Free entry in to Wolverhampton (all of January in case anyone is interested) helped to swell the crowd, while New Year’s Day may have muted a few but there were more than enough mini parties going on to give the whole track (especially the bars), a decent atmosphere. Despite the bitterly cold wind (you can tell I am a soft southerner), the numbers around the parade ring were impressive and the course need congratulating for the freedom of movement around the track – something the likes of Royal Ascot could do with a serious look at!
Sadly, the one thing the course have little sway over is the quality of racing or the numbers taking part and the scene was set with a 1/12 (no, you did read that right) winner in the first, and even then he only just got up under Adam Kirby – not one for normal folk to bet on, though I suppose it helped a few accumulators? Like a scene from Rocky, the bookmakers were well and truly on the ropes by race six after all the other favourites went in at odds of 7/4, 5/6, 10/11, and 7/4 with the well backed Alfred Hutchinson (7/2) coming to the aid in the sixth race having been supported from much longer odds all day.
That aside, Ron, myself, and an assorted gathering (dare I say motley crew?) of 500 club members had been chewing the fat while getting more and more excited (well I was!) before heading off to the paddock ahead of Rosie’s Lady making her debut in the 4.35pm and thus taking her place in history as the first ever runner in Post Racing colours. Trainer David O’Meara joined us first and the obligatory introductions and handshakes were made before we got down to the nitty gritty – Ron asking him politely what he felt our chances were.
Fact is (and I do read Facebook), David simply told us what Ron has said already – it wasn’t much of a race and she had a decent each way chance, which was immediately conveyed via Facebook to anyone willing to have a look! Being me, I decided a bet of any kind would surely jinx her chances so I let her run unbacked, and the rest, as they say, is history! She won, and did so well enough (I will be writing up a warts and all race review later), and did us all proud – as well as raising much needed money for the charities we are here to support, she gave those present a start to 2013 that we will never forget, though my “next stop Royal Ascot” comment may have been the adrenaline talking.
After the race we were invited to quaff a glass of the old bubbly in the Winning Connections area while being served a section of sandwiches by two young ladies who were polite, pleasant, and supportive of our charity concepts. Sadly, as the last race of the day we ran out of time to savour our moment for to long (we weren’t rushed, but fair is fair), before wandering off on to the deserted race course, and making our merry way back home dreaming of further successes – 2013 is already a great year!
That filled a gap as the rest of the racing week was close to a write off in this weather though Kempton on Thursday was worth a look even if the prices were akin to Wolverhampton. Simonsig taught us very little other than he can certainly jump a fence when hacking up at prohibitive odds of 1/6 while Sanctuaire franked the Sprinter Sacre form when easily winning the Desert Orchid Chase as he pleased though where he goes next is anybody’s guess as the Henderson star clearly has his measure. In Ireland, Sizing Europe and Jezki both showed they are very much on target for Cheltenham on Thursday afternoon, but what did we really learn from the Lexus Chase on the Friday afternoon from Leopardstown I wonder. Ron and I disagree (which is the wonderful thing about this game) as he has taken the fancy prices about Sir Des Champs who was, I admit, a running on fourth, implying that the extra quarter mile and uphill finish will play to his strengths at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup. Personally, I will be happy to lay him on the day assuming a class field turn up as his jumping looks so incredibly suspect. Remember, this was not the Gold Cup and had a long list of classy options missing from the line up (see the King George on Boxing Day, for example), and with a decent early pace I can see him clattering a few which you just cannot afford to do at the top level, and if Ruby Walsh cant make him jump then there really is no hope for him, while anyone who thinks winner Tidal Bay is considered within a stone of Silviniaco Conti at the Nicholls yard needs to get out more!
Looking forward, the racing over the weekend looks pretty decent (assuming we get the go ahead), with the Welsh National from Chepstow the possible highlight. Teaforthree is already as short as 7/2, which is frankly laughable for a three and three quarter mile handicap on heavy to bottomless ground! The nine year old does stay for ever and does handle the going which part explains his price but the value has all gone and I would rather look elsewhere for some each way value. At 14/1 maybe (just maybe), Master Overseer could be on e to at least consider with a four-pound penalty after his recent victory at Cheltenham when staying on strongly over three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham. There is nothing between him and Quartz De Thaix on that form at the revised weights but I feel the stamina could be on our side as well as a less active season, and IF I have a bet here (pretty unlikely to be honest), he may well be the one.
Personally, I will be glued to the television for the Tolworth Hurdle at 2.25pm when Sandown put on a fascinating looking contest (at this stage). Poet is the class act off of the flat but I wonder if his stamina will hold out at this higher level, while the unbeaten Pendra is very interesting but steps up from two wins at Plumpton to this more salubrious venue. They will both hope to be involved in the finish (assuming they show up on the day), but the one to beat looks to be the Nicky Henderson trained Golden Hoof, who looked like the next machine off of the Seven Barrows conveyer belt when sluicing home over course and distance. As with most entries this is a step in to the unknown class wise but the son of Oscar could yet prove to be well bought for £25,000 if he wins this and goes on to bigger and better things as expected.
Finally for this week I have a little question for you – whatever happened to all weather hurdle races? I know they were stopped for welfare reasons as they were causing far too many injuries or worse but I cannot help but wonder if it stopped there or has anyone tried to correct the problems? I love horses as much or more than most and do NOT want any more injuries, but is it really beyond the wit of man to work a way round it which is exactly what is needed during inclement weather such as now! All weather cards are thrown on at the last minute at the demand of the bookmakers as we all know but if they could be hurdle races instead, we could get some decent races in to those horses who most need it, jumpers itching for a run who cannot work on the flooded gallops and need to get to a track. Just a thought, if it is the hurdles, look at changing them, if the surface is too difficult to jump out of, how about a new hurdling surface developed just for the winter game – imagine how that would help us all, and there I rest my case?