Sporting Intelligence
ColumnistsSally Arscott‘Faithless were wrong. God is not a DJ. He is a bookie. Talking of which … back Tricky Trickster for the National’

‘Faithless were wrong. God is not a DJ. He is a bookie. Talking of which … back Tricky Trickster for the National’

by

SALLY ARSCOTT is a self-confessed “horsey girl” who’s ridden at Badminton, organised the Olympia International Horse Show and counts equestrian sports, racing in particular, as her abiding passion. But in the absence of a horse, then tennis, rugby and more recently ski cross fill the void. Sally lives in Gloucestershire, which is fantastic if you like horses, but not so great if you ever want to be able to speak by mobile phone…

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7 April 2010

So Cheltenham is but a memory for another year, but what a Festival it was, and not much went according to plan for the big players.

Imperial Commander trampled all over the Kauto v Denman marketing campaign in the Gold Cup. He was utter class, Denman was brave in the runner-up slot but the sight of Kauto Star cantering back in one piece following a hideous fall was the highlight for this soft racing fan.

Kauto is brilliant, but when up against others residing in the same category, you must be 100 per cent brilliant, and he wasn’t – he made a humdinger of a mistake at the eighth, used a number of cats’ lives to stay upright and then somersaulted over the fourth from home. But take nothing from the winner, whose connections had always felt that even if Denman and Kauto had been foot-perfect, they would have still been in second and third.

The easiest winner of the week award went to Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle, not for the distance by which he won, but for the fact he barely came out of a hack canter. How fabulous it would be to see this powerhouse of a horse in a real scrap for the line, but that is unlikely whilst he stays over hurdles.

Most excited jockey award goes to Tony McCoy after his Champion Hurdle win on Binocular. The champion jockey is possessed of an excellent sense of humour according to those who know him, but this is not always apparent on TV. On this occasion, however, his smile and joy engulfed Prestbury Park and he kissed the owner, the trainer, the lad, the owner again, the lass, the owner yet again and the Channel 4 camera crew had to move sharpish to avoid being next.

Big Zeb and Barry Geraghty held up the end for the Irish in the highlight races, romping home in the Champion Chase. Masterminded trailed in fourth, never looked like winning and saved the bookies from a pasting. It was an impressive piece of judgement by Geraghty who chose Big Zeb over the eventual second, Forpadydeplasterer, on whom he won the Arkle at last year’s Festival.

The theme of the betting week was beaten favourites, with hardly any coming up trumps, costing the public a small collective fortune, and lining the deep pockets of the bookies. Faithless were wrong; God is not a DJ, he is a bookmaker.

But the week belonged to Katie Walsh. Ruby’s little sister left the boys trailing in her elegant wake, with two wins from two rides and each time she rode back to the winner’s enclosure it was overflowing with Walshes, and good will and family pride. As a family, they seem the perfect support team for each other. If the racing ever goes wrong, for the parents Ted and Helen, there is surely a bit to be made in the “teach yourself successful parenting” market. (Lewis Hamilton looks like he could do with a rent-a-Walsh, what with his father now his ex-manager, and his back-up team currently making race-losing decisions from the pit lane).

Speaking of successful breeding, recent news is that Zarkava, the unbeaten 2008 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner is in foal to See The Stars, last year’s (and this decade’s) super-horse. If this pending foal were born human it would inevitably be unable to cope with the pressure of two such legendary parents, would be in and out of therapy for most of its teenage life and be photographed falling out of nightclubs with its lipstick spread across its face. Luckily it won’t be aware of any of this and so may just be a bloody good racehorse.

The flat season is now in full flow and the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas next month open the big-race season. If proof were required that the flat is where the money is, cast a glance at the prize money on offer at Meydan recently.

At the glittering spectacular that is the new racecourse in Dubai, with the celebrity owners and diamond-hued flood lighting, the winner of the World Cup on Saturday 27 March, Gloria De Campeao, pocketed a mere £3,703,703.70 for his owners, the Estrela Energia Stables. The previous race was won by Dar Re Mi, owned by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, and earned a prize of ‘only’ £1,851,851.85. The 85p makes all the difference I imagine!

Of the 2000 Guineas entries, last season’s champion two-year-old, St Nicholas Abbey, heads Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle entries for 1 May. But look out also for Arry’s Orse, owned by Harry Redknapp. He won last time out, but however fast or slow he runs he will always be the most appropriately named horse on the track!

But before the jumps are put away for the season, there is the small matter of the Grand National on Saturday. The supporting races will hopefully be an opportunity to sit back and appreciate the stars on display, with Big Buck’s and Imperial Commander both gracing Liverpool with their respective presences. But the big one kicks off on Saturday.

Paul Nicholls, the champion trainer, goes in fully armed and of his horses I’ll put a little wager on Tricky Trickster. He hardly exerted himself in the Gold Cup, and was still finishing on the following Monday. He jumps well and has won over 4 miles around Cheltenham. And Nicholls had a poor Festival by his own high standards, so maybe this is his year at Aintree.

David Pipe’s The Package is being backed heavily in the run up, and last year’s 100-1 winner Mon Mome steamed home in the Gold Cup to take third, hinting that he is firing on all cylinders and ready for a crack at a second National. Tony McCoy may be up there with the unluckiest men at Aintree (behind the chap that won the void National) but punters believe in him and he suggested over the weekend he might ride Don’t Push It, resulting in the price dropping to around 20-1.

You can make a case for 85 per cent of the entries, and if you read the Racing Post forums, everyone knows they’ve got the winner.

If you do pick the winner, you’re either very lucky, or physic. Or both.

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