The changing of the seasons is in full swing. I can tell this for two reasons: firstly, the racing action holds as much interest over the obstacles as it does on the level; and secondly I have a streaming cold.
From a punting point of view, I love this time of year. The flat season has still to squeeze out some more sweet groups 1s and big handicaps like the last pips from a plump satsuma. For instance, the Newmarket meeting this coming Saturday features the Cesarewich and the Champion Stakes. Both classic races and two of my faves. And the jumps game is starting to whet the appetite, too. Next Saturday also marks the Autumn debut of racing at national hunt’s HQ and all round Mecca, Cheltenham.
So for a few delicious weeks we have a sit down buffet of jumping hors d’oeuvres presaging a long season of nourishing action, jostling for space with the last pieces of the flat game’s prime fillet main course. Only being chock full of cold, I can’t really taste any of this. So I’ll park the corny food metaphors over here by the hostess trolley.
Our 40 to follow competition has started. Brother Paul has been fast out of the blocks with an 8-1 winner at Kelso the other Sunday catching the eye - La Pantera Rosa. Dad and Paul went to Hexham last weekend for some decent enough racing on the Saturday and a Hadrian’s Wall visit on Sunday. Not many winners, it turns out, but at least they had some nice masonry to admire.
I’ve had a shocking start to the comp. At Bangor on Saturday, my nap of the day didn’t get past the third fence. Donald McCain’s Tara Royal, was sent off favourite, but may not have caught Robinson Collonges even if he hadn’t dumped his jockey on the turf. Paul Nicholls charge won like a good prospect. The field also featured an old mate of mine, Otage de Brion whom I followed to the brink of bankruptcy two years ago. He seems to have found some form since, but not enough to land a blow in this.
Champion trainer Nicholls had his horses out in force. Over at Chepstow, where a couple of races bore ole Pumpkin Head’s moniker to advertise his new Betfair column (bet that upset the Racing Post marketing boys), the stable landed a couple of winners. But this did not include the day’s talking horse Gullible Gordon who predictably went off favourite in the competitive handicap chase. He was well beaten by fast improving Ballycarney for Emma Lavelle. My each way shout, Le Beau Bai was off the bridle a long way out and was just slow. The RP says he needs ground ‘barely raceable’!
In keeping with the cross-over of the seasons, I had a couple of punts on the flat, oop north. I’ve been to last weekend’s fixture at York on a couple of occasions. Most memorably about ten years ago when my 10-1 shot Polar kingdom got chinned on the line in an impossible handicap that if he’d won I would still be talking about now. (!) That meeting remains an absolute handicap nightmare with about a million runners and double that in plots and scams. In the sprint, I was unwisely attracted to an outsider, Manassas, who ran well enough without landing the proverbial blow. Later, the progressive Kathleen Frances raced my pulse a little before getting outstayed into third behind the only favourite on the card to land the odds. Prices of the other winners were: 8-1 (twice), 9-1, 5-1, 14-1 and 33-1.
To round off a miserable punting, snotty nosed day, I was persuaded to go and see some violin impresario in concert locally. Tasmin Little is classical mustard apparently. And quite a coup by the Berko Musical Society to get her here, I understand. Our attendance is linked to the potential benefit it will bring to the girls’ fledgling violin careers. Not with my hacking and wheezing accompaniment to Bach, Grieg and Tchaikovsky, I feared. In the event, I was able to restrain my outbursts and the performance was surprisingly enjoyable. My request for Cotton-Eyed Joe didn’t go down too well though.