By Tony Stafford
Now I know why all those races get reduced to four-jump affairs due to the low sun at the end of winter afternoons. This morning I suffered my own hardship, but at the opposite end of the day. Yes the low sun, coming over the Olympic Park and just above the roof of the block of flats in between, really gets my goat. It will do repeatedly until May.
Now the word “really” is one that really gets my goat, really. Its overuse by broadcasters (note I didn’t say it’s, another Stafford goat-getter) makes me want to strike the utterer dead by dint of the old Daily Telegraph style book.
As a former migraine sufferer who once could start off a day-long bout just hearing the word “migraine”, I was always aware of the impending threat of direct sunlight on the eyes. But this is purgatory. If I were a jump jockey I’d be on to the editor telling him that I cannot supply – low sun.
But it’s the Sunday before Cheltenham. Who will you be fed up with first, if not already, Mullins, Walsh or dare one say it, the Queen Mum, sorry AP?
There have been a few funny slants of the enormity of the meeting for the bookies. It seems that if you shop around, you can have free bets throughout the week <see this post, Ed.>. Maybe they get your pin number. I have a convenient shop around the corner where I get my morning paper, that’s right the Sun <He’s a liar, Ed>, and they have one of those rip off cash machines.
Last Monday I needed a quick replenishment to pay for the Racing Post and morning sustenance (toasted sausage), and it was only three days later that I noticed the payment had been debited twice, along with the double charge.
I gently confronted the proprietor on Thursday and three days later (having spent a further £9 on four papers in there) I’ve still had no restitution. I warned him yesterday that he would lose my admittedly sparse, albeit regular custom, so after Cheltenham, I reckon I’ll be walking a good bit further to get the Post. Like my late lamented father before me, I know how to cut off my nose to spite my face.
One of the problems of getting older is that you assume everyone else knows what you are talking about, even if it concerns things from a bygone era. I was chatting to a good mate (younger than me!) the other day and he said he was at St Paddy’s Derby, while I’ll always cherish 1962 and Hethersett – brought down in the Derby, won the Voltigeur and St Leger -, but that’s 53 years ago!
People of an older generation might have known the origin of the name of one of my boss’s two-year-olds. A son of Cockney Rebel, we have called him Harry Champion, and even when you tell them he was the Cockney music hall star (what’s Music Hall, they ask?) who sung and wrote Any Old Iron and Boiled Beef and Carrots, the reaction is nil. And there won’t be many who recognise nose jobs for vengeance rather than cosmetic reasons either.
At Sandown yesterday, the sun which still bores into my eyes as I compose, brought out the crowds at the Esher venue. Big fields, good horses, the top jockeys and decent facilities will overcome any such frivolities as large admission prices. I bet these have been swamped by some of the other accepted charges for rival activities.
There’ll be plenty at Cheltenham all the week and for the first time in a few years, I’ll be there all four days, after as I revealed through gritted teeth after the clash of the Man U – Arsenal Cup tie and the Bedfordshire Racing Club Cheltenham preview meeting.
In recent years, there were similar jaunts to Yorkshire for one at Bridlington and another in Essex at Billericay, but they have gone the way of all flesh. When we sit down tomorrow at around Old Trafford kick-off time, I wonder should I dare opposing all the Mullins hotpots? Maybe I’ll look for each-way alternatives.
I must say, yesterday’s Imperial Cup really got my goat. Ebony Express looked a near certainty for a Catterick novice event back in January, even under a double penalty and carrying 12st4lb (not 12st5lb Mr Kennedy – why do journalists not check jockeys’ facts?). Yet he was allowed to start at 3-1 and was never in the race. My 5-4 in the morning looked embarrassing.
I was there to watch a similar disappointing run from the boss’s Notnowsam and came to the conclusion that he, as well as plenty of other penalised horses in the novice races, simply ran poorly. Ebony Express was running a good race next time in the Betfair at Newbury before falling two out, but the shrewd Dr Richard Newland fancied him a lot yesterday and that confidence was duly rewarded.
In the Notnowsam race, won by Buckwheat, there were even more alarming flops from Zaidiyn (Brian Ellison) and Konig Dax, a big-money buy for Donald McCain stable. If as many people expect Douvan wins Tuesday’s opener, Konig Dax’s owners, Paul and Clare Rooney, will be shaking their heads looking at their horse’s pre-Catterick form. He beat Douvan five lengths at level weights in a Saint-Malo hurdle race last summer.
Notnowsam will go to Uttoxeter on Saturday for a handicap hurdle with (we hope) a good chance and the same afternoon Cousin Khee runs at Lingfield. Like London buses, our string, we have no runner for weeks then two almost 180 miles apart the same day. Will Mr Tooth sanction a helicopter? Probably not.
If Cousin Khee’s sometime workmate Brother Brian wins the Pertemps Final this week, I’ll fancy our old boy a lot, but in truth news that he’s had a school over jumps again is music to my ears. Come on summer jumping and see you at Prestbury Park.