Racing commentator Richard Hoiles brings us his latest words of wisdom.
The weather has seemed to have made things even more disjointed this week especially with the loss of Cheltenham on Saturday. The wet summer has clearly led to the water table being higher than usual as any rain seems to be turning the ground testing far more quickly than in previous seasons. Even good drying tracks like Wincanton have found themselves racing on heavy ground and calling at Doncaster over the weekend it was noticeable how many horses stopped very quickly once off the bridle.
I thought it was good to see the Peterborough Chase back to a midweek slot on Thursday at Huntingdon. National Hunt racing has become ever more focused around weekends leaving often poor fare for the rest of the week. With more runners and a good finish hopefully last years match will prove the low point. It is hard not to sympathise with a track trying to maintain the value of one of their feature races when they can be so poorly supported and has led to the conversion of many conditions races to firstly limited handicaps and then just standard handicaps. Early season contests like the Bobby Renton at Wetherby and what used to be the Holsten Pils hurdle at Sandown are examples of races that in the past could attract a good horse but now just blend into the mediocrity.
Friday at Cheltenham was notable for giving winners to a couple of our most promising conditionals in Rhys Flint and Campbell Gillies. Flint has already been discussed many times in this column and is clearly the rising star of the season but Gillies and northern colleagues Ryan Mania and James Halliday have also shown a large amount of promise. Having spent a couple of pleasant days at Doncaster this week I had the opportunity to chat to a few of my colleagues who see them ride more regularly. Mania is the one who seems to be the one with the biggest fan club as the most complete rider, Gillies is the improver, whilst Halliday’s strength is his ability to see a stride and present his horse at an obstacle. Add in amateur Andrew Kinirons who is getting plenty of opportunities for Sue Smith and there appears to be an above average amount of talent about amongst the current crop of youngsters.
Early finishes and Xmas parties means long nights in hotels are not to be recommended this time of year so Friday night saw me go to Chesterfield to see them play Macclesfield. As they are about to leave Saltergate it was a chance to tick off a ground I may not get the opportunity to visit again. Tucked behind terraced houses it was a real step back in time and great fun. Six goals and two sendings off made it the best game for a neutral I have seen for several seasons. I also found myself sitting close to Nigel Clough who very kindly spent a couple of minutes chatting as I tried in vain to persuade him he should take the Crewe job. Sadly he is happy at Burton and even though he may be at Gresty Road next season it will be for a League 2 match as manager of the current Blue Square Premier leaders!
Saturday at Doncaster was a virtual wash out and not form to take literally though Mighty Moon when stepped up in trip on testing ground could find a race or two when handicapped. On the punting front the thought processes have been good but I am worried I am not playing the angles correctly.
The 20-1 Mon Mome advised after Haydock for the Coral Welsh National was a good start position. I laid off some after he was backed when the weights were published and have taken a profit after his win at Cheltenham on Friday. I actually would have preferred him to have been narrowly beaten and avoid the 4lb penalty. Time will tell if this proves to have been the correct strategy.
A big bet on Apache Cat, overpriced at 5-2, in the Hong Kong Sprint went astray as he ran a lack lustre third still only beaten a couple of necks. He started odds on in Hong Kong and 13-8 over here and can’t help feeling that was one that got away as it was a poor renewal and he ran quite a long way below his Aussie form.
The rest of the meeting was ok with all of the lays Muhannak, Marchand D’Or and Kip Deville well beaten and Linngari sneaking into third at a massive price after Darren Beadman’s nightmare on Viva Pataca in the Cup. The crowd reaction would be an eye opener to many of our jockeys some of whom often react to even the slightest criticism!
Most irritating however will be tonight’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year. After Lewis Hamilton’s scrambled F1 World Championship win which he so nearly threw away, I was convinced in an Olympic year he was too short and aggressively laid him at around 8-11. Driving to Warwick a couple of days later my heart sank as on a Radio 5 phone in, call after call praised this astonishing achievement by one so young and the dedication of his father. Indeed his father was a real pain in the neck as he comes across as so likeable making up for the semi aloof, tax exile, Pussycat dating image I hoped would put the public off Hamilton. Basically I bottled it and traded the position far too early only to see the welter of money for Rebecca Adlington in the last few days mean Hamilton has drifted to nearly 11-4!
It would still be a better result if he got beat but again it could have been so much more. Sometimes it is more frustrating to be right and not maximise the return as it is to be completely wrong.
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