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22nd April 2024 10:35 pm

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

My old gender-neutralised friend – and nobody even bothered to ask …

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Some of you will know that on Tuesdays, after tea, I often indulge in a spot of PR and Nowcomms, if only to keep the boot-fags in dubbin and the Crumpet-wallah in proper honey. Thus I am aware, because I hang with my crew and the kids, that all is not well down in the Twitter‘hood or with my FBFs.

As far as I can make out, Facebook owns Australia and because Aussies are rude and not nearly cool enough for Californian Techgods, they must pay Facebook for every kilowatt of sun they use and pay America to write about it. Meanwhile, the Test Cricketers think the Lady Cricketers are not proper chaps because if they were they wouldn’t make snotty comments about playing a full four-innings test match, in the same length of time that it takes an average Indian to consume a Samosa. Prince Harry has ridden a bus and been cool, but still managed to complain – all the time – thus creating the little breadcrumb trails that will become Oprah and Corden’s Clickbait – Queen buys Archie Waffle-Maker – click to get one just like it. At almost the same time as HazMeg are doing their not-for-profit interpretation of public service, and considerably more worrying, the Myanmar military has simply shut the Internet down, rather than let people film the bullets flying.

In other words, just when I started to wish the whole bloody thing would go away, because of the huge and extraordinarily wide-spread harm that it does, along comes a reason not to let that happen.

Nowhere is this net conflict so apparent, so stupid, so irrelevant, and so twisted, as the ruction caused by a very old friend of mine from over 65 years ago. In 1956, he was essentially a box that contained hands, feet, ears, two mouth options, two pairs of eyes, four noses, three hats, eyeglasses, a pipe, and eight felt pieces, to represent anything from a comb-over to a full syrup. You stuck your perfect combination of these body-parts, into a spud, parsnip, carrot, cabbage, (oranges and apples were simply too precious) and you often kept this item of mirth and friendship, until the spud started rotting, or it grew warts. I and the siblings had several and we all broke bits, lost pieces, dropped ears, feet even eyes which were never found. I remember my father going to the hospital to have removed a shattered ear embedded in his foot.

Good old Mr Potato Head. He was invented by Brooklyn-born George Lerner, who had no song-writing relations, and he sold it to the Hassenfeld Brothers, later Hasbro. He was the first toy advertised on TV, and in 1951 they sold over 1m boxes. He was given a wife in 1952, alongside Mr Potato Head’s “Brother Spud” and “Sister Yam.” There was – although I never saw them – a huge range of accessories including a car, boat trailer, and a kitchen set. In the late 60s, H&S got to work, and Hasbro put Mr Potato Head’s face and body parts on less sharp, more kid-friendly pegs. Too late for my father, but he might have been grateful. Then, as kids became weaker – or spuds got stronger – Hasbro decided to include a plastic potato “body” in each kit, and in 1975 they doubled his size to make the toy even safer for kids. In 1985, Mr Potato Head received four votes for mayor of Boise, Idaho, a campaign that won the Guinness World Record for “most votes for Mr Potato Head in a political campaign.”

In 1987, the character became a “Spokespud” for the annual Great American Smokeout, surrendering his signature pipe in an effort to get with the times. He even featured in an ambitious art installation after Hasbro commissioned Rhode Island artists to paint 37 six-foot Mr Potato Head statues to honour the toy’s home state. Sadly, the statues gave off toxic fumes, sending several artists to hospital with respiratory infections and topical burns. In 1995, Mr Potato Head made his film debut in Toy Story after a huge legal row with Pixar. According to a 1995 Associated Press newswire, the film had a major impact on classic toy sales, prompting parents who played with toys like Mr Potato Head, Slinky and Etch A Sketch, to buy the shiny new Toy Story-inspired versions for the next generation. The AP reported that Hasbro expected Mr Potato Head sales to rise at least 25% after the movie’s premiere—and this was way before the Toy Story sequels.

Then like the characters in Toy Story, the concepts and the drawings and all the bits got put into the Forgotten Cupboard – until the brilliant Ms Kimberley Boyd said to the bosses: “You know what we need – we need to be Woke. Let’s kill Mr, let’s do in Mrs. Let’s have no more boobs, lipstick, or crotch bulging. No. We’re on the side of transgender children everywhere and we care!”

Huzzah, they went………. and all the billions of little fingers on Facebook and Twitter and Instasnapwebshag started promoting the sale of more plastic and all was well. That is, apart from all the brain-dead loonies who think 16 hours of screen-time is life, who said “We’re going to kill you all because we love Jesus and he hates transgender spuds.” Simultaneously the Californian coast screamed in fury: “We’re going to kill you all because you’re not taking our peaceful desires to be asexual seriously and that’s what Gaia wants.”

But providing there are twitter-storms and there are brains like Kimberley’s, whatever the world throws at the Potato Head clan, they seem guaranteed another five-year opportunity to give fathers everywhere a dull throbbing pain from sitting down too quickly on a potato’s missing pieces.

