Friday, 16 September 2011

Padding Up


I had an interesting conversation with Euston lost property office today. This was as a result of leaving a pair of cricket pads on the 5.05 arrival at Euston last night. I realised I’d left them behind only when I arrived at The Oval (excuse me, The Kia Oval, following on the heels of the Brit Oval and before it the Fosters Oval – where my mate once went up to the bar and said “Hi. What lagers do you do?”) ready for nets and thought something was missing. Ah yes. The pads! This was before the beers that invariably follow a net session. So not even alcohol can be blamed.

It took a few calls (and even some tweeting) to find the right phone number. The conversation, eventually, with the lost property office went something like….

“Hello. Euston lost property.”
“Hello, I left a pair of cricket pads on the train last night just gone 5 o’clock”
“What is this cricket pads?”
“You know, a pair of white padded leg guards?”
“Leg guards?”
“Yes. Do you know cricket, the game?”
“No. Cricket? No.”
“OK, well, they’re these white things that have sort of ridges up and down them. They start at the ankle and go up past the thigh. They’re padded. Pads, they’re called.”

At this point I’m actually holding my ankle with one hand and the mobile in the other. A bloke overtakes me on the footpath hooting with laughter.

“Were they in a bag?”
“No, no bag. They were strapped together.”
“Straps?”
“Yeah, I didn’t mention the straps did I?”

She thinks I’m some right kinky saddo now. I’m starting to squirm.

“Sorry, we have nothing here that matches this description. Maybe you could try again in three-to-five days?”
“Three-to five-days? But they were at Euston last night. Platform 8. Really near your office.”
“But it sometimes takes three-to-five days for things to arrive with us. Maybe you try then. Thank you.”

In between my incident packed, pad-chasing day, I’ve been called upon to provide some tips for one mate going to Newbury and another going to Newmarket. Mugpunting is really on an upward curve here, buoyed by outstanding success at both Leger meetings last week. Word must be spreading! But no. Julie never reads this blog and is merely humoring me. And Alex asked everyone he knew. Including those who were only asked so that their tips could be disregarded. I’m not sure which camp I’m in.

Nevertheless, I can never let an opportunity like this pass. So here’s the muddling, mealy-mouthed advice I,ve forved upon them in the hope it will help them while away their afternoons.  

NEWMARKET

Julie’s book circle are clubbing together and bought themselves a box for the day at the Berkshire track. Absolutely inspired move. Sounds like they’ve bagged a bargain too. And what a fixture they’ve picked. A couple of belting conditions events, including a good sprint, a top-notch handicap and a decent showing from the juveniles. Hopefully interesting enough to divert them from animated discussions about the latest Katie Price novel for most of the time.

“Julie – here’s some info:

1.25: First up a maiden race that presents a real challenge. Only three of the 16 runners have ever seen a racetrack before, let alone won. These boys and girls are horses for the future and with an array of top trainers on view, this race will undoubtedly turn up a good one to follow next season. None of that helps us at all in trying to unearth a winner here. So I'll fall back on some trusty stats. Richard Hannon is currently banging in winners from his two-year old stock at the rate of 23%. That's good. And far better than any of the other trainers represented in this race. As if to underline this statistical methodology, Richard Hughes has ridden 12 winners from 52 starts in the last fortnight. The two Richards pair up on Varnish in this heat. So that simply must be the answer. Get stuck in to provide a glossy start to the day. It's not as certain to win as is the appearance of more bad jokes in this analysis, but should give a run for your money.

2.00: A trial for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe next month and an attractive race in its own right. Green Destiny smashed the opposition last time out to land the Strensall Stakes at York. He's come through the handicap ranks to win 5 from 7 starts. A blot on his recent form back in July is probably explained by a dislike for the undulating Goodwood track (which has enough adverse cambers to look at home in the never-ending M1 junction 13 roadworks). On bare form, Dangerous Midge sets the standard. He won this last year and landed a Group 1 at the Breeders Cup meeting last November. But he flopped badly on his return in March and has been off the track since. Forecast going of good to soft would also count against him. Next best is Passion For Gold who was too bad to be true last time out and has something to prove now. So it's hard to see beyond Green Destiny, even though he will be a short price. If odds-on prices make you squeamish, it might be a good race for a forecast bet (ask the nice gentleman/lady who will be attending to your every betting whim for an 'exacta' slip)

2.30: Mill Reef Stakes. One of the better 2-year-old events on the racing calendar. Sadly, the juvenile races are not my forte. I saw Casper Netscher win his last race in good style, but I haven't seen many of the others and I don't simply want to put up another favourite. As an alternative (or, indeed, in addition) to Casper, Otto The Great is going the right way and is a powerfully built colt with plenty more to come. He's also from Walter Swinburn's yard at Aldbury, so it might be worth waving the local flag at a decent double-figure, each-way price. 

