Good merry Monday morning, dear reader, for 'tis the start of another truly blissful week in paradise... Ahem, sorry for that, but if I don't start the week that way, it's a long haul home to Friday evening!
So that was the weekend that was: Master Minded is still alive; Racing Post site is still login-free, but not bug-free; and the results of the Geegeez December survey are in.
First up, let's take a quick look back at the weekend's action. At least, that which wasn't abandoned due to the nasty cold weather we're all suffering currently.
The pick of the action was at Sandown, where my three tips (and my money!) went predictably west, though in frustrating style: two win bets and an each way wager yielded two second places and a fourth respectively!
In the novices' chase, Free World gave best to the extremely game Araldur in what seemed an interminable grind for the line. I'm not sure how they traded on the exchanges jumping the last, but the eventual runner up was four clear and cruising with the winner flat out. A cracking ride from Choccy Thornton and, to be honest, if Sam Thomas had been on the runner up rather than AP McCoy, the knives would have been sharpened again.
Araldur looks an ideal prospect for the Arkle to me, relishing the testing conclusion to Sandown's 2m, which is not a million miles different from Cheltenham's test (though of course they do race in the opposite direction round the clock face). However, Mr King of the Alan flavour doesn't necessarily agree, and is considering tilts elsewhere. As such, though this looked to put Araldur bang in the Chelters picture, caution should be advised when pondering ante-post speculations.
The big race, the Tingle Creek, looked a race to savour on paper. But it never really panned out that way. Fiepe's Shuffle blazed off in front for about four seconds, before slipping and crumpling on the landing side after the very first fence.
That left McCoy on Master Minded to make all. He won comfortably enough in the end, but I'm not sure this was as straightforward as his Cheltenham demolition, and I'm still waiting for him to demonstrate that type of totally classy performance again.
In truth, my selection Tidal Bay, jumped a bit shabbily, and was never really in it, staying on past the beaten Takeroc on the run in to grab a fairly respectful silver medal.
But the interesting chap was Twist Magic, last year's winner, who looked to be going as well as the winner to this eye and only two lengths down, when replicating Fiepe's crumple and slither at the second last. Difficult to catch right, but the Twist is an eminently capable animal, and should be kept on side at fair prices henceforth.
Interesting to note that the time of the race was just a second faster than the novices' chase (or roughly five lengths), despite the fact the seniors didn't jump the Pond Fence due to low sunshine.
This adds further lustre to the performances of the front two in the novices' race, and I suspect that - to this point - that race has been underestimated. Both Messrs. King and Nicholls seemed pleasantly surprised when told of the time comparison. Araldur and Free World may yet take high rank in the junior speed chasing department.
The Listed Handicap Hurdle was an interesting race, and once again a horse carrying less than eleven stone took the spoils - alas it was not Hernando Royal, who travelled brilliantly but bungled the last when fleetness of foot would have seen him make the frame, and might have seen him snatch gold in a finish of fingertips. Although finishing fourth, he was only beaten a neck, a neck, and one and a quarter lengths, the lost momentum from his last flight horlicks clearly material.
The three in front all look useful: Sunnyhill Boy (brought from miles off the pace by McCoy to complete what looked in running to be an unlikely hat trick); Spear Thistle (immensely valiant from the front, and found more when challenged while seeking his own hat-trick); and Five Dream (travelled beautifully off a big weight, but perhaps doesn't have the verve in a finish that his co-combatants did here).
I reckon the winner may go in again, and compensation surely awaits second and fourth. Whether Five Dream can replicate this run remains to be seen, as he's a bit of a monkey (though clearly an able one, as his close fourth to Crack Away Jack on his previous start testifies).
McCoy went on to complete a four timer on the reluctant engine, Kilbeggan Blade, in what was a bloody marvelous ride, and reminded us - if indeed we needed reminding - why the one man you want in your corner over an obstacle is AP. You can keep your finesse: as a punter, give me this man's sheer brute force, vim, vigour, welly, and fire and brimstone. Didn't have a penny on him, naturally!
Over at Newcastle, Punjabi just held off Sublimity in a real head bobber. To be honest, the race proved nothing much, and neither is a serious threat to the Champion Hurdle title in my opinion. Not on this showing, at least.
Onwards, for we have more to discuss... Let's talk about the survey that so many of you kindly contributed your time and opinions to.
I've included a link to the results here...
Here is my summary:
- No less than 85.7% of respondents are 40+ years of age, with almost two thirds of you over 50.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of you are chaps, though we have a not insignificant lady contingent. As you will know by now, all are equally welcome in this most ecumenical of blogs.
- The vast majority of you (92.8%) have been using Internetty Betty to help your horse research for over a year, and again most of you bet mainly or exclusively online (87.2%).
- I was a little surprised that only two thirds of you read Gavin's fine blog at Nag3, and also that as many as a third of you regularly visit gg.com (though it is an excellent site of course).
- The Racing Post is (was?!) the most frequented site of all - more than 88% of you regularly clicked through to that formerly masterful online premises.
- 62% of you felt that the blog here was pretty good, with another 20% (bless you all!) thinking it was great. 3.5% thought it was a bit hit and miss, which is fair enough, although I didn't really understand the one person who thought it was rubbish but was still filling in the survey! No matter, for ecumenical and catholic (small 'c') we are, and therefore welcome one and all...
