BE ON WIN­NER WITH US

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Robert Cooper pro­vides his unique col­umn with in­formed tips and in­sights into the life of a TV man

“A new clerk of the course had just been ap­pointed at Here­ford and he’d been short of time to ac­quire a race day hair cut. It’s been viewed more than a mil­lion times”

The Fes­tive Sea­son is get­ting into full swing, but if you have yet to ex­pe­ri­ence the party spirit it’s never too late. There’s al­ways a mer­ry­mak­ing vibe at Ut­tox­eter races and yes­ter­day’s jumps card was no ex­cep­tion.

A few years ago at the same fix­ture, my ATR part­ner in crime was for­mer jockey and now very suc­cess­ful blood­stock agent Tom Malone. We were sum­ma­riz­ing the day’s event as the pun­ters were traips­ing home, when a might­ily in­tox­i­cated lady crept up be­hind Malone and pro­ceeded to chew his left ear­lobe and whis­per dec­la­ra­tions of undy­ing pas­sion in the other one.

At least she tar­geted the right per­son, as in my un-nib­bled ear­piece I could hear out-and-out panic from my di­rec­tor in the stu­dio. I was in­structed to say good­bye there and then, amid shouts of ‘lose those pic­tures NOW.’

It’s the kind of clip that finds its way on to so­cial me­dia. There’s a Tweeter some­where in the uni­verse called #Ac­ci­den­tal Par­tridge, a fan no doubt of Steve Coogan’s ul­tra-gauche in­spi­ra­tion, who has un­earthed an an­tique At The Races clip fea­tur­ing Tommo in the stu­dio say­ing, “Oooh, he’s been joined by a beau­ti­ful lady…..” – link­ing to yours truly at Here­ford race­course re­ply­ing, “It’s a man ac­tu­ally, Derek.”

A new clerk of the course had just been ap­pointed at Here­ford and he’d ob­vi­ously been short of time to ac­quire a race day hair­cut. It has been for­warded for my amuse­ment by a dozen well wish­ers, in­clud­ing both my non-rac­ing daugh­ters. It’s easy to be­come tongue-tied when ad­dressed by Tommo on a mat­ter of such na­tional im­por­tance. I’m stag­gered it’s been viewed more than a mil­lion times.

Surely there are bet­ter things to do, like buy a Christ­mas tree. This year I am the re­luc­tant owner of two trees. The first, I bought ten days ago, was an old fash­ioned ‘nee­dle drop­per’ like we had be­fore the non-drop­per be­came the norm. After spend­ing a week in a bucket of wa­ter it was proudly in­vited in­side, primed to be dec­o­rated by Mrs C – she is a supreme adorner. How­ever, as the last bauble was at­tached the car­pet was al­ready inches deep in nee­dles. If I had wanted a bald twiglet in a pot, I’d have in­vited my col­league Luke Har­vey. The mis­sion for a re­fund was yet an­other Yule­tide blow – the barn, a few days ago a Santa’s grotto of ev­er­green jovi­al­ity, was locked, bolted and de­serted. I had bought a dud. I’m stick­ing with the non-drop­ping va­ri­ety from now on.

I won­der if light­ing will strike twice for trainer Olly Mur­phy in As­cot’s £150,000 hand­i­cap hur­dle. He landed a touch last year when HUNTER’S CALL, pre­vi­ously trained in Ire­land, made his sta­ble de­but a very lu­cra­tive win­ning one.

This time around Mur­phy runs a very sim­i­lar type, FIESOLE [3.35 AS­COT] who also runs first time for a new yard. The six-year-old won three hur­dles for his pre­vi­ous han­dler Eoin Doyle, in­clud­ing his most re­cent out­ing when win­ning at Tip­per­ary in Oc­to­ber. He fits the pro­file from the train­ing an­gle, but of­ten the win­ner is less ex­posed, so I am also back­ing the lightly raced CHATEZ [3.35 AS­COT] who sneaks in off a low weight. He fin- ished run­ner-up to JOLLY’S CRACKED IT over C&D last month; de­spite pulling too hard he ran very well. CHATEZ is one of three run­ners in the field for Alan King, the oth­ers FIDUX and LISP also have strong claims. It’s not be­yond the realms of La La Land for a fes­tive-bust­ing Alan King tri­fecta.

I’m sure there’s a good rea­son, prob­a­bly re­lat­ing to ITV cov­er­age, but there’s a fair chance this most valu­able race of the day will be run in near to­tal dark­ness. If a bolt­ing horse de­lays the start, head­lights may be com­pul­sory at­tach­ments. Ear­lier on the card SAM SPIN­NER will at­tempt to re­peat last year’s an­ni­hi­la­tion of some top class ri­vals in the Grade One Long Walk Hur­dle. He un­seated Joe Col­liver last time at New­bury but even if he’d stayed on his feet, he wouldn’t have had a prayer of beat­ing UNOWHA­TIMEAN­HARRY who re­turned to form in style fol­low­ing a wind oper­a­tion.

Harry Fry’s hur­dler was more than ten lengths be­hind SAM SPIN­NER in this race last year but de­spite ad­vanc­ing years [he’ll be 11 on Jan 1st] he looks the one to beat, but my money’s on Nick Wil­liams’ AGRA­PART [2.25 AS­COT] who could play a lead­ing role in stay­ing hur­dles in the se­cond half of the sea­son. Wil­liams won this race three times with REVE DE SIVOLA and AGRA­PART, al­ready a Grade Two win­ner, looks ca­pa­ble of tak­ing a fur­ther step for­ward.

The race of the day at Hay­dock is the Tommy Whit­tle Chase. I sus­pect the fences will be some­what more user friendly than when they loomed as gi­ant haystacks on Bet­fair Chase day. I cer­tainly hope so, as my fancy KIMBERLITE CANDY [2.40 HAY­DOCK] has had a few jump­ing is­sues in the past, how­ever he was far more flu­ent at Ayr last time, and he looks the one to beat.

The soft ground will be in his favour and I have the ut­most faith in Richie McLer­non to steer Tom Lacey’s geld­ing to vic­tory.

No trainer in Bri­tain is in bet­ter form than Nicky Richards, so BET­TER GETALONG [2.05 HAY­DOCK] gets my vote in the 2¼ mile hand­i­cap hur­dle. He will also rel­ish the soft ground and de­spite a lengthy ab­sence from the track, he has win­ning form fol­low­ing a break.

The post-Christ­mas rac­ing cal­en­dar is crammed with un­miss­able ac­tion on both sides of the Ir­ish Sea. I can’t wait for the King Ge­orge and I reckon CONEYGREE at around 20/1 is a crack­ing each way bet – the for­mer Gold Cup win­ner ran bril­liantly at Chel­tenham last month. BAIE DES ILES looks an in­ter­est­ing Ir­ish raider in Thurs­day’s Welsh Grand Na­tional at Chep­stow, the same day that LADY BUT­TONS looks ‘nailed on’ in Wetherby’s Castle­ford Chase.

And most im­por­tantly, Happy Christ­mas to you, my reader – I think I met you at Wolver­hamp­ton last Satur­day night.

Ex­cuse me sir: Robert and the blond clerk of the course at Here­ford

Whoops! Derek Thomp­son

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