Read all about the champion racehorses who have shared their names with famous figures from history, from Michelangelo to Winston Churchill and Debussy.

Read all about it! The Jumps Season Approaches

Beautiful Chepstow

Beautiful Chepstow

We may not be quite there yet, but Listowel serves to remind us that the National Hunt season is just around the corner.

For many, it’s a time to start studying for the winter that lies ahead and I wanted to highlight a few publications that are not only a great read, but also a helpful tool for those hoping to make a few quid from their favourite pastime.

Social media may be seen as an annoying distraction by some, but too many, Twitter has become a huge source of information and gives the opportunity to share thoughts with others that share a common passion.

Someone who’s always worth following for his opinions on racing is Paul Ferguson. From the North-West, it’s unfortunate that he’s an Everton fan, but that in no way impairs on his ability as a judge of all things horses. He has once again produced a most enjoyable and informative publication, ‘Jumpers To Follow 2015-2016’ which highlights performers that should be kept onside during the coming season.

An in-depth section covers his 40 leading prospects, before he looks at the likely big hitters from across the Irish Sea. It’s interesting to read the views of several jockeys including Jamie Codd with his particular insight into horses from the Irish pointing scene.

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Paul really does his homework, and the level of detail throughout the book is terrific. It's less than a tenner and a cracking purchase for any passionate Jumps fan.

To prove complete Geegeez impartiality I also ‘shelled out’ a similar amount for Mark Howard’s ‘One Jump Ahead’. Mark is known for his work on Racing UK, and has been producing his horses to follow books for over 20 years. It’s another great read, with an incredible amount of information supplied by leading names in the sport.

Rich Ricci runs through his vast array of talent and there’s the usual informative piece from Bloodstock Agent Anthony Bromley. The Irish Pointers are again covered in detail and a section called ‘Talking Trainers’ covers the leading hopefuls from several of the top yards including Messrs’ Nicholls, King and Hobbs.

I’d be lying if I said the books were completely different, yet their differences are sufficient for both to prove useful purchases. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading them, as I have in previous years. The guys know their stuff and present the information in a pleasing format.

Finally I’d like to give a shout to new kids on the block; Grant Copson and Lee Lewis. They introduce us to their Jumps guide ‘The Final Flight’. It’s written in a pleasing and personal style, again leading with a section on ‘Top Prospects’. They then consider well-handicapped horses that are worth following in the months ahead, before taking a look at the Point-to-Point scene.

The book also carries a number of photographs from the talented pair of Dan Heap and Michael Harris. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and it’s great to support new talent as they take their first steps into new ventures.

Chepstow in October is where it all starts for me. We need to be ready.

Simple Verse denied St Leger Glory after ‘Argy-Bargy’

Stunned Connections

Stunned Connections

It’s hard to imagine a more dramatic weekend of Flat racing action.

At Longchamp on Sunday both Treve and New Bay put in devastating performances in their relative Arc trials. Head-Maarek’s superstar was simply scintillating, and a thrilled trainer said: “I really don't know what to say, but I would like to thank my team, who have done such an amazing job with her. Today she was exceptional. I have her back where she was at three, with the same will to win. This is her playground.”

Andre Fabre’s exciting colt also impressed when scorching to victory in the Prix Niel. Many had thought the trip would stretch his stamina, but he destroyed the opposition and appeared full of running at the finishing post.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to the owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “Andre didn't think there was an issue about stamina - when you look at his breeding there was some doubt, but it is actually a very good staying family when you go back. It was a really solid performance, he's learning all the time and apart from having a terrible draw in the (French) Guineas he has enjoyed a good season. Treve sets the benchmark, but we will see just how good our horse is in three weeks' time.”

In Ireland Aidan O’Brien sent out the first three-year-old winner of the St Leger since Vinnie Roe in 2001. Order Of St George ran away from the field to a convincing success. “He got the trip really well and travelled very strongly. When Joseph said go he quickened up very well,” said O’Brien. “It's unusual for a horse that stays that well to have that kind of class. He's a very exciting horse.”

