Sunday, August 29, 2010

Playing catch-up

A few days away and I've completely lost touch...

The current big betting story centres around allegations in today's News of the World that Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammed Asif bowled three no-balls at pre-determined, specified points in test match play on Thursday and Friday. William Hill representative Graham Sharpe, speaking on Radio Five Live this morning, indicated that punters would struggle to strike bets of this nature with his firm.

I missed the first of Martin Clunes' two part series, Horsepower; apprently tonight's second episode (ITV1 21:00) starts with a visit to racecourses in England and Italy.

While away I did manage to catch small snippets from the two most recently broadcast editions of The Morning Line. Am I just getting too old and cynical? Perhaps so, but I did feel Nick Luck's fawning over firstly Jeremy Kyle before Sandown's Variety Club Day and then Guy Harwood and Amanda Perrett before Saturday's Goodwood Celebration Mile meeting left a bit of a taste...

Two quick points noted on recent travels - firstly Sanquhar in south west Scotland celebrated 100 years of the riding of the marches on August 18th 2010. Secondly, one of the halls of residence of Durham University has been built on the site of a house that once belonged to John Gully, an English sportsman and former MP for Pontefract. Appearently in 1827 Mr Gully lost £40,000 when backing his Mameluke to win the St. Leger but happier times followed in 1832 when he had a share of £85,000, his St Giles, part owned with Robert Ridsdale, winning the Derby and Margrave the St Leger. Wikipedia records 'Gully was twice married and had twelve children by each wife.'

With the jumps season on the horizon trainer Philip Hobbs had a word for a couple in an article in today's Racing Post - Captain Chris and Tarablaze were mentioned, as was Qroktou who has apparently strengthened up nicely.

Finally, a football note to finish on. As a lifelong fan of Wrexham FC (who now languish near the foot of the Blue Square Bet Premiership) I can't help but wonder why ITV employ our current manager Mr Dean Saunders (also known in our house as 'Pearl & Dean' and 'The Colonel') to pass comment on European games involving clubs such as Liverpool and Aston Villa while closer to home Mr Saunders presides over Wrexham defeats at places such as Forest Green Rovers and Eastbourne Borough. Perhaps he's lining up his next job...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ebor meeting - Nunthorpe Stakes

My Ebor selections have hardly set the world alight so, for the sake of completeness only, you understand, a tentative suggestion for the Nunthorpe is Richard Fahey's course and distance winner Rose Blossom, provided the ground remains on the fast side. Jockey Paul Hanagan has a word for the filly in this week's Weekender; she wears cheekpieces for the first time here. On official ratings she has plenty to find with several of these but that fact is reflected in the 20/1 quoted by some layers. I'll have an each-way wager but profess to being more hopeful than confident, particularly with the likes of Starspangledbanner, Equiano, Kingsgate Native and Fleeting Spirit in the line-up.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ebor meeting - The Yorkshire Oaks

In a fascinating renewal of the Yorkshire Oaks Sariska, second to Dar Re Mi last year, will hope to make amends this time around, while her two principal rivals are Midday and this year's English and Irish Oaks winner Snow Fairy. Midday nearly threw away victory in the Nassau at Goodwood the last time - I expect Tom Queally won't commit his charge so early here. Last year's dual Oaks winner Sariska had Henry Cecil's filly beaten on both occasions - it's worth noting Midday has never won at the trip. Of the principals Sariska looks the percentage call while Snow Fairy is the most interesting but the layers don't look to be taking any chances. Meeznah ran second at a big price in this year's Oaks and looked for all the world as though she was going to pull off a major shock until headed near the line; her subsequent fourth at the Curragh was less impressive but at the prices I'll forgive that effort and have an each-way bet on Meeznah at 16/1 provided the rain stays away and the eight get to post.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A quick Ebor tip for the Ebor meeting

My two regular readers, faithful but penniless, know that this season I've been struck by how many NH trained horses have plundered long distance races on the Flat. Overturn continued the trend by taking Newcastle's Northumberland Plate from an unfancied draw before running away with last month's Galway Hurdle. He doesn't have the best of draws here and hardly offers value in this ultra competitive event but is respected nonetheless. The one that caught my eye was Desert Sea who ran third behind Overturn in the Newcastle Plate; he reopposes here four pounds better off for a three and a quarter length beating. He wouldn't necessarily appreciate any rain but has a decent draw, should benefit from the slightly shorter trip and is priced up at 28/1 with a couple of layers this evening (Victor Chandler and Stan James). I'll take a small each-way interest in Desert Sea, noting that all layers go a quarter the odds four places for this heritage handicap.

No bet in the Gimcrack but I'd be thinking long and hard before opposing Temple Meads who looked impressive in winning Newbury's Super Sprint and is expected to relish the step up to six furlongs.

I fancied Ask for the Lonsdale Cup but he was found lame this morning and is a non-runner. Illustrious Blue and Electrolyser fought out the finish to the Goodwood Cup three weeks ago, the former prevailing by just over a length on that occasion; many will fancy Electrolyser here three pounds better off. The Queen's gelding Free Agent was hampered in that same race and finished fourth, having won at this course previously; he isn't one I'd trust implicitly. I think I'm going to watch from the sidelines...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ebor meeting - Juddmonte International

Very hastily written lines before the first day of York's Ebor meeting...

