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21st April 2024 7:52 pm

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

I am Spartacus, but please don’t crucify me.

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Like all good Catholics, lapsed or otherwise, I struggle to keep my sins to myself. The need to cleanse one’s soul and expunge all guilt lies firmly within the beating breast of the Kneesup clan, tempered only by the corollary to all confessions – don’t try to mitigate your responsibility and lessen the punishment by dobbing in a mate.

“Sneaking”, as it used to be known at Prep School, was often a bigger crime than the sneaked-on offence. I only did it once that I can remember (please do not write in to correct), with Jackie Kennedy at Westminster Cathedral in 1961. Dominic Cox had stabbed me in the neck with his Osmiroid and then pulled the plunger so that I was injected with black Quink. Two weeks later, the festering neck wound prevented me from wearing an Eton collar over my cassock and cotta. (I was a Chorister, not a Priest). That, in turn, prevented me from singing at the Kennedy Niece’s christening. Lined up afterwards in the corridor between Archbishop’s House and The Cathedral, Jackie K spotted my wound as the Choir School waited to be presented (I might have been engaging in some theatrics – who knows) and enquired as to how I had found myself in this position. I was blunt in my exposure of Dominic Cox – who still received no punishment – but I received a kiss on the forehead.

Not dobbing in your mates, of course, is also responsible for most of the sins of horseracing, allegedly prevalent in the Weighing Room, the Stewards Room and Portman Square (or what passes for it now). It is also, and entirely predictably, inherent in the culture at No 10 and Conservative Central Office –  except that recently Augustus and Livia have been dobbing in a large number of other people and doubtless the invite-sender will also soon be an ex-party giver.

I, on the other hand, am inclined to shout out to the self-righteous and the sanctimonious, “Hold On. It’s not just No 10 you know”;  and then mindful of being thought a sneak, start shouting “Stop looking for Spartacus – for I am he!”

The truth is that, like so very many others, I did go to the odd Ascot Lunch and Cheltenham meeting and Derby Barbie. Yes, I broke the Pandemic guidance and possibly the Law and possibly the tosh that passes for a modern moral code. It is also true that I struggled with going into Supermarkets and seeing those who thought it OK to wear a mask around the chin. I struggled as they shopped six-deep across an aisle, with their children and wheezing Granny in tow, while bellowing, “…Juniper put that back – you had a treacle tart for breakfast.” There were no food deliveries, so you had to go and get diseased as well as the last of the truffle-infused Nutella.

Yes, I am Spartacus on so many levels. Like so many others of my (silenced) brethren, I too have fancied Ghislaine Maxwell. I am Spartacus because were I the Chief Whip and I had some lippy little non-entity kicking off, I too might threaten to expose his dalliance with three Alpacas and a former Buddhist priest. I am Spartacus because sometimes I have gambled more than I could afford to lose – not on the horses, but once on a giant throw of the dice to buy a racecourse, that came unstuck.

I’m sure there’s more – but let’s stop pretending that one’s moral compass is so much more accurate than anyone else’s. As Max Beerbohm said and Matt Hancock never could: “It is easier to confess a defect than to claim a quality.” Perhaps now with the end of bloody Plan X, Y and Z, we can all start trying to work on our qualities.

Talking of defects as opposed to quality, here are the tips for Saturday’s TV racing.

With no Market Rasen and only two bettable races at Lingfield, (having wisely recommended No Bet in the other two),  we had one PU and a 4th place at 20/1, still managing therefore to make a small 1 pt profit! In addition, and as suggested, there was a good forecast with Metier and Gowel Road in the 3:35.

1:25 HAYDOCK Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f 7 run

This is a decent little contest, with Nicky’s JONBON attempting his fifth victory in a row and now topped up to carry 11st 11lbs. LEBOWSKI and RICHMOND LAKE will try to make the running, and it will be interesting to see what Aiden Coleman decides to do tactically, given JONBON’s impressive pace. DONNY BOY and  MIGHT I both have merit and shown ability against decent opposition, but while JONBON should hose this, I have no interest in backing him at 2/5. Instead, let me suggest moving to the Betting W/O market where providing you win or come second to the favourite you get your odds. In this case, I can get 11/4 about RICHMOND LAKE which will suit me fine.

