But how lucky am I, to have known people worth missing?
The week started badly with news that Tim Hales had died. He was the father of one of my “fingers-of-one-hand” best friends, and probably one the smoothest men I ever knew. He was tall, thin, elegant, handsome immaculate, loved racing and women and his own company. Many hearts were set racing when mesdames would arrive at the Christie’s front desk to ask to have their valuables handled by the impossibly chic man at the front.
His son Dorian and I raced together, it seems like forever, at Cheltenham, Goodwood, or Ascot and his company gave me as much pleasure and fun as it was possible to have. He sadly died in a car accident, and I miss him still. Now his father has gone as well, his light somehow feels a little fainter. Another rope that kept the jetty close at hand, has slipped a badly tied knot. After Dorian died, I remember Tim would call up the night before a meeting and say; Are you going, might I join you? and then arriving and sitting down in the Club to do the form and drink a Coke or similar. Sometimes we’d have a sandwich, but I don’t really remember him eating much. I certainly don’t remember long conversations on the impact of Kierkegaard on fundamental sophism. We talked about racing and losing money, and his grandchildren. He would try and persuade me to come racing with him at Ludlow and stay the weekend because, if nothing else, the Annual Members room was a triumph of charm over commercialism. I hadn’t seen him much this last couple of years, and as always when that happens we regret not trying harder. He supported my membership of his Club and when I became a member, he seemed quietly and understatedly pleased.
Then today I learned that Graham Cowdrey had died in a hospice of Septicemia. I knew him back in the days when he was at City Index with David Buik, effectively as head of fun. I had gotten to know his dad and Anne Herries, who Colin married, back when Anne trained Celtic Swing for Peter Savill, who we had as PR clients. Anne’s assistant Maxie also became Graham’s wife, and my memory says they had twins. Back in the day when everyone worked for Initials, Graham and David left CI and went to BGC, part of Cantor Fitzgerald. I can’t remember how long he was there for, but I do remember seeing Buik, Cowdrey and Jimmy the Vod, laying on some of the best times and the most fun the recipients of Corporate Hospitality had ever had – ever! He left to set up on his own, but Graham was never a businessman and always travelled with a pack of demons who would dance on his senses and lead him astray. His fall from grace was relentless and partially self-inflicted, and while he always had good mates, who tried to help, he turned them away or turned off the phone. He had such talent and real charm and I was pleased to have known him and for him to be special enough – like Tim – to miss.
Sorry about that, but better Out than In as Nanny used to say as she lit up a Harrods lift with one of her smiles, and talking of sad misses, here are the tips for Day One of Cheltenham’s meeting.
As I write several bookmakers are offering e/w 1/5 to 6 places as opposed to 4 places for ¼ odds. Be careful.
There’s going to be a stiff 10-12mph breeze and if they get ½mm of rain overnight that’ll be the max. In other words, I think the course will be drying out and riding Good/GS in places by 8:00 am.
1:15 Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Hcap Hurdle Cl3 (3yo+ 0-125) 2m5f
David Pipe runs INDUNO and his 10 yr record in this of 4w – 3p – 15r suggest it’s a familiar target. His entry, however, has apparently been treated for ulcers. I keep waiting for LUNGARNO PALACE to produce something, but he hasn’t won since 2018. On my Raceform data, I have him top overall, but that can’t be right surely? If he starts to spring in the market it might be. HAWTHORN COTTAGE’s last run can be ignored as it was her first time out since February and she has some useful lines of form. 25/1 is too big. I quite like HEAVEY, who also has some decent ratings and he started to wander LTO which might have cost him the race.
HAWTHORN COTTAGE e/w – HEAVEY e/w
1:50 Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Hcap Chase Cl2 (4yo+ 0-150) 2m
What looked like a decent handicap here in October was blown apart by the appearance of Harry Whittington’s Rouge Vif. He accounted for three of these, BEAT THE JUDGE, ON THE SLOPES and BALLYWOOD. On today’s weights, BALLYWOOD appears best treated and I am 90% positive will get his ground and is only 2lb shy of his last winning mark. Chris Gordon has suggested that ON THE SLOPES will have come on for his last run
ON THE SLOPES Win – BALLYWOOD e/w – ½pt RFC
2:25 SSS Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices’ Chase (GBB Race) Cl2 (4yo+) 2m4f
PROTEKTORAT was impressive on his Carlisle chasing debut LTO and he gets 3lbs from SOUTHFIELD STONE – but gives 4lbs to MOSSY FEN who was 4th to Galvin LTO who is is one of Gordon Elliott’s better nags. If I can’t get 2/1 about SOUTHFIELD STONE I won’t bet.
SOUTHFIELD STONE Win at 9/4 or No Bet
3:00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Hcap Chase (GBB Race) Cl2 (5yo+) 3m6f
Christian Williams runs POTTERS CORNER in order to start the prep work for a tilt at The Grand National. He might become an early ante-post bet and he’s around 33/1 and will be 16/1 if he takes this. My only fear is that he can get a little clumsy – as he showed in The Eider. Overall, I would be surprised. Otherwise its the damned Frenchy EASYSLAND who is the arriviste sur le piste and I suspect won’t be threatened by TIGER ROLL who he thrashed by 17l and who is now 4lbs worse off! I know Nanny used to say that A Winners Is A Winner, but she never opened her purse in all her years, so I’m afraid I can’t recommend the probable winner, and instead I shall have a very small e/w for interest on BEAU DE BRIZAIS who seems too big at 33/1. He took a tiumble at Warwick in September, but bounced back with a confident round, coming second to Step Back LTO at Wincanton, and the winner followed up at Sandown last weekend.
BEAU DE BRIZAIS e/w
3:35 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (G2) (Registered As The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f
All the chat and the market suggest DOES HE KNOW does, in light of his C&D LTO. There is some chatter about Dan Skelton’s Irish ex-pointer WILD ROMANCE who was acquired after coming 2nd of 17 at Boulta this time last year and debuted over hurdles at Chepstow LTO. She’s in reciept of a 7lb allowance and is a workable 7/1.
WILD ROMANCE e/w
4:05 Valda Energy Novices’ Hcap Hurdle (GBB Race) Cl3 (3yo+ 0-125) 2m½f
I have been told that PANIC ATTACK is the Pipe’s big fancy and the family has a long record of laying out a couple for this meeting. I’m happy to listen to rumours – which is why I shall have a small e/w on PRINCESS T, who won by 3l LTO and looked the biz. The second that day, Kannapolis won last Friday by 9l going away, and I suspect will have picked up 10lbs. That makes PRINCESS T’s penalty look manageable, coupled with an absence of rain, and also makes her an attractive price.
PANIC ATTACK WIn – PRINCESS T e/w