Thursday, 25 November 2010

Somewhere over the Rainbow...

Today looks a good chance to charge your betting banks for the weekend. Two likely looking novice chases at Newbury featuring...

13:35 Finian’s Rainbow – Likely to go off odds-on largely due to the amount of hype coming out of Seven Barrows. Nicky Henderson and regular work-rider Barry Geraghty have been enthusing about his affinity for the larger obstacles for a while now. Whether you wish to take 8/13 about him winning is debateable and he faces two useful types here but his win over course and distance as a hurdler should stand him in good stead here.

15:15 Tell Massini - Trainer said he didn’t like the track last time nonetheless he won well enough on his chase debut. He faces some useful sorts this time in Aiteenthirtythree and Be There In Five (point to point winners yet to race under rules) in what looks a trappy affair but Newbury is a galloping track which looks bound to suit and this race should see continued improvement.

In all likelihood both will go off shorter than they should but taking these in a singles doubles combo weighted towards Tell Massini should see you in profit x

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Big Race Preview: The Hennessy Gold Cup, Saturday 27th of November, Newbury

This weekend sees a crack team from Polish Ecstasy roll into Newbury to take in Britain’s oldest sponsored handicap – The Hennessy Gold Cup. The Berkshire track is regarded by the most seasoned trainers as one of the fairest tests of a horses ability around and at the business end of its three miles and two furlongs there is no hiding place for those who lack the courage for battle.

It takes a lionhearted display of galloping to claim Hennessy glory and not too many better examples exist than that of the 2009 renewal when Denman took the plaudits for a second time. In only his second race back after recovering from heart trouble ‘The Tank’ served it up to his rivals whilst giving them in excess of a stone and a half in the handicap, bringing the house down, and several bookmakers to their knees in the process. Many a hardened racing fan stifled a tear with a glass of good cognac in the gloaming of that late November afternoon and would dearly love to see Denman outdo even Arkle, the near-mythical monolith of this sport and take this testing handicap for a third time.

Paul Nicholls’s redoubtable steeplechaser tops the betting for the race again this time tougher proposition. The truth will out in time but this year’s crop of second season chasers including Weird Al, Burton Port and Pandorama promised much in their rookie year and the 20 runner field in general is ultra competitive.

The issue of the handicap is also an interesting one with many horses not being assigned as light weights as it would seem. Due to Denman’s lofty rating there are only six horses in the handicap proper meaning that simply to get into the race all the other competitors are actually carrying more weight than their official handicap rating would normally dictate.

Under the Magnifying Glass

This year’s Hennessy is all about innocence and experience. Horses like Denman, Neptune Collonges and Madison du Berlais have been round the block a few times savouring the victories as well as the bitter taste of defeats, falls, injuries and undulating form. Will the weight of the years weigh too heavily upon their bones or is there enough determination left to wring another battling victory from their aged sinews? Cocking them an ironic eyebrow as they extinguish their fags ‘round the back of the stables are a crop of second season chasers very much on the up with only the odd defeat between them. These youngsters dominate the betting for the race at present and as a result there is plenty of scope for backing the right old stager at a working man’s price. A fascinating race lies ahead, these are my thoughts.

Cross these off your list

Barber’s Shop - consistently found wanting in big races and Baa Baa the Elephant (ridden by Jamie Spencer) would probably stand a better chance of winning this. Hills of Aran - hasn’t shown form anywhere near what is required here in his three runs so far this season. China Rock - having been beaten off level weights over three miles by Pandorama last year it’s difficult to see him reversing form here. Has performed with great credit so far this season, but surely this will be beyond him after a tough race last time out. Niche Market – placed in this last year but whilst others are on the upgrade this one seems to have been treading water for rather too long to threaten. The Tother One – recent form has been uninspiring and the handicapper looks to have his measure.

A Working Man's Price

Razor Royale – a dour stayer who took the Racing post trophy last season, has big race jockey of the moment Sam Twiston-Davies on board. Carruthers -finished thirty lengths behind Denman at Cheltenham but didn’t handle the track, has a pull in the weights supposedly worth about 20 lengths here and is 3/4 at Newbury where his liking for the track may see him improve on the level of his Gold Cup fourth. Neptune Collonges - seems Nicholls’ best chance on jockey bookings and his trainer can ready a horse to win after a long absence. Not too far away from Denman on his previous best performance off level weights and with a over a stone pull this time around 16/1 is good value about him being back to somewhere near that level. Madison du Berlais - loves Newbury and has won this race before, seemed to be on the downgrade in the latter part of last season but that will seem him run off a nice weight here.

The Young Pretenders

Diamond Harry - excellent record at the course but jumping was a problem throughout his first chasing season and not great value a 8/1. Weird Al - unbeaten over fences and should definitely see out the trip though all his wins have come in small fields, strong chance if unshaken by the large field but 5/1 doesn’t seem like value. Pandorama – another who is unbeaten over fences the main doubt is whether he will stay the trip. That said he’s beaten decent fields pulling a standard piano on heavy ground over the water and his defeat of Weapon’s Amnesty cannot fail to impress given that he went on to beat others in this field comprehensively. Receives weight from almost all. Burton Port - outperformed all expectations for Nicky Henderson last season and a big threat if continuing to improve. Seems to be held by Weird Al on a form line through Knockara Beau and not known for being at his best first time out.

The Nicholls contenders

Denman – not easily discounted but this is much harder than last year and there is far better value in this field. Taranis – Paul Nicholls readied him to win after a three year injury lay off beating Carruthers in the process. Previously looked on his way to being high class and having won every seasonal debut in his career clearly goes well fresh. This is tougher but could make the frame.

The Verdict

Pandorama, Weird Al, Denman and Carruthers are my four against the field. A Denman win is not inplausible (no doubt I'll probably stick a bluey on him out of sentimentality) but whilst it would make my day the preference is for PANDORAMA whose progressive profile and light weight should see him take this. Weird Al also has exceptional claims but shouldn’t be 3 points tighter in the betting than the selection whilst still improving Newbury lover Carruthers is stonking each way value at current prices.

