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“Banged Out”

I started this other post about what I have to do in a week, partly because I thought it might help me to objectively assess if I was doing too much as my mother might put it. I have a work colleague who terms it being banged out which I think is as about as descriptive as it gets. Anyway, before I had even got off the subject of work, or onto the topics of motherhood, studying, exercising, dog-walking or blogging I felt tired. And a bit bored. The secret perhaps to keeping all those plates spinning on high poles in the circus of life is to never try and count them.

One plate that has definitely fallen off and smashed is the punting one. There is a time in every flat season when the horses go over the top, the ground goes and the results become ridiculously unpredictable (for me anyway). It is about this point, if you have any sense, you switch the jumps racing and start backing everything that Nigel Twiston-Davies trains until the end of November. Perhaps I have no sense, but a Saturday with no fixed plans (apart from lesson plans to write and assignments to start and a family to feed and interact with) just calls to me for a few last hoorahs before Champions Day next weekend.

Then when I start seriously thinking that Mick Channon’s Montaff might be a lively outsider at 50/1 in the heritage handicap at Ascot I realise that I myself have gone over the top mentally. The idea I had was that Johnny Murtagh is staying to ride this one when he could go home to Ireland after the preceding race, ergo there must be a good reason for this. I know this plan is flawed because last weekend he stayed ’til the last to ride a Fanshawe beast, Horse Chestnut, at HQ. This idea combined with the conkers in my handbag convinced me it was a done deal, although I also managed to cover the stake with a win bet on a Hamdan second-string that was second. The Horse Chestnut was nowhere. Never mind, the theory’s still a sound one and I’ll give it another whirl later. The other reason I can’t leave it alone is that Montaff has never run over 12f on the ground and I think both are perfect for him. Additionally, he’s had a break of 74 days. Channon rarely gives his horses a break, so either Montaff has been hopping around on three legs in the interim, in which case I am surprised Murtagh is bothering to ride, or they have been freshening him up. Coming into the same race off a 72 day break is the filly Tinaar who I was quite taken with in May. I’ll be giving her a second look too.

I think the best chance of the day belongs to Doc Hay in the 5f maiden at Wolverhampton. He’s being turned out quickly after running 6th over 6f at Windsor on Monday and Jamie Spencer is in the plate. He’s an expensive individual, the horse not Mr Spencer, and at 7/2 now it would seem a fair supposition that connections are expecting better this evening.

Finally there are the bumpers, maidens for the NH horses. I’ve looked at them all, the most interesting to me being the one at Hexham where there are various contenders with a chance. I suspect our winner will come from River Dragon, Lady Counsellor or one of the two sons of Old Vic: Cool Vic and Dunowen Point, but picking one might be difficult.

Finally at Bangor in the bumper I am going to take a chance in opposing a Jonjo/McCoy hotpot with a McCain horse Jessie Gwendoline. She’ll be carrying just over a stone less than the fav and might be a bit of value. Who knows? What I do know is that I am going to have to either walk down to the bookies with the dog later, or put some money back into my “lucky” online bookmaker Paddy Power because I have been embracing being wrong so very much lately.


Beat this

That’s how the market have Workforce right about now. I was going to type up this whole thing about my doubts, but then Paddy Power sent me this, and made me laugh so I thought I’d share as per the spirit of the age.

It’s the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, hitherto referred to as the Ball And Chain Dash – what it lacks in communicating the tender loving relationship between a former monarch and his wife it more than makes up for in being easy to type. To quote Shakespeare, ‘whatever crappy name we decide to call it, it’s still going to be a really kickass race ;-)’.
Ok, you’ve caught us – Shakespeare never used emoticons.

It’s one of the highlights of the flat season for several reasons that we haven’t thought of yet, but chief among them is the fact that it’s the first time the cream of the current Classic crop take on the cream of the older horses who haven’t been shipped off on mare-humping duty. To express it in a human rite of passage way – it’s a bit like the first time you take on someone who’s not your own age in a game of pool. A game of pool worth about £600,000.

The main thing we’re going to find out is if Workforce is really all that. In terms of speed, his victory in the Derby was the most impressive since 1845 when someone first had the idea of taking a watch along to Epsom to see how fast the horses were actually going and more than likely the quickest Derby win of all time. The bad news for him is that the connection between winning the Derby and winning the Ball And Chain Dash is about as pronounced as Big Brother contestants having doctorates in astrophysics. And the fact that the horses he beat at Epsom have been playing musical statues since hasn’t helped his reputation

The greatest challenge to Sir Michael Stoute winning this race may come from none other than Sir Michael Stoute. That’s not to suggest he has a multiple personality disorder or he enjoys sabotaging himself, it’s our way of telling you he trains the top two in the betting.

