Thursday, 29 May 2014

Runs in the family

We dropped in to see the sisters on the way oop north. Auntie Betty was in predictably fine form. She liked my trainers and I said she could borrow them.
“What size are you, Betty?”
“Well, you know, I’m a five over here, but a seven in the States. Yeah. My feet don’t change sizes. They just have a different number here!”
Classic Betty. Daughter No 1 was in physical pain, bobbing up and down with mirth. Betty’s been in fine form since she got here a fortnight ago. The first time we visited, she opened Granny’s door to us and with no fanfare whatsoever, shoed us inside.
“Come in, come in”, she said and flicked thumb in the direction of the lounge.
 It was only when we were inside and she recognised me that she stopped.
“Oh my god it’s the Eya-atkinsons! I thought you were more nurses! It’s been like Grand Central in here with doctors and nurses coming and going!”
She clasped the girls’ faces between her hands in turn and said “You’ve changed so much. Gorgeous girls. I’m sick of looking at old people…”

We carried on north. Daughter No 1 is in the middle of GCSEs. So we did some spot-revision in the car. Biology. There were some shaky answers around the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction; and also around simple cell-splitting; but but more sure footed knowledge was displayed about what doodles her friend Katherine had added to the picture of the shark in the revision guide I was holding.
“It says ‘Where’s Nemo?’” she asserted correctly.
I texted Bruv to let him know what time we’d be there. That I got a reply represents progress. Text speak is not his forte. When Dad and Bruv looked after the girls recently, he texted them to say what time they would be arriving. He signed off with a ‘U.P.’ as in ‘Uncle Paul’. The girls thought this attempt at txt spk was spectacularly funny and marvellously off-point. Clearly Bruv is not down with the kids (in the way that his older sibling is, obviously). Daughter No 2 was so tickled that she took a photo of the text for posterity. I think it was the grammatically correct use of the fullstops that sent them over the edge.

Last year, Daughter No 2 was at home when she received a text from Grandad’s mobile phone. Except there was no text. Just a blank message. She found Mrs A and said,
“Mummy, I think Grandad just tried to text me”.
Mrs A looked and thought she’s better phone my Bruv.
“Just checking everything’s OK, Paul. Catherine received an empty message from your Dad.”
“Oh, I see” said Paul. “I think that means he’s ready to be picked up after his haircut. I told him to text me when he was done. Better go, thanks, byee”. 
Dad and Bruv were in good fettle all weekend and we chilled nicely. Bruv was full of subtle gloating because, once again, he’s thrashed me in the forty to follow comp.
“Just been looking at restaurants, Dave. Some nice new ones opened up in York”.
Bastard. I was winning all season until he found a 33-1 winner at Cheltenham. He then had a gaggle of other medium to massive winners and finished with a level stakes profit of +49.61! He didn’t back many of them with real money though. Ha!

I had to have a go at that massive Tote Scoop 6 on Saturday afternoon. When I found Bear behind, the 16-1 winner of the first leg, I succumbed to excitable tweets about my prospects for the rest of the afternoon. Which were extinguished in the very next race. Of course. My solitary £2 line also unearthed the winner of the last, neatly bookending four unplaced losers. At least I backed that last winner, Chatez at 8-1. It may not be the £1.34m that the Scoop 6 winners trousered, but under the circumstances I settled for £40! 

Saturday night was lovely. At Christmas, we had booked Dad and Bruv on the North Yorkshire Pullman for their present. Like all good gifts, they need sharing. We had booked it for this weekend on the basis of long, light nights, and we four were accompanying them.

The Pullman Service is very popular and there is a real sense of occasion about it. Stepping back into the Golden Age of Steam and all that.

Diners began assembling on the platform and took snaps of each other in their gladrags. We did the same. Nice to make an effort once in a while. 

Stood in the time-capsule station at Grosmont, it’s easy to think little has changed since 1959. Clapperboard ticket office, mahogany and cream dining cars, showy hanging baskets, gas-fired platform lamps, gaggles of lairy birds already smashed on cheap prosecco… Apart from this high spirited bunch of 40-something party lasses, the passengers were couples on romantic dates, foursome friends or small family groups across the generations.

