Altered Method runs tonight in the 7.15 ...

The morning is going well

Friday, 21 April 2017

"The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives."

Robert Maynard Hutchins.

Rum Ration and Roof Garden

It’s a calm, still morning and the temperature has risen slightly. We have plenty of riders in and we have got on well with all the horses. The turf is very firm so we have been keeping on the polytrack all-weathers, which I must say are in great order at present. We have no runners over the weekend, but one or two are entered for next week. I anticipate us getting into top gear from the first week in May.


As I said a few bubbles were burst this week at Newmarket and you have got Newbury with a couple more trials and maidens over the next two days. I think we saw quite a nice horse in Eminent, the Craven winner yesterday, and it is great to see that Frankel is producing first rate horses. It looks though like his temperament is very good and that is what you need in a top class racehorse.


Although there is not much talk about it now with the election being called and the European parliament not stamping the new Levy, I can see there being a big shortfall in prize money if that is not forthcoming. The Levy Board have been propping up the prize money with their reserves for several months now, but it can’t go on forever. It will be interesting to see which way it all goes. The other thing to note is that the review into the gaming machines in the bookmakers has been put on hold. This will certainly please them as they are a cash cow to the business.

Cantering up Hamilton Hill

I don’t know what to make of the French drug taking system, and that one of our British jockeys has fallen foul of it. Whether it is right or wrong, and I am sure there are reasons on both sides, I hope our BHA upholds the decision as it just makes a mockery of everything if each country does their own thing. It doesn’t happen in any other sport, and it shouldn’t happen in ours.

Having a pick of grass after exercise

Phil on Friday

The Punchestown Festival begins on Tuesday, and what powerful memories it will awaken. For many years a group of members of the original Mark Tompkins Racing Club made the annual trip to Ireland and encountered unimaginable kindness and generosity.

Those many memories are topped, I think, by a Four-Year-Old Champion Hurdle, way back in the nineties, when the Guvnor’s Staunch Friend was the subject of a wager of colossal proportions for a hitherto ‘fun punter.’

Journalist and inveterate drinker Jeffrey Bernard, famed for his weekly Low Life column in The Spectator and his love of racing, once said a visit to Cheltenham had been partly spoiled  by the shape of his suit being ‘ruined by the bulk of pound notes’ after he backed a Fred Winter winner. Our Punchestown hero easily matched that ...

All of us in the group were determined to back Staunch Friend anyway but, through the haze of the previous night’s Jameson and Guinness, I was able to contact the Guvnor on the morning of the race. I bet he still remembers the conversation:

“They all want to know about Staunch,” I slurred.

“How’s the weather?”

“Hasn’t stopped raining since Monday.”

“Tell them to have a bit on, then.”

One of our group, ‘Peter’, was braver than the rest. Buoyed by the Guvnor’s apparent confidence he took every penny he could out of his bank accounts accessible in Ireland, even borrowed money from other members of the party, and lumped on.

He could barely watch, but Staunch Friend took up the running as they reached the last bend and won going away by 12 lengths. When we met up later cash was bulging out of every one of Peter’s pockets. If he’d had a hat that would have been stuffed with notes as well.

This was in the days of Irish punts, rather than euros, and when he got his loot home English banks would not change his fifties because of a counterfeit scare. ‘Peter’ was forced to sell them to a British-based Irish bookmaker. He didn’t get a good rate, but he’d still landed a very big coup.

The Guvnor later asked jockey Steve Smith-Eccles when he was sure he would win. “On the way to the start, boss,” was the reply.

‘Peter’ need never have worried.