Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. So goes the old adage for a hopeless tipster who occasionally lands on a winner. And given that my 2015 blog contained about as many winners as an Aston Villa form guide (sorry Villa fans and football loathers), I’m going to trumpet my Cue Card success on Boxing Day from the rooftops.
Never mind all this Happy New Year nonsense, I want to roll back to Boxing Day and watch the King George over and over and over again: it was jump racing in its most glorious form, with my beloved Cue Card grinding down Vautour on the line to deliver one of the most memorable race finishes in ages.
Along with Faugheen the Machine (to give him his unofficial but widely used title), who re-established himself as the champion hurdler they’ve all got to beat in March, it was a terrific day of racing that will live long in the memory and sets us up for the Festival in barely a couple of months with many a dream still very much alive.
Between now and then, we have many more trials on both sides of the Irish Sea, not least on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham at the end of this month. The key race that day ought to be the Cleeve Hurdle when Thistlecrack could meet Camping Ground, who was so impressive at the track on New Year’s Day. Whoever wins is sure to head to the World Hurdle as a warm order.
Seamlessly linking the Cleeve Hurdle to my New Year enthusiasm, it would be wrong not to reflect on former Cleeve winner Knockara Beau, who once again ran the race of his life on New Year’s Day when narrowly defeated lumping shed-loads of weight in unforgiving ground at odds of 25/1.
Here is a horse that epitomises everything we love about the jumps. He’s been to the Festival more times than Lord Vestey and is all too frequently dismissed by the bookies at insulting odds, owing to the progressive nature of his rivals and the tasks he’s asked to perform. Time and time again he shocks us, inspires us and warms the heart.
Right, that’s enough of all my New Year enthusiasm—anybody could be fooled into thinking I’ve had too much sherry and failed to sober up. And if anything was destined to make me roll my eyes to the heavens it was the spectacle (if I dare use the word) of racing at Plumpton on Sunday.
With the dreadful flood damage currently being endured by many in the equine industry and beyond, now is not the time to be glib, but it took me all of five seconds watching on the TV to be all but certain that Plumpton was not fit for racing at the weekend.
Quite how on earth anybody can disagree is beyond me. Water was splashing everywhere and, purely as a spectacle for the uninitiated, it was an embarrassment.
Racing was, of course, abandoned after three desperate races which served little purpose other than to damage ground further and prevent the paying public, connections and — just as importantly — the horses from getting safely back home as soon as was practically sensible.
We love watching racing, but only when it resembles horse racing as we know it. Let’s not have any more of this nonsense, please.
I’ve written before about how blessed we are, in my ever so humble opinion, to have the volume of live terrestrial coverage of our sport in this age.
We love to grumble about viewing figures, about presenters, content, missed opportunities and sub-standard fare, but that’s principally a reflection on our capacity to grumble rather than anything more substantive.
Channel 4 Racing has been with us for over 30 years and at the end of this year it loses the right to broadcast as the baton is handed over to ITV.
We are yet to see where ITV will home the majority of the racing, although consensus seems to be forming around the biggest days living on ITV1 with many of the ‘lesser’ weekends heading to ITV4.
Understandably, ITV are enthusiastic about the opportunities to reinvigorate the viewing experience and Channel 4 are disappointed.
I share both views, but without wanting too many splinters in my backside, I feel it will be desperately short-sighted and ungracious if everyone in racing – and by everyone, I mean absolutely everyone – doesn’t acknowledge the outstanding commitment, professionalism and loyalty of so many of the Channel 4 teams down the years to bringing us a sport that now has us in thrall.