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Stand & Deliver

Sometimes, there is not much I wouldn’t give to be teletransported back 20 years or more and to have a pile of copy or audio typing a mile high to do in some office in Swindon: some nice mindless production work that I wouldn’t have to give a second thought to when I got home.

Of course I would become bored with the typing and Swindon too, as I did before, but having a lot of projects on the go can start to feel a bit stressful in my head, at times. Taking on too much, or having unrealistic expectations of myself (something I think of as going into Master of Time and the Universe mode) is partly a genetic trait that I stand helpless in the face of.
My whole family work too hard if you ask me…

Recently I asked my father about how he runs big projects consecutively. This is the man who has barcoded the NHS blood banks, the employees at British Airways and the merchandise at Selfridges. He is currently matching sticks of dynamite to fuses somewhere in the Camargue with RFID, or something. His answer cut across the question.

‘I find three is too many’ he said.

I had a quick tally up this morning: I have four.

No wonder I feel like Dick Turpin is standing over me when I wake up every day.

Another Dick Turpin who holds a place in my heart
No gun required
Stands at the National Stud

The Mile…

Ricahrd Hannon Jr. with Canford Cliffs

Is an absolutely classic distance for a horse race combining, as it does, speed with a touch of stamina.

Today’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury is being considerately run at 3.45 so, providing they get on with it at Wembley and there’s no pesky added time, the race will be run as they blow the whistle for half-time in the FA Cup Final; perfect for people who can be at neither event.

Truth be told, I would love to see Dick Turpin and Canford Cliffs in the flesh – it is on my list of stuff for this year. Whether it is just those two that battle it out with Twice Over today, as the market has it, or if it involves other good horses that have been overlooked in the hype it is definitely a must-see race.

Canford is the favourite, available at 10/11 on as I write, Dick follows at 10/3 and Twice Over is knocking about at around 15/2, from 8 earlier. Despite the clear market message making Canford the clear favourite because he has that hallmark of quality in his turn of foot that devastates fields as he comes late, because jockey Richard Hughes waxes lyrical about him and because of the esteem his trainer obviously holds the horse in, I would not steam into him. The facts are that, in two out of three meetings, Dick has actually come home ahead of Canford and last season the latter had a couple of races before he hit his undeniably brilliant stride. Dick has had a prep run (win) in a Group 2 at Sandown and although I have heard it said he may prefer a bit more cushioning underfoot than there will be at Newbury today, he gives the impression to me that all ground comes alike.

Twice Over? Well I have been once, twice and thrice through the mill with that animal and you never know how he is going to run. I don’t know if he is a moody sort, or what, but I just cannot trust him entirely. I do back him sometimes, but however much he wins I will never get back the faith that slipped away as he failed to pass Raven’s Pass in the Craven a few years ago. Apart from that, one wonders if the mile is his trip.

So, it all adds up to one thing. I have to back the Turpin and some of that will be money that loves how he runs a tough and honest race. Yes his flashier compadre Canford could come more eye-catchingly late on but Dick Turpin’s runs are all heart and that is how I like it.

Dick Turpin: the heart of a lion according to the trainer's son


One-quarter of the household departs to watch this clash today. Can you win? I asked. I think not was the reply. Didier Drogba is (and I paraphrase here) too Didier and too Drogba for the Arsenal to deal with. Another view from another Gooner yesterday was that Drogba is the supreme athlete, across all sporting endeavour.

A shame then that Didier cannot line up this afternoon at Longchamp for the Arc as he would clearly be nailed on for victory. Instead I will have to wade through the equines that are starting.

I was asked yesterday: can Workforce win. I think not. My reasons are manifold. Sir Michael has never trained the Arc winner, this year’s Derby although fast, has not yielded a vintage crop in the defeated, Workforce was reportedly “a shell” after his win on Epsom Downs which puts me in mind of Denman after his Gold Cup win. It takes time for a horse to come back from running out of its skin like that. Furthermore there is the ground and the trip to consider and those, to my mind, do not a match in heaven make. The road to Arc triumph is littered with Derby heroes, I wouldn’t mind if Workforce were to somehow replicate his Derby effort, but my mind’s eye can’t see it.

What of the French contingent, which includes the likely favourite Bekhabad? My contention would be that this little lot have not really had a searching examination of their collateral French form. Cape Blanco finished woefully in arrears of Lope de Vega and Bekhabad in the Prix du Jockey club, but I think the Irish horse was coming into the race off a hard time in the Dante, and I don’t count that form as a test for the French. The figures certainly say that Bekhabad would be the best of the French bunch and he seems to get 12f, but I don’t feel convinced.

Then the only angles left to me are the reliable Arc yardstick Youmzain, the unreliable Arc yardstick Cavalryman and the Ballydoyle battalion. For the purposes of wordcount I have to ignore the Japanese, German and Czech horses.

