Sadly this week saw the passing of Sam Vestey, who was a good man. We weren’t best buddies, but his huge skill with people was to make them think they might be. I knew him to talk to and to pass the odd hour with him and over the years he has on more than one occasion, tweaked my tail. I was a member of the same club and we had traded insults on my suiting (he thought my mustard tweed garish, and I thought his yellow-bronze tweed superb for Health and Safety obsessors, without access to a High Vis jacket). His finest putdown was in 2013, where for some reason I seemed to have a table of two men and half a dozen beautiful women and Sam obviously thought I needed help. Together we watched the Foxhunters when Oscar Delta unshipped Jane Mangan at the last when 2l clear of the favourite. What happened said Pretty Girl A to Sam. Back came an explanation. Simultaneously Lovely Girl B asked me what had happened. I gave her the benefit of my vast knowledge. Gorgeous Girl C said (unhelpfully), “.. that’s not what Lord Vestey just said”, at which point I reaffirmed my belief that it was a camber issue and Sam said that it was a running rail issue. “And…”, he said with sufficient dramatic pause, “one of us has ridden here, and the other one hasn’t!” The last time we spoke, I was just about to go down with the dreaded and we agreed we might, in racing terms, be in for a tough time. I had a drink with him and his son Arthur, another good egg, and we discussed how well the two replacements for the old A&R boxes were doing and how pleased he was with their general acceptance. By the time we finished, there must have been a dozen or so members nearby joining in, chatting, clubbing in the true sense, with this most affable of men. And that, so sadly, was the end of that. I shall miss seeing him at Cheltenham, as will the other 30,000+ who considered him their friend. RIP Sam Vestey, a noble man.
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Earlier this week, I found myself reading the guff on a box of supermarket eggs. prior to possible purchase… no wait, I have probably forgotten to first mention our current fowl situation, which finds me in the supermarket egg aisle in the first place. You might recall, (but how, in the 247 media-wide clamours of experts, prognosticators, rabid socialists and a Woke Churchman of Colour (COC) – whose speciality is Queer Theology- could you possibly remember?), Madame once kept chickens. She had a brace of very well-bred, quite high-pitched squawkers, neither of whom could get a real ruckus going, and who were supposed to lay near-turquoise eggs – Madame’s favourite colour. Perhaps their absence of vocal clarity led to the silent disappearance of one. On the grounds that you should never tell the fox, the Pine Marten nor the Badger that you have opened a food bank for them, the remaining cluck had to be re-housed. Once these notorious munchers know they only have to walk down the road for a fresh meal, they’ll be back until nowt’s left. So the remaining cluck was sent away to be hen-pecked at Madame’s sister… leaving me sans eggs.
Thus, I found myself in the supermarket aisle, about to pick up a box that declared: “Our hens are free to roam and forage on open pastures from dawn to dusk”, and I was overcome with chicken-envy. I found myself thinking about the pub. Of being able to roam wherever I wanted. To forage a small beer in the harbourside bar of Le Central at Trouville-sur-Mer; to have a light lunch in Ortigia; to take wine in the Piazza San Marco – or indeed any of a dozen piazzas that have provided respite in a day doing bugger all. To be sitting with chums in a hotel in Goodwood drinking Rose…. how come the chicken gets all these opportunities?
This morning, my wife’s copy of Plantagenet Poultry Keeper arrived and my envy paled, or more accurately was not snuffed out. The headline screamed that Bird flu had been confirmed on another Welsh farm five days ago, and the threat of further outbreaks remains “very high”. The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) represents farmers who look after 25m birds, has warned that action is needed from all poultry keepers in order to avoid a disaster. There have been nearly 300 cases of avian influenza in wild birds but so far strict biosecurity has limited cases at commercial premises to just 21. “For those simply ignoring the law, I have to stress that spreading the disease is increasing the likelihood of whole flocks being culled”, said BFREPA CEO Robert Gooch. Free Range be damned. The chicken too is in lockdown, with the added threat of being slaughtered if you stray outside. Crikey! Don’t tell Priti Patel that’s what happens in nature – she’s more than capable of introducing a “natural solution”.
