Quite a busy week with business in London, plus a drinks party, an-almost-dinner-with-Sajid-Javid which only lacked an invitation, trips around the countryside handing out healing words and sound advice, you know the sort of thing. I did pop into Peter Jones and suddenly realised that my rural concepts of value-for-money needed something of a makeover. A stroll down Pavilion Road revealed bread shops selling loaves at £4 a pop and slices of ham being sold on some sort of logarithmic scale of currency exchange which was patently taking into account a no-deal Brexit where anything from Bayonne had a 10m% tariff rate applied. Crazy – but there is enough money sloshing around there that those shops were [a] trading and [b] flourishing. How any of these people can even contemplate life under the Lib Dems or Comrade Jezza is beyond me.
The bet on Max in the Brazilian Grand Prix almost came unstuck, but we had at least four correct football selections in a five-fold to boost the odds to a more workable 11/4. A very tactical race, and you had to admire the relentless demands from the World Champion to his crew, to find him something more from the car. Almost any cliche about his ambition inevitably includes words like driven – fearsome and relentless will do for me.
I had some small personal successes this week and generally found that only backing horse that had a track record of running in mud stood any chance! This is about as revealing as saying the sky has clouds and the moon is far away. Still, all information helps, even if it narrows down the improbable. Today, I think….
1:50 HAYDOCK Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle Cl2 (4yo+) 2m3f
I thought something was amiss with Evan Williams’ BOLD PLAN on his seasonal reappearance, and the word lacklustre appeared in several reports. I’m tempted to wait and see, despite his being backed this morning and 7/2 is way too short for me. WHOSHOTTHESHERIFF needs to make amends for his Cheltenham fall LTO, but if he’s over that, and he retains his undoubted enthusiasm, he could take this. Dan Skelton (who is 27% strike rate over the last 14 days!), runs two that are friendless in the market. I quite fancy IRISH ROE at around 14s which looks like value. She returned to winning ways with a narrow success over a similar trip at Aintree back in May, and with a 5lb higher mark could be good for a podium.
2:05 ASCOT Christy 1965 Chase (Grade 2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m5f
Unless there is a nuclear strike and Our Jezza declares his Israeli citizenship, ALTIOR will hose this.
2:25 HAYDOCK Betfair Best Odds On ITV Races Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 3m½f
This is a cracking race – but very tricky. DIOMEDE DES MOTTES looked as though he was going to win LTO, but didn’t find quite as much as the winner. It was, however, a very solid effort and the third such, since having a wind-op in July. He looks like a hold-up horse as he idles in front, but there is definitely more to come from him and at 18s looks value. However, the other Dan Skelton horse, FLASH THE STEEL looks a more likely winner. He took the Chepstow Silver Trophy comfortably at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance also producing a career-best performance. Mr Andy Capp has given him 8lbs for his troubles, but I’m not sure that under these conditions that is going to be an issue. UMBRIGADO is a possibility, and I also have the eye taken by LISNAGAR OSCAR. Harry Whittington runs SIROBBIE, who has thrived with him since moving from Sam Thomas.
2:40 ASCOT Coral Hurdle (Registered As The Ascot Hurdle) (Grade 2) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m3½f
There is a scream-out stat for this race, namely that 17 of the last 17 winners were 7/2 or less. That makes it very difficult to go against the 2/1 favourite CALL ME LORD, who was 3rd under top weight in the Imperial Cup LTO. Not many miles on the clock, he’s a Grade 2 winner, whose only challenge will come from IF THE CAP FITS. He won this race last year and finished the season by beating Roksana at Aintree by a head in a G1. He goes well fresh and won’t mind the going, it’s only whether he can overcome the weight.
3:00 HAYDOCK Betfair Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Lancashire Chase) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m1½f
I don’t fancy BRISTOL DE MAI. There I’ve said it. Does that make me a bad person? FRODON however, wouldn’t need to improve much to take this.
3:20 ASCOT Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase Cl2 (4yo+) 2m1f
THE LAST DAY was very impressive LTO and there was really nothing to fault about his jumping, enthusiasm, determination and response to the jockey. A penalty to overcome and a market challenge from joint 7/2 favourite CAPELAND suggest the wise ones think he is opposable. I quite fancy Paul Nicholls’ second-string DIEGO DU CHARMIL, who gets a useful 3lbs off his back with Lorcan Williams, but that is still a big ask. If there is a good strong pace CAID DU LIN could surprise with a staying-on place through tired horses, and if VANITEUX shows the same revival of interest as he did at Cheltenham LTO when 2nd to Saint Calvados then he too might be good for a place. The trouble is the market is very skinny on this and no one is taking any risks. I’ll wait and see what the market does – but for those who can’t wait take the 14s about VANITEUX for a small e/w
3:40 HAYDOCK Better Value On The Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-135) 3m4½f
KNOW THE SCORE is being backed and David Pipe does well at Haydock with his soft ground stayers. There is talk that KTS is “special”, so I won’t be surprised if he wins. I won’t back him at 9/4 but I wouldn’t be surprised. However, I do like DIGER DAUDAIE who has recently joined the Jumping ranks as well as Olly Greenall’s LATE ROMANTIC who won nicely at Wetherby LTO following a wind operation. He was settled off a decent pace, before making his challenge, before and confidently seeing off the second. He doesn’t have many miles on the clock and the Greenall clan know a decent horse that will run all day and how to get the most out of them. He wasn’t stopping at the line and looks like there is better over further to come.