Decent racing on the box today. Time for a couple of bets. I’ve got one of those delicious Saturdays with nothing specific planned. That is, except to unblock the drain in our back yard - again - that is causing a persistent and unwelcome backlog.
It seems a while since I had a Saturday like this. Summer weekends are busy and packed with competing priorities. But school reopens on Monday, so a chilled weekend is overdue that will involve the girls finding that none of their school uniform fits, Mrs A cajoling some violin practice out of them and me sampling the top notch action from Haydock, Leopardstown, Kempton and Thirsk on the quiet. Will I be rumbled?
- 2pm, Haydock: Tricky, trappy conditions race over a mile. Eight runners with mixed form, some of whom have been round the block more than once, none of whom can be ruled out absolutely. Nightmare for punters really. But this is Saturday afternoon’s TV coverage opener, so let’s see what we can plunder….Awzaan has the best form on offer and likely to be favourite back from injury after a sparkling 2yo campaign and a run in the 2000 guineas. That lay-off worries me. I’ll pitch for Desert Myth from the (currently sluggish, admittedly) Stoute yard at something around 9/2. He has a progressive profile, ran very well over this trip at Goodwood last time out and is unencumbered by penalties. Come on the myth!
- 2.15pm, Kempton: Bloody all weather. I don’t usually getting involved on account of fodder dished up on this surface being lower than a snake’s belly. So today’s fixture is a welcome surprise, kicking off with this Group 3. It’s a 2-year-old race. By this stage of the season there’s usually better form clues on offer than when these babies are debuting in the Spring. But even so, I don’t concentrate on the 2yos much. Should really leave this one alone too and play to my strengths instead. Will I? No. I’ve seen two of this run. Hooray has the best form, winning the Lowther at York last month. But I was very taken with the way Signs in the Sand won a soft ground maiden at Newmarket. This is a massive step up and although the 9/4 is a bit skinny, I’ll go with what I’ve seen.
- 2.30pm, Haydock: Oh Lordy! A 17 runner sprint handicap! I need my mate Bacchy to tell me about draw advantages, track conditions and running styles here. He’s a successful sprint specialist. I’m an unsuccessful generalist specialist. OK, let’s look. A few non-runners – that helps. Hmm, they’ve all got bits and pieces of form though. This is horrible. The Racing Post sheds no light. The phrases ‘can’t rule out’, ‘has to be respected’ and ‘comes into calculations’ occur about 12 times. The tentative selection is course and distance winner Favourite Girl from the Easterby yard. Solid form before a poor effort over arguably the wrong trip last time out. Let’s hope she rediscovers the front-running winning ways at 14-1 each way.
- 2.45pm, Kempton: Back to the all-weather for a middle distance group 3 featuring some old friends. Laaheb is a horse I’ve had some success with this year and last. He’s been progressing and arguably his best race was last time out at Newbury when hampered at a slightly longer trip. Today’s conditions should be OK. He’s my boy at 11/4.
- 2.55pm, Thirsk: By now if I’m win-less, five races in, I’ll be sinking into frustration and numbing despair. I’ll have shouted at the telly a couple of times and the house will be empty, everyone else having recognised the warning signs from about 2.15pm. So George Adamson can reinvigorate our afternoon at 4/1 in the splendid old tradition that is the Hambleton Cup.
- 3.05, Haydock: Should I still be potless, this 17 runner staying handicap is just the thing to get me back on track. Not. The girls’ violin practice will be kicking in any time here, testing my fracturing nerves. My screams of agony/ecstacy [delete as appropriate] will rise above a scratchy Le Marseillaise duet as Braveheart Move spectacularly lands a typically brazen Jonjo O’Niell plot/sinks without a trace [delete as appropriate] at 14/1 each way.
- 3.20pm Kempton. Another wide-open impenetrable mile handicap that can propel me out of the bowels of the afternoon. Can you smell the fear? I think it’s the drains backing up again. Getcarter is an old friend who rescued me, Bacchy and Bryn at Salisbury last year. But he’s never won over a mile. Should I pass over him this time? Yes. I am swayed by the track form of Highly Regal who seems to be a specialist under these conditions. I’m on at 12/1.
- 3.35pm, Haydock: two absolutely marvellous Grade 1 races to end today’s TV spectacular. At least I can luxuriate in top quality thoroughbred action which will, I fear, merely be the fig leaf to hide my gambling wounds. First up, the Sprint Cup from Haydock. Impossible to see beyond Starstpangledbanner here. He has been a monster in Group 1 6f races this year. Although beaten in the Nunthorpe at York last month over a furlong shorter, he seems head and shoulders above this lot. He’ll be short enough though.
- 3.45pm Leopardstown: The Irish Champion Stakes, another event with a rich heritage. This renewal features a small but nevertheless glittering roll call of group 1 winners from Britain and Ireland featuring this year’s classic crop and champion older horses. Rip Van Winkle sets a high standard, beating Twice Over in a thriller at York last month. Those two will run their races, but I’ll oppose them with the longer priced Cape Blanco who looks the real deal when putting his best put forward (the Curragh, York), but is also capable of some underwhelming efforts (Chantilly). 13/2 is enough to persuade me that the real Blanco turns up today.
OK, back to the drains…..