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Latest News

16 April 2002

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Racing at Aintree 5/6th April - a punters view

So the circus came back to town. It seems like yesterday that Red Marauder was slogging through the elbow leaving Smarty in his wake to lead the only 4 finishers home in the mud bath that was the Grand National of 2001. Sadly, injury deprived last year's hero of defending his crown, but I was more concerned about the state of my wallet that was left a good deal thinner by Saturday evening last year.

As a 'poor student' I decided that I was fiscally inadequate to attend Thursdays racing so instead visited a leading local bookmaker (no names mentioned.) seven races and one 6/1 winner later I was in exactly the same financial position. Result! I triumphantly remarked as Mr. Ladbrokes had nothing on me that day. However the real fun would start on the Friday.

It was hard to believe that this course was the same place as that which had housed over 30000 drowned rats 12 months ago. The sun was blazing, it was pleasantly warm and I half expected to see Club 18-30 reps taking their clients out on bar crawls and pool parties.

So 2 Pints of lager later it was time for the first race. There was some confusion at this stage as one particularly tight walleted member of my group had gone missing looking for a bookie who accepted 10p each way bets and another was going round believing the horse called Enrique was being ridden by 'Pedro Hero.' However we all foolishly opposed the favorite Carberry Cross, which hacked up at 5/2. 

However despite this defeat it was still shaping up into a great day. The BBC were present covering the races in between world championship Backgammon with Claire Balding playing the Des Lynam role, Willy Carson standing on his 27 yellow pages and Angus Loughran looking dafter in a suit than he did in pyjamas as Statto on Fantasy Football.

Two races later and still no joy, but just to cheer me up one of my party, who prior to entering didn't even know how many legs horses have was on the way to picking two-thirds of the winners over the two days and coming out over £200 in profit. Is there any justice in this world?

By the time of the last race I was £60 worse off but I had a fancy for an Irish horse called Farinel. Surely I would not repeat my feat of a year ago of no winners. Farinel was beaten a head by the favourite and there was nothing left but to head back to Crosby and drown my sorrows in the pub until closing time. 

Saturday dawned and a new suit was initiated to Aintree. This was the big day and approximately 62500 people agreed with me that it was worth a visit. Indeed, getting served at the bar was almost as big a task as picking the winner of the national itself! The first race was another success for Johnjo O'Neil who scored first on all three days and completed his hat trick when Intersky Falcon bolted up in the handicap hurdle. Then, it happened. Second race I told my entire group (which today numbered almost ten) to lump on Armaturk, the 5/2 second favorite to the much fancied Seebald (owned by Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman) which was even money. My confidence led to me doubling my stake to £10 and all was set. Coming round the final bend, Tony McCoy was giving it the bifters on Seebald and Armaturk looked comfortable in front. Armaturk passed the post in front but my joy was short-lived. The bing bong of the claxon told me that there was a steward's inquiry 'due to possible interference between the first and second' said a deep authoritarian tone over the tannoy. It took a full fifteen minutes for the stewards to decide that I would indeed get my £35 payout and I didn't get one drink from the tight fisted gang that I had given the tip to.

That was sadly as good as it got. The only finisher I had in the big one was Streamstown struggling back in 9th. Far behind the duel that saw Bindaree shake off Whats Up Boys in a super finish. The rest of the day passed off without event and I walked away £75 lighter for the two days but happy for last years tally of zero was confined to history. I enjoyed Saturday's beverages knowing that Armaturk left me in a comfortable position, not enough for Moet and caviar admittedly but beer and chips, bring it on.

Article by Kevin Burgess


Classic clues galore this week as the Flat season really gets going with Newmarket's Craven meeting attracting a host of smart three-year-olds all gunning for classic glory. The opening afternoon on Tuesday see's the fillies take centre stage in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes, a recognised 1000 Guineas trial. Most of the top yards are represented, and I believe the John Dunlop trained Massarra might take a bit of beating in this event. Second to one of her rivals Xtrasensory on debut last year, she went on to win her maiden comfortably at Goodwood before winning a Listed race at this course, and then ran a stormer when chasing home Zipping in a Group 2 sprint at Maisons-Laffitte. Interestingly, the winner of that race went on to push champion two-year-old Johannesburg very close in France and the form looks rock solid.

Henry Cecil's Half Glance may provide some good opposition here, having taken an unbeaten record to Ascot when she contested the Group 1 Fillies Mile last back end, before finishing fourth there behind Gossamer. She is a Group 3 winner in her own right of course, having won the May Hill at Doncaster last year.

Other interesting runners here are Michael Stoute's Alasha, Ayr winner and unlucky Rockfel Stakes third Misterah, and Mick Channon's Ya Hajar, although surely ante-post favourite Queens Logic would be the main hope of that stable for the classic itself.

Also run on Tuesday is the Listed Abernant Stakes, run over six furlongs, and I take John Dunlop to carry on his fine form here with the help of penalised top-weight Invincible Spirit (nap). This horse beat Mugharreb in a Listed race last summer, before heading off to Ireland where he picked up a nice Group 3 prize by beating Aiden O'Brien's Toroca, who went on to win a good race in France, and the well beaten third that day had previously won a Listed race too. The conditions should be ideal for him here, and with plenty of holes in his opposition, I take him to win first time out, with possibly the Mark Johnston three-year-old Falcon Hill following him home.

Wednesday's action features the Earl Of Sefton Stakes, in which the unstoppable John Dunlop saddles Doncaster winner Dandoun, and he's surely the one to beat here. Also on the card is the 2000 Guineas warm-up the European Free Handicap, which is a bit of a conundrum because of the way it is shaped, but hopefully Leo's Luckyman and Bragadino will hold strong claims if they are forward enough.

And on the final days action, we see possible Derby contenders in the Fielden Stakes. Run over nine furlongs, this has been won by some decent cattle in the past, and I will be cheering on Fight Your Corner for the North in this one assuming he is allowed to take his chance. However I believe some of the honours will be staying in Newmarket, with the Craven itself possibly going to Michael Stoute's King Of Happiness, who is said to be well regarded at Freemason Lodge.

Newbury host's 1000 Guineas favorite Queens Logic on Saturday in the Fred Darling, and if she has trained on, then she must take the world of beating, but of course, there is no such thing as a certainty in this game.

Please get in touch with any questions you may have regarding the the upcoming classic trials, betting, or the sport in general. See you soon.

Article by Gary Christie 

Photo of Grand National 2002 by Roving Eye.

For rasing tips email Gary at:-



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