As always only the best of luck with your selections, as long as they match mine x

Friday, 5 November 2010

One from the Notebook

Stoney's Treasure (Alan King) Fontwell 14:50

This horse will have gone into many notebooks after Alan King gave him a very encouraging write up in his At The Races stable tour.
“Lovely horse that I’m as excited about as anything in the yard because he’s an absolute natural over fences. Because he’s got such a decent hurdle rating, 113, I’m going for a novice chase for horses not rated above 115 — if not a handicap 0-120. One thing's for sure; he's certainly much better than his current handicap mark of 113.”
The Barbury Castle yard was under a cloud of illness, injury and misfortune for most of last term but hopes are high that this season will different. It bodes well that in the midst of all the doom and gloom enveloping the stable at the time today's selection Stoney’s Treasure found time to build on a good bumper success with a pair hurdle wins.

At this time of the season we often see horses who have been talked up in the summer come out to have their first runs. Whilst over the course of the year they are more often than not exposed as all fur coat and no knickers so many young turks ease into the action by picking up races like today's novice chases that the punters should not ignore the trend.

In the fullness of time Stoney's Treasure may flatter to decieve but such a glowing schooling report suggests that he should take to fences nicely and is potentially well in on his hurdling mark. He is fancied to land the odds of 9/4 today.

Good luck all x

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The beginings of a new campaign

At long last the flat season is drawing to a close and with the advent of this weekend’s Charlie Hall Chase the jumps season proper will be underway. As the fogs roll down over Punchestown and the damp gets into the late October air in Lambourn gamin young hurdlers and venerable steeplechasers alike have long since begun to sense that the summer is but a memory and the time to prove themselves anew is at hand.

Just around the corner Cheltenham’s Open Meeting neatly foreshadows the great culmination towards which the modern jumps season builds. All roads lead to the festival or so the ‘Racing for Change’ marketing men would have us believe and as usual it is against the ticking of this clock that every hoof beat is measured. With this in mind we’ll take a look over the coming weeks at various aspects of the coming campaign.

First up, we peer downwards through our crescent reading glasses at the portents and omens for chasing’s blue ribband event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup...

The powers that be...

With both Kauto Star and Denman entering their eleventh years their pre-eminence in the staying chasers field will be questioned with increasing vigour this season. It has been some decades since an eleven year old won the Cheltenham show piece, yet together with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Imperial Commander (a ten year old) they are over a stone better on official ratings than the group of young pretenders that aim to be within snapping distances of their heels this term.

Kauto Star – At his supernatural best when destroying the field in the 2009 King George last season nevertheless highlighted that the apple of Ruby Walsh’s eye is not quite the same horse away from the Kempton track, when pipping Imperial Commander in a thoroughly debatable photo finish at Haydock and never looking like he was travelling well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. One senses that though he has the class to be untroubled by all but the very best at any track in Britain but this year a King George victory will define a successful season.

Denman – After last year’s rollercoaster season it’s difficult to know what to expect from Denman. His Hennessey win and Gold Cup second seem to suggest that he retains plenty of his formidable ability. Things don’t seem to be coming quite so easily to the Tank anymore.

Imperial Commander – Proved just how good he is around Cheltenham by exploding the Denman v Kauto hype surrounding the 2010 Gold Cup. Has a year on Paul Nicholls’ charges and can certainly make hay this term as there seems to be a season to wait before another generation of quality chasers emerge to challenge him.

The rest of the English...

Unusually there are several high quality second season chasers potentially on the Gold Cup scene but there are plenty of reasons (apart from the lack of toughness generally inherent in a graduating chasers) to have reservations about their chances. Of Nicky Henderson’s charges Punchestowns looks to lack the toughness to stay 3 miles plus around Cheltenham whilst Long Run is yet to display fluent enough jumping when questions are asked of his stamina (surely an experiment with a better jockey might shed some light on his true abilities). Indeed it may be the comparatively unheralded Burton Port who holds the biggest threat for the man from Seven Barrows, the RSA Chase 2nd surprised everybody with his progression last season and could well go on from there.

Elsewhere Weird Al, should he recover from the injury which cruelly put to death last year’s bookie busting festival accumulator might be an interesting proposition from a small yard and has already won twice at Prestbury Park. It would be reassuring for those who see him as a potential top level horse to see him pick up a win or two in large field races at 3 miles and beyond.

Somersby will progress for Henrietta Knight after looking for all the world like he needed further than the 2 miles he got in his races last season.

It maybe Planet of Sound who gets the closest of the English to the big three in his third season over the larger obstacles. Phillip Hobbs’s chaser improved to win the Punchestown Gold Cup (beating a sub-standard Denman) on his final start of last season but faces an uphill struggle to convince us that he can win at Cheltenham after his gutless Ryanair Chase flop in 2010.

Raiders from the Emerald Isle...

We saw arguably the most promising performance from a novice staying chaser last season when Weapons Amnesty confirmed his liking for the Cotswolds course with a strong victory in the RSA Chase, his second festival prize. Before trainer Charles Byrnes announced he be would out for the entire season through injury he would have been many a follower of the form’s idea of the most likely to bridge the gap to the big three.

Elsewhere the challenge from the across the Irish Sea looks nebulous at present, Joncol seems far too workman like whilst Cooldine who had a stop start season last term, may be further proof that winning an RSA, often such a gruelling race for a young chaser, may be less of boon to a horse’s long term prospects than one would expect given the fates of recent winners Denman, Weapons Amnesty and Trabolgan.

Pandorama is a horse that has been picking up plenty of wins in Ireland over the past two seasons only to miss the festival on both occasions. Noel Meade's gelding got home in front of Weapons Amnesty on his last run and if he returns well from his injury lay off could surprise a few people.

