Friday, December 21, 2018

A gift horse at Christmas

Why, only the other day I turned to Beeves, my butler, and cried in complete exasperation, 'Examples of outstanding customer service are just so extremely rare these days!'

And then this happened.

It was a miserable night and a howling gale was blowing outside. I'd sent Beeves on an extraneous errand to source some cat worming tablets - we don't have a cat - when there came a loud knock at the front door. 'What's this,' I wondered to myself, 'the start of another Christmas ghost story?' It was a man from DHL. Spooky indeed.

He handed over a rather weighty package - I guessed it contained at least one bottle - and asked me to confirm the address was correct. The parcel was addressed to my wife so I quickly confirmed we were indeed the intended recipients.

After five unsuccessful attempts at spelling the surname, the man from DHL passed me his portable device, I signed it 'B. Blenkinsop', and with this unexpected package safely secure in my possession I dashed into the kitchen to inspect its contents.

The sturdy packaging, emblazoned with M&S logos on all sides, was duly opened by my wife to reveal a bottle of red, a bottle of white ('whatever mood you're in tonight') and a bottle of rosé too - all in a stunning presentation box!

Now, the sort of people I know aren't generally given to such largesse, even in the season of goodwill, but working on the assumption you should never look a gift horse in the mouth, I was all for cracking open the red there and then and setting down to a cosy night in in front of a roaring fire while the gale raged outside.

My wife though has a particular eye for the detail (especially when I happen to be engaged in a minor deception of some description) and from past experience I could just sense there was a problem brewing. The fears were confirmed when she curtly announced, 'There's a problem.'

My teensy-weensy, tentative suggestion that we at least consumed the contents of one of the bottles before asking too many questions received short shrift.

It transpired that although the package appeared correctly addressed, the accompanying Christmas message indicated its bacchanalian contents were not actually intended for my wife or me at all, but for my mother and father-in-law. My wife's sister, in a moment of festive forgetfulness, had selected the wrong shipping address for her order.

Oh dear. An easy enough mistake to make, yes, but it led to much angst and several conversations ensued.

Eventually a phone call to the Marks & Spencer Customer Service department brought about the following resolution.

M&S would send a replacement package to mother and father-in-law, completely free of charge, while we retained the presentation box containing the bottles of red, white and rosé that I'd inexplicably become rather attached to.

Of course I fully recognise Christmas is a time for families everywhere but this rather propitious outcome means I shall be drinking my in-laws' wine free of charge while they're situated some 250 miles away at the other end of the country. It's starting to feel like a really special Christmas already and, to be honest, I'd be hard pushed to see it getting that much better.

Thank you Marks and Spencer for your outstanding customer service this Christmas.

Occasional readers hoping for similar levels of largesse from this week's blog post should note that last week's selection obliged at odds of 7/1 and, as I haven't tipped two consecutive winners since the last time someone mistakenly sent my wife three bottles of wine, it's reasonably safe to assume you've missed the festive boat, so to speak.

Usually at this time of year I like a bet in the JLT Hurdle (2.25 Ascot) but this renewal looks decidedly trappy and with much of the value gone, I'll watch from the sidelines.

Nicky Henderson saddles three, all making their seasonal debuts; Call Me Lord tries three miles for the first time while Top Notch is the biggest price of the trio but this evening the Racing Post reports the gelding was 'knocked sideways' by a flu vaccination six or eight weeks ago. Last year's winner Sam Spinner would be my idea of the winner and he has been well tipped up but he was beaten fair and square by Unowhatimeanharry (in receipt of six pounds) last time and connections have now decided to try cheekpieces.

Twelve have been declared for the Tommy Whittle (Haydock 2.40) where the going is described as soft, heavy in places. Three of the field wouldn't be guaranteed to stay - Clan Legend, Whoshotwho and Ballyarthur.

The last horse older than eight to come home in front was Chives in 2004.

