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20th May 2024 11:56 am

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

Racing, Footy and a Freebie!

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William S – MEJi – Peter N – Nigel B – Ken C – Mark S – James D – William M – Fiona M – Julian A – Jonathan H – Mrs V.M – Pete BN – Gavin C – Thom S – Sarah C – Mark S – Sam H – James R

What a week. The Aga saga, which has moved on to the construction of the Kneesup Kitchen at the Chateau d’If, took a turn for the worse with the installation of the quartz worktops. The kitchen supply company had outsourced the installation to, one assumes, the same people who might typically come around and “do your drive”, fit new double-glazing, sell you a “security system”, steal your dog and love nothing more than a bit of illegal coursing. Not one of the up-stands was fitted properly, the joints all stood proud of their neighbour, the ends had not been bevelled and so on and so forth. It will be resolved, but it has probably added two weeks to the time scales at precisely the wrong time of year.

My mood when discovering this snafu was possibly not helped by the new Cheltenham Citizens Charter, or some similarly worded nonsense, whereby the racecourse management came up with a brilliant plan to resolve the issue of perambulating drunks that the people of Cheltenham and The Gloucestershire Constabulary apparently have, post-Festival.

As a quick aside, it is perhaps important when negotiating to understand who is on the other side of the table. Cheltenham Borough Council has 31 Liberal Democrat members, 6 Conservatives, 2 representing the People Against Bureaucracy group, and 1 Green Party. On 5 June 2022, Liberal Democrat councillor Wendy Flynn defected to the Green Party, and in September, the mayor, Sandra Holliday, was suspended from the Liberal Democrats for 12 months for bullying. Thus one assumes that The Jockey Club realised that the local Council, while possibly being a tremendously jolly bunch, are probably not racing fans (nor indeed are they likely supporters of the countryside, trail-hunting, shooting, game-fishing, stalking, etc.).

Anyway, the racecourse agreed with CBC and Old Bill to direct ALL the cars to Bristol or Cardiff (or even Cornwall if your windscreen wipers weren’t working properly). Quite how causing a two-hour traffic jam is either a plausible, a green, or even a sensible option is beyond me. How does it stop drunks from urinating in Mrs Snodgrass’ front garden?  Additionally, the Trainers’ and Bookmakers’ car park next to the horsebox park had been messed about, so they were also hacked off.  All this tinkering seems to be aimed at resolving a problem which is essentially caused by Cheltenham’s bar staff selling alcohol to intoxicated ticket-holders – which I’m sure is illegal under normal licencing laws. I’m beginning to miss lock-down, where I could have a very reasonably priced pint of Guinness, a warm pasty, a fast and working internet signal that didn’t try to guide me to an approved bookmaker, and a perfect view of the racing.

Talking of wishing one had stayed at home, my man at the hospital tells me that there was a 20 per cent jump in the number of over 65-year-olds being diagnosed with STIs in England between 2017 and 2019. The Local Government Association didn’t include data from 2020 and 2021 in their figures since figures reported in those years are notably lower due to the reconfiguration of Sexual Health Services during the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So one assumes that they all stayed at home… but no. In fact, there were four million sexual health consultations in 2021, up 36%. I asked him how the old stoats were getting into such a pickle, and apparently, it is fueled by the rise in the use of dating apps – and something called Chemsex. This refers to sexual encounters that include the use of recreational drugs such as GHB/GBL, mephedrone and crystallized methamphetamine. According to the LGA, “where drug use takes place in a sexual context, the risk of transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and C and other STIs increases”. This seems entirely plausible, and I shall look at the Major with something of a cocked eye when I next see him on his way to the Hammam in the Old Bhuna Gymkhana Club.

In other news:

  • “We are going to use witch doctors” – Senegal FA chief Fatma Samoura lays out her action plan after Sadio Mane was ruled out of the World Cup with a broken leg.
  • Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who has been charged with 232 breaches of betting rules, has the middle names Benjamin Elijah, meaning his initials are I BET.
  • Households across Wales are being invited to visit their nearest tree giveaway hub to plant one to help tackle climate and nature problems. The tiny 5″ saplings, or twigs as they are sometimes called, can be collected free of charge as part of a Welsh government plan.

Talking of gifts – if you click on HERE, you can download an Excel spreadsheet I have found that has the entire fixture list, AND it will let you work out possible outcomes and thus the Final 16 stage etc. It is an excellent tool, and I have already used it and thus know it is entirely possible that Qatar could meet in England in that group. It is a useful tool, and you can keep it on your smartphone or wherever.

