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Showing posts from 2012

Rein in the year

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A winning team As a serious horse racing fan I’m always intrigued to see how the game is perceived by the wider sport consuming public. If this year’s Sports Personality Of The Year extravaganza was the barometer, I could be forgiven for thinking I love a minority sport. Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and The Grand National are the perennial mentions, though I did appreciate the longer linger on Frankel and his great trainer, Sir Henry Cecil. It’s a shame neither could have been there. I’m sure the latter would if able, however the former is a little pre-occupied at anything up to £100k a pop just now. Nevertheless, I indulgently wallowed in this enormous Olympic SPOTY fest, beaming at (the now beknighted) Wiggins’ left-field contributions and cringing at Linekar’s shallow Spanish stunts. Of course, the programme can never be a true reflection of the breadth and depth of the nation’s sporting achievements, although it increasingly sits awkwardly with the institution’s shrin

Photos of 2012: 52 weeks

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The Guardian's Flickr group ‘52 weeks’ draws to a close this week. I've just uploaded my final photo. What a great project. A  feature  on the group recently appeared on the Guardian’s website and the group’s closing request is for members to offer some reflections on the year. So here goes. I looked back at my  half term report  and am pleased to see that early enthusiasm for the project grew at about the same rate as the challenge of finding new, inspirational material. I have tried to use the group’s aims of sharing images that mark big events, personal stories or world news in 2012 as a guide. But there is also hefty doff of the cap to pragmatism when those landmark moments fail to materialise and the week was suddenly running out, leaving me to conjure a worthy snap from the garden, the sky or the street. Surprisingly as tough was the challenge to limit the choice to only one each week when the subject matter was stronger. During the Olympics, for instanc

A waiting game

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I’m hammering away at the keyboard here almost as hard as the rain is hammering down on the sodden ground outside. The chances of the cards at Haydock and Ascot even getting underway are slimmer than a stickman on a diet, never mind completing. It’s 9.30am and its still dark. We had some friends round for a pre-Christmas drink last night. It was a reasonably civilized affair, although the lopsided pyramid of dripping Doom Bar bottles outside the back door is evidence of a solidly sociable occasion. And the CDs piled up next to the stereo are cast-iron retro fodder: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Bob Dylan, ELO, John Lennon, The Black Crowes, Ian McNabb. Nothing there that troubled the charts this century. Yes, we still play CDs. How passé! The Christmas party season starts earlier and finishes later, I swear. The good thing about being self-employed is the regular flow of Christmas events I get invited to. For the last three Mondays I've bumped into Patrick who lives u

Tingle of anticipation

I popped into the bookies for 20 minutes in my lunch break yesterday. It was time well spent. First I watched a three-year-old chase from Pau, in the shadow of the Pyrenees,  run over the craziest switchback, carting circuit of a cross-country course I’ve ever seen. It made the Cheltenham track, scene of many wrong-course disqualifications, look like an M1 slip road. One obstacle was less water jump, more shallow lake. Fish were jumping and the leaders did well to avoid the jet skis. Most of the open track resembled sheep grazing pasture with tussock and fescue aplenty to cause hazard to man and beast. The winner, as in England, asserted off a slow pace once the race returned to the regulation chase track. Malberaux will surely be one to watch come the Festival. You heard it here first. Next up, the event in which I had a punting interest (after-timing alert), featured a stunning sit from jockey Aiden Coleman. His mount and race favourite Renard D’Irlande clattered the 12

Tattoos, vinyl and psychobilly

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This blog post  by a photographer Mrs A has come across in her music business dealings made me laugh out loud. Reminding me of my troubled and haphazard route to Wilko Johnson’s  book signing  this Summer. I think I’ve found a kindred spirit. So cue a non-racing post. I’m thoroughly enjoying reviewing a few gigs and CDs for my mate’s music website. On Friday I went to see Viva Le Pink in Camden. I hooked up with my old mate and music biz veteran, Cookie and we sought out The Black Heart boozer round the corner from the World’s End. I thought I’d been in most of the drinking dens and music venues in Camden. But not this place. It was a revelation. Neon crucifixes and warped posters adorn the walls and there are more tattoos in your face than on a trip to Southend. And not the LOVE/HATE knuckle jobs either. These were full sleeve fantasy depictions, swirling Celtic images and complicated rose and thorn creations. There was even a stout on tap called Camden Ink.

Open Closure

Last weekend’s racing at Cheltenham lived up to the billing. And, as usual, it shook up the embryonic Festival markets too. Dynaste , fulfilling all my anticipation for the Steel Plate and Sections Novice Chase, looked like a classy recruit to the division. He looked full of running when comfortably taking the scalp of Fingal Bay. It’s arguable that Fingal Bay’s form can have holes picked in it. His best win came at Sandown at the Tingle Creek meeting where the form is artificially enhanced because of the subsequent exploits of Simonsig, though at the time was pretty green. Nevertheless, it is encouraging the way that Dynaste travelled, jumped smartly and was clever at a few fences when awkward. Three miles should not be a problem. David Pipe could have a couple to choose from in the staying novice chase division. Our Father could hardly have been more impressive in disposing of two-time chase winner Sire Collonges on his fencing debut. But the one question mark here is what Our Fa

Power up

A great post  here  by Horseracingchat delving into the history of the Mackeson Gold Cup. It prompted me mark the start of the Open meeting at Cheltenham meeting with an affectionate reminisce and a preview of my own. The Paddy Power meeting is usually regarded as the first in the season’s crown jewel festivals, glittering alongside the Hennessy meeting, the King George at Kempton and the Spring Festivals at the top of the pile. I first became aware of it in the days of Mackeson’s long and fruitful association with the Gold Cup until 1995. The race regularly produced high calibre winners who have won top honours elsewhere. The pick is probably Bradbury Star. My anticipation of the fixture was ramped up around the turn of the century when, in company with a few of the lads, the Friday of the meeting became a diary date for an afternoon skiving off work, lounging in the Jugged Hare over a few London Prides and dashing round to the Ladbrokes next door, usually leavin

Something for the weekend?

For sheer diversity, quality and globalism, the racing calendar rarely gets better than this Saturday. Races from Britain, Ireland and the States encompassing hurdles, chases and the flat are run on both turf and dirt and include 21 listed and graded races, bulked out by nine straight Grade 1s at the Breeder’s Cup. The prize money on offer at Santa Anita’s is, of course, staggering. The two-day meeting claims to be the single richest sporting event in the world with well over $25 million on offer to lucky connections. The Classic (on current lists, the third richest race in the world after the Dubai World Cup and the Arc) and Turf pay out over $3m each to the winner. Hell, even Bo Derek likes it! “ The fastest horses in the world will be coming to Santa Anita to compete in the Breeders' Cup in November. It's the richest, most exciting event each year and makes most other sporting events look, well, quaint.” So there you have it. But a t my shivering core I rem