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Showing posts from 2014

2014 - A racing snapshot

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Arguably, as racing years go, 2014 was not a rumbustious cartwheeling of champagne moments or as packed with giddy achievements as some previous years. Neither did it attract so many damaging and controversial headlines either. Maybe a solid year is no bad thing. It was, however, thrilling, emotional, notable, absorbing and, yes, some dispiritng or concerning aspects too. Here are a few of the peaks, valleys and plateaus that have contributed to the geography of my punting year. Four good Cheltenham 2014 I sometimes crab and scowl a little about this fair isle’s finest racing festival: too many amateur races, too much domination of the season, too few decent facilities… And yet it remains the pinnacle of my year. Rightly so. The Cheltenham Festival is a place to make memories and celebrate equine excellence. And maybe find a winner or two as well. Fitting then, that Edward Gillespie who spent 32 years as the managing director at the course has been awarded an OBE in the

Home Improvements 2 - The Christmas Special

So. We've ended up with a bunch of workman crawling around inside and outside the house in the already fraught Christmas run in. With the inevitability of Santa's once a year coming, the projects we'd foolhardily agreed to be done in December have overrun. Madness, I hear you say, to willingly invite in such mayhem at this time of year. Well yes. And no.   The idea of having everything sorted by the end of the year is seductive, but we didn’t push for this. Businesses are only happy to overprogramme, leaving the tightest of margins. They can’t wait to get all the filthy lucre in their mits before the break. I ran away at the end of last week. The house was filled with blokes spreading rubble and brick dust far more liberally than any festive cheer. I couldn't get past the ponderous patio man to my office and the dining room was livid with sooty wood stove fitters. Mrs A had the back room baggsied. So I fled to the sanctuary of the Double Six cafe on Eversholt

Back to Catterick

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I hadn’t been to Catterick Bridge racecourse for about 25 years. My previous experiences weren’t particularly positive. My formative punting years were scarred by ramshackle grandstands, fizzy beer and crap racing, as this chunk of Mug Punting makes clear: “….Catterick was worse. The track was surrounded by towering piles of unwanted spoil from the adjacent quarries carved disrespectfully out of prime Yorkshire moorland.   An ugly, crusty and polluted lake covered much of the inside of the track which served to encourage the feeling of dereliction. It was a hole of a course with no facilities to speak of. I stumbled across a gem of a book called ‘Cope’s Racegoers Encyclopaedia 1962’. Leafing through its mottled pages I discovered that ‘in January 1961 Catterick Bridge opened a £30,000 new stand which provides facilities previously undreamed off at this small Yorkshire course’. That must have been the twisted pile of rusty iron and crumbling grey brick that I could see across

Twickers

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I’d never been to Twickenham before. The largest stadium in the World devoted solely to Rugby Union. Not even to see Lady Gaga or Rihanna. So when Bryn, via Steve, offered up a ticket for England v Australia in the Autumn Internationals, I jumped at the chance. Another iconic sporting venue ticked off the list. (I have lists of lists, just in case you are wondering. Alphabetically and chronologically organised.) The game and indeed the stadium did not disappoint. Bryn and I had a sweeping view from the Upper East tier that enabled a perspective on the shape of the match, the gaps and overlaps and territorial advances that you can’t get off the telly. Identifying the individual protagonists was a little more tricky, however. As was interpreting the many refereeing decisions. The big screen helped out here a few times, but there were some random infringements that even the video boys struggled to nail. Up with the Gods This was mostly good, open action though. The Wallabies

Old rockers never die…

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  …they just keep reforming their bands. We know because we’ve seen a couple this week. Some have a bit more credibility than others. At least Nine Below Zero had the wit to turn up with their classic formation. NBZ had their high water mark in the 1982 when they were all over the telly, including a cult claim to fame, performing ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ on the very first episode of The Young Ones. I just about remember it, though at the time I was far more impressed by the hilarity of Vyvyan’s random violence and Rick’s empty anarchist tantrums. They split after that album (NBZ, not the Young Ones – that took another series). It was Gary that put us onto the trail of their ‘80’s-edition resurrection. We were blathering away about music at our recent curry night and he told me the band were out to celebrate the 35 th anniversary of the first album. I said it was a no-brainer and we had to go. The deal was sealed with another London Pride. Tim counted himself in as well. A

This sporting life

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A fistful of facts and truths I learned this weekend: 1. Under the right circumstances, the amount of sport I can soak up from my settee is only limited by the hours in the day.   The circumstances do have to be right, however. The lovely Mrs A is away this weekend, visiting her lovely sister in Tenerife. That’s one contributory factor: an invitingly clear diary. It’s hot in the Canaries apparently. It is wet, dank, dark and gloopy here. That’s another explainer: why go out? I was clear on Friday and so could devote myself, guilt-free, to the three-day feast of televised action from Cheltenham’s Open meeting. Punchestown was a more than decent side dish. The raft of footie European quarter-finals were timely snacks littered through the weekend. Autumn rugby internationals the thick icing on a cartwheel of Victoria sponge the cake. ATP tennis action a mere amuse-bouche amongst the main ingredients. Topless darts on Eurosport at 1am on Saturday night was probably a weffur theen mee

UK Blog Awards nomination

Ha! Recognition at last! Some fool has nominated Mug Punting for the UK Blog Awards. I'm flattered indeed to be included on the shortlist in the lifestyle, individual/freelance category. Though having checked the nomination page, I suspect the definition of the term 'shortlist' has been stretched a little... Never mind. If you feel moved to vote, you will earn my undying gratitude and respect. Thank you in anticipation. Voting closes on 1st December. Blog Awards - Mug Punting voting page

Home improvements

Time for a post that is not about horse racing. Because the gee-gees continue to misbehave. Good job I’ve got some Don’t-Do-It-Yourself projects to partially distract me. The house has been in neglect for some while now and finally we’ve decided to do something about it.   Starting with a new back door. A lovely new wooden framed all-glass portal for the back of the house, manufactured with care and fitted with precision by my mate GC. (All enquiries to http://www.compasstimber.co.uk ) I thought getting rid of the old one might be a little tiresome. In fact the thing had about 40 watchers on E-bay and went for a tidy £40, including pick up. The best result I’ve had since G-Force won the Sprint Cup in September. Seriously. Arthur and Lisa from Wendover had bought to door. Lisa texted me to say they would be over on Sunday morning to collect it.   After a late night, screaming Toast Of New York down the stretch in a sun drenched Santa Anita Breeders Cup Classic (another

A right good go

I was ready to bemoan the quality of Champions Day and hark back, again, to the balance of the pre-2011 Champions Stakes fixture that also boasted the Cesarewitch and the Dewhurst. Not least since the defections of Australia, Kingman and The Grey Gatsby had taken some gloss off the day. But I’ve been around that particular nostalgic hamster wheel before. We are where we are. I have warmed to the Qipco series, even though some of the divisions are a little thin. Overall, the programme deserves this end-of-season climax. If only the weather would oblige a little more often. So what of the quality of the racing? In this well thought out piece , Jamie Lynch of Timeform poses the question “is British Champions Day the best laid plan?” and answers with, “under the circumstances, yes. It might not do what it says on the tin and, related, it probably doesn't have the right name, but as a day, a draw and a definition for British racing it's a work-in-progress that's both wo