By Tony Stafford
My friend Peter put me up to it. On Wednesday he asked me to supply him with the Grand National analysis, “You know the one you used to do, in what was it, Racing & Football Outlook?” Well, actually, Pete, it was in the late lamented Raceform Update, a column I did from the minute I took an early bath from the Daily Telegraph.
It was James de Wesselow, whose wonderful father Ian had taken me on as a rookie editor of the old Racehorse weekly, published by Raceform, all those decades ago, who head-hunted me for the Compton-based title, and I loved providing a rather similar, if less self-indulgent thousand words or so each week that I generally do here.
The bonus, for Ascot and Cheltenham on the Update was a big meeting extra-money preview while the Aintree requirement was to sort the contenders into four pretty equal groups.
Peter, who has the memory of an elephant, rekindled the old tradition, causing me to explore with geegeez.co.uk the possibility of a public revival of what otherwise would have been a pointless private exercise.
Indeed it actually was just that, Peter getting delayed on some Saturday morning property valuations around North West London so that he didn’t have the few bob on Pineau de Re he had planned the night before.
Those of you who did read the column would have seen Night in Milan as the number one tip. Fear not, his day will come next Saturday if as I expect he will go for the Scottish National at Ayr. Frustrations for the Reveley family at just missing the cut can be readily addressed, and he’ll be my fancy for next year at Aintree.
For the second year running, I kept my viewing to the lower-key Racing UK team of Lydia, Jonathan, Steve and Tom (happily restored to full health after his experiments with a tractor last summer). It’s great when racing fans run the show. Bet their viewing figures don’t drop by double digits, unlike those of the big shots on C4.
Grand National day is always slightly quirky as it coincides with one of the more frantic days of football action. The Liverpool teams had the day off but Manchester’s finest both clocked up four with United suddenly wishing there were half a dozen more games for the apparent sudden infusion of Moyes magic to take full effect.
It never takes much. If Bayern Munich’s apparent staleness at Old Trafford and Saturday’s domestic defeat – the first of the season – continue, it’s more than possible that United’s Champions League dream could materialise after all. Moyes’s Everton teams always finished the season well, so why not his United outfit?
Also funny last week was the sudden turning of some of the media on their long-term darling Senor Mourinho. At least two brave souls had the temerity to suggest that when it goes wrong at Chelsea it’s never Jose’s fault: when it goes well, it’s all his doing. It’s always the other way around with his great pal, M. Wenger, of course.
Today, then, it’s Everton/ Arsenal and West Ham/ Liverpool. No predictions, but a feast of action and then Chelsea/ PSG to come in the week.
After my cricket opinions on England’s T20 Word Cup efforts, I trust the females of the species will cope with the old enemy Australia in the women’s final, a tasty aperitif to India v Sri Lanka, a sure-fire classic in prospect later on. Incidentally, there are some brilliant players over for the summer in the county championship, names like Graeme Smith, Peter Siddall and T20 specialist Glenn Maxwell among them.
Then also today there’s Hamilton v Rosberg in Bahrain and Murray getting us over the line against Italy in the Davis Cup.
We’re also getting close to proper Flat racing, with the Craven meeting and Newbury coming next week. One slight downside is that four of the five English classics will have been contested in nine weeks’ time!
Can you excuse the short rations today? I need to build myself up for that rare combination of stamina and concentration that such a day’s viewing requires. I generally, like the man in the betting shop, have an opinion on most of it, but nowadays I don’t let my many prejudices spoil the enjoyment in the way I used to.