We found Robin, the vintage restaurant car,  and were welcomed aboard. I told the girls how I used to work aboard this service once a week in my post ‘O’ level Summer. Bruv remembered how I always missed Moonlighting, the best TV programme of the week. The girls were a little sceptical.
“You were doing all that waiting and serving?”
Legitimate concern etching their features.  
“Ah, no. I was confined to veg peeling, washing up and floor mopping”.
They looked relieved.

The excursion was blessed with great weather despite showers earlier in the day. Grandad pointed out the house where he lived, close by the track, for about 12 years (now up for sale); the steep, rough bank where he kept goats (a family legend has it that he tried to milk a billy, but he’s always denied it); and the tunnel where the family sheltered from air-dropped Nazi 2000-pounders.

Over the starters, the engine heaved and spat up the Grosmont incline and then passed the beauty spot of Darnholme. Over the soup, we trundled through Fen Bog where the tracks were originally bedded-in by George Stephenson onto timber and sheep fleeces. Over the main course, we snaked gently through Newton Dale, which renders redundant any trip to the Grand Canyon. Head to the Moors instead. Tonight the low sun angled down the slopes and illuminated clumps of bog myrtle and cotton grass, early bell heather and bilberry.

Perversely, we’d had to drive up to Grosmont to board the train. We watched the engine being watered, stoked and then coupled on to the other end, ready for the climb back up to its Esk valley departure point. Bruv said we had time to nip to the kebab shop for a doner each before the dessert course.

There are Pullman services that operate out of Pickering – which of course would make much more sense for us – but only on Fridays and in term time. So only useful if we leave the girls behind. Which of course is a thought…

Whilst stretching our legs, we nearly tripped over the wreckage of the 40-something’s party spilling out of the viewing car at the back. Two tottering, high-heeled blonds were supporting a third hanging limply between them. They were making for the loos, presumably for a vom, just to make room for more. Quality stuff. An authentic Golden Age of Steam experience.

Dessert and coffee were served impeccably by the stewards as the light leached out of our moorland backdrop. Sublime.

Keeping it in the family, Uncle Ian, my late-Mum’s brother is a taxi driver. He met us at the station and drove us home through thick fog. There had been none of this gloop in the valley bottoms. Ian is a scream. He has just hit 65 and still delivers the driest one-liners of anyone I know. “Aye. Sue said I should retire now” he drolled. “I said to her, ‘Why? I’d only have to spend more time with you’.” Deadpan.

Back home, Grandad realised he’d dropped his glasses in Ian’s cab.  Five minutes later, Ian was at the door, drenched and holding out Grandad’s specs. Sun, fog and now rain.

Next morning Bruv took us up to Danby Lodge and then Danby Beacon on the way to collect the car from Grosmont. The latter is a part of the Moor I haven’t been to before and it looked dramatic under a shower-filled sky.

The trip back was also wet. This time the showers had joined together and the M1 was grim. In stark contrast to the rest of the shiny weekend.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Closure: Forty to Follow 2013-14

So busy trying to find angles on the flat that I’ve overlooked posting the 40TF jumps results. Mildly surprising as I spent most of the Winter writing self-congratulatory updates about the burgeoning progress of the list. So it wouldn’t take a gambling psychoanalyst to deduce that the clanging silence since March indicates some less favourable results.

That is indeed the case. Whilst there were a lot less runners from the stable post-Cheltenham, there were disproportionately more losers. The profit margin took some body blows.

Overall though, a belting season. These are the bald stats.

1st October 2013 – 31st May 2014: 177 bets, £442 profit, £830 staked, 53.2% return on investment. This includes win, each ways and places. I’ve finally stopped including Exactas, Lucky 15s and other mug bets, even if the plotting of them keeps me meaningfully engaged most Saturday mornings.

The high water mark was £551 after Trustan Times ran into a place in the Pertemps on the Thursday of the Festival.

Staking is based on very conservative 1 point = £5. I had a few 2 point bets, but not many outside the Festival (where the limits come off). This is the best return for a good few years, and after a few seasons of stable profit there is overwhelming evidence to ramp up the staking.

