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Monday Musings: UK Racing Reels from Point Blank Jab

Every autumn, while the days are still long and temperatures warm, the messages start, writes Tony Stafford. Either as SMS’s or calls from the surgery’s land line. “Don’t forget your ‘flu jab. It’s free!”

Boots the chemist also makes regular calls to one and all to take advantage of the offer for much of the pre-winter period. From my surgery the urgency increases with time. Obviously they have so many units of the stuff they simply do not want to be left with any. After all, who’s going to bother taking precautions once you get past Christmas?

A few years ago I succumbed to the onslaught, much as regular (possibly annual, although seemingly constant) demands to have one’s type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, eyesight, weight, feet and God knows what checked punctuate life for over 65’s in the Britain of the 21st Century.

So I have the flu jab each year and, while it does not guarantee immunity, I have never had what goes for “proper” flu when you are stuck in bed for a week and end up with agony in the bones and joints. Then again I’d never had more than a cold in any of the previous six-and-a-bit decades before Mr Flu Jab entered my senior life.

Every racehorse in Great Britain has to be fully inoculated against Equine Influenza before it ever races and each year has to have a booster injection. Just as my insurance against the worst potential effects of flu is no guarantee of escape from infection, so horses’ immunity is also not inevitable.

When Wednesday’s news of Donald McCain’s stable’s having three confirmed cases of EI was revealed it shocked and stopped racing in its tracks. These were revealed by the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket after swabs on the three horses were taken by vet Alasdair Topp on McCain’s instigation as those three horses had been exhibiting “worrying signs”.

All McCain’s runners since the previous Monday were monitored. Immediately the BHA ordered that every stable that might have had a horse possibly coming into contact with one of the McCain animals at those racecourses should go into “lockdown”. The race was on to test every horse in what amounted to 174 stables, and equally to get the swabs to carry out the tests. Soon after, three more McCain horses, including one of three from the stable to have raced in the days immediately before the revelation, were discovered to have the virus.

Those veterinary practices that were quick off the mark apparently bought up all available swab supplies, leaving some stables to have to wait in limbo for days before being tested. The vets have been to the forefront in this procedure as racing underwent an initial week-long hiatus, one that could well be prolonged further after Sunday night’s news that four Simon Crisford stable inmates have tested positive.

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So, most worryingly, especially for the sport’s top practitioners, Newmarket is not clear. Crisford, while at the moment concentrating more with his runners at Meydan, did have a beaten odds-on shot (Sajanjl) at Newcastle last Tuesday but not on a day that McCain had a runner there. Crisford is in an interesting, nay privileged, position, hardly surprising in view of his long previous career as Sheikh Mohammed’s racing manager at Godolphin.

Overseas trainers are allowed runners only on the days of the Carnival in Dubai, but alone, apart from Charlie Appleby and Saeed Bin Suroor, Godolphin’s main trainers in the UK, Crisford can also run horses at non-Carnival fixtures there. He is operating a satellite yard in the Emirate, so counts as a local trainer.

It did not take long for opinion to question the need for such stringent action. Nigel Twiston-Davies vociferously echoed the thoughts of many stablemen who believe that as all these horses have been immunised, the fact that a few cases have been revealed is little different from the run of the mill situation in all stables where runny noses and temperatures are a daily fact of life.

One trainer, not affected by the lockdown, said that for weeks around the country marts talk has been of rampant flu in non-racing animals in the UK and Ireland while he had heard that one of France’s leading trotting yards has voluntarily closed itself down.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, and clearly the BHA had to be seen to be acting to contain such a contagious disease, the costs for owners will as ever be considerable. Apart from missed opportunities at the track – who says the Betfair Hurdle prizemoney will ever be collected? – the blood tests must be paid for by somebody. My contact reckons the vets are the only winners in this costly exercise.

