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Better the devil you know…

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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The BHA start arranging the deckchairs.

It’s hard to know what to make of the nellies who constitute the lower orders on the Conservative backbenches. The Rt. Hon. Member for Frightfully-Cross and his Hon. Friend the Member for Hopeful-without-Reason, all appear to have shot their bolt. More to the point, they all failed to grasp – as did I – that no credible candidate actually wants the job. The May elections will be a bloodbath; fiscally we’ll be in a world of Government-induced green-tax pain; the Russians might have become overly emboldened, and the Security Services have warned us that some infrastructures are under threat and that their outages will cause real problems. That’s even before we get to Qatar and fry half the European football teams, and have the CCP shooting 1 in 3 skiers by accident. Thus Rishi, Liz, Steve and even Michael reason, it is far better to leave Caesar alone until next year.

BoJo might conceivably be able to benefit from the Jubilee, and it is possible that he will gain some credit from at least five global sporting endeavours at which Blighty might win some national pride (Women’s Rugby and Cricket World Cups for example). By then too, Boris will have had a reshuffle and started to look as though he was preparing for another election. His waving arms will no longer resemble a drowning man necessarily – although I suspect he will still be washed out to sea, and beyond Search and Rescue’s reach.

Extending the (weak) metaphor further, I also fear that I can see a number of Officials and Racing Panjandrums swimming well out of their depth. Several reports and features, based on worrying data, appeared this week in The Racing Post, suggesting that the RNLI’s services might be needed to haul National Hunt Racing from the water ‘ere long.  (Enough of the seaside already: Ed.)

This week’s warnings were essentially;

  • The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) commissioned a survey by YouGov of 1683 adults of whom
    • Less than 1 in 5 (only 16%) of those who bet, would allow betting companies to have access to their bank accounts, or wage slips as part of any affordability checks
    • 58% said they would not.
    • 59% of punters thought such checks would lead to a large or substantial risk of customers using the black market online instead.
    • 51% believed increased black market use would lead to a rise in problem gambling. (According to a PWC report in 2021, the number of people already using black-market gambling websites has doubled to around 460k with total stakes amounting to over £2.8bn.
  • The often chanted mantra that All Roads Lead to Cheltenham is simply not true – and it is damaging British racing.
    • In 2009, UK trainers sent 375 runners to Cheltenham. In 2021, that figure was 239. Even in 1993, when it was a 3-day meeting with fewer races, there were 252 UK-trained runners.
    • In 2005, (the start of the four-day Festival), the ratio of UK-Irish runners was 4-1 or 80%. In 2016 it was just shy of 70% and last year was just less than 60%.
    • This week, the 2022 Cheltenham Festival’s Novice Chases attracted the lowest number of entries this century. The total of 163 entries is almost 20% down (30 horses) on 2021’s total, which was itself down 30 on the 223 horses entered in 2020.
    • The Ryanair Chase has 36 entries, the fewest since its introduction in 2005. The 30 in the Gold Cup and 33 in the Stayers’ Hurdle represent the second-smallest entries in those races this century.

As The Racing Post’s excellent article by Richard Forristal suggested, until the BHA takes control of the Fixture programme and, simultaneously stops its preoccupation “… with a misguided determination to sanitise the sport to the nth degree….”, we will simply be patching the problem.

“The supply of fixtures needs to be based on the demands of the horse population, which would immediately arrest the field-size debacle. Instead, funding the levy, by the promotion of betting, is the priority, so fixtures are all anyone wants, with the added incentive of generous media rights money. And every track wants the best for itself, so the Graded programme is bloated in a way that is less of an issue on the Flat because of the European Pattern Committee’s oversight. All of this is old hat by now, but the reality is that, until the BHA acquires the sort of control it should have, none of this will get rectified.”

For racing’s sake, can all you people on the top table, stop squabbling among yourselves on how to divide the pie and realise that you’re in danger of losing the ingredients required to make anything at all – except a hash. That’s all of you who take one commercial penny from the sport, in rights, fees or levies. Start talking and agree on a cohesive ten-year plan. Then start hiring people to carry out the plan – people who haven’t been working for any racing body or Plc for the last ten years. Do not ask the bookmakers for their view, they are the Problem.

