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Month: October 2017

Cheltenham – Saturday 28 October

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND – MARCH 15: Nico de Boinville riding Altior clear the last to win The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race at Cheltenham racecourse on March 15, 2016 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Well, Friday turned out to be alright, with Brillare Momento delivering, Sceau Royal just being seen off by a neck, Black Corton seeing off the opposition (albeit that Sizing Tennessee was going well when falling) and Slate House proving that he is a serious contender. All very boring when you’re stuck at work so roll on the weekend.

Basically, this is a much tougher card.

2.00 3m 1f Handicap Chase (Class 2)

Lots of people like Singlefarmpayment but I’ve never warmed to him. I like Coologue but, on balance, my preference is for Viconte du Noyer* (11/1) to upset the favourites.

2.35 2m 1/2f Hurdle (Class 2)

It’s a great shame that Defi du Seuil doesn’t show up for this one, Philip Hobbs having stated that the ground might be a bit sharp (although it’s turned out to be good, good to soft in places). Apparently his reappearance may be rescheduled for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the International at Cheltenham.  The result is, for all intents and purposes a head to head between Bedrock and Twobeelucky and I fancy Bedrock** at slight odds on (10/11) to prevail. Owned by the well-named Risk Takers Partnership, who purchased him for 70,000 gns. A winner at Bangor on 4 October.

3.10 2m Handicap Chase (Class 2)

As flagged up yesterday I’m happy to stick with Le Prezien*** in this one, at a decent 5/1. Cases can be made for a number of them, while others have clearly not lived up to what was expected of them (e.g. Vaniteux). Of the others I think that Sizing Platinum and Poker School are of interest.

3.45 3m Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)

This is, as is so often for a Pertemps qualifier, wide open. I’m therefore picking two at the current 16/1, not with a great deal of confidence but just to have an interest. They are Connetable* and Solatentif*. There was a 33/1 winner yesterday and this is another which doesn’t appeal with the favourites. Keep an eye on the market for this one.

4.20 2m 4f Novices’ Chase (Class 2)

I’m strongly with Alcala*** (7/4) and strongly against Two Taffs (9/4) so expect the latter to prevail against the former!

4.55 3m Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3)

I think that Phillip Hobbs has a good one here in the shape of Robbinhannon**, who, at 5/4, should see off this lot.

5.30 2m 1/2f Bumper (Class 3)

What do you say about a Bumper at this time in the season? Have a bet on P2P winner Cracking Destiny for Nicky Henderson at 9/4 and stuff the rest!

Good luck!

Cheltenham – Friday 27 October

An excellent weekend gets off to a great start with the first day of the Showcase at Cheltenham on Friday. While some of the entries have been saved for other races this weekend and beyond, it’s still a decent card which, as usual, could provide some interesting pointers for the season ahead. We are on the old course, again as usual, on good ground.

2.00 2m 5f Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2)

The opener should go to the highly rated and progressive course winner Brillare Momento*** (11/10) for Martin Keighley. The main threats are Dan Skelton’s Blairs Cove, giving 7lb to the favourite and the always respected Gordon Elliott trained Its All Guesswork.

2.35 2m Novices’ Chase (Class 2)

This is the race of the day and should go to Sceau Royal**** at an excellent 6/4, following his impressive chasing debut at Warwick earlier this month. The only serious threat is debut chaser Movewiththetimes with the appealing combination of J P McManus/Paul Nicholls/Barry Geraghty and an impressive hurdling CV. However the old course is a tough introduction to chasing with no room for errors.

3.10 2m 5f Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)

21 runners in a Cheltenham handicap hurdle is just what’s needed to get the season properly under way. Before looking at the betting I inclined towards the Trevor Hemmings, Jonjo O’Neill and Aidan Coleman combination in the shape of Cake de L’isle* and I’m very happy to find the 9/1 on offer (win and each way).

3.45 3m Novices’ Chase (Class 2)

In comparison with the previous race five runners in a novices’ chase is, unfortunately, par for the course. However, this is one to savour because they are a select crew. All of them are in with a shout and, this time last year, Sizing Tennessee could well have been the favourite but is the outsider at 7/1. I think that it’s between Black Corton and Fagan, both winners last time out. Beat That could be a lot better than these but needs to prove it. On balance I’m with Black Corton** at 9/2 against the 6/4 Fagan and 100/30 Beat That. Bryony Frost is an excellent jockey who has the potential to go right to the top. At the odds you need to make a firm choice and stick with it, albeit that the market in the minutes before the race will be interesting.

Previous winners of this race include Sire Collonges and Shantou Flyer so it has a tendency to throw up one to follow.

