Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Never a dull moment

One thing you can guarantee with racing is there's always something happening.

When the racing isn't of the best quality, or yet again my tips have failed to oblige, there's always the characters to distract the attention.

Today I see that Paul Carberry has been given a two month jail sentence for deliberately starting a fire on an aeroplane.

What's next?

Ascot pre-opening meeting

Ascot, complete with new grandstand, holds its first meeting since 2004 on Saturday. The official opening of the new facilities will take place at the Royal Ascot meeting in June.

I think I'm correct in saying that attendance at Saturday's meeting is by invitation only. There will be no more than 11,000 spectators present; the idea is to have a 'dry run' before the royal meet.

I'd imagine the new facilities will be well received.

More to the point, the building work was finished on time, in stark contrast to what happened a few miles down the road at Wembley.

Calamity Jane fired

Lingfield judge Jane Stickels hit the headlines back in March when she incorrectly announced 9/4 favourite Welsh Dragon the winner of a race which 14/1 shot Miss Dagger had won.

The mistake was noticed by Channel 4 race commentator Simon Holt who had been examining the official photo. As the 'weighed in' had already been called, the result could not be amended.

Many bookmakers paid out twice, costing the industry around £2 million.

Yesterday 'Calamity Jane' was fired; she can't have any complaints there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Epsom Oaks

The Epsom Derby is less than two weeks away but the fillies with entries in The Oaks have been attracting more of the attention.

At York last week, the headline writers have had great fun with Sir Michael Stoute's filly Short Skirt; examples included 'Short Skirt raises a few eyebrows' and 'Short Skirt a cut above rivals'.

Pam Sly looks as though she'll supplement her filly Speciosa at a cost of £20,000 following her victory in the 1000 Guineas. An Oaks victory for this small jumping yard based in Peterborough would be the fairytale story. To draw a rather trite footballing comparison, Speciosa winning The Oaks would be on a par with the local football team winning the F.A. Cup.

On Saturday Channel 4's John McCririck pointed out that 1000 Guineas winners have a decent record in The Oaks. Speciosa will need some cut in the ground to be seen at her best. We've had a bit of rain recently; Speciosa is currently 8/1 with Betfred.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

7.45 @ Ludlow this evening

Although the 7.45 only has five runners, it looks a trappy affair.

Business Traveller is dismissed. Musally is regularly placed at Ludlow but rarely wins. Three Lions is not one to trust but has the potential to win.

One that is consistent and can be relied upon to run his race is the top weight Moscow Whisper. That leaves Reem Two. This mare has drifted out to 5/1 with some bookmakers which is a big price; has not won over the distance (three miles), but looks as though that distance could suit.

Hedging my bets, I'd back the proven performer, Moscow Whisper, at around 7/4 and Reem Two at 5/1 in the hope that she'll get home.

The combined odds come in at roughly 10/11 but in my mind that approach covers the main chances.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Graham Lee and the Howard Johnson stable

Graham Lee's departure from the Howard Johnson stable comes as a shock.

Last year Lee won three races at the Cheltenham Festival on Johnson trained horses.

Just over twelve months on and the partnership has come to an abrupt end; racing can be a fickle business at times. The rumour is that Paddy Brennan has been offered the job.

The Johnson stable has been quiet for much of the season. The logic appears to be - the horses are out of form, so let's sack the jockey.

Lee, who has suffered from a virus in recent weeks, is widely recognised as a top class jockey; Ferdy Murhpy has done well to secure his services. I wish them both well in the future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

World Cup nostalgia from Wales

I grew up in Wrexham, north Wales, something of a footballing backwater. The two teams I supported then, and still do now, are Wrexham and Wales.

Recently a colleague has loaned me a copy of 'When Pele broke our hearts - Wales & the 1958 World Cup' by Mario Risoli. This book is an enlightening read in an age when many footballers are paid tens of thousands of pounds a week.

Here's a taster.

May 1957 and Wales face two World Cup qualifying games behind the Iron Curtain, East Germany in Leipzig and then Czechoslovakia in Prague seven days later. On the flight out the non-playing staff outnumber the players 13-12.

After defeat in Gemany, Wales are forced to call for replacements. One player targeted is Sunderland centre half Ray Daniel. At the time Daniel was on holiday in Swansea; he contacts Sunderland and asks them to send his boots to London. Sunderland send him a brand new pair of boots; this proves to be a bit of a problem.

Quoting another squad member...
"The boots in those days were thick and heavy-leathered with hard toes and knock-in studs.
It would take you about 12 months to break them in. They were very, very uncomfortable. We would put them in soapy water to soften them up and then stuff them with brown paper so they would fill out."

Daniel was in agony in his new boots, so much so that for the last 10-15 minutes of the match he took them off and played in just his socks.

Tell me, where did it all go wrong?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Chester May meeting

The Chester May meeting is one of my favourite flat meetings; it gets pretty busy though.

Stephen Cartmell in his book 'From Aintree to York: Racing Around Britain'
pokes fun at the 'intimate' description of the course; he describes it as a crush and he's absolutely right.

The view of the racing from the city walls was once described as 'the best free view in sport'.

Not any more - that accolade now has to go Towcester.

Flat Champion jockey bet

Robert Winston can win the Flat jockeys' championship this year.

In my opinion he would have gone close last year if he hadn't suffered injury; Dettori had tipped him prior to the injury.

Last week Ladbrokes cut his odds from 3/1 to 5/2.

Victor Chandler still offer 3/1; that looks a decent price.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Question of Sport

Overheard by my wife yesterday while waiting to pay at the tills in Marks & Spencer...

Little old lady turns to her husband and says 'So, is there something happening with the football this year?'

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two thoughts for the 2000 Guineas

I don't have a real passion for flat racing; still, here's two thoughts for Saturday's 2000 Guineas.

George Washington is a lay on at least two accounts; his temperament and the fact that the stable is in indifferent form. The 2/1 currently on offer is no value whatsoever.

On the other hand Barry Hills' Red Clubs stands out as each way value at 25/1 with Hills

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pipe dream

Martin Pipe's retirement announcement came as a complete shock. The man's record is second to none; it speaks for itself.

Top owner David Johnson hinted that perhaps in the latter years the yard had failed to attract enough new owners. Alan Lee in The Times,,379-2159338.html intimated that the real question now is how badly does son David want the same success as his father.

Bookmakers are offering prices on next year's trainers' championship. All quote Nicholls as the favourite but there are differing views on the chances of the Pipe stable. Stan James has gone out on a limb with a price of 10/1; others offer a more conservative 5/2 and 7/2.

If you are of the opinion that the next generation Pipe trainer, with the help of his father, can work the oracle, 10/1 is a huge price.