Cooper dodging icebergs
“Somewhere, I possess a recording of my one and only appearance on Baker’s Radio One show. I’ve never plucked up courage to listen to it”
It will be a few months before the first swallow arrives, so we must batten down the hatches, hopeful that the Beast from the East and his relations don’t disrupt the sporting calendar. Whatever sport you follow, with the possible exception of darts, cheering about something adds some colour to the monochrome season.
There was certainly an unexpected sharpness and clarity to my TV when tuning in to the launch of Sky Sports Racing [SSR] on Tuesday. I make my High Definition debut at Lingfield this afternoon, which probably explains why I received so many blemish-masking cosmetics in my Christmas stocking. My luxury SSR winter jacket arrived yesterday, so at least 80 per cent of my body will be hidden from view.
Joni Mitchell’s oft quoted line from Big Yellow Taxi: ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ rang true on New Year’s Eve when I steered At The Races, avoiding all icebergs, on her final voyage. It was more emotional than I had envisaged, made more so by a deluge of stirring and heart-rending emails. Nevertheless, I believe the friendly vibe has already crosspollinated to SSR.
That’s not always the case; remember when Morecambe and Wise made the switch from BBC to ITV? One minute, it was 28 million viewers, the next one man and his dog. My own micro-experience was when I used to bumble through the day’s racing news on BBC Radio 5’s breakfast show, on the mornings the current correspondent Cornelius Lysaght fancied a lie-in.
Launched in 1990 as Radio 5 – prior to the award-winning brandchange to Five Live in 1994 – the early morning listeners were treated to Morning Edition, a magazine programme hosted by Sarah Ward and Jon Briggs – so anodyne, it made the One Show look like Newsnight.
In a change of direction, DJ and comedian Danny Baker was then signed up and the new show soon acquired a cult [usually code for miniscule] audience. The mixture of banter, music, news and sport proved very popular and I enjoyed chatting to Baker after the racing bulletin, prior to being booted out of the studio to make way for the news.
Listening figures were so good that in 1993, Baker was shunted upwards to Radio One, taking over the 10 til 1 slot from The Hairy Cornflake, Dave Lee Travis.
Somewhere in Cassette Corner, I possess a recording of my one and only appearance on Baker’s Radio One show; I’ve never plucked up the courage to listen to it. I was hired [50 quid and a couple of CDs] to add ‘witty’ comments alongside Baker, Danny Kelly and Allis Moss [What became of Allis? She’s probably saying the same about me]. It was pure torture; I’ve undergone rootcanal dental treatment that’s been more entertaining. For some reason, the chemistry elements had shifted and the thrill and spontaneity had vanished. The previously successful formula of ‘trivia and grown up music’ fell flatter than any pancake.
My parting words that Sunday from Baker were, ‘yeah, that went really well, we must do it again soon’. No, it didn’t Danny, and we most definitely mustn’t. Maybe some racing tips would have helped.
The first cold snap of 2019 means the frost covers were deployed at Sandown last night, so fingers crossed the green light shines. One of the most popular varieties of steeplechases is the veteran race and we are in for a treat today with the final of the veteran series.
The punters love these races because most of the horses are old friends, none more so than the Charlie Longsdon duo PETE THE FEAT and LOOSE CHIPS. The former, now a very sprightly 15 year-old, won this race in 2017 (LOOSE CHIPS was third) and finished second to BUYWISE (LOOSE CHIPS 5th) twelve months ago.
The Sandown roof would be raised if ‘PETE’ or ‘CHIPS’ pulled it off, but I’m predicting the handsome £62,000 first prize could be heading to Cumbria where CULTRUM ABBEY [3.00 SANDOWN] is trained by Nicky Richards. Richards has been basking in a purple patch, peaking when another remarkable oldtime SIMPLY NED won at Leopardstown last week.
CULTRUM ABBEY won a qualifier at Kelso last month, his first outing since the spring when he enjoyed a fruitful season in hunter chases. These old times are thoroughly exposed, but Nicky Richards’ 12-year-old should be plugging on strongly up the Sandown hill.
The ‘class’ race on the Sandown card is the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle. Only six of the original 14 entries stand their ground but it’s a strong renewal. The ‘juggernaut’ yards of Henderson, Nicholls and Tizzard are strongly represented and Colin Tizzard’s tough front-running ELIXIR DE NUTZ will be tough to overtake, however my eye was caught by Dan Skelton’s IDEE DE GARDE’s [2.25 SANDOWN] hurdling [and stable] debut at Newcastle behind a subsequent winner, CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM. He refused to settle early on but despite his keenness, was beaten less than two lengths under a considerate ride. He’ll need to improve in a far stronger race but I’d be disappointed if this son of KAPGARDE [sire of King George winner CLAN DES OBEAUX] didn’t go very close. OUR MERLIN [3.35 SANDOWN] finished runner-up in this race last year and should go well again.
January certainly isn’t my favourite month, not so WICKED WILLY [WINCANTON 2.40]; three of his four victories have come in January. He arrives in good form after a good effort at Cheltenham last month, despite losing a shoe.
I had a chat with jockey Charlie Hammond the other day about CATAMARAN DE SEUIL [3.15 WINCANTON] following a fair run in a top handicap at Cheltenham. He feels the horse will ‘come good’ when the mud is flying. Well, the mud won’t be flying at Wincanton today, so what do we do? It’s a weakfish race, so I’ll give him another chance!
Should go well: Our Merlin
Cult following: Danny Baker