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by Tony Stafford
How was York for you? I didn’t make it there until Friday when it was pretty much a stopping off and refuelling point (nice nosh in the Press room!) before the last leg to Newcastle. The locals there were getting ready for Scouting for Girls – there were plenty of that description on show – but for me it was Yarn, third again, and off to bed.
The rain rattled Mr Storey’s corrugated tin roofs during the night and over at York, Brian Meehan’s staff reported back to base that the deluge continued there too. Very soft (at the minimum) was to be expected and when I looked at the Racing Post site at 7.00 a.m., heavy was being suggested as likely.
So the decision was quickly made, no Melrose for Great Hall. “Straight to the St Leger? Maybe a racecourse gallop?” to which Brian replied cautiously in the affirmative. I see there’s a race at Chester next weekend, but Raymond Tooth has yet to embrace the idea of that particular track. It’s a shame as the food in the owners’ room there is of cordon bleu standard, ask Mr Koukash.
Imagine our joint surprise when the race times started to filter through, with the Melrose recorded as less than two seconds above standard, in effect faster than those of the previous day. The weather can make you look a mug and that was certainly Raymond’s attitude (me, a mug) later in the day.
I’d asked a friend to come with me as an owner’s guest, but with all the to-ing and fro-ing of Friday, forgot to ask the Manton office to leave a badge in his name. I called him at around 11.30 a.m. saying sorry, forgot to tell you the horse doesn’t run, so will you still go? He replied he was close to the track, so I made a quick call to the office and they requested a badge in my friend’s name.
Minutes later the phone rang and I was told that when the horse is a non-runner, no owner’s badges are issued. My friend said fine, he’d just turn around. He was meeting three paying friends inside the track and they were all going to have lunch in the restaurant, and would have spent plenty in the bars and on the Tote.
He called me back a few minutes later and said, change of plan, he was going to meet up with them in a restaurant in York, have lunch there, watch a few races in the betting shop and then go home. It must have cost York the thick end of £500 for the saving of a coloured piece of cardboard. It also cost Mr Tooth the £375 entry fee and the transport of a single horse from Manton and staff expenses. Well done York!
Excuse me if after that nonsense and Lewisham’s disappointing fourth at Newmarket, the eventual end of my countrywide journey on Saturday, means I’ll cut these equine thoughts short.
Being in the car was less frustrating than usual. All the way up on Friday I searched in vain for some Test match information, but BBC Radio 5 offers very little on a Friday with interminable themes on a couple of shows and the Film thing in the afternoon, while Talk Sport is totally obsessed – as is Match of the Day and especially Alan Hansen – with highlighting the perceived problems of my favourite football team. I know I should get Digital Radio, but it’s the last day of the Ashes, so what’s the point? Next year maybe.
Saturdays are better and the Fulham – Arsenal game was on. Having got more points than any other team in the last ten games of 2012-3 and with their three new players all scoring plenty of goals, you’d think the media (Liverpool and Manchester) bias against them might have lessened, but a single defeat (two penalties, a sending off and a hit post at 2-1 when a man down) brought out the “crisis” mongers.
A 3-0 win in Turkey virtually assured Champions League football again and a 3-1 demolition of Fulham at the Cottage – “could have been six” said Hansen – still did not lessen the criticism. “It changes nothing”, said Hansen, so poorly-paid that at one Daily Telegraph Christmas lunch he complained bitterly at having to stump up a couple of quid for a beer (everyone else was happy with the wine). “They’ll struggle to get in the top four”.
As with Sky, who all sing from the same North-West song-sheet, he was in fairly friendly territory as his host was Gary Lineker, while his co-“expert” was Harry Redknapp. It would be hard to find another trio with quite that amount of built-in bias. I like to think that my opinions are a fair counter against the anti-Wenger tide.
When’s he going to spend? When people like Mike Ashley start to panic and accept that bluster of £25million for Cabaye might be a bit strong. I’d be content if he merely re-signed Matthieu Flamini, fit from training at London Colney and still only 29. The French international left Arsenal five years ago and had 122 games for AC Milan, despite a full year out (2011-2) after a knee operation. Keep the £170 million, Arsene.
Spurs have bought a lot of players, and I’d heard of one of them, Soldado, who’s scored a couple of goals already. Be funny if the Bale deal didn’t go through, although Jonathan Barnett, his agent, wouldn’t be too chuffed and I like meeting Jonathan when he’s fully chuffed, as at Royal Ascot.