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Last Knockings?

Is what we are down to for the flat season that was 2010. Over the years, fans of flat racing have been frankly goaded by some of the die-hards in the jumps fraternity about the damp squib that our season sometimes goes out with. Not this year. We may not have had the midsummer excitement of a Sea the Stars, but we have had Workforce, we have had Goldikova and Paco Boy (who go again tonight in Kentucky) and the drama of Special Duty who liked to collect her races from the stewards’ room, but today the flat season is definitely going out with a bit of a *firework or two.

Today there is the final leg of Champion Jockey battle: Hanagan -v- Hughes, the latter being in arrears by two when they go under orders on Town Moor at 12.15 today and then, when the blood on the carpet has barely started to dry over that, we have the Breeders’ Cup tonight with the promise of Zenyatta and the possibility of Workforce completing an unique treble.

You can keep Cleeve Hill, this stuff is properly epic, if you have the imagination to appreciate it…

Zenyatta at the Breeders' Cup in Santa Anita 2008

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*Firework (Katy Perry). First line “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag…” This gets the award for the world’s most execrable opening lyric. Trash it.

ARsenal-v-Chelsea

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.


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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.

The Girl v The Boy

The Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard – Jacques Le Marois (that’s a mouthful innit) is this afternoon @ 2.40 in Deauville. This is a race I’d like to see. If I get a wriggle on perhaps I could get there.

Now the three year old Makfi really needs to read this because this afternoon needs to go to script.

The question is can Paco, who got going a touch too late last time they raced each other at Ascot, poke his nose in front of Goldikova this afternoon. I always support Paco because he gives you a run for your money and he looks like he’s trying. Additionally, he wears his mane in a rather mussed up rakish style which melts my heart, not to mention the white where he went and poked his muzzle in a paint pot.

I was going to say I don’t mind who wins, and of course Goldi is a fantastic mare and who wouldn’t want to see her winning a record breaking 11th Group 1, but I’ve talked myself into the Boy, again.

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"