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19th June 2024 6:13 pm

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

It was ghastly and mawkish and I miss it

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I saw most of the Olympics through the eyes of the BBC and mostly with Clare Balding and former-professional International footballer Alex Scott. Clare is so consistently, irritatingly good that it becomes something of a sport in itself, desperately focussing on whether she’ll commit some Private-Eye-worthy ColemanBalls. Given the 70+ hours of presenting that she had to do, the fact that she only had one slip was disappointing. Speaking to two (swimming-relay) Gold medallists, Tom Dean and Matt Richards, Clare innocently declared “Your third leg was just phenomenal.” That was it. Not even worthy of a 1950s seaside postcard. (No you’re right, that was a weak segue to the image, but it amuses me and hopefully someone else.)

I (and many others it should be said), got quite irritated with Alex Scott, not so much for her missin Gees when there was any runnin or swimmin, but the fact that she decided to wear it as a badge of honour. “I’m proud of my East London accent”, she announced. What unutterable tosh. “G-dropping” is no more part of an East London accent than it is of a Lancastrian accent. It is actually a feature of colloquial and non-standard speech of every region in the UK. Historically, it was used almost as a badge by members of the educated upper-class, as in Huntin, Shootin and Fishin. This was a standard speech pattern at one time, as in this small example from John Gay’s 1732 pastoral, Acis and Galatea, set to music by Handel:

Shepherd, what art thou pursuing,
Heedless running to thy ruin?

… which only works if you drop the g in pursuin.

That said, learning to pronounce the language properly isn’t some sort of elitist, posh badge. Would you rather speak French like a Parisian newsreader or a Marseillaise docker? The reality, of course, is that well before that point, you have to learn how to speak the language properly. By comparison, the same could be said for the late musical comedians Victor Borge or Les Dawson. To play the piano badly, you need first to play it well. Any other route smacks of laziness. I have friends who G-drop, but then they tend to be posh in the manner of Sir Percy Blakeney – they’re often hiding their many skills and intelligence behind a disarming affectation.

However, Alex Scott is charmin and she is amusin and she works well with Clare Baldin who acts as an intelligent foil to her “oiky kid sister” act. How much longer the 36 yo can go on playin the role of the cheeky kid whos’ down with the ‘hood, only time will tell. Still and all, they made me smile when together, and the sport they presented was, in the main, pretty damn good.

The exceptional moments of insight were mostly from those who had never been lazy, who had practised and competed and who Knew. When Michael Johnson said how disappointed he was with the USA athletics performance overall, you sat up and listened. I hadn’t really noticed the failing Yanks, but his great voice and his obvious, and up-to-date knowledge were so engaging, that within moments you knew sufficient to declaim the USA’s performance. He knew everyone, he’d spoken to them all, he had an insight into at least half a dozen training camps. He knew the score precisely, and he wrote his material beautifully.

Similarly, when asked what his memories might be of the games, Chris Hoy was extraordinarily succinct and expressed a concern many of us must had felt, but could not express when he said he would remember the emotions. He didn’t know why, perhaps the release after Covid, perhaps the Games finally happening, perhaps the absence of friends and family, perhaps the insularity of the Athletes village, perhaps their youth, but he said with no hint of anything other perhaps sympathy, that he had noticed that so many people had cried. They sobbed when they won and when they came second or last. When they crashed or got wiped out by some numpty. They cried entirely reasonably, (I know I would), when they got torn up, or wrenched, or bruised, or broken. Yes, of course, it was a bit like that at Rio and London and Beijing – but I don’t remember it as being so constantly soggy. I seem to remember more joy and more laughter, and not quite so much relief and upset, and not quite such a desperate desire to get back home.

But I enjoyed it a lot and yes, even Capt. Bloody-Grumpy had a few moments when the old eyes moistened. But now it’s over, so everybody should really get back to doin some workin, like typin and countin thins and fillin in thins and filin. If you’re very good, on Saturdays, you can do some bettin on my tippin. I hope winnin too, ‘cos I want to go winin and dinin with the old Bag fer Life, down the rub-a-dub.

1:45 NEWBURY Denford Stakes (aka The Washington Singer Stakes) Cl1 (2yo) 7f

BAYSIDE BOY won his 7f Newbury debut by 3¼l and this 200kGn ytearling wasn’t even tapped to pull clear. SEATTLE KING won his Salisbury debut by 1½l over 7f albeit he ran green for the first five and then had to be ridden. When the switch clicked “on” he took the lead in the final furlong and won readily. He’ll be in plenty of 2022 notebooks over 1m. The favourite is MASEKELA who was 2nd in the G2 Superlative run on GF, 5th in the Chesham (wrong ground?) and for whom there is an argument that he might have won the Superlative if he’d got going earlier. At around 11/8 that’s too much Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda about him and the ground.


2:00 NEWMARKET (JULY) MansionBet Bet £10 Get £20 Fillies’ Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 1m6f

William Haggas MIDRAAR ran and won well on Tapeta at Wolverhampton LTO, but might possibly prefer more cut. Pam Sly’s EILEENDOVER has merit as a selection as does MAKAWEE.