The Acomb Stakes (2.15) for two-year-olds over seven furlongs looks fascinating but is well outside my comfort zone. The Great Voltigeur isn't a great race for favourites (two winners in the past decade) but the market has proved a decent guide to the International (3.25) with six winners in the same timeframe. Rip Van Winkle is likely to head tomorrow's market but he hasn't won over this distance, a comment that also applies to the only three-year-old in the field, Dick Turpin. Byword beat Twice Over in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot; drying ground will help Henry Cecil's bay but I take Andre Fabre's Byword to collect the spoils.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Haydock's Rose Of Lancaster Stakes

If you like your racing with cheerleaders thrown in, then tomorrow's Shergar Cup meeting at Ascot should fit the bill.

Up at Haydock the feature is the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes which is run over an extended ten furlongs. Nine are set to face the starter on ground that is likely to have plenty of cut - the going for tonight's meeting is described as good for the six furlong events but good to soft, soft in places for those races over a mile or more. Three-year-olds have a good record in this with seven winners from the past nine renewals in the last decade. Of the three participants from that age group, slight preference is for Fallen Idol, although Harry Dunlop makes a decent case for his charge Green Moon provided you're prepared to forgive the colt's last effort at Royal Ascot. Bearing in mind the underfoot conditions, of the older horses Les Fazzani and Distant Memories make most appeal. The former made all to win a listed fillies' event over slightly further on her penultimate run but was then beaten just over six lengths into fourth by Barshiba in the Lancashire Oaks on ground that would not have suited. The chance of Tom Tate's Distant Memories is respected and there's little between these two on official ratings but I'll side with the mare - Les Fazzani gets the vote. Likely favourite Rio De La Plata isn't guaranteed to stay the trip - for the record in the last nine runnings the favourite has obliged on four occasions.

In the opener I quite liked Sir Mark Prescott's course and distance winner Comedy Act; in receipt of four pounds, he looks a play against probable favourite Shubaat. Having said that, the stable has had a quiet time of it recently - I'm going to watch from the sidelines.

What's in a name?

Last night’s episode of Undercover Boss, in which Jockey Club Chief Operating Officer Paul Fisher tried his hand at a number of entry level jobs at different racecourses, left a strange taste. What shone through above all else was the commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of the people at grass roots level and I have nothing but admiration for the individuals featured in the programme. Paul Fisher’s concern was that those individuals, like the majority of racegoers I suspect, were unaware of the Jockey Club brand and what it stood for. Of course, the Jockey Club has no monopoly on individuals of the sort portrayed - I’m sure you’ll find similar employees working for groups such as Arena Leisure, responsible for seven courses and the largest operator of UK horseracing, or Northern Racing Limited with its portfolio of ten courses.

My problem with the brand is the name, the Jockey Club. Now, I’m not particularly well versed in the history of the turf, fascinating subject that it is, but for a very long time the Jockey Club were the oligarchy that ran racing in this country (and ran it with the proverbial rod of iron). As a kid who started following racing in the sixties, my heroes were the men in the saddle, but when those heroes made mistakes, they were ordered to Portman Square and invariably returned with a (harsh) suspension and a flea in their ear. If a rider had the temerity to lodge an appeal against a decision, the result was often further punishment. I totally accept this is my own personal baggage but terms I tend to associate with the Jockey Club include oligarchy, gentleman’s club, authoritarian deliverers of punishment, an organisation slow to change.

Having said that, the Club has embraced change, has modernised - Paul Fisher’s focus on the importance of the customer experience is testament to that. Perhaps it’s time for a re-brand?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Odds 'n' ends...

The stewards' inquiry following Midday's victory in yesterday's Nassau was the first to be televised live on British television; jockey Tom Queally incurred a two day ban for careless riding after his mount and Stacelita came close together about 100 yards from the line.

Goodwood may well have been glorious but issues surrounding the sport's funding continue to rumble on in the background; earlier in the week William Hill announced it is to move its telephone betting operation to Gibraltar in order to benefit from significant tax advantages. Victor Chandler (who, I think, led the move to Gibraltar several years ago) then chipped in with a commitment to pay levy on his offshore operations if the betting exchanges were to be taxed in a similar manner to traditional layers. Chandler may have extended his shirt sponsorship deal with Championship side Nottingham Forest but is on record as saying that racing is the only sport he deals with where 'revenues are declining'. In a similar vein, from the Mintel report on Betting Shops - UK - August 2009: ''In 2008, FOBTs (Fixed Odds Bettng Terminals) became the first product to earn more for Ladbrokes than horse racing in the company’s entire 122-year existence."

A gentle reminder - don't forget to tune in to Channel 4 at 9.00pm this Thursday 5th August when Paul Fisher, Chief Operating Officer of The Jockey Club, takes his turn as The Undercover Boss.

Finally, the best tip(ple) of the week... Champagne Louis Chaurey Brut at Marks & Spencer - reduced from £30 to £15 a bottle. Light, fresh, with pineapple and biscuit overtones - I've just sent Mrs Tips out to get another bottle.