WORLD OF SPORT - General speculations, musings and perhaps a rant

Wind ops will soon have to be declared, which is something the paper has got a bit obsessive over. Plenty of them fail to make a difference and the assertion in their headline that it is a boost for punters remains to be proven as a certain quantity of people will assume improvement everytime - as that is the way they tend to be reported up to now.

, pt 1

According to the November 2nd disciplinary reports of the BHA, Joseph O'Brien was fined for a member of his staff having a prohibited substance in Rekindling's stable before the St Leger. The circumstances are non-sinister, and it does appear to have been intended for post-race use, or just a precaution. However, the Racing Post, which normally reports disciplinary issues in detail with glee, seems to have totally ignored it. Ant suggestions that the sports major publication is too sycophantic of the major racing operations and families is, of course, totally paranoid/understandable (delete as you see fit).


When the jockey bans were appropriately reduced to allow for the circumstances, the reporting was that common sense has prevailed. Of course it has not. The decision to void the race was, based on all available television angles, wrong, and the track management has got away with the mistake by hiding behind the modern poltroon's shield of claiming "health and safety" was the reason. A bad precedent.


Amazon Prime: A baby is frightened of the family dog, and big, old easy-going labrador. The solution, which makes he baby socialise with the dog, is to dress the lab up as a lion. All this is doing is teaching the baby almost certainly fatal survival skills if it were ever to be lost or stranded on the plains of Africa.


Admiral Insurance: It portrays the company as run by a simpering ninny and staffed by bumbling halfwits. It may be true, but it is not the iomage they should want to projec

Some form of chewing gum that thinks park footballers go home and watch detailed video of all their future opponents. What planet are these pieople living on?


The worst of marketing's crimes against language has been reversed, and the Open Meeting at Cheltenham (which is anything but open) is back to being the November meeting.


Microsoft Surface: This has been steadily advertised by the most annoyingly smug and unpleasant clowns that the US can muster. With each new ad they get worse. Who on earth do Microsoft think they are appealing to?
Always: Starts the ad by stating that there are 3.5 billion women in the world and no two are the same. Therefore they need bespoke pads. It goes on to show that they have four different designs. It is not acceptable that they are out by a factor of nearly a billion.
Computer Associates: During cycling, we get adverts from team sponsors Alpecin and Bora, but then CA wash up and have in ad in which they condescend people who have built up a big business that they are idiots and they should just do what CA tell them.


Racing Post readers who digest the Letters page may have noticed Andrew Franklin getting a bee in his bonnet about whip use policing. Strange that...someone from a television background getting unduly hysterical over a topic. One of the problems is that what people refer to as “whip rules” should only ever be “whip guidelines” that leave the stewards complete discretion. One obvious potential example. Some horses are dashing for the line, head to head. The one on the outer starts to drift or hang towards the rails. Should the jockey on that horse, who may have used up the whip allocation at some point in the process, be punished for going over the quota to avoid squeezing those inside him dangerously against the rail? The rider who goes over the allocation may win, but the whip use was essential for safety, not to win at all costs. Rules without discretion punish that rider irrationally. Guidelines allow the officials to be prompted to check but decide that common sense has prevailed.


The Northern Lights series was created to give jumpers trained in the north a day of decent prizes to aim at, but it is looking as if the execution may be going wrong. Some of the courses staging qualifiers would be very much Midlands rather than Northern area, and the ten runner qualifier at Aintree on May 19th had horses from Shropshire, Somerset (2), Wales (3) and Oxfordshire. So it is beginning to look that the finals day will feature a significant number of horse definitely not trained in the target area.


Three underwhelming matches closed out an otherwise compulsive tournament. But they did each raise a point of the game's laws that need a rethink. In rising order of significance:

Scotland v Italy: Italian winger intentionally puts a foot off of the field of play so that when he catches the ball, it is deemed to have gone directly into touch and the line out is back where it is kicked. When in touch, the ball is instantly dead. If he had a foot in touch and made contact with a ball rolling on the ground, the ball is instantly dead. In fact, EVERY scenario sees the ball instantly dead, except the one that happened, where the attempted catch was dropped. Yet the knock forward can only come as a consequence of the first contact with the ball, which should count as the ball in touch, and thus a dead ball. Unnecessary inconsistency that should be chenged.