MIDRAAR Win and MAKAWEE bet w/o MIDRAAR at 6/1 and ½pt RFC

2:20 NEWBURY BetVictor Geoffrey Freer Stakes (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m5½f

HUKUM, winner of the G3 Silver Cup at York, comes back to attempt the double, having won this last year off a mark of 97. This year he’s got top-weight and a mark of 114, but on various form lines both PABLO ESCOBARR (a G3 winner at Goodwood last year) and RED VERDON might offer some value, and on trends, GOLDEN PASS looks the one to frighten but not beat…


2:35 NEWMARKET (JULY) MansionBet Bet £10 Get £20 Grey Horse Hcap Cl4 (3yo+ 0-85) 6f

Some races and a few race meetings are great spectacles and provide a marker in the passage of time. For me, the Grey’s Race is such a race. We’re about ¾ of the way through the season. We’ve got the big 2yo races and some big G1s and then Champions Day, Arc, Breeders Cup. It’s a lovely race too for the sentimental and those with long memories. Six years ago there was GEORGE BOWEN winning it, and he’s back again today and only 3lb shy of his winning mark then. CASE KEY won the race in 2017 and 2019, MY AMIGO won in 2018 and MY STYLE returns to try and win back to backs. In fact, Eve Johnson-Houghton’s charge had his first career win in this race in 2020 and then won again next time out at Ascot. He has done nothing of note since, but his last two runs have hinted at a return to form, including a fourth at Bath, having completely missed the break. He then ran into DEVIL’S ANGEL giving a 1lb and was beaten 2½l. He now meets the DA on 3lb better terms; is now 2lb lighter than his last winning mark and benefits from Georgia Dobie’s 5lb allowance. All in all, I like his chances.


2:55 NEWBURY BetVictor Hcap Cl3 (3yo+ 0-95) 7f

ARATUS is looking to give Clive Cox a hat-trick having won at Donny LTO (following a wind-op) by 7½l. This despite pulling hard and carrying a 7lb penalty and taking time to pull up. This is a very good horse masquerading as a handicapper. Another hat-trick seeker is SUNSET BAY who looks progressive and won LTO at Sandown on the faster ground she seems to prefer. However, this is a stronger race and she gets an extra 9lbs by way of an anchor. MAGICAL WISH also has my attention, but I fear that he might just be a decent handicapper. AJYALL has merit as the trends horse and the drop back to 7f should be noted. A tricky race made even trickier because every time I crunch the numbers JACKS POINT keeps showing up. He can’t win it… surely? Has Clover finally unlocked the door to his success? No.


3:10 RIPON William Hill Silver Trophy Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 6f

I have three against the field here snd they are TRUE BLUE MOON – I AM A DREAMER – TROUBADOR. The first of those has looked to be coming into form this last couple of times, and given the unsuitable ground LTO he ran pretty well. He has been dropped 2lbs and is now 1lbs below his last winning mark and his pilot is 2/6 on board. I AM A DREAMER  This horse was beaten 2l into 6th in this race last year and is 6lb lower now. The horse likes the course and his draw allows him to pick the best ground. TROUBADOUR benefits from a high draw which some people claim is indispensable (I think not and that it is ground dependent). He seems on the best of his form to be well-handicapped and I am the first to admit this is a dice throw. He will or he won’t and the booking of Mulrennan shows intent.


3:30 NEWBURY BetVictor Hungerford Stakes (G2) Cl1 (3yo+) 7f

The trends suggest the following D’BAI, AL SUHAIL, TACTICAL, MOTAKHAYYEL, and the entire race has the feel of being wide open.

D’BAI is clearly Charlie Appleby’s second string, but around 20s for his decent form line seems out of kilter. He ran third in a 7f Listed her last September and goes well after a break and on good to firm ground and will handle seven furlongs. Charlie’s other and principal runner is AL SUHAIL who is no value. TACTICAL is already a G2 winner and started this season winning the European Free Handicap off 107 for which he got 5lbs. Since then various grounds and distances have conspired against him and it could be that he is a Listed horse best on a fast 7f. Today will tell if that is true and he might make a podium. MOTAKHAYYEL is progressive, won the Bunbury Cup and he is a high-class colt. That race is a very strong one for form lines and 9/2 might look generous by 3:35 pm. LINE OF DEPARTURE is a value e/w bet at 12/1 for 4 places with Skybet and others.


3:45 RIPON William Hill Great St Wilfrid Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 6f

I have this, on trends, down to six and they are in racecard order 1-2-5-7-8-9. BRAD THE BRIEF is a class horse and has decent form – but a bit of weight. LAMPANG is being backed like a good thing based one suspects on the fact that he coulda shoulda woulda won The Stewards Cup but blew the start. Faster ground and a bit of pace around him will help and he benefits from Silvestre de Sousa. INTRINSIC BOND has been backed this morning and if you can get 6 places for 12/1, I think you’ll have some insurance. SOLDIER’S MINUTE was 4th in the Ayr Gold Cup last September which followed up a close second at the Ebor meeting in York. Those were both off 4lbs pounds higher than today and he has been showing signs of a return to form. STAXTON is a logical choice and GALE FORCE MAYA has been backed. The trouble with all of these is that they are all pretty obvious and offer no real value – and in many cases have been backed. I have – to be totally transparent – already backed MUSCIKA, but that’s because he owes me money from York LTO, and because I don’t trust David O’Meara not to have laid him out for this! I have the same level of plotting respect for Quinny, but as MR WAGYU has been talked about everywhere, the value has now gone and the secret, if there ever was one, is well beyond the whispering grasses. He is now the favourite. Last year’s winner, STAXTON is looking for back-to-back victories, (last done by Pepper Lane a decade ago)  but he is friendless at the top of the market – pinked out everywhere. Overall, the draw doesn’t appear to help, and I would keep an eye out on the consolation race less than 40 minutes earlier, to see how that race unfolds. The answer might be to keep it simple.

LAMPANG – INTRINSIC BOND – GALE FORCE MAYA dutched. At current prices that would return 9/4 the three



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