Showing posts from March, 2013

The Dark, The Fog and The Fluke

I was sorry to hear of the death of James Herbert this week. Like most blokes of my vintage, Herbert's dark, often psychological horror was required reading during the early eighties. As a teenager with a healthy, inquiring mind, Herbert hit the spot for both suspense filled fear and the best naughty bits going. Facebook posts have been paying tribute to this very duality all week. It is with some regret that I realise you cannot find the high class filth in a well thumbed electronic copy of, say, Creed by shaking the spine of a Kindle to see which pages are bent back the furthest. Where do today's teenage boys get their cheap thrills? That's a rhetorical question. I don't really want to know. The Facebook discussion about Herbert's demise also led to the title of this post. As I listed my favourites from his oeuvre, Brynaldo suggested this would be a good title for my Cheltenham Festival post mortem. A doomed strategy conceived in the Fog, delivered i


The three-day glacial freeze/thaw and epic scouring wind in the Prestbury Park bowl has turned me into a fair approximation of the The Old Man of Hoy. My face has been chiselled into features craggy enough that outdoor types want to embed climbing nuts in my permanently furrowed brow. I had a hangover yesterday morning so piercing that I thought the cast from Stomp were rehearsing in my brain. I couldn't manage a fry up until dangerously near the off-time of the first race. I didn't find a single winner at all on World Hurdle Day. My pockets, on-line accounts and children's piggy banks are empty. Cleaned out. Mother Hubbard is empathising. And yet, what a fantastic festival it is. I can't imagine one single place I would rather have been this week. Today presents an opportunity for some juvenile relaxation over a Doom Bar or two in the pub with a dozen or so lairy, fired up mates who think they can still fleece both the bookies and each other in the final of the

Keep moving

Don't know where the day has gone. I blame Chris and Laura for their wonderful hospitality last night, resulting in everything turning rather more slowly than planned this morning. It was tremendous to catch up, though I fear I exhausted their patience with my ceaseless blatherings about hitting crossbars and near nap misses. Thanks guys. So without further ado, and rooted on the back foot, though convinced that day 3 represents my strongest book of punts yet (the sorry cry of a desperate man), here are today's bets. Surely one of these can get competitive? 1.30 - Jewson Module (8-1 ante post. Now a bigger price since Dynaste was rerouted here.) 2.05 - Pertemps First Fandango (66-1 e-w - tiny stakes) 2.40 - Ryanair First Lieutenant (9-2 win ante post) For Non Stop (16-1 e-w ante post) 3.20 - World Hurdle Get Me Out Of Here (11-1 e-w ante post) Smad Place (16-1 e-w ante post) 4.00 - Byrne Group Plate Vino Griego (11-1) 4.40 - Kim Muir Problema Tic (23 win,


As if the first morning of the festival isn't tense enough without little added dramas. Clerk Claisse decided that a -11 degree windchill overnight was enough reason to call a track inspection. Probably fair enough. But it did nothing for the nerves and pent up energy of those around me on the train. "You wha? A birra frost and they wanna cancel the races? Fookin' jokers". This was Wayne on the 10.29 from Birmingham New Street. He wasn't eating weatos though. He was necking Magners Premium. The other added drama was Nev. Nev had an Oyster card problem, his local machine in Charlton refused to accept notes. Then he had a Bakerloo line problem. He missed the train from Paddington for the planned rendezvous with Col by a fistful of minutes. Instead he was required to take the scenic trip via Bristol and looked like missing the Supreme. "I'll have to do the pisspot from my moby" was his text code for not being at thetrack in tme to get his placepot d

Braving the elements

All set: hillbilly long johns, touchscreen thermal gloves, woolly hat, Betfair scarf (to be collected en-route), oversize hip flask and an overdose of first day optimism. These are the selections carrying the bulk of my hopes today, the portfolio having been rattled by recent withdrawals: 1.30 - Supreme Novices Hurdle Dodging Bullets  (14-1 ante-post) Disappointed by Melodic Rendezvous' withdrawal yesterday) 2.05 - Arkle Novices Chase Arvika Ligeonniere (8-1, WIlliam Hill offer - money back if 2nd) 2.40 - JLT Specialty Handicap Chase Loch Ba (12-1 e-w, 5 places Bet 365) 3.20 - Champion Hurdle Zarkandar (13-2 ante-post) 4.00 - Cross Country Chase Any Currency (to be struck on the Tote on course) 4.40 - Mares Hurdle She Ranks Me (14-1 e-w & 6-1 place only with Betfair) Available at a much bigger price now. No-one else seems to share my faith! Mae's Choice (24-1 place only with Betfair) A 40 to follow horse who has shown only minimal form this yea

