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Month: December 2013

Boxing Day selections

Horse Racing - King George VI Chase - Kempton Park So Christmas Day is nearly done and I’m ready for a joyful day’s racing after an unusually long break since the weekend. 10 points for identifying this superb King George winner in 1965

I’ll just pick out a few for tomorrow and I’m conscious that the weather is likely to play a part so betting will be sparse. Remarkably, Kempton is good to soft, soft in places but I’d like to see for myself what the going is really like.

  • 12.50 2m Hurdle (Class 2)Sgt Reckless could well dent the reputations of the two leading him in the betting.
  • 1.25 2m 4f Novices’ Chase (Class 3) I fancy Urbain de Sivola to turn over the favourite.
  • 2.00 3m Novices’ Chase (Feltham) (Class 1) One of my favourite races of the year but not the best field this time. It’s a re-run of Newbury and I can’t see Third Intention getting the better of Just A Par.
  • 2.35 2m Hurdle (Christmas Hurdle) (Class 1) It’s a match and I’m with My Tent Or Yours to get the better of The New One to install himself as favourite for (but not winner of) the Champion Hurdle.
  • 3.10 3m Chase (King George) (Class 1) Nine runners but what a race!! I’m opposing Cue Card and Dynaste so that leaves it to the Nicholls’ runners and on this occasion (but not for Cheltenham) I’m with Al Ferof because I think conditions will suit him better at Kempton.


  • 12.20 2m 2f Maiden Hurdle I’m looking forward to watching Clondaw Court become a serious player for the rest of the season but without a penny bet.
  • 1.20 2m Hurdle (Grade 2) The same applies for Anafilet – a penalty kick and before this race half the price of the next favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.
  • 2.55 2m 1f Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) Another showcase for WP with the unopposable Champagne Fever (currently 3/1 with the next 10/1 for the Arkle) presumably putting in a show, as on his last outing.

Wetherby (Good to Soft)

  • 1.45 3m 1f Chase (Class 1) (Rowland Meyrick) This is a way below average renewal and an easy Grade 3 chance for the deserving Tullamore Dew with Sydney Paget the threat.

What a day’s racing. Can’t wait!!

the joy of Strictly – didn’t even watch X Factor final!

The BBC has got it so right with this year’s Strictly so it’s no surprise that they’ve whupped The X Factor. The latter just didn’t have any serious opposition to Screwbo so there was no…X Factor about the programme. Sam Bailey is a decent singer but I had the view from the start that she was, for want of a better way of saying it, a bit hard. She has no chance of making a successful career from this year’s competition. By common consent this has to be the poorest X Factor ever. There were some strange tweets after the programme which suggest that there will be a completely new format next year – ITV having bought the programme for the next three years.

In contrast, our public service broadcaster has excelled with the best crew ever. So we have the first ever final with only female contestants. I think that’s right, based on both the skill of the celebrities and their progress. Patrick was great and got as far as he should have but it’s now down to the best dancers.

I’ll be at work when the final is on next Saturday and I expect that I will therefore find out the result before I watch the programme. My prediction:

1. Susanna (5/6)
2. Sophie (4/1)
3. Abbey (3/1)
4. Natalie (7/1)

I’ll have to see whether there is a tricast option!

By the way Ray Quinn is huge value at 2/1 for Dancing On Ice!



A quick post about an unusual topic for me. I understand that BBC is launching five new HD channels tomorrow (10 December) – BBC3, BBC4, BBC News HD, Cbeebies and CBBC. For Sky HD viewers like me 115 and 116 will carry the HD channels for BBC3 and BBC4 and BBC News HD will be on 570. It’s about time that BBC1 HD, BBC 2 HD, ITV HD and Channel4 HD occupy the 101-104 slots for HD viewers but I understand that there are outdated rules about carrying public service channels.

BBC4 is a superb channel which, with a very limited budget, frequently provides for viewers like me a superb antidote to soaps and formulaic programmes on the main channels which would have a better home on marginal free channels, e.g. police videos. One of the greatest benefits of digital TV is that there is an opportunity to appeal to niche viewers rather than worrying about the overnight viewing figures. I’m very happy looking forward to Strictly Come Dancing, Sherlock and Call The Midwife as really well produced entertainment and drama but frequently, midweek and tonight is an example, there is nothing on the main channels that catches my attention.

One of the best examples in the last couple of months was BBC4’s broadcast of Blackfish, an award winning and excoriating documentary about the appalling behaviour of Seaworld which has been covered widely on social media and has caused many people to rethink their view of captive orcas (killer whales) and generated a great deal of debate. I can’t see that this superb documentary would have had a free public outing on TV other than on BBC4, within their Storyville strand.

It makes me very annoyed that people who should know better, particularly within the BBC, should suggest that the focus should revert to the mainstream channels. It’s particularly surprising that this comes from those whose programmes have featured on the channel.

I think that spending my money on the BBC licence is one of the very best ways to get value for money. It’s notable that many of the digital channels rely for best viewing figures on the recycling of BBC content. Without it their content would be very lean.

Sky should be commended for commissioning new content with a big budget and I think that we can expect more of that following BT Sport’s aggressive entry into that market. I’m a big sports fan and I’m more than happy to pay for Sky Sports, BoxNation, RacingUK and to get BT Sport with my broadband subscription but there are times when I want alternatives.