Sadly the race was tinged with sadness, as Brown Panther pulled up injured midway through and had to be put down. He’d been a terrific racehorse and the pride and joy at Tom Dascombe’s yard. Owner and breeder Michael Owen spoke of the loss: “It's the saddest day of my life. The toughest, most honest, most brilliant horse I will ever set eyes on passed away today doing the thing he loved most. I was with him when he was born, shared an experience for seven years that will never be repeated and gave him his last kiss goodbye. What an honour to own and breed him.”

The highs and lows of Sunday followed on from a no less dramatic Saturday. At Leopardstown Golden Horn bashed his way to success in the Irish Champion Stakes, whilst Simple Verse nudged her way to defeat in the St Leger at Doncaster.

Stewards were left to sort the aftermath and many were left dismayed at their decisions. In Ireland the winning trainer John Gosden blamed a shadow for Golden Horn's sidestep that saw rival Free Eagle virtually knocked off his hooves. He said: “The shadow of the grandstand caused him to hang. He's done it well and handled the ground. He's a top-class horse. I think the fact Free Eagle finished third was a great help to us. This is a great race on a fabulous weekend and it's a perfect three weeks to the Arc where we want to go next.”

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Dermot Weld, trainer of Free Eagle, commented: “Pat said that the interference completely knocked the wind out of Free Eagle and cost him the race. But I'm very proud of the horse and, I'll speak to Pat, but the Arc has to be under consideration.”

It’s impossible to say how the race would have concluded without the ‘coming together’. There’s every chance the two will meet again in France though it’s likely both will play a supporting role rather than taking the lead in that particular show.

At Doncaster Ralph Beckett, Andrea Atzeni, connections of Simple Verse and the vast majority of onlookers were left reeling from the stewards’ decision to demote the filly and hand the race to Ballydoyle’s Bondi Beach. There’s no denying that in France or America the colt would have been awarded the race, but this is England, where fair play and common sense prevail.

Two jockeys tried to argue their case, but in truth, why should their opinions make the slightest difference in such decisions. Countless camera angles allow the officials to see exactly what occurred without the need for such a ‘panto’. Who did what to who and how is surely unnecessary, and though some quarters; yes I’m talking to you Channel 4; appear to think such disputes are entertaining, the sight of jockeys involved in a Jeremy Kyle type debate can only serve to harm the sport.

Of course people will watch the evidence and draw differing conclusions, but the steward’s cannot allow themselves to be swayed by the most persuasive jockey. I’ve watched the race over and over again, as I’m sure many others have. For what it’s worth, this is how I see the matter.

Bondi Beach leans into the filly up the Doncaster straight, with crucially, his jockey actually changing whip hand thereby promoting his mounts wayward line. Having bumped her way into the clear, causing Ballydoyle’s colt minimal interference, Simple Verse accelerates to a half-length advantage. The colt continues to lean all over the filly with the jockey continuing to use the whip in his wrong hand, again failing to correct his mount’s line.

Atzeni has his whip in his correct left hand to prevent a collision with Storm The Stars on the rail. His filly moves away from the whip causing her to ‘nudge’ the colt, though this contact causes even less, if any interference. At no point is Bondi Beach’s stride pattern affected, his gallop is maintained all the way to the line.

Passing the post, Beckett’s horse maintains her advantage, though narrow, but it is noticeable that through the line that advantage continues. It’s a tough call, and I’d be wrong to say that any decision was clear cut. But Bondi Beach clearly ran off a straight line during his charge for glory. Jockey Colm O’Donoghue portrayed himself as the victim to the stewards in the ‘after-match show’. Yet his insistence in using his whip in his right hand actually exacerbated the situation.

A clearly distraught Beckett said after the race: “I'm astonished, apart from anything else as there is no consistency in the rule. Clearly whatever way you look at it both horses lean on each other and can you really say it's entirely her fault when both horses lean on each other? One thing's for certain and that is that we will appeal this."

