Friday, September 29, 2006

Stable talk

The Peter Bowen stable has had a decent summer and won the summer jumping championship. Unusually I had the foresight on this one...

Fortunes at the Pipe stable have been in marked contrast. Figures in this week's Weekender indicate 32 runs and 43 days since a stable win.

Nigel Twiston Davies has been short on runners for this time of year. I looked at the stable entries at Perth last week and found his web site useful when assesing the form of his runners. Comments under the 'Today's runners' section are worth noting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

McCoy returns

Tony McCoy, out for eight weeks with a broken wrist, returns to action at Hereford today.

Sportsmen of all kinds suffer injuries; the accompanying boredom while recovery takes place often causes problems. During this particular period of inactivity McCoy has made things a bit more interesting for himself by going and getting married - a brave man indeed.

Meanwhile Tom O'Brien and Richard Johnson are snapping at his heels in the race to become champion jockey.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Recommended reading

This weekend saw the tenth anniversary of Frankie Dettori's famous seven Ascot winners. Graham Sharpe of William Hill has a book entitled 'The Magnificent Seven' due to be published at the end of this month; following Saturday afternoon's spat it's unlikely Aidan O'Brien will be purchasing a copy.

In The Times Critic's Chart column on Saturday, Sharpe revealed his list of top gambling books - details below:,,923-2369192.html

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mascot Grand National

Watching another of my selections trail in 73 lengths behind the winner is not amusing, whereas on the other hand watching the Mascot Grand National most certainly is amusing, with contestants dressed as football team mascots racing over a short course. This year's event takes place at Huntingdon racecourse on Sunday at 1.00 pm.

This is either the seventh or eighth running of a race which has stirred up a fair amount of controvesy in its short history. We're told the clerk of the course has closely scrutinsed entries to ensure no foul play takes place. I'm sure running spikes are now banned.

Skybet have priced up Graham The Gorilla and Lesotho The Lion as joint 9/2 favourites with Sedge The Mouse 11/2 and previous course and distance winner Chaddy The Owl 7/1.

I thought there was an 18 runner limit on fields around Huntingdon but I'm reliably informed 70 contestants are scheduled to line up. From a betting point of view it's not a race to get too heavily involved in given some of the stunts tried previously; a watching brief is advised.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mick Fitzgerald to retire

Mick Fitzgerald (pictured) yesterday announced his intention to retire from the saddle at the end of the current National Hunt season.

Closely associated with Nicky Henderson's stable, Mick is one of a handful of top jockeys to have won the Grand National and the Gold Cup. In recent years he has suffered more than his share of injuries.

A couple of my memories...

Early in his career I remember Mick being touted by John Francome as a claimer to look out for. At Exeter (or Devon & Exeter as it was then known) I'd had a fiver on an animal at 6/1 in a low grade hurdle race. Less than a mile from home the horse was a good ten lengths clear of his field and showing no signs of stopping when Mick went out the side door.

A few years ago he made amends in my book by winning the Bula hurdle on Geos at a tasty 14/1.

His most famous quote has to be describing the Grand National win on Rough Quest as 'better than sex'.

Enjoy your retirement Mick.

Allardyce allegations

BBC's Panorama programme investigating corruption in football was big on hype beforehand but failed to deliver. In the event Bolton manager Sam Allardyce was named by three separate agents as somebody 'who liked a deal'. The 'evidence' against Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp verged on the ridiculous; no wonder he described it as 'laughable'.

The programme, two years in the making, ultimately became rather tedious.

At the end we were informed that 18 past and present managers were implicated. BBC lawyers obviously made sure their names were not placed in the public domain.

Be reassured, the FA are to invesitgate any breach of the rules.

What surprised me most was the fact that the Panorama investigation into horse racing took place four years ago, not six to nine months as I stated in my previous post. Time flies when you're enjoying yourself.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Football's bung culture in the spotlight

Six to nine months ago Panorama took a pop at the horse racing industry with a programme investigating allegations of corrupt practice. The fallout from the programme was considerable.

Tonight Panorama turns the spotlight on football and the 'bung' culture which prevails in the Premier League. I would say that, down the years, the BBC has been particularly adept not only at repeating programmes but also at repeating recipes for programmes and it looks like that's what we have here.

At the same time one Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington (honest), also nicknamed Captain Beaujolais, is carrying out an independent investigation; he is due to report his initial findings to the League's chairmen early in October.

Tonight's programme should make interesting viewing.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bidding for the Tote commences

Channel 4's Teletext service reported yesterday that a consortium of racing industry groups had tabled a bid to buy the Tote.

The bid came in at roughly £350 million. The Tote's assets are thought to be worth in the region of £400 million. We can expect to see other bids landing on the table from private equity companies in due course.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One Jump Ahead

Today I spotted Mark Howard's annual publication 'One Jump Ahead' on the shelves of my local W. H. Smith.

I've never been particularly keen on publications which give a list of horses to follow in the coming season but Mark Howard's book is generally well respected and rates extremely good value at £5.99.

Over the seasons I've heard it said, 'If you buy nothing else, make sure you buy this book', and I guess the same applies this time round as well.

The Sportsman: the next instalment

The Times City Diary reported yesterday that current investors at The Sportsman newspaper had stumped up another £400,000 which should cover losses for another month, or until a buyer is found.

I do think the paper has improved following the decision some weeks back to concentrate primarily on horse racing but the administrators have one big struggle on their hands trying to sell this business.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ogden sends three horses to Evan Williams

Talking to a fellow racegoer over the weekend, I was alerted to the fact that afluent owner Sir Robert Ogden has sent three horses to Evan Williams' small up and coming yard.

Since joining the training ranks 18 moths ago, Williams has done extremely well with the lower grade animals which have been sent his way.

The three horses are Backpage, Robin de la Gard and Royal Arms. I'll be keeping a look out for these horses over the next few months.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another doping scandal

Picking up the corruption theme again, BBC Radio 4 ran a story this morning which I only half heard through my crunching Corn Flakes.

A Pony Club competition in Jersey has been postponed pending further investigation after a number of ponies were found behaving in an 'irregular fashion' prior to a junior show jumping event.

A parent is alleged to have given polo mints to certain ponies after which the animals became very drowsy; one pony could barely make it back to his box. Speaking personally, several of my betting selections have behaved in a similar manner in the past so I see no immediate cause for concern.

It appears the ponies were given a sedative which is often used to calm fractious horses; obviously a complete investigation is to be carried out and the competition rearranged for a later date.

It would appear that, just as in any other walk of life, you need to get the kids involved from an early age.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Corruption and treachery at every turn...

Last week I was at a conference in Stockholm. On my retun home I'm greeted with news of treachery in the Labour party and the arrest in the United States of another executive of an internet gambling firm.

My Sunday evening relaxtion consists of watching an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe that paints horse racing as a corrupt activity dogged by dodgy trainers, dodgy punters and dodgy vets.

Where is the respite?

Incidentally, I'm sure many of you spotted that the racing scenes for the Dalziel and Pascoe yarn had been filmed at Warwick racecourse.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A sense of expectation

There's no denying, as I walk in to work in the morning, it's just that little bit cooler.

Early autumn is a time of year I like; there's the new National Hunt season to look forward to.

For years I've been going to the first meeting of the season at Ludlow (pictured above), usually held on the second Thursday in October. It's an informal meet held in the picturesque Shropshire countryside; it's also one of the very few courses where I've done reasonably well on the betting front.

This year, as my fiftieth birthday approaches, we're breaking with tradition and going to Kempton for Kempton Park Gold Cup day.

More often than not though the expectation generated at this time of year is replaced by crushing disillusionment when next April is upon us.