Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Aintree 2010 analysis

The 163rd running of the Grand National will surely become known as 'McCoy's National', the champion jockey winning the great race at the 15th time of asking on the J P McManus owned Don't Push It. Given everything the man has achieved in the sport, I never really subscribed to the view that a win in this race was a necessity, an omission on the curriculum vitae, but clearly others did. Tony McCoy deserves every success. There are likely to be quotes aplenty in the coming days - I prefer to refer to a selection made on a wet Monday afternoon at Plumpton in February 2009 when he rode his 3,000th winner. The man's dedication was highlighted again earlier today when he rode Aberdale to victory in a humble Class 5 maiden hurdle at Southwell. Tony McCoy - we salute you.

Three weeks in the life of 17 year old jockey Mr Sam Twiston-Davies:
Friday 19th March 15:27 - father trains Imperial Commander to win Cheltenham Gold Cup;
Friday 19th March 16:08 - make all aboard Baby Run to win Christie's Foxhunter Chase;
Sat 20th March - Friday 9th April - take some more rides while studying for 'A' levels;
Sat 10th April - race prominently on Hello Bud in first National before fading two out to finish fifth.

Of course, a jockey's life is about lows as well as highs... Best wishes to Ruby Walsh who suffered a broken arm when falling from Celestial Halo in the Aintree Hurdle. Ruby missed his ride in the National on 10/1 joint favourite Big Fella Thanks; Barry Geraghty proved a more than able substitute, bringing the Findlay / Barber owned gelding home to take fourth spot.

Spare a thought too for Paul Carberry who struggled valiantly to get 28/1 shot King John's Castle to take part. The horse was having none of it - the tapes went up and the beast refused point blank to take one step forward. As they raced away and the TV camera cut back to the distinctive white horse standing in splendid isolation surveying all before him, there was something strangely magnificent about it all... Having said that, I doubt the punters who invested their hard-earned on the animal would see it in quite the same light.

Several will argue that racing had to play second fiddle to the ladies' outfits on Friday, Ladies' Day. Judge for yourselves with the Daily Telegraph's interesting selection of photographs published, no doubt, for your delectation. Coleen Rooney announced that the style contest winner was... Sophie Fairclough from Formby.

At this juncture, I thought I'd share with you the tale of a small time punter on Grand National day. As a family we arrived home from a few days' holiday Saturday dinner time; I was quickly dispatched to the local High Street to place selected shrapnel bets. Having diligently secured 20/1 with Betfred about Don't Push It for Mrs Tips, I walked into a William Hill shop where the TV screen displayed Big Fella Thanks - my daughter's selection - going out from 10/1 to 11/1. I decided to take the price. Walking away from the counter, I noted that the price on the ticket was recorded as 10/1, so I queried this with a William Hill assistant who was there supposedly to help punters such as myself. The conversation went something like this...

PG: I've just bet Big Fella Thanks. It's showing 11/1 on screen but I've just been given 10s.
William Hill Assistant (WHa): Ah, but when did you place the bet?
PG: Now, I've just done it.
WHa: Price must have changed as you placed the bet.
PG: It hasn't. TV was showing 11s when I made the bet.
WHa: Yes, but it's changed.
PG: So why isn't the screen showing 10s now?
WHa: It was, you've placed the bet and now it's 11s.
PG: No, it was 11s when I placed it.
WHa: Impossible - can't happen, mate.
PG: It was, I assure you.
WHa: Can't happen.
PG: It did, I assure you.
[repeat several times]
WHa:(eventually) Hang on, I'll check...

Five minutes later, WHa confirms I'm correct. I now have to wait to talk to the William Hill manager man (WHmm). Another five minutes passes and I'm then invited to tell this sorry tale to WHmm. I give him a polite resume of the above but make the silly mistake of saying ''s marked up at 11s and you've given me 10s.' WHmm opts for the confrontational approach and replies, in a decidedly antagonistic manner, 'Hold on a minute, mate, I haven't given you anything! The machine has given you 10s, not me! If there's any query, the company is going to start talking about problems with the software and...' I wait another three or four minutes and WHmm eventually agrees 11/1 my £1 each-way wager. Such is the standard of customer care in a High Street bookmaking establishment on a Saturday afternoon.

And finally... This time last year I thought I'd hit my all-time punting low when the mother-in-law phoned to tell me she'd bet the 100/1 Grand National winner Mon Mome - that took some coming to terms with, but I was getting there, slowly. However all that was before Mrs Tips went and picked this year's winner. I'm seriously thinking of giving it all up...

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