Showing posts from October, 2011


Is it just me? Or has Hallowe’en suddenly become nearly as big as Christmas? It was pretty low-key affair when I was a kid, growing up in North Yorkshire. Instead, we had an evening of mild naughtiness and monkey-business called Mischief Night on the eve of Bonfire Night. Hours of fun we had, ringing doorbells and running away, smothering door handles in treacle and tying up gates. The tradition was all about marking the slightly darker intentions of the Gunpowder Plotters back in 1605 when Guy Fawkes’s mischief was to plant 36 barrels of explosive under the House of Lords. This prelude to Bonfire Night didn’t seem to be indulged much outside God’s Own County. As I discovered at college, not long after leaving home when trying to involve some bemused would-be conspirators in some tyre-deflating tomfoolery, or some such. ‘What is this Mischief Night of which you speak? Imbecile!” The tradition had quite clearly had not made the journey from the broad acres of my youth to the Potteries o

Counting the cost

It was good to see British Champions Day at Ascot rise above the whip ban controversy. Albeit briefly. The BHA and the jockeys have been around the table today trying to thrash out their differences. The issue has been kicked back to the review group for an urgent revision. There will be an inevitable watering down now. And I thought this was something the BHA had got right for a change. Frankel buffed up his already gleaming reputation with a ridiculously easy win in the QEII Stakes to seal his place with the legends. And fantastic news that he remains in training next year. Frighteningly, he could get better. My fancy Immortal Verse might have been nearer if at her best, but she will never be a match for this one. The competitive Champions Stakes was hugely enjoyable. Maximum respect to Soumillon for wearing down So You Think aboard Cirrus Des Aigles. A great ride. The form seems to frank the Arc result with 3 rd and 4 th there filling 3 rd and 2 nd here. Nathaniel in the end

British Champions Day

There’s a new climax to the flat season on Saturday. Racing fo Change  has been slowly trying to regenerate racing and broaden its appeal for the last couple of years. One of its initiatives is this: a showstopping card of premium racing in the style of the Breeders Cup, with new race names that offer more than a doff of the cap in that direction too. RfC has recognised that the sport lacks compelling hooks for the population at large and needs to create a series of premier events to entice them in. Cramming a card with quality races has never been done here quite like this. Most of our landmark features are spread across three, four or five days at Festivals that eek out the quality with handicap quantity, marshalled by a TV schedule allowing time for only three or at best four races.   So here we have a grandstanding fixture that has involved behind the scenes negotiations to secure live terrestrial TV coverage for five of the six races that total over £3m in prize money. It is t

The new office

The old summerhouse has served well as an office for the business these last few years. But the truth is it's too hot in Summer and too cold in Winter.  It was bought with the profits of one of my best ever value punting jumps campaigns in 2003. A sentimental connection.  But its time for an upgrade.  From the ashes of the old emerges the new, architect designed office.  Get that insulation!  Look at that cladding! (Never mind the junk round the back. Got to find a new home for that now.)  View from the new porch. Hammocks and rocking chairs? Maybe not.... Starting to look good. Only there's a bit of a delay on the delivery for the glass. So I'm working like some troll in this darkened cupboard for a couple of weeks.  Until the skylight goes in.... ....and a bit later still, the window glass... ....and yet later still (weeks not days. Grrr), the door glass.  So, fina