Frankly, I’m happy for the rest of tomorrow to gallop by as I prepare for the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night. It is a chance for my egalitarian, liberal, inclusive side to shine as I admire the many facets of socio-economic Europe on one gigantic artistic display of … hmm…
To some, it’s an LGBTQ Pride March on steroids; to others, it’s a chance for a small country to promote itself to a wider audience. (I assume this latter scenario involves a PR guy who told a purse-holder, we’ll send a team, we’ll get air time, and we’ll show the world our lovely beach, but filmed on the South side of the failing nuclear reactor by the open-cast mine). To me, it is a ludicrous and amusing betting opportunity where the outcomes are so bizarre and outrageous that they’ll inevitably be banned by the Puritans when they come to power. It is, in brief, entertaining schlock.
This year they have changed the format so that the two semi-finals, each consisting of 15-16 countries, were whittled down to two lots of ten by the simple method of a public vote. Historically, Eurovision tried to cut a lot of the crap and the outrageous by sieving the acts through a “Jury Vote” before involving the public. This year they dropped the Juries and went straight to the public. Inevitably this has resulted in absolutely every one of the acts from the semis that I would have gonged off before the third bar, making it to the final! These twenty wildly varying acts join the Super 6, including the UK, because the six each contribute the equivalent of three hospitals’ or five schools funding to the Eurovision Song Contest. So with the juries gone, think Alice Cooper. Think Schools’ Out Forever. Watch and Wonder at seeing Belgian’s own Boy George, without BG’s perfect pitch, but with a great hat; wonder at Cyprus entering an Australian balladeer who qualifies with no chance but with three Cypriot grand-parents; be startled by the Finnish human centipede which manages to be a bit pervy; and you’ll start it all with Austria’s ear-wig – a song about being possessed by the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe. This is the song destined to be Ibiza’s biggest summer hit.
Whoa, Kneesup, I hear you say. Where does all this knowledge and affection for Eurovision stem from? I shall tell you gentles all. The affection stems from my dislike of the right angle in every sense. There is nothing wrong in a doorway if one side isn’t set at 90 degrees – providing the door is adjusted accordingly, and you remember to duck. The knowledge comes from one of my favourite organisations Popbitch, who annually produce the complete (and very amusing) guide to the E.S.C, and you can find it HERE.
The great thing about the guide is that it has all the trends for making a shortlist of possible bets – based on bad taste, lack of artistic merit, ability and statistics. Thus, for example, much as I like Austria’s Poe song and Belgian’s Boy George, they are singing at slots 1 and 16. (13 slots in each half). The Popbitch guide tells me that in the first half of the programme, there have been 14 Runners-Up, or Losers as they are sometimes called in racing, and 7 winners. Broken down further, there has been only one winner from slots 1-9 (slot 4 2003) in the last 22 runnings. However, Slots 14-26 have 9 Runners-up and 15 winners. If you took just slots 17-24 you would have found 14 of the 22 winners and just 2 losers. With me so far?
On the strength of that, I’d be looking at Lithuania, Norway, and Armenia and selling Ukraine.
I haven’t had much time to get involved at Chester – bottomless ground – draw bias – the golden strip as they move the rail daily. Don’t get me wrong – I love the place but prefer more certainty with the going. As an aside, the former CEO at Chester was once astonishingly pompous to The Hon and me when our clients sponsored racing there for tens of thousands of pounds. The day he did that, I happened to be having a private lunch on the course with some of the directors, including one of my favourite racing people, the late Bobby McAlpine. Bobby told me that their CEO was the best-paid man in racing because he bought Elan and Dash to the job and had been marvellous at developing Chester. Sadly, forensic accountants later realised that the arriviste Pomposo had been illiberal with the company’s time, suppliers and funds and he was dispatched to be dashing elsewhere. Much like the Curse of Gnome, it does not pay to be offensive to The Hon.
I did see Frankie’s ride on Arrest in The Chester Vase, and I did wonder whether part of Frankie’s post-race mood might have been the realisation that if Gosden insisted on running Arrest on good ground in The Derby, Frankie’s chances of an emotional farewell Derby victory were already over. That horse will be unbeatable on anything worse than Good to Soft – or The Arc as we sometimes call it. It’s a long way until then, and the 20/1 has already gone, but that is where my thinking if not my money, would be heading. As regards the Derby, I don’t think we’ve seen the winner yet. I’ll wait for The Dante on what I hope will be better ground. Frankie, incidentally, is in the USA for Charlie Appleby in the Man o War Stakes at Belmont (8:07pm) on WARREN POINT. He should win that, and if you fancy a punt, I will stick in HOWE STREET for a $3 reverse exacta.
