A close friend of mine, the Time-Life photographer Peter Jordan popped in for a coffee today. As a front-line photo-journalist, he’s seen and done much in terms of recording war, plague, famine, politics and life’s vagaries. Both of us can generally find something to laugh at when times are tough and in our separate ways, and sometimes together, we’ve historically had a good belly laugh at God’s Sense of Humour. This is not the same as GSOH, as seen in The Telegraph’s Tinder page. “Must have GSOH…” which I feel implies: “…capable of seeing the funny side when you see my 30-year-old tattoo of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, in an artistically synonymous, though disturbing location….
No, God’s Sense of Humour is far more tragi-comedy.
Anyway, as is the way of two people familiar with the coffee house, we chewed some honest fat and were both slightly abashed to agree that we were feeling under pressure from the world of C19. That perhaps we no longer trusted as much, that we no longer socialised as much, that our fear levels were heightened and that our desire to metaphorically put the shutters up, was pretty strong. When one analyses it, the cause of this angst is simply the relentless, unflagging, self-righteous proselytising newsfeed.
How fed up are we with Imperial College’s, (ironically sponsored by Huawei), ceaseless warnings, which are piled woe-upon-woe, kilometres high? (It’s Imperial – of course it’s metric). Surely we can be spared the unintelligible scientific claque on top of the grating Scottish voice of Madame Doom (you just know she’s got a really inappropriate tattoo somewhere), and the whine of the Chief Druid and CEO of Cymru Ieuan Lewis – whose motto is Never Knowingly Sold At All? The Northern Irish continue to sound as though King Billy has come again, yet all these leaders are doing this with the best intentions in the world!
The inane trumpeting of stats, figures and prognostications is becoming meaningless. Imperial will say, with no fear of contradiction, that 98% of all positive Covid tests have had a hot drink in the past 28 days and 47% had washed their hair in the last three months. Many people visiting the Track and Trace centres and who got their results within the perfectly acceptable six-month time frame, actually wore clothes, although Track and Trace keep no records of who those people might be because they weren’t told to. Almost half of all positive tests were either male or female by choice. Despite all this, Jordan’s visit is mutually cheering and we remind ourselves that we must all continue to practice hard at living. I remind him that it was Gary Player who said: “The more I practise the luckier I get.”
Inevitably there are NO conversations to be had with Jordan in which any newsworthy person of the period 1965 – 1995 was not “shot” by him. I am thus unsurprised when he tells me that Gary Player was a really good egg, always smiling, always gracious and always helpful. It reminds one of a time when people didn’t make a fuss; when people were nice without the need for Facebook; when a troll lived under the bridge waiting for the Three Billygoat’s Gruff. In straightening up the spine at these memories of a time now gone by, I am also reminded of Jordan’s famous photograph of Maggie in The Tank, and of the fact that C19 hasn’t actually killed anyone I know really well and possibly only three, I think I met.
So. if you keep yourself reasonably well and, and take your Vitamin C and D and a bit of Zinc, you’ll at least feel better that you’re trying to make yourself luckier. Try and finish off the ’94s and ’98s and then work your way gently up – or down the rack, depending on your investment levels – remembering always to make time for the ’63s from Oporto. Go for a healthy walk to the pub and remember how much better you’ll feel, at not burdening your loved ones with a cellar.
Talking of loving one’s burdens, I have backed Trump to win on Sporting Index, and I have bought his Electoral College seats at 270. If he wins, I make money to get drunk as he starts a new American Civil War. If he loses I can watch aghast as Biden tries to remember he isn’t fighting George Bush (Senior!), is discovered to be “unwell” and is replaced by Senator Kamala Harris his probable VP. If this happens before June, I shall be unsurprised, and I fear she will not be a friend of our current PM. By this time next week, we shall be living in interesting times as my Feng Shui advisor mysteriously mutters. It will certainly make The Breeders Cup meeting interesting, and protests will probably be seen of one sort or another. I shall cover the BC with some wagering thoughts next Thursday. We have a strong crew going out there, so try and watch some of it.