3.05: The day's big handicap. This is a really tough race to crack. But I've got to stay loyal to an old mate of mine, Our Joe Mac, who stuck his neck out resolutely at York last time to squeeze a good race. He's gone up a few pounds for that and sits proudly at the top of the handicap. That means he has to improve again to win this. But there's a good chance he can. He shows all the hallmarks of a progressive sort and at a good double-figure price, he's a solid enough each-way shout. You'll get 4 places in this race. 

3.40: If the action wasn't already sufficiently top-drawer, here is a sprint to quicken the pulse, dry the mouth and boggle the senses. This is a Group 3, but features several horses who have competed at the very highest level (Group 1). Deacon Blues comes here seeking a fourth straight win and is in the form of his life. The ground should suit (assuming it doesn't dry out too much more) and he's the one to beat. But at a skinny 7/4 I find myself not entirely enthusiastic. Looking down the card, I like the chances of Night Carnation at a more respectable 5-1 or so. He's 3 from 4 this season and been campaigned shrewdly by Andrew (sister of Clare) Balding. Another progressive type (my favourites, as if you hadn't guessed), he won't mind any ground and I'll put him up against Deacon. If Masamah wins my screams of anguish will reach you crystal clear deep in your hospitality berth. After backing him in his every race this season (including two wins) I am baling out after two poor runs. I'm convinced he can't win this on this ground after a tough season, even though he’s back to his best trip. I pray I am right. (But I may weaken as the off-time approaches!)

4.15: Division 2 of the maiden race that kicked off the action at 1.25. Again I struggle to offer a cogent argument for or against any of these maidens, beyond the statistical approach used in race 1. I imagine you'll plump for Buster Brown using the tried and tested alliteration rule. I have nothing more grounded to offer in opposition. In fact with Fallon aboard and a place finish on his debut, he makes some appeal! 

4.50: Another juvenile race. At least here's some form to guide us here. Take out Key Ambition's last run where he reared in the stalls, and the form looks pretty solid. There may be a bit of value here to take on the trio of Hannon runners who will, no doubt, head the market. Assuming he settles in the stalls OK, he has a solid shout. 

5.25: If you are still searching for a winner at this stage, a 7-furlong, 19 runner impossible handicap is not what you want to see! Tentatively, I suggest that Mrs Greeley ticks most of the boxes needed to get into the mix.  She has a win already over this intermediate distance, carries a nice weight and appears to be in the middle of a decent spell of form. Don't put your pension on it though. 

Have a good day and enjoy the books.”

NEWMARKET

Alex has a child-free trip to his local track to enjoy. Normally child-free would be good. But in this case it’s not so clear cut. Last time I was at the races with Alex, his daughter Emily – then six years old - picked four winners out of seven races.  

“Alex. Had a quick squint at the Newmarket card tomorrow. Lots of two-year old races, which is not really my bag. Nevertheless, in the first, Sir Henry Cecil is currently steaming along at a win rate of 28% from his two-year old runners and Epoque looks well bred here. Likely to be a short price though, so could be unbackable. As an alternative, Richard Hannon is also solid with his 2yo stock.

The next two 2-y-o events are sales races and worth a lot of money. These are a bit more exposed than in the first. In the girls race (2.20), Silver Marizah may be worth a chance at an each way price after shaping well on her debut but running out of gas. So a step down in trip might help. The boys race is harder to fathom. Mehdi is the tentative selection, but wide open really.

The 3.30pm is much more interesting. Marathon trip 2m2f, its a trial for the very valuable Cesarewitch next month. Some useful contenders here. Lots of horses bringing good form. The favourite is likely to be Palazzo Bianco right at the foot of the weights. But my eye is inevitably drawn to a raider from a jumps stable at the top end of the handicap. Big Occasion has been off the track for a year and has transferred to David Pipe in the interval. When last seen he was a very useful horse. Pipey is well capable of getting one absolutely spot on after a lay-off and has a great strike rate in these kind of flat handicap smash-and-grabs. This one should relish the trip too. Should get about 7-1.

4.05: Named after a horse I've won shedloads on, Notnowcato. Nothing so reliable in this line up though. On Her Way from Luca Cumani is going up in the weights but has been consistent all season. Looked like she needed further on her last start and so this extra 2 furlongs should suit. At 10-1 or thereabouts she should be in the mix. May be an each way shout.

4.40: 1m handicap. Another tough one. Couldn't you have picked an easier meeting? Take out Master Mylo's last run on the sand when he was too keen and the form has a much more progressive look about it. Because of that last run he may be overpriced at about 10-1 and could be a nice each-way punt.

5.15. If you haven't had a winner by now, this impossible 20 runner handicap is not going to help. [Readers, you may detect a theme to my last race analyses!] No selection! Bacchy is a sprint specialist, so if he does nothing else, see if he can plot one up for you in this one.

Have a good day and keep the stakes low!”

I’ll try to pick the bones out of that lot on Sunday morning. 

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