By Tony Stafford
All right, I know it’s a day early but there’s no football to worry about and I’m about to undertake the third stage of a motorway marathon after Doncaster sales on Thursday and Haydock yesterday. This time it’s Ascot then on to Wolverhampton tonight for Cousin Khee.
Just as I’d almost completed the first half of the Friday M6 ordeal on the way to watch Two Jabs’ creditable second run on the Flat, Richard Kempster of Kinsale Stud called to ask whether I’d be able to make the Open Day/ Hog Roast on Sunday adding: “Have you stayed up between Doncaster and today?”
Naturally, it had never occurred to silly me to limit the mileage, no wonder the 2007 Golf – what a car! – has 218,000 on the clock! But then he said, why not stay over after Wolverhampton kindly offering a bed.
It will be great, waking up in deepest Shropshire and seeing the parade of all the stud’s horses, including Raymond’s mares, foals and three yearling colts. With hog heaven to follow before the afternoon return to the Smoke – why don’t they call it that anymore? Suppose it’s ‘cos there isn’t any.
My travels meant I missed the latest episode in the progress of this week’s hero, or rather heroine, although to be honest, Caroline Wozniacki has exerted a far more hypnotic influence over my latent emotions than any other female tennis player since Ann Jones.
I usually want Rory McIlroy to win golf tournaments but I must confess that when he did his public dumping of the Dane this summer and then explained his new-found Major-winning form as having been the result of said dumping, I found that ungallant attitude a bit irritating.
It seemed it was a question of sending out the wedding invitations or sending a text saying “you’re holding me back, so bye bye.”
When they first got together, the ordinary-looking but pretty good at golf Northern Irishman, destined to be the most wooden participant in highly-paid ads for a Spanish bank in history, struggled to be a match for his statuesquely (5ft 10in, yet just 9st) blond partner. I remember seeing them at Newbury races one day, and Caroline in maybe 5in heels towered over her escort.
Rory seemed to blame her for his loss of form, and correspondingly giving that as the reason for his recent surge in form. But now Caroline might be justified is saying that their union had an even more obvious negative effect on her career. After all, did she not hold the world number one spot for more than 60 consecutive weeks a few years ago, and had she not won 22 senior tournaments and $19 million in earnings?
But like Arsene Wenger and his nine-year no-trophy jibes from the press, she has never won a Grand Slam event, unlike Rory, who now has three. Caroline even referred to it after getting through her semi-final in New York last night having seen off in 30 degrees C, the heat-affected Peng Shuai 7-6, 4-3 retired. “I hope I can win that Grand Slam to get the media off my back,” she said.
Caroline’s way to that distinction is barred by Serena Williams, who reached her eighth US Open final in routine fashion. The pair are clearly good pals and one of the first therapeutic media pictures of the jilted “princess” was on a beach somewhere nice with Serena – ah bless. Think they did a bit of shopping, too.
But in the interim, just as Mr McIlroy has sharpened his game – and his tongue, a little – so Ms Wozniacki has palpably sharpened her physique, flying around the court to beat Maria Sharapova with a third set onslaught when every expert anticipated the reverse. The moment of that win exactly match a missed last-hole putt by McIlroy in I believe the third round of the second of the four Playoff tournaments. No doubt he’ll win tomorrow night – he’s two behind Sergio Garcia at the halfway stage, and will go on to win next week’s $10 million pot, but he’ll certainly be aware of what’s going on in Flushing Meadows.
Caroline I believe is planning to run a marathon for a charity into which she’s putting plenty of energy. No, win or lose against Serena, she’s my hero this week – and next.
So Arsene didn’t fall for the £300k plus a week for Radamel Falcao, but Manchester United did. The snag for them was to make the deal work, including the £6m fee to Monaco, as if it ever could, although many “experts” say it does, they had to let go Danny Welbeck.
Now the traditional wisdom through the last decade or so was that English players were almost impossible to buy because of the transfer fees. The younger they were, the dearer they would have to be. Manchester United paid £60m for Angel di Maria, who at 26 is three years older than Welbeck, who cost Arsenal a relatively modest £16m.
Yet Welbeck is fast, never stops running and in 26 England games has scored eight international goals. Can you image Sir Alex’s views on that bit of last-day business? He’s also three inches taller than Falcao, if you didn’t know. I didn’t until deadline day.
The point about the Falcao deal is that by recruiting him and di Maria alongside Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, United now have a four-man attacking group who are costing the club in excess of £1m a week, every week. Their squad of 26 is much-changed, but what van Gaal may have forgotten is that all they might need to play is just 36 games, if their FA Cup draw proves as daunting as the away trip to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.
Given that he can use 13 outfield players during games, it equates to around 50 minutes’ pitch time per player, and any one of the quartet might be on the sidelines for rather more than 50 per cent of the action even if uninjured.
But the pundits say it doesn’t matter because the commercial arm of the business is making so much cash. They better hope the van Gaal formula starts to work or even the mugs who buy the shirts at £70 a pop might begin to question the wisdom of that.
Wish Cousin Khee luck tonight. As to the hog roast, I might have to have mine shredded. Halfway through a New York deli sandwich in the Haydock owners’ lounge yesterday, my top plate snapped neatly in half. I won’t be smiling if you see me at Ascot, and if as planned I make the drive down to Le Lion d’Angers for Laughing Water overnight on Tuesday, it’ll be soup rather than Crocque Monsieur for this old monsieur. A bientot!