Talking of headless chickens, here are today’s late racing selections…
1:15 SANDOWN Virgin Bet Hcap Ch. Cl2 (5yo+) 1m7½f
CARIBEAN BOY drops back in trip and class, and the yard has won this 3 times in recent years. His LTO 3rd was down to a too classy a race over too great a distance He meets the trends as does PADDY’S POEM, but more impressively, PP has never been unplaced chasing and when he comes to Sandown he improves his RPR to a Lifetime best.
CARIBEAN BOY Win – PADDY’S POEM e/w – ½pt RFC
1:35 LEOPARDSTOWN Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (G1) (5yo+) 2m1½f
CHACUN POUR SOI Win
1:50 SANDOWN Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (G1) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4f
SHAN BLUE is possibly one of the best novice chase jumpers we have seen this year and he is an unbeaten 3-3 chasing. He has won on heavy ground and the fact he stays 3 miles will help him up the Sandown hill and in more testing conditions. Dan Skelton has a 43% strike rate for the last 14 days. As the only mare in the race DAME DE COMPAGNIE gets weight which will help in the conditions, but my idea of runner-up with a chance is MESSIRE DES OBEAUX who was eye-catching in his dispatching of Protektorat and Lieutenant Rocco in the Dipper. In fact, I suggest Dutching the selections for 4pts total.
SHAN BLUE – MESSIRE DES OBEAUX dutched
2:05 MUSSELBURGH bet365 Scottish County Hurdle (A Handicap) Cl2 (4yo+) 1m7½f
ASHINGTON was 2nd in this last year, and while he hasn’t won since November 2019, he’s only 3lbs shy of his last winning mark and has a decent 7lb claimer on board. However, I fancy DEAR SIRE more, who can be had for around 16s and I think the main threat to him will come from Donald McCain’s other runner BLAKENEY POINT.
BLAKENEY POINT Win – DEAR SIRE e/w – The two with ASHINGTON in a ¼pt CFC
2:20 SANDOWN Virgin Bet Cotswold Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m
SANTINI was unlucky in last years Gold Cup and the heavy ground will show him to advantage. Doesn’t like Kempton – witness the King George – as he much prefers a testing track which Sandown will give him. Bristol De Mai will set the pace and Aiden on his first time partnership will be alert to every move.
2:55 SANDOWN Virgin Bet Warriors Hcap Ch. Cl3 (5yo+ 0-140) 2m4f
Wide-open, so have a look at the unexposed FOXBORO whose odds are a reflection of fashion (trainer/jockey) rather than ability. He won two races in France and one of those has produced a Listed hurdles winner. An underestimated mark of 129 and some unexposed ability makes his price wrong.
3:15 LEOPARDSTOWN Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle (G1) (4yo+) 2m
Is HONEYSUCKLE better over further? I know she won this last year, but this year the opposition and their individual abilities are I believe a lot stronger. SHARJAH is too short but arrives fresh after his impressive Matheson Hurdle win. No, I see Honeysuckle retaining her superiority with that one. You could argue that SAINT ROI has been unlucky up against ABACADABRAS, but I’m afraid that’s tosh. ABACADABRA was a very close second to SHISKIN in the Supreme last year, and he has a second to Envoi Allen on his CV. He beat SAINT ROI in the Morgiana, after needing his seasonal reappearance, and he allegedly came back snotty LTO. I think he has a squeak and in any event, still offers better value for a place than backing the favourite.
3:30 SANDOWN Virgin Bet Masters Hcap Ch. Cl2 (5yo+) 3m
ASK ME EARLY had gone up 6lb before his second victory at Chepstow LTO, a pillar to post success and posting a really superb round of jumping from the front (bar one slight error at the last). He used fourth gear near the line to ensure there was never an issue. His jumping is a real asset, he meets the trends, and should win this. DEISE ABA looks too big given his consistency.
ASK ME EARLY Win – DEISE ABA e/w
3:45 MUSSELBURGH bet365 Edinburgh National Hcap Ch. Cl2 (5yo+ 0-150) 4m1f
DINO BOY e/w