Somewhere between Lambourn and Aphrodite’s alleged watering hole, both The Hon and I did our backs in, and so it’s off to the back-cracker for some remedial work at £8m a pop. What a business to be in. You’re never healed and once the hands have provided some relief you’re back again and again. At least that’s what dear old Ronnie Ferguson told me.
Cyprus was considerably better than expected, although some five hours of flight time is a drag, especially when timings go awry. We landed back on Sunday 90 minutes late – and in the grand scheme of things, that was a result. A small benefit of having left Europe is that we can now buy 4 litres each of 40% hooch for about £14 a pop. Bizarrely, however, you cannot buy a packet of Gauloises or Gitanes – I tried to buy a chum a couple of cartons for Christmas as I keep poncing his, but they appear to be only available in Belgium from a man who patently imports flick knives and other “Goods”. I feel a long weekend coming on, but is this inability to buy French fags just the namby pamby youth of today or has someone told Macron that Les Fumeurs are too cool? There was a time when I still believed in the triumph of Cool over Common Sense, when I smoked Boyards, sans filtre avec papier mais. You could not help but pull – but you lost them quickly in the choking smog each fag produced.
The proximity of Cyprus to some of the world’s most beautiful and hostile places meant that some ten days ago, Larnaca reverted to its old 12th-century role as a central staging post for various Crusades. By Monday, increasing numbers of boats were arriving loaded with well-connected evacuees, and the Cypriot Government’s security team also went into overdrive. Airport roads were closed, reopened and blocked, shoes and belts came off in undermanned security checks, and Tel Aviv flights were cancelled and then increased. As we sat waiting for news about when we might find a plane to take us back – ours having been taken for a trip to Tel Aviv – I saw a family of Hassidic Jews rush past to get a flight back home, presumably reservists off to do their bit. If we stripped off our 21st-century carapaces of self-righteous indignation and lost the language of riskless morality (“I think it’s horrific and sickening and I call on the government to… No I won’t actually fight for what I believe in – unless daubing synagogues and schools with spite counts – anyway I’m protected by the law“) you’re bound to think that the timing of the Hamas attack was no accident. It ended at a stroke the increasingly widespread rapprochement between Jordan, Saudi and the UAE with Tel Aviv, but more importantly for the political positions of the Sunni and Shiia branches of Islamism, the net result of the attacks broke up some unhelpful coalitions. The Iranians and their sponsored terror groups, primarily Hezbollah, are mostly Shiia, whilst Hamas and its primary sponsors, Turkey and Qatar, are Sunni. What we’re seeing has all the hallmarks of political tectonic plates being realigned rather than the more simplistic version we are fed. It is possibly even a deliberate reminder to MBS and MBZ that Iran intends to control the region. The Sunni-Shiia schism is now a struggle between Iran’s vision of regional integration and that of the Gulf states – family businesses as usual – in concert with Israel and the USA.
With all that going on, it was hard to spot that my predictions re Frankie Dettori have come to pass. Like his other never-retiring namesake, Frankie Sinatra, Dettori is effectively taking up a “Residency”, although not in Vegas. I suspect he will end up near Wes Ward on the West Coast – at least when the Sussex family moves, there’ll be some spare property. He will have rides in The Breeders Cup and go to Hong Kong for The International races. In brief, he will be a freelance jobbing jockey. This was the worst-kept secret for some time and in press credibility terms, could have been handled better. I know most of the people involved, and frankly, Frankie should have been advised to go to the US, settle in, get the rest of the International season over, and then make his come-back announcement. I’d also have waited to see how Catherine and the kids handle it all come the spring and the new school terms are all happening.
I noticed between reading about Frankie and the woeful Gambling Commission’s manipulation of facts that everything to do with holidays comes in threes. My fabulously wealthy chums and all the readers of this blog, won’t have a clue about this – so it might prove educational! There’s cheap, mid-range and Expensive. There’s Cattle, Business and First. There are restaurant menus with photos, menus in foreign and no pix, and menus in foreign and no prices. There are bars with Irish songs, bars with Flamenco and bars with old men and young families. There are Campsites, Hotels and Villas from Eyesore Youcummin. There is also B&B, ½B and AI, and I have taken a crash course on this latter subject.
