One of my favourite readers, Mrs Banshee from Kent, sent me a kindly and charming note outlining her concern at my Aga woes. The Aga, she wrote, is not for cooking… “Rather it is for drying one’s knickers on, as everyone who has one knows”. Now call me old-fashioned, but when very attractive women start discussing their nether-wear with semi-retired cads by post, there is always a small sense of flirtation. The old ticker starts over and for a few brief moments, (I use the word in its true sense), the step has spring in it; indeed the observer might think that a certain jauntiness – shy of swagger, but jaunty nonetheless – attends the general demeanour. Idle thoughts become half-plans become dreams, but then the voice of reason cries WHOA! All those medications, all that containment, all that discomfort. Just stop, I tell myself, you need your sleep. Keep that homely vision of the drying lace and file it away, marked “Too Much – Too Late. Much too late.”
Talking of too late, I gather that there is a certain amount of red-faced sniggering in the Wetherby’s naming department, after the apparently innocent, Homemade Andrea, sneaked past the gatekeepers. Trained by Robert Eddery and owned by the Horseshoe Bay, Weatherby’s now know that the naming is apparently, a not-so-oblique reference to a highly personal form of stimulating video entertainment, favoured by some. As I write the horse just ran at Lingfield. I don’t know the result yet, but I do wonder, given its name, whether it is better than it comes first – or last; or even whether we should be pleased if it goes down by a length?
On the subject of being First Among Equals, my man in the 1922 front office, suggests that there is sufficient groundswell for a preemptive strike against Augustus and Livia at No X. Soundings are being taken at the Constituency level this weekend and by Wednesday, he is expecting definitive news. Two Midlands constituency associations have already instructed their MPs to send their letters in. During the gossip maelstrom, an odd mention was made en passant for Steve Baker, which I find barely credible. However, at 50/1 to be the next leader, he is more interesting than Rishi Sunak. I just ask that if you punt on the market, ONLY play it on the Betfair Exchange, so that you can take advantage of the ability to close your position after – say – the second round of voting. Personally, I think BJ will resign at the beginning of the summer recess, leaving him as PM for the Jubilee.
Am I alone in thinking that having just 27 horses running in the first five races on TV on Saturday is uninspiring? They’re racing for some pretty decent prize money, but neither the competition nor the competitive nature of small-field racing, bodes well for a sport ridiculously dedicated almost entirely to four days in March. It beggars belief that five televised races draw an average of five runners. The sponsors must be thrilled.
Having mentioned sponsorship, if I hear another “racing expert” opine that the reason the Gold Cup remains unsponsored, is because Cheltenham is seen as the epicentre of the March 2020 Pandemic, I shall explode. It was no more a superspreader than the football internationals, Indian weddings, April Bar Mitzvahs and all the rest of the myriad social-media-driven accusatory tosh that passes for Science-driven fact. We had a thousand planes a day landing in Britain, we had cruise ships, tour buses and a hundred and one other activities that introduced The Coughing Man to his fellow traveller The Sneezing Woman. Cheltenham started fully two weeks before the Lockdown began. I’m not belittling C19’s impact or its associated miseries, but blaming the horseracing industry (and worse, repeating it), at this point is a fruitless and silly exercise unless you’re prepared to deal with the systemic root of the problem… The Chinese 100 Year Plan. And we have neither the willpower, manpower nor funds to do that.
Talking of providing copious amounts of information that can only help our enemies, here are Barry Gardiner’s £½m worth of racing tips.
Not a great result last week. You might remember we started on Jan 1st with 1000 pts and after NYD we were +36.13. WE closed down last week and the balance was +25.13. Our new punting rules suggest a maximum stake of 2%, which gives us 20.50 pts for today – of which I think we’ve punted 20 pts.
1:18 WARWICK Alder Demain & Akers PMS Oxford Edward Courage Cup Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+) 2m 4 run
As Jonathan Ross might say, “He’s underweighted”. See what I did there?
BRAVE SEASCA 3 pts Win
1:32 KEMPTON Coral “Fail-To-Finish” Free Bets Hcap Chs Cl3 (5yo+ 0-140) 2m4½f 7 run
KAP AUTEUIL is an improving type and was seeking a five-timer at Cheltenham in a 2m C2 0-150 handicap. He met Editeur du Gite that day who, (together with Stolen Silver), gave the field a spanking. In a less demanding race LTO at Fontwell over 22f he came good and liked the step up in trip and the going. CHAMPAGNE COURT is close to his fighting weight and his tongue-tie did the trick LTO – it’s close between the two on my book. TWENTY TWENTY needs more than a little schooling to correct his sometimes woeful jumping. Still and all, I can get 3 places at 14/1 on him and 4 places at 11/1. That’s a 50/50 shout on a Gary Moore runner who simply needs to jump better…. just saying. You could make a case for FOXBORO who coulda, shoulda won on Boxing Day but jumped like a boiled egg. However, a little digging suggests that while he is officially wearing cheekpieces for the second time, he did in fact wear them when running and winning in France. He’s over a stone shy of his last winning French mark. Finally, don’t let me put you off LOCKS CORNER… tittle-tattle suggests Jonjo thinks he knows the secret to unlock success here. Personally, I’ll wait and see.