As a comparison, the £1 win-only level staking (every run) profit comes in at +15.90.

Here’s an analysis of the successes and failures:

1. Annacotty – Martin Keighley: 8 runs, 2 wins, +14 to a £1 stake
Took a while to find his mark over fences and by the time connections worked out that three miles with him bowling along in front was the trick, there was profit to be made from the big prices that appeared. Bolted up in a sub-standard Feltham. Should have run in the Centenary Chase at the Festival instead of the RSA where he was outclassed. Pleasure to watch.

2. Arbeo – Diana Grissell: 3 runs, 0 wins, -3 to a £1 stake
Left any progression behind and never fired at all this season.

3. Bar De Ligne – Steve Gollings: 8 runs, 1 win, -4.25 to a £1 stake
For the most part actually ran very well – a series of short priced place results – and was often set some challenging tasks. He only got his bonce in front once,  under a great ride from McCoy.

4. Big Occasion – David Pipe: 0 runs
Unseen. Assume injured.

5. Carole’s Spirit – Robert Walford: 4 runs, 3 wins, +2.78 to a £1 stake  
Classy horse and progressed well through the novice mares series. Ran well in defeat to Highland Retreat in desperate ground at Ascot and not seen since. Felt there was much more to come. 

6. Champagne West – Philip Hobbs: 6 runs, 3 wins, +2.88 to a £1 stake
One of three high-performing novice hurdlers in this list from Hobbs’ yard. This one never stopped improving all season and finished just out of the frame in the Albert Bartlett. One for next year.

7. Diamond King – Donald McCain: 3 runs, 2 wins, -0.27 to a £1 stake
Two wins at short prices and one reversal in unusual circumstances. We didn’t really learn very much about him.

8. Harry Topper – Kim Bailey: 5 runs, 2 wind, +5.50 to a £1 stake
With soft going and extended distances, he makes his mark. Found out on lively going where his jumping is real seat-of-the-pants stuff. Good value this season.

9. Ifyouletmefinish – Jeremy Scott, 0 runs

10. Imperial Vic – Michael Smith: 6 runs, 0 wins, -6 to a £1 stake
Ran well enough without ever looking like he was going to win. This meant his mark always stayed on the tricky side. Didn’t fulfil the promise of last season.

11. Jezki – Jessie Harrington: 6 runs, 4 wins, +8.68 to a £1 stake
A star. Once connections worked out how to run him and with his ideal conditions, he proved top class. Finished the season as the top 2 mile hurdler on either side of the Irish Sea.

12. Katenko – Venetia Williams: 5 runs, 0 wins, -5 to a £1 stake
Clearly not the force of last season and it is assumed that the colic attack left its mark. Always a risky selection and on this occasion it didn’t pay off.

13. Legal Exit – Jim Culloty, 0 runs

14. Le Reve – Lucy Wadham: 7 runs, 1 win, +4 to a £1 stake
Picked up one lucky win at 10-1, but otherwise either didn’t live up to hopes and/or was campaigned above his level.

15. Many Clouds – Oliver Sherwood: 6 runs, 2 wins, -0.97 to a £1 stake
Looked classy all season but never really hit top form at either of the two big festivals. Maybe not quite soft enough for him.

16. Melodic Rendezvous – Jeremy Scott, 6 runs, 3 wins, +4.25 to a £1 stake
Always the dark horse in the Champion Hurdle mix and kept winning on soft ground. Ultimately found out on a lively surface and an experiment over 3m at Aintree failed.

17. Midnight Minx – Anthony Honeyball: 2 runs, 0 wins, -2 to a £1 stake
Not much to say. Pretty disappointing.

18. Mrs Eff – Philip Kirby, 2 runs, 0 wins, -2 to a £1 stake
Poor in 1st race and then in the most bizarre race I saw all season, he managed to wander and almost stop after the last in a chase where two horses fell in front of him which should have gifted the spoils.

19. O’Faolains Boy – Rebecca Curtis: 5 runs, 2 wins, +17 to a £1 stake
Biggest winner in terms of level stakes returns. Gave me a massive thrill in the RSA where he held of Smad Place by a nostril. If I ever see Barry Geraghty in a bar anywhere, I’ll buy him a pint. Left his Aintree race at the Festival, but no complaints. 

