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25th April 2024 3:35 am

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

Weather aside – there’s quite a lot going on, sportswise.

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Rain, snow, sleet, plagues of frogs or locusts, we shouldn’t be surprised, although Thursday in Scottsdale did slightly bamboozle me and most of the Koreans on the tour, who all seemed shy of the appropriate wet weather gear.

No such thing as bad weather, dear, just inappropriate clothing was what Nanny was often heard to remark as she returned from TV night at The Arbroath Working Men’s Club – although why she would go and watch TV was beyond me.

It tipped down in Arizona, and given the course was already a forest [sic] of Lakes, Canals and Ponds, it was unsurprising to see all the ducks and herons in the middle of the desert; it reminded one that global warming apparently doesn’t just mean forest fires and a melting Iceland.

So two meetings have been abandoned, and the rest of the AWT card, all scheduled outside of broadcast hours, suggest that ITV will either scramble to pick up Naas or run with Newbury for four races. It does seem strange that provision wasn’t made for a likely weather scenario – the old Schweppes Trophy was often a victim of weather in the days before global warming.

Luckily, plenty of other sports are on, not the least of which will be the Formula 1 Christian Horner Replacement Cup. This is a surprising new sport, and Horner is currently subject to an investigation by Red Bull’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH after a complaint of “inappropriate behaviour” was made by a female colleague. Media sources suggested this was about the 50-year-old’s aggressive management style – involving telling people what to do. Horner strongly denies the allegations, and there was an off-site hearing in London on Friday. Red Bull GmbH has handed over the matter to an “external specialist barrister” the speed perhaps illustrates the seriousness of the matter and how Red Bull GmbH chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff is dealing with it. Inevitably and after the stupid FIA political manoeuvre against Toto and Susie Wolff relating to conflicts of interest, paddock watchers have been waiting to see where the Mensur Schläger (look it up) slashed next – and this might be it. There have been suggestions of boardroom unease surfacing at Red Bull, despite their unprecedented success, because the death of former Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz in 2022 saw Horner lose his best mate in the boardroom at a time when he was under intense pressure from the FIA caused by Red Bull’s breaching the 2021 cost cap. In the 15 months since, some inter-divisional conflicts have been rumbling away between Horner and Marko, who runs the Junior team. Given the introduction of new F1 regs in 2026 – which means everyone has to be in place and planning and developing this year at the latest – losing Horner and possibly one or two others with him could spell the end of Red Bull’s dominance. Which would make the redevelopment of a Mercedes less fraught, perhaps?

Meanwhile, over in the States, we have Super Bowl Sunday. Kansas City Chiefs versus the San Francisco 49ers. I’m going to fly a kite here, and whilst everyone seems to be on Kansas City in this game, I’m thinking further back in the season and asking myself, why KC? What am I missing? The 49ers were the best team in the league for a long time, and here’s a supporting stat for my view – no team has won back-to-backs since the ’03-’04 Patriots. The 49ers will have a very narrow lead in the first half, KC will stage a late rally, and somehow, the 49ers under QB Purdy will beat the Chiefs under Mahomes by a small margin of 5-7 pts.

In Scotland v France in the Six Nations, the ill-discipline of the Scots in the second half of their opening game, which saw them hand over 14 penalties in a row, has resulted in a change of leadership with Rory Darge coming in. Getting the ball quickly to Duhan van der Merwe, is the suspected play and he will be trying to get close to Bielle-Biarrey who pound for pound comes in as a small amuse bouche! The tunnel rumours are that, much like the French Farmers, there is a great lack of ‘apenis as they say in Inglis, and Galthie’s stormy face in pre-match chats suggested the rumours were right.

As for England and Wales… Oh please… It is the same team, and confidence looks good in the main. I really don’t see Wales having a chance. Look for a 16+ pt victory.