B&B works if you intend to go out daily to tour the archaeological sites, the galleries, the beach and the sites of touristic importance. The trick with B&B is to take out a huge cloth napkin at breakfast and wrap enough of the fresh bread, cheeses and meats from the Continental Breakfast buffet for your lunch. You then come back in the evening, change into your mosquito-proof kit, and go out for the cheapest meal you can find, often containing donkey nethers and potatoes in a strange and slightly oily sauce and drink the local hooch, which is a fermented and strained variation of the main course and is called Aquas di Eeyore.
½B or Half Board is for the more sophisticated traveller, who breakfasts well and early, does some sightseeing and then has lunch at a taverna on the fishing quay, drinks Ouzo like a native and plays bad backgammon while his wife reads a Kindle and says, “Did you lose dear” when a glass is hurled into the water. They then return to the hotel full of local knowledge, lunch and exotic booze, have an afternoon siesta, and then have a mass-prepared buffet-style meal, which can vary between inedible and bizarrely delicious, reminiscent of something you had as a child, homemade by dear Aunt Edline. As you’re on holiday and half-board, you are not likely to meet anyone who can comment on your starter, main course and pudding consisting of …. puddings.
However, and here’s the rub, Mr Ritz-Carlton charges like a wounded rhino when it comes to a large Campari chaser before dins, and the Gin and Tonic or Rum and Black (don’t ask), are beyond the financial capabilities of ordinary mortals unless you’re…. ALL-INCLUSIVE. I went into quite a big spreadsheet by way of explanation to The Hon, who considered ½B the nice middle-class thing to do, and besides (not my words!), we’re not going to get trollied every night, are we? My workings proved, beyond all reasonable doubt, that a moderate drinking couple (a brace of pre-prandial liveners, a bottle of local vino for dinner, two relaxers and a nightcap to keep the mozzies at bay), must go AI. All your coffees, teas, water, the sudden overcoming of nerves when you realise that you’re bypassing Harry’s Bar and going to another chapel heaving with bloody Giacomettos but can’t tell The Hon without the support of a sensible sharpener; the G&T please, no I’ll pour my own tonic thank’ee, and would that work better with a splash of Grappa? These are now all “Free” and “Included”. The only thing that separates you from the Grockels is the actual hotel cost and that is no longer a reliable measurement. So relax and put that thought aside – there is no thinking with AI – it’s just there. And it almost looks free and probably has the capability to do great damage, but you won’t notice.
Just like, in fact, AI.
Talking of frightening concepts – holidaying with the Kneesup on unlimited hooch – here are more to contend with.
We had a sudden rush of blood whilst basking in the Taverna by the harbour and I sent out some recommendations last Friday, which netted a very healthy 44+ pt profit. MONTASSIB at 10s – yer what? Best value of the year. HYPERFOCUS was also a funding selection in 4th place – but the Cesarewitch was woeful.
Patently the weather is going to be tricky and the inner course is already taking some of the strain -but I am going with the idea that the ground will be Soft all over.
1:15 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup G2 Cl1 (3yo+) 1m7½f 8 run
Surely this is between KYPRIOS and TRUESHAN – it’s very tight and I can make arguments for both. I’m very tempted to sit this one out. However, I do like the looks of SWEET WILLIAM (and I have coincidentally just made a Poire William and Chocolate tarte) and he caught the eye by winning three on the bounce before a close second in the Ebor Handicap, I think he looks value. He was a decent second to Trueshan LTO at Donny, (first Group race), and I think he looks forecast material.
SWEET WILLIAM 3 pts ew – KYPRIOS and TRUESHAN to beat him 2 x 1 pts SFC
1:50 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes G1 Cl1 (3yo+) 6f 15 run
I have a soft spot for SWINGALONG who has looked like a top-quality sprinter since winning the Lowther. Her fourth in Cheveley Park last year suggested more to come and indeed she has continued to look full of potential. A decent third in her seasonal debut, then a trip to France over the wrong distance, then a third in the Commonwealth Cup before beating Royal Aclaim at York in the Summer Stakes. Sprint Cup. She ran a fine race considering she was on her own up the stands’ rail and was not disgraced by her less than 2l 4th in Haydock’s Sprint Cup. VADREAM has finally got her ground and looked value at 16s on Monday. 6s is now too skinny – but that’s a lot of money being dumped on board. I’m not sure BELIEVING wants anything worse than Soft (on which he’s won) but his ¾l 3rd in the G1 Betfair Sprint Cup last month suggests he has decent each-way claims.