Wild Cards...
Another Paul Nicholls stable star currently third in some layers ante-post markets is 3mile hurdle titan Big Bucks. Let us not forget that he was in danger of serving it up to a future gold cup winner before falling at the business end of the Paddy Power Gold Cup won by Imperial Commander before returning to hurdles. Nicholls has never ruled out a return to chasing for him and the twelve to one currently available could begin to look silly if he takes to fences with more gusto a second time round.

Polish Ecstasy Verdict

Though the prices will not generally be earth shattering all the horses mentioned should win you a bit of money on their way to the festival in 2011.

It would be tremendous and certainly anything but a whimisical romance to see Big Bucks given another chance in this sphere, such has been his monopoly of staying hurdle prizes over the last two years but it seems by virtue of being younger than his rivals and more mature than the chasing pack that Imperial Commander may be the one to beat.

Dark Horse: Pandorama

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Wagers: A nice little double at Epsom tonight

Hello brothers and sisters,

After the near brush with a juicy three figure payday last week* I thought you might like to hear about a couple of other little fancies running at Epsom Downs this evening.

With indoor scarf sporting topman-botherers JLS set to 'entertain' the assembled crowds as the racing finishes, all of tonight's protagonists will have that extra incentive to get their races put to bed in double quick time. Nonetheless there are two here I like to get home (and away from the clutches of the reputedly 'rapey' young Aston) faster than most tonight.

18:40: Brynfa Boy - Unlucky with how his last few races panned out, particularly when too keen due to a dawdling early pace at Ascot last time. Should get a much jauntier pace this time and Tony Culhane will be looking to get our lad's nose in front inside the final furlong. 4/1 at time of posting.

19:45: Mascarene - Sir Michael Stoute's only runner on the card is nicely bred and the step down in trip looks set to suit her down to the ground on breeding. 9/4 at time of posting.

BACKED: Singles and an each way double.

Something of punt then but hopefully one that will at least see our inital outlay secured and perhaps privde a little rocket fuel for weekend festivities.

* the patent paid £88.00 for its two winners out of three.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Fanciful Friday Patent

Hello Gamblers hope you're doing well? I've gone for a nice little patent to get the weekend underway in style:

3:10 Newbury – Bahceli Hannon’s second string on paper but the maestro says he has been bouncing at home and he should place at 6s.


“Bahceli has won both his races in good style and has thrived for a break since the York May meeting. He has been so fresh this past week and is screaming for another race, and he deserves this step up in grade."

9:10 Pontefract - Orpsie Boy Was just observing a live chat on Sporting Life with the urbane Nick Luck and he couldn’t talk up this one’s chances enough

9:20 Hamilton – High Resolution A feather weight aided by a 5 llb claim has this lad set up to go in again for the second day running.

Good luck dabblers xxx

Friday, 4 June 2010

Derby Preview

Ah the Flat!

Juvenile horses; fitsome and bolshy as teenagers, prone to extravagant changes in mood, crises of confidence, physical eruptions and burgeonings. Above all horrendously frustrating to have any kind of investment in. Needless to say some horses, like some teenagers have everything you could ever dream of right there in their first flush of youth. These are the dreamboats and teen queens of each year’s classic generation.

At this early stage of the season all the punter has to help eke out his opinion on a race is one or two bits of form, stable gossip and the obligatory ‘glowing’ gallop report. We’ll need to plot a path clear of the whirlpools of hype that threaten to capsize our bets before they even reach the stalls. Saturday brings the Derby, my second favourite race of the flat season so we’ll set our sextants, attune our bullshit detectors and cut merrily into the swell.

Aidan O’Brien likes to take a banjo to many of the big races but he completely failed to hit the cow’s arse in last year’s Derby despite fielding six likely candidates. Again this year he goes in mob handed but the varied fates of the boy from Ballydoyle’s entries in recent days and weeks have caused ructions in the betting market. St Nicholas Abbey injured, Cape Blanco going to France, Jan Vermeer winning impressively in Ireland. All were right at the top of the betting and for the Derby this has particular significance.

Not once in the last ten years has the winner gone off at greater than 7/1 or from outside the first four in the betting. Of course trends are often liable to subverted in some daring new fashion but some, like the denim hot pant are never going to be away for too long. With a trend like the former it pays to wait until the day of the race but three that I like most from the first six (to allow for a bit of market movement at the time of posting are:

Jan Vermeer – A wide margin group 1 winner in France at 2 and won an average race well on his only other start this season. If he wasn’t a Ballydoyle horse he wouldn’t be 2/1 but being Johnny Murtagh’s ride of choice is a feather in his cap. The only one of the leading contenders to have form over another horse in the top half of the betting (Midas Touch) and will take all the beating.

Bullet Train – Trainer Henry Cecil's haggard yet elfin features make him look like racing's answer to Keith Richards though in truth his rollercoaster ride of a career has more in common with Johnny Cash. His own Father Time taught us last year that simply having a fantastic name is no guarantee of heroism but Bullet Train may yet live up to his mighty moniker and make Epsom the latest stop on Cecil's railroad to redemption. The horse lying second had a fatal injury when he won his trial at Lingfield but he had them strung out and struggling well before then and could out stay the opposition tomorrow.

Rewilding – Won nicely at Goodwood on his only British start and supplemented for this race at a cost of £75,000. Stable jock Frankie Dettori is up top for this and has been banging in the winners at a phenomenal rate in the last fortnight. Has plenty of scope to improve.

CONCLUSION: Bullet Train will be the one they have to pass but Jan Vermeer should take this from Rewilding to end O’Brien’s Derby drought.

  1. Jan Vermeer
  2. Rewilding
  3. Bullet Train

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Grand National Hopefuls

Cheltenham maybe the high water mark of the jumps season for committed fans of the game but there can be few areas of life where the 'once a year' dilettante gets such a comprehensive bang for their buck as in racing's Grand National. No race captures the nation's imagination like the National at Aintree and its not hard to see why. The marathon trip of 4 miles and 4 furlongs is a test without parallel. A biblical storm of flashing whips, flying sod and thunderous waves of horseflesh crashing against 30 fences of daunting spruce.