Talking of confident yet probably guilty of inappropriate behaviour somewhere…

Newbury
12:55 Betfair Racing Podcasts Novices’ Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+) 2m½f SKY 16 run

A whisper no more…

FOURTOWNS 2 pts e/w

1:30 Betfair Serial Winners Fund Hcap Hurdle Cl3 (4yo+ 0-140) 3m ITV 10 run

The trends suggest three AMERICAN SNIPER and EQUINUS, but I’m swerving those in favour of JUDICIAL LAW. Back from a break, I think he’ll enjoy both course and distance and won’t mind the ground. Everything in his form line says he is a Class 3 or 4 animal, and the last time he raced in a C3, he won from only a 3lb lower mark. You can get 4 places with a couple of bookmakers including Betfair and so I have taken the offer – but at SP rather than paltry (although understandable) 17/2 they were offering Jonjo is 21R – 4W – 5P at Newbury this season…

JUDICIAL LAW 4 pts e/w @ SP with WillHill, 888 or Betfair.

2:05 Betfair Denman Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m7½f ITV 5 run

Inevitably, the principal press and betting market focus will be on SHISHKIN when he tries to put to sleep the King George nightmare and show his readiness for his Gold Cup bid. He should win; even though he’s drifting like an untied barge, he is still 4/5 – but this is a funny old race for dealing out the shocks. Denham himself ironically lost this twice when odds-on, on one occasion catapulting Sir Anthony out of the plate when 1/6 on. Since then, there have been a further five odds-on and an even money loser. Here’s my thinking. This is a prep race for SHISHKIN for the Gold Cup. NdeB does not have an Option 2 in that race, and on this ground, is NOT going to give SHISHKIN a hard time – just get his head straight. On the other hand, this is PROTEKTORAT’s Gold Cup and whilst the second favourite, I and many other punters are bamboozled by his price. Surely – other than his fall LTO, he should be, in theory, a joint favourite or possibly an eighth of a point behind. Don’t go bonkers, but this is almost a no-brainer.

PROTEKTORAT 6 pts Win
Just for fun and to have an interest in the next…
PROTEKTORAT and AMARILLO SKY 2 pt Win double

2:40 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m½f ITV 5 run

BOOTHILL was the original favourite for this with EDWARDSTONE 2nd. That position has flip-flopped, and I’m not sure I understand why. Yes, he will surely appreciate this return to 2m, having appeared incapable of handling near 21f LTO at Kempton, although, on breeding, he appeared suited. BOOTHILL gets 2 lbs, and AMARILLO SKY and CALICO get 6 lbs. The latter will help set the pace for EDWARSTONE, but when all is said and done, the favourite is going backwards on ratings, officially deteriorating 5lbs this season, from OR 167 to 162. In what will be a tactical race I’d suggest leaving it alone of having a very small go at either of the bottom two in the market based on your preference for colours, jockeys or the look of the tack.

NO BET

3:15 Betfair Hurdle (Premier Hcap) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m½f ITV 24 run

7 places with Skybet – WillHill

My shortlist is entirely commensurate with the number of runners. Not on that list is OCASTLE DES MOTTES on the grounds that Willie Mullins is 1/42 at Newbury and horses don’t win this off so long an absence. So my list is NORMAN FLETCHER [22/1] – SPIRIT D’AUNOU [17/2] – AURIGNY MILL [18/1] – LOOKAWAY [9/1] – ALTOBELLI [5/1]. I know that’s a third of the runners, but you have to start somewhere. Vic Dartnall likes AURIGNY MILL who is up 9lbs for a “understated” performance at Kempton at Christmas and showed his ground capabilities the trace before at Wincanton. LOOKAWAY is consistent and gutsy.

LOOKAWAY 3 pts e/w – NORMAN FLETCHER 2 pts e/w – AURIGNY MILL 2 pts e/w

All 5 in a ¼pt CFC

3:50 Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Novices’ Limited Hcap Chase Cl3 (5yo+) 2m7½f SKY 6 run

HOMETOWN BOY 3 pts e/w

4:25 Betfair Exchange Beacons Bumper Cl1 (4-6yo) 2m½f SKY 10 run

HISTRIONIC was a big gamble at Newbury LTO largely, I suspect, based on his purchase price of some £400k. Sure, he’s hacked up in his only point, but on his Bumper debut, it was all future promise. Paul tends to send his Bumpers out match-ready so I’m not sure where the improvement comes from just test. He needs a fence and 3m. On the other hand, UNION AVENUE has made a decent winning hurdles debut. He’ll love the mud today, and I suspect he’ll win this from the front. DIRTY DEN concerns me.

UNION AVENUE 4 pts Win – ½ pt RFC DIRTY DEN

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