I remember many years ago, at about this time of year, the team launching The Middleham Trainers Association and then the Middleham Open Day. The local MP, Marcus’ dad Roddy, Pat Haslam, James Bethell and countless others all turned out for the first Open Day on a Good Friday. Peter Walwyn, who ran Lambourn Open Day, also on the Good Friday, roundly cursed Yorkshire and me in particular for “trying to steal the bread from the mouths of Lambourn lads.” He was not minded to notice the 240 miles and some 300 minutes distance between the two towns – we were buggers and that was an end to it. The day itself produced real Yorkshire weather and Peter Walwyn’s right hand in heaven, sent a rainstorm of such ferocity that it fell sideways and at the same rate as a major incident, fire-engine discharge.
In the middle of it all stood our MC, the inestimable Tommo, who commanded the soaked crowd as though he was the D-Day beach master on Sword. No one was allowed to not join in. No one was going to spoil it and the fact that for example, Pat Haslam had lunched well, arrived late with the racing camels and then lost two into the crowd, largely went noticed thanks to Tommo – and the lack of visibility bought on by the deluge. He ran races in the mud for kids; he interviewed famous people from the crowd and then as delay was heaped on delay, he started interviewing members of the attending press corps. He chatted to Cornelius Lysaght and possibly Tony Stafford, one of whom said out loud: “…you always know when you’re in trouble when journalists have to interview journalists – you might as well talk to yourself!”
That is, I’m afraid, rather how I feel about virtual Grand Nationals. The fact that you can do it doesn’t make it worthwhile.
Over the last few years, we have watched them because the big race would be on in an hour. We watched because we felt the need to test the idea that AI and man’s computational ingenuity could achieve some accuracy – and we could scoff the outcome which we all knew would be different. Norbert The Nerd could happily say “…we got third, fourth and fifth”, but we all knew that was because the computer couldn’t but help picking decent animals. Decent animals win tricky races, especially in virtual races. I have also always been aware that it was pre-recorded, but unlike other years the country is facing various financial Armageddon scenarios – but those in the know promise not to take advantage. So the only “safe” way to be involved is through a sweepstake – one of which Madame is organising.
She has however confused and to some extent frightened me in her sweepstake management. She really doesn’t think that “…Artificial Insemination works in these virtual races”.
I think we can all agree with that.