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

Chinese prove that Claret fights Covid.

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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One for Mee, One for Yu

As I write, I discover Barry Cryer has died. I saw him on The Edinburgh Fringe many years ago, and the wave of affection and support that filled the small room where he did his one-man show was palpable. He apparently died just after telling a nurse his favourite Archbishop of Canterbury joke.

A man and his wife are out walking one day when they spot a bloke sitting alone in a bus shelter on the other side of the road. “That looks like the Archbishop of Canterbury over there,” says the woman. “Go and ask him if he is.” The husband crosses the road and asks the man if he is indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Fuck off,” says the man. The husband crosses back to his wife who asks: “What did he say? Is he the Archbishop of Canterbury?” “I don’t know – he told me to fuck off,’ says the husband. “Oh no,” replies the wife, “now we’ll never know.”

Barry was a very great man and if there was a side to him, I never heard of it, because like all the old great touring professionals, he knew how to separate the different sides of the Dig’s doors. Thank you Barry and enjoy your time with all your old friends and heroes again.

RIP

When you survey 470k people, of whom more than 16,500 have tested positive for Covid, you are safe to assume that you’re going to get a decent statistical outcome to your data enquiry. The UK Biobank had all this data and then had it analysed by a hospital in China, (I know – what could go wrong?) and what they did was this, (and this is my favourite sentence of the week)…

Multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the associations of alcohol consumption with COVID-19 risk and associated mortality. The non-linearity association between the amount of alcohol consumption and COVID-19 risk was evaluated by a generalized additive model.

There was a shed-load more of scientific blah-blah, but the main conclusion was:

Red wine wards off coronavirus… but beer does not.

Yes, it’s true. People drinking more than five glasses of red a week apparently cut the risk of catching Covid. This is possibly due to red wine’s high polyphenol content, which also meant that traditional Beer and Cider drinkers actually had a near 28 per cent higher chance of contracting the virus – regardless of how much they drank. Claret guzzlers, by comparison, had a 17 per cent lower risk of catching the virus, with their 5+ glasses of red a week. Almost as an aside, I should also tell you that white wine and Champagne quaffers, sipping at between one to four glasses a week, had an 8% lower risk of catching the virus compared with non-drinkers.

But the devil is in the detail, so on your behalf, I have read the report in Frontiers in Nutrition, a publication I peruse from time to time, to see if there is any change in my Foie Gras futures market. Thus, having seen all the many wonderful statistics and conclusions, I spotted one major flaw. They asked loads of questions to “… assess drinker status” and “…alcohol intake frequency” and then quantified the average weekly consumption by totalling all the hooch in its various guises that Sid Snot or Mr Woo had drunk and then averaging it all out.

Tickety Boo, one might think, but when was the last time any of us answered those GP questions honestly? “Do you drink?” Pause “… Occasionally. You know Birthday and Christmas, that sort of thing. Family gatherings… you know.” “Much?” “Oh I suppose at dinner a glass, sometimes two if I’m at home and not driving.” “Madeira” “Never been” “No it’s a drink” “Is it indeed?

The point is, these people have all drunk way more than the figures suggest, possibly by as much as 400% based on my own experiences. Thus I feel safe in suggesting that drinking two bottles of decent claret a week, assisted by a Bloody Mary on Sundays, a decent port at dinner, Gin and Tonics to be polite, and the very occasional pint of Guinness will collectively keep most Covid variations at bay. For the avoidance of doubt, I also recommend vaccinations, boosters, flu jabs, and the use of Les Capotes when in docklands.

Talking of catching a cold, here are the TV tips for Saturday and as I know several of you are going to Cheltenham, I have included the shoulder races as well.