Youmzain would be the best story in the race if he were to win, but this year has not been kind to him and we can only conclude that he has no more improvement left in him. On the other hand, the Arc is usually run to suit his style of coming late and he clearly likes the course so for the sake of being part of a good yarn to tell in future Octobers I’ll throw a few quid his way more in hope than expectation. The truth is he’s not my idea of the winner.

Cavalryman has lost me a few quid this year. I don’t know what to make of his chance at all. There were signs that he was coming back to himself in the last outing and he should be ok with the ground, but perhaps only a blind fool would back him this afternoon. Am I a blind fool? Well sometimes.

Then to the Irish. Midas Touch is coming back off only a short break in the Leger, Fame & Glory might go on the ground and has previous Arc form, but despite his 1111 form figures, he has not faced the stiffest of tests this year. So we are left with the 3yo Cape Blanco, with Christophe Soumillon an excellent Longchamp pilot, but perhaps not the best of the draw. He has a blip on his record when last in France, but he has had the opportunity to rectify that since (unlike Workforce). He is unexposed and although I have read there are concerns for him on the soft ground I do not share them. I am a little bit worried about the trip. Nevertheless, I have already backed him and I may back him again with the other two Ballydoyle horses in my new favourite bet: the combination forecast.

And I’d’ve put good money on never typing that sentence.

So having got lost in my own analysis I am down to:

Youmzain for old times sake, Cavalryman – ditto.
Cape Blanco already backed – can I afford to put him with a FAG and a Midas Touch in a combo with coke and les frites?
Duncan – shit draw, but form behind Harbinger and a 12f victory @ Longchamp on soft going under his belt. Could he be some value @ 33s?

This could get pretty messy.

P.S. Dick and Paco aim to beat super Goldi in the Prix de la Foret earlier on the card. I would love it if it could be Dick’s Day. I would love it too if it could be Paco’s. I can’t remember them racing against each other. I have to say my heart lies with this contest. The Arc, and the football are just the supporting acts.

We’ve got a clash

That’s what the man on ATR says when they can’t start a race on time at Tramore because a contender is tootlinh down to the start in his own time and they are all on the button at some sand track in the Midlands.

The blog clash is to do with one post having to cover various subjects, plus the internal clash in various subjects, all of which are clashing with my school holiday summer tight timetable where I am under the cosh of a 6 year old. At my end, the din of the clashing would be deafening if I were not already so afflicted.

So forget structure, narrative and well-crafted points.

1) Meet the Molly. He is the son of a father we also have and there is a tale attached (insert tail pun of your choice here), but with no time to tell it you’ll have to wait. This fish is a bit of a bovver boy, it’s his genetic inheritance and he has been rehomed on account of his unsavoury activities down the road. His less fortunate bros were being farmed out to Pets at Home. Yikes. The father is now a reformed character, or a deeply depressed fish, or a fish on it’s last fins all being rather hard to photograph. To be continued…

2) York. Dick Turpin. Will he stay? I don’t know. I’ve been backing Cavalryman all year in the hope he will throw in a run to equal his Arc run. Could today be the day? I dunno. Twice Over has done me over at least once and thrice, so a no no? One thing I can say for certain: the Juddmonte has had small fields recently and whatever the outcome a cracking race is in prospect. Dick seems a bit short, but the Highwayman in York connection seems to have caught people’s imagination.

I’ll be thinking on.

Dick Turpin: victorious in le Prix Jean Prat Chantilly (Group 1!)


                   Richard gives him a kiss from me after winning today.

                   Not just a win, a withering burst of speed to take 4 lengths out of the field.

                   On wishes and horses indeed.

Bien sûr, c’est Dicque Turpine en Français

The Tyranny of Grass

I spent a peaceful hour in a shady library garden yesterday, primarily waiting for a face to be painted (not mine) and had a browse of one of those books that it is interesting to read, but not so interesting that you might buy it. Except maybe second-hand on Amazon for a few pence if you ever remembered to. These are a few things I jotted down, the “lawn” being one of my permanent preoccupations.

A grass blade’s no easier to make than an oak.
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

Nothing is more pleasant to the eye than green grass kept finely shorn.
Francis Bacon (Of Gardens 1625)

Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal.
John Ingalls (Speech in the US Senate 1874)

A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.
Michael Pollan (Second Nature 1991)

One of the side-effects of drinking all that ale with the Devon Home Cook was that I was prevailed upon to mow my rather clumpy and long, but lush grass that I knew was hiding a multitude of sins – rather like a bald bloke’s combover.

This was the result.

As woeful as Argentina

One very good reason to stay indoors this afternoon

and look at Wimbledon’s lawn

in the absence of any live televised South African turf.

 And not forgetting I could watch the green grass of

Chantilly where Dick Turpin will attempt

to overcome the very impressive Lope de Vega

 at the awkward French time of 2.42 p.m.

Alternatively I could go outside and pave over the lot,

                                                                                         but there is something about a patch of green,

                                                                                    however small and pathetic,

                                                                                   that speaks to me.

Dick Turpin – please not second for a third time!

Today is the first day of Royal Ascot. I am not predisposed to like it, having been delayed for hours once in a traffic jam, on my way to Camberley. I was not driving, I was about six, but it scarred me for life, gave me a horror of traffic and only a lukewarm enthusiasm for the pomp and circumstance that accompany the best race meeting of the year.

If only they weren’t so picky about their dress rules I might go, but I especially don’t like being told what to wear, and the thought of some awful fag hag from the BBC picking one out as a total plonker is not really my idea of fun. And where there is a forest of ladies hats, there will be a load of inefficient punters underneath them, generally getting in my way whilst they blunder over their bets asking for so and so “either way” as I heard more than once at the Oaks.

I’m all for widening racing audience and of course everyone has to start somewhere, but if they can’t explain the offside rule and the terms of a placepot on the gate people should be gently waved to the nursery enclosure to learn the error of their ways.

Anyway I won’t be going, but I have a staking plan: Lucky 15s all the way for me.

Top of the list is Dick, again. Call me a typical England fan: I live in hope more than expectation

Dick Turpin – surely taken to confirm his superior form over CC. Backstory features Dicks I & II trying to get him to go for the 7f Jersey. Strongly suspect, as in the 2000 Guineas, owner has stood firm and insisted he take his chance over the mile. I hope he is vindicated.
Kingsgate Native – Has the Oz sprinters to overcome but I would be hopeful Stoutey could work the oracle
Paco Boy – Goldikova and Rip VW rate the dangers, but he’s my favourite, it’s that simple.
Metropolitan Man – A Yank, can hit the gates better than our two year olds

Black Bess

The Dicks’ Guineas Mark II

This is what Richard Hannon Snr. said yesterday, prior to Dick Turpin’s run today in the French Guineas:

“People have underrated Dick Turpin. I told anyone who would listen before the Greenham that he could be the fly in the ointment, and he not only won that trial but went on to run a blinder to finish second in our Guineas.”

This is my beef list:

  • Naming a son after a father so I have to distinguish with more keystrokes between Dick Hannon Senior (fat old bloke with a baggy face) and Dick Hannon Junior (tall younger bloke with terrible sartorial taste and a baggy face in the wings).
  • Persistently favouring Canford Cliffs over Dick Turpin last year and this (notwithstanding yesterday’s quote) and is that, one wonders, something to do with Canford’s more powerful owners than DT’s owner’s one horse string.
  • Sending DT to France. He’s been there before and didn’t win (excuses available) perhaps he doesn’t like crossing the Channel. Why, I would like to know, could he not go to Ireland for their Guineas? He has won there before and it would give him longer break than just 15 days.

In the Hannon’s very, very great favour is the training of their stable star Paco Boy, who won so impressively in the Lockinge yesterday.  He travelled in what looked to be quite an interesting fashion on the heels of Lord Shanakill and then scooted clear once he saw daylight.  This is why I keep watching racing, to occasionally see what is clichedly termed a devastating turn of foot.  Yesterday it was a case of leaving the rest of the field for dead, apart from Ouqba who had also unleashed his own burst of speed up the far side.  Nonetheless Ouqba could not live with Boy who put the matter to rest without, it seemed, really coming out of a cruising gear.  I’ve been a supporter of Paco Boy for a long time and to see him racing like that is fantastic.  He made me smile too as he was pulled up, having a little argument with another Dick (Hughes) about walking in nicely without a lot of head-shaking and tossing.  If that’s not a horse at the top of its game then I don’t know what is.

I’m hoping Dick Turpin hoses up today in the Poule de Essains dedadeda wotsit.  Then I can stop carping.

What is known as "finishing off a race"

2000 Guineas: Stand and Deliver?

I drove back to the county of birth of that famous highwayman last night in an absolute downpour. First I thought:

Have they got this rain at Newmarket? Damn. If so all my thoughts on the 2000 Guineas need re thunk and quick.


Damn! I left the cat out. She’s going to be so pissed off with me. Thank God the neighbour has built that funny little shed thing for her to sit in…

As it turned out Southend had not been wetted when I got there and as far as I am aware Newmarket has had had only a light sprinkling and not enough to change the ground description of good to firm.

In the past I have spent weeks going through the runners before the Guineas, but I haven’t had a minute this year. I’ve been trying to do my thinking as I’ve gone along. I’ve watched St Nicholas Abbey’s work at the Curragh, I’ve seen the Elusive one in the Craven and I’ve had eye-witness reports of the Greenham. My job today has been to try and be objective, whittle the big field down a bit to a handful of possibilities and to cross my fingers, a lot.

My shortlist:

Al Zir – I respect this horse but not entirely convinced overall
Fencing Master – I think this horse might run better than his fancied RP Trophy winning stablemate
St Nicholas Abbey – I am not in the habit of backing shorties from Ballydoyle in any case. Not convinced by overall profile and won’t be suffering from shock if it either doesn’t or does win. Great Chamberlain thought that I’m afraid!
Elusive Pimpernel – my idea of a winner. My negative was around the so called “flat spot” coming into The Dip in the Craven. Richard Hills said this morning it didn’t look to him like much of a flat spot, more a case of Ryan Moore waiting, but not in vain.
Dick Turpin – the runner my heart is most attached to. The head has some questions. He is clearly not held in as much regard as his stablemate Canford Cliffs (who does not make my shortlist for reasons of stamina), and is by a bargain basement sort of sire in Arakan. However Arakan came from a good family, despite his race career being not exactly glittering with Group prizes. Arakan’s sire Nureyev ran in the 2000 Guineas 30 years ago in 1980 and won, but was then disqualified for pushing and shoving. He caught a virus and never raced again. If Dick could avenge his grandad today I would be happy. No-one thinks he can really, but in the Greenham he was not stopping. I would settle for a place.
Awzaan – included because of his fine record over 6f as a 2yo. The general opinion seems to be he has too much speed for a Guineas horse having won the Middle Park and the Mill Reef stakes. The Newbury race was run in quite a slow time despite the ground being quick and on balance I reckon he would stay the mile. Possible winner, definite place prospects.

My proposed top three home would be (and I wouldn’t dream of ordering them):

Elusive Pimpernel
Fencing Master
Dick Turpin

Oh, that’s four. Damn.

Bee & My Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

This one of my few non-Rudi ravaged plants and one that has given me a lot of pleasure. That’s Rudolf Nureyev to give him his full name. Is it a sign…

A Mixed Bag

That’s what’s in my head this morning. I have started thinking about the 2000 Guineas next week and can’t help but wonder why Richard Hannon persists in his insistence that Canford Cliffs is his number one Guineas horse. After the Greenham last Saturday he said something along the lines of Canford Cliff would have won the race from his stable mate Dick Turpin if he hadn’t hung left, but horses don’t hang for fun, they are telling us something.

I think Canford Cliffs hung left because he was at the outer edges of his stamina limit. There is no doubt he is a speedy, classy individual, but the horse that finished off the race best was the winner and I am certain that of the duo the only one likely to improve again for the extra furlong of the Guineas is Dick Turpin. That’s not a given either, with the Greenham having been 14 days earlier and needs a whole new mulling over with the horse having been mooted for the Irish Guineas in any case.

Of course it is likely Hannons Senior & Junior (who always strike me as biznissmen not horsemen) are well acquainted with my theory and are mindful of the horse’s future career as a stallion as they continue to talk up Canford Cliffs Guineas chances. I will be very disappointed if the horse I consider to be their real live Guineas contender Dick, gets diverted to Ireland to leave the Rowley Mile clear for Canford because Canford Cliffs just cannot win. I don’t yet know who will though, that’s going to need some more time on the hob…

Sandown hosts the end of the jumps season to day with some nice flat races at the end of their mixed card. I toyed with the idea of going as I am in London later anyway, but other commitments have prevailed.
They are parading some of the season’s stars: Kauto Star, Imperial Commander and Deman were in the original line-up. Last year in the same parade Denman got loose and crashed out of the parade ring for a little canter through the crowd. A loose tank would have been quite a sight but he was quickly caught. I love Sandown very much. I like arriving on the train and walking across the course to get a real feel for the going before racing starts. Sundown @ Sandown is quite possibly perfect.

Anyhow, I’m not there, I’m here and I have looked at the card and I can’t decide on anything. I am a big Paco Boy fan but they say he may not want the ground and they may be right on this! I have looked at the Group 3 at 4.15 and I can’t say I like the look of that much either. Laaheeb looks very smart, but it is probably fair to say Crowded House and Tranquil Tiger might give him a race. Tranquil Tiger looked a bit worked up before running second in the Earl of Sefton last week and I have a suspicion he may prefer to race off a turn which he will get here today. I couldn’t select any one with confidence, although at the prices I will probably side with Henry Cecil’s quirky 6yo.

In the first, the flat v the jumps race, the flat lads will either be carrying lumps of lead or have made free with the pies – Kieren Fallon is riding at 11 stone and I think he’s got a good chance on Twilight Star.

Whatever, the jumps *is/are over: Long Live the Flat!

Dick Turpin: impressive as a 2yo

*either could work grammatically: the jumps’ season is/the jumps are…
I don’t care, I’m off duty.