What Ho and a “Crikey” and a “View Halloa” as the National Hunt season breaks cover for the first time this year.
Of course, I know the season doesn’t ever actually end, but the first meeting at Cheltenham always seems to mark the potential dawn of a new epoch. Every owner has potentially got a Dawn Run or a Son of Dessie running in their non-binary name; potentially it’s a year where every jockey will walk home safe and sound, and every horse will live to 25+. Perhaps also, we should start thinking more about the end of the world as we know it and trying to work out what we can do to save it. Yes – I do care.
Because, unless something radically changes, I believe that in less than a decade, we will only be talking about NH racing in the past tense. It will be lost because we don’t teach kids about the countryside. It will be lost because the young aren’t interested and it will be lost because we didn’t make enough about the sports horse and we failed to make all equestrian sports our bedfellows. It will be lost because we didn’t support it, we didn’t make it accessible, because we didn’t want to share – or change. We will lose it because we didn’t drown out the siren call of the PETA’ers and RSPCA’ers who told the gullible that horses want to be loose on the Newmarket gallops and the Lambourn downs.
In the meantime, and entirely in line with the wishes of my man in Devonshire, I’m going to make every effort to be kind to others. I’ll put aside my loathing ITV’s sanctimonious grandstanding about jockeys who test positive for the equivalent of a medium glass of white wine. I’ll forget the patronising moralising comments over the last two weeks, regarding poor Oisin M, which were disgraceful, given the man had already stuck his hands up and apologised for testing positive to a glass of wine. In his shoes, I might perhaps have reminded some of the members of the racing team of their own occasional moral lapses, but as The Plantagenet Princess reminds me (constantly) I’m neither a jockey nor a professional sportsperson.
This segues me to something which hit my radar screen this week, namely the growing row over Olympic uniforms for girls – Ladies – Women – Non-Binary athletes whatever – whatever. Holy Mother of God, how difficult can it be? If Ms X feels better jumping over a stick wearing trousers let her. If she wants to wear a pair of JimJams, providing they’re clearly marked appropriately what’s the prob? The issue it transpires is down to Nike, Addidas, Tunnel Vision and Yerkiddinme, the principal suppliers of Olympic garments. A pretty athlete wearing the equivalent of branded sellotape and not much else has a far higher web profile and “followers” than the hairy Russian shot putter, who can and does eat trucks and pulls small dogs, or maybe it’s the other way around. In other words, the brand suffers visibility, if the sponsored athlete puts clothes on. This is apparently especially true of Beach Volleyball, a sport which appears to be run by Beavis and Butthead. In this tragically who-cares sport, if the elderly sniggering men can’t get a sense of the teams’ nethers, they fine the team – and a huge amount at that. Their crime of course is sporting clothing that ruins the point of the sport. Oscar Wilde once said that…
“by giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”
and how ignorant must we all be that we can still get our knickers in a twist over something that was banal in the 1970s?
Do you see what a bit of winter sun can do to a fellow at the beginning of a new season? Talking of which…
1:55 Ballymore Novices’ Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m4f
There is nothing to say. He looked a decent type when taking a G2 LTO, attempting 20f for the first time. This race is easier and he will have improved. You are however essentially betting 8/1 on that he stays upright or doesn’t put a foot wrong…..
2:30 squareintheair.com Novices’ Chs Cl2 (4yo+) 2m
The proven Chaser FIDELIO VALLIS has to concede 8lbs to the others which I think will anchor him. THIRD TIME LUCKI, 4th in the Cheltenham Bumper, 6th in the County Hurdle (didn’t get the trip), and 4th in the G1 Top Novice Hurdle at Aintree, is a decent type and this is his first race after a wind-op. Neil Mulholland’s ANY NEWS is my idea of a likely threat.
THIRD TIME LUCKI Win
3:05 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Novices’ Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 3m
CALAGOGO, GRACE A VOUS ENKI, BARDENSTOWN LAD are the three trend selections, and I think the Nicholls runner is the preferred choice. He didn’t like the pace LTO and the resulting sprint finish did him no favours. However, he still got to ¾l of the winner and is penalty-free. Providing the race isn’t a dawdle, that 8lbs benefit will make all the difference. It’s a very tightly-packed early market, which suggests any from my shortlist might win – and should perhaps be considered for a Combination forecast
GRACE A VOUS ENKI e/w
3:40 888Sport Novices’ Limited Hcap Chs Cl3 (4yo+) 2m4f
The rank outsider of five TORN AND FRAYED makes the selection because I noted back in April that I thought he’d improve for jumping. He lost a shoe here back in April coming 3rd and meets FAVOIR on similar terms given the 4¼l between them. NTD likes this meeting and I think this might be a decent type.
TORN AND FRAYED Win ½pt RFC FAVOIR
4:15 Abu Dhabi Digital Exchange Hcap Hdl Cl3 (3yo+ 0-140) 2m4f
I quite fancied GUARD YOUR DREAMS, but I think the price is too skinny for the weight he has to carry, which might anchor his normal running style of getting going late. SOMETIME ALWAYS appeals in a wide-open handicap and the 3lb claim of Charlie Todd helps cement his e/w chance as it makes him 6lb lower than his last winning mark. He had a hat trick last season, before making his handicap debut and ran respectably. I quite like his Newbury form LTO against a decent Paul Nicholls handicapper and he has been backed heavily overnight. FOUND ON from canny Martin Keighley’s yard might give him most to do.
SOMETIME ALWAYS e/w
4:50 Andy Stewart Memorial Amateur Jockeys’ Hcap Chs Cl3 (4yo+ 0-125) 3m1f
Oliver Greenall’s FURIUS DE CIERGUES had a wind op in February, and he has not been outside the top 3 since then. This is a step up but he looks progressive. Quite why they dropped the cheekpieces LTO is a mystery. DEFUTURE IS BRIGHT is fancied, because I suspect Christian Williams gave him an impossible pipe-opener over too short a trip LTO, which has cleared all the cobwebs and left his mark entirely intact. I think this is a plot.
DE FUTURE IS BRIGHT e/w – FURIUS DE CIERGUES e/w
5:25 Foundation Developments Maiden Hdl Cl3 (4yo+) 2m½f
Olly Murphy runs GO DANTE who won with ease at Wincanton and who appears to be the one that even the more experienced horses should fear. The more it rains the happier CARDANO will be, CIRQUE ROYAL has been talked about in some of the dives I frequent, and JOHN LOCKE has apparently had an improving wind-op, which could easily see Dan Skelton’s charge bettering his Adonis run and his latter 2nd in Aintree’s Anniversary Hurdle
JOHN LOCKE Win