Talking of uncertain ground, the PJA debacle seems no nearer resolution. One suspects that some of the organisation’s problems result from the changing face of commercial realpolitik. In essence, the PJA is an old-fashioned organisation run by people with a viewpoint that may not chime with the membership’s demographic. Locked in an unhappy marriage to a sporting operation with separate organisations for the licensors, the employers, and the payers, all of whom can end a career or slow down an income stream. It is a recipe for divisiveness. Resurrecting the old guard doesn’t give one much hope, and I fear we’ll see more in the coming months.
The subject of career-ending decisions, illiberal use of funds, and divisive outcomes bring us neatly to the tips for racing on TV.
1:30 ASCOT Peroni Nastro Azzurro Hcap Cl3 (4yo+ 0-95) 1m4f 10 run
RHYTHMIC INTENT will love the ground, with two wins and a second on soft ground, and his last win back in 2021 was carrying 2lb more than today. That said the selection is tentative so small stakes
RHYTHMIC INTENT 2 pts e/w
1:50 LINGFIELD (AW) Fitzdares Taking Bets Since 1882 Hcap Cl5 (4yo+ 0-75) 7f 12 run
AJRAD 2 pts e/w
2:05 ASCOT Peroni Nastro Azzurro EBF Fillies’ Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 1m 11 run
Of course, TIMELESS MELODY could and should win this – his Heavy ground Leicester Novice LTO has produced 3 winners and she has a decent 3lb claimer in the plate. However, I keep trying to work out the impact of the 3yo weight allowance on this handicap. The principal beneficiary appears to be MOTTISFONT from Hughie Morrison’s yard, but then despite the advantage, the last 10 years has produced only one 3yo winner. I think the best long shot is DON’T TELL CLARE who has some form on ground with cut and has been running in Listed company the last couple of runs.
TIMELESS MELODY 3 pts Win – DON’T TELL CLARE 1½ pts e/w
2:25 LINGFIELD (AW) Fitzdares Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 7f 8 run
Ignore her last run
QUEEN AMINATU 3 pts Win
2:40 ASCOT Peroni Nastro Azzurro Victoria Cup Cl2 (4yo+) 7f 23 run
The trends give me RAINBOW FIRE and TYLOS, and then I used to have a Springer pup called BIGGLES, who was poisoned by a truly stupid “countryman”. BIGGLES was one of Ralph Beckett’s good things last year, winning four from six and shooting up the handicap. This is a major step-up (he has won a Newbury C3), but he is close to level; weights with the market leader BARADAR who has met on heavy. BIGGLES has won on soft and has a small weight advantage with several of these.
BIGGLES 3 pts e/w – RAINBOW FIRE 2 pts e/w – TYLOS 2 pts e/w (6 places generally available)
3:00 LINGFIELD (AW) Fitzdares Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes Cl1 (3yo) 1m4f 9 run
PERFECT PROPHET was a staying-on 3rd in the G2 May Hill at Donny at the end of last season, and it could be said this is therefore a drop in comparative class, and I think she’ll improve for the step-up in trip. She’s an AW winner and looks value. On the trends, I have the two Charlie Appleby runners, and I’m going to combine all 3 in a chancy trifecta.
PERFECT PROPHET 3 pts e/w – combine with ETERNAL HOPE and SUNSET POINT in 2 x ½pt RFC and a 6 x ¼ pt CTC
3:15 HAYDOCK Pertemps Network Swinton Hcap Hurdle Cl1 (4yo+) 1m7½f 17 run
I fancy and trends support my short list of three – PARIS ENCORE – LUNAR SOVEREIGN – HOMME PUBLIC. The first of those was last seen finishing fourth in the G2 Scottish Champion
Hurdle where he was 4lbs out the weights, but came just 8l behind Rubaud, who is now rated 141. He is gutsy and will not go quietly into the night but will instead probably lead and take a vanguard position. He is too big a price at 20s.
PARIS ENCORE 3 pts e/w – HOMME PUBLIC 2 pts e/w add LUNAR SOVEREIGN for 6 x ½pts CFC
3:35 LINGFIELD (AW) Fitzdares Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes (Colts & Geldings) Cl1 (3yo) 1m4f 8 run
The trends give us a choice of three – MILITARY ORDER (odds on favourite) – HM The King’s CIRCLE OF FIRE and WAIPIRO. You will know from last week that I’m a huge fan of the latter and his late withdrawal from the Sandown Classic Trial (run at Newmarket), was due to Tom Marquand getting kicked in the crook of his arm and being hospitalised. He had been backed throughout the morning and is highly regarded at home. For what it is worth, I have backed him already for The Derby.
WAIPIRO 2 pts e/w