KAP AUTEUIL 2 pts win
1:50 WARWICK Wigley Group Hampton Nov’ Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m 5 run
THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE only gets a 5lb penalty for taking a Donny G2 LTO, while MINT CONDITION probably needs worse ground than he gets today. He has ability in spades, but I’d rather it was Heavy and 26f to see him at his best. MOSSY FEN is also worth noting on debut for Christian Williams. He was 5th in G1 Ballymore having run out of puff, and his chasing debut at Cheltenham gave one room to hope. Again at Cheltenham, he was pulled up LTO having jumped right for most of his journey and perhaps NTD wouldn’t have been sorry to see him go. That said he’s young and has obviously shown some ability…
THREEUNDERHTRUFIVE 2pts Win
2:05 KEMPTON Coral Silviniaco Conti Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f 4 run
It’s a very tight little market and the contestants are all capable of winning this on the day. DEFI DU SEUL is now 8lb lighter than his last winning mark, ROUGE VIF is at his last winning weight, the other pair are within 4 or 5 lbs of their mark. They can all handle the ground, although ELDORADO ALLEN is probably better suited to extremes of going. He is no fan of holding ground, but this might be drying out. He is the only one with seasonal form, but then MISTER FISHER could take it if back to his Peterborough-winning best, ROUGE VIF must surely improve on that first Paul Nicholls run…
2:25 WARWICK Ballymore Leamington Nov’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m5f 7 run
Let’s start at the wrong end of the market. SCIPION’s form sheet shows he’s been mixing it with a lot of talent in his career to date. He split Jetoile and Another Crick LTO, the latter going on to win his next and Jetoile coming a 12l second to Constitution Hill in The Tolworth. At the other end of the market is STAG HORN from Archie Watson. What I hear you exclaim! Archie Watson the Lambourn Flat trainer? Wait one, says I. Did you know that Archie’s strike in NH races since July 2019 is over 24%? That his Hurdles record is 30R – 7W – 4p? No, my dears, STAG HORN is proper, has a real engine, will handle the ground and providing (and I emphasis the word) he is settled down and isn’t allowed to get to blazey up front, I think he could hose this. GENTLEMAN AT ARMS could be anything, his Huntingdon victory was facilitated by the favourite falling over 3 out. If I had money to burn I’d have the two rags placed in exotics with STAG HORN taking the honours.
STAG HORN 2pts Win.
2:40 KEMPTON Coral Lanzarote Hcap Hdl Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f 20 run
It seems to me that Evan Williams has become this season’s big handicap thief – and then again, maybe he was doing it last year as well, and we just didn’t notice. He’s got his daughter (I assume) Isabel on DANS LE VENT today who is on my shortlist and Sean Bowen on a second shot, BOLD PLAN. This one is wearing first-time cheekpieces and the jockey has won on him before. DANS LE VENT ran a blinder in the Relkeel on New Year’s Day. On this ground, I could also make a case for FOSTERS ISLAND – WILLIAM HENRY and HIGHWAY ONE O TWO, but I won’t.
DANS LE VENT 1pt e/w – BOLD PLAN 1pt e/w
3:00 WARWICK Agetur UK Ltd Classic Hcap Chs (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m5f 15 run
NOTACHANCE and ACHILLE battled this out last year coming first and second. GAME LINE and CHIRICO VALLIS will handle the ground and look the wrong price. Of the two the better value is with GAME LINE and you’ll be able to get five places with at least three bookies at 1/5 odds. Dr Newlands is having a decent spell at the moment and runs MINELLA ENCORE. He won well at Ludlow LTO having had the blinkers and a tongue-tie fitted, both of which he gets again today. 14s looks value. NO REMATCH comes from Evan Williams yard and this looks like a very badly-kept secret if early evening market activity is anything to go by. My fear is that the ground might not be boggy enough although the distance might take the edge off that in stamina terms.
MINELLA ENCORE 1 pt e/w
(5 plcs with WHill, Skybet, and PaddyP)
3:15 KEMPTON Coral Committed To Safer Gambling Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+ 0-150) 3m 8 run
CARIBEAN BOY has been selected before and I’ve had longer fun eating an ice cream in the Gobi Desert than I did watching his first fence fall LTO. He’s obviously talented but when and where will we see it? My biggest fear is KITTYS LIGHT, who is another talented young horse, but who is a lightning conductor for trouble. Still and all he was 2nd in the Charlie Hall and still gets in here with 9lbs less if you include his useful claimer, Jack Tudor. All he has to do is stay out of trouble.
KITTY’S LIGHT 2pts win
3:35 WARWICK Pertemps Network Hcap Hdl (Qualifier) Cl2 (5yo+) 3m1f ITV4
ALA PHILLIPE 3pts win