BELIEVING 2 pts e/w – SWINGALONG 1½ pts e/w
2:25 Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes G1 Cl1 (3yo+) 1m3½f 14 run
John Gosden is 2R – 1W – 0P for the last ten years and runs two here FREE WIND and RUNNING LION. The latter will love the ground and looked decent when beating Sumo Sam (subsequent G2 winner) in the Pretty Polly at the start of the season. Three losing races since then, but all on unsuitable ground. JACKIE OH was highly regarded by Ballydoyle and was chucked in the Irish 1,000 Guineas on her third career start. She finished fifth that day but did then disappoint in the Sandringham on truly unsuitable ground. She looks like a slow burner, and her second in the Prix L’Opera LTO told anyone prepared to listen that she is one of the top 3yos in this division. Beaten by a neck by dual French Classic winner Blue Rose Cen she had Lumiere Rock and Al Husn in behind, and whilst she does step up in trip for the first time here and whilst it is an unknown, she is a Galileo filly which offers hope.
JACKIE OH 5 pts Win – RUNNING LION 2 pts e/w
3:05 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Sponsored By Qipco) G1 Cl1 (3yo+) 1m 11 run
Promoted as the clash of The Guineas (PADDINGTON Irish 2000 Gns – TAHIRYA Irish 1000 Guineas) you’ll forgive me for pointing the spotlight onto the French raider BIG ROCK who hammered Horizon Dore (favourite for the following Champion Stakes having won his next four starts) in a heavy ground G3 back in May and as a result was actually favourite to beat the Arc winner Ace Impact in the Prix Du Jockey Club on his next start. He was no match for that superstar when running second that day but the rest were nowhere and he has since run two seconds in Group 1 company. However, I am also reminded that there is one horse in this field who has already beaten PADDINGTON and that is NASHWA. A mile on soft ground on a stiff course like Ascot looks to be right up her street and NASHWA is nothing if not consistent
Dutch BIG ROCK and NASHWA 7 pts
3:45 Qipco Champion Stakes G1 Cl1 (3yo+) 1m2f 9 run
MY PROSPERO gets blinkers and a tongue-tie for the first time and my bet is that will provide the extra improvement to see him win the race he was narrowly beaten in last year. This has been his target all year, with his win at Goodwood just a stepping stone in his preparation. If we get 8 runners I’d be tempted to have a pop at DUBAI HONOUR for tiny stakes.
MY PROSPERO 3 pts ew/ – DUBAI HONOUR 1 pt e/w
4:25 Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) Cl2 (3yo+) 1m 20 run
RHOSCOLYMN _ VETIVER _ BARADAR _ THE GATEKEEPER _ AL MUBHIR _ DOCKLANDS
Despite being one of the trickiest handicaps of the season, the trends are surprisingly strong. The only contender on the basis of the trends is AWAAL, who was 3rd in a Listed LTO, was 2nd in the Lincoln, 3rd in the Hunt Cup and 3rd in the Bunbury Cup earlier in the season. That means big fields are no mystery, and the ground will be fine. Away from the trends, we should all be aware of any David O’Meara runner, the most interesting of which might be BENNETOT. A long-priced French recruit who had his first run for the stable at Haydock LTO. He was well beaten that day, but everything about the run screamed trial. The yard does well with new recruits and the four-year-old has Listed form in France, form behind the smart The Revenant too, and may have got in here lightly off a mark of just 97. He handles soft ground and was purchased from Al Shaqab for €110,000 this summer. VETIVER is the most unexposed runner in the field with just six career starts, winning three of those. This four-year-old will love the ground, has finished third at Listed level twice this season and has always looked like landing one of these big pots.
AWAAL 4 pts Win – VETIVER 2 pts e/w – BENNETOT 1 pt e/w