In the eery calm of the hours before the off homes across the nation ring to the sounds of enthusiastic and baseless conjecture. The papers are spread out on the table, cups of tea are being sipped and the search for a needle of choice in this almighty haystack of a race has begun.

For such an unusual race the form book is of only limited value. If you wish to delve into it strong form over 3 and a half miles +, previous Aintree steeple chasing experience and an affinity with the predicted good to soft ground will probably form a nice basis for a selection. Or if you prefer pick one with nice name and a pretty face. Personally I like to back a few in the race with a combination of looks and substance (because being out the contest at the very first fence is too much to bare) and will be having a few quid win and place on all of my selections.

With most bookies offering five places for your each way money on the day itself here's 5 likely lads who I fancy to fill the places.

Big Fella Thanks (best price 8/1)

Better off with the handicapper than when finishing 6th in last year's race despite being relatively young and naive. The sublimely gifted Ruby Walsh knows how to ride a National winner and opts for him over stablemate Tricky Trickster (himself a leading fancy before a poor run in the Cheltenham gold cup) and who are we to argue with 'the softest wrists in racing' ? The 8/1 generally available is not an attractive price in such an extreme race but we must remember: value doesn't pay the rent, that's what winners are for.

Black Appalachi (best price 14/1)

My ante-post pick for last year's race, I still choke on my Guiness when remembering the way he fell, jumping at shadows when leading so impressively. Trainer Dessie Hughes will have him cherry-ripe for the race after a low key preparation and last year's pilot Denis O'Regan is keeping the faith. If jockey and horse keep their concentration as well he'll go very close.

Cerium (best price 66/1)

Finished ahead of Big Fella Thanks last year and gets an even lighter weight this year (so light in fact that he needs a couple of competitors to drop out before he's guaranteed a place). He ran into 5th last year and it was later discovered that he'd sustained a crack to the skull half way round making his performance tremendously heroic whilst offering the giddy promise of better this year.

Eric's Charm (best price 50/1)

What's to like about a veteran performer taking in his first National at the tender age of 12? A Sandown win in December over a stamina sapping 3m 5f reads nicely in the form book and looks even sweeter when you see Nigel Twiston Davies' big race fancy Irish Raptor well beaten in fifth. The boy Eric will jump nicely and stay the distance, not too bad for a 50/1 shot hmm?

Mon Mome (best price 11/1)

Like many others I didn't know Mon Mome from your Mome when he gave Liam Treadwell an armchair ride to victory in last year's running but Venetia Williams' horse has subsequently proved his class in no uncertain terms when finishing third in this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's got 7lbs more weight on his back this year but has clearly improved beyond the seven lengths that that supposedly equates to.

NB: Tricky Trickster (best price 16/1)

A galaxy sized Nota Benae must be Tricky Trickster. This horse will undoubtedly carry the £1 e/w bets of a fair percentage of the nation's once a year child gamblers on his back thanks to his Dick Dastardly-esque moniker but makes a reasonably shrewd value bet. He was all the rage for this race before a below par run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but the team behind him were never going to push the horse too hard as this has been his target all year. He's the race's forgotten horse but I urge you, forget him at your peril.

Good Luck x

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A Gambler's Guide to the East Coast Mainline

Polish Ecstasy tend to let a gambler’s attitude pervade most aspects of life, whether this be staying in bed until the last possible moment (and beyond) before being massively late for work or taking death defying risks as we leap through closing doors and speed through red lights on the daily commute.

In the first of these columns, which are gambler’s guides to everyday life we’re going to address travelling on the train and principally the Peterborough to London, East Coast Mainline route.


The leaden poetry inherent as the driver intones “St Neots... Sandy... Biggleswade...Stevenage... Potter’s Bar”; the oceans that would swell and recede season by season on the flood plains between Ely and March, the sense of leaving behind places you’ll never ever know; there is a mundane beauty to travelling between Britain’s big cities by train.

As the carriages wait on the outskirts of forgotten towns and cities or trundle across the fields between, the passenger is left to gaze out into the middle distance somewhere between the scenery and their own reflection. Needless to say, these pleasurable moments of disengagement are all too often interrupted by hair gel slicked provincial teenagers - all Breezers, nasal voices and cheap aftershave; gales of boozy laughter from toxic hen parties, banal conversations conducted at hurricane volume, persistent coughs, roaming stenches, lonely perverts or the silent threat of shark-eyed psychopaths but somehow they abide in the gaps between.

Many other grave assaults on the senses face the travelling man on his way across the country but none inspire greater feelings of helplessness and impotent rage than the dreaded site of the ticket inspector emerging through the doors at the other end of the carriage.

As a child travelling with my parents I‘d always felt a twinge of annoyance when arriving at the end of a journey, unchecked ticket in hand, knowing that we could have got away with it. Later, having begun criss-crossing the country’s railway networks under my own steam during my faltering adolescence, the nebulous morality issues surrounding paying my fare began to crystallise - like the abundance of jelly in a British Rail pork pie - around one thing: the crushing effect it had on my already sparse pocket money. Seeds of resentment were sewn.

The years passed with the haircuts, a brief trist with the Ministry of Sound's 'Ibiza Annual' and various other misguided obsessions and love affairs (Kimberley Stiff, the elusive and ultimately treacherous Carol) came and went and in the autumn off 2002 I left for university. During the fallow weekends I would often find myself travelling home for band practises or to London on the trail of The Libertines. Feelings of overwhelming freedom abounded, all wrapped up in warm beer, blue smoke*, and the songs of ‘Up The Bracket’.

As my visits to the capital became more common the seed of disobedience that had formed in my childish breast began to flower and I would take my ticketless chances with more or less unhindered success on the route operated formerly by WAGN between Peterborough and London, all the time gaining knowledge and expertise. It is with these fond memories in mind (as well as mounting consternation at constantly rising ticket prices and their ever more abstract relation to increases in service quality and reliability) that I hope to give the gift of worry free travel that only an extra thirty quid in your sky rocket or a near failsafe excuse system can bring, with the low down on how to minimise fares along this well worn route.

