It has been the strangest of weeks in the sporting world – not merely in the horse racing corner of the sporting spectrum.
Admittedly, this is a time of year where racing aficionados are primarily fed a relentless diet of extremely modest fare and I will be far happier with punting life once the evening racing comes to a close in a couple of weeks (yes, the Newbury card was decent on Saturday). However, next week’s Ebor Festival cannot come quickly enough although a personal view is that this is yet another meeting that is self-harming by the decision to move their final day to a Saturday.
The York executive will tell you that it all worked very well last year but the simple fact is that there are other sporting events that will command far greater media coverage, namely every Premier football league match (because that is the way of the world), the last big Saturday of the final Ashes Test at The Oval and the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, which features a Yorkshire side in Hull who take on Sam Tompkins’ Wigan.
There’s no point in pretending that the last day of the Ebor meeting is a bigger draw – as far as the media goes it isn’t. Nevertheless we will be graced with four excellent days of action on the Knavesmire with the Yorkshire Oaks my personal highlight. It will be interesting to see if the Cecil team field both Wild Coco and Riposte whilst it is a desperate hope that a decent field will turn up to tackle Al Khazeem in the Juddmonte International.
However, one thing we have learnt in the past week is that an intrinsic element of the fascination of sport is its glorious unpredictability. Hitherto, this week we’ve seen Andy Murray, Juan Del Potro and Novak Djokovic all fall by the wayside in the ATP Cincinatti tournament against decidedly inferior opposition whilst Warrington, almost unbelievably, folded to a home defeat by Widnes on Thursday evening in Superleague, followed by a home defeat for Leeds the following evening at Headingley by Hull KR and a French battering for Wigan on Saturday in Perpignan.
Such results shouldn’t happen – but they do. In the same way that Arsenal shouldn’t lose 3-1 at home by Aston Villa on the opening day of the Premiership- but they did. It’s something we all need to bear in mind when throwing a few shillings at our racing selections day after day. I was told by one colleague during the week that there was no way the hitherto unbeaten Soft Falling Rain would get beaten in the Hungerford but he was comfortably put in his place by Gregorian. And what about Ruby Walsh’s only ride of the evening at Tramore on Saturday night for the all-conquering Willie Mullins. 2-7 in a four-horse race – couldn’t lose could it? Yes, it could.
Maintaining a level head, treating each bet with cool equanimity and ensuring that you have a suitable betting bank to handle to unexpected are crucial to any prospect of professional punting.
Finally, it was tempting to pen a few words about those owners and trainers who carp on incessantly about the poor prize money on offer. In the end I was too annoyed to bother but it would be interesting to hear their views on the £9000 winning pot on offer in a juvenile contest at Ripon on Saturday. Two runners and an exercise gallop at 1-25 for Supplicant. Ridiculous, quite ridiculous.