Harbinger looks to be the main rival to Workforce. He spent his Classic year arsing around and putting in performances that were mainly tripe, but with age he has really hit his stride to become a real heavyweight. Think Robert Downey Junior in equine form, but without the rampant substance abuse. In 2010 he’s turned a corner which was fortunate for him because the road he had been on was leading him to the glue factory. Stoute looks to have saved him from a fate which involved being turned into something they show you how to make on Blue Peter.

The new route has taken him to victory in two Group 3 races, but it was his impressive win over the same course and distance during Posh Week at Ascot aka Royal Ascot that has him so highly rated. The win in the Hardwicke Stakes was impressive in itself, but also suggested there was further improvement to come. Stoute also has Confront in the race and while our legal team have warned us against using the phrase ‘pacesetter’ we would suggest, that his job will mainly be to set the … tempo of the race.

If you don’t think either of Stoute’s good horses are going to do it or just like backing horses that are named after terrorities governed by both Morocco and Mauritius, then the chances are you’re considering the chances of Cape Blanco. Much was made of Workforce losing in the Dante yet going on to win the Derby, but the more traditional route is winning the Dante and going on to win the Derby. Injury ensured Cape Blanco didn’t get his chance to record that double, but he did claim the Irish Derby by way of consolation.’Like the Epsom version, we’re not completely sure about the quality of the vanquished opponents, but he’s certainly good – how good we’ll soon find out.

In an over-hasty summary of the other runners, Youmzain has been a quality performer for Mick Channon over the years, but his habit of not actually winning suggests winning may be beyond him. Alain de Royer Dupre has decided to send Daryakana to Ascot. He must need his stocks of Yorkshire Pudding replenished because on the face of it, the leading contenders would seem to have his number and place money is pretty much the best he can hope for.

We reckon Workforce will step up to the plate and prove his class, but then again we thought Bowfinger would be the end for Robert Downey Junior.

Inconveniently they disagree with me and think he will do the business, but I am more uncertain. A visually impressive win in the Derby (and the clock agreed) will surely have taken something out of this magnificent animal. On top of that, I was concerned about the trip prior to the Derby, something that continues to bother me, although having read that Workforce’s dam is a full sister to St Leger winner Brian Boru I might shelve that doubt. I am very prepared to be wrong about his winningness, after all Workforce is 11/10 on as I type, but I have this niggle that he might “bounce”.

The Weekender

Sometimes, well truthfully often times, I find myself conflicted about what I am doing and what I should be doing. Am tends to be fiddling on the computer or thinking deep thoughts, should tends to look like standing in the kitchen.

This weekend I will be travelling home from previously mentioned nuptials (more of that later) so although I should be sufficiently organised to travel with a laptop, or blog from a phone what I am doing is reading a book on a train.

What I am also doing (as I have anticipated this difficulty in providing a regular flow of posts whilst elsewhere) is writing about Saturday’s racing the Wednesday before. Sounds tough? Well they manage it, after a fashion, in the Weekender racing paper.

What I would prefer to do would be to live in gentler times, like Dorothy Paget. She was a prolific racehorse owner, most notably Golden Miller, and there is a story about her I like. Apparently she was not an early riser, in fact she stayed in bed well past lunchtime. She would then be brought breakfast and the “morning” papers whereupon she would study the cards and telephone her bookmaker to place her bets for the day. This might be at 5 p.m. well after the races had been run. The bookmaker would nonetheless accept the bets, some of which were mighty in sum and pay out or otherwise depending on the result.

Marvellous. So in a back to front version of Dorothy’s life I have looked at the card for the Ascot Betfair Chase at Wednesday tea time and my view is this:

I was taken with The Sawyer at Cheltenham, but he is weighted right up to his very best here and surely has some work to do?

Monet’s Garden is one of my very favourite horses in training. His last race was at Ascot where he finished well adrift of Alberta’s Run. It was over 2f shorter though and one could say the pace just told in the end. Will the extra make the difference. At 12 it’s hard to say. He is a class act but he is just below his prime now.

I can never figure Alberta’s Run out, so there’s not much point trying three days in advance. His profile never really pulls me in.

Herecomesthetruth has been backed by me before but he is a tricky customer. Probably has the talent, but would not be one to put unguarded faith in!

I think Planet of Sound will win actually. He’s the improver and was giving 6lb and a blunder to Albertas last time. The Hobbs team are doing ok at the moment and I think he has the profile of a winner. Now he just has to jump round…

Golden Miller

I’m a bit worried because Herecomesthetruth is going to carry the No 2 saddlecloth I think. Is it a sign? I bet they didn’t say that in the Weekender!