*Not Crack.

Disclaimer: Polish Ecstasy does not condone fraudulent or naughty behaviour in any fashion whatsoever.


For those of you unfamiliar with the route in question it is important to remember ticket inspectors travel infrequently up and down the line so it’s always necessary to keep an eye out for them. Anecdotally speaking, the amount of times you bump into one and are forced to part with some cash tends to be a sufficiently low percentage of total trips to recommend a policy of blanket free travelling. The trick is to minimise the damage when you are caught and the best way to do this is to remember the last station you passed so that you can claim to have got on there. It is necessary to know which stations do not use ticket barriers (make a reference to the check-list below) as it is perfectly plausible that you may have had to run to catch the train and not had time to visit the machine.


Check List

  • Peterborough - Guards on exits at random times

  • Huntingdon - Barriers on Northbound platform

  • St Neots - No reliable data

  • Sandy - No barriers,

  • Biggleswade - No barriers

  • Arlesey - No barriers

  • Hitchin - Barriers

  • Welwyn North - No barriers

  • Welwyn Garden City -Barriers

  • Stevenage -Barriers

  • Potters Bar - No reliable data, barriers expected

  • Finsbury Park - No barriers

  • Kings Cross - No barriers, Guards on exits at random times


* Getting off at Finsbury Park will save you trouble as well as time at the London end more often than not.

* Often Ticket Inspectors seem to swoop at Huntingdon.

* Stevenage is a shit hole.

Good Luck.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Postcards from the Provinces: #2 Lovers' Ruin

Have you ever been listening to a song and have had to turn it off because it evokes a memory or an emotion which turns your stomach, gets stuck in your throat or kicks you in the balls, leaving you either wanting to cry, or hold your head in embarrassed shame. I have, and it's almost always related to a girl.

It dawned on me that this would an interesting subject to write about. So many songs have been ruined for me by the women I've know, loved and still love. This article is going to look at songs which have been desecrated by the memory attached to them, etched by ghosts of girlfriends past and present.

1. 'I’m Like a Bird' by Nelly Furtado:

I’m like a bird isn’t a song that I listen to by choice, I’d say it is just one of those songs you occasionally hear on the radio, or see the video on a music channel now and then. However without fail, each time I hear Miss Futardo’s smash hit ode to commitment issues I can’t help thinking about the night I lost my virginity. I’m not even sure to this day whether I lost it or, quite literally, misplaced it. ‘It’ being my penis.

I was a late starter in life; everything I did was prolonged or put off, usually because I was scared to face challenges thrown at me. I’m the person who’s going to do the job tomorrow rather than today and like everything else, girls were no exception. However there always comes the day when you have to get the job done, even when you’re desperate to do anything thing else other than what you have to face. My first kiss was one of these occasions, I’d attempted everything to get out of it even sabotage.By stopping off at MacDonald’s and loading up on double cheese burgers, I was convinced that the overwhelming stench of onions and fear would send the girl packing, but no. When I arrived on the date, I found to my horror that Denise was keener than ever. As we walked through the park Denise would sporadically squeeze my arse, I couldn’t help but blush. She was a crafty one, I thought, as she guided me round a corner into a pretty sunken garden full of ornate foliage. We stopped and without warning she'd clamped onto my face, it was horrible-her tongue whirled around in my head like fish in its final death throws. 'When will it stop' is all I could think, and then like the eye of a storm it was calm again. I never saw Denise after that day. Thank god.

Soon after Denise I started dating a girl called Pia, and happily for me we made it through our first kiss unscathed, no dead fish moments, but the relationship was starting to move forward, we were heading for unchartered territory, our love was about to get physical and frankly I was shitting myself over the prospect of getting my portions. There was clearly so much that could go wrong, she could see my penis and laugh at it. I could discover that I don’t like sex and realise that I was in fact a repressed homosexual. I could just cum down my leg before I got it anywhere near the Holy Grail. The anticipation was staring to take its toll on me.

The much planned night was upon us. I had managed to get my mum out of the house by telling her that the two of us wanted to celebrate our three week anniversary, this was true, but what we really wanted was to unshackle ourselves from the oppressive constraint of our virginity. So at sevenish Pia knocked at the front door we looked at each other like we were complete strangers and I suppose that's what we were...tonight was all about the sex and neither of us had a clue.

We started kissing as soon as she came in the door, she was of the let's get this out of the way school of thought, while I being a serial procrastinator decided to slow it down and watch some telly first. We watched MTV for a while, well I say watched, it was actually listening-we were kissing in that manic manner that teenagers do, as if you were to stop the other person would disappear.She grabbed my hand, as 'It Wasn’t Me' by Shaggy started to play on the telly, I can remember the unbelievable sense of impending doom as she dragged me up from the settee and said “Let’s go upstairs.”

We got to the bedroom and all I can remember is Pia lying there naked while I left the room to put on a condom, god knows what she thought I was doing, I didn’t. I returned to the room and it started. We rolled around like two worms wrestling, and I was pretty happy up with the way it was going, I felt like I was passing the ‘he’s definitely not a virgin test’. Then The moment that seemed to trigger my downfall occurred, Furtado started to pollute the house as Pia asked if this was my first time. ‘How does she know?’ I asked myself, but I later realised I was probably humping her leg.Of course I didn’t think this was the time to admit to being a virgin, I don’t know where it came from but I started listing mythical women I’d slept with they all had ridiculous names like Tallulah, Witney and Trixie, I might as well have told her that she was fucking Slim Goody Peterborough's finest pimp. Why couldn't I say Sarah, Helen anything but Trixie.

I’ve learnt now that it's never a good idea to mention other women while in the throes of sexual passion with another lady. It isn’t a common foreplay technique, and there's a reason for that. Girls are touchy. In an attempt to shut me up she grabbed my penis, it was happening.

