Monthly Archives: June 2009

A meeting

I used to think going to meetings would be great when I was younger…

When I was even younger than that, I thought that marking epople’s work would be pretty damn cool too (because that’s what my mother did).

Wrong on both counts.  When I’m marking I wand to mark it right when it’s wrong to spare people’s feelings.

At the meeting today they had come up with some awful slogan to go on a building; I hated it but I voted in favour anyway, it would seem churlish and rude to disagree after all – wouldn’t it?

For added interest, aside from voting, we had the Chief Exec who was swallowing his words as he said them half the time, quite a feat and painful too I thought and the narcoleptic who tried, unsuccessfully, to keep themself awake with knitting.

There’s more, but if I paint the picture much more vividly they’ll know who they are and I will have to  shoot myself in the foot before swallowing my words too.

Meetings?  I’d rather not frankly.



I guess only a sailor would really know the meaning of that phrase where “moods change like the wind”.  One moment you’re whipping along on the crest of a wave with the wind in your sails, the next you’re stuck in the doldrums.  I’m not a sailor but I know how to ride my moods after 40 years of practice.  The answer is to let them float along with you, like one of those big boats with a small dinghy tied onto the back.  Sometimes you can be effusive, holding forth and riding high on the big poop deck, then other times it’s best to get in the dinghy, hunker down and wait for the weather to turn.  Which it always does.  Which is what I tell myself when I feel frantic or desperate, or if I am living life inside out with all my nerve endings hanging out in the elements.

So tonight, after a day to be survived and negotiated and a little bit endured, it was rather nice to water the plants with the decadence of a garden hose in the near darkness with a glass of Prosecco saved for after teaching the evening class (and the 3 and a half hour morning class) and the bid writing and other tasks in between.

Oh and to read my email and find that my weekend long battle with Betfair has ended with the winner declared as ME!  Proof of which is that, despite their lousy Terms & Conditions, my account has been credited with a lost multiple stake. 

Life can always be sweet if you hang in there, but always read the small print 😉

The Irish Derby – why we can’t take it too seriously…

1) Because Sea the Stars probably won’t run on account of rain-softened ground

2) Because the Master of Ballydoyle runs 7 (over half-the field)

3) Because the same Master has attributable comments along the lines of the Irish Derby “being a true indicator of the best 3yo…”

4) Because 5 of the 13 declared have opposed each other over the trip previously at Epsom so is it not such a head-scratcher as the English one.

5) It is not part of the Triple Crown.

6) I find I don’t care as much.

Gripes aside, I expect Fame or Glory will win, with Masterofthehorse thereabouts (that is all if Sea the Stars is not running – but I would bet on that now).  However, it will be more fun to take an each-way price about Byzantine who is a huge price, and probably nowhere near good enough, with Aidan O’Brien’s son Joseph on board (and only because I can) and The Bull Hayes who is also by Sadlers Wells and not likely quite up to par either (except good and battle hardened) for NH trainer Jessica Harrington.  We like Mrs Harrington – she trained the marvellous Champion Chase hero Moscow Flyer and has herself spent hard times after breaking her neck in a riding accident in Africa.  It would be most wonderful if she could overturn the Ballydoyle/Coolmore apple cart! 

Anyhow, the Sea the Stars and stamina conundrum is not necessarily answered – don’t forget that you are running downhill from Tattenham Corner and there’s none of that at the Curragh.  I think John Oxx will make the right choice and demonstrate his perfect pedigree for the 10f at the Eclipse 🙂

Sorry, I said I can’t take it all too seriously.  Far better bets to be had I expect this weekend and probably on the tennis…

Looking for an upset amongst les pommes

Looking for an upset amongst les pommes

It’s official – Michael Jackson’s music touched lives

How I will think of the man

How I will think of the man

Why else would I have lost any sleep on the news that he had died.  When the BBC Radio 4 news told us at 11.00 p.m. last night that “unconfirmed reports say he has died” I knew it would be true.  I had a restless night.  I can’t explain why.  There is no doubt that fame had somehow, if not corrupted, then warped his life.  I no longer possess any of his recordings.  But despite all that, Michael Jackson music has got into my hardwiring.  The news that he had gone, that the music had stopped finally, was a shock.

The only album I ever bought of his was “Bad” on tape and some of it was a bit, but mostly not.  I remember throwing a fearsome tantrum when my step-sister calmly announced she had sold or swapped her vinyl copy of “Thriller” – we must have been about 14 at the time.  I lost it with her because she had, it seemed, blithely got rid of the wallpaper to our bedroom, but more than that, it was tantamount to evicting the oxygen.  We may not see it, we may not smell it or taste it but sometimes we would need to feel it and hear it.

This morning, hearing some of the Jackson Five material and watching the clips of the over-rehearsed 11 year old Michael with the big hair, the beautiful face and the energy in his voice, it is hard not to cry for him and how it all turned out.  That famous, groundbreaking Thriller video was all too biographical in the end – “Turn to face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse’s shell”.

Thankfully the music is untouched and as beautiful as it ever was when we first heard it.

