This week’s attrition rate for decent and talented people has been high. Tina Turner, Martin Amis, Paul Cattermole, Sheldon Reynolds, Chas Newby, Ray Stevenson and Jeremy Clarke have all, almost simultaneously, decided to up sticks and go and perform their craft to God or the void. In the same time frame and as these waves of sad news broke on the Blighty shore, a man decided to ram No 10 in a car that was allegedly cursed, and a well-meaning woman and her two playmates thought it a good idea to try and destroy a Silver Gilt garden in the Grand Avenue because – and this is undoubtedly a contender for the most Preposterous Statement of the Year Award – “What good is a garden if you can’t eat?”
Across another part of London, The BHA were finalising their injunction pitch to The High Court to take control of the Common Land that is Epsom Downs to prevent Animal Rising from making The Derby a disaster. This followed a private meeting between the two parties, where instead of hurling one of them through the window as a warning to others, a la Hannibal Lector, the two parties finished their jolly elevenses of coffee and doughnuts and sent each other charming emails. It was almost like Baron von Richthofen sending a note to Biggles wishing him a jolly good show over the front line.
My bewilderment at these activities was matched a matter of hours later when I discovered that the writer of Tina’s iconic hit “What’s Love Got To Do With It” offered it to and had it rejected by Cliff Richard, Donna Summer and… Bucks Fizz. Just give that thought some head time. An anguished Cheryl Baker looks into the bewildered eyes of Mike Nolan as she emotes “You must understand, oh, the touch of your hand – Makes my pulse react – That it’s only the thrill of boy meetin’ girl – Opposites attract.”
Meanwhile, the BHA announced that the proposed fixture changes and overall presentation of racing on certain days and from specific courses – what has been dubbed the premierisation of racing – will go ahead. Theoretically, that means that every Saturday afternoon between 2 and 4 the very best of British racing will be broadcast live to the target demographic. Like the fixture list itself, this demographic will become known eventually, but presumably won’t include all the parents and grandparents who, respectful of their children’s gymnastic, sporting, artistic and sadly even medical needs, will already have a date away from the box. We can also probably guess that this means those “Premier” racecourses will heave their prices north of sensible. As with all plans carved into the granite of racing’s history, there are to be exceptions like The Grand National and The Derby… which can do what they like… except when it clashes with the FA Cup, which takes precedence. Or if The King abdicates. Or if Harry announces he is becoming The Duchess to honour his mother. Much like granite, it is only when you lean on it that you realise how strong papier mache can appear to be.
An old mate of mine who was a major PR Silverback once told me that you could see how well a story was going by simply looking at a dozen headlines side by side. I stopped at five – I could read the professionals’ doubtful mood and their use of the BHA’s own language, which all suggest Neigh.
- British racing told to be brave as wide-ranging fixture list reforms are revealed
- ‘Broad support’ from independent racecourses for premierisation fixture changes
- What will change in British racing – and just how radical is it?
- Getting the wheels turning is progress – but are we sure of the direction we’re taking?
- What happens next with the incoming major changes to the fixture list?
Talking of coded messages that might go horribly wrong and which even Cheryl Baker might reject, here are the tips for Saturday:
1:15 HAYDOCK Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Florida Hcap Cl5 (4yo+ 0-75) 1m4f 7 run
C’MON KENNY has William Buick in the plate, which rather caught my eye. He looked as though he needed the run LTO and as he handles the ground and is in his comfort zone class-wise he looks a reasonable punt.