20. On The Bridge – Jeremy Scott, 3 runs, 0 wins, -3 to a £1 stake
Frustrating customer. Laid out for some big handicaps at the end of the season but was never ridden to be competitive in any of them. Poor tactics or underwhelming horse. Not clear.

21. Oscar Rock – Harry Fry: 5 runs, 1 win, -3.47 to a £1 win
Looked a world beater after his first run, but then a couple of reversals and didn’t seem to go on.

22. Our Vinnie – Charles Byrnes: 2 runs, 0 wins, -2 to a £1 stake
Utterly failed to be competitive in two early season novice chases. Clearly something amiss as this was so far below his hurdle form. Not seen since.

23. Pendra – Charlie Longsden: 5 runs, 2 wins, -2.04 to a £1 stake
Not convinced by this one. Appears to have bags of talent, but not sure he has the stomach for a fight when something else serves it up. That said, he ran better than expected in the Irish Grand National. Ultimately disappointing.

24. Pine Creek – John Ferguson: 3 runs, 1 win, +3.50 to a £1 stake
Won a good handicap hurdle in November and that seemed to put paid to his chances in handicaps. And then not seen since December.

25. Rare Legend – John Joseph Hanlon: 1 run, 0 wins, -1 to a £1 stake
Just one moderately encouraging run for 2nd over hurdles in January and not seen again.

26. Red Devil Boys – John Ferguson: 0 runs

27. Red Sherlock – David Pipe: 5 runs, 4 wins, +5.35 to a £1 stake
Mostly very impressive in bumpers and novice hurdles. Thumped in the Neptune though. Whilst that was not his true running, he would not have got near Faugheen even with his A game.

28. Sausalito Sunrise – Philip Hobbs: 7 runs, 4 wins, +4.51 to a £1 stake
One of my favourites from the list this year. Bar one below par run in January, never stopped improving. One for next year over extended novice chase trips.

29. Seymour Eric - Martin Keighley: 8 runs, 0 wins, -8 to a £1 stake
Disastrous season. Whatever promise he showed last term had evaporated by December. Connections persevered over varying obstacles and trips, but the spark has gone out with this one.

30. Sire De Grugy – Gary Moore: 7 runs, 6 wins, +11.54 to a £1 stake
Sire on fire! What a legend. Star of the season by a country mile. Delighted for the extended connections of this well loved horse. Didn’t owe me a penny before this season and has now entered my personal pantheon of greatness.

31. Suntiep – Willie Mullins: 3 runs, 1 win, -1.20 to a £1 stake
Season should have been so much more profitable. With a better ride could have taken the four-miler at the Festival and I really fancied him for the Irish National, but not declared due to injury. So still exposed and a possible for next year.

32. Swing Bowler – David Pipe: 3 runs, 0 wins, -3 to a £1 stake
Only once came close to capturing last year’s promise in the Scottish Champion Hurdle from a mile out of the weights. Disappointing.

33. Theatre Guide – Colin Tizzard: 3 runs, 0 wins, -3 to a £1 stake
Ran with credit in his three early season runs, but no wins. His excellent 33-1 third in the Hennessy was the only return I gathered. High in the handicap now and not seen since December. Respect.

34. The Skyfarmer – Philip Hobbs: 5 runs, 3 wins, +3.62 to a £1 stake
The third of this lists’ Hobbs novice hurdlers also ran with great credit. His hattrick in early season was very convincing. The defeat at Ascot on deep ground was understandable, but his no-show in the Conditionals race at the Festival was very disappointing. I fancied a big run and backed accordingly. Possible something was amiss as he wasn’t seen again. Another great prospect for next season. 

35. Tolkeins Tango – Victor Dartnell: 7 runs, 1 win, -3.50 to a £1 stake
Campaigned oddly. Managed one win when sent chasing and although sent off favourite for a couple of other small events, he never really carried much of my confidence.

36. Trustan Times – Tim Easterby: 6 runs, 0 wins, -6 to a £1 stake
Probably just about held his form this season. Set some tough tasks and whilst he didn’t get his head in front he did pay his way in place money. Mixed hurdling and chasing to good effect.