Natural selection shakes a leg

Today I was a spectator at my daughter’s (not sports day) inter-school championships. Only the elite Key Stage 1 pupils were selected to attend (those being 6 & 7 year olds in case you were wondering). The setting, an athletics track with proper infield, was fine. What unfolded in front of us was somewhat bewildering, appearing to be the bastard one night stand progeny of The Krypton Factor and It’s a Knockout. Not a nick I would recommend incidentally.

I spent an awful long time feeling smug I had remembered both my glasses (for distance) and the digi cam (posterity), and just as long squinting across the track trying to locate my own flesh amongst the myriad of throwing, hopping, jumping and counting, yes counting, challenges the teams were facing. This took well over an hour. I have no clue what they were doing. I interrogated my daughter this evening, she had no clue either.  During this lull of confusion there was a lot of murmuring in the crowd about running, where was the running??? It seems, not unreasonably, if you attend an athletics track, you want to see some track and not just field action.

So I thought about this a bit and seemed to me to be a deep-seated need to see some 6 & 7 year olds running, not just a bit of a spectacle. Then I thought about how I spend a lot of my time thinking about, or trying to watch horses racing and I wondered why I do that and how it makes me feel. I don’t mean gambling either, I can still separate the two out! After I while I concluded that running must form some part of our genetic inheritance way back, for it to arouse such gut responses. At which point I cannot organise my thoughts further other to point you in the direction of this excellent article which suggests that “running is one of the most transforming events in human history”. It summed up eruditely what I was vaguely pondering anyway.

Olympian Jesse Owens in 1948 staged one of his races against a horse to raise money. Credit: Associated Press

Olympian Jesse Owens in 1948 staged one of his races against a horse to raise money. Credit: Associated Press

Where have all the bloggers gone?

Has anyone else notice that on the WordPress homepage we seemed to have lost quite a few bloggers recently?

Or am I deranged?

I thought, not so long ago, there were over 200,000 bloggers, but they now seem to be seriously sub 100,000. Are WordPress counting differently, by activity say? Or has there been a mass exodus for the summer holidays? Where do bloggers go on holiday anyway…

Help appreciated, I don’t want to disappear into the blogging Bermuda triangle!

Well, where are they?

Well, where are they?

A shameful discovery

I do like a nice cream tea – especially when in the south west of England. Eating one at home in Essex always feels morally wrong, despite us having the best jams down the road in Tiptree. This shame has not stopped my descent to a new low on the cream tea front which I shall confess to shortly. In the meantime though I have a burning question – is it jam and cream or cream and jam?

Courtesy of Whitsand Bay Hotel - nice backdrop but WRONG configuration!

Courtesy of Whitsand Bay Hotel - nice backdrop but WRONG configuration!

Correct jam and cream interface, but cream doesnt look clotted and its piled too high?

Correct jam and cream interface, but cream doesn't look clotted and it's piled too high?

I have never, in my whole life piled jam on the cream on the scone. Have you?

Anyway if you are in this dilemma I have found a neat sidestep. Buy or pick some raspberries, dot with Tiptree’s finest and adorn in clotted cream. Eat secretly and hide your shame 😉

Royal Ascot Review

Well, what to say after an emotionally draining 5 days, thankfully not the usual drain on my resources though, for which I have the blog to thank. There is something quite discipline-inducing about analysing a couple of races on here and then following my own advice – thus saving me from hours hunched over the hypnotic Betfair markets! Let’s hope I can continue in the same rigorous vein in the bread and butter days ahead.

What have we learnt from this year’s quality-fest? I have been re-reminded that deep-chested horses with room for huge lungs and hearts, like Yeats and Caracciola, are unopposable in the staying races. I have also learnt that I just can’t bear to back them over the marathon trips, fearful as I am that someone will come to harm. Memories of Veracity fracturing his cannon bone this year and Media Puzzle (ground-breaking Melbourne Cup winner) in 2006 are too haunting for me to truly relax and enjoy these tests. I have too, in the back of my mind, the memory of the beloved Persian Punch’s fatal collapse at Ascot in the Sagaro Stakes 😦 So I can appreciate the horses but I can’t enjoy those races without ever-present anxiety. Of course, Caracciola’s win in the Queen Alexandra yesterday at the age of 12 (entering the record books as the oldest Ascot winner) was quite extraordinary. When I looked at his price in the morning he was available at 4s but had drifted out to 6/1 by the start. An amazing price if you ever look at this physical specimen in the flesh, he is quite simply the most deeply-girthed racehorse I have ever seen and the internal mechanisms must be quite something to power him home in such a fashion at his age. Connections have talked about the Melbourne Cup. That would certainly be something, but I kind of hope they stay at home.

Will Aidan O’Brien be able to do the unimaginable with Yeats next year? I don’t know. When they reach these milestones with these marvellous horses I just find myself thinking “Stop! Enough already…” Would continuing to train these two fine stayers be for the benefit of the horse, the racing public or the connections?

