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21st April 2024 9:05 pm

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

Not quite cricket old/young/ageless chap/girl/non-binary.

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The recovery from Ascot saw me watching the 2nd Ashes Test on Sky or listening to TMS, and in both cases, as I gave my liver a rest by drinking anything but Rose, I found myself gently ticking with the constant jibes in commentary from historical giants of the game such as Michael Vaughan and Aggers. These people who have given real cricket fans so much pleasure over the years hate Bazball. In case you didn’t know, this is the press nickname for a style of play coined by ESPN’s Cricinfo UK editor Andrew Miller, after the Kiwi-born England coach “Baz” McCullum. The “Bazball” style and mindset places the team’s emphasis on taking positive decisions in attack and defence, whether batting or in the field – much as teams might do in limited over and One-Day Internationals.

This style of play flies in the face of the traditional approach of the five-day test players such as Vaughan or from an earlier era Geoffrey Boycott, a man who can bore as much at the crease as he does away from it. Every commentator, except for Phil Tufnell, who struggles to be nasty about anyone, slammed Root, Stokes, Bairstow and even Broad for their reckless approach to every element of the game. Field- settings are too aggressive, shots are too careless, wicket-keeping is woeful, and even the bowling is thoughtless. Everybody could do better by doing less, and it’s all down to England trying to win rather than play safe.

These former players forget that it was ultimately their relentless dullness over long periods of time that led to the development of ODIs and limited-over series. The negative impact those series have had on team availability, the formation of specialist leagues, the victory of prize money, and TV rights over national status have all contributed to the game’s current state. Never mind – they know best; let’s go back to the good old days when English cricket lovers could take comfort from a solid 53-run partnership off 248 balls.

Meanwhile, Shk Abdullah Al-Malek Al-Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, had a meltdown over the running of Asadna in The Coventry Stakes, leading to him withdrawing all his horses from George Boughey – something he has done before when dissatisfied. In brief, Asadna was carrying a cut to his shoulder discovered on the Friday at the four-day stage. The owner allegedly said, “…don’t run him”, and trainer George Boughey did. The BHA had been kept fully informed, and all the vets involved concurred the horse was OK to race. As a result of his coming ninth, however, the commentators launched their Exocets. The ensuing row is whether the BHA and/or the Trainer should inform the betting public – who fund this entire and increasingly wobbly edifice – of information that might be perceived as price-sensitive.

One part of me says yes – but then the natural extension of that is to be told whether Frankie Dettori has constipation or whether Charlie Deutsch was at a wedding party yesterday evening. Did every horse in a yard with an entry eat-up? Did two of the horses have snot pouring out? Has a yard with race-entries got Rape growing next door to their gallops or boxes? Have they just lost three work riders, and the trainer now has one lad per three dozen horses? The obvious solution is that we should demand that trainers fill out a two-page report on every horse with an entry, which should be updated four-hourly in 24 hours before a race. This would ensure that punters know all there is to understand. Trainers could employ millions of scribes, and articled clerks, and training fees could be doubled or trebled in the case of yards of the size of Mullins, Elliot, Nicholls and Henderson.

In these two very different and very “English” sports, the relentless and often critical examination of all the participants and the involved authorities can only ultimately lead to questioning the sport itself. I do slightly wonder if, in the present socio-economic atmosphere, some of these wounds will ever heal and worse – even if in a trillionth part – I might bear some partial responsibility.

Talking of perfect worlds in which transparency not only comes at a cost but as the parent of unintended consequences – here are the tips for Saturday.

12:20 NEWCASTLE (AW) JenningsBet Festival Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 6f 9 run


12:40 NEWMARKET Maureen Brittain Memorial Empress Fillies’ Stks Cl1 (2yo) 6f 10 run

STAR OF MYSTERY looked decent when winning with some ease at Haydock recently and should theoretically follow up in this. She was beaten on her debut by the Albany Stakes favourite Carla’s Way (8th), but I’m not sure her form lines are solid. Instead, I’m taking a chance on DENRUTH DIAMOND, who won in France LTO, and the first-time cheekpieces will probably save her a furlong of running around off a straight line!


12:55 NEWCASTLE (AW) JenningsBet Chipchase Stks (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 6f 8 run

Wide Open – any of the first six in the betting could take this. I’m not convinced WITCH HUNTER wouldn’t have won at Royal Ascot regardless of Spencer’s piloting, and he’s certainly capable of following up here with Kingscote in the plate.


1:15 NEWMARKET Cavani Menswear Sartorial Sprint Fred Archer Stks Cl1 (4yo+) 1m4f 5 run

St Leger runner-up NEW LONDON will be a short price to land this, but I favour AL AASY, and I’m also sticking in exotics with PHANTOM FLIGHT, who will do better over this longer trip.

AL AASY 3 pts Win – Selection and favourite to beat PHANTOM FLIGHT 2 x ½ pt RFC

1:30 NEWCASTLE (AW) JenningsBet Northumberland Vase Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 2m½f 14 run

CITIZEN GENERAL loves the course. R3 – W2 – 1P


1:50 NEWMARKET Cavani Menswear Fashion Face-Off Frenzy Criterion Stks (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 7f 6 run

I bet ALDAARY won’t run on this ground if there is no rain on Saturday morning – and he’s also too short, so I’d take a chance with POGO, who’ll handle any ground. I know he ran like a dog in the Queen Anne -but this represents a drop in class. He won this race by a well-controlled two lengths, and his Newmarket track record is 7R 4W 3P, and he has never been out of the top two. If ALDAARY doesn’t run, POGO won’t be this price, so back him now. Do JUMBY for the forecast and BERKSHIRE SHADOW, who is not a G1 Ascot horse, as this race is closer to his ability level.

POGO 4 Pts win – 1 pt RFC each with JUMBY and BERKSHIRE SHADOW

2:05 NEWCASTLE (AW) JenningsBet Northumberland Plate Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 2m½f 19 run

POST IMPRESSIONIST was the early favourite for this but has drifted to the third spot. He was an easy winner at York over 14f and looked like this extra 2f wouldn’t be an issue, but I suspect the absence of a recent run perturbed the early punters. There is something of a trend for seasonal; debut winners (WITHOLD 2018), and indeed, in the last ten years, seven winners have had a maximum of two seasonal runs.I am also concerned by his weight burden as he is effectively 13 lbs higher than LTO, considering his 5lb claimer. I was surprised to see that OMNISCIENT wasn’t a favourite especially as he comes from the wiliest Handicap Master of them all, especially as Sir Mark Prescott’s recent hot form suggests he knows which end is up. 6/10 in May, and his June record, as I write, is 31R-12W-4P. The horse has never been further than 12d before, but he is considered Sir Mark’s best Ebor chance and has an entry for the Bet365 Handicap over 14f on 14th July at Newmarket. The trip doesn’t worry me because he is a half-brother to Dashing Willoughby, who won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the 2m Henry II Stakes at Sandown. The Pace history for this race suggests that it should go to a hold-up horse – but I wonder whether Jenny Candlish might not ask Graham Lee just to hit the front and not stop with MATCHLESS. At the moment, you can get 80/1 for six places, and that’s worth a slight lottery-style touch in support of the Maestro that is Sir Mark. LAW OF THE SEA also went into the notebook, having been the subject of a gamble for The Ascot Stakes. Before that, he ran well in the Chester Cup – again getting 4th – and he’s not a shoddy price.

OMNISCIENT 3½ pts e/w – LAW OF THE SEA 2 pts e/w – MATCHLESS 1 pt e/w – ¼pt CFC the three.



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