It was timely that Luck on Sunday chose this week for his principal guest to be Michael Dickinson, 36 years after his unique and much-celebrated Famous Five Gold Cup when Bregawn led home Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House that March day in Cheltenham.

Dickinson seems hardly changed in his appearance since those days, but more than 30 years on from his departure to train in the US after his sacking as Robert Sangster’s trainer at Manton, he is uniquely placed to assess such problems as the present veterinary crisis.

Luck asked how equine flu is dealt with in the US, to which Dickinson said that the system of training at racetracks makes it easier to handle any problems. With each stable and trainer having his own barn, any infected horse and therefore trainer’s barn can be quickly closed down and put effectively into isolation.

Just as when international runners go over for events such as the Breeders’ Cup, they have to go onto the track for training after the main body of domestic horses are exercised, so any barns with horses showing signs of infection have to exercise at separate times.

Newmarket stables identified as being in lockdown are similarly being required to exercise their horses in the afternoons, until clear returns for all those horses are established. As anybody that’s ever spoken to a trainer will tell you, horses have to be exercised every day once they have been brought to racing fitness, for their own and stable staff’s welfare. Monday morning traditionally, after a quiet Sunday, was always the day when lads expected a fiery first few minutes before the weekend “fizz” was extinguished.

Much of the 40 minutes of Luck and Dickinson devolved into a thrust and counter-thrust of the Mad Genius berating the Boy Wonder on his love of dirt racing. Dickinson, contrarily, while conceding the Triple Crown is safe, reckons dirt racing’s time may be coming almost to a conclusion.

As the developer of the Tapeta racing surface, as he revealed the result of 53 different elements – “we had them all in boxes” – his championing of turf and synthetic over dirt is hardly unexpected. But he backed his point of view with compelling statistics of the level of fatalities in dirt racing.

He said that the biggest complaints about racing in the United States were ”medication, facilities and dirt”, while agreeing that when Da Hoss won his two Breeders’ Cup Mile races two years apart, he did race with both Lasix and Bute.

Luck called that hypocritical, but Dickinson would not be shamed saying, “Lasix moves a horse up four lengths. If we’d not allowed him to use it, we wouldn’t have won and you wouldn’t be interviewing me now”. The “four lengths” theory explains why Frank Stronach, boss of Gulfstream Park in Florida wrote a condition in the two multi-million dollar Pegasus races recently allowing 7lb for horses not using any medication. Aidan O’Brien took the option and was rewarded with a highly-lucrative second place from Magic Wand in the Turf race.

Dickinson armed himself with a number of quotes. In one a New York racing secretary said that if he writes a maiden race on dirt, he’ll get two entries. The same conditions for a maiden on turf would attract 18. The writing it seems is on that particular wall, but then the fact that turf tracks are susceptible to wear and tear is a constant downside for US racecourses that may race every day for weeks on end.

Dickinson also offered a quote from Aidan O’Brien, perhaps understandable after the shocking experience of Mendelssohn in last year’s Kentucky Derby: “Dirt racing has an aggression approaching the level of savagery.” Point taken! As for racing here, let’s hope enough of the swabs come back clean so that it can resume before too much more damage is done.

Stat of the Day, 1st February 2017

Tuesday's Result :

2.45 Wolverhampton : Oor Jock @ 4/1 BOG 2nd at 2/1 Held up towards rear, headway over 1f out, chased winner inside final furlong, kept on but held by 3 lengths.

Wednesday's pick goes in the...

7.00 Newcastle :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Palenville @ 3/1 BOG

Why?

This 4 yr old filly has been knocking on the door of late, finishing 2323 in her last four outings and has already won over this trip at a higher grade than today.

She was considered good enough as a 2yr old to contest the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Ascot in June 2015, before taking a lengthy layoff and a subsequent switch of yards to current handler Simon Crisford, who should be one of your go-to trainers on the All-Weather.