In the meantime whoop, it up and if you’re at all concerned about the jobs market, remember Si hoc signum legere potes, operis boni in rebus Latinus alacribus et fructuosis potiri potes! You see there is a silver lining!
Talking of GSOH, here are the racing tips.
1:20 ASCOT Ascot Underwriting Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase C3 (4yo+ 0-140) 2m3f
An interesting race with just shy of a dozen runners and as I write DR SANDERSON heads the market – but Betfair has him at 5/2 and Bet365 at 4/1. Racefit from an 8½l victory LTO he seems to have finally found his level, although with more rain forecast around two hours before they start, I suspect not his ground. Rain always makes one think that a Venetia Williams horse is in with a chance, but I don’t see SUBCONTINENT delivering after some poor jumping on his chase debut. He’ll need to improve hugely – but it is Venetia after all. TRINCOMALEE was spanked 20l on his chasing debut at a favourite course, but on ground I felt too fast. Zoffee was second and overall it wasn’t poor form. His trainer Lucy Wadham is flying and he gets Bryony. SULLY DO’C AA He has had a wind-op since his last race at Cheltenham 10 months ago and the market has some positive vibes for him. He met some very decent animals in that race and this looks weaker – but it feels a big ask. EDITEUR DU GITE withdrew from an entry at Wincanton last week and the word is that Gary Moore rates him He ran in The Wayward Lad at Christmas last year and Gary is not one to mess about. I might have a look at four places. Finally, my selection is DORKING BOY under the care of Tom Lacey. He was 6lb inferior to Zoffee LTO and still had to concede a WFA and coupled with a lack of experience, and fast ground, his 1l beating was pretty good. A super chasing and I’ll happily take 6s and hope for a drifting 15/2.
DORKING BOY e/w
1:35 WETHERBY bet365 Handicap Chase C3(4yo+ 0-125) 2m3½f
GUY is the obvious choice, an impressive winner LTO on his seasonal reappearance at Huntingdon. He looked totally in control and appeared to have a couple more of under-cover gears as he eased clear. Will the extra 12lbs be a burden? Probably not, but he’s not at a price I’d like to pay to find out. Instead, I think some value might lie with the consistent BOLLIN ACE who in a career spanning 27 races, has only missed the frame on eight occasions. He’s 5lb better than his last winning mark and at 12/1 looks value.
BOLLIN ACE e/w
1:55 ASCOT tote.co.uk Handicap Chase C1 (4yo+ 0-150) 2m1f
IBLEO makes his seasonal reappearance and he has won first time out before. He has always been highly regarded, and he was unlucky to meet Canelo LTO – albeit they finished miles clear of the rest. He beat Fanzio by 9l, winner since off 127 and everything suggests there is more to come.
2:10 WETHERBY bet365 Mares’ Hurdle C1(4yo+) 2m
My biggest concern about advising VERDANA BLUE – who should be returning to winning ways here – is the ground. Fourth in the Champion Hurdle and third in the Ebor, she was beaten at odds on at Kempton on her seasonal return, and there really weren’t any excuses. She was 2lb superior to the winner and had her Mares Allowance, and she is now back among her own sex. As such she is the most likely winner with over a stone in hand over the field. No, I simply can’t. Some e/w value might lie with MRS HYDE who won a Kempton Listed novice LTO and looked decent and progressive. She also appears on a Brian Ellison list of decent horses.
MRS HYDE e/w
2:25 DOWN ROYAL Ladbrokes Champion Chase G1(5yo+) 3m
The Six Counties best race won by Kauto Star, Don Cossack and Road to Respect. C19 has reduced to zero any cross-channel challenges, but we still see three runners from The Gold Cup. PRESENTING PERCY is among that number and he was making ground when he fell, two out. DELTA WORK who was 5th will probably need this pipe-opener – witness his 15¼l 4th in this last year. PRESENTING PERCY has now joined Gordon Elliott from Pat Kelly, and he is priced as though he has a real chance. CHRIS’S DREAM hails from Henry de Bromhead’s yard and this has been CD’s G1 target for some months.
