Well, that’s it then: I won’t be supporting Ryanair on my flight from Dublin to Birmingham. Why? Well, thanks for asking. It isn’t because they have introduced a charge for choosing an odd numbered seat, or for checking in online from an iPad, using your own headphones or for wearing a heavy coat onboard . Of course, any of those are entirely possible (and some are probably likely) but the real reason is their Chairman , Michael O’Leary, also owns Gigginstown Stud and they seem to be having a change of heart over the Cheltenham Bumper; at least, according to their trainers.
They haven’t had a runner in the race for over ten years (could be forever, but I’m too lazy to go back to 1992). They’ve had some good horses but have said they don’t like the race; well this year there are rumours and comments that suggest they could have three runners – all in one year! It’s a bit like waiting for the next bus and then three come along at once. In the last few weeks Willie Mullins has indicated Stone Hard would be going, a fellow Tweeter assures me Valerian Bridge (also Mullins) will come out of hibernation and run and now, this week, Gordon Elliott, interviewed in the Weekender, has said that General Principle is going. I fondly hope that these trainers may be revealing their own biases and placing some not so subtle pressure on Gigginstown. If this is the case, then I hope Gigginstown bring the smack down for their impertinence which, in the perfect world, would mean blockading Willie Mullin’s stables and preventing any of his Bumper horses making it to Cheltenham.
I joke, of course, but the quality of horses Mullins, in particular, has is scary. I am all for free market principles but he really is dominant. Hats off to him; you only get these quality horses by proving yourself at the top level and he deserves everything he achieves. I don’t begrudge him and his owners anything but, I have to be honest, some of the excitement of Day One of Cheltenham has been lost this year because it’s difficult to see Mullins not having at least three winners and ,quite possibly, five. I keep looking at the Supreme Novice and, with the exception of L’Ami Serge, cannot see anything to trouble Douvan. It’s Un De Sceaux against the fences in the Arkle; if he stands up he wins. I’m not a The New One fan and Faugheen looks exceptional so the Champion Hurdle looks all set (I would love to see Jezki run well but his form this year has been disappointing) It looks like Annie Power in the Mares race and, even if she doesn’t make it to the race, Glen’s Melody looks plenty good enough and then all it would need is Don Poli to round it off in the four miler. Of course, if Cheltenham has taught us one thing it’s that what seems certain never happens.
I will be writing to Ber soon to officially notify her of the gift Kim and I are arranging after the birth of Lauren. We are going to send her to the 5 Star Heritage Hotel and Spa for an afternoon of pampering – it’s in Killenard which is only about ten minutes away.
Their brochure lists it as a Midweek Escape describing it as follows:
Escape into an oasis of calm. After treating & softening your muscles in The Heritage Spa Experience, your body will be ready for a full body polish to exfoliate your skin cells. This will prepare you for the target massage. your day is completed with a bespoke facial.
It got me thinking. Cheltenham is also a Midweek Escape. So how could that be best described? Perhaps, something like this:
Plunge into an atmosphere of decadence. After preparing your stomach and taste buds with a full English breakfast and three pints of Guinness in the local pub, you will be ready for the walk to the course and more drinking. This will prepare you for the battle with the enemy, the best racing possible and queuing at the ATM. Your day is completed with a visit to O’Neills, singing Fields of Athenry for the 22nd time and realising you have lost your keys at 2am.
I think the most amazing race I have seen for a very long time was See The World’s Bumper win at Wincanton. The horse, having his first run, was just sauntering along in the lead as he came around the final bend and then , for no apparent reason, hung badly to his left and came to a virtual standstill. By the time his jockey, Aidan Coleman, had got him going he was 15 lengths behind the leader and his race was over. Well, it certainly looked that way, but the horse finished with such purpose that he took the lead well inside the final furlong and won pulling up. If you haven’t seen it, take a look:
Just like Leicester coming from two down to beat Man Utd 5-3 and go fifth in the League, some things just seem too good to be true. There were 12 runners in the race; 7 had not run before. Of the five that had run, four had not merited any Timeform rating and, actually, ended up occupying the last four places in this race. The other horse who had run, Act Now, finished 3rd and was allotted a rating of 84 by Timeform ; this was 16 higher than her previous run. The horse who finished 2nd, Lincoln County, had not run. In the event Timeform gave a rating of 102 to See the World which meant a rating of 92 for Lincoln County. However, because of him almost stopping, Timeform increased See the World ‘real’ rating to 122; making him 30 pounds better than Lincoln County. The problem is that it’s a bit of a guess: did Act Now really run 16 pounds better? Should Lincoln County have a rating of 92? The only way you can really start deciding is when the horses race again; today Lincoln County was the first of these to reappear. Running on good/soft ground that, based on breeding, would suit him better than the heavy ground at Wincanton, he managed to finish 4th and achieve a Timeform rating of 70. This might mean something or nothing; horses very rarely run the same race in race out. However, if you don’t think he really deteriorated 22 pounds then perhaps 70 was a more realistic mark for his first run; if this was the case then Timeform should have See the World at nearer to 100. Personally, I was very impressed by See The World and think the answer’s somewhere in between but, if nothing else, it’s food for thought!
Finally, the other thing I have been a little surprised by today is the price drift on the Exchanges of both Au Quarts De Tour and Stone Hard. While most bookmakers still have Au Quarts De Tour as 8/1 favourite, he has drifted to 16/1 on the Betfair Exchange. Similarly, Stone Hard is around 14/1 in most books but is available at 20/1 on Betfair. This might not mean anything but these exchanges operate on pretty good intelligence and this is the first significant move in any of the favourites prices in many weeks. You should know, though, that they will be back to 8/1 and 14/1 by tomorrow morning just to prove that, even compared to gambling, writing and opining on blogs really is a mugs game.
And, finally, just to prove the point, take a look at the updated Horse by Horse comments; now with an added bonus feature: my view of the actual field