C’MON KENNY 2 pts win
1:30 GOODWOOD William Hill Festival Stks Cl1 (4yo+) 1m2f 6 run
KING OF CONQUEST looks like he might be an improver and has a chance in this higher grade, as an improver with a decent chance in this higher grade. He is match fit after a top-weight victory at HQ in a 17-runner handicap, whereas the favourite FRANCESCO CLEMENTE has been off for 308 days. He is potentially very, very good and is highly regarded at the yad with entries in the PoW, Eclipse and Arc. A small punt on the one with a run
KING OF CONQUEST 2pts e/w
1:50 HAYDOCK Betfred TV Hell Nook Hcap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-100) 2m 7 run
Three suggest themselves based on the trends and they are CARZOLA – LAW OF THE SEA – SOLENT GATEWAY. CARZOLA and LAW OF THE SEA will probably go off joint favourites and the former appears to be the type that can go on improving, despite a chunky 10lb hike after her LTO Donny win which was best described as nonchalant. For Buick and Williams, LAW OF THE SEA could provide a quick double for them as well as a quick ROI for his new connections. His first race for them was a 4th in the Chester Cup, and he was only beaten two lengths despite a hampered and troubled run. SOLENT GATEWAY has won a C2 handicap over the distance, was 3rd in last year’s Northumberland Plate and was a 4¼ 6th to HMS President LTO 3 weeks ago. He looks the wrong price.
SOLENT GATEWAY 2 pts win
2:05 GOODWOOD William Hill Harroways Hcap Cl2 (3yo) 7f 13 run
There is only one selection for me here and that is URBAN SPRAWL. He will deliver the pace from Stall 3 and he was a decent 3rd LTO at Chester staying on well despite racing on unsuitable ground. You could make a case for YACOWLEF who was 2nd in a 14-runner 6f Newmarket handicap LTO beating Pinafore, Shouldvebeenaring and Grace Angel all winners since. He then won LTO at HQ -but his best performances have all been on ground with cut. This I think will prove too fast.
URBAN SPRAWL 3 pts e/w
2:25 HAYDOCK Betfred Silver Bowl Hcap Cl2 (3yo) 1m 11 run
I can reduce this to four COVEY – ROYAL CAPE – JAMES MCHENRY – SCHOLARSHIP…. but I am still scared of Clive Cox’s other runner JUST BRING IT. JAMES McHENRY’s last run looks decent and he remains unbeaten in handicaps. My fear is his 7lb rise but the bet is he’s improving. JUST BRING IT is running off bottom weight and will have the ground to suit having previously displayed a dislike for it when 7/9 at Nottingham a couple back. He ran well in a handicap at HQ last week and gets bottom weight. His stablemate SCHOLARSHIP gets cheekpieces and as I cannot see a pattern to his in-and-out performance, I’m just wondering at the price whether he might be better value. … hmm. I know I’ve mentioned the winner but …
JUST BRING IT 2 pts win – SCHOLARSHIP 1½ pts e/w
2:40 YORK William Hill Epic Boost Hcap Cl2 (3yo+ 0-105) 5f 14 run
There is more than a hint of last week’s Dante here, with five of the contestants reappearing here. 5f handicap run at last week’s York Dante meeting looks the key to this race and 5 horses from that race do battle again here. KORKER finished strongly to take second and an extra 100 yards might have seen him win. He’s up 3 lbs for that which means places could easily be reversed with those behind him, including our selection last week MONDAMMEJ, who now meets KORKER on 5lb better terms. I also fancy both the Tim Easterby horses who have some decent form with a slight preference for MUSIC SOCIETY who could nick a podium coming late on the scene.
MONDAMMEJ 3 pts Win – MUSIC SOCIETY 1½ pts e/w
3:00 HAYDOCK Betfred Nifty Fifty Sandy Lane Stks (G2) Cl1 (3yo) 6f 8 run
This year’s Sandy Lane is pretty decent, with a couple out to repair early-season reputation damage. Last year’s top juvenile LITTLE BIG BEAR reappears after his dismal 2000 Guineas performance where he finished lame. He never looked happy and many pros saw him as a Commonwealth Cup horse over 6 – today is thus his day. BRADSELL is back and has the benefit of a race now under his belt and should show something of his Coventry form today. The always reliable SHOULDVEBEENARING appears and might seal a place.