Talking of a pain in the backside, here are today’s tips:

1:50 KEMPTON Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f

Paul Nicholls has won 10 of the last 24 runnings of this, a race you might think would point to Cheltenham glory. Actually, the ones that head to Chelty, generally have a poor record and most bypass the Festival and head to Aintree. That said, it is worth just keeping an eye out for the first two placers appearing in the Festival handicaps, but only an eye. In trends terms, 20/24 had a top 2 finish LTO, which eliminates all bar the favourite who is trained by….. correct


2:05 LINGFIELD (AW) Betway Hever Sprint Stakes Cl1 (4yo+) 5f

If I had to have a bet in this it would be a tiny e/w investment in LORD RIDDIFORD who meets some of the trends and who has just enough profile to win this. ROYAL BIRTH won this in 2017, was second in 2019 and is still capable of earning a living. MOSS GILL has got Class 1 winning form, and a string of almosts in Nunthorpe, Rous and others. Still 10lbs shy of his last winning AW mark and at a skinny price, I sort of don’t care who wins.


2:25 KEMPTON Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (4yo) 2m

The Adonis is a moderately good Triumph trial, and over the years the first three past the post have tended to have proved useful. Apart from The Triumph, it is also worth noting those going on to contest the Fred Winter, (HONNEUR D’AJONC holds an entry for example). Of the last 24 winners, none was priced higher than 9/1 and 22/24 had a top 3 finish LTO or were making their debut. That would leave me with just four, and I am uninclined to throw out MARGARET’S LEGACY who won both her French hurdles from the front. She tends to idle in the front, and inexperience can be seen in her jumping, but equally, she has had nothing really to keep her mind on the game. As a result, she perhaps looks weaker than I think she is, and when she is given the gee-up she responds. She is a decent e/w price for this. So that leaves three to choose the winner from. Kingy had this race planned as TRITONIC’s starting point for a pop at The Triumph but found himself with a horse spitting muscle, vim and vigour so had him entered at Ascot. He took his time reeling in the long-time leader in that race, but there was plenty to like about him and on better ground, he could be a very different animal.


2:40 LINGFIELD (AW) Betway Winter Derby Stakes (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m2f

Hooray… The Winter Derby. There are perhaps times, maybe in a howling storm, when standing on the bow of a sinking ship, with the jagged, crooked, granite edges of the reef’s fingers, beckoning one towards an agonising, chilly, wet and lonely death, with one’s screams unheard in the maelstrom of the storm’s noise, when perhaps one questions the futility of it all and question the existence of God. This £31k race, which celebrates the triumph of marketing over purpose, perhaps proves that there is a God and that he has a very dry sense of humour. No Bet.

3:00 KEMPTON Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m

Emmett Mullins brings over CAPE GENTLEMAN who looked very comfortable on his hurdling debut over 2½m and was a mess when pu over 30f in the G1 at the Dublin Racing Festival. He was thought of well enough beforehand to be sent off at 8/1 against the Ballymore favourite, in which he also has an entry and another for the Albert Barlett, so I have no clue as to what he is doing, being run over the minimum – which he’s not done before. I’m inclined to swerve him because I think this is a bit of conditioning after which he’ll be boxed up and kept here for the Festival.  (The same thing is possibly planned for Emmett’s charge, The Shunter, who has an entry for a Kelso handicap hurdle next Saturday). The favourite is ATHOLL STREET and I could make a cogent case for his winning, but I also suspect he’ll be beaten by the Skelton’s CALICO who will love this drying ground and who was, only last September, just 3l off the winner in the German St Leger. I’m also looking forward to seeing how LUNAR SOVEREIGN runs for Fergal O’Brien’s yard. He’s in my notebook, but it just says, “Stay on his good side.” More Gin scribbling or serious note of intent?


3:15 NEWCASTLE Vertem Eider Handicap Chase Cl2 (5yo+) 4m1½f

This is a huge distance and CROSSPARK won this 2019 (the last time it was run), and he has done enough this year to suggest that his intended target is achievable again. Drying ground won’t be a problem. CYCLOP has some appeal from a yard in good form, an interesting jockey booking, and he won’t mind the ground. THE DUTCHMAN might have been a selection, but this is a slog and I’d rather let him get his confidence back after his LTO fall.


3:35 KEMPTON Close Brothers Handicap Chase (G3) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m

You have to mind out for the Tizzard team in this race and I spy AL DANCER here, who I seem to remember considering – before dismissing – for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. A quick use of the Search box (up there on the top left corner of your screen), will always let me find horses mentioned in any of these columns, and I remember thinking how well he’d done to avoid a 5th fence faller. However, he had enough time to recover I thought, but he still only managed ninth. This is a step-up in distance, and given how much he likes Cheltenham I wonder whether he might favour the Sinister – although the ground’s drying will surely help. That just makes 7s look skinny to me. I’ll be interested if he makes 10s. You’ve got to fancy MISTER MALARKY  who won the race last year with a mark of 147. His claimer will make something of a difference, but it’s the improving ground that will improve his chances most. Drying ground is also a massive plus for the chances of FINGERONTHESWITCH, who was a C&D winner in January 2020. He went ½l 2nd in The Skybet Chase at Donny, and he can be considered.  SOUTHFIELD STONE has never been out of the places in his six chase runs, and he has an RPR of 147+ and his OR of 143 gives him every chance.


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