Showing posts from 2013

Music of the year

What can be better than going to steaming, sweaty gigs or being sent a bunch of albums and then being asked to review them?  As if I need any invitation to turn up the overblown verbosity to 11. Every year the Get Ready To Rock! team lists our favourite albums and gigs of the year.   As ever, it is a very eclectic mix and reflects broad, all-embracing tastes. From Sunday 8th December , there is a popular vote over at  GRTR!  for the “Best of 2013″. My choices are below (with links to reviews where I've penned them). Check out the website for the others and a chance to win a selection of albums in a prize draw. Top Albums ALTER BRIDGE – Fortress (Roadrunner) Relentless riffage, clean vocals, thunderous rhythms create epic tunes, complex arrangements and moments of calm and reflection. It’s all here, in polished spades. Alter Bridge’s trajectory remains as close to vertical as makes no difference. KROKUS  – Dirty Dynamite (The End Records) Airbourne pushed ou

Hennessy Gold Cup Chase

Ah, the Hennessy. Newbury shorn of its Summer frivolities and stripped back ready for a gritty staying handicap on, no doubt, a biting, gloomy Saturday afternoon.   A classy handicap at that. Eight previous winners have also claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup, including the current Champ, Bobs Worth off top weight last year. The provenance of the event, carrying racing’s longest continuous sponsorship, is pretty special. Arkle’s remarkable back-to-back victories in the 60’s were achieved under a specially devised handicapping system that had him weltered with 12st 6lb. Denman achieved what was almost a comparable modern day double under a mere 11st 12lb in 2007 and 2009. The latter was an exhilarating, freewheeling performance of bold jumping and relentless galloping in which he gave away 13lb more to his rivals than in 2007. Denman loved the broad, expansive furlongs of Newbury. The next year, The Tank almost repeated his Hennessy tricks when raised a further 8lb. He tired t

Racing England

I was put on the trail of Patrick R Chalmers’ curiosity, Racing England when stumbling across a reproduction of the front cover in one of those nostalgia heavy, romanticised visions of Britain that the National Trust do so lavishly. Flicking distractedly through its pages in the gift shop of the Rothschild’s neo-Renaissance pile at Waddeson Manor, I stopped immediately at Brian Cook’s block coloured representation of Ascot Gold Cup Day from the early 20 th century. It was a thing of simple beauty. Brian Caldwell Cook, was born in the leafy lanes of Gerrards Cross in 1910. He created the lithograph that would become the cover to Racing England in 1937 and the book was eventually published in 1939 by Batsfords, the old-established London publishing company of which his Mother was a member. Cook would go on to produce many covers for the company in this series, with titles such as Hunting England , Farming England and Villages of England . Tracking down copies of the book on

Unchained Melody

Winning the quiz night at my daughter’s school in 2012 was a bit unexpected. ‘Men Only - Xmas Edition’, we called ourselves. In deference not only to a top quality, top-shelf publication of our misspent youths, but in recognition of the fact that our wives had formed their own team and quite evidently saw no role for gentlemen amongst their ranks. So we milked the moment of victory. I saw a couple of the defeated wives team in Waitrose the next morning and made sure to gloat insufferably. A bit like punting the horses, it’s hard to know when the chance might come round again. Walking up the road the next day, Andy from our team wound down the window as he passed me and shouted “Men Only! We showed ‘em!” Quite how we scraped enough points together on that intoxicating night to finish top of the 30-odd team pile, I will never know.   Brains and knowledge, of course. But some inspired guesstimating and gut feelings clearly came to our rescue. Where did the correct date for the co


Despite the inestimable number of column inches rightly tapped out in praise of eighteen-time jump jockey on riding his 4,000 th winner yesterday, I couldn't let the moment pass without a small tribute to AP McCoy from mugpunting. I'm old enough to remember when he was known simply as Tony McCoy. So we go back a way. Alongside all the deserved plaudits about drive, determination, will to win, tenacity, mental strength, indestructible body, etc etc, we should not overlook the impact he has had on tactics and race riding. An elastic continuum of murky practices sadly continues to straddle racing. It has dodgy runs to protect handicap marks at one end and stretches mercilessly through to blatant doping and surgical maltreatment of horses at the other. Punters, I’ll wager, have never had any doubt, from day one of McCoy’s career, at any gaff track or aboard any outside rag, that he was ever doing anything other than riding to win. Time after time he has conjoured victory from

