Naturally as soon as I open my big mouth to mention how the wonderful world of horse racing gives me an almost unlimited diet of interesting stories than the weather sets in, most racing is abandoned, and I am scratching my head thinking about how to earn my corn?
Luckily for me, Cheltenham is looming on the horizon and this week I got the e mail I look forward to every year, an invitation to attend certain yards to talk to the trainers, discuss their festival prospects, take a few photos, and try to read between the lines way in advance of the handicap weights being published! This February your intrepid reporter will be representing Post Racing at the empires of Nicky Henderson, David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Donald McCain – and if I cannot point you toward a winner or two after chatting to that lot then I will eat my (racing) hat.
Before then (mid Feb or so, please watch this space for further details) we will hopefully have a few trials to point us in the right direction though Mother Nature seems insistent on messing them up as well, so I am wary we could be in for a few Festival surprises at this rate, with fitness a potential issue. IF Doncaster survive on Saturday alongside Cheltenham (I can be hopeful even if it is not that realistic), then the next pieces of the jigsaw could start to fall in to place, giving Ron the weapons he requires to help us beat the bookies – while I wait to glean the info from the trainers.
On the other side of the World (literally) a certain Aussie sprinter was seen in public for the first time when the antipodean superstar better known as Black Caviar had a public workout. She contested a jump out at Sandown racecourse and came through it with flying colours, and having seen the video someone was clearly joking with the rumours regarding her weight – she has always looked like a bull but there wasn’t a lot of fat on her that I could see (who said ask Tesco?). Elsewhere, you may have noted Ron’s recent correspondence with various parties from the BHA to the tracks themselves regarding the going, for which he has received various replies, unsatisfactory or not! I have no intention of going back over old ground there but will praise the authorities for providing an answer – something other Country’s would certainly not consider. I am good friends with many at the Singapore Turf Club, so when Australian jockey Stephen Baster tweeted that he had his Singapore riding licence withdrawn and was on his way home, I was straight on the case to find out why? No reason has been given and the official line (and the only one I got) was (and I quote) “ The Club has no further comments on this matter” – my point is we can and do knock our racing authorities but at least they feel a little answerable to the public, unlike in certain other Countries!
With so little racing on even I am struggling to find a point to debate this week (I like to get your little grey cells working if I possibly can), so how about the lack of anatomical details regarding race horses? I am ready to be shot down in flames here but why do they not list a horse as G* for first time since being gelded just as they do B* for first time blinkers etc? I am not saying that the removal of their wedding tackle will make them in to instant winners but in some cases there can be serious improvement, so why is it so difficult to find out when their first run since being gelded took place? Ditto height and even weight – in other racing domains (Far East, South Africa and so on), this information is available pre race as a weapon for the punter to use – personally (Ron can tell me I am all wrong as usual), I still work on the old maxim that “a good big ‘un will beat a good little ‘un”, especially over obstacles, but unless I am there in the flesh it is difficult to gauge, and I cannot see why we sit out of step with pretty much the rest of the racing world?
Victor Meldrew moment over and on to the racing this weekend, and if any of it goes ahead (looking good as I write), we need to be very wary of race fitness with plenty of gallops shut down for the past fortnight or so. The higher class stuff is always more difficult to call (but more fun to try), and if Cheltenham do get the go ahead then I will prise open my wallet for a bet on Grandouet at odds around the evens mark as he looks to make his case to head off to the Champion hurdle next March. Trained by (you guessed it) Nicky Henderson, he was a highly respectable second to a race fit Zarkandar at Cheltenham on his first run in over a year where the heavy ground must have pushed his fitness to the very limits, and in all honesty the postponement of the race to Saturday may have helped him more than his rivals with more time to recover. Personally, I am yet to be convinced that Bobs Worth is a genuine Gold Cup contender and at Evens again, I can afford to sit back and watch in the Argento Chase. Grands Crus will be interesting now they know his breathing is sorted, Hunt Ball is a personal favourite but I think it the ground could be too soft for him, and I will be watching Imperial Commander more than the others. I honestly do not believe that many of those shorter in the Gold Cup betting could match his form of 2010 when he destroyed the legendary Denman, and although he is now a veteran art the age of twelve, his mileage in recent years is minimal and if he runs well here then he could pull off a shock at the Festival.
One bet I will not be missing out on is the Paul Cole trained Stormbound who is expected to appear at Lingfield with the race currently timed at 12.50pm. Suffice to say I have been told by a well placed source that he is fully expected to win with ease at the weekend, and as he drops back to maiden company after running well when runner up to Averti in a handicap last time out, there is every reason based on form to expect a bold showing. Raul De Silva has been booked to ride again and claims a valuable three pounds, and although we have no idea of his likely rivals at this early stage, he is the highest rated and most experienced horse in the race, so there is every reason for me to back him.
Lastly, good luck to Rosie’s Lady and Hiddon Coin if one or both head to Wolverhampton (I might see you there), and do keep an eye on my horses to follow list (that I am starting this week) – mine will be based on what I am told not what I see, so there is little likelihood of any duplication with Ron’s far more detailed and technical set up!
Horses to follow:
Word is that you can add MANSONIEN L’AS to any list as he has only been put up six pounds for his recent Kelso success and I know for a fact that connection think he can win again and is still well weighted, they are just looking for the right race.