Ireland v England: In the first half Maru Itoje was penalised for a supposed late tackle on Jonathon Sexton. In fact, Sexton put himself up as a target with a delayed pass, and Itoje was only one stride away when the ball was released. This cannot possibly be considered a penalty offence because Itoje had no opportunity to change his path in a fraction of a second and Sexton could have been dummying the pass at the time Itoje was irreversibly committed the tackle. Unfortunately the officials seemed determined to run replays slower and slower until they found an excuse to give the penalty, and the replays gave a false impression. Refer to the NFL, where tacklers have a "one stride" allowance for hitting the quarterback after a pass, because it is deemed a fair measure of when they could not pull out of the hit.

France v Wales: The twenty minutes of additional time was purely a result of cynical offending by Wales. Wayne Barnes could not award a penalty try, as the cynicism was offending before even reaching a point of a try being probable. One Welsh player was yellow carded, but of his ten minutes in the bin, play was active for less then one minute. Ideally the ref should have shown two or three more Welsh players yellow cards, but then they may have pleaded for unopposed scrums, undermining the advantage to France. Admittedly this is a very rare vortex of events, but it was one that showed that the referee needs a better way to sanction the miscreants.


Football moment: Lots of slow motion pictures around this week of Pep Guardiola looking puzzled and scratching his head. The answer is probably that this is his first time in Europe where he is not managing one of the four teams that year in, year out get beneficial refereeing decisions. The refs now have quite a dilemma for the Champions League Quarter Finals, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus covering only two ties.


Cheltenham Championship Races Review

Three mile chases: A bit of a strange Gold Cup. Since jumping up from two milers, Sizing John has raced twice, the Championship races of Britain and Ireland, and won them both. Given that he kept being done by Douvan and thus has a modest winning strike rate, do we consider him an average winner of the title, or did connections get it horribly wrong with him until the last two months? And surely after the Irish Gold Cup, the extra intensity and quarter of a mile at Cheltenham would have been enough for Empire Of Dirt to turn the result around. If Might Bite were human, he would be the weirdo stranger that comes up to you in a pub, starts a conversation and then wanders off to harass somebody else before listening to your response. And then comes back when you think are shot of him.

Two miles chases

The Queen Mother became a bit of a dud with Douvan clearly miles below his best, leaving Special Tiara as narrowly strongest of the rest. The Fates have been consulted and they said that they would have let Fox Norton win had the new owners done the decent thing and left him with Neil Mulholland after purchase. Altior was not an impressive winner, but the way that he sprinted clear of the useful Cloudy Dream in the straight makes it hard to believe that Charbel would have coped had he not fallen.

Four mile chase

Not sure what to make of this, with the horses with best form implausibly all seeming like non-stayers. The fourth has been looking like a dour plodder (by top level standards) so Tiger Roll’s six lengths margin over him is respectable but maybe below the handicap mark already earned at shorter. Possibly not the instant source of long distance horses that it often proves to be.

Two and a half mile chases

The division that nobody other than Gigginstown and Willie Mulllins give a hoot about. The winners, Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux, did their jobs efficiently enough. Why on Earth somebody (we know who, and it was not Gordon Elliott) decided to run Empire Of Dirt in the Ryanair instead of the Gold Cup made a horrendous error of judgement. Sadly nobody in the media had the cojones to ask the O'Leary's "you got Outlander and Empire Of Dirt horribly wrong, do you feel a complete t***?" As people who would happily be rude to others, they would deserve it.

Three mile hurdles

Unowhatimeanharry ticked all the boxes for a Stayers Hurdle winner, but so did others and Nichols Canyon was a worthy winner. Edging out Lil Rockefeller is not, on paper, top notch form for the race, but the runner-up does have a knack for raising his game. The horses in the Albert Bartlett had an exceptionally good winning record and Penhill was an impressive winner. The usual problems for the future apply - the race has a history of horses struggling to get over the test at a relatively early stage of their career.