Fairly new to the training game. backing all of his A/W runners to date gives you 38 winners from 128 (20.9% SR) for level stakes profits of some 33.1pts at an ROI of 24.7% and these are excellent numbers from just blindly following a trainer. In fact, I could well draw stumps and call it a night having already justified the selection.

However, this is SotD and we always look for a more refined angle to our main stat, let's look at Simon's 128 A/W runners, shall we? And if we do, we quickly establish that...

  • handicappers are 16/65 (24.6%) for 32.pts (+50.6%)
  • those placed 3rd to 6th LTO are 15/43 (34.9%) for 51.4pts (+119.5%)
  • on Tapeta : 12/40 (30%) for 13.3pts (+33.2%)
  • over trips of 6f and shorter : 11/30 (36.7%) for 29.4pts (+98%)
  • and at today's 6f trip : 8/25 (32%) for 25.2pts (+100.8%)
  • whilst 4 yr olds are 5/22 (22.7%) for 11.6pts (+52.6%)

All of the above apply today and give more levels of reasoning to the pick...

...leaving us with...a 1pt win bet on Palenville @ 3/1 BOG which was available with Bet365 and BetVictor at 9.00pm on Tuesday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 7.00 Newcastle

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Stat of the Day, 9th January 2017

Saturday's Result :

2.05 Wincanton : Fox Appeal @ 9/2 BOG fell at 4/1 Close up when field came into view 6th, led narrowly when came into view again briefly 4 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

5.05 Wolverhampton

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

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Who?

Palenville @ 9/4 BOG

Why?

A quick look at the Trainer Snippets 2yr report on Geegeez Gold suggested to me that Simon Crisford's A/W runners were worth a second look, especially his handicappers and with a career record of 27 from 127 (21.3% SR) for level stakes profits of 29.6pts at an ROI of 23.3%, it's an excellent pointer.

Of those 127 runners...

  • handicappers are 15/60 (25%) for 27.4pts (+45.7%)
  • here at Wolverhampton, its 11/32 (34.4%) for 10.78pts (+33.7%)
  • 4 yr olds are 5/20 (25%) for 13.57pts (+67.8%)
  • and in Wolverhampton handicaps : 7/18 (38.9%) for 14.24pts (+79.1%)

Palenville comes here in decent if not quite sparkling form, having made the frame in each of her last three runs (232), the latest coming as a runner-up at Kempton 26 days ago when she probably needed the run after an absence of 133 days, she's entitled to come on for having had the run.

She also becomes of interest in her own right, because since 2013 here at Wolverhampton over 6 and 7 furlongs, 4 & 5 yr olds who finished second or third in each of their last two starts and have been rested for at least 11 days since they last ran, are 21 from 88 (23.9% SR) for 68.1pts (+77.4% ROI) with the following of relevance today...

  • handicappers are 18/74 (24.3%) for 66.2pts (+89.4%)
  • on Tapeta : 13/54 (24.1%) for 48.6pts (+89.9%)
  • over 7f : 16/50 (32%) for 61.5pts (+123%)
  • at class 5 : 9/32 (28.1%) for 21.5pts (+67.1%)

...leading to...a 1pt win bet on Palenville @ 9/4 BOG which was widely available at 8.50pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 5.05 Wolverhampton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Stat of the Day, 9th January 2017

Saturday's Result :

2.05 Wincanton : Fox Appeal @ 9/2 BOG fell at 4/1 Close up when field came into view 6th, led narrowly when came into view again briefly 4 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

5.05 Wolverhampton

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Palenville @ 9/4 BOG

Why?

A quick look at the Trainer Snippets 2yr report on Geegeez Gold suggested to me that Simon Crisford's A/W runners were worth a second look, especially his handicappers and with a career record of 27 from 127 (21.3% SR) for level stakes profits of 29.6pts at an ROI of 23.3%, it's an excellent pointer.

Of those 127 runners...

