Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Flat fortunes

About time. Here’s a chest-thumping, chin-jutting, pride-bursting moment of self-congratulation to mark my best run of winners on the flat since champion sire Galileo was still tinkering with telescopes.

And this comes after an abysmal Royal Ascot where I managed to link together a chain of losers long enough to anchor the Titanic.

So further proof, as if any is needed, of the fickle fortunes of racing. This is the game’s innate attraction. Without the lows, the highs would be meaningless. What is the point of me screaming the actual words “I am a genius!” at my laptop as it grudgingly dispensed a few pixelated images of Rose Blossom stoutly landing a listed event at Pontefract and so filling me with a sense of achievement, without the ricks and wrong-headed thinking of backing, say, a patently non-staying Wootton Bassett in a mile event, that provides the counterpoint and therefore the emotional raw material for such delirium? Anyone make it to the end of that sentence? Well done. I’ve been reading some Graeme Swift recently. Apologies, I’m easily influenced.

Other stars of the show? Well, the incorrigible Mick Easterby’s Hoof It, part owned by Lee Westwood which has generated some Group 1 Twitter banter; another sprinter, this time from Kevin Ryan’s yard, Masamah who when he wins, blasts in exhilarating style from the gates and hangs on for grim death; Drunken Sailor who’s slender advantage was won under the latest possible Keiron Fallon drive; Twice Over’s stunning return to form for Sir Henry; and Nathaniel, who started the streak by justifying faith in my own judgement after I saw plenty in the way he won earlier in the season.

So the stats. If I take my trip to Lingfield with Crispin on 20th July as the starting point (all-weather fixtures in the sample, I hear you cry – but a winner is a winner I shame-facedly respond) through to the last day of the Ebor meeting on 20th August then from 66 bets, I somehow bagged 16 winners at a strike rate of 24%, giving a points profit of 158 and a return on investment of 54%.

In truth, this ‘streak’ at only a month long, is a very small platform from which to project my boasting. But who knows when this opportunity will come round again? It also includes a poor 2nd day at Glorious Goodwood when I lost the good ladies of Berko their float. The irony of this blog-post set against that travesty is not lost on me. I am mentally preparing myself for the repercussions.

Neither does this snapshot stand comparison with my best season-long returns over the jumps in the earlier part of this century (to provide the correct historical context). Nevertheless, take out Royal Ascot and the winners across the rest of the season have stilled cropped up regularly enough. For instance, my 20 To Follow flat project is also showing a healthy profit at +55 points.

There’s still plenty of action left in the flat season and the 20TF project will rumble on for a couple of months. I’m confident there’s some more winners in there, with Snow Fairy, Bourne, Modun, Quadrant, Rose Blossom and Wootton Bassett possessing better than fair chances of picking up races. 

Before then, we will be back into the jumps. September is when I lovingly research 40 jumpers to follow that will sustain me through the winter months. After last year’s unforgiveable and painful slump in form, I’m looking to recover some ground and some credibility.

This season there will be no horses to choose from the Howard Johnson yard. Quite rightly, he’s retired. The four-year ban he received from the BHA is the minimum that could be expected for his crimes of doping some horses and nerve-severing others so that they could run through the pain barrier. The BHA said the 58-year-old trainer had ‘shown a reckless disregard for the rules so as to jeopardise the future welfare of a gelding in training and the safety of those jockeys and stable staff who were engaged to ride it.' Disgraceful and unforgiveable behaviour from a difficult character whose excuse of ignorance is as lame as his treatment of horses. HoJo didn’t appeal the decision and his immediate retirement was the only vaguely honourable act in a shocking play. The issue of welfare continues to undermine the sport. I applaud the BHA’s stance on this case.

HoJo’s principal owner, Graham Wylie described the retirement as a sad day for northern racing. He then distributed his powerful string of horses to Nicholls in the south and Mullins in Ireland. I’m sure successful northern trainers such as Donald McCain, Ferdy Murphy and Nicky Richards all applaud Wylie’s sentiments. Not.

But let’s not get bitter and twisted just yet. Plenty of mouth-watering action left on the flat, beginning with the Haydock Sprint Cup on Saturday. What price Hoof It, Masamah and Wootton Bassett to fill the frame? 

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