Two and a half mile hurdle

The novice race at this distance looked an excellent event. The form of the contestants appeared very strong and Neon Wolf ran a cracker despite being pipped by Willoughby Court, who seemed to have been underestimated on the basis of a hurdle defeat that he had since put behind him.

Two mile hurdles

Buveur D’Air won the Champion Hurdle of the Afterthoughts. Despite his Cheltenham record, the wear and tear on My Tent Or Yours means that were he a ship, he would be scuttled, so the race may not have taken a genius to win, but the style it was achieved was not bad at all. With a complete headcase like Labaik winning the Supreme, it is not obvious who comes on to challenge the champ next year. As for the Triumph Hurdle, Defi Du Seuil was extremely eyecatching in his dominance. However, the race is often won by precocious types who are already at their peak, and the usual rules regarding a 95% chance of failure next season must be remembered.

Mares hurdles

The two Willie Mullins horses ganged up on Apple’s Jade and she flipped them off. Good for her. The same three could make a good race next year, but maybe the beaten horses will be less focussed on this race at the expense of all else. Let’s Dance was clearly the best novice mare coming into the festival, and she avoided some of the hiccups in other novice races. She probably won by less than expected but a longer race would have helped her.


The pre-race noise was about On The Fringe being after the hat trick, but now we have to think that had he not wasted last season on a foolish publicity stunt, Pacha Du Polda would now be on the three-timer himself. Ask The Weatherman looked underprepared for the tougher fences/occasion/big field, but can be a bigger factor next year.


A few years ago there were a couple of very high profile trainers who would never run their horse when top weight in handicaps at 12 stone. This was not an objective view because what they wanted was to have the best horses, but other people's horses to be rated higher. Realising that this was all in the human mind, rather than the equine one, the powers that be lowered the minimum weight to 11 stone 12 pounds. This went on for quite a time, long after the original bleats had passed. Recently, a rule was changed so that horses rated no more than a couple of pounds above the maximum mark for the race (e.g. up to 117 in a 0-115) could run in those races with a bit of extra weight. And guess what? Loads of trainers have been happy to run with up to 12 stone 5 pounds, and the horses involved win races. What was the fuss all about?


Without making any claims to being close to what is going on, the antics of the Irish Greyhound authorities seem very bizarre of late. A report that they commissioned recommended closing profitable Harold's Cross to subsidise loss making Shelbourne. But surely the best way to subsidise Shelbourne would be to keep making profits at Harold's Cross? Instead the authorities have chosen to take short termist advice from people who appear to have no empathy for the sport. And as soon as anyone tries to publicise opposition to the plan, the meetings at which they will do so are cancelled. So far, so Stalinist.


Probably not a surprise considering the location in probably Europe's most badly overpopulated region. At least the money will be reinvested in racing rather than lining the pockets of shareholders. The funny thing was that with the adding of an all-weather track at Newmarket, Chelmsford becomes completely pointless as venue that is inaccessible and poor for viewing. Yet on the same day that course announces that they are adding a turf track.


It probably did not escape anyone's notice that, for a wide variety of reasons, many people will not recall 2016 with fondness. But one area that has got off lightly in the assessments is the film industry. On reflection, 2016 had a offensively large number of inexcusably bad films. From the raging slop of Batman Vs Superman and putrid sequels to over-rated money-makers (Ghostbusters 2, Independence Day Resurgence) there was a lot of stuff for which those responsible deserve to die. And then there were dungballs of sequels that tragically undermined the highly respectable, or better, originals (Zoolander 2, Bad Santa 2). Add in some stuff that I could not bring myself to see but were reported as disastrous by people whose opinions can be trusted (Suicide Squad, Dirty Grandpa, The Girl On The Train) and this industry needs the public to put the boot in. Everyone should wake up and realise that from the originals through to the recent cash-ins, the Star Wars series are good special effects with woefully clichéd script and plot. And then we come to Ben Hur. It certainly can be argued that after nigh on sixty years, a remake can be justified. But if you take on Ben Hur, your version has to be the Great Pyramid of Cheops in the film world, not a small cairn of sloppy cow pats.


