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“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

The Fleche was strong -but is racing’s spirit weak?

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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The Great and The Good ponder the future of racing!

The Autumn double arrives with The Cambridgeshire, a race with a history that should reinvigorate the spirit and souls of ALL racing fans as they prepare for the long hibernation. Recently, it is a race that has unmasked Group 1 winners masquerading as handicappers. Chief among the founders of its distinguished history is La Fleche, who made the final decade of the century a thing of wonder. She set a world record price as a yearling in 1890 and was undefeated as a two-year-old. She became the dominant British three-year-old in 1892, winning the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and St Leger – The Fillies Triple Crown. She then went on to win The Cambridgeshire, starting as 7/2 favourite in the 30-strong field. The race’s closing stages developed into a contest between La Fleche and Pensioner, a colt to whom she was giving 34lbs. (I know – but that’s what seems to have been!!!) The filly showed “fire and resolution” at the finish to pull away from the colt and win by 1½l. The win took her earnings for the season to £23,848, which was donated to charity by her owner Maurice de Hirsch. Her only defeat of the year came when she finished second when starting favourite for The Derby. That is a simply spectacular record. If we were looking at triple-crowns as a measurement, there hasn’t been a Fillies winner since Oh So Sharp in 1985 – and there have only been five Triple Crown winners since La Fleche – 120 years ago.

Step forward to the present, and the great Panjandrums of Racing UK Plc have had their pow-wow, smoked many pipes of peace, chewed their preferred cud and declared, with one voice, that they were probably going to be talking again and that it was all frightfully positive, that there was much work to be done and that many of them believed that buttered toast was better warm than cold.

To be truthful, they didn’t say the last bit, but for all the facts they did deliver, they might as well have done. They have taken some two months to get to the stage when they could declare that there was a need for “serious and radical change.” Cripes – that is a fantastic insight. However, Kneesup’s sources suggest that all was not Roses in the meeting room, where much posturing was on display, but was even grittier in the corridors. There were some raised voices, some angry words, groups refusing to budge, and amongst it all, Rod Street clutching yet another marketing paper outlining a new and exciting strategy which only requires £2½m investment. I shall believe that all is well with racing when there is a transparent pitching process for this never-ending cash waterfall for racing’s marketing; when the entirely useless GBR operation is disbanded, and some creative, young talent is bought in to take racing forward. Above all else, and as I have been saying for over 30 years, racing has to cut its cloth according to The Emperor’s clothing, but only after the stable door has bolted. And that, my little ones, is a good example of the verbal nonsense that will be produced in the guise of a change for the better.

What seems certain to me is that we are doomed until we have one authority that “Owns” and “Distributes” the wealth of data, media, and other rights. That authority must control racing in its entirety, from licencing to discipline, from race-planning to funding, from TV to prize monies. On that latter subject, nothing will change under the current relationship with bookmakers. No group, from trainers to racecourses to owners, should take precedence or be considered more critical. All are important. The old arguments must end so that Owners and Courses recognise their equal dependency. The Peter Savill concept that if a horse wins and places “x” times, it should win enough to pay for the training fees is also flawed because it’s a sport, not a business. That then, in turn, leads to the philosophical question as to why Ms A owns a racehorse and Mr B joins a syndicate, and Sir Z runs a brace with friends. They might all have different reasons and far different expectations. All of these issues need to be understood and handled accordingly. That can’t be done by the existing cohorts – especially those with no mandate to represent their interest groups. ROA, take note – a vote of less than 30% of total membership is not a mandate.

Talking of people who should have stood down some time ago, having lost the confidence of their followers, here are tomorrow’s tips.

1:35 CURRAGH Alan Smurfit Memorial Beresford Stks (G2) (2yo) 1m 7 run

This might also be known as The AoB Stakes, so often has Aidan won it. To be contrary, I nominate CONTINUOUS over ADELAIDE RIVER,  the former’s Curragh debut was a masterclass in the development of talented juveniles. He has a fantastic pedigree and looks straight out of the top draw. 4/1 is too big.

CONTINUOUS 5 pts Win – See below

1:50 NEWMARKET Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stks (G2) (Colts & Geldings) Cl1 (2yo) 1m 4 run

By any measurement, this should be a parade led by FLYING HONOURS, who is 7lbs clear on Timeform, has an adjusted RPR above 114, and I’d shove him in doubles with the aforementioned.

