Once upon a time, a long while ago, I was staying with my cuz in Middle Wallop, where he was with the Army Air Corps, which he would later command. That weekend, he gave a very jolly Sunday drinks party for the locals, which would be followed by a pleasant family lunch. As has often been the way for some reason, cuz gave me a stern heads up. “Do not give anyone your opinion, do not try to be funny and do not upset the locals.” (Three points of order I think you’ll agree I still manage successfully within these meagre pages). Armed with this guidance, I went into Flaneur Charm Mode and generally considered my performance en pointe, until I was introduced to a perfectly nice woman who was declared the local celebrity – although she did look a bit unhappy when this was said. “What Ho”, I exclaimed, ” “I’m the wicked cousin and almost illiterate, so you must educate me and tell me what has earned you this huge reputation?” “Oh, I’m in the Archers” she declared. “Crikey,” I replied. “That’s like being in the trenches – never knowing when you’re going to be killed off by a Combined Harvester or a badly handled shotgun in the hands of some teen!” I realised I might have misjudged the situation when she burst into tears and left the drinks party – apparently having been told by her agent that same weekend, that she was indeed about to fall down a well in some ghastly accident. I too departed soon after.
The Archers did for me again this week, when on Wednesday I had to ping off a furious note to The Telegraph, to join my other 238 unpublished letters. This time they really had gone too far. The Telegraph’s radio correspondent had not only cost me my breakfast, (a poached egg sitting on a bed of diced and fried Alsace bacon from the inestimable Fungi Club in Hungerford, with just a pinch of Pil Berber, all nestling in a warmed and hollowed Croissant), but also made me bang the table, thus knocking over the freshly-pressed Apple Juice and Ginger, (Ms Elle’s personal recipe), which the dog started licking up but who, as I started to clean the sticky juices, whilst trying to haul the dog away, turned his wretched attention to the unguarded egg and bacon “en croute”.
I know what you’re thinking; Lumme Kneesup, that’s a bloody long sentence – but it is the only way I can portray the unfolding catastrophe’s speed. You’re also probably asking who the hell is Ms Elle. Much like Aunt Dahlia’s Anatole at Brinkley Court, she is the stuff of legend. If oligarchs or worse could get hold of her, she would be offered huge sums to jump ship and to keep house for them. She has been with my chums for almost thirty years and on joyous occasions when I am asked to stay, she produces restoratives, specifically her recipe for apple and ginger juice, kindness, and makes things happen, effortlessly. But I digress…
The Archers as most sensible people will know is on at 7:00 every evening for some 15 minutes. Or you can listen to the entire week on Sunday morning at 10:00 am whilst doing important Sunday stuff. What Ms Charlotte Runcie had done was to discuss in her piece on Wednesday – just three days after the broadcast…
SPOILER ALERT” (The following gives away some of the plot of The Archers from last Sunday’s episode, which you might have been saving up to listen to in The Omnibus version this Sunday, to which you might listen while peeling the spuds and chopping the veg and curdling the custard for the Apple and Plum crumble – but which The Telegraph forgot about)
… the sudden death of Jennifer Aldridge in a health spa.
WHAT? HOW?!!! WHEN???! Many questions are thrust aside because I am numbed by the sheer thoughtlessness of this granddaughter of Robert Runcie, Cantab. Probably unwittingly, she maintains a family tradition, because her grandfather had also deeply irritated me on several liberal Anglican fronts (praying for Argies amongst them), and made most wet sponges look positively dry. She had exposed the storyline – indeed the principal story – before the Omnibus edition. My Sunday has been ruined, and I wonder whether to cancel lunch. Why not write it next week, or next Monday, or for some rag I don’t read? I wonder whether this is just a sign of age, or whether my OCD has gone critical leading me to increasingly loathe the disorder and sheer bloody thoughtlessness of modern life.
Much of it stems from the arrogant stupidity of the Government AND the civil servants and facilitators of the Tories’ relentless abdication of responsibility. Every week, these numpties pretend it’s something happening in a different time zone, country, car, tax return, or office party. This week’s illustration was the fact that HS2 might not end in London at all. This pointless and grandiose statement is on the same scale as an African despot building a marble copy of Versailles in the middle of the Congo only to illustrate his political and economic unimportance to every pack of passing Baboon. HS2 must be ended whilst it is still cheaper to stop it than build it.
The exception to this Pontius Pilate political posturing is Paul Scully, Minister for punting, who finally told the Gambling Commission to wind their necks in yesterday. “It is not the role of the government or the Gambling Commission to determine how much a person can afford to gamble!” He might just have saved the industry yesterday.
The less witty amongst you will be saying… “Spoiler Alert – he’ll be doing the tips soon”.
13:20 ALBERT BARTLETT CLARENCE HOUSE CHASE (G1) 2m½f
The majority of the runners are from The Forlorn Hope, chasing the place money. EDWARDSTONE is here to test his Queen Mother potential against last year’s Champion Chaser ENERGUMENE who is looking to make it 9/10 – a 1l second to Shiskin in this race last year at Ascot being the spoiler to his 100% record. He is rated 6lb better than EDWARSTONE and whilst the Champion will surely set a strong pace, he might play into the hands of EDWARDSTONE, allowing him to present a challenging run in the final ½f. We shall see.
EDWARDSTONE 2 pts win.