Like a Welsh twig, the gifts below might well wither and fail before any growth is seen, nonetheless – here are my thoughts for the sport this weekend


Seven races, the majority of which are five runners or less. The ground is Good to Soft or Soft, so not entirely unexpected for this time of year. This is an issue with the racing Calender and the great altar of Cheltenham at which we must worship, despite its responsibility for the terminal disease that passes now for graded competitive racing.

1:50 HAYDOCK Get Daily Rewards With Betfair Graduation Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5½f ITV 4 run

In seven runnings of this race, Paul Nicholls’ six runners finished 111211


2:05 ASCOT Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chs (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f ITV 5 run

At the price I’ll swerve Venetia’s and go with SAINT CALVADOS, maybe in the W/O Fav market. Aged 9, he is, of course, too old for the trends, but he looked decent enough when 16l too good for Mister Fisher in a Sandown G2 last season, and his seasonal debut figures are 111143. Now owned by David Maxwell, I can see him hacking around in the ground and arriving late to see what money can be had. He’s 9/4 w/o L’HOMME PRESSE


2:25 HAYDOCK Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Hcap Hdl (Premier Hcap) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m½f ITV 13 run

The trends aren’t really much help for this and look a bit woolly. However, horses whose last run was in a big end-of-season meeting are 3W – 1P – 10R and MIGHT I had a second to Constitution Hill, a third to Jonbon and then was second at Aintree in a G1 to Three Stripe Life after an 11-week break. The trainer is in cracking form at the moment and the ideal ground, he looks a worthy favourite. Sadly he was 10/1 earlier this week which I missed, and I fear the value has gone. RUN FOR OSCAR has obvious claims, having crushed the Cesarewitch by an eased-down 3½l, but I’d bet Charlie Byrnes would be worried by more rain. I had a tip today for a Stuart Edmunds nag at Ascot, who was cack-handed at one, bumped at another, and ran all over the shop in fits and starts. I rather hoped the jockey was busy trying to find the right ground… I am not letting that put me off, GENTLEMAN AT ARMS. at around 25s. He’s only five, but he has decent novice hurdle form, including running second to Gelino Bello in the 3m G1 novice hurdle at Aintree. That run was at least as good as MIGHT I’s effort at the same meeting, but more importantly, was over today’s distance. He’ll also have fewer worries with more rain, and I’m guessing his last run was a prep race for this.


2:40 ASCOT Coral Hdl (Registered As The Ascot Hdl) (G2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m3½f ITV 5 run


3:00 HAYDOCK Betfair Chs (G1) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1½f ITV 5 run


3:15 ASCOT Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 2m1f ITV 9 run

FRERO BANBOU finished 2nd to THYME WHITE over C&D LTO and gets a 7lb pull, race fitness and ground to suit, all adding up to the value at around 8s. Venetia thought he was getting outpaced mid-race last season, but he came home strongly and his 2m handicap chase form is very solid. He’s got a 3rd to Editeur Du Gite at Cheltenham and filled that position again in the Grand Annual. I think he has a solid chance

FRERO BANBOU 3 pts e/w

3:35 HAYDOCK Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 3m1½f ITV 12 run

Hoping Venetia is on form…



Do not underestimate loathsome, corrupt, terrorist-funding Qatar. Recently, this country of fewer than 7,500 registered footballers won the 2019 Asian Cup, not conceding a goal until their 3-1 final victory over Japan. Most of that success is down to the home-grown Aspire Academy, founded in 2005 and which has been hard at work since then on creating a national team that is modelled on the Barcelona side of the late 2000s and their La Masia academy structure. This means they are currently ranked 50th in the world. This puts them ahead of both Ghana and Saudi Arabia, who will also be competing in the tournament, and they are at the wrong price to come bottom of their group. On the exchanges, I would sell them to come bottom at 1.85 and buy them to qualify at 4.3.

Don’t forget how poor some of the countries in their group are, and remember… if a decade ago, I had bet you a grand that Qatar would host a world cup with no beer in 2022, you’d have bitten my arm off to give me odds of 10/1 and more.


I suspect we’ll see fireworks as quite a lot of spite is now bubbling beneath the surface of the top 5 teams. Much bumping and boring, and no one is safer in that environment than Ferdinand Alonso, who is the wrong price for a podium finish at 16/1, driving past the wrecks of those drivers trying for payback.

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