Thursday, 16 June 2011

Whipping up a storm


The bookies have a had right royal hoot at Ascot today. Enough bankers went west across the card to fill a large Barclays staff convention in Bristol. SPs for the six race winners were 11-1, 11-1, 17-2, 12-1, 12-1, 8-1. What chance does a poor punter have? Bookies with grins like they had fish kettles in their gobs could be spotted stuffing fat rolls of notes into bulging satchels with every defeated favourite. Five of ‘em beaten into 2nd, including the memorable chinning of red hot Prince of Wales fancy So You Think.

That race provided a thrilling finish. Best of the meeting so far. Frankie Dettori in irresistible form, galvanised sufficient momentum from Rewilding to collar Coolmore’s newly acquired Aussie sensation close to the line. Connections were simply ecstatic. Sheikh Mohammad, august ruler of Dubai, was captured on the telly at least an hour later, punching the air and executing a shimmy that any dancing Dad would be proud of.

Frankie’s ride ignited the already simmering debate about whip use. He incurred a nine-day ban for excessive use. He hit Rewilding 24 times in the final two furlongs. The BHA is currently busying itself with a review of whip use. This will have to deliver some credible changes. The sport is under the cruelty spotlight following incidents at Newbury and Aintree earlier this season. For a start, whip use guidelines are flouted far more than perpetrators are punished and those punishments are themselves inconsistent and ineffective. But the more fundamental question is whether whips should be used for encouragement at all. Unless a workable and acceptable set of principles and penalties is developed – no easy task – the answer must surely be that they should not.

I managed to pour my profit from day 1 back into the bookies coffers on day 2. I was well off the pace today. Seta and Planteur were both particularly disappointing and failed to give their true running.

So am I losing the faith? By Jove, no! Never let it be said.

Tomorrow’s mug punts, then. Nothing in the Norfolk Stakes. I haven’t seen enough of this season’s two-year-olds to have an opinion (like that makes any difference…). In the Ribblesdale, I’m not convinced that market principles Rumh and Banimpire will be at the top of their game after winning seven and four days ago, respectively. So I’m interested in Aiden O’Brien’s Make My Heart Sing who has the sort of profile - and the sort of handler - to find improvement enough to make the frame.  

The Gold Cup is sadly missing last year’s winner Right of Passage. In his absence, I’m looking for one to take on favourite Fame and Glory with. I like Duncan who has been improving for the last 18 months and should have the stamina and class for this test.

Next up, the Britannia Stakes, another impossible 30-runner handicap. Without any great confidence, Baptist is interesting from a favoured high draw and should be an improver, if his last run from a bad draw at York is scratched.

The Hampton Court Stakes, chock full of class horses just below group 1 level, offers up three or four with very solid claims. I’m taking Alkimos to frank some pretty strong form lines with Lajooj. Slumber, Hunter’s Light and Tazahum bring good form too and Marksmanship holds a string of Group 1 entries. I’m looking forward to this one.

Another big handicap to close Ladies Day, the King George V Stakes. Again, I’m attracted to the unexposed improvers, though here there are about 10 that fit the description. Hmm. I saw Charles Camoin win in taking fashion at Epsom on Oaks day, showing good resolution. He’ll be suited by the trip and deserves to take his chance here at around 20-1.

Batten the hatches, I’m going in again….

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