Hot streak

Is it me or is it hot in here? I've never had such a good start to the 40 to follow project  and it's setting off some febrile palpitations. A self-effacing sort would let the moments pass with calm reflection on a job well done. That's not happening here. I'm rocking some solid self-congratularoy vibes. The first 25 bets have yielded 13 winners at a strike rate of 52% and a profit of +28.6 to a level £1 stake. Included within that lot is a run of six straight winners that began with Pine Creek at 11-2 on Saturday and ended with Annacotty at 8-1 this afternoon. Harry Topper (5-1) was the classy highlight in the Charlie Hall on Saturday and Le Reve (10-1) the comedy moment after Smad Place ejected Choc Thornton at the last fence with the race in his pocket won on Sunday. Annacotty, plenty to like last season over hurdles, has jumped like a dog twice this Autumn already. Today, stepped up to 3 miles and allowed to run handily, he jumped with assurance. A different h

Herr Nurman

It is with a bitter-sweet sense of regret and yet deep respect that Mug Punting marks the recent passing of Kadir Nurman in Berlin, aged 80. Kadir, a Turkish immigrant to Germany, was a pioneer in popularising the doner kebab. The idea of grilling huge lumps of meat on a rotating skewer was not new but, so the BBC reports,   “Nurman had the idea of selling the sliced meat and salad sandwiched between flatbread so that it could be eaten on the move.” Genius, of course. Nurman apparently set up a stall in the German capital back in 1972 so that late night Berliner revelers might partake of “something to offset the effects of large quantities of beer.” The number of kebabhauses in Berlin now tops a 1,000. Those Germans eh? Whodathunkit? The explosion of taste derived from juicy, loosely lamb-related product, carved generously from a thick rotating skewer of the stuff, combined with pitta, salad and piquant chili sauce is now an indespensible modern day classic. Nurman's ach


You couldn’t wish for a better crossover between the retreating flat season and the emerging sparkly new jumps campaign than the racing fare on offer this weekend. Friday sees the dust being blown off the Old Course at Cheltenham for its seasonal curtain-raiser. My glossy brochure from those nice marketing people at Prestbury Park about the new season dropped through the letterbox a good few weeks ago advertising the track’s slickly themed fixtures. This weekend is ‘The Showcase’, followed in November by ‘The Open’ and then ‘The International’, The Trials Day’, ‘Festival’, etc. Classy Edward Whittaker photos of flying hooves and blurry silks decorate the pages in between adverts for pewter tankards, water colours of Long Run and the racehorse teddy collection. You wouldn't get that kind of tripe at my local tack. Oh no. Here’s a quick preview of Friday’s action from  Cheltenham Talk . Odd that only three line up for the £20k 2½ m novice chase. Decent prize for

Forty national hunt horses to follow 2013-14

1. Annacotty – Martin Keighley Consistent in lower grade handicap hurdles last season (struggled a tad when stepped up in class) and has already made his mark in the point to point sphere, so every right to expect a profitable campaign this season. Debuts over fences under rules tomorrow at Chepstow and can kick off this project on a positive note. 2. Arbeo – Diana Grissell Fairly progressive last season, though probably wants soft ground or 3 miles to be seen to best effect in handicap chases. Only 7 and still a useful prospect. 3. Bar De Ligne – Steve Gollings The return of Gollings to the list! Whatever are things coming to? Rubbish debut over fences when apparently suffering stomach ulcers, but then ran out a handy winner in front of well-regarded Grandad’s Horse in the Summer, jumping well out of good ground. Should do well at around 2 ½ m. 4. Big Occasion – David Pipe On this list last year and was a slow learner over fences, hitting the bar too m


Some interesting and informed previews are kicking around for the final and oldest classic of the season tomorrow. Jamie Lynch from Timeform takes a readable and informative sire's view and  Steve Miller  from the RP's Weekender uses the fine-grained Dosage Index (a matrix of performance and pedigree, apparently) and have both come up with Excess Knowledge. Oddschecker  jumps that way too, though its scientific application is less well pronounced than the aforementioned posts. John Gosden's charge, winless this season though with a string of good (and unlucky) efforts to his name, is currently heading the market. By contrast, Aiden O'Brien's Leading Light is unbeaten this season but has been drifting slowly for much of the week. But he is not friendless in this straw poll of the preview circuit. Professional handicapper, Ged Egan's  preview for At The Races is a pace-influenced, entertaining analysis that sides with the Coolmore No 1. There is some nervou

Speed kings

Today will be a rare late Summer Saturday empty of commitments and devoid of distractions. There is not even much football or cricket to divert me from a proper go at the races.  This will make a change. So taking my cue from the televised schedule: 1.55 Ascot – 7f Class 2 handicap Not the easiest of starts. An open-looking and valuable handicap over a distance where it often pays to regard previous experience. That doesn’t help much here however. A field deep with campaigners hardened-off like frost-resistant perennials boasts 15 winners at the 7f trip. Six have winning track form too. ‘Highly tried’, I think, is the term for the majority of these boys with plenty of inconsistency and patchy form. This will have to be a cautious opening to the day. An each-way fun bet on Light Up My Life at 25-1. She has some decent form in listed company behind some good sorts (Stoute’s Integral) and ran well enough here in the Sandringham to suggest the track will be no p