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27th May 2024 3:24 am

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

Cheltenham could be another Russian target!

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William S – MEJi – Peter N – Nigel B – Ken C – Mark S – James D – William M – Fiona M – Julian A – Jonathan H – Mrs V.M – Pete BN – Gavin C – Thom S – Sarah C – Mark S – Sam H – James R

There can’t be many occasions during the year when an enemy could inflict maximum damage on Blighty in a single strike. But if you wanted to eliminate large sectors of the four estates, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the Media, in a single act, Cheltenham would be your best bet. Historically, even if the English and Irish nations were at Defcon 1, the on-course crowd as witnessed by their numbers in March 2020, would not let a little thing like 200,000 enemy troops in Cirencester be a reason for non-attendance. Among the crowd, would be hundreds of senior board members of the FTSE 350; plenty of hedge-fund managers and leading bankers, several cabinet members, leading political commentators, top military infrastructure commanders, several bishops, an archbishop or two and many catholic priests – and that’s just in the Guinness Stand. Further benefits for the boys in Lenin’s bunker are that GCHQ is just down the road and some massive laying opportunities with Betfair as the shock wave rolled over Cleeve Hill! By the same token, it wouldn’t all be a downside, because the hardier racegoers,  those who seek refreshment and respite between lunch and dinner parties would finally see the end of The Green Dragon pub overcharging during the week.

I am always happy to be corrected – but for what it is worth, these are my thoughts on the subject, the executive summary of which is that:

Almost all the global power holders and their advisers were wrong-footed by Putin’s move, which seemed irrational. Except for the Chinese. It isn’t over yet and unless we get very tough, Moldova and others may well be invited at gunpoint to seek “help” from their former owner. Why has this happened? Because we let it, and because as usual, we arrogantly failed to notice how insulted a country and its populist leaders were by our own cleverness.

In 1990, as discussions on the reunification of Germany began, James Baker (US Sec. State) famously included in his negotiating position with the USSR’s politburo, the phrase “… not one inch eastward” a direct reference to a United Germany now being a de facto member of NATO – which would not seek to expand eastward. This assurance against NATO expansion was given to the entire Soviet leadership by Baker, Bush, Genscher, Kohl, Gates, Mitterrand, Thatcher, Hurd, Major, and Woerner. There was little the USSR could do about the East German unification position, especially as The Warsaw Pact countries suddenly saw possibilities and started to break free.  Thus in 1999, Czechia (as the Czech Republic), Poland and Hungary joined the NATO family. Then in 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all joined. Now you have to admit. Were you a typical, chippy, sullen, always defensive Russian politician, and having seen various overseas military exploits by the allied powers – some involving NATO and including the conflict in former Yugoslavia, you might get a bit twitchy and bloody irritated. [a] That you were lied to and [b] your former “partners” were now effectively US nuclear silos under a NATO flag.

While Gorbachev might have bitten his tongue, or Yeltsin opened another bottle and got the Politburo to roll along – Col. Putin was made of different stuff. He had been in Dresden in 1989 when the local Stasi offices were stormed – he talked the crowd down single-handedly. That day he became aware of and understood why the Russian political infrastructure was collapsing; over the next few years, he also became aware of what happens if you cede power, or create a power vacuum.

Once he did come to power, however, he had in very simplistic terms several large problems, not least that Russia had no allies, to support his aspirations. He had plenty of economic alliances, but until the jolly Chinaman came a-calling and said “I’ll be your mate”, Putin didn’t have a real, gun-toting, knife-wielding, deeply unscrupulous partner.

The Chinaman allowed – and indeed encouraged – Putin to dream. To plan the expansion that would undo and repaid a third of a century of insults. A reunified Russia is a strong Russia he reasoned. A strong Russia can start to dictate global terms because if nothing else it holds the access key to many of the world’s natural resources, he postulated. A strong Russia with the support of China can start to dream of doing anything, he was told by the smiling Chinaman.

Given that alliance, do you honestly think taking Russia out of SWIFT is going to make any difference? This is all too well planned and Russia will simply join the Chinese equivalent, CIPS or perhaps they’ll amalgamate CIPS and the SPFS. Blockade their energy sales – thank you very much, says China – we’ll take the lot. Sanctions will not work – because the planning has been meticulous.

But it gets worse because the reality is that our smug complacency and our focus on the “Real Issues” such as BLM and LGBTQ and Slavery have already overlooked what happens when you give a wrong’un a large stick and are simply too weak to take it away when they start beating up the furniture. I have the feeling that swathes of European under-35s don’t get the Putin and Ukraine situation. I am not talking about the extraordinary heroism already shown by the young Ukrainians who have been trying to halt the rolling bloodshed.