  • handicappers are 15/60 (25%) for 27.4pts (+45.7%)
  • here at Wolverhampton, its 11/32 (34.4%) for 10.78pts (+33.7%)
  • 4 yr olds are 5/20 (25%) for 13.57pts (+67.8%)
  • and in Wolverhampton handicaps : 7/18 (38.9%) for 14.24pts (+79.1%)

Palenville comes here in decent if not quite sparkling form, having made the frame in each of her last three runs (232), the latest coming as a runner-up at Kempton 26 days ago when she probably needed the run after an absence of 133 days, she's entitled to come on for having had the run.

She also becomes of interest in her own right, because since 2013 here at Wolverhampton over 6 and 7 furlongs, 4 & 5 yr olds who finished second or third in each of their last two starts and have been rested for at least 11 days since they last ran, are 21 from 88 (23.9% SR) for 68.1pts (+77.4% ROI) with the following of relevance today...

  • handicappers are 18/74 (24.3%) for 66.2pts (+89.4%)
  • on Tapeta : 13/54 (24.1%) for 48.6pts (+89.9%)
  • over 7f : 16/50 (32%) for 61.5pts (+123%)
  • at class 5 : 9/32 (28.1%) for 21.5pts (+67.1%)

...leading to...a 1pt win bet on Palenville @ 9/4 BOG which was widely available at 8.50pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 5.05 Wolverhampton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Crisford to Claim International Honours

Still reeling from the news of Postponed missing the King George VI, it’s fair to say that the field of seven that remain lack a true ‘A-lister’, giving the race a competitive look, rather than that of a potential classic.

It’s surprising that the omission of one horse can cause such a mood change, but the event is now pretty much a repeat of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, with a decent French raider thrown in for good measure. My money will be on Erupt, who appears at least, to have the potential of becoming a serious Group 1 performer. His Arc fifth place finish is undoubtedly the strongest form. I expect Highland Reel to get the better of Dartmouth in the race for second spot, though both are surely a fair bit shy of top-class.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes remains the feature race on Saturday’s card. Nevertheless, it’s the Gigaset International Stakes that is sure to attract the most attention from a betting prospective. This latest event in the Heritage Handicap series is worth over £93,000 to the winner, and has attracted a field of 26. Ultra-competitive as ever, several ‘old favourites’ take up the challenge, including last year’s winner and runner-up; Heaven’s Guest and Balty Boys.

This year’s renewal is set to be run on very different ground from 12 months ago, and is currently described as good to firm. Heaven’s Guest appears to operate just as well on a quicker surface, as shown when a close second on fast ground in Newmarket’s Bunbury Cup a few weeks back. A stiff seven furlongs certainly suits Richard Fahey’s fella, and though he only just held on for victory last year, he had been in front plenty long enough on that occasion. Adam McNamara takes a valuable 5lb off, and has been aboard on three of the last five starts.

Balty Boys was cutting him down fast 12 months ago, though may find things happening a little quick for him this time around. He’s proven over further, and although he’s handicapped to reverse form with Heaven’s Guest, I’d be surprised if that actually happens. He’s a classy sort, and I expect him to be charging home late on, probably a little too late.

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Having covered last year’s front two, the stats suggest that the winner is more likely to be a younger horse, with four and five-year-olds dominant in recent years. Indeed, four-year-olds have won seven of the last ten renewals. Experience of both large handicaps and of running at Ascot, have also proved a positive for those looking to win this race. The last 10 winners had all run at the track.

It should come as no surprise in such a competitive race, with so many contenders, to see that favourites have a very poor record. A third place finish is the best that the last ten favourites could manage, with last year’s favourite not even making it out of the stalls. In fairness, Speculative Bid did eventually exit the stalls, though minus a jockey.

This year’s curse looks set to hang over Suzi’s Connoisseur, who currently heads the market at 7/1. The five-year-old gelding is trained by Stuart Williams for Qatar Racing, and was fifth in the race 12 months ago. He’s not short of speed, but has been known to wander somewhat under pressure late in his races. I fancy he’ll do well to see out this trip, in this company. It would be no surprise to see him go close, only to be chinned late on by stronger stayers.

