Much like the Monkees 4th hit, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, the Charcoal was burning everywhere last Sunday – not least at Raceweb Towers. Some delicious Lamb cutlets from a whole carcass purchased from my neighbours, butchered and wrapped sensibly at the local abattoir, some Tabbouleh, some homemade Treacle Tart, a bottle of delicious Antinori, and the company of a 2MSD (2-metred-safely-distanced) passing ship-in-the-night. The sun blazoned, vine-covered Terraza was full of fun and laughter… and about time too. Earlier in the week, I had discussed with a trainer chum what life was like for him. He was slightly out of breath from having run up the drive following a three bottle lunch, in order to make our zoom appointment. The day before he had bought some very cheap Irish jumpers – cheap because the Irish P2P scene has been obliterated by the C19. So horses that one might reasonably expect to have performed well, given their confirmation, have lost some 20-30% of their hope and value and add another 10% because cash is king in Ireland and everyone needs to sell their stock and keep their cash flow positive. Pragmatism is an integral part of the Irish long game, as The Pharoah of Galway has shown us on a few occasions, and they would always rather slip away to fight another day, than take the Japanese kamikaze approach.
The Softly, softly, approach from the BHA see the introduction of 72-hour race declarations for races – great fro punters, the ante-post market, the bookies and thus the sport. Flat trainers, however, are notorious for taking the last-minute approach and one can already hear some exasperated gurglings from Newmarket. On top of that, the new 2yo declaration system has been modified and now includes all yards – ensuring every trainer can put forward at least one 2yo they want to see running in the first week of resumed racing with the intention of seeking a race entry at the Royal Meeting. Of course, you still have to have a top 4 finish in any run before the assumed start date for the Royal meeting. The Racing Resumption Group said: “Following further consultation with horsemen representatives it has now also been agreed that trainers that did not qualify for priority selections through this formula will be invited to make up to one selection should they feel that they have a horse that they consider to be an Ascot prospect. All trainers are asked to manage their entries to limit demand for the initial two-year-old races where possible, for horses that they believe can wait until the second week of races. The programme will continue to offer opportunities for two-year-olds in the second week alongside a ramp up of the number of three-year-old Novice and Maiden races.”
However, there will be no opportunities for the likes of Jim Bolger and Jessica Harrington, who are considered too old to travel. If Mark Hancock, who has ridden in a charity race, would like to take either of these two on over a post-racing dinner, followed by a sprint up Seven Barrows, I know where my money would go.
Across the English Channel, there is sad news, that Paris-Turf, the older and more serious foreign language brother to the Racing Post, which is owned by Marseille FC President Jacques-Henri Eyraud, is in real financial trouble and is set to file for bankruptcy. Eyraud had instructed Rothschilds in 2017 to find a buyer, but no shining knights appeared. I suspect Paris-Turf will be sold as part of a “pre-pack” arrangement that allows its owner to accelerate the sale of the business before potential liquidation. The publication houses almost 200 employees and while that will be a blow to them, the near-simultaneous news arrived that racing in Paris had again been put on hold.
The problem is that ParisLongchamp, Chantilly, Auteuil and Saint-Cloud are all in the Paris Red-Zone, where C19 infection rates, remain dangerously high. My man at France Galop told me that the first two classics, the Poule d’Essai Poulains and Pouliches, are likely to be staged in Deauville in Normandy, as will Thursday’s Longchamp card. French racing stopped on March 17th and resumed on May 11th (55 days), behind closed doors. President Macron at first overruled the Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to allow racing to resume – and like all French farces, it took a frantic weekend of negotiations to convince the President to change his mind.
Meanwhile, Guineas favourite Pinatubo has been spoken about in the warmest of tones by Fluff in the Telegraph, following an interview with Charlie Appleby (HERE). I was interested to read that Pinatubo had NOT gone out to Dubai with the rest of Shk Momo’s team, because they didn’t want to upset any apple carts. The comparisons have him rated higher than Frankel – but even money for the late Guineas seems overly generous. If he’s that the day before, I’d lump on.