By Tony Stafford
It takes quite a lot to stop me going to the Cambridgeshire. For a start it’s only an hour up the M11 and over the years I’ve found plenty of winners. If I’d tried harder yesterday I might have landed on Bronze Angel, and if I’d listened to my mate Roger, I could have had a double on him and Elm Park in the Royal Lodge – Royal Lodge at Newmarket, when did that happen?
But no, working out balances, I realised I would miss seeing far more of Newmarket if I went there, because I would have to turn tail after the Cambridgeshire to get home in time for the self-flagellation that always accompanies North London Derby matches.
Cricket finished for the season the previous day in unlikely balmy autumn weather, and the same incongruous climatic conditions welcomed the throngs of people to Gleneagles for the second of three days of the Ryder Cup.
Scotland has been in the forefront of the public consciousness recently, with the Edinburgh Festival attracting throngs from the South and overseas through August, and last week the Ayr Western meeting coincided with the Thursday vote for Scottish independence.
The soon-to-be former First Minister in Scotland is Alex Salmond, the fourth man to hold the post since Scottish semi-independence when they got their own town hall a generation ago. He would have had an intolerable choice on Thursday. Not only is he a politician, he is also a punter and used to have a tipping column in one of the papers. I even had a chat with him – as I did with the late Robin Cook, another Scottish politician who loved the sport – about that side of his life, which he treated with the same seriousness as his politics.
It was a bit like my choice yesterday.
But I must return to the Scottish question, which to my mind centres on the imbalance of Scots in most areas of the UK’s public life, be it politicians or golf commentators. Even old boring Gordon (Jaw-drop) Brown was back in action after the No vote, while at the golf, four men with the old Scots burr, Messrs Livingstone, Murray (Ewen, not Andy, or rather Andrew Barron Murray- he was playing tennis in Shenzhen), Monty and Coltart, were hogging the commentary hours.
It took six men to form the captaincy squad with captain Paul McGinley (Ireland) aided by vice captains Des Smyth (Ire), Sam Torrence (Scot), Ollie (Sp), Padraig Harrington (Ire) and J-M Jimenez (Sp).
The 12 players in the squad hailed from Denmark, Wales, France, Scotland, Spain, Germany, Northern Ireland (two), England (three) and Sweden.
I think I know why the English were left out of the captaincy lark this time. Apparently when Andrew Coltart, Lee Westwood’s brother-in-law, was picked in 1999, the English captain Mark James did not let him loose until the singles when Tiger Woods, of all people, was his opponent.
This year’s token Scot, Stephen Gallagher, a captain’s pick after his near miss in China, had only a single go in company with Ian Poulter on Friday when they played pretty poorly and was left to be merely a cheer-leader yesterday. Still it must have been nice to ride around with the captains in the buggy.
The commentary was the usual mixture of repetition and banality, only rarely laced with originality. From first light on Friday – “the crowds started gathering long before the course opened at 6 a.m.” was one trotted-out fact as was the observation from most of the commentators in turn that “it is unbelievable just how many people are here – 45,000. Over three days counting the people working on all the sideshows, there’ll be more than 170,000!”
They could have worked that out by counting how many tickets they had sold. It was also “unbelievable just how nice the weather has been” – ask Phil Mickelson what he thought when he donned the mittens to play the first few holes on Friday.
Now in the Scottish independence election, 2,001,926 people voted No against 1,617,989 (Including A B Murray, Esq, born Glasgow, where only 75% of the electorate voted but 53% were on the Yes side. Said A B Murray will play his first final since winning Wimbledon last year in the next hour against Tommy Robredo. His disappointment doesn’t seem to have affected his play – well maybe in a positive way.
Had 191,969 voted Yes rather than No, the result would have been reversed. So if all the people at Gleneages were No voters, true there will be plenty of multiple attendees and more than a few non-Scots, the result would have been closer. And if all the non-runners in Glasgow and Dundee (78%, turn-out; a big 57% Yes) had been encouraged to vote, Mr Salmond would have been proud to serve his countrymen rather than go out on the Blair gravy-train.
Yesterday was a big day in Yarmouth. While the Western meeting was happening far away to the North-West, Yarmouth staged its last meeting until next June as the track will be given a surface-lift. But the East Coast town had a fair bit to do with the Cambridgeshire card with both Andrea Atzeni and Louis Steward having connections with the resort.
As my mate Roger told me too late to do anything about it last night: “Richard <owner of the Continent café in the town centre – good healthy food – and father of Signor Atzeni’s girlfriend> asked me to find out the price of Bronze Angel < ridden by Louis, son of Carl, proprietor of the best amusement arcade in the town > but I forgot all about it!”
Silly Roger, but there was a real civic pride in that success and also, obliquely, that of Andrea on Elm Park as he sported the colours soon-to-be relinquished by Jamie Spencer, in the Royal Lodge. By the way, I’ve just looked and there’s another meeting at Newmarket next weekend; the Cesarewitch seven days later and Future Champions Day the following Friday, with the real Champions Day at Ascot the following afternoon.
Confused, you will be, as they used to say in the opening seconds of episodes of “Soap”. Thanks to Google, I’m reminded it ran for four years and if you were less than ten years of age in 1977 you probably won’t have a clue what I’m talking about.
There are elements of Soap in Gogglebox which returned to Channel Four’s screens on Friday. I can’t be bothered to explain the concept, but various viewers are viewed viewing certain programmes each week.
After re-watching the film Mrs Doubtfire in which the recently-deceased Robin Williams dresses in absurd drag so he can work in his family home as a nanny, such is his love for his children after marital problems, one family man among the panel of watches said without any obvious encouragement: “Peter Andre loves his children”. What more could I possibly say after that.