Since we were last together, it is accurate to say that the world has changed, and the impact of those changes is primarily unseen and unmeasured. My equilibrium has been unsettled by the attritional news flow; Henry Ponsonby, a good friend, avoided an annual racing lunch by suddenly dying. James Delahooke, whom I’ve known for over 20 years, died a few days earlier. His importance in the bloodstock industry cannot be overstated – Juddmonte and thus Frankel et al – are what they are because of his original guiding hand. Henry’s importance as a pioneer in syndicate ownership has also impacted the racing world. All this and HM Queen Elizabeth too.
Thus these ten or so days have been a slightly random stream of consciousness. I am shamed by the hundreds of thousands of people who have limped, strolled, and marched into Westminster. As quite possibly millions of others did, I supported them rather wetly, by watching the queue for hours on the BBC’s Parliament channel, a near-silent throng only altered by the scabbard’s thump heralding the changing of the guard. Pageantry and precision aside, the variation of personal homages has also been extraordinarily moving. Salutes, kisses, signs of the cross, bowed heads, deep Japanese bows, Hindu and Buddhist marks of obeisance, genuflections, and curtsies.
But not by me, Your Majesty, mea maxima culpa; I prayed while watching the multitude and contemplated on future life for the House of Windsor. In the background, various souls were allowed to air their grievances, pettiness and ill-informed opinions, possibly because it was cheaper than hiring experts. There were, of course, the badly-educated and insentient Woke. Of course, there were supporters of the Grass is Always Greener Party, for whom any change is good because it sounds more… thoughtful? In the vacuum of their noise, there was the very bizarre Twitter film of Kwasi Kwarteng behaving so strangely in the funeral service that I initially thought it was Russian deep fake news. It might still be – but we should be told.
Two positive moments did remain, however. First, a former soldier, the BBC’s Nick Robinson found near the head of the Day 1 overnight queue, in a bowler hat and his best suit, standing among all the charming women, children, matrons, infirm, and elderly, whose accents covered the vast expanse of our countries. He had been standing there for many hours and only had another eight or so to go. “Are you standing the whole time?” asked Nick Robinson. “Well, if I lie down, I’ll crease my clothes, which wouldn’t do for Parade”. “How do you sleep?” asked an increasingly incredulous Robinson. “It’s an old soldier’s trick, “he said, “you just rock backwards and forwards on the balls of your feet.”
The other was a kid in her jimjams, coming out of a sleeping bag. Her Brownie’s uniform was in a plastic bag, and she was going to get changed into it when she got nearer the head of the queue to look smart for The Queen. “Why?” asked the presenter. “Because you should try to look smart for The Queen, ‘cos of what she has done for us”.
How many of us will regret not making that extra effort in the coming years? Almost certainly me, for one.
But I will remember noticing the graceful, oft-practised curtsies in St George’s Chapel – because it was full of the staff who had served Her Majesty for so long. My other tiny moments will be a quiet service in the church in Marlborough on the first Sunday and seeing her Groom holding her favourite Fell pony beside the Long Walk. The visible affection of much of the crowd was impossible to ignore, and I couldn’t hide my pleasure and admiration at the planning that saw holders of the GC and VC being invited to the funeral. Later Her Piper recounted how the Queen fetched some Arnica from her apartments to give him for his wife, who had recently fallen and been badly bruised. Silly moments in a long week left me moved and saddened, and apprehensive about the future of my past.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. The lunch mentioned above found fifteen of us in Boisdale’s in Belgravia having a racing lunch. We celebrated a chum’s victory in winning a Fantasy Stable competition I run. Another had a birthday, which we observed, and many of us ended on the Cigar terrace, missed our trains, and talked about those who had met Her Majesty. I then discovered (plus ca change) how rarely we ask those we call our friends the right questions. A mate, whom I have only known for a year, showed me the photos his Dad had taken when his son was awarded the MC by Her Majesty. I looked up his citation and added his name to the pantheon of those who, like Her Majesty, will find it very difficult to do anything wrong in my eyes. The next afternoon Henry Ponsonby was dead, and there was another small dark spot in a previously well-lit firmament.
God Rest them all, and my deepest thanks for all they added to my life.
1:30 HAYDOCK Old Bootleians Nursery Hcap Cl2 (2yo) 5f 8 run
An unbelievable 4 places Skybet – and knowing that there are only seven runners, this looks like some value!
KUWAIT CITY Having worn the dodge pot’s red hood LTO, he gets a 1st-time tongue tie this time and is thought at home to have the real ability – BOOM BOOM POW hampered LTO ignore run
Dutch the pair for 6 points total.
1:50 NEWMARKET British EBF Rosemary Stakes (F&M) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m 11 run
4 places Coral and Bet365
IMPROVISED is the wrong price and is one of those September horses who everyone knows has the ability – it’s just a question of putting it on display. At 50/1 I’m not going to discover that today was the day. The same might also apply to MYSTIC WELLS and RANDOM HARVEST. I’m going to do all three for small e/w stakes.
IMPROVISED – MYSTIC WELLS – RANDOM HARVEST 1 pt e/w each
2:05 HAYDOCK J W Lees MPA Hcap Cl3 (3yo+ 0-90) 1m 14 run
5 places with Betway and Skybet
I got the impression that BRIGHT START needed his run LTO. This is a weaker race in terms of company and shorter. He looks the wrong price at anything bigger than 14/1 in my eyes and 33/1 is loopy.
BRIGHT START 2 pts e/w
2:25 NEWMARKET Princess Royal Stakes (G3) (F&M) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m4f 8 run
SEA SILK ROAD 4 pts Win – PERIAPATETIC 2 pts e/w plus ¼pt RFC
I backed the latter at midnight with Bet365 at 20/1, and she was 12s generally!
2:40 HAYDOCK Haldane Fisher Hcap Cl3 (3yo 0-90) 1m6f 10 run
4 places with Skybet
SPEYCASTER has some decent form lines and was 4/14 in a far better race LTO over C&D, and one which produced the St Leger 2nd. The ground has finally come good for him, and the yard is in good form. The other two selections I am just going to use for forecast purposes.
SPEYCASTER 5 pts Win to beat NOVA LEGEND – DOUBLE CHERRY 2 x ½ pt SFC
3:00 NEWMARKET Rockfel Stakes (G2) (Fillies) Cl1 (2yo) 7f 14 run
4 places generally
OLIVIA MARALDA 5 pts Win to beat DANCE IN THE GRASS ½ pt SFC
3:35 NEWMARKET Joel Stakes (G2) Cl1 (3yo+) 1m 7 run
3 places Coral, Bet365, Skybet
POGO 4 pts Win