Thanks to the Welsh, the first score draw arrived on Saturday, while I travelled back from Newmarket, having spent the morning with William Knight and the boys from Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds. We were taking pictures of their new branded racing kit, KVT having secured a decent sponsorship deal with the fast-growing pub company, Oakman Group Plc. I had forgotten just how spotless a well-run yard can be, and how attentive to every detail and nuance, racing staff are. A moment when a hoof was suddenly inspected because someone thought Dobbin was walking differently. A decision after 30 minutes of our nonsense, to put him away to his box as he was beginning to get jiggy. Every move that every horse makes, is noted by instinct and remembered by rote. We’ve all done it with our dogs or cats, those moments when some imbalance is seen and you just think “I’ll keep an eye on that, he’s not done that before.” Except for William and his team, (and indeed all other good trainers), their focus is on animals that are far bigger, more complicated and in the main less communicative and by crikey, they do it well. An efficient, happy yard will always produce winners.
We got back just in time to see the second Swiss goal disallowed and thus notched up the first of three needed results in our favour. Then, having been up late on Friday, I decided with no partisanship in mind, to watch the Denmark game and saw Christian Eriksen control a thrown-in ball with his chest, and his immediate and total collapse. Anyone who has watched boxing matches knows when the body is no longer getting brain signals, except at a very basic level, and his medical problem was obviously serious. But then it got worse because, before they could organise themselves to keep out prying eyes, it became clear that a full-on CPRE emergency was in place with defibrillators in use and heart massage taking place and the wait becoming increasingly worrying. By then there was near total silence in the stadium and Christian’s wife was down from the stands and on the pitch 50 yards from her stricken husband and watched by millions of people globally. “Look everybody, watch the pretty girl weep as her husband dies.”
You have something wrong with you if, at that moment, you don’t offer your God a plea for mercy. In that brief image of a sports player suffering from a potentially life-ending moment in front of his wife, and more importantly live on television, for something so unimportant as a game of football, his plight seemed deserving of some divine intervention. I suspect Christian won’t play again, and I hope that procedures will be sharper when it comes to providing some dignity in those moments. We do that in racing for an injured jockey with a screen around them and that should happen in football. AND IN RACING THEY MOVE THE CAMERAS AWAY.
In pure sporting terms, I was also bamboozled but UEFA’s reluctance or inability to replay the match later. Perhaps after 48 hours, allowing both teams to recover some equilibrium. To come out an hour after you’ve just seen your teammate almost die in front of your eyes, seemed ludicrous. It seems logical to have put aside an “emergency day”, for such events, which if not used becomes a day of rest. Sadly the inflexibility, greed and hypocrisy that drives UEFA, and to a lesser extent the TV companies whose executives can demand start-times and over-run schedules, have got this wrong.
Two weeks ago I wrote:
“There is as much chance of the panjandrums of the Health Industry giving up power on June 21st as I have of swimming the Atlantic next Thursday. The easiest bet of the year. It will be delayed until at least July 28th. This is because the Indian variant has got a grip. Why? Because HMG didn’t.”
And thus, as the Bible says, it came to pass. It came to pass as yet another Scientist prepared us for Armageddon by informing us that Facemasks and Social distancing will be normal for the rest of our lives. Now strangely – although you wouldn’t have guessed – not all scientists are medically qualified and in this case, her only qualification to make such advice public, was that she was a behavioural scientist – the only people in the world who can’t even agree on why the chicken crossed the road.
So having been 90% right in this prediction, let me make one more. There will still be restrictions in December. There will be some reason why we can’t have our freedoms and it will be accepted by people who will still believe it’s best to listen to the scientists and are thus afraid. Possibly they will be frightened by going into hospital and simply being killed in their sleep. They will be right because the old and infirm and the Dementia and Alzheimer patients and the Autistic and the Cerebral Palsy sufferers and all those who don’t fit the perfect NHS scenario have consistently had fraudulent Do Not Resuscitate notices issued and then been allowed to die. It is a deeply sinister and cynical manipulation and it is criminal, when explanations, permissions and procedures are all brushed aside in order to “…protect the NHS.” No – stop squeaking. One is too many, because when you excuse one, then you’re on the irreversible path to medically approved Eugenics.
We are lurching towards a bad place.
Talking of bad, some Ascot tips follow below.
2.30: Queen Anne Stakes Group 1, 1m, 4yo+, ITV/Sky Sports Racing
It’s almost impossible to see past PALACE PIER as the winner, who is the best older miler in Europe. However the odds are prohibitive, and inevitably there are other options being considered. There are two previous winners in this – LORD GLITTERS (2019) and ACCIDENTAL AGENT (2018) – but the age stats are against them, with 33/34 winners aged 4 or 5 yo. The exception was LORD GLITTERS aged 6. ACCIDENTAL AGENT had a wind-op over the winter and ran a respectable 4th at Newbury LTO, and all things being equal, 80/1 is to big. SIR BUSKER runs but would need to find a stone to win. However Bet365 are paying 10/1 for 6 places and that seems a very reasonable bet.