‘Your faith in me brings me to tears/Even after all these years.’

The fear took hold of me, it was happening. I was waving goodbye to the age of innocence I WAS BECOMING A MAN! but as the song swelled into to another chorus my solider lay down and died. 'God no, why now? This has never happened to me when I was practicing.' I thought as I attempted to give him a helping hand.

Pia was quite comforting over the whole situation trying to get the old boy to have one last fight at it, but her efforts were to no avail. She even suggested taking the dog out for a walk and that's not even a dick based euphemism. I think once you start discussing dog walking the moment has passed, consigned to the history books as a failure.

It's not all doom and gloom because later that week I finally got the job done, but that night will always be known as ‘Flop and Fear’. A term first coined by young Thomas Reynolds to explain similar lonely travails. I drove Pia home that night with a complete sense of humiliation; we didn't really talk much on the way to her house. 'I'm Like a Bird' started to play on the radio and I wanted to kill myself. Luckily I can laugh about it now, but whenever I hear that song I just cringe...

I still don't know if I lost my virginity that night.

* (Joke originally attributed to unknown comedian, Norwich, 2004 - editor)

Oliver Jakeman.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Saturday's Big Race Preview: 15:05 Racing Post Chase Kempton

Hello again my friends. Let's take a look forward to what will, weather permitting, be this Saturday’s big handicap chase.

There are some strong trends in existence which I found on the excellent website , an invaluable resource for big race trends. Monday’s forfeits are in and we are left with a 16 string field to mitigate or obliterate.

Based on the trends from the past 10 years you are looking for a horse which is...

· Aged 6 to 8, (8 year olds in particular have won five of the last ten runnings)

· Carrying 10-12+ (9/10 recent winners, 4 being top weight)

· Officially rated 143 or higher

· Won last time out (9/10 recent winners)

· Run in 2 to 4 chases this season

· Won or placed in a listed or graded chase

· Won over 2M 5F+

· Course winner

· Trained by Philip Hobbs or Paul Nicholls

· Priced 10/1 or below (10/10 recent winners)

In the light of the fairly emphatic looking starting price trend we’ll have a look at those horses who have lithely limboed their way under the 10/1 bar

Nacarat – Ante-post favourite for the race, Nacarat certainly didn’t have a horse of the quality of Madison Du Berlais to beat when taking last year’s renewal by 9 lengths from Possol but is clearly not a million miles away in terms of class after finshing fourth in the King George over C&D at Christmas. Will like the going and must surely come very close again.

Fistral Beach – A serial silver medallist before finally scoring over 2miles 4 and a half furlongs on the Kempton turf last time out. Trained by Paul Nicholls, he will have the incomparable Ruby Walsh on board. Strikingly he will be in receipt of over two stone (out of the weights at the moment) from Madison Du Berlais so could be a threat though forging out over a 3 mile trip for the first time on the likely soft ground could be a tough assignment. Best watched at the price, though some might say you should wait to hear Paul Nicholls’ feelings in Saturday’s Racing Post, then send your money in the opposite direction!

Kilcrea Castle - Another who has yet to prove he can see out the trip, though affirmative noises have come from trainer Emma Lavelle on the subject. He has been the subject of a large gamble already in to 13/2 from 16/1, finished close behind the Sawyer and Miss Mitch in his first race in England recently and is one of the three in Saturday's race (along with Razor Royale and Kilcrea Castle) who fall under the strong trend for 8 year old winners. Fancied to have a strong chance.

Possol - A doubt for the race due to the expected soft ground, Possol has been at his most effective this season and recieves plenty of weight from Nacarat, his conqueror in last year's running. Definite claims should the going improve but one to hold fire on until the day.

Madison Du Berlais -The class horse in the race, he has the form edge around Kempton over Nacarat and therefore Possol. His performance last time at Cheltenham can be tippexed as the horse has shown that he just doesn’t get on with the stamina test at the Cotswolds track, running consistently below his best there. The record top weights hold in the last ten runnings of this race soothes some of the worries over whether he can give away so many lbs. He seems an each way steal at the 10s which are currently available.

Miss Mitch - Has recently beaten other contenders like Kilcrea Castle and will one lb better off with him here though one win in 9 on soft ground seems to suggest that she may find it tough come saturday.


Nacarat and Madison du Berlais stand out in terms of ratings and weighiproven ability in high class races and as that seems to have been a consistent winning profile for this race they are preferred with a heavy heart to Kilcrea Castle who may get a little side bet on the day.

Looking at our short list its a no-brainer for me value-wise and I'll back MADISON DU BERLAIS each way at double the price of Nacarat.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Saturday's Globe Trotting Football Accumulators brought to you by Sun Tzu

I've been having a look at the football this Saturday and there seem to be a plethora of likely bets on Saturday which I might attack in the kind of intricately tactical web of doubles, trebles and accumulators that Sun Tzu (author of the go to book for philosophical footballers such as Aston Villa's Nigel Reo-Coker) might have used to obliterate the bookmaking syndicates of ancient China.

The masterful Zulte Waregem squad are hoping to "a real fucking number" on SK Roselare on the 20th according to dashingly named striker Teddy Chevalier.

I’m sure there are plenty more diamonds to be found in the Dutch, Greek, Cypriot and Turkish rough on Sunday too! Let me know what you think of them, any you feel I’ve missed etc. Also what do you think of the chances of the big 2 in Spain this weekend?

You can find all these and more on Betfair.


Nurnberg v B Munich*


Wolves v Chelsea* (this one seems quite dodgy, especially in light of Chelsea’s CL 2nd round match next week)

Nottingham Forest* v Middlesbrough
Newcastle* v Preston
Cardiff* v Barnsley

Swindon* v Carlisle
Norwich* v Southampton
Colchester* v Oldham

Rochdale* v Dag and Red

Possible value upsets

Arsenal v Sunderland*
Celtic v Dundee*


FK Austria Wien* v SK Austria Karnten


Zulte-Waregem* v Roeselare


Inter* v Sampdoria

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

From the frontline...betting shop wisdom # 2: AP McCoy’s "Shangri-Las"

The man they have come to know simply as ‘Champ’ can be a divisive figure among followers of jumps racing . Known for banging home more winners than any other jockey, AP McCoy has become something of an exalted figure in the sport, with few famous faces keen to do anything besides pay lip-service to his undoubtedly immense will to win.

