Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Trials and tribulations


Mugpunting is off to a decent start on the flat. A bit of a surprise given my procrastination in embracing it during April.

The Twenty to Follow project shows a squeak of a profit at 12 hard won points, with 6 wins from 16 runs. Only one of those has come in at a decent price though: Hoof It was deeply impressive in winning at 7-1 on the Knavesmire last Friday. Before the race, legendary trainer and professional character Peter Easterby’s son, David was talking about the horse stepping up to pattern company later this season. Given that confidence it was something of a surprise to see the price hold up at sevens. And I’m not complaining. Quadrant was also eye-catching in a maiden late in the day at Newbury on Saturday and hopefully there’s a bit more to come from him this Summer. So, despite the high profile and emphatic wins for my list horses Frankel and Canford Cliffs, it is these two boys that I take out of the last couple of weeks.

The classic trials themselves have failed to draw me in to my usual rash of ante-post grief. The races haven’t convinced me. Carlton House is not an attractive option at his current price. Plenty of other leading contenders still seem to have multiple targets, notably the Ballydoyle clan. I’ve struggled to unearth the value yet. So I’m holding fire until the Derby and Oaks pictures become clearer.

Elsewhere I’ve been suffering seconditis. Again. Save the tears though - this time at least. Recognising a repeating pattern when I see one, I thieved a couple of each-way double and place wins last week to stave off the self-loathing and teeth-grinding of potless podium finishes. On the second day of York’s magnificent Dante meeting, I backed Falasteen in the opening sprint at 15-2 on the strength of the race I saw him win at Epsom (he’d been well beaten in the meantime), doubled with Sajjhaa from the surprisingly (for May) in-form Bin Suroor at 7-1 in the Middleton Stakes.

And then on Saturday, a dear old friend called Advanced, a veteran of 55 turf races over 5f to 7f, and winner of only 5 of them, was, er, beaten again. But this time he had my place wedge powering him - and trainer’s daughter Amy Ryan in the plate - to a nodding frame result. Of those 5 wins, one was 33-1 and one was 20-1. I was a beneficiary on both occasions. And this is not the only time I’ve scooped a spawny place pay out either. Even sweeter here because my unbelievable morning 16-1 each way had turned into 9-2 joint favourite by the off. This horse whinnies heartily at the top table in the mugpunting Hall of Fame, nudging fetlocks with other flawed heroes like What’s Up Boys, Black Jack Ketchum and Sir Rembrandt.

Talking of flawed heroes, I went to see Roger Waters (did you see what I did there?) at the O2 arena on Sunday night. The decision to go was one of those spontaneous, last minute, crazy rock n roll, out there kinda things. But hey, that’s me!  One minute Pedro’s jangling my mobile to say he’s been landed with a spare ticket and the very next I’m on my way! Well almost.

“Ooh, would love to mate, but [sucking of teeth] it’s a bit short notice”

I pulled a strange face into the phone, thinking that might help.

“I’m just on my way back from London with the family, to tell the truth, I’m a bit tired. And it’s Sunday night, you know, work in the morning. Kids to get ready for school. I’m gonna have to say no”.

“No worries mate. Shame.” says Pedro

Mrs A looked at me, with that look, from the seat opposite.

“Your mad. You’ve wanted to go for ages. He’ll be dead before he tours again. I’ve seen him before, it’s a great show. What are you playing at?”

The ticket conductor pipes up “Get your bad ass down to the O2!”

A chorus from the passengers “Go on Dave. You know you want to!”

OK, some small exaggeration here. But needless to say, I’m back on the phone just after the Mill Hill Tunnel.

“Pedro, has that ticket gone yet?”

It was fated that I should go. And I don’t believe in fate (its an excuse for abdication of responsibility). But last year I was um-ing and ah-ing about buying tickets for me and Mrs A. I didn’t on the basis that it was too expensive. Then, out of the blue, Brynaldo texted on Friday to say that he could get a pair of tickets for Saturday. In the end we said no as we had plans for the night (No, not just the Eurovision Song Contest…we had guests as well!)  So when this third opportunity came calling, it would have been churlish, possibly dangerous, to demur.

Pedro picked up the rest of the party somewhere near junction 21 and introduced me as “an ageing rocker”, to which the response was “Excellent. Fits the bill. Join the club”!

This was my debut at the O2. Impressive. Very. Comfy seats, great views, good atmosphere and impeccable sound. But premium rates: £[insert big figure] ticket (daren’t say in case Mrs A reads this), £25 parking, £4.50 Becks Vier. And long toilet queues.

But these are minor quibbles. Mere contextual footnotes to the mighty script of The Wall. The gig was part theatre, part cinema, part rock. All entertainment. By turns dramatic, artistic, political and, of course, musical. The breadth, scale and intricacy of the staging made Les Miserables look like puppet theatre. The band were sharp, with a guy sharing singing duties with Mr Waters and three guitarists, one by the name of Snowy White from early Thin Lizzy days. (Possibly Roger’s daughter on accordion too?) The highlight…inevitably Comfortably Numb which provided the ultimate Rock God moment. Guitarist Dave Kilminster perched on top of The Wall, picked out by a single spotlight, writhing in a solo shredfest. Beautiful. Almost like Brian May atop Buck House for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee gig. Only less hair.

Another highlight was Waters’ rendition of Mother as an acoustic duet with himself – via a clip from Floyd’s 1980 gigs, which was projected onto the wall. A proper spine tingling moment. He referred to his younger self, with a wry grin as ‘miserable little Roger’

Some powerful stuff too: The Nazi propaganda and marching hammers; images of people lost in wars; Scarfe’s animated sequence for The Trial.

And surreality? Too much: Roger toting a mock machine gun during In The Flesh and the crowd caught in the lights standing up and shouting “Shoot me, shoot me”; me, Pedro and the guys listening to the band cranking out Hey You behind the wall as we thought, ‘Christ we’ve paid a shit load of money to stare at some cardboard bricks’.

Top night though. Cheers for the chance to partake, Pedro. Has there ever been a better slab of extravagant, multi-media musical theatre? 


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