13:50 THE PADDY POWER CHELTENHAM COUNTDOWN PODCAST HCAP CHASE 2m 4½f
Venetia Williams has won this race twice in the last 12 years (together with NTD and Philip Hobbs), and if you believe in Plato’s theory of rebirth or in history repeating itself, then compare BRAVE SEASCA with her 2020 winner Cepage, who was a topweight rated 154, and who finished mid-div in the New Year’s G3 handicap here beforehand. BRAVE SEASCA carries 12-00 from a mark of 154 and ran 11th in that same chase on New Year’s Day. He has got some decent form – beating Amarillo Sky and just 6l behind Edwardstone in a G2 and winning an Aintree handicap on his seasonal debut. 11/1 is quite a sexy price. I don’t have SPIRITOFTHEGAMES and ALLMANKIND both from the Skelton’s yard, that far apart – maybe 2lbs. The former is 20/1 and whilst he looks as though he might scoop up pots, he tends not to, but his place record at Cheltenham over distance and ground is PU-2-2-6-2-3. Not the ugliest for 6 places with WillHill and Skybet – the rest 5. ALLMANKIND has spots of decent form and is 11 lbs better than his last winning mark. 33/1 and again for 6 places. Why not?
BRAVE SEASCA 3½pts e/w – SPIRITOFTHEGAMES 1½ pts e/w – ALLMANKIND 1 pt e/w
14:25 THE PADDY POWER COTSWOLD CHASE (C1) (G2) 3m 1 ½f
Nanny used to tell me between watering down Mother’s Gin and sipping her favourite cocktail of Absinthe and Sloe Gin with a splash of Ginger Ale, “Never Back a Cotswold Chase favourite”. How right she was – only 2 this century have done the biz. That said, don’t go trying to find a double-digit flashing home. That doesn’t happen either. No, you’re looking for a horse that has raced here and preferably won here. That doesn’t fit DUSART’s profile, a horse who appears to have been growing in confidence this year. He walked around the Ayr ring in his last Chase with a swagger – but I think the secret with him is the ground. I think this might be too soft. NOBLE YEATS doesn’t meet the Course winner stat and indeed he’s only come here once when 9th in The Ultima. The bookmakers have him at 2/1 when I think he should be nearer 4s – but then he is a Grand National winner, and he looked halfway decent on his seasonal debut. I wonder whether he likes Cheltenham’s undulations as I think his racing rhythm is best seen on a Flat track. Only two horses have winning Cheltenham form here and they are PROTEKTORAT who was 17½l third in last year’s season’s Gold Cup and the always thrilling FRODON. It is this latter who I suspect might surprise -IF Bryony gets him racing right. He won his seasonal opener at Wincanton in a G3 handicap and then ran third in both the G1 Betfair Chase and King George.
FRODON 2 pts e/w
15:00 THE DAHLBURY STALLIONS AT CHAPEL STUD CLEEVE HDL RACE (C1) (G2) 3m
Surely this is for PAISLEY PARK who is 10 lbs clear of the field and goes for a fourth consecutive success in the Cleeve Hurdle. GELINO BELLO is not without a chance on figures, the rest I simply don’t see winning.
PAISLEY PARK 5 Pts Win
15:35 THE BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HDL RACE (C1) (Registered as the CLASSIC Novices’ Hdl Race) (G2) (C1) 2m 4 1/2f
Do not be surprised if ROCK MY WAY turns up in the winner’s enclosure here from the relatively unknown owner/trainer Syd Hosie’s yard. He had a promising debut at Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day, having been purchased for £90k by Syd and selected on the strength of his Castletown-Geoghegan point-to-point win in Oct last year. He was sent off as the 66/1 outsider on debut and worried NTD’s well-regarded Weveallbeencaught all the way to the line. The pair finished 20 l clear! He’s aimed for Albert Bartlett – if he’s competitive in this. Now when all is said and done, Syd Hosie is nobody’s fool, so unless he’s just filling the horsebox, I’m actually more interested at 4 or possibly 5 places in Syd’s WAY OUT. He ran 2nd in a Taunton Novice for his hurdling debut piloted by Sam Twiston-Davies and for him to come here suggests he has shown something more at home.
ROCK MY WAY 2 pts Win – WAY OUT 1 pt e/w
14:05 THE SKY BET YORKSHIRE ROSE MARES’ HDL RACE (G2) (C1) 2m 1/2 f
EPATANTE really caught my eye in The Fighting Fifth at the third last, as Constitution Hill opened the throttle. Her landing made me think she wasn’t happy. Maybe she’s best on good ground, or maybe she isn’t jumping as she well as she did last year. Whatever the issue, she should hack up here despite her penalty, and she can do it with my best wishes, but without my money. GALICE MACALLO might be second.
14:40 THE ALBERT BARTLETT RIVER DON NOVICES’ HDL RACE (G2) (C1) 3m 1/2f
Paul Nicholls’ STAY AWAY FAY went into a number of notebooks, after his debut at Newbury which he won nicely. The second has won since and is rated 129 and the fourth has progressed and is rated 119. He’s apparently still to grow into himself and this is his second run after a wind-op. He’s obviously decent but seems too tight for my book. Instead, I fancy PARK THIS ONE for Jamie Snowden who was definitely idling in front LTO and has a huge amount in reserve and IDALKO BIHOUE for NTD, who was 3rd in The Challow Hurdle where he was essentially outpaced. In this lower grade he’s a real threat and a realistic price.
IDALKO BIHOUE 4 pts Win – PARK THIS ONE 2 pts e/w
15:15 THE SKY BET HCAP CHASE (C1) 3m
MISTER COFFEY has bags of ability but doesn’t make my trends. CAP DU NORD is in several fantasy stables of mine, but his trainer is having a dismal spell… it happens, but I’d rather see him on song before backing his horses at what in this case is already too short a price. Instead, I’m taking a punt on Kerry Lee’s DEMACHINE who ran well LTO and for whom the extra distance might help. The 5lb claim will also assist.
DE MACHINE 2 pts e/w