Finally, I should mention how much I enjoyed “An Adventure in Space and Time”, Mark Gattis’ masterpiece TV about the early days of Doctor Who which I enjoyed from start to finish yesterday afternoon. There was no need to be a fan of the series to enjoy a superb and moving drama of the highest order which should be right up there for the BAFTA TV awards. It’s worth noting that BBC4 carried dramas based on TV stars I remember which were, without exception, excellent.

So here are the views of a 50 year old BBC TV fan who embraces the digital proliferation but with the caveat that the BBC has an essential part to play in it.

unhappy with Newbury

Since I imagine that many of my social media followers don’t subscribe to The Racing Forum I’ve decided to share with you my latest contribution.

steveh31 shared an interesting article in the Doncaster Free Press which prompted me to reply as follows:

“I was there last weekend in the Premier Enclosure and I just don’t think it was an issue. There were lots of “dodgy geezers”, “suitably dressed”, and I kept my hand in my pocket holding my money, as one does at many such occasions when there is a crowd. We even had a competition between ourselves about the most embarrassing suit! Many of them didn’t even watch the races. I am a National Hunt fan and generally get much more satisfaction from visiting “small” racecourses where you find genuine racing fans and no issue about why they’re wearing.

“It’s notable that Ascot have a separate NH dress code without the restrictions that Newbury are applying. Cheltenham is suitably relaxed about its dress code with, let’s face it, much better racing.

“Newbury needs to have a reality check (if those in charge know what that means!). If the reports of people being rudely decamped to the grandstand are true then those responsible should be sacked!

“Any business that thinks it’s a good idea to call itself “The Racecourse Newbury” rather than “Newbury Racecourse” has transparently lost the plot!

“If they carry on in this vein then they should be relieved of their premier graded races. #arses”

I don’t get why racecourses choose to make visiting them difficult. Racing is great and I personally prefer National Hunt racing because it has a (to use PR speak) a great narrative. Those in charge of Newbury need a serious “reality check”.

Coincidentally I’m delighted to see that those responsible for Twenty Twelve are going to produce “W1A”, focused on the BBC. I suspect that the Siobhan Sharp equivalent at “The Racecourse Newbury” will be consulted about their plans:

I was typing this while hearing about the death of Nelson Mandela. #putseverythingincontext

This weekend’s racing


I’m very sorry that Invictus has broken down badly after last Saturday’s Hennessy. Such a promising horse but, like so many, fated not to achieve his potential.

This horse had everything going for him including wins over Bobs Worth, Alfie Spinner, Silviniaco Conti and Baile Anrai and was a superb chaser in the making. Commiserations to all connections


It seems that we may not see the best horse in training this Saturday since Sprinter Sacre is doubtful for the Tingle Creek and may therefore be kept for the Victor Chandler (or whatever it is now) at Ascot in January. Thankfully this setback appears to be relatively minor and a final decision will be made just prior to final decs on Thursday.

In human terms it could be seen as a bit of a cold (you know that you’re not quite right and the advanced checks on horses can now identify this sort of thing) and, for me, he will be the deserving star of Cheltenham 2014 in the same way that Master Minded was in March 2009. It’s hard to believe that it was that long ago!

Balder Succes
However the reopened Henry VIII at Sandown on Saturday looks a cracker with entries including Balder Succes (left), Grandouet, Hinterland and Taquin du Seuil all possibles. If they all turn up I’d favour Balder Succes, having taken very well to jumps notwithstanding his fall at Cheltenham. In like manner I think that Grandouet’s unseated was unlucky and he should come on very well for his first outing. If they all turn up I fancy Balder Succes, Grandouet and Hinterland in that order but I know that Taquin du Seuil could mess that up. All in all, let’s hope that they’re all there for a classic renewal.

Over at Aintree both races over the big fences are looking like proper events, as they should be with £150,000 for the Becher and £70,000 for the Grand Sefton. If the key entries stand their ground then both will provide serious pointers for next April over the same fences (not just the National), particularly with the predicted good to soft, good in places. The £30,000 1.00 3m 1f Chase over the Mildmay also looks interesting with nearly all entries interesting. I will qualify what I’m going to say about the entry of Battle Group because I’m not the trainer and I don’t know how well the horse is but he was reported as having pulled back muscles when pulled up in the Paddy Power so I couldn’t understand why he was entered at Newbury last Saturday (refused) and equally can’t understand why he’s entered in this. Maybe the trainer knows something that I don’t.

Attention turns to Ireland on Sunday with Briar Cross and the unbeaten Faugheen entered in the Grade 3 1.15 at Cork. Arvika Ligeonnaire and Flemenstar are entered in the 2m Grade 2 at 2.20 as well as in the more likely (at least for the latter) Grade 1 John Durkan at Punchestown, along with Sir Des Champs and Toner d’Oudairies.

All in all a superb weekend in prospect.

In case you haven’t seen it yet (source: www.goracing.ie) the Willie Mullins preview of likely Christmas runners from Horseracing Ireland is well worth a read. I have a feeling that this analysis from Willie Mullins could be borne out well and truly at the end of the season.

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