A strange day yesterday, dear reader, with more than a whiff of skulduggery in the air at Southwell.
First, there was the remarkable case of decent bumper horse, Shiwawa, making his all weather debut in a very moderate 1m4f maiden. Strongly backed all day (including by yours truly), the horse suddenly drifted from evens to 2/1 in the five minutes before the off.
Never going a beat off a sedentary gallop, the animal was pulled up five furlongs before the finish. The vet found the horse to be distressed.
Please can someone tell me why this horse ran?? It MUST have been clear by the way he went to post (i.e. in the immediate period prior to the racing, when he drifted like the proverbial barge) that he was not right.
According to the Sporting Life, there were no recorded bets on the winner. And yet Shiwawa was the subject of the following wagers: £2400-£2000 £600-£500 £900-£600 £700-£400.
Erm, how can this be?
I am not one for conspiracy theories in general, and I may be talking through my wallet here. But when a horse is beaten in a photo, or even is done a couple of lengths having found little, then fair enough.
In this race, there were three 100/1 shots, all of whom were still going ok at the point when Shiwawa was pulled up. That is NOT down to failing to act on the surface, or resenting the kickback, or anything other than the horse was knackered or nobbled or otherwise unfit to race.
Poor, poor show I say. Poor show indeed.
Another of my choices, Me Fein, demonstrated similar hobo tendencies, drifting friendlessly from 7/1 to 26/1 on betfair. Having noted that the owner is a certain Curley Leisure (as in Barney Curley, renowned crook / punter), my fate on this one was also sealed prior to the off.
My point in all this? It's just not on when a horse is not off. Put another way, unless a horse is trying he shouldn't be allowed to run. If a horse is ill or injured, he obviously shouldn't be allowed to run. When a horse has proven form over course and distance, like Me Fein did (a winner over a furlong less on his only previous run here), it is not ok for him to triple in price and finish tailed off.
No wonder people think the sport is crooked. It's because we still allow crooks to own horses. And it's because there is insufficient investigation of events such as Shiwawa yesterday.
Personally, I think the sport is at least 99% straight. That is to say that less than one horse in every hundred is deliberately 'not trying'. Again, personally, I think that is probably a permissable percentage of wrong-doing.
However, when cases as blatant as the two at Southwell yesterday manifest themselves, it is incumbent on the stewards and the wider authorities to be seen to act. By this, I don't mean a draconian punishment frenzy but, rather, people being asked to explain themselves a tad beyond the currently acceptable, "he didn't act on the surface" or whatever.
When I learn from the vet at the starting stalls why he allowed Shiwawa to run I will be happier that the sport is doing what it can to be transparent when things go awry.
Elsewhere yesterday, huge credit to Andrea Atzeni, a young man (note, not woman!) making a name for himself and one who looks worthy of following this winter. His ride on Kinigi was as canny as it was costly for me. I'd laid the fecking beast again and, for the second race running, she prevailed by a short head!
Kinigi is one of those animals that might not be terribly capable, but tries their heart out, and battles back when challenged. They're great horses to have on your side, but not so good for laying purposes. I'll not oppose her (lightly) a third time...
As for the boy Atzeni, I'll try to find a little more about him, and let you know. Very impressive ride yesterday. I might adopt him as my jock to follow this AW campaign.
Over the jumps, I had a little more luck, with Divali Princess winning - albeit at odds on. Andrew Turnell did indeed strike in the opening race at Lingfield, as suggested.
Alas for some TTS punters (though not for others, judged by the mailbag), the odds shows of 16/1 14/1 16/1 meant that traditionalists (me included) didn't back Scandal, whereas those using bots or betting in the morning before work, mostly did.
Whilst my each way 'lock', Rebeccas Choice, did what each way 'locks' do (and finished fourth, of course!), over at Sedgefield there was more cheer, with Stormy Beech gaining a hard earned and deserved 8/1 victory in the handicap chase.
Last word on yesterday goes to Chief Dan George. On his chasing debut, over a trip plenty short enough, he ran a very creditable race in third. He was outpaced when they turned in, and then stayed on again. I doubt he'll be as good over fences (or hurdles) as he was two years ago, but there will still be 3m chases to be won with this beastie, and he's destined to become a favourite in the North.
Nothing much to tempt me today. A couple of profile pointers for you though:
Manbow, 5/1 favourite in the Racing Post (but available around double those odds), has a shocking record in fields of ten or more. His form figures read
I don't think I'll be too keen to back him win or place.... a lay today.
One more worthy of note is Black Hills. Winner of the race last year, won or placed 7 from 10 in Class 3 races, and form on right handed track with 10 or fewer runners: 3212211P (the P coming on ground far softer than he'd want).
It's a warm race, but he has a fair chance of doubling up.
Finally, a further reminder about next Monday. As some of you smart cookies will have worked out by the link below every post (!!), I will be launching a laying service from that date.
The service comes with three different levels, depending on your appetite for risk. And the qualifiers will be posted daily to a members' only website.
I'll be back with more details tomorrow. In the meantime, please refrain from signing up for now, as there's nothing to see / receive at this stage.