As my conscience has been bothering me, perhaps it is time for me to confess that I have finally given in and decided to start following Ron’s amazing handicap selections! Truth be told, I usually rely on my own interpretation of the form book coupled with the information, texts, and phone calls I receive from my stable of contacts around the United Kingdom, who have seen me alright for many years now but all weapons need to be utilised in our war with the bookmakers! That said, money is money and just like every punter, I could always do with a little bit more, and with Ron in such a ridiculous run of form, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Timing is of the essence when joining any ratings service, or tipster, or system, or whatever you like to call it, as we all have winning and losing runs, but perhaps for the first time in many a year, I seem to have got my timing right and long may that continue, as the profits keep rolling in!
I can’t say that I always agree with Ron by any stretch of the imagination, and I do read his Facebook comments with interest, ready to have my say if I feel the need. This week, the living legend that is Frankie Dettori stirred my wrath from its slumber with the majority on Facebook seemingly in agreement that his time has past. They may be right, I do not for one moment consider myself a definitive reference point (anyone else old enough to remember him with Steve Cauthen in the saddle?), and if I’m proved wrong in time then I will eat my humble pie with grace, but I do feel the vultures are out just a little too early, and there is plenty of life in the housewives favourite (cliché of the week) yet. Although only an armchair jockey myself, I do have numerous friends who make their living from the saddle, and fitness and weight issues are invariably the number one problem. Once Frankie lost his position with Godolphin, it was never going to be easy for him to remain race fit after six months enforced absence, and you need to understand that few trainers are interested in an outside jockey riding work when there is no option for them to ride the same horse come race day. Frankie still has many friends in the industry, and will be the first to admit that he made a terrible mistake, but we all made errors in our lives, and I think and hope that he will persevere and come back stronger and leaner than before, though his strike rate is unlikely to ever match the ones he obtained when riding for the boys in blue. As you will know by now, he has accepted the job of retained jockey to Sheikh Joann Al Thani, one of the major new investors in the sport of kings, and a very serious owner for the future, and he clearly sides with me in thinking Frankie still has the magic, all he needs to do now is put in the effort required to show the public he is still “the man”!
One other small thing you may have noticed is the little matter of Sandown this coming Saturday, and the Coral Eclipse Stakes. A Group One race over a mile and a quarter with a stiff uphill finish, for many this is one of the pinnacle races of the season, and the chance for this years three-year-olds to put their reputations on the line against the older horses. With the mile and a half of the Derby and even worse the mile and three quarters of the St Leger relative “no no’s” in the breeding world these days (especially when it comes to the more speed driven Americans and Japanese), there is every chance that this race will evolve in to the number one target each season, eventually eclipsing (sorry, I couldn’t resist), the Arc as the race everyone wants to win. This season we have what I consider to be a relatively disappointing field, with just the eight runners declared at the four-day stage, three of those trained by Aidan O’Brien (there’s a surprise!), and owners wonder why “mere” punters have little sympathy for their arguments regarding prize-money. With £425,000 guaranteed, they do seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by avoiding taking on the likes of Al Kazeem (the 6/4 favourite and frankly the most likely winner after his win at Royal Ascot last time out when he saw off Mukhadram). History suggests that there is precious little to choose between the age groups, though favourites have won three of the last four runnings, with Nathaniel bucking the trend for Newmarket trainer John Gosden last season. Official ratings suggest it may be closer than the betting implies, with just a pound separating the jolly from Mukhadram and Mars who comes into the reckoning thanks to his three-year-olds’ allowance. To be honest I cannot even attempt to second-guess this race until we are aware of the Irish challengers, and have the opportunity to reassess the odds – though I may well be very interested in Declaration Of War who I have underrated until now, and who looked like this trip and track would be perfection when he won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, staying on strongly. I do not honestly believe he is a better horse than Roger Charlton’s charge, but he does seem to be improving and may well offer a spot of value IF he is sent as the stable’s number one choice, though how we guess that is becoming more difficult by the race, with jockey arrangements seemingly proving nothing!
Unsurprisingly, there are other races worth a second look on the Sandown card (as well as elsewhere, obviously), with the Group Three Coral Charge at 2.05pm as interesting as any. Like a lemming to a cliff, I will be backing Mince yet again if she turns out here, even though I really ought to know better. Her 16th of 18 last time out in the Jubilee Stakes was well short of her capabilities, and she was backed as if much better was expected on the day (10 to 1 at the off), and she does move sweetly on the home gallops, so the big question is, do we risk cold hard cash that one day she will reproduce those gallops on the track, or is she turning in to yet another morning glory? Only time will tell I’m sorry to say, but if she is sent off at double figures I seriously doubt I will be able to resist!
As a soft Southerner, I’m often told to make sure I allow sufficient time to focus on the tracks north of Watford, and Haydock put on a classy card on Saturday afternoon, so even I can’t get away without at least mentioning their main race. Leaving the handicaps to Ron, the Lancashire Oaks is the contest for me, and as the big softy that I am, how can I hope for anything else other than a Lady Cecil victory? I doubt Songbird will show up on the day, though if she does she would be an interesting contender, but word is that Wild Coco will make her return here, after 296 days off the track. She is clearly not the easiest to keep sound as witnessed by just the two runs last season, but she can be got fit first time out as seen by her victory at Goodwood after close to a year off the track, and as I’m told she is in rude health on Warren Hill, she should be the one that takes all the beating. However, 5/1 favourite for a horse absent for that long is not my idea of the value call, and I may well look elsewhere for an each way option. At 14/1 Banoffee would be on my shortlist, with Kieren Fallon currently booked to ride despite the possible presence of Luca Cumani’s well-regarded Emirates Queen? Again though, that price still looks skinny, and I certainly advise waiting until the day before placing a bet, with half the country swamped with rain, the other half basking in the sunshine, and no real clues about what the ground will be like until the morning of the race, at the earliest.
Away from the weekend racing, how long before sacked judge Dave Smith gets a big pay day via a “should have gone to Specsavers” advert? Seriously though, his dismissal has polarised opinion like nothing else this week, with certain trainers insisting the decision to fire him is correct, others like myself quite aware that we all make mistakes in our jobs, suggesting he is given one last chance to redeem his reputation. Yes it was a disaster, yes he should have looked closer, and yes he should have had a warning, but to take away someone’s livelihood for making a small mistake, however costly, seems OTT to me – people in glass houses should not throw stones! Step forward anyone who has never made a mistake in their job and I will take back my words, but I rather doubt there are too many of you (if any), and the fact that he could have cost punters money, is almost irrelevant. A mistake on a factory line will cost the company money other mistakes ditto; so give the bloke a break, unless you honestly believe he did it deliberately – because I don’t.
So, in conclusion this week I’m hoping Frankie will get back to peak form and prove his doubters wrong as I do feel racing needs him as much as he needs racing, Sandown put on one of the best races of the season with the possible exception of the combatants (go figure?), and some idiot decided that Haydock will attempt to compete via the Lancashire Oaks, proving yet again that racing has an incredible ability to cannibalise what could have been two good days racing instead of one. My bets will probably be minimal unless Ron tells me otherwise, and I’m eagerly looking forward his take on the Old Newton Cup, an impossible handicap in my book, and a punting opportunity in his – and long may that continue!
Horses to follow:
Cape Arrow – a twice raced two year old trained by Paul Cole and held in very high regard at the stable and I am now told should be far better as a three year old (entered at Sandown Friday).
Afortunado – unraced three year old trained by Conrad Allen.
Elusive Kate – entered Falmouth Stakes (Newmarket) 12th July and Sussex Stakes (Goodwood) 31st July.