What a weekend for sunshine and sunny moments. Sam Waley-Cohen being hugged by Marcus Armytage – a rare and precious mantle now shared. Scottie Scheffler taking the Green Jacket after some spectacular golf under intense scrutiny and pressure. Both sportsmen set the highest standards for grit, determination, consistency and general good-eggedness, which left me feeling that I wished I’d tried harder in my youth with the Aeolian Pipes and my surfboard. Who knows what might have become of me?
Meantime, I shall cherish the images I retain of McIlroy sinking that enormous putt from the 18th Green bunker, and his obvious delight – matched only by the huge roar he gave Collin Morikawa, when he too managed to sink his bunker shot. Morikawa’s birdie gave him a 5-under 67 on the day, which tied for the second-best round of the week. Yet that supportive cheer of good fellowship and sportsmanship was from a man who had just equalled Masters history by tying for the lowest final-round score with an 8-under 64.
In my own National, the trends of course proved useless. The winner was a seven-year-old novice in the hands of a man of whom I once wrote in these pages, “only a fool and Kneesup ignore the runes (about Emmett Mullins)…” as he banged in one of his four winners from nine runners last season. This year his UK forays have been like the Reef of Norman’s Woe (look it up) and he is o/12 in the UK and 1/48 since December 1st back home. So overall not a great National but a Grand National. We ended up financially for the whole meeting, but still down on the year-to-date. However, as I stayed up late to watch McIlroy surging back to something like his usual happy self, I took some comfort from having tipped Scottie at 18/1 (admittedly with six others), but we took the precaution of Dutching the seven selections – meaning we apportioned the stake (in this case a total of 30 pts e/w) according to their odds. When the reckoning was done we were 102.58 pts up. So a torrid and emotional week, but one which brings the book squarely back to a near 2% ROI.
As I wrote tonight, I learned of the death of Desmond Stoneham who at various times was the French Racing Correspondent for the Life, the Post and The Irish Field – and was an invaluable plenipotentiary to the team at the International Racing Bureau. I met him half a dozen times over the years and thought him a patient and charming man, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine as well as being a veritable Gault-Milau when it came to the better places to eat in Paris. Sadly the best that he and I ever managed was a working baguette in a bar at St Cloud over a beer. I wish I had known him better.
I have no real racing confidence at this time of year, but there are some tilts to be had, if you just keep your ears to the grindstone. The Craven meeting and the accompanying sales season really start to kick in today.
1:15 bet365 British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes Cl4 (2yo) 5f 10 run
1:50 Weatherbys Bloodstock Pro Hcap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-100) 6f 13 run
GALE FORCE MAYA 2 pts Win – BOOGIE TIME 1½ pts e/w
2:25 bet365 European Free Hcap Cl1 (3yo) 7f 5 run
TACARIB BAY 3 pts Win
3:00 bet365 Earl Of Sefton Stakes (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m1f 7 run
BELL ROCK 2½ e/w
3:35 Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes (G3) (Fillies) Cl1 (3yo) 7f 9 run
HELLO YOU 3 pts Win – RIBBON ROSE 1 pt e/w – ½ pt RFC