I was on Flash Fire when he won the Victoria Cup at Ascot in May. Godolphin’s four-year-old then ran a stinker in the Wokingham, on ground too soft and over a trip too short. He bounced back to some kind of form when fifth in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket. He tops the weights, and that’s a tough ask in a race of this nature. Though a course and distance winner, I’d be surprised if he can win tomorrow.

Marco Botti’s Fanciful Angel is a classy sort, and is the mount of Frankie Dettori. The four-year-old spent the winter in Meydan, and performed well. He was a decent three-year-old, finishing second in the German 2000 Guineas (Frankie rode him on that occasion). He ran no sort of race at Epsom last time, when far too keen in a Group 3. He also has plenty of weight on his back, and that has to be a worry, as would be the lack of experience in large field handicaps.

Bossy Guest is another that certainly has the ability to go well, but whether he has the aptitude is a totally different matter. He all but dropped himself out last time at Newmarket, before rallying late on. His handicap peaked at 114 and is now down to 104. He ran pretty well in the Royal Hunt Cup two starts back, and is reunited with Silvestre De Sousa. You couldn’t be confident that he’ll run well, yet wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

Mutawathea has run two huge races in valuable handicaps already this season. He was a close second to Flash Fire at Ascot in the Victoria Cup, and ran a belter to finish third in the Bunbury Cup. Simon Crisford hands the mount to 7lb claimer George Wood. This is a tough gig for such an inexperienced young jockey, though he looked a stylish rider on Buckstay in the Bunbury Cup. Tactics will be interesting, as the horse was probably ridden a little too positively last time. He has to be on the short-list, on what he’s done so far during this campaign.

Challenging for favouritism is the four-year-old Royal Hunt Cup runner-up Librisa Breeze. He travelled powerfully that day, and looked the winner a furlong out. That came at a mile, on soft ground, and he’s yet to run over a shorter trip in eight career starts. His trainer, Dean Ivory, did say in the week that the gelding would miss the race should the ground stay on the firm side.

Niall Moran trains Dont Bother Me in Ireland, and he was last seen running well in a Group 3 at Leopardstown. Ahead of Gordon Lord Byron that day in a six runner affair, this is clearly very different, nevertheless, he is more than familiar with this event having finished second in the 2014 renewal when handled by Marco Botti. He’s back on the same handicap mark, and although vulnerable to more progressive types, his odds of 20/1 appear more than reasonable.

As hard as I’ve tried to find a four-year-old to uphold recent trends, I’ve come-up short. It’s a five-year-old for me that has outstanding claims, along with two experienced six-year-olds. Mutawathea has been knocking on the door this summer, and I fancy he’ll land the big prize on this occasion. Heaven’s Guest and Don’t Bother Me look sure to run well. I’ll take the latter to be finish powerfully for place money at 20/1.

Sunday Supplement: Top C’s at Newmarket’s July Meeting

Top C: Crisford a man to follow

Top C: Crisford a man to follow

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Putting aside oft-declared irritation at the much-discussed fixture log-jam this weekend, I chose Newmarket above Ascot and York and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. There’s usually a diversion whenever I go racing on a Saturday, but with the footballers restricted to the initial stage of their pre-season preparations, it was just the First Test to worry about.

Despite the lack of information, certainly going up to lunchtime in Cardiff, the fourth day of the Ashes proved even more emphatically in England’s favour than the first three and when the track helpfully announced Australia at 122-5 or thereabouts at around 2.30 p.m., we were left to concentrate on the live action.

It started with a lovely result for Lady Cecil with the progressive three-year-old Western Reserve carrying the Abdullah colours to an all-the-way win in the opening handicap. Since taking out her licence after husband Sir Henry died two years ago, her quiet dignity has contributed greatly to the continued efficiency at Warren Place.

Reduced numbers at the stable were inevitable, but after 26 wins from 183 domestic starts in the latter half of 2013 and 19 from 149 last year, the seven victories from 51 runners this time is more than respectable.

After the race, Jane was talking about all-weather for this dual Chelmsford winner, typically realistic rather than talking up a jump in class. Whatever the final judgment on the post-Henry days, she will be able to look back with pride on her caretaker-ship and point to three Group 1 wins for Frankel’s brother Noble Mission last year after many had branded the colt as a thinker.

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Later on the card another trainer with, like Lady C, a wealth of industry experience behind him, but only six months into a training career, was also among the winners. Simon Crisford, now in his early 50’s, and with many years as Godolphin’s racing manager behind him, produced First Selection to win the high-grade nursery over five furlongs.

It was a close-run thing, but for Crisford watchers, it brought a tenth success from just 27 runners in this first season. First Selection, a 42,000gns breeze-up buy, won his first two starts before running unplaced at Royal Ascot. Here he was always close to the action and held on well in the process defying the breeding pundits who will tell you that Diktat’s produce need soft ground.

When I walked across the track mid-afternoon it was like a road – no wonder we got a two-year-old track record earlier in the meeting – but First Selection coped with conditions in the manner of a battle-hardened mature horse.

With Sheikh Mohammed apparently in the process of acquiring Warren Place, from where he had many of his best pre-Godolphin achievements, not least the fillies’ Triple Crown with Oh So Sharp before his split with Henry Cecil, speculation about who will train from there is sure to be intense.

A certain S Crisford’s name was gently whispered into my ear as a possibility. There are sillier options.

The July Cup does not always go to the champion sprinter of its year but Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Muhaarar, convincing winner of Royal Ascot’s inaugural Commonwealth Cup, made a bold statement for the three-year-olds with a last-gasp foiling of Tropics.

Muhaarar is bred for the job as a son of Oasis Dream, one of the best active Abdullah stallions while Juddmonte – impatiently no doubt - await the era of Frankel and Kingman progeny to arrive on the track. He will go to France next to try six and a half furlongs in the Maurice de Gheest and Charlie Hills believes seven furlongs is within his capabilities.

There are a number of truly great handicaps during the season and York’s John Smith’s Cup, still irrevocably the Magnet Cup in my eyes, is one of the most coveted.

There was a happy 2015 success in the race for one of the smaller, but undoubtedly over-achieving yards in Rod Millman’s West Country establishment, when Master Carpenter saw off a swarm of challengers.

It was a decade ago that Sergeant Cecil, as I seem to remember named in honour of the yet-to-be-honoured Sir Henry, started his and Rod’s surge to fame with wins in the Northumberland Plate and the Ebor. Within a year these had been supplemented by three staying Group 2’s and the Group 1 Prix du Cadran.

Millman has done it the wrong way round with four-year-old Master Carpenter, who already has a French Group 3, last season’s Prix Daphnis to his credit. Who’s to say that his trainer, only whose fifth 2015 winner this was, cannot embark on a similar upward surge with his new star?

Talking of stars, there was plenty of optimism before Ballydoyle took her place in the fillies’ maiden line-up yesterday and the emphatic way she dealt with Nemoralia in the closing stages, suggests the Moyglare may not be beyond her. Joseph O’Brien, who seems to have grown taller again, will now have a few weeks at least to get back temporarily in the number one slot while Ryan Moore awaits news of his neck injuries. Generally we sit safe in the stands with a tinge of irritation at stalls delays, but if it were not needed, the image of horses rearing and plunging in the metal structure in the manner of Ryan’s incident, indicates the bravery of these exceptional athletes.

On the wider sporting front, it seems a golf Grand Slam is almost inevitable. I turned over briefly from Cordon on BBC4 – still liking it – to the US golf and saw that Jordan Spieth, still only 21, was one behind the leader on minus 12. When I awoke, I saw that he’d ended round three of the Travellers on minus 17, after a career-best round of 61. With the Masters and US Open in the bag and Rory McIlroy out of the way, the stage is set.