Young Mick

This lad is one of my favourite horses in training.  He built up an outstanding record in his famous purple patch in 2006.  He kicked off 2006 by coming 9th of 13 over 9f at Wolverhampton, then on the 23rd January (3 days later) in a visor, replacing the blinkers, he was dropped in grade into a maiden claimer and hosed up over the same 9f.  This first victory came in his 14th race and the Racing Post race analysis noted this saying for this reason and a rise in class he could be “opposed” next time.

Next time, came sooner than he might have expected.  Young Mick visited Lingfield and prevailed by a short head over 10f.   Then a further 3 days later he went back to Wolverhampton and won again.  So for a bit of a previous no-hoper he was doing well, three wins in a less than a week (23rd, 25th and 28th January).  He slipped back a bit in February, racing twice and finishing second twice.  Then came March, he raced three times and won thrice, including at the first meeting @ Kempton on the new polytrack surface.  I was there that day and was happy to back this reformed character.  It proved to be a memorable day, as it was also Dubai World Cup day and Electrocutionist was able to win there from an improbable draw.  By April Young Mick, my all-weather idol, had a handicap mark that had gone up like a rocket and with only two placed runs this month, an unplaced effort in May, and another unplaced, at his now beloved Kempton, at the start of June  it looked like he may have soared a little too high in the weights.

Mid-June, Royal Ascot.  Along came Young Mick.  A bit of an all-weather specialist, a bit of a hero to some of us who pay attention to the beach racing all year round.  Unconsidered by the toffs he was one of 18 runners in the Duke of Edinburgh Heritage Handicap, late in the day on Saturday.  He won by a head from the 4/1 Luca Cumani favourite, Glistening, at 28/1 and I can tell you that I had happily taken 33s earlier that day.  I didn’t ever see that race – one of life’s regrets…

After that career high-point, dubbed a “rags to riches” story in the Racing Post, he went on to win 3 more times in 2006.  The undoubted highlight for me being the final win at Ascot of the year, the Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot in September.  Here, he re-opposed Glistening, this time on level terms (in the DoE Handicap Young Mick had had a big pull at the weights) and once again prevailed, leading home Munsef (a proven Group animal) and Glistening, who was to head off to the Melbourne Cup.

I watched that race and it, his tenth victory, and fourth on the trot and Ascot (possibly usurping Kempton in his affections) gave me so much enjoyment.  He was sent off 7/2 (no 28/1 for him now) so it was not about winnings, it was purely about the pleasure Young Mick had provided throughout 2006.  That was his defining season.  Winning a Group 3 race was fantastic but it screwed up his handicap mark for the following seasons.

We did not actually see him at all for a whole year – he made his seasonal reappearance in the same Group 3, finishing last.  He then ran on throughout 07/08 without a win.  Some said that he was “gone at the game”, that his season of 2006 where he had raced 18 times had bottomed him out, they had gone to the well too often was the accusation.  Not true in my view.  Basically George Margarson, his trainer, had given him a good rest after the 2006 season reasoning presumably he had earned it.  The problem is that Young Mick is a good doer – a horse that can just look at haynet to put on weight.  This may, in part, explain why he took 14 races before arsing himself to win!  So in his off-season he just got plain fat which then caused some foot problems, hence the year off.  Combined with being high in the weights and aged 5 and 6 in 2008 there was little or no improvement to come to offset the weight that he had accrued whilst running out of his skin at Ascot.  It is said, by those who know him best, that he is at least 10lb better round Ascot so his efforts in the high summer of 2008 where he was grabbing second places behind good horses were better than some credited him with. 

With the year off the track he actually took 2 years to post another victory, which eventually came on the 27th October @ Leicester in a conditions race.  He spent the winter in Dubai and it was great to see the old boy (now 7) poke his nose in front by half a length in February this year at Nad-al-Sheba.  We haven’t seen him now since June so I am looking forward to this afternoon @ 3.30.

Today will be his 57th start.  His stats are 12 wins, 8 seconds, 5 thirds.  His record after time off is not spectacular, as I have said he does rather too well on the oats for that, but it will be great to have him back on his favourite course, running 10lb better than elsewhere.  I don’t suppose he can win, with 19 going to post, but he has a handy partner and I will be taking an each way price, crossing my fingers and going out.

Young Mick, visored and going right-handed as is his preference

Young Mick, visored and going right-handed as is his preference

Look Here

at the trainer Ralph Beckett talking about his King George contender and Oaks winner – Look Here.

I’m going to miss the race being otherwise occupied pedalling somewhere west of Paris, but I shall be thinking about her as I have backed her each-way.  She will need things to drop right for her, and that includes no rain please, but I think Mr Beckett’s summation of her chances is fair enough and although I like and respect market leader Conduit my stakes are riding on the filly and it would not be a huge shock should she be thereabouts this Saturday at Ascot.

Oaks, what Oaks?

Oaks, what Oaks?