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β€œA difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

It’s that time of year again folks when with some nine weeks to go until the Festival, the rumour mill starts up, sometimes known as the Ante-post market. Intelligencers are out and about, picking over the nuance of every report emanating from the gallops, yards and even the horseboxes. Any whispers of vets, blood tests, scoping, wind-ops, sore shins are treated like holy scripture.

Even the opinions of Irish priests will be sought, although the greatest of them, Father Sean Breen is sadly no longer with us. He embraced the Festival for over 40 years, and he could be found in the old Pavilion Tent and occasionally in The Kildare Street Club chatting with chums and giving an opinion. I never saw him drunk and I know he was never a huge punter – he just loved the game and he was considered by many both here and in Ireland, to be a touchstone of good racing fortune. Oliver Sherwood had a horse named after him, The Breener, and Fr Sean had a racing column in the local Kildare newspaper and a spot on the local radio. I remember reading that he had over 30 priests concelebrating at his packed funeral. Now that’s big even by Catholic standards.

As a good lapsed-returned-uncertain Catholic boy, I pray that he retains sufficient evangelical clout with The Almighty, to ensure that the Irish horses are allowed to come here. As it stands, if the Festival took place next week, the Irish would not be here. There has to be a way of making it happen. Special ferries, special buses, from special hotels. Make it happen Messrs Renton and St.Quinton; create the perfect Emerald Bubble. Meanwhile, the bookmakers should agree that if the Irish are not allowed to come, then all ante-post markets would be declared null and void. Alternatively, let all bookmakers go NRNB and BOG now. As regards the actual chances and investments, I have no views – yet, but I am proceeding as though the word stet has been written large across racing’s copy.

I thought it might be helpful if, with some 60 days to go, you had some insight into the rumour mill. Firstly, however, arm yourselves with the following address, which is essential. ( It’s part of the Oddschecker website and allows you to search for a horse’s name and the markets in which they appear. The second is, wherever possible consider using NRNB concessions. Non-Runner No Bet does exactly what it says on the tin, and can save many a pound. Sadly there are currently only two, whose prices are at least two points lower.

Anyhow, as I get any news I shall update each race’s page. Meanwhile, let us remind ourselves that last year, many of us came parlous close to the dark edge and in that spirit I give you this: