The Chester May meeting is one of racing’s conundrums. Despite it not even being the biggest meeting of the year for the postage stamp racecourse (that comes in August and is mobbed), the meeting in May is the defining week of the year for chief exec Richard Thomas and his terrific team.
The city is buzzing and – per head – more pink champagne is drunk here this week than anywhere else in world sport, including Royal Ascot and the Monaco Grand Prix for that matter!
But the cold, bold truth is that Chester isn’t quite the informative guide it would hope to be, certainly not for Epsom in June. It’s a brilliant week with fiendishly tricky and frustrating handicaps on the tight-turns of this unique track, but the so-called Classic trials, which see the London-based press corps excitedly head North, have slipped from the radar.
Ballydoyle is lways well represented at Chester, but rarely do they target the Dee Stakes and Vase with their premier Classic hopes. Very often they win the Trials at prohibitive odds, only to swerve Epsom for easier assignments, leaving their big guns to fire in the Derby.
More pink champagne is drunk here this week than anywhere else in world sport, including Royal Ascot and the Monaco Grand Prix
Bookies seldom go overboard with their antepost quotes for the Trial winners, and double figure prices are expected to be widely available for the Trial winners ahead of their tilts at Epsom and beyond.
Oh yes, and it ALWAYS rains. People forget this and pack their cases for Summer sun. But Chester is wet. And for the hard-working souls in the press room this week, there can be few more challenging tasks than to force down champagne in the windy drizzle of Chester…
Whilst I’m on the theme of racecourses, the return to Newmarket each Spring stirs mixed emotions. Having missed the Craven meeting, a reappearance on the Rowley Mile prompted the usual conflicts.
Why doesn’t Sir Michael Stoute buy a slightly more comfortable grey suit (he has needed this since Shahrastani’s Derby win in 1986, in fairness)? Why have some of the girls dressed for Ladies Day at Aintree when it’s always windy and always exposed here? Why have they not updated the press room Guineas day grub from chilli con carne for the past decade?
What is this place like on Christmas Day: is anyone about, does anyone care and do even the dog-walkers find it a bit eerie?
Truth is, the Rowley Mile has never floated my boat. It is one for the purists, but all too often lacks the kind of atmosphere that encourages spectators to believe they may be in the midst of brilliance.
In Gleneagles, however, we may just have been in such a presence on 2000 Guineas day.
In Gleneagles, however, we may just have been in such a presence on 2000 Guineas day. Weak in the betting on the day, the Aidan O’Brien trained colt made a mockery of the market vibes by slamming his rivals in decisive fashion, setting up a Summer campaign that looks set to keep him in the mile division which could easily frighten off some of his Newmarket rivals who might be keen to step up to 10 furlongs or further with near immediate effect. We will have to go some to match the thrilling exploits we enjoyed last Summer courtesy of Kingman and Australia – both beaten in the Guineas, of course – but in Gleneagles we have our first superstar of the season, and double the joy that we’ll hopefully be watching him on warmer, less exposed racecourses this term!
We all make mistakes (see my weekly offering in the “tipping” section) and we all need a good sub editor (that’s me trying to curry favour with the bosses), but at Newmarket on Saturday we had a right royal blooper. GLEANEAGLES was the name on the saddle cloth for the colt who went on to win the 2000 Guineas. An easy mistake to make for some poor executive who is probably still in hiding. the sake of the lad or lass who got the spelling wrong, we can but hope that picture editors show as kindly a disposition to choosing what to print as I’ve enjoyed when submitting my rambling blog,.
I know, I know. Three shots and yet to hit the target. This weekend we’ll have an each way crack (check the terms with your bookie, the small print and the prices) at the devilishly difficult Victoria Cup at Ascot. At time of writing we have 54 entries but a near certain runner is the hat-trick seeking Speculative Bid. He’s been tried over further and shorter in the past but 7 furlongs looks to be his bag and Jamie Spencer gets a beautiful tune out of him which could count for plenty in the hurly burly of a Victoria Cup.