Saturday, May 17, 2008

After all that, this...

York's midweek trials may have shaken up the Derby and Oaks markets but Geordieland's thrilling victory in the Yorkshire Cup on Friday was most emotional and will live long in the memory of many. Jockey Shane Kelly's return to race-riding following a twelve month ban for 'passing information' is a success story in its own right; this win will count as his biggest to date - full credit to trainer Jamie Osborne who stood by the rider through thick and thin. On the subject of corruption, I'm sure Kieren Fallon will have a view about the verdict on the police inquiry into race-fixing, reported on the same day.

Following Comply Or Die's win in this year's Grand National, regular readers may recall I wondered when was the last time a blinkered horse had won the Aintree marathon. Sad, I know, but I mailed Channel 4's Teletext service with my query - I still await a reply. However today, browsing in Waterstone's (Leamington branch), I stumbled across the answer in a book entitled A-Z of the Grand National. In the last seventy years or so only five National winners have worn blinkers: Battleship (1938); Foinavon (1967); L'Escargot (1975); Earth Summit (1998) and, of course, Comply Or Die (2008).

Just down the road from Waterstone's in Leamington Spa is the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum. One of the texts available for perusal at that establishment is 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die, (editor Stephen Farthing). Being the wrong side of fifty, I tend to browse through this work whenever the chance presents itself. One of the 1001 paintings is Mark Wallinger's 'Half Brothers (Exit To Nowhere - Machiavellian)'. Paul Bonaventura, Senior Research Fellow, Fine Art Studies, University of Oxford, comments on the painting: 'Like art, horseracing subscribes to its own set of invented rules...' As if we didn't know.

I couldn't help but be struck by the contrasting performances of two TV pundits today. Harry Findlay's enthusiasm on The Morning Line was infectious; Mark Lawrenson's comments during the FA Cup Final were tedious.

An unusual thing happened earlier in the week - I received some unsolicited mail that was of marginal interest. The literature for Scottish Racing's Tartan Turf Tours opens with the line 'What could be better than a few days racing, a round of golf, a tour of the local distillery and a walk in the hills?' The answer is quite plain - a few days racing and a tour of the local distillery.

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