Friday, 18 May 2012

Slow day

It’s a quietish day at the office. I’m poised over the laptop, checking some indecipherable interview text and enjoying the banter on Test Match Special. It’s a slow day at Lord’s too. Aggers is describing in some detail the criteria deployed in his judging of a recent pork pie competition in Melton Mowbray: depth of filling, opacity of jelly, firmness of crust, etc. I remember going to Melton Mowbray for a conference once upon a time. In a spare hour, I toured the many independent butchers and carefully selected a prize specimen to take home. I later discovered exactly the same brand was on sale considerably cheaper in my local supermarket. Aggers is in good form. He’s chatting to the great Sir Vivien Richards about the West Indies awesome attack of the 1980’s. “Malcolm Marshall once said sorry after he hit me in the ribs”, offers Aggers. “Maybe he saw something in your eyes”, suggests Viv. “Yes - pain”, retorts Aggers, “It was sheer pain!”

I’ve also caught some of the action from York’s Dante meeting. The Fugue looked impressive in the Musidora, as did Bonfire in the Dante. I missed out on Izzi Top in the Middleton Stakes after backing her in the Dahlia at Newmarket previously. She’s a filly going from strength to strength and must have Group 1 success in her sights. Today’s Yorkshire Cup was meat and drink for Red Cadeaux after a pipe opener in the Sagaro Stakes earlier this month. He’d drifted out to an eminently backable 4-1 and I missed a trick there. My fancy Time’s Up ran not without credit, but after travelling smoothly, was unable to land a blow.

I’m pleased for a quiet day, to be honest. We’ve all been on the go for a while. Granny’s been here, looking after the girls whilst Mrs A was visiting her sis in Tenerife and I was working in Birmingham. If one didn’t know Granny had been staying, there are always tell-tale signs. For instance, washed socks and underpants smoothly ironed and neatly folded (I kid you not) and placed in my smalls drawer. I mean, what else can a man ask from his Mother-in-Law?

I think the 3rd Berkhamsted Guides knew she was here too. Daughter No 2 had gone off to her brass rubbing session in the parish Church, forgetting to take down the consent form for various Guide-y adventures in store over the Spring. So Granny popped down the road in the rain to hand it in. Only the church doors were locked.  Granny gave those solid old oak doors a serious rap with the big brass knocker. The noise reverberated up and down the road. Passers-by ducked for cover. Car drivers swerved in the road.  Dogs ran screaming. But the Guide Leader could not be summoned. So next, Granny shouted through the giant key hole. “Helloo-ooo-ooo!” No response. One can only imagine the noise that twenty pre-teenagers rubbing crayons across tracing paper must have been making. Granny is nothing if not persistent. It was her third assault on the door when she bent down to the keyhole and spotted some movement . Hell-ooo-ooo, over here, hello there!” she shouted. “Who’s that? Is it kids again? Go away!” Undeterred, and if anything, impressed that child-protection was being taken so seriously, Granny managed to explain herself. The door creaked open, pleasantries were exchanged and the form was handed over. By this time, Guides was almost over. Daughter No 2 was getting a lift home from a friend and Granny barely made it home before her! I really don’t know what we’d do without Granny. On many levels…  

I’m creaking a bit today after nets at The Oval last night. My one and only hour of proper exercise every month. These days it takes me about 15 minutes to work up to anything even approaching medium pace, before exhaustion and a slow decline sets in after a further 10 minutes. But it’s belting good fun. And yesterday there was a beer festival in the shadow of the pavilion. Perfect reward after some physical exertion. It appears this is a new venture the club are trialling during some home matches this season. I can heartily recommend the Ringwood Boondoggle. I only hope attendances at their county matches will be sufficient to justify the continuation of this exemplary innovation.  

I think I’ve just got time to cast my eye over the tomorrow’s fulsome racing fixtures and pick out some fat value, before Straussy lumbers up to his ton.  

Frankel’s four-year-old career kicks off in the Lockinge at Newbury. ‘Eagerly anticipated’ is the term of choice employed by commentators, punters and bookies alike. And why not. The highest rated horse on earth, returning after an early season scare to renew rivalry with old miling foes. But it’s no betting proposition. Excelebration, now in the genius hands of Aiden O’Brien may get closer to Henry Cecil’s star, but on all known form he won’t reverse the placings. And 3-1 isn’t enough to tempt me anyway.

Looking elsewhere on the Newbury card, Hawaafez  at 6-1 in the Aston Park Stakes has the sort of progressive profile that always suckers me in.  Stepping up from handicap company and with a mares allowance, she only needs to find a little improvement to give market principles Ibicenco and Nehaam a proper fright.

The market for the London Gold Cup, an informative event for unexposed three-year-olds, is dominated by Henry Cecil’s Thomas Chippendale. His cosy enough Leicester win last back end has been given a massive boost by the runner-up’s subsequent top class exploits in the States. He has fancy entries and could be very good. But with so many of these with only three or four runs, I’m looking for some value. Clayton could fit the bill, having made good progress in a decent handicap on Musselburgh after missing the break. Trip and ground likely to suit and 12-1 sounds good.

Over at Newmarket in the Sprint Trophy, Mince ran really well last time out, arguably an unlucky 2nd. She has strong form and the trip and ground are all in her favour. Nevertheless, this is a tough heat. But as one of my 20 to follow I’ll hope to get a bit of the 6-1 on offer. The project is off to a miserable start with only 1 win and a bunch of hard luck stories from 12 starts. So I’m looking to the Charlton mare for a 100% improvement.

On a similar theme, the 5.40 features another 20tf runner, Aazif turning out in a class 3 handicap. His slightly laboured 4th last month in a similar event needs to have put him spot on for this. But at 7-1 I’m prepared to take that chance. Trip and ground should be fine.

Back at Lord’s, England are grinding along in workman-like fashion. Well played, Cap’n Strauss. That should keep the critics at bay for a couple of games. Now, let’s get Jonny Bairstow in amongst that lot. 

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