37. Upswing – Jonjo O’Neill: 5 runs, 2 wins, +1.75 to a £1 stake
The style of his October win suggested good things for the season. But races on better ground didn’t play to his strengths and he didn’t win again until heavy ground in February. Also fell at the last when in with a shout at Wincanton, also on heavy. Still one to bear in mind when conditions suit next season.

38. Up To Something – Charlie Longsden: 6 runs, 1 win, -3.50 to a £1 stake
Flattered to deceive. Early season win was good and a close 2nd just after promised heady progress. Maybe he had his sights set too high after that. Questions about the ideal trip also remain. Frustrating horse as obviously has some quality.

39. Wilde Pastures – James Ewart: 5 runs, 0 wins, -5 to a £1 stake
Looks like he paid all season for his three-timer last term. Only once looked competitive in his five starts and is one of those selections that just didn’t pay off.

40. Zarkandar – Paul Nicholls: 6 runs, 0 wins, -6 to a £1 stake
Been a fan for many years and the truth is I put him in this list a year too late. Played bridesmaid in most of his races until the Festivals. There he confirmed that he is now over the top. Great horse in his prime. Just not this season.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

May roster

The Summer project has moved up a gear  - just the one gear, mind - with some of last month’s picks re-emerging over recent days.

Telescope was beaten again by Noble Mission at Chester. I fancied him pretty strongly to reverse positions, particularly with a 3lb pull. Instead, the improvement brought about by front-running the Lady Cecil inmate maintained enough of his advantage. The softish ground was probably Telescope’s main undoing.  He stays on the list.

Better news about Gospel Choir who won the Yorkshire Cup courtesy of an extremely well judged ride from Ryan Moore and the fact that Tac De Boistron didn’t get a clear run. Moore, afterwards, was not so sure 1m6f is his trip. So it looks like next stop the Hardwicke. Gospel stays on the list for that.

G Force was outstanding. Ridden with supreme confidence by Danny Tudhope, he blasted his way to the front at York and won with something in hand. The programme for 3-y-o sprinters is notoriously tricky, but this one obviously stays on the list. Looks class for David O’Meara.

The running total looks like this:

Date                  Horse                    Bet                                     P/L                    R/T  
8th May             Telescope               5 win @ 5-2                        -5                      - 5
16th May           Gospel Choir          5 win @ 4-1 (SP 7-2)         +20                   +15
16th May           G Force                  5 win  @ 5-2 (SP 9-4)       +12.5                +27.5

This is the current list: Aljamaaheer, G Force, Gospel Choir, Made with Love, Mind Of Madness, Telescope.

I’ve found some more to add to this rolling roster. Same rules. Horses I’ve seen with my own eyes only (is that a Bond film?) and options to dump them from the project as soon as they become liabilities rather than assets.

Graphic: Followed him profitably last season in handicaps and he’s made a pretty solid transition to listed company this Spring. Bit unlucky at Ascot last time when carried wide, though would not have won. The winner has gone in against since. Looks to be some improvement still to come at around a mile. Good ground wouldn’t be prohibitive.

George Guru: Decent effort in 3rd at Goodwood. Done most of his running on the AW, but won this last year and this shows he retains some promise at handy odds.

Roudee: 2nd in a decent looking Chester 2-y-o race. Better than bare result as he was squeezed for room on the bend and also may want an extra furlong. Looks like he’ll be aimed at the big sales races.

Bright Approach: Disappointing favourite for the Cheshire Oaks but had looked good in aprevious race. I wasn’t that impressed with Buick’s ride on her in this race, and given a better gallop, this one is worth another shot.

Toofi: Another big improver from the Roger Varian yard, I backed him in a listed 7f race at Newmarket and thought he was winning everywhere but on the line. Stuck to it really well and likely he’ll pick up one of these soon.

Es Que Love: Bit of an odd one for this list as arguably he’s very exposed. However, the switch to a new yard (Clive Cox), step up to listed/Group class and drop back to sprinting trips seems to have given him a new zest. I’ll be taking a short term view about his prospects though.