In that light, he’d be chasing the example of fellow American Serena Williams, who duly got her year slam in the women’s singles yesterday. The stage today is set for an eighth Roger Federer title, but with Novak Djokovic in the way, he’ll need to be at his elegant best.

My only regret is that with the first test already tucked away, we’ll have to wait for Lord’s on Thursday for the next episode of England’s young guns against Australia’s dad’s army. Could they not abandon Monday to Wednesday?

Sunday Supplement: Highway Robbery?

Dick Turpin, highway robber

Dick Turpin, highway robber

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

A long-planned Newmarket trip to get a first look of the boss’s new Dick Turpin colt on the Bury Hill canter in Newmarket yesterday morning pretty much decided my whereabouts for the rest of the day.

I had settled on missing Cheltenham overnight, and after what was a highly-successful morning, I didn’t even rush back to get visual confirmation of Peace and Co’s continuing stranglehold of the Triumph Hurdle picture – listening to the commentary instead on the phone as I neared the Olympic stadium.

It is hard to imagine that Messrs Henderson and the flawless Geraghty will not get it right on the day and having got to the telly in time for the next, I also believe that Many Clouds has what it takes to win the Gold Cup after his workmanlike win over a large chunk of the big-race course. It would be great for Oliver Sherwood to get back in the real big time, although winning the Hennessy with the horse wasn’t a bad start.

But before getting on to the bulk of what has tickled my interest for the past week, I’d like to make a brief return to the Newmarket gallops. The as-yet-unnamed Dick Turpin-Lawyers Choice Ray Tooth homebred is now with Simon Crisford, who is starting out as a trainer after 25 years as racing manager to Godolphin.

He has taken a nice yard at the bottom of Clive Brittain’s Carlburg stables and has assembled a team which when they all come in, will be around 40. As he called the sires of the 10 or so youngsters (and one older lead horse) to match the attractive and classy-looking individuals as they left the yard, you could see that, like John Ferguson concentrating on the other game, Simon is starting from a pretty enviable position.

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Dubawi and Shamardal are names that pepper the lists of leading trainers with Maktoum-owned horses, and they were among the ten, as were two Kodiac colts, one which had been bought for 200,000gns last autumn. Our boy, unsold at 15,000gns, looks like he might make that statistic seem silly. Certainly the initial steps are promising, but there’s a long way to go. At least, the dreaded words “backward” or “needs time” were never mentioned.

So to come to main event of the past week, initiated last Sunday by a rare home League defeat of Manchester City by Arsenal, something which beforehand, all the experts suggested would not happen. You always get the feeling that Arsenal are only one defeat from oblivion; their manager always in line for being a laughing stock.

They did lose to Southampton, but that was one defeat in six, with five wins, better than any other team lining up for the FA Cup Fourth Round. Also that City success made it ten wins in 13, also more wins than anyone else in the same period.

Until yesterday, I would have told anyone that Jose Mourinho had brainwashed the world of football. In midweek Chelsea played Liverpool in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. At least one Talksport presenter – as one-eyed towards Chelsea even as me in another London direction  – suggested they would have been unlucky to go back to Liverpool for the second leg with a deficit. Liverpool had 19 shots, Chelsea two with only the opening penalty on target.

This was a sterile “park the bus” performance with the full first team. Without Courtois, their remarkable goalkeeper, it could have been four or five, but in truth they were virtually overrun.

It would have been hard for Mourinho to explain away yesterday’s debacle against Bradford from two goals up to losing 4-2 on a weekend when only one of the seven odds on chances that have so far taken the field – Arsenal are the eighth this afternoon at Brighton –managed to win.