Not a great day at Gowran Park, although the purpose of our visit was the Thyestes Chase, we dabbled across the card and came somewhat unstuck. In the first race, I got entirely the wrong plot horse – although I mentioned keeping an eye on the fourth who came in at 22/1. Klassical Dream’s terribly flat run cost us a treble and Sam’s Choice also got done for toe and came second for another 4 pt tonk. Anyway, we had 3rd and 5th in the Thyestes at decent odds, so we were only down half a dozen points (-6.3), and our starting bank is still showing a profit (1035.32). Our 2% maximum total stake is thus 20.71 pts

12:15 SSS Super Alloys Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m1f

A thoroughly decent little handicap and a chance for CORMIER to get back on course, after his disappointing Greatwood run. He clattered one hard, and I did wonder whether it was wise to leave the hood off, which he’d previously worn. Ben Pauling’s handicappers have been worth following this season and subject to the market I might take a chance with SEVERANCE. He can be tricky, but he meets the race trends and I’m hoping a strong pace and a big field will help get his head straight. The two standouts on the trends are the favourite LIVELY CITIZEN who won here over C&D and is being piloted by the same claimer as LTO, and the other is BYZANTINE EMPIRE who won well at Donny LTO after a 5-month layoff and a wind-op. I am going to dutch the selections for a total 3pt stake

SEVERANCE – BYZANTINE EMPIRE Dutch 3pt stake

12:45 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hdl (Grade 2) (Registered As The Finesse) Cl1 (4yo) 2m1f

INTERNE DE SIVOLA won very comfortably over C&D in December. He made all off a nice steady pace and was clearly the best in the race by a margin – witnessed by the fact that the 2nd won his next by 21l and the 3rd that day also went onto win again. PIED PIPER is here to keep him apart from Gordo’s Fil Dor before The Triumph – the latter will run at The Dublin Racing Festival next week. He will probably be at the top of the market with Paul Nicholls’ ICEO, and for what it is worth Timeform have ICEO nine pounds superior, and both are between five and 14lbs better than my e/w selection. The fact is that ICEO is a very speedy kid indeed.

ICEO 2 pts Win – with INTERNE DE SIVOLA 1pt SFC

1:20 Timeform Nov.s’ Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 2m4½f

Jonjo’s WHEN YOU’RE READY catches the eye every time he runs… whenever I see him I think “National”. His 3rd on his chasing debut was in a race that produced five winners from the first seven. He went on to win his next, and he seemed to have something in hand of the handicapper LTO when a fast-finishing 2nd. He’s got Jonjo Jnr on board and he’ll run a decent race. SOLO also pops off the page as he’s been running in decent company and he meets the trends. There is however very little to choose between these runners and I am struggling to find any value here. If the ground dried out and you could get 3 places I might have an exploratory pop at BEAKSTOWN to see if the Skeltons have got his head on straight. He’s a horse who has looked at times unhappy to be racing. The play is probably to dutch WHEN YOU’RE READY and SOLO, but it really might go any direction

No Bet

1:55 CHELTENHAM Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

I had this race all sussed out and then realised I was muddling two bits of form and two trend data sets. I can now say with certainty that MAGIC SAINT meets most of the ten-year trends. There’s a positive for you. However, I’m going to take a small sideways step and have a tiny e/w on GAELIK COAST from Donald McCain whose horses have been on fire of late. The horse is having his first run after a wind-op and in his last race, it was reported that he’d lost a shoe. When I see little things like that and a double-figure price, I’m minded to explore the possibilities.

GAELIK COAST 1pt e/w

2:10 DONCASTER Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f

MIRANDA looks far better than most of these. She overcame a slow start and an 18lb disadvantage LTO at Ludlow to beat Voice of Calm by a nose – who went on to win next time out in a Mares Handicap. She won this last year and I see nothing to stop her from repeating that victory again.

MIRANDA 2 pts win 

2:30 CHELTENHAM Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1½f

Only the five left in, and CHANTRY HOUSE is the favourite, which bamboozles me given what a dreadful race he ran LTO. One should also remember that this is a graveyard for favourites, with only one obliging in the last 20 years. SIMPLY THE BETTS looked like he might be returning to form when 2nd to NTD’s Vienna Court on New Years Day at Chelty. He used to be with Harry Whittington, for whom he won twice at Cheltenham, and he has bags of proven ability… I just have a slight niggle about the distance. However – and for small stakes – I quite like the look of AYE RIGHT who was last seen winning a handicap at Newcastle, his first victory for over a year despite running very creditably in most of his races. He did get in very close at the last which cost him several lengths. One little stat is that 50% of the winners in the last ten years had run in a handicap LTO.