Talking of a voice crying pointlessly in the wilderness, here are the tips for Friday’s TV races… if they survive their morning Frost inspections.

We made a 3pt profit (3.11 to be exact) last week, which makes the bank 1028.02 and gives us a maximum total available stake of 20.56 pts. (2% of the total bank)

1:30 MARKET RASEN Matchbook Best Odds Hcap Hdl Cl4 (4yo+ 0-115) 2m7f 11 run

There are three I fancy here at long odds, SKYLANNA BREEZE (only 1lb shy of his last winning mark), WEEBILL, whose win LTO was in a pretty ordinary race – and yet I fancied I saw ability – and SKIDDAW TARA who has moved from Nicky Richards and wears a first-time tongue-tie. He is 6lbs lighter than his last winning mark, but maybe we should hold on and see how he does.

SKYLANNA BREEZE 1pt e/w

1:50 LINGFIELD racehorselotto.com Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+ 0-145) 2m 7 run

ECLAIR D’AINAY should win on paper, despite his 7lb rise for his LTO Wetherby win.  but is driving like an old barge. FINANCIER looks to have been very well treated by the handicapper and has been dropped back by Kerry Lee to the minimum distance, over which he will perform better.

FINANCIER 2 pts win

2:05 MARKET RASEN Matchbook Betting Exchange Hcap Hdl Cl4 (4yo+ 0-110) 2m½f 11 run

LADYKILLER is another of my German horses, but he hasn’t repeated that decent form yet for Pipey. If he can get some momentum going – and enthusiasm – he is way better than many of these.  Offering me 16/1 about a horse who runs well and is rarely unplaced makes ASTROMAN way too big.

LADYKILLER 2 pts win  – ASTROMAN 1pt e/w 

2:25 LINGFIELD Cazoo Hdl Cl2 (5yo+) 2m7f 5 run

CALVA D’AUGE is within 1lb of his winning mark and there is not much to separate him with ON THE BLIND SIDE – who is 4lbs better than his last win. If you backed both (Dutched) at 9/4 and 7/4 respectively, to return the same amount regardless, you’d be getting 49/100 or as near as damn it 1/2 in a five-horse race with two on your side. On the other hand, EMITOM could win it…

NO BET

2:40 MARKET RASEN Alan Swinbank Mares’ Standard Open NHF Race Cl1 (4-6yo) 2m½f 11 run

HIDDEN BEAUTY is being backed and could be very special, The fear is Donald McCain’s impressive Carlisle winner NELLS BELLS, who looked ferociously determined. I’d heard some chat about FAIRY GEM being decent, and he wears a first-time tongue-tie for Harry Fry, which suggests that his debut win could have been improved upon.

HIDDEN BEAUTY 4pts win – FAIRY GEM 1pt e/w

3:00 LINGFIELD weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Novices’ Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 2m7½f 7 run

BROKEN HALO has some merit, but I was surprised to see him favourite overnight. I really thought that I was onto the winner with HOLD THAT TAUGHT in the Welsh National. QUEENOFHESRTS makes his first appearance for Kim Bailey and seems a very tight price. This is wide open and I’d have Venetia at a push (stop it!).

NO BET 

3:15 MARKET RASEN Symphony Group Hcap Chs Cl3 (5yo+ 0-125) 3m 8 run

I fancy HUNNYMOON to win this, but I also think BUSTER VALENTINE might be better valued.

BUSTER VALENTINE 1pt e/w

3:35 LINGFIELD Sovereign Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m 12 run

You might remember we backed METIER for The Tolworth last year, and I noticed how well he ran at Ascot LTO, but…. 3/1 seems very skinny. My fear – as always – is seeing an Emmett Mullins horse SEVENNA STAR lining up. You could stick in GOWEL ROAD e/w and for the forecasts and HUDSON DE GRUGY because he loves the mud and because he only got 3lbs for his win LTO – which is plain silly. For myself, I shall take Paul Nicholls HACKER DES PLACES who will love the ground and who looks to have a very fair weight. I suspect you’re seeing the forecast and possibly even the tricast – but I haven’t got the bank to cover them all!

HACKER DES PLACES 1 pt e/w

Total Stake 18 pts

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