There are however those among the punting fraternity who would regard AP as a 'grinder' who while most certainly a highly skilled horseman, does not have the cultured approach of Ruby Walsh. This may be something to do with the fact that his reputation is not one born out of profitability. It has been a decade after all, since he finished a season in the black when backed in each race to a one pound stake.

AP is undoubtedly a grinder, picking up wins at ‘lowly’ tracks up and down the roads of this sceptre isle but for the punter these victories in nothing races can keep you in Courvoisier till you’re old and grey if you know the tracks where he truly excels. South Wales’ new and highly thought of Ffos Las track is fast beginning to prove a Shangri-la for the ‘Champ’ and punters alike.

An overall record of 14 wins from 34 rides (41%) at the track yields a lovely + £18.54 strike rate but it’s when you narrow it down to his ‘Chase’ rides at the track that the real statistical truffle is unearthed.

From the 12 Chases he has contested at the Carmarthenshire course AP has been victorious on no fewer than 8 occasions delivering a 67% strike rate which would leave you £20.88 in profit if you’d staked a pound on each of the races. It may be early days for Ffos Las but in AP McCoy, its clear we have already found our preferred pilot.

Grind out some nice dough backing A.P McCoy in Chases at Ffos Las

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Towards Cheltenham - The Champion Hurdle Picture

As January draws to a close it seems as good time as any to assess the chances of the key runners in what is often my favourite championship race at the festival, The Champion Hurdle.

With the January jumping calendar ravaged by snow and frost opportunities to see the principals add substance to their claims have been thin on the ground, trainers playing roulette with the fixture list in search of prep runs for their charges. Add to that the fact that the worth of last year’s Champion Hurdle form seems to be getting knocked about and one is left with a race that is very difficult to fathom.

The weekend of the 29th of January saw races traditionally regarded as fair trials for Cheltenham’s Tuesday showpiece go ahead at Haydock and Leopardstown and served to offer form lines (some comprehensive, some more tenuous) which unite many of the horses at the business end of the ante-post markets for the race yielding for two horses who have particularly bold claims.

After an unspectacular fourth of four in Saturday’s Haydock race that also featured Medermit and Punjabi, a yardstick of sorts has finally arrived in the steady shape of Cape Tribulation, who’s form is intertwined with the runners we’ll be looking at. Over an up and down career he seems to have fared best over distances of 2 miles 4 furlongs and upwards. Hopefully observing how the leading contenders for Champion Hurdle glory fared against him this season will allow us to gain a better handle on where they all stand in the pecking order.

Binocular – The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle at the end of November saw several Champion Hurdle prospects line up. Binocular made a poor showing when finishing 5th, 7 lengths behind Go Native and 1 and a half adrift of Solwhit. He got a lot closer to that day’s victor when the two re-opposed in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, going down by only a length and a quarter.

Go Native –. He had already had a warm-up run before his Fighting Fifth success and beat a woefully under par Binocular and a Solwhit who was in need of his first run of the season. He beat Cape Tribulation (4th) by 6 and quarter lengths in the Christmas Hurdle in Kempton’s Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle over the 2 mile Champion Hurdle trip.

Zaynar – Not remotely pushed when recording an unspectacular win from Cape Tribulation by 6 Lengths in a longer 2 mile 4 furlong race at Cheltenham in December. It seems that Nicky Henderson is keeping him firmly away from the other leading lights between now and the festival so we are left with Cape Tribulation as the only link to the other players. CT trailed the winner by the same distance in both his race race with Zaynar (2m4f) and Go Native (2m).

Punjabi – Came home 2 lengths in front of Cape Tribulation when himself a 4 length 2nd to Medermit in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock on Saturday.

Celestial Halo – Finished 3 Lengths up on Medermit in the Boylesports International that was won by Khyber Kim in December. He had no answer when under pressure beaten 9 lengths into fourth by Solwhit at Leopardstown over the weekend though the heavy ground may have also been partially to blame.

Solwhit – Clearly needed the run when beaten 3 and a half lengths by Go Native in The Fighting Fifth and responded by recording 2 victories in Ireland since then. His victory in Leopardstown at the weekend left Celestial Halo trailing in his wake on the heavy ground, some 9 lengths behind.

Khyber Kim – Has beaten Medermit into 3rd twice over Champion Hurdle course and distance this season. In the second of those races he came from last to first in a taking manner passing Celestial Halo on his way to the line.

Medermit – Another solid form yardstick, Medermit announced himself in the Champion Hurdle Picture on Saturday beating reigning champ Punjabi by 4 lengths on Saturday. He has been a not too distant third twice behind Khyber Kim over Cheltenham C and D.

The Verdict

Confusion reigns! Cape Tribulation has taught us precious little, though to me it seems that as yardstick he shows Zaynar in a better light due to racing against him at what seems more like his ideal distance of 2 miles 4 furlongs. If sharing Paul Nicholls’ view we rule out Celestial Halo’s recent bad run in Ireland as a blip, then I keep coming back to to one horse... Nigel Twiston Davies’s massively improved Khyber Kym.

Having two wins at Cheltenham over the Champion Hurdle Trip already under his belt beating last year’s runner up and twice beating Medermit who has himself beaten the current champion in reasonable fitness I feel he has the pick of the form.

Zaynar and particularly Solwhit are two others who have sound claims but each has an unknown undermining them.

Q.Will Solwhit transfer his Irish form to England, and more particularly Cheltenham’s singular test of stamina?

Q. Does Zaynar have the turn of foot to withstand on-rushing hold-up types such as Khyber Kym and Go Native
over the final furlong of 2 mile trip which just might not be his optimum trip?