AYE RIGHT 2 pts win

2:45 DONCASTER Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m½f

I can see no good reason why UNANSWERED PRAYERS shouldn’t make this a back-to-back Donny double. NOT AT PRESENT would be my main concern.

UNANSWERED PRAYERS 2 pts win

3:05 CHELTENHAM Welsh Marches Stallions At Chapel Stud Cleeve Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m

McFABULOUS might be yet another Nicholls winner on the day, as his 2nd in the Relkeel last month suggested he was on the up. However, there are two tiny problems to overcome first and they are CHAMP and PAISLEY PARK. The latter has won this race twice, but he appears a shadow of his former glorious self three years ago. He is now 11lbs lower than the glory days, but he still retains the spirit at least to present a problem to some or all of these. CHAMP won the Long Walk Hurdle LTO beating the former Stayers Hurdle Champions LISNAGAR OSCAR (2020) and PAISLEY PARK (2019) and he needs to dominate this race if he is to secure his place as a favourite for the race.

There are simply too many conflicting lines of form for me to make a value bet. The possible value lies in backing LISNAGAR OSCAR without the Favourite for which you’ll get around 9/1. Otherwise for me…

No Bet

3:20 DONCASTER Sky Bet Handicap Chase (Listed) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m

HURRICANE HARVEY and JANIKA both look overpriced, and I note the former is sans headgear and is now 7lbs in hand of his last winning mark. JANIKA benefits from 7lb claimer Ben Bromley, while Hendo also runs FUSIL RAFFLES who is surely the class horse in the field. He won The Peterborough Chase and was a decent 4th LTO at Chelty in the RP Gold Cup. MIDNIGHT SHADOW from Sue Smith’s yard will enjoy this step up in trip. He took The Paddy Power in November and was third to Coole Cody in the RP Gold Cup, again at Chelty in December – the figures suggesting the latter was in fact a better performance. We have mentioned DEMACHINE from the ever fizzy Kerry Lee before and indeed have tipped him in the past. He is being backed heavily this pm, and probably with reason. He really came to our notice back when preparing for a tilt at the Hennessy where he was 5th at 16/1 over a distance probably 1½f too far. He had a couple of months off after what felt like a grinding race and went to Ludlow, where he simply unshipped his rider at the first. He meets CLOUDY GLEN again, but I think CG will find the ground too fast. He is after all a proper Venetia mudlark.

HURRICANE HARVEY 1 pt e/w – JANIKA 1pt e/w Make sure you get six places (Paddy P, Sky, WHill, Betfred e.g.)

3:40 CHELTENHAM Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Classic Novices’ Hurdle) (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f

There have been 15 runnings of this race, so there is a decent set of stats to look through. HILLCREST is the favourite following his Listed C&D win LTO. He also had an easier entry at Donny in the 3m Novice Hurdle and the fact that he’s here, suggests some stable confidence – especially with his solid Cheltenham form. BUT a 7yo has never won this race (from 15 attempts) BALCO FALCON is 2/2 but did not look like a 1/4 on favourite when defying a penalty at Ludlow LTO. NORTH LODGE has won at Aintree, but the competition was a bit weak and I’m not sure had much substance to it. A DIFFERENT KIND has racked up a straight run of five victories in bumpers and hurdles up North, some of which have been noted for class. If you can get better than 7’s take it.

A DIFFERENT KIND 1 pt e/w½pt RFC with HILLCREST 

4:15 Alan Swinbank Mares’ Listed NHF Cl1 (4-6yo) 2m1f

NOS NA GAOITHE will probably win but we haven’t got the dosh!

21pt Stake

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