Same rules as ever - no prizes, just glory. Lots and lots of glory.

Horse of the Year

Kentford Myth (because she was Andrew Thornton's 1,000th winner and is thus now immortal, when the man himself showed how much he is very mortal by injuring himself in celebrating)

Trainer of the Year

Graeme McPherson (for both keeping the winners ticking over throughout the year, and making life easy for punters by simply paying for blind allegiance - 183 runs, 25 wins, +62.00 points without one silly priced winner doing all the work)

Jockey of the Year

Leighton Aspell (because it is an even numbered year and thus an Aspell year)

Owner of the Year

PE Truscott (for being owner and breeder of Nordic Nymph, who put utter lack of results behind her to go 1121 between December 2014 and February 2015, dragging her handicap mark up from 80 to 100. After twenty months off it was it would have been very easy to just label her as a broodmare and draw stumps on racing, but instead she was back in action in October, winning all three runs, from ratings of 109, 112 and 118, the latest a class 2 race).

Course of the Year

Market Rasen (returned for the first time in a couple of years and it is just as splendid as ever)

Special Achievement - shared

i) Matthew Lohn (for failing to see the potential conflict of interest in sitting on an independent disciplinary committee when associated with one side of the issues, because, you know, it is his profession to understand these things)

ii) Jim Best's Legal Team (for making the potential conflict of interest such a big deal without providing one iota of evidence of any bias having been shown, because, you know, legal decisions are supposed to be evidence based).

iii) Jim Best's Legal Team (for demanding mitigation in sentence for the overall process being a long, drawn out affair, when it was they themselves that made the rehearing a long drawn out process thanks to some transparent delaying tactics).

iv) (for spending most of the last eight months of the year planning and replanning to be present for Andrew Thornton's 1,000th winner, and then not being on the spot when it happened).


It is a bit bewildering why people think that the last race at Haydock should not have been run. The horses were there, the riders were happy that conditions were raceable, and both the extra official on the line and photographs in the media from near the line show that producing a result was perfectly viable. Owners had stumped up for themselves and their horses to travel there, so run the race. So what if it was not possible to commentate, or show pictures? It was only one race, not the whole card, and if there is no distance or other minority betting options it is not the end of the world as a one-off.


Cool Bob!!! It took 57 races and then one where the first two in the betting unseated, plus a form comment that reads “led last, wandered flat” but finally he wins. Congratulations, and apologies for suggesting that his nose defeat at Leicester in March 2014 was his chance been and gone. Who could possibly have doubted him (although Bloodaxe says that he is still a stalin).

Strange how the Racing Post keeps reporting the new sponsorship policy of not accepting it from bookmakers who have moved offshore to dodge levy payments as a ruthless assault on the bookies. Never is it presented as helping create a commercial advantage for bookies who abide by the spirit of the law. The source of their advertising revenues is surely not being allowed to influence editorial policy?


Another idea that I have shameless ripped off from the Racing Post, but to save the suspense, they will be delivered in one hit, not as a series.

i) When the voices in your head give you a tip, back it. They are desperate to win your trust for when they need your help setting fire to something.

ii) The smaller the field, the lesser the big off-course bookies profit margin. Therefore, their love of all-weather racing is not for love of their customers.

iii) Never fear backing a market drifter, but check that it has four legs and head (preferably not all tied together) first, just in case.

iv) Any premonitions of racing results picked up in cheese dreams have a 75% chance of being true.

v) Despite what certain media people may lead you to believe, no jockey rides every single race all season to the 100% maximum of his talents, it is simply not possible to be infallible in any sport.

vi) If an acquaintance asks for a tip as a one-off on a special occasion, it will win. From this moment onwards it is not possible to tip them another winner, even if you both live to be 200.
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