FLYING HONOURS – CONTINUOUS (1:35 Curragh) 3 pts double

2:05 HAYDOCK Old Boston Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 1m 13 run

WANEES has been cut since his Royal Ascot sixth, followed by a genuinely disappointing Goodwood run. I suspect this is a pipe opener before the soft ground comes for a late autumn campaign. The ground is key, I think, with this one. Preference is for ENCOURAGEABLE, who got 5lbs for a relatively facile win LTO at Thirsk on Soft ground and showing that a mile is his ideal trip. I hope that the run isn’t ground-dependent and that some juice is still left in the ground.

ENCOURAGEABLE 3 pts Win

2:25 NEWMARKET Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stks (G1) (Fillies) Cl1 (2yo) 6f 10 run

The winner comes from MEDITATE – TRILLUM – SWINGALONG. The latter hails from Karl Burke’s yard, and his filly took the Lowther LTO, a good trends pointer for this race. Timeform has TRILLUM 7 points clear, and both have the old + sign suggest the following punt – just in case AoB is on flying form

SWINGALONG 3 pts e/w – MEDITATE and the above two selections in a 1 pt Treble.

2:40 HAYDOCK Lester Piggott First To Last Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 5f 16 run

A tight little handicap and I’m thinking that the Portland 3rd COUNT D’ORSAY looks to be still on a favourable mark. He was a close second in this in 2020 off an 8lb higher mark, and the question mark is whether Stall 1 is brilliant or nay. NOMADIC EMPIRE was just behind and worries me the most.

COUNT D’ORSAY 3 pts e/w

3:00 NEWMARKET Juddmonte Middle Park Stks (G1) (Colts) Cl1 (2yo) 6f 8 run

Don’t look past the top 3 in the betting and then think, Hold On! that’s another Charlie Appleby – William Buick combo with MISCHIEF MAGIC – the horse that came from nowhere to win The Sirenia LTO. Good clocks from a draw in the car park, and I cannot think anything here will match his 5th gear at this stage of their career. Unless we count BLACKBEARD’s Prix Mornay run and his RPR 110 off a time of 1m 9.91s as being a tad slow. Then, I start to think that maybe MISCHIEF MAGIC might need to prove himself on Turf before taking my money. I’m going to swerve MARSHMAN because to date, he’s run OK – but with too many question marks for me. The market thinks his Gimcrack 2nd is good enough.

MISCHIEF MAGIC 3 pts Win. – 3 x ½ pts Trebles from BLACKBEARD and the above-mentioned AoB runners by way of Insurance

3:20 CURRAGH Goffs Million (2yo) 7f 19 run

I don’t fancy HIAWATHA from his draw in the car park and I’m not happy about the drop-back in trip. HELLSING has super form and decent ratings, and OVIEDO’s Acomb 3rd LTO was decent. THE FRANCHISE has decent entries and will improve for his debut run. He looks overpriced at 12/1. My eye is also taken by KILLYBEGS WARRIOR from Johnston et fils – albeit that he has only met a total of 14 other horses in his three races to date. Perhaps not…

THE FRANCHISE 3 pts e/w

3:40 NEWMARKET bet365 Cambridgeshire Hcap Cl2 (3yo+) 1m1f 29 run

This is a total nightmare, and I have tried to find the Group horse masquerading but can’t see him/her. On the trends, I have narrowed the field down to about twenty using various ancient runes and signals! Of these, the three I’m going to have a punt at are DUAL IDENTITY – KITSUNE POWER – PEROTTO. If you wanted four others that could be vaguely justified, then you could add FIRST VIEW – ARQOOB – PROTAGONIST – MUJTABA. Truly, I think there are at least two places on that list, but the more research I’ve done, the more bamboozled I become. If we dutched the top 3 selections, we’d be getting 9/2 about our money on tonight’s prices. If I added the B List of four additional horses, we’d be getting 15/8 on the investment. Just saying – you’re backing seven against the field for just shy of 2/1.

In some counties, that’s called a drive-by shooting! Instead, I’m going for the sophisticated shot-in-foot approach.

DUAL IDENTITY 4 pts Win – KITSUNE POWER 2 pts e/w – PEROTTO  1pt e/w Add ARQOOB for 12 x ¼ pt CFC.

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