I mean the tossers worrying about a statue; who think the National Trust should give all their land to Jamaicans as reparation for Sir Walter Raleigh’s misdeeds; who demand more bus lanes in a village of 200 people, with no bus service; who think car ownership must end, and that no one must use Gas. I’m talking to those who are sobbing at the plight of Ukrainian cats and budgerigars, and whose moral positions are so strong that they’re too busy to notice that Frieda can’t afford a quid for the electricity meter and her husband Bob can’t see a GP because he doesn’t have the internet.

Those who were bought up in The Cold War and who were taught the likely outcomes of ignoring the rise and rise of short men with giant ambitions have no power to advise. With the exception of Joe Biden, who doesn’t really count, they were all sidelined in 1994 to make way for a brave new European order – an order that has proven to be vacuous, defenceless and ultimately pointless.

And what are we going to do when China invades Taiwan in the next two months? Oh, I know… we’ll rely on our old chums, the Germans, whose very aggressive and supportive position in vetoing SWIFT sanctions and their gift to Ukraine of 5000 helmets have made all the difference! Proper chums and allies are always welcome.

Talking of reliably pointless –  I pass these few thoughts your way on today’s racing.

1:15 KEMPTON Coral ‘Fail-To-Finish’ Free Bets Hcap Chs Cl3 (5yo+ 0-130) 2m4½f 8 Run

DEYRANN DE CARJAC  is an obvious choice, but I’d like to see 4/1 before backing him. The same does not apply to NEIL THE LEGEND who Nico de B suggested needed dryer ground – despite winning on heavy at Warwick. If I can get 15/1 about 4 places with Bet365 which seems decent. ONE TRUE KING also has merit as he meets all the key race trends, and is just 2lb shy of his last winning mark, but I worry the distance is simply too far from him. Charlie Deutsch and Sam Thomas team up again with NOT A ROLE MODEL and despite strong partnership stats, I don’t think he’s the most fluent of jumpers and this drying ground will bring a bit of potential pace to the affair.

DEYRANN DE CARJAC 1pt win – NEIL THE LEGEND ½ pt e/w 4 places at 15/1

1:30 LINGFIELD Betway Hever Sprint Stakes Cl1 (4yo+) 5f 6 Run

Going back in the right direction – last year’s winner


1:50 KEMPTON Coral Adonis Juvenile Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo) 2m 11 Run

Bizarrely the market generally gets it right and it’s 0/21 priced over 10/1 and Nicholls, Henderson and King have won 12 of the last 15 between them. That said on the market, I fancy two here, the French-bred RUBAUD who is 22/1 for 4 places with Paddy Power and 20/2 generally with 4 places offered by Sky, William Hill, Betfair etc. and I also want GRAYSTONE, where 11/1 for 4 places looks decent. If I had to pick one from the top 3 in the betting it would be IMPULSIVE ONE, but I’m going to buck the stats and go for some french value.

RUBAUD 1 pt e/w four places at 22/1

2:05 LINGFIELD Betway Winter Derby Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m2f 8 Run

AL ZARAQAAN ½ pt e/w

2:25 KEMPTON Coral Pendil Novices’ Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f 5 Run

MILLERS BANK 3 pts win

3:00 KEMPTON Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m 8 Run


3:15 NEWCASTLE Vertem Eider Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 4m1½f 16 Run

DOMAINE DE L’ISLE beat Coo Star Sivola last year at Cheltenham in April off this mark, and on his seasonal debut finished fourth to Snow Leopardess in the Becher Chase at Aintree. Since then he has protected his chase mark with a prep hurdle race and now benefits from decent claimer Jack Wildman as previously seen with Emma Lavelle and Gordon Elliot. ECLAIR SURF is being backed and might well flip-flop to favouritism having won the Classic Chase at Warwick LTO. He might well try to win this from the front – but weight might see him struggle. CHECKITOUT would be my next choice – NTD’s charge has looked to be screaming for this trip and ACHILLE is with a chance for Venetia given 6 places and he is top rated on Timeform.

DOMAINE DE L’ISLE 1½ pt e/w 6 places

3:37 KEMPTON Coral Trophy Hcap Chs (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m ITV

ANNSAM looks well handicapped, will likely make the pace and should enjoy the drying ground. THE BIG BREAKAWAY also looks to be on the up after his wind-op before his last race had patently improved matters.

Dutch ANNSAM and THE BIG BREAKAWAY for 4 points total


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