Kimberlite Candy won over three miles at Ayr seven weeks ago and heads the market. In his stable tour (Weekender 07-11.11.18) handler Tom Lacey described his charge as 'inconsistent' and said, '...I'd admit he could be a hard horse to catch right.'

There has been market support for Rocklander while Duel At Dawn looks to face a stiff task on his seasonal debut. Daklondike is of some interest in a first time visor; I'm just left with the impression he isn't the easiest ride.

Sharp Response ran well to finish fourth behind Lake View Lad in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle three weeks ago (third Otago Trail declared in the Garrard Silver Cup at Ascot) with the Trevor Hemmings owned Testify finishing a tailed-off sixth. Donald McCain's charge is entitled to come on for that first run after wind surgery but he will certainly need to carrying top weight here.

Top weight on heavy ground often spells trouble but I note that both Cannington Brook (2012) and Seventh Sky (2015) won carrying that same weight on heavy ground.

At the time of writing BetVictor offer 9/1 Testify and pay one fifth the odds four places. 

Previous course winner Testify is the festive each-way suggestion.

Now, what did I do with that corkscrew...


Anonymous said...

Following overnight rain, the going at Haydock Park is now described as Heavy (Soft in places). Valadom is a non-runner [Self Cert (Not Eaten Up)].

Testify should relish the return to Haydock, the heavy ground and the trip so a lot of positives. However, for me, nagging doubts remain over 3 tame efforts since his last win in a 3-runner affair in January of this year. I’m still on my 'speed trip’ and on my ratings he also scores poorly on this front so on balance I’ll let him run.

The stat about horses older than 8 is clearly a concern but I cannot help but be drawn to the two old boys in the race.

Houblon Des Obeaux [HDO], if you include his rider’s 7lb claim, runs off 131 in this so is potentially very well handicapped but does need to put a lack lustre seasonal debut behind him. HDO may be vulnerable for win purposes but could run in to one of the 4 places on offer with BetVictor at 16/1 1/5 odds and who knows perhaps the Venetia Williams heavy ground big Saturday handicap normal service will be resumed!

I backed Splash Of Ginge at 16/1 [4 places 1/5 odds] last night but, much like your Christmas wine windfall no doubt, his odds have evaporated a bit. He ran a cracker in one of the big festival handicaps off just 2lb lower than today’s mark and Jordon Nailor takes off 7lb to help out in that department. Ran well enough on his return in a handicap hurdle to suggest all is well and, on ground faster than ideal, I’m happy to forgive his effort in the BetVictor Gold Cup. This trip is probably his maximum, but I’d like to think he can get involved.

Over at Ascot I cannot let Flying Tiger go off at 18/1. He looks happier over hurdles, was sent off 7/2 2nd fav LTO before being BD through no fault of his own. A mark of 133 in itself looks generous and if the more than capable Chester Williams can get him to settle [quite likely in this bigger field] his additional 7lb claim makes this look a very tempting bet to me!

Here’s wishing the blog a very prosperous 2019.


GeeDee said...

Valid viewpoints on both Houblon Des Obeaux and Splash Of Ginge, TW.

The case you make for Flying Tiger is exactly the one I had prepared in reserve; I was eventually put off by the comment he still hadn't learned to settle but when I looked quickly through the form that trait seemed more prevalent when he was running over fences. As you say, the likely strong pace here will help the cause. I'll watch with interest.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

Some money for Testify (6/1 j2f) in the Tommy Whittle but I'm afraid I have to testify it was all sadly misplaced as the selection put in a performance that could only be described as a festive flop.

Racing wide, Testify was prominent on the first circuit but it quickly became apparent down the back straight for the final time that the gelding was struggling to go the pace. He was dropped by the leaders off the home turn and put in some tired-looking leaps to complete in tenth, some 40 lengths behind winner Dalkondike (6/1) who was headed by eventual second Ballyarthur (10/1) at the last but then stayed on strongly to regain the lead on the long run-in. Whoshotwho (16/1) claimed third - a blunder two out did not help his cause.