LITTLE BIG BEAR 5 pts win
3:15 YORK William Hill Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stks (G3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m6f 9 run
MIMIKYU John and Thady Gosden’s filly was a smooth winner of the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster on her penultimate start, and one has to pass by her Ascot Champion Day Fillies and Mares over too short a distance. The upping in distance and dropping in grade are all factored into her price. There are at least three others here capable of beating her and a surprise beckons I suspect. I’m tempted to go No Bet – but my eye is taken by WICKYWICKYWHEELS, who has been a revelation under Jim Goldie’s patient handling. She is value for a podium.
WICKYWICKYWHEELS 1½ pts e/w
3:30 HAYDOCK Betfred Temple Stks (G2) Cl1 (3yo+) 5f 14 run
LIVE IN THE DREAM has gone from handicapper to chasing home Vadream in the G3 Palace House Stakes going down by ½l just being caught on the line. He meets all the key trends as does Richard Hannon’s HAPPY ROMANCE. I am also getting to be wary of Ed Bethell’s runners. He has entered SANDBECK, who also ran in The Palace Hopuse Stakes – but sadly in the far-side group and on unsuitable ground. I don’t think she’ll win – but she has some speed and might be worth looking at the 40/1 for 6 places with Bet365 for example.
LIVE IN THE DREAM 3 pts Win – HAPPY ROMANCE 2 pts e/w – SANDBECK 1¼ pts e/w@ 40/1 six places
3:40 CURRAGH Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (G1) (3yo) 1m 11 run
THE 2000 Guineas – they are not The Newmarket Guineas – is statistically a good starting point to find the winner, and indeed that is what the market has done in making ROYAL SCOTSMAN a favourite. However, I’m going for the two anomalies in that race who were second and fourth. HI ROYAL and GALERON and the ratings report from Raceform suggested something amiss.
Racing in one big group up the centre, the first two were up with the pace throughout. This is a tricky one (to assess), with the two lowest-rated runners finishing runner-up and fourth. Runners-up have been at least 115 in this race (historically)
Charlie Hills’ GALERON ran a new personal best and HI ROYAL is probably underestimated and simply shows the bare minimum. OK It wasn’t a vintage Guineas, it was the slowest run renewal since 1988, but this doesn’t look like a strong G1 either. Perhaps we should consider AOB’s PADDINGTON and CAIRO – except the great man hasn’t won this 2017 – given he has won it 11 times before, and his two Guineas runners both failed miserably. No I think more surprises are coming. HI ROYAL ran green as anything – but his second place was mainly due to a more prominent running style and his character when under pressure. It was after all just his fourth career start and the Curragh’s ordinariness will suit him. By the by, remember that Donnacha’s PROUD AND REGAL was the favourite for the Leopardstown Derby trial and whilst he had a dreadful run (part traffic – part pilot), he didn’t get the trip, didn’t like the ground and is no more a Derby horse than I am a Cross-Channel swimmer. He might be an issue with my selections.
HI ROYAL 4 pts Win – GALERON 2 pts e/w
MONACO GRAND PRIX
Do not expect to see many dramatic changes to Mercedes, other than the look of the side pods. With the sad cancellation of The Italian GP -which incidentally should have been done with a lot more alacrity and better grace – the Monaco circuit is far from ideal for breaking in design innovations. However, that won’t be an enormous problem as after Monaco the circus moves to the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, – which is the principal out-of-season test track for Formula 1 teams. Lewis Hamilton has probably driven at least 2000 laps there – and each one of them and his team’s data will provide comparable data for analysis. You will recall that Mercedes is bringing revised side pods, front suspension and a new floor to the Monaco Grand Prix, which it is hoped will see the team improve performance. The timing to this is crucial as the rumours have been flying of Ferrari hunting Lewis, keen to get him before he negotiates a new package with Mercedes. Team bosses have been known to play around with driver set-up and team orders in order to bring negotiations to a head, and Lewis is no stranger to the politics of F1 negotiations. As to Monaco itself – I am backing Alonzo.