Showing posts from 2015

Christmas shopping

The season is sizzling. This isn’t another global warming warning and it’s not the mild weather that has me clammy all over. The jumps game is hot right now and the festive fixtures look as tasty as a turkey dinner. The season was full of promise back in October. But aren’t they all? So often the expectancy outweighs the delivery.   Not so far this term. The Mullins battalion looks even stronger. Last season’s stellar novices are beginning to dominate in new divisions and the established Group 1 talent grows ever more formidable, bar the odd unexpected hiccup. Not by any means in the same league, but the rise and rise of new young trainers like Dan Skelton and Harry Fry is encouraging. The narrative of the early winter has also been about the return to form of some old lags I was happy to write off. I don't just mean Philip Hobbs (love that guy). Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy, Cue Card, Sir Des Champs, O’Faolains Boy, Simonsig (although that may be brief), and even Sma


This meeting has become a fixture in our punting calendar. For years we came on the Friday; a lower-profile card which still has a couple of decent races. Sneaking a day off work was part of the attraction. One time when the fixture was frosted-ff we simply played 10-pin bowling at the Trocadero and drank all day. Since switching to the main event, attendance amongst our unruly gang has grown. Fourteen thirsty souls answered Bryn’s group booking invitation this year: thirteen lads and one lass. At one point in the week before the meeting, we allowed ourselves to think that an epic Tingle Creek Chase was about to unfold. Willie Mullins had committed to the race the brightest star in the current two-mile division and reigning Arkle hero, Un De Sceaux. Henderson had also pointed two of his stable stars in the direction of Sandown Park. Scintillating Sprinter Sacre had been nursed back to something approaching his best and another sick note, previous Arkle winner Simonsig was also

Jump to it

Mug Punting got off to a pretty low-key start this jumps season. Even a trip to Cheltenham’s first day of the season couldn’t induce a winning thread. Me, Dad and Bruv pitched up on the first day that an impressive new £45m five-storey grandstand was open for business. The whole redevelopment looked good: a new parade ring and winners enclosure, balconies, viewing areas and high level walkways. We grabbed a table on the first floor next to the champagne bar and gathered from staff that plebs like us would not be allowed in here in future. When the stand opened formally from the next meeting, this would be badge holders only. This was the soft launch designed to test operational wrinkles like queues for the bogs and crushes at the exits. (Wouldn’t want to see the members used as such guinea pigs...) Still, the development is a significant improvement on the old owners and trainers enclosure that used to occupy the site. Much more spick and span than my punting. I di

A tale of two piers

Well, two and a half piers, really. Because I was to be found lurking outside a concrete bunker opposite Brighton's ruined West Pier at one point of this tale, haranguing strangers on a damp Halloween evening. West Pier You may well ask why this was happening when I could easily have been lapping up an insanely brilliant collection of Weekend sport in comfort at home. The answer has something to do with a misjudgement about the pulling power of a rock ‘n’ roll dream ticket.   Joe Bonamassa, one of the few truly inspiring guitarists left on my to-see list had announced an arena tour. Surprisingly all the dates missed out London. Inexplicably, they also bypassed Aylesbury Watford and even the decent blues pub in Sarrat. Brighton was on the list though. And I knew tickets would sell fast for this blistering fret-meister. So one Monday morning I was to crouching over the laptop, credit card in hand, waiting for the tickets to go on sale. Hardly a Glastonbury-scale operati

Smug Punting: More short tales about long odds

I'm delighted to announce the follow up to Mug Punting: Short tales about long odds is published today. Picking up the dysfunctional threads of the original Mug Punting opus, this second collection of real-life racing and sporting yarns meanders haphazardly through ten more years of furiously celebrated small time gambling adventures.  Since that first volume, the this blog has become quite well established as an outlet for racing, sport and betting rambles, together with a ridiculous array of general escapist nonsense, bellyaching and disturbing trend towards telltale middle-aged grumpiness. Time marches on … The blog has implausibly gathered a loyal troupe of curious visitors, to whom I am massively grateful. Many of those posts provide the source for the stories here, and have been expanded and edited into new tales that are set against the backdrop of a decade of horse racing and other iconic sporting moments. Smug Punting: More short tales about long odds (what el

Rock faces

An early Autumn weekend in Gibraltar seemed too good to miss. We had some credits left over from a cancelled flight last year. Desperate to use them up before they expired, I scoured the Monarch website and soon enough the destination pretty much self-selected: convenient departure airport, weekend-friendly flights and the prospect of warm weather.   That the destination was new to us as well was a bonus. The tired old Airbus 320, with its faulty seats and broken lighting, pitched up late at Luton and took off later still. But that didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of plenty on board. The greater part of the Bedfordshire Rotary Club had taken up several rows in front of us and were eagerly anticipating a weekend away from running tombolas and raffles (I think that’s what Rotarians usually do). And the woman in the seat next to me was travelling with various members of her family to a brother’s surprise 40 th birthday party. She was applying complicated make-up using an array o