ACCIDENTAL AGENT ½pt e/w @ 80/1 and ½pt e.w at 30/1 for 6 places – SIR BUSKER 1pt e/w @ 10/1 for 6 places.
3.05: Coventry Stakes Group 2, 6f, 2yo, ITV/Sky
The great Ascot raider Wes Ward arrives with KAUFYMAKER who also had an entry originally in The Queen Mary on Wednesday. He says this is his best horse. He says that she took the transition to Turf from Dirt like a “duck to water”. He says that of all his Turf horses she “has risen to the top”. DHABAB is one of two runners for John Gosden who has won the race twice before. He won decisively at Leicester on debut quickening up easily to win by 2l and with a significant amount in hand. Robert Havlin suggested afterwards, that this was the plan and given his potential for improvement, you’d think that a BP 6/1 is worth taking. KAUFYMAKER is a drifting 4s at the moment. MASSETOwill prefer cut, EBRO RIVER flashed his tail LTO and gave his pilot a tricky time, so is not straightforward.
3.40: King’s Stand Stakes Group 1, 5f, 3yo+, ITV/Sky
More Americans have arrived this year to steal what little prize money there is and they run two here with EXTRAVAGANT KID trained by Brendan Walsh, who I thought would have Ryan Moore on the plate again, hoping perhaps to repeat his Meydan success in March. However, Ryan has deserted him, or been jocked off, and Frankie D. now gets the ride and is being backed like a good thing. MAVEN is the other Yank, trained by Wes Ward, who has bought his own jock, John Velasquez, and he been catching a lot of eyes this season, having been cut last year. He is a best-priced 16s. This has always been the target for WINTER POWER and Tim Easterby holds her in high esteem. She has plenty of good black-type and her reappearance confirmed her well-being and ability. The trainer really rates her and she’s won on every type of ground. and for her first attempt at a G1, she gets 10lbs from Battash and don’t forget Lady Aurelia won this as a 3yo filly in 2017. The combination of a C&D winner from Andrew Balding with Buick on board and priced at around 33/1 is too much to resist especially when The Epsom Dash didn’t provide the gaps for STONE OF DESTINY at the right time. He biggest problem is that he arrives late – and that means all the doors have to be left wide open for him to slip through. If he does he’ll be in for a podium finish.
WINTER POWER Win – STONE OF DESTINY e/w
4.20: St James’s Palace Stakes Group 1, 1m, 3yo colts, ITV4/Sky
THUNDER MOON 14/1 LUCKY VEGA 7/1 CHINDIT Others
BATTLEGROUND didn’t run in the Irish 2000 Gns and flopped in The 2000 Gns. at Newmarket. He won the Chesham Stakes last year and was 2nd in the BC Juvenile Turf, from a bad draw. He was backed like a winner for the I2000Gns and as many have pointed out, AOB doesn’t mess around with horses that have no chance. Tongue-tied for the first time, he’s being backed again and 5/1 is available now. He is fresh as a daisy, will love the ground, and AOB has won this eight times. As I write there is still some 9/1 left about CHINDIT and I’d grab that ASAP. He didn’t like Newmarket’s switchback LTO in the Guineas coming fifth to POETIC FLARE, who while we have backed him in the past, has had a very bust season, and I suspect needs a break. However gainsaying Jim Bolger is done at your own risk. Look out for place advantages, (Skybet and William Hill both offering 5 places).
BATTLEGROUND Win – CHINDIT e/w
5.00: Ascot Stakes Handicap, 2m4f, 4yo+, ITV4/Sky
MC MULDOON from Willie Mullins really doesn’t deserve favouritism. Yes, it’s Mullins and yes Willie has won three of the last six runnings (the others were 2nd, 6th, and he simply couldn’t find a horse for the sixth race). Yes, Ryan Moore is on board – but hey Willie has two others in the race as well! So if not him, who is the possible Spartacus in this set-up? Also, Wealth Warning – this is another race to be wary of place offers. SkyBet is going 7 places, PaddyPower, William Hill and Betway are all offering 6 places. As I quite fancy ROCHESTER HOUSE, getting 20/1 from Paddy Power for 6 places is a simple decision. He was drawn in Cornwall for the Chester Cup LTO and couldn’t have won if he’d been given rockets. He was fifth in this last year and was 2nd in The Goodwood Handicap over a furlong further. George Boughey hasn’t put much of a foot wrong so far this year, so I wouldn’t be astonished to see LOSTWITHIEL doing well, despite not having run further than 14f before. COEUR DE LION who won this last year could easily double up, but for the ground, which must surely be getting faster by the hour.
ROCHESTER HOUSE e/w (20/1 for 5 places) – LOSTWITHIEL e/w 16/1
5.35: Wolferton Stakes Listed, 1m2f, 4yo+, ITV4/Sky
Frankie could take this easily.
FOREST OF DEAN Win
6.10: Copper Horse Stakes Handicap, 1m6f, 4yo+, ITV4/Sky
ARTHURIAN FABLE e/w