RICHMOND LAKE 2pts win @ 11/4 Betting W/O JONBON

1:45 ASCOT SBK Holloway’s Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m3½f 11 run

There are some progressive types in this, but I just wonder whether Jonjo has had the best of GARRY CLERMONT and emptied the tank a little, I thought he looked like he needed a break LTO. Anne Duffield runs NGOLO who I expected to see run here in the cheekpieces that helped him finish a decent 4th at Hereford LTO. He’s a former Willie Mullins horse who hadn’t met the great man’s exacting standards, and patently has ability somewhere. Not putting the CPs on suggests he is being plotted. So I think he’ll run well’ish, get dropped a couple of pounds and come back with the CPs on the next time out. I keep looking at SKANDIBURG who changes stables pretty well every season. Having been with Olly Murphy and Jamie Snowden, he is now with the Fullers and to be fair to them, his two races in their hands, haven’t been bad at all. I would have him at 20/1 s, not 66/1, so don’t be afraid to have a go – I’ve taken 6 places with Bet365 at 28/1. The winner, I think, will be UNEXPECTED PARTY who looks to still be ahead of the handicapper, is progressive and had he not lost all momentum LTO clattering the last fence in a slovenly jump, would have come here with an even bigger slice of weight cake.

UNEXPECTED PARTY 2 pts Win – SKANDIBURG ½ pt e/w @ 28/1 for 6 places (Bet365)

2:00 HAYDOCK New One Unibet Hdl (G2) (Registered As The Champion Hdl Trial Race) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f 6 run

TOMMY’S OSCAR is the one to beat – but if he hoses this will he go to The Champion Hurdle? He has certainly improved all season, and destroyed his Musselburgh field LTO with ease. I would do the forecast here with ROCKADENN who used to be with Paul Nicholls.


2:20 ASCOT SBK Mares’ Hdl (G2) (Registered As The Warfield) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m7½f 6 run

Given the death of of the legend that was Meatloaf, it seems entirely appropriate to back ANTHINGFORLOVE, who will love the ground and has stamina in spades. The only problem is she only gets 1 lb from the three above her in the betting and thus needs to improve by at least 6lbs. Sadly I am going to put sentiment aside and back MY SISTER SARAH who comes over from Willie Mullins and who has won almost 25% of her races. She will sit off the pace and start to arrive late – which might present opportunities for in-running fans.


2:35 HAYDOCK Peter Marsh Hcap Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1½f 10 run

EMPIRE STEEL fell on landing in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby LTO, when looking all over the winner. On various ratings, he appears to have something in hand of ROYAL PAGAILLE at these weights. SAM BROWN caught my eye at Aintree when trying to battle the Gold Cup 4th favourite Protektorat. He is being backed so get on ASAP.

EMPIRE STEEL Win 3pts – SAM BROWN e/w 2pt. 

2:55 ASCOT bet365 Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 2m5f 8 run

PHOENIX WAY was unlucky to run into ANNSAM at Ascot LTO in the Listed Howden Silver Cup over further, who beat him 4¼l from a 3lb advantage taking the claimers mark into account. There have been a brace of winners come out from that race already and the form looks solid. I think the drop in trip and class will help and 13/2 looks generous

PHOENIX WAY 2pts e/w

3:15 TAUNTON BioWaveGo Portman Cup Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 3m4½f 5 run

Sorry to be a bore – YALA ENKI at 4/6 age 12. No thanks.


3:35 ASCOT SBK Clarence House Chs (G1) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m1f 4 run

This will turn out to be very tactical and quite possibly a disappointment. What happens if FIRST FLOW wins – as he did last year – or splits SHISKIN and ENERGUMENE? What happens if SHISKIN is wrong? What happens if, if, if… All I will suggest is that FIRST FLOW is way too big – double figures is a disrespectful price.

This is one race to watch and enjoy, and try to switch off the hype.


Total Stake 20 pts.

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