Wilko Johnson

It would be easy to get a little mawkish over the news that one of your favourite musician was dying. The temptation to crawl with a sentimental and slushy pen over career highlights is palpable. That situation is impossible with Wilko Johnson. The legendary r ‘n’ b guitarist announced in January that he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He had refused debilitating chemotherapy which would only be palliative at best and instead was choosing to wring the most out of his remaining good health by going back on tour, and recording new material. This isn’t an approach that would work for everyone. But it is typical of Wilko’s unique way of dealing with life’s challenges. First the music media and then mainstream news began picking up on the story when he consistently and genuinely used terms like ‘uplifting’, ‘inspiring’, and ‘euphoric’ to describe his predicament. I challenge anyone not to be moved by the interview he gave to Radio 4’s  Front Row  a few week

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Day 4 preview

TFI Friday. Back from the Festival, I'll haul my battered frame, empty wallet and spinning head up to town and meet the boys in the Barley Mow. Gold Cup day in the pub. Add in the tough-as-teak Fantasy Festival competition to be played out in the raw, uncomprising pell-mell of bar room mayhem and we have the ingredients for a serious day out.    What will I have left on the locker to keep my spirits up? Despite this being the dizzying climax of the Festival, it is a day of low-level activity in terms of long-range punting. For instance, the three races that close this tumultuous four day betting bonanza are heats I will not get involved in ‘til the morning of the races. So, as rain continues to feature increasingly persistently in the Cheltenham forecast and I plough relentlessly into good ground selections, let’s check out those fields. Triumph Hurdle A breathless start to proceedings and always a thrilling spectacle. Over the years it’s a race I’ve managed to get

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Day 3 preview

At this stage there is nothing for it but to top up the hip flask, grit your teeth and march back in to the ring with something suitably girding from Last Night of the Proms swirling round your head. If Day 2 has gone badly, Day 3 is the last realistic chance to come out ahead at the Festival without resorting to shit or bust tactics on Day 4. No-one wants that. Jewson Novices Chase A race that came into its own last year. Though this 2 ½ mile Grade 2 is not a championship race and has properly muddied the waters of ante-post markets since its upgrading in 2011, it is now becoming a serious option for decent novice chasers.  This year and last, entrants have been attracted here by Arkle markets skewed by one dominant horse. In successive years, Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig have sent trainers scurrying for easier options. Sir Des Champs was an eye catching winner in 2012 and the way he powered up the hill has seen him close to the top of the Gold Cup betting ever since

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Day 2 preview

Apart from the Champion Hurdle, the opening day of the Festival is always a tough one for me. The stats tell me in hollow ringing tones that however the programme is tweaked and swapped around, the Neptune, the RSA Chase and the Champion Chase are three of my best yielding races.  So time to strap in for Day 2 at Prestbury Park, for what might be a recovery mission. National Hunt Chase (four miler) Fittingly named in honour of Lord John Oaksey, this is a race I have struggled with since Rith Dubh stole it by a nose the first year I came for the (then) full three days. It was my only clear cut win at 2002 festival. Grim. The race conditions have changed significantly since then and it is now a straight Class 2 amateur riders staying novice chase.  The 2013 renewal looks strong. Willie Mullins won’t run the Graham Wylie-owned pair Boston Bob and Back In Focus (8-1 NRNB) against each other. The market suggests that the former will head to the RSA and the latter here. BI

Cheltenham Festival 2013 - Day 1 preview

The murky Festival markets are beginning to settle. Running plans are a touch clearer, handicap weights are set and bookies are dusting down their annual Non-Runner-No-Bet offers. With the shackles shaking loose, I feel the urge for a broadside of scattergun punting. Must. Keep. My. Focus. Time to preview the greatest show on earth. Supreme Nothing further added to the two each-way singles on Melodic Rendezvous (14-1) and Dodging Bullets (14-1). Both have shortened up since those bets were struck and Melodic Rendezvous further enhanced his claims with a demolition job of previously unbeaten Puffin Billy at Exeter. However, My Tent Or Yours has changed the complexion of this market with his rout of a very strong Betfair Hurdle field at Newbury last month. That form is head and shoulders above anything else here. But with the exception of MTOY, these are all unexposed novices. I really like the look of MR and reason that he goes there with a very strong chance