4.20 3m 1f Amateurs’ Handicap Chase (Class 3)

It’s great to see an amateurs’ chase with 17 runners, another taste of what’s to come. It’s not often that I’d choose a horse shouldering a 19lb hike after his last race but Presenting Julio*** (Jamie Codd/Gordon Elliott) is my idea of a seriously progressive horse, lightly raced although he’s a 9-y-o. I’m hoping that this one will put down a serious marker for much bigger things later in the season. 4/1 (from an opening 8/1) will still do very nicely.

4.55 2m 1/2f Maiden Hurdle (Class 3)

Well, this is a weak race but the last five winners are Thomas Campbell, Mister Miyagi, Commissioned, Lac Fontana and Court Minstrel. Unraced under rules, point winner 5-y-o Slate House** (4/5) was bought for £260,000 earlier this year and has been placed in the care of Colin Tizzard by owners Jones/Nicholas/Romans so clearly they have high hopes for their ownership debut. Sixth in the Champion Bumper Dans Le Vent is also one to note, having made a promising hurdles debut when running third but staying on from an unpromising position at Huntingdon earlier this month.

5.30 2m 1/2 f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 3)

Again, an apparently weak race but one farmed in the last two years by Paul Nicholls with Cliffs of Dover (2016) and last Sunday’s winner in the listed hurdle at Kempton Old Guard (2015), beating one of my favourites last season, San Benedeto.

Paul’s runner this year is Dreamcatching*, chasing a three timer and in to 11/2 fav from an opening 11/1. He’s a son of Al Namix, not a well known sire, but whose progeny include Saphir du Rheu, Petit Mouchoir and Baby Mix. He’s a 4-y-o purchased from Guy Cherel late in 2016 and has been ridden by today’s jockey Stan Sheppard in his four runs in 2017. A slight worry is his weakening 15th of 22 in the Fred Winter but this race is nothing like in that league.

The obvious challenger is Nicky Henderson trained Cool Macavity who won a Class 3 on good ground at Towcester on 16 October.

Good luck!

Ones to watch on Saturday and Sunday

Saturday highlights at Cheltenham include the return of Defi du Seuil in the 2.35 and a potentially really decent handicap chase with Le Prezien entered in the 3.10. Sunday could provide us with the best non-Festival card at Aintree for ages with loads of familiar horses entered in the veterans’ chase and a potential cracker in the Old Roan which could feature Tea For Two, Smad Place, Bristol de Mai, Ballybolley, Shantou Village and Guitar Pete.

Looking forward

As I return to these previews, I have to mention that I’m delighted that the BHA has announced that there will now be 48 hour declarations for all Cheltenham Festival races. It will be interesting to see how WP adapts to this! For my part, I’m looking forward to detailed analysis of days one and two on Monday 12 March.



Lidington – an intellectual constrained by dogma

So, after being under the radar for months, new(ish) Justice Secretary David Lidington has broken cover with an appearance before the justice committee of the House of Commons yesterday (25 October).

According to an article in the Law Society Gazette, as well as not ruling out the reintroduction of employment tribunal fees in the face of a coruscating judgment in the Supreme Court a couple of months ago, he said without hesitation that he intends to proceed with increases in the small claims limits to £5000 for RTA claims and £2000 for other personal injury claims. He suggested that cases with values below these limits ought not ordinarily to require legal representation. There is no evidence at all to support this contention and, when I have seen him, Mr Lidington often appears to be a man at odds with what he is saying, almost as if he knows that churning out the mantra does not accord with his own view (he is clearly the same on Brexit).

However, no doubt the most telling part of his evidence was that, when asked about the timescales for implementing changes, according the Gazette article “he said reforms were in the pipeline but were subject to constraints of parliamentary time and the demands of Brexit legislation”. That can undoubtedly be said with conviction.

At last – the National Hunt season gets properly under way

I’m really looking forward to this weekend with two great days at Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday and a potentially top day at Aintree on Sunday. The Old Roan Chase looks like it could be a cracker.

I’ll be starting the previews again this weekend and, as usual, it’s now going to be non-stop throughout the winter with the new Dublin Racing Festival in early February a very welcome addition.


Political turmoil and why it could lead to the undermining of the “Great” in Britain

Time for an essay (my first since University)

This week has been one of the most tumultuous in recent British politics in recent decades. Why? Because we could be looking at a financial and social meltdown which could, in turn, take decades to recover from.

