Sometime in late 1977, I ran a gaff in Camden Lock called Madisons, which ran the full length of the first floor of the Camden Lock courtyard, directly opposite Dingwalls and Le Routier. I converted the old Lock, Stock and Barrell and former barge horse stables into a strange representation of a truck-stop café or diner, somewhere outside Wisconsin. No me neither, but lack of knowledge should never stand in the way of creative thingy. Then, following a fire at The Round House further up the road, a mate of mine who was EMI’s head of A&R told me she needed a venue very urgently for the launch of Little River Band’s UK tour or somesuch … which we did, apparently successfully, and followed up with another dozen or so of these blockbuster beanos, which was how I came for about a year or so to know a few music people, and got my name in NME and Sounds etc.
It became a time when, for medical purposes, I drank a bottle of bourbon a day, (occasionally mixed with Mescal chasers… but never before ten pm), but I was always well behaved. There was however a moment at some party when I had to give Johnny Rotten nee Lydon a smack, when he threatened me with a bottle and told me to fuck off. He was thrown out, despite Suzi Quatro trying to join in; and after she was hauled off, I went back to having a quiet drink with Gambo, who was either trying to pull me, or my head waiter. It was a grand year and I shall hold dear the memory of a Sunday brunch with Marianne Faithful, who had been stood up, while John Cleese sat nearby trying to convince Connie Booth that something or other needed doing. Marianne suggested I looked tired and that I need to get some sleep. Marianne was very wise in her ways.
I only mention all this as a segue to my reading that Johnny has been grown-up for some time now, and has decided to give Eurovision a bash for Ireland this year. The song is called Hawaii and is actually a strangely poignant song which John has dedicated to his wife, Nora, who has Alzheimer’s. When you hear it (CLICK HERE), it doesn’t exactly scream out Eurovision, but then how many countries actually want to win it? That said, and unlike Kneesup at the end of a threat from Johnny, the bookies are running scared. On hearing the news, one reader tried to get £500 to 25s but was slammed back to a tenner at 20s. The rest of the
accountancy bookmaking group followed suit within three minutes. This could become the Carers Anthem for 2023 and Skybet is still offering 25/1 for 4 places. Help yourself. For my part I’m on and I just hope that he does it and does it well.
On the subject of times past, I went to the funeral of John Hanmer this week, to see some 175 hacks, pros and chums turn out to hear a very funny, considerate and kind eulogy from Richard Phillips, and an amusing, self-scribed poem by Jimmy “The Vod” Blackshaw, who also underwrote the Wake with some excellent 2012 Champagne. John was acerbic, funny, very dry in his wit, a solid bridge player, cricket aficionado, and was a consummate professional in his output and the time he spent in research. Half the Aintree press room of 1970-2010 was there, and it was grand to see so many of them still able to fall on a free glass with the proper gusto that a decent wake deserves. As a small tribute, CLICK HERE to see the 1993 Grand National and listen again to the three best commentators in the business.
A wake is also a grand event for a gossip and so I was bought up to speed on the shenanigans in the bloodstock world caused by the failure of Derby-winning owner Saleh Al Homaizi (Authorized 2007) to settle his global £20½m bloodstock purchasing bill from last Autumn. He bought his lots through his agent Richard Knight, brother of Newmarket trainer William, and the lots in question are set to be resold privately and at the sales in the spring. It also transpires that Goffs, Tatts and others have – in the main- paid the vendors already! Embarrassingly too for The Thoroughbred Times, the industry paper conducted a gushing puff with Richard in their end-of-year edition, less than a fortnight ago and the week before the news of the massive default broke. Aside from the legal and financial mess, it must also surely put most of the “record bloodstock sales” hype in doubt. With records tumbling at all the top sales, it could be reasonably argued that much of the impetus derived from Knight and his multiple 7-figure buys – not forgetting that he was also the underbidder on several other expensive purchases.
Finally, never doubt how perspicacious footballers can be. Man City’s winger and Algerian team captain Riyad Mahrez did a two month trial with St Mirren in 2009. His opinion of Bonnie Scotland? “It drove me crazy, Scotland. It was cold. It was abuse.” Doubtless I shall get the usual abuse in the postbag, following my tips for Saturday’s televised racing, but not from Rollsy, who kindly made a small donation this week, to help meet the increasing costs of this nonsense.
Three graded races with less than 6 runners on average…. tick tock said Captain Hook’s crocodile to the BHA.
1:30 KEMPTON Coral Racing Club Hcap Chs Cl2 (5yo+ 0-145) 3m 7 run
A straight toss-up between SMARTY WILD and TILE TAPPER on the trends, but the latter is 11lbs worse than his last winning mark, (SW is only 3lbs), and Philip Hobbs’s figures of 2W 2P 6R suggests that he targets this race. SMARTY WILD was 2nd in this last year and will go one better this time around.