That was Derby, at home to lowly Chesterfield and they were still only 2-0 winners at 4-7. In price and order of embarrassment, the biggest failures after Chelsea were Manchester United (2-9) who drew 0-0 with Cambridge United of League Two (in effect four), and Manchester City (1-3), 2-0 home losers again, this time to Middlesbrough.

That took in three of the Premier League – best in the world? – top four and Southampton (third) and Tottenham (sixth) both suffered home defeats against Crystal Palace and Leicester respectively, in each case after scoring first. The final odds on failures were Liverpool (1-3) unable to manage a goal when drawing at home to Bolton.

The present FA Cup market makes interesting reading, not least because Manchester United, after a performance of rare ineptitude are actually favourites just ahead of Arsenal and Liverpool with West Ham fourth best. I bet in all the history of the great competition there was never a precedent where with three-quarters of the fourth round completed, none of the first four in the betting had yet qualified for the next stage.

My only gripe is that because Sky do not have the FA Cup, they barely mention it beforehand, during and even afterwards, instead dutifully and routinely trotting out highlights from the Championship and Leagues One and Two. I don’t have BT Sport so was unable to see the Liverpool game. Bet there was loads of goal-line action!

All it needs now is for Brighton to beat Arsenal, as they might, and none of the temporary criticism of the normally sacrosanct top clubs will be remembered for more than a day as some proper Arsene baiting – the most recent, so fair game they’d say – will take over.

What this weekend told me is that (1) the players and managers that are routinely lauded in the media do not deserve either the remuneration or acclaim they ordinarily receive. To watch a man on £280,000 a week as Falcao is being paid, not have the application to do anything other than go through the motions and still be accorded respect in most places, is simply shocking in the true sense of that word.

Last week we heard that Manchester United is the second richest club in the world thanks to their obscene kit deal. With Falcao – who they do not even own – Rooney and van Persie, they pay out around £40 million per year.  The biggest crime is that almost nobody in the media thinks there is anything wrong with that fact.

 

 

 

Deauville, not Goodwood, beckons for Dawn Approach

Intello - next to take on Dawn Approach

Intello - next to take on Dawn Approach

The prospects of Toronado having another bash at beating Dawn Approach in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood receded after it was announced that the more likely target for Jim Bolger’s recent Royal Ascot winner was the Prix Jacques le Marois in France. Read more

Dawn Approach back at Ascot

Dawn Approach - St James Palace favourite

Dawn Approach - St James Palace favourite

When hot favourite Dawn Approach finished last in the Derby the word was that he would be given a decent rest and then brought back later in the season. How quickly things can change. Read more

What happened to Dawn Approach?

Dawn Approach (r) trails in last

Dawn Approach (r) trails in last

What exactly did happen to Dawn Approach in Saturday’s Derby? You can take your pick from two principal theories: that he was outdone by a tactical Ballydoyle master plan that worked to perfection, or that something happened to him in the stalls that got under the skin (not literally) a normally very laid back horse. Read more

Saeed bin Suroor takes temporary charge at Moulton Paddocks

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Drugs cheat Al Zarooni warned off for eight years

Mahmood Al  Zarooni in the spotlight

Mahmood Al Zarooni in the spotlight

The British Horseracing Authority has acted with commendable speed in dealing with Mahmood Al Zarooni in warning him off for eight years after he was found to have administered anabolic steroids to 11 horses in his Moulton Paddock stables. Read more

Farhh still has a long way to go

Farhh v Frankel in Sussex Stakes

There was good news for those who would like to see the world’s top rated horse, Frankel, actually have to race, with the news that Farhh is to be added to field for the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood at a cost of £19,500. Read more

Top week at Ascot shows Godolphin back in tune

Gold Cup success puts Godolphin on top

After a quiet early half of the flat racing season, in which there was more talk about riders than horses, Royal Ascot showed that the Godolphin team are far from a spent force. They finished the week as leading owners, earning £12,000 more than Khalid Abdullah did with his wins from Frankel and Sea Moon. Read more