper LTO She’s not beaten much to date and I would need to see more at that price. If Tom Lacey’s SEBASTOPOL shortens – back it. He’s had a wind-op and Tom was being very tight-lipped about the positive improvement.
MAYO STAR e/w
2:20 DONCASTER Virgin Bet Mares’ Nov HdlCl1 (4yo+) 3m½f
WYNN HOUSE is probably the right favourite on paper, having been a useful bumper performer, and with a brace of hurdling wins before stepping up in distance in The Albert Bartlett trial in December. But there really wasn’t anything to come of that race with any merit to date, and it could be argued that the ground and racing against boys all contributed to her 9l defeat. Instead, I’m going to suggest an e/w chance in the shape of PHILLAPA SUE from the Her Majesty’s Counsel Graeme McPherson. She has had four bumper races to date and Graeme is not one to put horses straight into C1 races unless they do have some merit.
PHILLAPA SUE e/w
2:40 KELSO bet365 Premier Chase Cl1 (5yo+) 2m7½f
This has the feel of a Grand National trial, despite there being only six runners. Jonjo O’Neill brings CLOTH CAP who was impressive at Newbury LTO taking the Ladbrokes Trophy by 10l and both Secret Investor and Mister Malarkey have come out since and won. My fear is the handicapper has found him out. TWO FOR GOLD is decent and but is 9lbs worse off with ASO who, let’s not forget, has two Ryanair places to his credit – but hasn’t won since Jan 2019. DEFINITLY RED won this last year, but fell LTO and has had two bad runs this season. All in all, this has the hallmarks of a surprise winner – but I have no idea who.
2:55 DONCASTER Virgin Bet Hcap Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 2m½f
BALLYWOOD is now 7lbs below his Grand Annual mark last year when 6th. He is 1w/1p/2r and a drying ground will help his cause. This is his second start since his wind-op and his biggest rival must be GETAWAYTRUMP, who is 4lbs better than his last winning mark.
3:15 KELSO bet365 Morebattle Hcap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 2m
Probably the race of the weekend with plenty of tactical race planning in evidence. Emmett Mullins sends over THE SHUNTER who won The Greatwood last year. As we learned last weekend re Emmett’s entries, only a fool and Kneesup ignores the runes. Dan Skelton has entered FAIVOIR having swerved this with PROSCHEMA who has instead gone to Newbury for the better ground. (See below). FAIVOIR, (why can’t people spell properly), has ability but looks weighted up to the hilt. SCARDURA looks sexy at 20/1 having been absent – I suspect on going concerns – since November. I know this looks as though I am having some sort of Neill Mulholland crush, but I can assure you that I merely think when you see a bounce-back, you might as well grab the ride. CHRISTOPHER WOOD made the long journey to Musselburgh LTO, (again with young Angus on board claiming a useful 7lbs) to take the Scottish County Hurdle LTO. He’s picked up 7lbs for that and the four he met before don’t look to have what it takes to beat him even with that. However, Nicholls also runs SOLO who won the 2020 Adonis and has since on the face of it run like a dog. To back him with confidence you need to believe that the minimum trip and good ground were what he needed all along and the price of that ticket is 6/1 – or too short to play, as it is sometimes known.
SCARDURA e/w – CHRISTOPHER WOOD e/w
3:30 DONCASTER Virgin Bet Grimthorpe Hcap Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 3m2f
There is no evidence that CANELO will get the trip, but one who does is CHIDSWELL, who won this two years ago.
NOT ON TV NEWBURY
2:30 Newbury – BetVictor Handicap Hurdle
PROSCHEMA is here to win, in order to get a 5lb penalty which will guarantee he makes the cut for the County Hurdle. Harry suggested at a Cheltenham preview this week, (it’s like Christmas getting earlier every year), that Plan B was the Scottish Champion Hurdle, if Cheltenham becomes soggy.