I reckon the form has worked out very well for Khyber Kym, so I will back him out Polish Ecstasy’s biscuit budget and sit back to dream of another madcap, last to first burst to Cheltenham glory.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Polish Ecstasy’s Cheltenham Festival Bookie-Busting Ante-Post Accumulator

Ah! hello there my friends, want to make 97 grand? Of course you do. All you'll need is ten pounds sterling and three months of patience. Read on to find out how....

As the we’re now only three months from the high water mark of the jumps season it’s become a tradition for me to sit down with my notebook on events so far and the ante-post markets for the festival to place a frivolous and fanciful each way accumulator.

Last year’s selections were made just shy of Christmas and the four horses I selected promised to pay £5,000 and £500,000 from my ten pound e/w stake when they raced to medal places at the festival. In the final reckoning only one of the horses placed and one neglected to take in the festival at all, such are the pitfalls of the ante-post game.

I’m posting these selections before the Cheltenham Trials Meeting at the end of the month in the hope that greater value can be gleaned for my selections.

This year’s bookie busters....

Arkle Trophy

French Opera is already in my ante-post portfolio for this race with the princely sums of £2 WIN @100/1, £5 PLACE @ 13/1 riding on his back but he is a far from likely runner. Tataniano and Somersby the two that particularly catch the eye at this stage. Tataniano jumped the Cheltenham fences with real grace last time out though the race itself was a distinctly tepid affair. Somersby did well at the festival last year finishing 3rd in the Supreme Novices Hurdle won by Go Native (when generally regarded to be a chasing prospect) and gets the nod for the bookie-buster by virtue of having beaten better horses (fellow Arkle prospect Crackaway Jack for example).

Selection: Somersby

Champion Hurdle

Though not quite such stonking a price as last year (33/1) Punjabi still represents excellent value at 12/1. Another I’ve been taken with is Khyber Kim who’s two strong runs this season seem not to have made as much impression on the bookies as they have with me. The only doubt with him is his Trainer’s tradition going off the boil after mid-December.

Selection: Khyber Kim

RSA Chase

This a notoriously arduous race for a young chaser and has been known to take its toll on recent alumni. We’ll need to go for a rock hard competitor Weird Al is an interesting one, with two course victories to his name already. He has scope for further improvement, jumps well and will have one more run before Cheltenham. The other one I fancy to do what he needs to (place at least) is Pandorama. He beat a previous Cheltenham winner in Weapon’s Amnesty last time out when his trainer acknowledged that he was not 100%, nonetheless doubts over his jumping persist and the worry is that he may be found out over the stiff festival fences. This a bitch of a choice with both available at around the same price, the gut opts says Pandorama will get the trip whilst the breast sees Weird Al as the more likely improver.

Selection: Weird Al

Ryanair Chase

Poquelin has a massive chance but we are looking for value here. There is some conjecture over which race Planet of Sound will run in but this seems the most likely. He’s bred to stay further than this trip which makes his Arkle third (over 2 miles) last year all the more impressive. His performance in his most recent race where he stayed on brilliantly to take 2nd despite 2 jumping mishaps shows he’s the kind of tough cookie that could fly away with the Ryanair, boom boom.

Selection: Planet of Sound


odds at : 15:45

4 Fold Accumulator

Somersby to win Arkle Chase @ 8/1
Khyber Kim to win Champion Hurdle @ 12/1
Weird Al to win RSA Chase @ 14/1
Planet of Sound to win Ryanair Chase @ 10/1

Bet £5 each way advised and struck on Friday 08/01/09 with Paddy Power

The future's not ours to see dear friends but if this bet kops we'll be looking through our rose tinted spectacles at anywhere from...

* £945 if each of our steeds gets home in the first three, to...

* £97,470 if they all miraculously win.

Make sure you let us know about any ante-post flutters for the festival, or any fancies you have in general. Just comment wherever you can find a box. Good luck x

Monday, 4 January 2010

The way she goes - A guide to fruities

This piece is my guide to fruit machines, hopefully I can share some of my experiences and tips. First off I’d say DON’T play them, you’ll lose. They are greasy and ladies will look down on you and if you get a big win from the off, you’ll think that will happen every time. Remember they are Fruit machines not cash machines. If you happen to mutter the phrase “it’s going to pay out” you’re in too deep and kidding yourself, you might just walk away even, at least thats what you say even though you’re £40 down.

That saying I love the bastards, the flashing lights draw you in and the thrill you get when the mega streak hits is worth the lows. During my career in the fruits game i’ve had some big wins and losses, now I play casually on a night out and more times than not end up having my drink money covered from a couple of machines. I'd recommend a Wetherspoons on a saturday or wednesday. Let some mug fill them up then go for £1 a spin till you get on the board, take the small to mid size wins and it should add up in no time. If you push for the Jackie and it doesn’t come then you’re the mug filling it up for the nextman.

I was going to give some more tips but I don’t think i’ll pass them on. You can make mistakes like me and countless other fools chasing that dream of a pocket full of pound coins.

On a side note I really do recommend staying away from the £500 video machines in the bookies and arcades. I realise this is a contradiction as I have had my biggest wins on these. £998 profit in one day from a £60 outlay but these things are truly the work of the devil. They sucker you in teasing you with small wins yet is more common than not they will rinse a twenty note in less than a minute.


I will leave you with my favourite fruit machine story. I was waiting for a train at Leicester station and decided to throw a couple of pounds into a Barcrest happy campers. At a table next to the machine was a group of pretty 20 somethings who gave me a look of disgust and muttered something which was followed by a laugh. Undeterred I carried on, to my surprise the machine went invincible straight away giving me a jackpot repeat, then it followed up with a quick £12 giving £82 in all. On hearing the magical sound of pound coins hitting the tray the ladies then started chatting to me excitedly about how quickly I won. I scooped the money into my bag and replied “it’s all in a days work” before walking off like a fruit machine rain man.