Showing posts from March, 2014


Mrs A and I were obviously looking forward to a trip the isle of ice and fire, but the rush for crisps on the plane by Icelanders returning home was a touch disconcerting. What was going on? Didn’t they sell potato snacks in Reykjavik? The number of times the hirsute family in front of us made extra trips to the galley for ‘boxer chips’ whiffed strongly of panic buying. Mrs A and I were berthed either side of the aisle. She, of course, made instant friends with the passengers on her right. Hotel details, recommended tours and sights were gleaned, even the sunset times. Laughing and joking they were. I leant across and butted in. “Hi, yes we hope to see the northern lights!” But my conversational equivalent of the photo bomb got me nowhere. In dealing me a dismissive glance, the bloke in the middle seat barely broke his flow about scuba diving plans. Instead, I attempted light-hearted communication with the two sat next to me. “Mind those popcorn packets, they go everywhere!” s

Mug Punting - Kindle discount

In a shameless act of self promotion, this post is merely to say that Mug Punting - Short Tales About Long Odds, is now available discounted by 54% to 99p for the next 7 days. That's less than a quid for the book that spawned the blog. What can you get for less than a quid? Click on the picture on the side panel or try this  link to go direct to the Amazon Kindle page. Get 'em quick. Mug Punting Two is on the way as well. Just some finishing flourishes of rabid nonsense to finesse and we'll be there... Advert over. Normal service to be resumed asap. Thanks for listening.

The Festival wrap

The comedown. Like an uncoiled slinky dog, lying limp and tension-free at the bottom of the stairs. All latent energy consumed and potential now dissipated in the headlong cascade just completed.  But, hey. Back to life, back to reality, as Soul II Soul one accurately observed. Crumpled here in the shadow of the bottom step, I’ve found a moment for reflection. What to make of the Festival 2014? Some indicators of pleasure and pain, joy and grief, stimulation and banality are randomly gathered here. Feel the quality Interesting to see the ratings published the other day for the Gold Cup. It seems that both Bob’s Worth and Silviniaco Conti ran at about a stone below their best. The quickish ground a contributing factor, no doubt, but the way Conti struggled up the hill was alarming. Not a high class renewal, but quite a spectacle. Many judges, both sound and otherwise, have questioned the form of the Champion Hurdle too.   The New One being the recipient of favourable a

Cheltenham Festival 14 - Day 4

Big Buck's has been a colossus amongst the staying hurdle division for almost half a decade. How sensible to retire him at the scene of his greatest triumphs and afford him the luxury of one last circuit around the parade ring in front of deeply appreciative banks of race-goers. With impeccable timing, the PA announced his retirement at the very moment that Jonjo was handed a big glass edifice signifying his achievement in training the new staying King: More Of That. Geraghty has been in superb form this week and gave More Of That a sublime ride. Not so Ruby Walsh who was reproachful and crest-fallen after his ride on Annie Power. In a weighing room interview with Mick Fitz, his quiet comment that he thought he was to blame for the mare's defeat had a confessional quality. Surely an inaccurate comments though. It will not go down as a peach of a ride, but More Of That had more to give and won on merit. We've seen different sides of Walsh this Festival. His subdued demea

Cheltenham Festival 14 - Day 3

Being at home for the first time in 12 years, rather than at the track, for Champion Chase Day felt all wrong. Watching the field on telly, milling round the chute for the opening race, was a strange emotion akin to an out-of-body experience. That's probably how Ruby Walsh felt as Faugheen skipped free up the home straight, timber trailing in his wake like a raft-wreck. OK, slight exaggeration. He did totally demolish the third last, but even so he never looked like being beaten at any stage. Impressive. Red Sherlock was disappointing. Bang there with two furlongs to go, he seemed to empty pretty tamely. I thought the ground had gone against the horses carrying my two best bets in the RSA. In fact O'Faolain's Boy had more trouble with his footwear. One shoe was kicked off and the other bent backwards, probably in his epic tussle with Smad Place up the hill. Thrilling, breathless stuff. Geraghty was as inspired as he was on Jezki yesterday, reeling in this time, rather t

Cheltenham Festival 14 - Day 2

A thrilling, exhausting foray into Prestbury's green acres yesterday, with enough highs, lows and twists to give a Cold War fighter test pilot a nosebleed.   Jezki was the star turn. In the boozer the night before with Bacchy I had been attempting to formulate a theory that Jessie Harrington was less effective as a trainer these days. As evidence I cited arguably poor handling of Grade 1 performers Boston's Angel and Oscars Well. Sitting on a 12-1 ante-post voucher for Jezki, this was clearly a case of getting my excuses in early.  Come the big day, she made no mistakes. The hood was, of course, a stroke of genius. Giving Barry Geraghty the leg up was reuniting a successful partnership of deep trust and respect between jockey and trainer. Putting in a pace maker who was to be ridden with restraint and tact was the final piece in the jigsaw. The race went according to the plan and at one stage owner JP McManus was looking at a 1-2-3. (What a race Caprain Cee Bee ran!) Je

Cheltenham Festival 14 – Day 1

Just a day-trip to the Festival this year. Not since my debut in 2000 have I only taken in only one day. Nev would have been up for a second day, like last year. But I think I’m still licking wounds from a bare knuckle mauling last year. Scoured clean through by bookies no less excoriating than the permanent easterly skimming over Cleeve Hill, I limped home on the Thursday night feeling like a broken frigate captured in the receding light of a JMW Turner painting.   The rattling hangover didn’t help much either. And then I read about JT McNamara – having beaten my retreat before his devastating fall in that that race – and stopped feeling sorry for myself pretty abruptly. I’m also, rather more prosaically, juggling commitments so that Mrs A and I can enjoy our trip to Iceland later this month. As if I won’t have had enough of screaming east winds... Tomorrow will be such a rush. I wok e up this morning wringing with anticipation. So much so that I forgot to brush my teeth.

Festival tipping

Festival tipping. Sounds like a minor offence governed by parish council by-laws. Preview events used to be a cheeky route to garner the odd pointer from those on the inside track, build up the anticipation and witness some healthy banter. The last five years or so has seen the phenomenon grow to an industrial scale. When coupled with social media reporting, I had started to think they had become both watered down and plumped up. Never fear. This clip from a Boylesport-sponsored event in Dublin restores my faith. Ruby Walsh is in cracking form, berating Kevin O’Ryan for suggesting Vautour got an easy lead in the Deloitte at Leopardstown. Leon Blanche doesn’t fare much better in defending Boylesports’ offer of money back if your horse is beaten one ridden by McCoy. “What kind of offer is that? he drawls. “How many favourites am I riding? Seven. How many has he got? None!” And what is Davey Russell on about?  This is common territory for Walsh. A few years ago, a mat