The consistency of stewarding came into question after the result was changed but Paul Barton, Head of Stewarding, said he felt the correct decision had been made. He said: "We had to decide if there was any interference and we decided there were two incidents, one inside the two furlong and one inside the half furlong. The combination of the two in our opinion improved Simple Verse's position. We try to take a dispassionate view and the stewards have to leave the room satisfied they've made the right decision and I think they have."

That dispassionate view is surely compromised under the current system. For many, the result was wrong, and sadly tarnished a fabulous spectacle.

Alter egos 19: Get It On

get it onI remember Get It On first time round as a number 1 single in 1971 for T. Rex. By the time of its release Marc Bolan had long moved from the music of the psychedelic folk/rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex that filled my student rooms, and was a full on leader of glam rock. Read more

Alter egos 18: Jack Barker

jack barkerJohn William "Jack" Barker (1906 – 1982) was an English footballer who played over 350 matches for Derby County and won 11 England caps. He later managed Derby County and Bradford City. Read more

Alter egos 17: BB tries for a GG double

Brendan Bracken- Big Brother

Brendan Bracken- Big Brother

Brendan Bracken [/caption]The First Viscount Brendan Bracken (1901-1958) was an Irish born journalist who turned politician and became Conservative MP for North Paddington. Read more

Alter egos 14: Walter de la Mare

walterdelamareRacing is no different to any other walk of life in that most of its participants are neither born great, achieve greatness, nor have greatness thrust upon them. Almost all are honest in their toil, and a proportion of them do make their mark in some way or other. Read more

Alter egos 11: Winston Churchill

Churchill welcomes Colonist II home

Churchill welcomes Colonist II home

Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965. During his long life he was involved with racing in both his political and personal life. Read more

Alter egos 11 – Dunlough Bay

Dunlough Bay drugs haul

In a week in which there has been a lot of attention on cocaine, it is appropriate to consider Dunlough Bay, a point about as far South and West as you can go in Ireland. It’s a quiet area, with a few villages scattered around its shores, and quite popular for sea fishing in a small way. On the whole, nothing much happened there, until 2007, when it was the scene of what was, at the time, the biggest drugs haul in Ireland. Read more

Alter egos 10 – Anton Dolin

Sydney Francis Patrick Chippendall Healey-Kay has rather too many letters to be registered as the name of a racehorse with the Jockey Club. And Patrick Kay, as young Sydney was known as he grew up, wasn’t anything special. He needed a name with rather more chutzpah if he was to make it in his chosen profession. Read more

Alter egos 7- Polly Peachum

Conditions were pretty filthy at Stratford yesterday, very suitable for a horse that shares her name with a character from one of the murkiest musical operas ever to be staged. In that you can take your pick between John Gay’s 18th century The Beggars Opera and Kurt Weill’s 20th century re-working, The Threepenny Opera. Read more

Alter egos 6 – Yeats

Yeats - one of The Wild Ones?

Yeats was a racehorse of which it could be argued that his biggest break was a major setback at the time in 2004. He ran only once as a two year old, an effortless win in his maiden. Yeats followed up with two equally impressive successes early the following season. Read more

Alter Egos 5 – Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald - in her prime

Ella Fitzgerald might be a late developer. When she ran in the maiden for three year olds at Windsor yesterday it was only her second race. Nothing compared with her rivals Homeboy and Lupo Doro, who had already run 21 and 16 times respectively. She showed promise, as she had done when a beaten favourite on her Kempton debut last month. Read more

Altar egos 4 – Michelangelo

John Gosden has had to be patient with Michelangelo. The bay colt, sired by Galileo, did not race as a two year old. It was clear then that he was a horse that would not show its capability over short distances. Read more

Alter egos 3 – Debussy

Debussy wins the Arlington

Debussy has had three incarnations as a horse. The earliest, foaled in 2002, raced exclusively in America, mainly in claiming races. He had eight different trainers, which rather suggests he may have been claimed several times and moved on to a new trainer each time. Read more

Alter egos 2 – Jay Kay

As usual there was no win for Jay Kay at Southwell on Tuesday evening. After all, Danielle McCormick’s three-year-old gelding has only had that honour once in his 13 races, although that was earlier this month at Southwell. Read more

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