Anyway, there were more than 2 and a half mile races this year and next year, in the sprints, we should be giving maximum respect to the American hosses. These beasts are bred for speed and notwithstanding soft ground are well primed to show up well against the home contingent. I doubt we will see Sacred Kingdom again at Ascot, he clearly needs the breather that running round a bend allows and the straight 6 did not show him to best effect. We must also remember that whatever water flows under the bridge between 2 and 3 we should respect sprinting 3yos with CD form – Art Connoisseur step forward. Clearly he is a smart horse, but he is fragile and I would imagine Scenic Blast would have something to add to the conversation if they meet in the July Cup.

Other notes to self include:

Back an Australian horse in the King’s Stand but not in the Golden Jubilee
Back fillies that look like colts in mares and fillies races
Remember Gerard Mosse seems to have a mare at Ascot
Respect Sheikh Hamdan runners
Note the draw bias on the first day and ignore thereafter
Continue to not back horses that ran at Epsom (see Cheltenham / Aintree effect)

Any other notes and comments most welcome 🙂

Caracciola - amazing to behold!

Caracciola - amazing to behold!

Royal Ascot – Golden Jubilee Stakes

The meeting goes out with a bang tomorrow – the 6f Group 1 sprint. In days not so long ago everyone was obsessed with the draw, but since the track’s redevelopment things seem a bit fairer although there were some mutterings about low draws (I think) after the King’s Stand winners have been coming from across the track. Obviously any slight draw bias will be exacerbated in sprint races but apart from at Chester I don’t worry too much.

My old favourite Takeover Target is withdrawn with a temperature. Get well soon matey and I really hope to see you at the July Meeting. That leaves (of the really overseas raiders) Sacred Kingdom (HK), JJ the Jet Plane (SAF) and Cannonball (USA). The papers are all favouring JJ over SK on recent form, but a quick blast at Windsor does not overly convince me I am afraid. SK has been supplemented for the race and if you fancy it strongly it might be advisable to take a price early, there have been whispers that punters in Hong Kong will weigh in and smash the price if they find their local hero available at the current 11/4 (jf along with JJ).

I’ve ridden my luck this week and this sprint looks tricky to me. Kingsgate Native is returning after a failed stud career but having seen him last year, completely wired and over the top at the July Cup, I wonder how Michael Stoute will have fared in getting him settled again for the rigours of racing. I like the horse an awful lot but he’s been messed around, no question and how long it takes to get over that I wouldn’t like to say. Luca Cumani has an unknown quantity with a funny name running too, all of which I will observe with interest (after the fact because I will in all likelihood be out).

The other overseas raider Cannonball was doing all his best work in the final furlong of the King’s Stand and I have no doubt he is a better 6f horse than a 5. His American jockey Velaquez has left the building allowing the most able Olivier Peslier to take the ride. Peslier has an excellent record in this country and I would be surprised if they couldn’t at least take a place.

So, my top three for the Golden Jubilee are 1) Sacred Kingdom 2) JJ the Jet Plane 3) Cannonball or 3) 2) vice versa! I don’t know to be honest… Definitely favour SK above the others though.

Without sight of them it would be hard to back Kingsgate Native, but as a course and distance winner I might play at ew odds. Then Ialysos, Bushranger and Strike the Deal are of interest. It’s one of those days when you need to be there to check them out!

Oh and not to forgot Young Mick, who goes at 5.00 in the King Edward Stakes, dangerously well handicapped if operating anywhere near the top of his game. It seems like only yesterday he hosed in at 33/1 in the same race 🙂

I am going to my first polo match tomorrow with the family – unfortunately it is in Newmarket and the temptation to pull into the July course for the afternoon meeting with two nice maiden races is going to be very strong…

Sacred Kingdom - looks a bit of a bull, interesting angle, note the sweat under the saddlecloth

Sacred Kingdom - looks a bit of a bull, interesting angle, note the sweat under the saddlecloth

Royal Ascot – Coronation Stakes – take three Guineas winners…

For some this is the race of the week. Take three classic winners (3 yos prone to rapid improvement at this time of the year remember!) from England, Ireland and France, over the mile in Royal Berkshire this afternoon and the winner will surely deserve to be promoted from mere Guineas Princess and crowned Queen of Europe.
That analogy doesn’t quite work if say, Rainbow View or another not in the Guineas triumvirate prevail, but let’s not worry about minor details!

I am fascinated to see who takes this. It is pretty difficult to call frankly, especially once again in a paper-based exercise. I am going to look at them in the paddock (on’t telly) and see what takes me then. My morning line thoughts are this. I favour the French filly Elusive Wave and Ghanaati over the Irish Again and between those two I think Ghanaati looks to have a bit more raw speed in the pedigree which may prove decisive. The Racing Post has tipped up John Oxx’s Baliyana who has been supplemented for this but I just don’t agree.

Gun to head I will stick with the Giants Causeway girl Ghanaati, but my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the ever-present danger from Elusive Wave and the cribbers out to crab the 1000 Guineas.

Ghanaati my 33/1 Guineas Winner :-)

Ghanaati my 33/1 Guineas Winner 🙂

Elusive Wave - not sure theres much between the two...

Elusive Wave - not sure there's much between the two...