Horse Racing’s January…

As many racing commentators have observed, dear reader, this is a very funny time in the racing year. The jumps season officially ended on Saturday, with the Bet365 Gold Cup; and the flat season really gets underway this weekend with the 1000 and 2000 Guineas meeting at HQ.

Factor in that Punchestown will stage their NH Festival meeting this week - probably the best Festival in the Irish racing calendar - and it's certainly a week of transience for us racing fans.

The aforementioned Bet365 Gold Cup, formerly the Whitbread, was a pretty shabby affair if truth be told, and it's not hard to see why this 'feature' race has had so much flux in terms of the sponsor in recent years. Despite the relatively low quality of the field, there can be no doubting that it was a tremendous spectacle.

That man A P McCoy, whose horses became 'never lay' material after the imperious 'never say die' ride aboard the late Wichita Lineman at Cheltenham in March, underlined and emboldened the case for not opposing his mounts with a further peerless performance of potency, power and panache aboard Carl Llewellyn's Hennessy.

The beast was well backed, but also looked well beat down the far side second time around. No matter, for SuperMc nipped into a phonebox in a quiet corner of Esher, pulled his underpants over his breeches, fastened his red cape and rallied his reluctant steed to new heights. Mostly metaphorically, of course. (Not sure where this is going, so I'll just truncate the Superman metaphor at this point, and move on...)

On the same card at Sandown, we saw this year's Breeders Cup Mile winner in action. Paco Boy had been something of a 7f specialist prior to Saturday's authoritative win (always holding the placed horses, and brought to the front soon enough, in my opinion). But in taking the Group 2 Bet365 Mile on Sandown's stiff oval, Paco has show he has what it takes to win in Santa Anita.

Of course, it's a long old way to SoCal in late October from here, and the proximity of Longchamps' Prix de la Foret may scupper my transatlantic wagering hopes. But, if he gets to Santa Anita, he'll be fair tough to beat!

Over at Navan yesterday, the legend that is Yeats put in a rare stinker in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes. He was apparently blowing very hard after the race, meaning he likely will come on for the race. At eight years old now though, it's not impossible his legs have gone. That being the case, and assuming his seeds have not, the old boy - who is still in possession of his meat and two veg - may make up into a spectacular NH sire. You heard it here first... (Unfortunately, I'll probably have to wait at least five years to crow about this particular piece of clairvoyancy!)

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To this week, and what a week! Punchestown's punting and drinking marathon starts tomorrow, and those that plan to be there for the duration had better ration their powder if they've any hopes of survival. It's truly a test for a thorough stayer, and many will pull up / fall / unseat rider / run out long before Saturday's 5.05 race has concluded. (Incidentally, for the 'iron man' marathoners out there, I note that the racecourse will be showing the Munster vs Leinster Heineken Cup semi-final after racing, and the bars will still be open. Good grief!)

I'll be offering some insights into the trends for some of the Punchy races, with a big thank you to Tony Mac for kindly sharing his research on the cards.

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Of course, here in UK, where we've put the jumps season behind us, we're looking forward to the first two classics of the season, and they offer the usual conundrum of last season's 2yo form against this season's 3yo trials. Chuck in the Irish vs English relative form imponderable, and the waters are well and truly muddied.

But fret not, for I'll endeavour to take a view on these affairs towards the end of the week as well, in what is likely to be a bumper bloggathon.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also the biggest drinking session of them all, the Kentucky Derby, this Saturday. I was lucky enough to go to Louisville a couple of years ago for the Breeders Cup, and all the locals told me that the Derby (pronounced 'dur-bee' - heathens!) absolutely dwarfs the BC meet.

Cheltenham's Gold Cup day boasts crowds of around 65,000... The Derby at Epsom plays host to a staggering 120,000... Wembley holds 90,000... Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May will play host to over 160,000 baying, drinking, wagering sports fans for its 'Run For The Roses'.

Wow! And boy, do they like to party? I was told the college kids will be in town all week drowning themselves in booze. In many ways, I wish I was there. But I'm not sure my liver could survive the pounding... maybe next year!

As for who's going to win... it's almost an irrelevance. Apparently. But of course, I'll be having a crack at this one too. Much more to follow later this week then...

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With so much great sport later in the week, I'll be maintaining a watching brief only today - Mondays being my least favourite betting day in the week at the best of times.

Matt

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2 replies
  1. Tom says:

    As you say the NH finished the 2008/2009 season on Saturday.

    The 2009/2010 NH started the very next day ! ! !

  2. mattgiffin says:

    my best advice is take a week off this week could seriosly damage your bank

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