SMARTY WILD 3 pts win
1:50 WARWICK eventmasters.co.uk Hampton Nov’ Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 3m 4 run
Nicholls has won this for the last couple of years, the horse will love the ground, and against this vast turn-out of ultra-stiff competition, it is hard to see past COMPLETE UNKNOWN, providing no body gets tactical. Mid-div – poodle round – win race.
COMPLETE UNKNOWN 5 pts Win
2:05 KEMPTON Coral Silviniaco Conti Chs (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m4½f 6 run
The trends for this race founded nine years ago, are weak., but Hendo and Nicholls have won six of those nine between them. So unsurprisingly I’m swerving that pointer and heading for the Fergal O’Brien trained PAINT THE DREAM. He carried a hefty 12st at Newbury LTO and was 4th in the Charlie Hall before that. That form puts him ahead of most of these and I’m almost tempted to suggest adding SAINT CALVADOS to a SFC. Oh go on then.
PAINT THE DREAM 2 pts Win – 1 pts SFc to beat SAINT CALVADOS
2:25 WARWICK Ballymore Leamington Nov’ Hdl (G2) Cl1 (5yo+) 2m5f 7 run
I was very keen on GREY DAWNING when the markets hadn’t formed, but then I saw SNAKE ROLL’s price around 11/2 and saw it “pinking up” to 6/1 and 13/2. Given that he has black type form – 5l 2nd to G1 winner Tahmuras, on soft ground – then he hosed in by 14l on Boxing Day over the correct distance. At the moment he is 13/2 with William Hill for 3 places and 6s with Skybet again for 3 places. That is the e/w bet of the day
SNAKE ROLL 4 pts e/w(William Hill 13/2)
2:40 KEMPTON Coral Lanzarote Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m5f 20 run
Seven places with Skybet – Six in many others – do not accept less from your bookmaker. I have narrowed it down to six; PETIT TONNERRE – COBBLERS DREAM – GREEN GLORY – RATHMACKNEE – MARK OF GOLD – RED RISK. Jonjo O’Neill’s PETIT TONNERRE will like the ground but didn’t really impact on RED RISK when they met at Newbury LTO. He travels strongly and he has stamina, but I’m not that keen. Freddie Gingell’s 7lb claim makes Paul Nicholls’s RED RISK look quite interesting especially when you consider the weight concessions. COBBLERS DREAM won this last year and switches back to hurdlers after failing to handle fences. He looks interesting as does MARK OF GOLD. I really think the fact that claimers have won 6 of the last nine runnings is significant.
COBBLERS DREAM – RED RISK – MARK OF GOLD 2 pts e/w
3:00 WARWICK Wigley Group Classic Hcap Chs Cl1 (5yo+) 3m5f 14 run
Only four make my trends profile and I was rather hoping that LORD DU MESNIL would be amongst them. Sadly not, because i quite fancied him for the Welsh Grand National but he didn’t declare on ground terms – which was a shame because the rain arrived – but all too late. On this ground I fancied him, but the lay off since his November run at Bangor counts against him. Then he finished just just under 5l behind subsequent Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase winner, Le Milos, so if you fancy him he’ll need to be able to run well fresh. My trends short list is GRUMPY CHARLIE [-6] – COMMODORE [-8] – WOULDUBEWELL[-3] and VOLCANO [-5] the fingers in brackets being pounds carried in excess of their last winning run. WOULDUBEWELL weakened in the Welsh National LTO, I think it was just too far. He has won over 26f and his trainer won this last year and has 4P 5R. I fancy this for a podium. VOLCANO looks to have been aimed at this and his Warwick record reads 1111 – all at the distance. GRUMPY CHARLIE is a model of consistency and COMMODORE is there simply on trends and Venetia.
WOULDUBEWELL 2 pts e/w – VOLCANO 2 pts e/w
3:35 WARWICK Pertemps Network Hcap Hdl Cl2 (5yo+) 3m1f 9 run
By the time this race comes around there is every chance that the ground could have become near unraceable. To that end I have selected two outsider who might be able to slog their way around LIEUTENANT ROCCO and LEVEL NEVERENDING. I also quite fancy ON THE BLIND SIDE from Hendo’s yard, but that is largely because of the 10lb claimer on board removing shed-loads of weight. His last four runs have been disappointing – but he runs today off an effective mark of 131 and carrying less than 11st for only the 2nd time in his career. It’s perfectly possible that his head has gone and he hates racing – perhaps we’ll see today. Lt ROCCO has won 30% of all his runs on heavy and he has two wins at Warwick to boot. This looks like a Look-Sea for LEVEL NEVERENDING and he is a tempting price for a relatively unknown quantity. There the three I fear the most. Picking one I’ll play Henderson’s.
ON THE BLIND SIDE 3 pts e/w