I’m going to go back to my British Government & Politics specialism when studying at York University in 1981-84 (a time of tumult with the formation of the SDP) to reflect on where we stand.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta meets with British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street in London, England, Jan. 18, 2013. Panetta is on a six day trip to Europe to visit with foreign counterparts and troops in the area. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo) (Released)

Our current politics is dominated by the calamity that is Brexit. David Cameron decided that he needed to resolve the fundamental division in the Conservative Party by calling for a referendum, as he saw it, to put to bed the festering sore in his Party by obtaining a public endorsement of our continuing membership of the European Union. I think that he was right to do so, because the division had constrained the country since we joined what was then known as the Common Market on 1 January 1973. Joining was led by Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, a centrist and out and out European in the same mould as Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who, at the time, knew that there was active public opposition to doing so. He simply signed the Treaty relying on the  dubious notion that Parliament had “legal sovereignty” to do so. It was contentious from the start.

Many people may not know or have forgotten that the decision was made the subject of a non-binding referendum on 5 June 1975. It was called by the then Labour minority government under Harold Wilson, who had his own problems because many Labour supporters wanted to leave. On 26 April 1975 the Labour Party voted by 2:1 to leave the EEC. Opposition was led by Tony Benn, Michael Foot and up and coming Dennis Skinner. Shirley Williams led the pro-EEC campaign. The referendum delivered a 67% remain verdict on a 64% turnout and our membership was settled (for 41 years).

Margaret Thatcher was a sceptical European, but nonetheless a realistic European.

What we should grasp, however, from the lessons of European history is that, first, there is nothing necessarily benevolent about programmes of European integration; second, the desire to achieve grand utopian plans often poses a grave threat to freedom; and third, European unity has been tried before, and the outcome was far from happy

She was, without doubt, a supporter of Britain and “British Interests”. Perhaps her most significant contribution was the Bruges speech in 1988. It has particular resonance right now:

I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice.

I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone.

Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world.

But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.

Indeed, it is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, there are some in the Community who seem to want to move in the opposite direction.

We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.

Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose.

But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country; for these have been the source of Europe’s vitality through the centuries…

Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better, appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.

Let us have a Europe which plays its full part in the wider world, which looks outward not inward, and which preserves that Atlantic community—that Europe on both sides of the Atlantic—which is our noblest inheritance and our greatest strength.

In other words, Thatcher understood that a European view was a strong way to confront world challenges. Meanwhile, in the background, Conservative MPs were plotting, as exemplified by the recently deceased Teddy Taylor.

Following the demise of Thatcher the next big UK European moment was the Maastricht Treaty. Another PM struggling with a minority had to deal with a situation he wished had never arisen. John Major was the, at the time, unlikely successor to Margaret Thatcher (note now) and, uncharacteristically, he was moved to identify his Eursceptic “bastards” who, for the record, were Michael Howard (subsequent leader of the Party), Peter Lilley and Michael Portillo (who has mellowed significantly in his European views).

Then came Tony Blair, an avowed European,, and now a campaigner to top Brexit. Since then, we have had Gordon Brown, David Cameron (referred to above) and, for now Theresa May.

And then we decided to leave the European Union (by52:48)!

As any regular readers will know I am in the 48.

So, the current political malaise is not really surprising because it has dominated politics since I became interested in it as a teenager when we joined the EEC and it was, forever more, the thorn in the side of all politicians of my generation.

I’m 54. I remember thinking that that there could be no resolution to the Irish “problem” so that the Good Friday Agreement was unimaginable and that there could never be a unification of Germany with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and all that it entailed but they have both happened in my lifetime. Regrettably, the one that has not been resolved is the political morass that is the UK’s approach to Europe, from both Labour and Conservative.

Jeremy Corbyn has attracted major support from young voters, by which according to recent polls, that means 45 and unders. However, he’s tied up with the old school Labour opponents to the EU (including those I’ve mentioned above) and that is massively annoying. There are senior Labour politicians who are unashamedly European and they need to prevail.

As for Theresa, her time has come. I think that she’s broadly European but her Cabinet prevents her from being that. As of today, 6 October, the European dilemma is no nearer to being sorted.

It was informative that no senior players were willing to appear on the usual outlets today (as typically highlighted by Eddie Mair on PM). Theresa’s supporters are unavailable. She has no authority and, consequently, cannot be PM. God knows who will be her successor. The current thinking is David “double DDs” Davis.

The upshot of all this is that we do not have a credible negotiating position in terms of our exit from Europe. It’s nonsense. BMW and Mercedes have made clear today, through their business negotiators, that they are happy to abandon the UK. The City is making arrangements to relocate and the border between Northern Ireland and the EU is impossible to resolve as matters stand.

Theresa May needs to go. She’s done what anyone would have in this scenario which is to try to hold on in the face of impossibility but, sadly, she has no credibility  or authority going forward. I have no idea where it will end up but it can’t be with her.



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