"And in a packed show tonight", dear reader, as the immortal Two Ronnies used to say...
we'll be waltzing through a veritable whirligig of racing related reaction, flying from the latest on the Racing Post comedy of errors; to the early survey results; through a look at the weekend racing; and, it being Thursday, landing on a small makeshift airstrip that we'll call Thursday Fun.
So belt up, sit tight, eyes down, and look in, 'coz here we go...
First up, thanks a million to those 271 and counting of you who have taken the time and trouble to share your thoughts on how you'd like see Geegeez look in the New Year. I am always delighted with how charitable you are with your time, and with your candour in what you like and don't like (which, also very pleasantly surprising, is 99% clean and constructive!!).
I will share the results with you in a few days, and rest assured that much of what you asked for is in line with what I am planning for next year, so it could be good!
If you've not yet taken a look at my little questionnaire, there's still time: I won't correlate the data until the weekend, so feel free to whizz over after you've finished reading this. I'll put the link at the bottom of the post for those who'd like to share some thoughts on what should be on this site in 2009...
Next up, the latest ructions from the Racing Post .com debacle. If you've been to the site in the last couple of days, you will doubtless have seen this message:
The problems obviously go much deeper than just the login, but this is clearly becoming something of a major embarrassment to RP. Other serious concerns which will likely never be addressed include the fact that the site is, as one facebook group member said, the only one of about 150 million on the web that requires him to update his browser. Quite simply, this is preposterous arrogance on the part of the Racing Post, and the person who made that decision alone should be strung up for the damage he / she has done to the RP's reputation and its online readership.
I'm sure there will be much more to say about this subject over the coming days and weeks, but there is little time today for anything further.
I'm posting a little later today as I've just come back from lunch with my good mate and fellow racing system producer, Matt Watson. Many of you will know Matt from his excellent Favourites Phenomenon system, an ad for which appears on the right of the screen (I just love the way that horse never stops running - wish I could say the same for some of mine!).
He's always an interesting guy to chat to, and we were chewing the fat over a few things that might happen next year. It's too early to reveal more at this stage (largely because we didn't get as far as having anything more to reveal!), but watch this space for more in due course.
Now, as a number of you have quite rightly pointed out in the survey, I am having difficulty picking my nose at the moment, let alone a winner; and my nose is bigger than most Cheltenham fields!
No matter, for bloodied but unbowed (if a little chastened), I return to the trends fray, knowing that it will soon enough be my time again...
The weekend sees an excellent card at Sandown, weather permitting, with the featured Tingle Creek Chase being ably supported by both the Henry VIII Novices Chase, and a Listed Handicap Hurdle.
Much to sink the old dentures into then, so let's crack on:
In the Novices Chase, all of the last ten winners were in the first two in the betting. Assuming that stat continues through Saturday, I have now given myself a 50/50 chance of finding a winner! ;0)
Alas, thereafter it gets trickier. First, at this stage the declarations are not known (they won't be finalised until tomorrow morning), so I need to project the market somewhat.
Second, the remaining trends are a little patchy, with horses winning from age 4 to 7 (thus matching the age range of the entire field for Saturday), and from all over the weights bracket.
Five of the last nine renewals were won by either Paul Nicholls or Henrietta Knight. Hen doesn't have a runner this time, but Nicholls does: in fact he has two entered. There's not much between them on the ratings, but course and distance winner Free World might just have the most improvement, and has the same connections as Kauto Star and Master Minded.
Given that 4yo's have won the last two runnings and Free World is also a continental bred precocious type, he's the one for me (though it's doubtful whether that will put much fat on the Christmas goose).
The Tingle Creek is a top drawer speed race for established chasers, and has been won by brilliant animals in the last decade: thrice by the great Flagship Uberalles, twice by the very great Moscow Flyer, and twice by the great Kauto Star. Filling in the blanks in the last decade were top notchers Cenkos and Direct Route.
Only last year's winner, Twist Magic, has failed - so far - to set the world alight. But he is still young (just six years old) and retains a bright future. Indeed, he runs in the race again on Saturday.
To this year's race, and Paul Nicholls - winner of four of the last six renewals, and runner up in the other two (when Moscow Flyer saw off Azertyuiop both times) - has the apparent ace card in Master Minded. Simply jaw-droppingly, stunningly, head scratchingly, belief beggaringly, gast flabberingly, awesome at Cheltenham in March, if that version of the animal shows up it's all over.
However, there was another brilliant performance at the same venue in March, and that was from Tidal Bay. This horse has won seven of his last eight races, and not been out of the first two in any of his 15 races to date.
From the same stable as Direct Route (before trainer Howard Johnson had the equine proceeds of the Wylie millions to work with), I expect a mammoth run from this fella.
In fact, I can't see much - if anything - else getting into contention. It's rarely the case that ostensible two horse races pan out that way, but when they do - like Denman vs Kauto Star last season in the Cheltenham Gold Cup - they are truly races to savour.
Master Minded went off at 8/13 on his debut last season and unshipped his rider (a certain Sam Thomas the only time he rode the horse - was the owner really wrong to jock him off?!).
He'll need to be at the top of his game to beat Tidal Bay tomorrow though and, given the proven race fitness of the latter, and the prices, I'm banking on Tidal Mastering and keeping Minded at Bay (there's a good play on words in there somewhere, but I'm buggered if I could find it!)
As a footnote, Mahogany Blaze is in one of my Ten To Follow lists, so I'll be looking out for a decent run from that chap, though he has it all to do to get competitive with the top two in the betting.
In the 3.05, nothing carrying more than 11 stone has won in the last ten years. In fact, with the exception of Verasi, who lugged 10-13, nothing has carried more than 10-06 to victory in the last decade.
Remarkably, this 12 horse field is whittled down to four on the back of that stat, which is not to say that the winner doesn't reside in the other eight!
However, let's assume the gold medallist is in this quartet for now. Of the four, the one who stands out for me is Dr Newland's tough as braising steak Hernando Royal. The Good Doctor won the race two years ago with Overstrand, and - off virtual bottom weight (jockey Ryan Flint claims a good value seven pounds) - he looks to have an outstanding chance of making it another year for the lightweights.
The one niggle in the back of my mind is that he's actually never won a race over hurdles, though second places behind both Pierrot Lunaire and American Trilogy read well enough in the context of this contest.
A quick line on the Laying System if I may. Progress continues to be steady, as expected, and I'm delighted that so many of you have decided to try it (although not overly surprised, given there's no cost involved!).
I will be closing membership down on Saturday morning, and not re-opening until some time in the New Year, so if you want to get in, your time is almost up.
I will remind you one more time tomorrow, but - seriously - when I shut the door, that's it. And I can't promise not to gloat about results thereafter... 😉
Finally, its Thursday, so it must be Thursday Fun day...
In honour of my legendary (ahem) pool playing prowess, here is what must be the best pool shot ever (or at least the most contrived - it gives some of my puns a headstart in the contrivance stakes!)
Tres bon, as our Canadian freres might say...
Don't forget, if you've not filled out the survey yet - it'll only take five minutes, I promise - please use the link here to do so. Your time and trouble is very much appreciated.