I don’t know about you gentle readers, but about every six weeks, the old fleas start to scratch and you know it’s time for the barber. In my case, the barber is a raven-haired and good-looking woman, who has an Arthurian name and she has cared for my hair, for at least the last five years. There was a time when I visited her, but with the lockdown and my socially responsible attitude, she volunteered to call on me. We set up shop on the kitchen table, powered sheers in hand; scissors in t’other, and she sets to. Normally our conversation roams around the locals, and who has been behaving badly with who, and what she has been up to etc etc.
This time – and she had seen me several times over Lock-down – we spoke about Vaccines and Pandemics. In very short order, she let me know that she was an anti-vaxxer; that she didn’t believe there had even been a pandemic and that apparently the Climate is moving 5kms per annum. I struggled with this latter, but she told me that the Welsh had said it, so it must be true. Now, rather stupidly, I started to laugh in the middle of this – until I realised that she had the power to engrave a large V in the back of my hair and to remove my eyeballs with the small thinning scissors. I strangled the guffaw at birth, and we carried on the barbershop duet moving on to global shortages and lorry drivers. One of the problems I suggested, was that a non-existent pandemic had killed a large number of people who absolutely met the profile of an average HGV driver. Over fifty, sedentary lifestyle, underlying health issues (Greggs 247 for example), and that is before one considers that they were hugely underpaid and some of them had discovered that tap-dancing on broken glass was a more rewarding occupation.
Luckily she agreed and the haircut continued apace and we all parted on the best of terms. In the intervening two hours after, I have discovered I have a curl on my forehead which will not lie flat and that will irritate me for the next six weeks. Uther Pendragon would have been proud of her.
Talking of tricky customers and close shaves, here are the selections for Saturday’s racing. Be wary of the going. As I write, Newbury is holding Heavy, Donny is Soft and Ascot is drying Good.
SATURDAY ITV RACES
1:45 CHELTENHAM NHS Vaccinating Heroes Conditional Jockeys’ Hcap Hdl Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m½f
SAMARRIVE hails from Paul Nicholls yard, whose race record is 2W – 2P – 5R. He was eye-catching at Kempton and the third from that race, Chives, has won three times since. On paper, this looks tricky, but I think this was always the plan and Lorcan Williams and his 3lbs were part of that plan. His 50/1 for the Arkle will look generous if he hoses up here. TIMBERMAN has been talked up by Fergal O’Brien but is on the drift as I write, however his BYZANTINE EMPIRE does look as though he needs a crowd to keep him focussed and a decent pace – both of which he gets here. 12s is too big.
SAMARRIVE Win – BYZANTINE EMPIRE e/w
2:00 NEWBURY Virgin Bet Horris Hill Stakes (Registered As The Horris Hill Stakes) (G3) Cl1 (2yo) 7f
It was really sticky today at Newbury and that might well suit TACARIB BAY whose winning debut LTO came on similar ground. He ran with his ears pricked and still impressed despite some wandering off a straight line. Admittedly that was in May, but five of the first eight have won since, and he looks the wrong price. LIGHT INFANTRY’s 6½l victory at Yarmouth justified his 2nd favourite status, but he ran green and I think he’ll have come on in leaps and bounds for that run. His breeding suggests 7f is a sensible step up.
LIGHT INFANTRY Win – TACARIB BAY e/w
2:20 CHELTENHAM 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 3m1f
The trends selection would be JERSEY BEAN who had his seventh career win LTO, heralding what we all hope will be an upturn in Sherwood’s fortunes. He made all the running and took the race easily by 6½l with not even a tap. I suspect there is a great deal more in the locker. On paper, one might consider THE HOLLOW GINGE, but he has only completed one of his last six races, so until you can see some consistency best watched.
JERSEY BEAN e/w
2:35 NEWBURY Virgin Bet St Simon Stakes (G3) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m4f
Hard to look away from SISKANY’s credentials. He’ll handle the ground, he is progressive and I think he’ll be hard to beat. I’m assuming he’ll head to Dubai for the winter, and he’ll quite possibly open his Black Type account there.
2:55 CHELTENHAM Masterson Holdings Hdl Cl2 (4yo) 2m½f
TRITONIC’s win in the Adonis last year seemed to herald a real talent capable of taking the Triumph. That form looks decent with the second winning twice in the spring, and third winning in May. According to Kingy, he wasn’t right in The Triumph and after a break, they popped him on the flat at Chelmsford and then sent him to finish eighth in the Duke Of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot. It was filthy racing and he ran no race. So you have to forget that and think back to the Adonis. Off 142 and if he sticks to 4yo company and if STEPNEY CAUSEWAY isn’t too big a threat and if he has matured into himself – then he might be super. If he wins convincingly there may be
3:15 DONCASTER Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (G1) Cl1 (2yo) 1m
The number of times I have commented on Aidan O’Brien’s performance so far this year is beyond measure. An astonishingly low strike rate – by his standards – with one or two high spots where we all gasped. One of those was perhaps LUXEMBOURG whose finishing speed on the line is something to behold. Witness his Beresford Stakes victory where he put the race to bed in less than a dozen strides. But 5/4? Seems skinny. ROYAL PATRONAGE seems too big for a hat trick of wins which includes beating G3 winner Coroebus in the Royal Lodge with Dubawi Legend 4l back in 3rd. His price is simply a reflection of the market strength for LUXEMBOURG. Providing they all stay in then the best value probably lies with BAYSIDE BOY who was a good third in the Dewhurst at Newmarket two weeks ago and beat some good types, including Reach For The Moon in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.
BAYSIDE BOY Win
3:30 CHELTENHAM 888Sport Hcap Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 2m
Jonjo O’Neill runs the Grand Annual winner SKY PIRATE in this off a 7lb higher mark and I suspect that might anchor him with the favourite BEFORE MIDNIGHT. My longshot is now a non-runner.
3:50 DONCASTER Virgin Bet Doncaster Stakes (Listed Race) Cl1 (2yo) 6f
FLAMING RIB Win – MOHI e/w
4:05 CHELTENHAM Pertemps Network Hcap Hdl (Pertemps Hdl Series Qualifier) Cl2 (4yo+) 3m
This looks a good race and I’m not sure I should really be looking past SHANNON BRIDGE – TULLYBEG and HAUL AWAY. However, my eye is taken by KANSAS CITY CHIEF who was 3rd last year and who is 8lb lower this time AND has another 7lbs away thanks to his pilot.
KANSAS CITY CHIEF e/w
4:20 DONCASTER Virgin Bet Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 5f
Paul Midgley’s INDIAN SOUNDS is top-rated on Timeform and looks more than capable of taking this. He ran well at Musselburgh LTO on soft ground and seemed to enjoy the give. It was a stiff task at the weights and he only went down by a nose. DAKOTA GOLD caught my eye at Ascot in The Oakman Rous Stakes when going down by 3l after driving badly right. DANZENO who hated the ground at Ascot LTO and LAHORE, who I keep thinking is capable of better, are both on my radar. ILLUSIONIST ran a very strong race LTO and will handle the ground. It’s desperately tricky and so I’m going for ratings over the heart – but keep an eye on the markets. In tricky races like this, it sometimes pays to try and catch the “steamer” during the day.
INDIAN SOUNDS e/w