CHRIS’S DREAM Win
2:45 WETHERBY bet365 Hurdle G2 (4yo+) 3m
LISNAGAR OSCAR was the shock 50/1 winner of the Stayers’ race at Cheltenham in March, under the burden of a G1 penalty, but with his trainer in good form. ROKSANA is an obvious threat as both a Cheltenham G1, Newbury G2 and having won or been placed in six of her Class 1 races. WHOLESTONE also comes into the reckoning, having come second in this in 2017 and retains both ability and consistency. A chance is taken on NEXT DESTINATION to defy a 920-day absence under the guidance of new trainer Paul Nicholls. He’s won this three times in the past five years, and the horse has hinted at his abilities when he landed the G1 Novice Hurdle at Punchestown on his first try over 3m. If he retains anything of his previous ability under Willie Mullins, he’s got a huge chance.
NEXT DESTINATION Win
3:05 ASCOT Sodexo Handicap Hurdle C1 (4yo+) 1m7½f
DEAR SIRE has been consistent since returning from his summer hols, winning a 2m Chepstow Handicap Hurdle by 3l LTO. He’s only 4lbs higher and he benefits from 7lb claimer Theo Gillard who retains the ride. and this race should be set up for him. I think his price is wrong. The same also applies to HANG IN THERE a 6yo from Emma Lavelle’s yard near Marlborough. If he gets an easy lead he’ll make this a good test and bearing in mind that he won a G2 last November at Cheltenham he looks weighted to run a big race. His seasonal reappearance will have sharpened him up, and he too is a sexy price.
DEAR SIRE e/w – HANG IN THERE e/w
3:20 WETHERBY bet365 Charlie Hall Chase G2 (5yo+) 3m
If this were Masterchef, Greg would be gutturally shouting, “Racing does not get tougher than this!” And he might have a point. The highest-rated chaser in training in Britain, CYRNAME makes his seasonal debut. His record over 21f is tremendous and his 21l victory over C&D gave him a 15lb rise in the ratings to 165. He then won the G1 Ascot Chase in February, earnin a new rating of 176. He then clashed with Altior back at Ascot in November in the Christy 1965 Chase taking each other on like a scene from Gladiator. His status as the highest-rated Chaser was secured. However, since that race, it has been a disaster. He was beaten in the King George by his stablemate, and then he fell in The Ascot Chase trying to defend his crown. He’s back – but is he mentally OK? One clue might be that they are putting him over a left-handed track in a 3m race which he has not done since he was six. I hope he does it – but I think he won’t. We also have BALLYOPTIC (Won this 2019) and DEFINITELY RED (2018) but their races were nowhere near as competitive as this, and we have SAM SPINNER attempting a four-timer. His problem is that he tends to race in small fields and frankly I’m not convinced he has the class. So I suggest VINNDICATION will continue Kim Bailey’s resurgence. He’s not done many miles and is 3/6 over fences. He won the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on this day last year, and he did well to finish fourth in the Ultima Handicap Chase carrying top-weight. He’s won both his previous starts when fresh and will enjoy the conditions. Kim Bailey sees this as his Gold Cup horses, ad I’m tempted to suggest an ante-post bet now. A birdie told me MISTER WHITTAKER from Mick Channon’s yard was thought value for a place. Hmmm
VINNDICATION Win – MISTER WHITTAKER e/w
3:40 ASCOT Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase G3 (4yo+) 3m
BLACK CORTON might try and take this from the front, but for me and at the price, FLYING ANGEL is my selection. He races prominently in general, or midfield at worst, he has form in G3 handicaps (5th in the Ultima off this mark) (6th in the Topham, also off 142), so he’ll handle the field’s class – and he carries just 10st 7lb. At 16/1 he has solid claims. I also like ADRIEN DU PONT who looks to have a very decent mark- given his previous abilities. Bryan Carver takes 5lbs off and he’s worth a dig.
FLYING ANGEL e/w – ADRIEN DU PONT e/w