Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guest blogger - National hero upstaged by Peppa Pig at Southwell

Since his retirement I've had more favours from my ex-boss in four months than during the fifteen years I worked for him.

After joining a party of rookie punters going to the Welsh National at Chepstow in December, Mr N. kindly wrote up a report for this blog. Undaunted by that particular experience, Mr N. then valiantly offered to take assorted relatives to Southwell last Sunday to celebrate the joint 160th birthday of his mother-in-law and her husband, a couple who have lived the majority of their lives in a sports-free zone.

This low-key meet was selected some months in advance as the track is close-by, and it offered the perfect opportunity to partake of a slap-up meal in the relaxed environment of the racecourse restaurant before getting down to the serious business of finding a winner or two.

Now, we're often told a jump jockey's life is full of ups and downs. After winning the National on Saturday at the fifteenth attempt, AP McCoy was brought back to earth with a bump when Merseyside police hit him with a £30 fine and three points on his licence after he was caught using the mobile whilst driving. To add insult to injury, after the paperwork had been completed, officers requested he posed for photos with them! The champ may have expected the punters who turned up at Southwell in unprecedented numbers the next day to request more photographs but in the event it was Peppa Pig (pictured below) who proved just as popular! Here's Mr N's edited report...

The meeting was marketed as one of Southwell’s Family Fun Days showing there is still life in live horse racing if you know how to present it. Our meal in the Queen Elizabeth Restaurant (which came as part of a race day package which we bought as the birthday present) was excellent and far better than you might expect from a small racecourse. The food was proper restaurant quality and declared good value by all the party.

In marked contrast the racing didn't promise very much at all. A quick look at the card indicated that anything of any quality had already appeared at Cheltenham or Aintree and this was confirmed by a couple of quotes from Timeform in the racecard - the first race was described as a “lowly handicap” and a comment about the next: “ it is difficult to warm to most of these…”

We could only work with what we had before us and, to my complete amazement, the mother-in-law’s husband came up with a place in the very first race, covering his costs and making a small profit (and his day too I suspect). We were already ahead compared to Chepstow. In the next I went with Darina’s Boy (preferred after the original choice was one of many non runners on the day); it was looking good to come home first but just ran out of steam against Tanner’s Court. The brother-in-law backed the third but was unimpressed by his modest returns.The third race brought disappointment for Mrs N who backed the third each-way in a four runner field. Never mind.

Finally skill and experience triumphed in the fourth race where there was no value in the odds on favourite and my preference was already a non-runner; as I watched the favourite Horseshoe Reef drift in the betting I slipped a few bob on Nulato which obliged at 11/4 - I got it at 4/1!

Sadly that proved the summit of my achievement although the brother-in-law found a 9/1 third and Mrs N, showing all her experience, wisely spotted nothing was likely to beat McCoy on Aberdale. The returns weren’t great but she enjoyed the runaway win all the same.

Mawsem was weighed down by my expectations and came in third in the last race - I broke even overall so things are looking up.

A very good day though and the first time I have enjoyed the race experience from the comfort of the restaurant; everyone got to claim some winnings no matter how modest and really entered into the spirit of the event. I am not sure if any of them will do it again but the brother-in-law did invite me to a Superbikes race meeting later in the year. That should be good when they come to the open ditch.

No comments: