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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

The Hennessy

I was asked if I fancied going to watch this today at Newbury. I gave it some thought. Then I remembered that as much as I like Newbury, I do not very much like the cold, or the jumps. I do like Denman and he goes for an historic treble today, but since he had a fall at Aintree and that heart procedure I’ve not been able to watch him. Putting all that into the basket and throwing in a round trip of about 300 miles in the Tin Can from Japan decided me against. If Denman does manage to win I’ll be the first to pour myself a treble of the damn stuff and toast him.

I haven’t got a view of the race to be truthful, although the thought that The Tank will have to lug a minimum of 1 stone and 4 pounds more than his nearest weighted rival makes me shudder (and it will be just 2 pounds shy of two stone to most of the field). Instead I can only repeat what most people may have heard already: there have been strong whispers coming into the race for the Irish horse Pandorama and that some good judges have mentioned that Madison du Berlais may be a rather generously priced 16/1. All home safe and not too knackered is all I ask for.

In the meantime I’d rather look at this fantastic picture of the flat racing darling Selkirk in the snow, which the delightful Clare Balding kindly allowed me to use. Selkirk was trained by her father Ian and raced for George Strawbridge in a career that enjoyed wins in the Lockinge Stakes at the selfsame Newbury, the Celebration Mile at Goodwood and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot.

Selkirk stands at Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, the fee for his services in 2011 is £20,000. He has sired 81 Group/Stakes winners including 12 Group 1 winners. So if it’s a group-winning flashy chestnut with some white markings you’re after producing you could do an awful lot worse…

Selkirk courtesy of Clare Balding's Twitpics

Pavlovian Responses

This conditioning abounds in the animals in our house. Apparently, the cat starts tapping on the duvet after the first weekday alarm goes off about 5.30 am – the eerie light illuminating her fat tabby face. “Come on! Time to get up and feed me” she commands “I heard the alarm.”

When my alarm goes off about an hour later the dog starts what can only described as light shoving with claws, which reaches an urgency of whining and licking your face if you don’t jump out of bed forthwith. You would be forgiven for thinking he was desperate to go out and relieve himself, but I think he is more after the digestive biscuit.

Once we are out of bed the fish join in. What people in the room? Shoal attractively at the front of the tank in anticipation of fish flakes.

I also know of a house mouse down the road that is trained to a bell on the back door. If it hears the bell, it knows the door has been opened, and legs it back in. Now that’s clever.

So the weekend, where there are no bleeping alarms, throws the pets into confusion.
Am I on my second sleep? Is she ever going to vacate my pillow? Where is my biscuit? Their general restlessness and pacing and prodding gets you up anyway.

Pavlovian responses are not just confined to the animals round here either. Mine is: it’s Saturday so I’d better lose some money. At Ayr the Gold Cup that features 20+ runners over 6 furlongs, where being drawn high helped yesterday, the going changed overnight and at least half of them are trained by forked tongue Dandy Nicholls, has my response wavering though. So no Ayr for me; I’ll lose it in Berkshire instead on The Paddyman in the Mill Reef. Or maybe I’ll bundle it all up and throw in Hawkeyethenoo to make it a proper Saturday experience. I’m salivating already.

Rudi in Ireland - daggers @ the poodle

All the Queen’s Horses

I can’t list them all, but she’s got a few. Whenever I back them they don’t win, when I leave them alone they do. In the last week she’s had two winners: Tactician and Quick Reaction, and a hat trick of seconds.

The reason I mention her is not for any rabid royalist reason but because after the first race at Newbury last Friday (after her Royal Exchange had been beaten a head into second and in its turn beaten my selection Shafgaan into third) I noticed her in the paddock.

I am a bit slow off the mark at times. I was looking at the winner and wondering why so many people were gathered further down the paddock near the runners up. It turned out to be because that was where the Royal Huddle with Teddy Grimthorpe, Hannon Senior & Hannon Junior (who had had the sense to get out of the awful asparagus soup-coloured suit from the day before) and her Majesty was taking place. Hannons made way for Charlton and the Huddle moved up the paddock so I was able to take what I thought was a nice enough snap to show the kids – who were of course not at all interested.

But first, see how the Racing Post shows The Queen, albeit having been beaten a head into second, having a lovely day out with her runners:

Nonetheless, being a class act she managed to look perfectly happy as she moved on to Roger Charlton to consider the chances of High Constable. As it turned out, seconditis can affect Royal Personages too as this animal (carrying my cash) also took runner-up spot behind the incredibly smart Meezaan (who you need to watch out for as he will probably make up into a Group horse).

The most shiny handbag in the land

And in a rather obvious segue I thought I would just tip my hat in the direction of Malcolm Mclaren who said

Rock and roll doesn’t necessarily mean a band. It doesn’t mean a singer, and it doesn’t mean a lyric, really. It’s that question of trying to be immortal.

This remix and post were brought the to the blog by the squirrelwholosthernuts channel (but they always turn up in the end).

Denman, the Aon and the room with no view

I was born in Newbury, at least that’s what it says on my passport. My mother says it was Thatcham which is now a sprawling sink housing estate as far as I can see. Any road up, I am predisposed to like the place and when I’ve been racing there I’ve done alright. If I was there today I might be joining my friend Tagalie and “watching” the Aon Chase from the toilets.

This is the bind of being not just a punter, but a horse enthusiast, or pony-mad middle-aged woman (in my case, NOT hers!) in that when a horse you really, really like runs your stomach goes. Well not literally, but nearly! So last November she was so concerned as Denman made his post-fall comeback she hid in the loos, where I believe there is commentary. When we discussed tomorrow (last week) it went a bit like this:

“There doesn’t seem much point paying to go racing and then staying in the loos for the big race”

“Hmmm. No”

“But then it is obviously lucky for The Tank, so now I will have to go and watch it in the ladies again”

Such is the burden of the real racing fan. Rituals and routines.

With the faithful doing their bit the only discernible difference today for The Tank is that we have one AP McCoy on board. This is what Ruby Walsh had to say for his benefit about Denman this morning; one presumes the unfortunate Sam Thomas will remain tight-lipped.

From the RP site:

Walsh, speaking on Channel 4’s The Morning Line, said: “Denman is in a better frame of mind than when he ran here in November. He is fresh and keen.”

The jockey added:”As far as the jumping goes he is bombproof. He is dead straightforward to ride; have him in the first two, then if he’s pulling you’re going too slow, and if you’re pushing you are going to fast.”

So with Ruby’s advice dispensed and Tagalie esconced in the ladies I am touching wood, crossing my fingers, stalking black cats, looking for lost pennies and hoping for a good show.

Plenty of wood for touching purposes

NB Had an outbreak of uncontrollable commaitis this morning. Can’t be helped, no rude remarks from the editing frat please 😉