So, those were the numbers, but perhaps much more important is the wordy stuff. Again, I really can't thank you enough for taking the time to share this with me. Rest assured that a goodly number of the suggestions you came up with will be heeded in the New Year, and I'm excited that so much of what you're asking for is in line with my own thinking: that means we're definitely on a similar wavelength.
I obviously can't go through all the comments here, so I'll just pick out one or two. You can of course review all of them if you'd like by clicking the link above.
When asked for comments about the current overall content of Geegeez, I especially liked the following:
"I was going to tick "pretty good" but you're not pretty" - thank you, whoever you are!
Moving on (rapidly), the 'more of / less of / the same please' section is generally always an exercise in 'you can't please all of the people all of the time', so I hope that those of you who requested a little less of some things will tolerate them, safe in the knowledge that you'll also be getting a little more of the good things you asked for too. Fair enough?
In summary, half of you wanted more racing tips / selections. This flabbergasted me, given that Queen Victoria was still a princess the last time I tipped a winner on here! Seriously, I've done my absolute brains these last couple of months, much more of it privately than publicly. However, your comments are noted and I will endeavour to give you one selection a day, as many of you asked later on (though not on Mondays!).
A whopping two thirds of you wanted more system reviews - my my, aren't you just a bunch of greedy Oliver Twists?! Unlike poor hungry Twist, though, you shall have your wish, for sure.
Although a third of you wanted to know more about me and my betting, two thirds were happy that you were already close enough to your humble scribe and further proximity might involve embarrassing discomfort... So I'll likely keep this as it is, if that's ok.
Finally, and again enormously hearteningly from my perspective, only a fifth of you wanted less relevant promotion (not more irrelevant promotion, but less relevant promotion... if you see what I mean...!).
It's very satisfying to me that you recognise that as well as enjoying massively what I do here, I am also trying to supplement my income and, as such, I share with you those products and services that I believe to be in the top echelons of the myriad that are peddled in cyberspace. It's difficult sometimes to remain independent, but that is a stated objective of geegeez, and it will remain so. To the further fifth who said that they'd like more opportunities to understand what I think is good and bad, I hope you'll be sated by more system reviews in the New Year.
Finally, I asked you open ended questions on what you'd like to see and not see here. This for me is the most revealing and informative component of the survey, and the part that will shape Geegeez in 2009.
You asked for more of:
System reviews; relevant interviews; beginners' information; ante-post reviews / selections; services to avoid; tipping competitions; placepots at big meetings; trainers for the month; staking plans.
I can tell you that most of you will be happy with the expanded content in 2009. :o)
To the person who requested 'naughty ladies swishing their petticoats' (the same person who considered me not pretty - is that you Tim McD?!), it's under consideration, though its tricky to find good quality sepia photos on t'internet.
In the 'you want to see less of' category, unsurprisingly, the biggest request was for less losers tipped. I will do my best, but can make no promises on this front!
Perhaps more manageably, you asked for less laying system reviews. Fair enough, I hear you. It does seem to me that a majority of us (I include myself in this number, though I ought to know better) are still seduced by salacious sales copy promising untold riches for forty-seven quid.
Reality is a little more mundane - making money from backing horses, a la TTS, is nice winner, loser, loser, loser, loser, loser, short priced winner, loser, loser, loser, loser, loser, winner, etc. There is no gravy train. Pity, I know.
But the 'softly softly catchy monkey' stopping service still gets us where we want to be, it just takes longer and needs a different mindset to enjoy the ride.
[I hope you enjoyed that analogy - if you take a second to ruminate on it, you'll find it's a bit better than may first appear. At least, I'm happy enough with it!]
At the risk of repeating myself and sounding nauseatingly sycophantic, I really appreciate you feeding back what you like and don't like, and I hope that you'll enjoy the 'geegeez experience' (now that really did sound 'w4nky'!) more when I've factored in as many of your requests as I can.
I deliberately opened it to you guys first (and nobody else), and if you're in, good for you. I hope you'll continue to monitor the trial period before deciding if it's for you or not.
Without putting too fine a point on it, you are in receipt of quality content at cost price. Future subscribers will pay a higher price (though still very much a fair price).
Finally, a short Racing Post update, in the form of a little to and fro 'twixt the overworked customer support desk at RP and that underworked geegeez weekend desk:
Sent: 07 December 2008 15:31
Subject: RE: Suggestion / Complaint CRM:0012330
Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in responding to it.
The website issues you refer to have been flagged by several users and we have escalated your concerns to the design team. The new site is very much a work-in-progress and we will be listening to our customers and developing the site accordingly. It is our intention to build, through taking note of constructive criticism, a first class racing and sports betting website. We appreciate your patience during this time.
Please be assured that all feedback is being monitored by the site's designers and senior Racing Post staff and your input is greatly appreciated.
Racing Post Customer Services
I imagine that you probably don’t have authority to answer this, so perhaps you could pass on to someone who does.
If, as you suggest, racing post are listening to their customers, then you will note that most of them are asking for the reinstatement of the .co.uk site until the .com is working properly. (See the facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=36229234274 for an example of people requesting this – note the number of racing professionals in this group)
Can you please let me know when senior management plan to reinstate that site?
Many thanks for your prompt reply at what must be a difficult time for your team,
I will of course keep you updated, as and when I hear more...