BE ON WINNER WITH US
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