Sunday supplement (on Monday)
By Tony Stafford
Did you miss me? With the boss away in California for the by-now over-blown and like the world heavyweight championship de-valued Breeders’ Cup, I took a sickie, except I wasn’t sick, unlike Richard Hughes and William Buick who both, to put it politely, cocked up on the best horse in two of the races at lovely Santa Anita.
Back home, as was the boss, who claimed to be in Clitheroe this morning when he reminded me of my duties, it’s a lovely day for one of my favourite weekends, and the Remembrance Sunday parade had me enthralled as ever. It makes you proud to be British, especially when all the Commonwealth representatives put down their wreaths around the Cenotaph.
The soldiers were out in force at Sandown, when there was quite a nice proportion of the massive crowd – Andrew Cooper remarked to me that maybe jumping is popular! – wearing the traditional poppies and like me and I think Donald McCain, the smaller ceramic one. It’s a seismic weekend with the proper Flat ended and the bigger jumpers coming along.
Since I last communicated – sorry, I digress again as I wanted to remind our older readers about that old Sunday morning radio show “The Clitheroe Kid” starring Jimmy Clitheroe. In his 60’s he still sounded and somehow looked in his late teens. It was very funny, but not as funny as the short conversation I had with a regular York racegoer about 20 years ago. “Aren’t you Jimmy Clitheroe?” I asked him. He drew himself up to his full 4ft 6ins and said: “No!”
So, since I last communicated, I’ve had some fun at the sales where after a few days’ negotiating, my boss became the owner of Lewisham, who was second in the July Stakes but still remains a maiden; thought we’d sold a maiden filly for a large six-figure sum until the purchaser’s feet got suddenly cold, and have had some exciting news about a trio of our jumpers.
Punjabi will be known to some as the 2009 Champion Hurdle winner, but of him there has been little news over the past two and a half seasons. But at Sandown, the great Nicky Henderson revealed he’d told Raymond Tooth he’d been schooling well over fences and working well, too. If he stands training, even at rising ten he’d be an interesting addition to the two-mile novice division in which McCain’s Overturn made a nice early statement on Saturday.
Another brilliant Tooth trainer, Hughie Morrison had excellent news of Cousin Khee’s initial schooling sessions and has marked down a race at Leicester next week for his bow, while perhaps most exciting of all, Fair Trade, now with Alan King, is getting nearer a hurdles debut.Once rated 110 on the Flat but after a year off and some disappointing runs in 2012, is down to 78. But Graham Lee, who rode him in his last race at Nottingham said not to lose faith and now with Alan King, Fair Trade will be the object of my admiration,
I hope, when he schools at Barbary Castle in the morning.
I took in the Manton gallops on Friday where Brian Meehan, despite quite a clear-out at the sales where at least 20 inmates found new owners and trainers here and overseas, reports a 2013 roster almost exactly matching that of this year. The difference to my mind is the number of potentially smart and unexposed mile plus juveniles that will go into their second season with high hopes.
At the same time, a new intake already of around 48 is beginning to take shape and a good number of potential Manton partnerships and share options are available. Even in a year of almost unbroken horrible weather, the various grass (300 acres), Polytrack and woodchip gallops enable the work to be maintained. Naturally other training establishments are available, but I cannot deny that piece of Wiltshire is my home from home.
Looking out of the same window that almost gave me a sight of the Olympics back in those days when everyone was carping about the cost – apparently there was an actual under-spend in the end on the admittedly massive budget – and how nothing good would come of it, I again feel that pride of nation.
That even transcends the awful autumn in which the BBC’s arrogance over time has been shown to be so much bluster in many ways.
The boss had to fall on his sword yesterday morning. The BBC is showing its humiliation in many ways, with even David Dimbleby in his Remembrance Day commentary, stumbling over his words and missing cues. Sophie Rayworth, obviously seen as a safe pair of hands, as the only other reporter on a scaled-down production did just that with some predictable albeit poignant interviews with some relatives who’d lost love ones. You got the impression the BBC wished to get it over with.
The best thing about the last few years and the revival in the poppy appeal is that so many of the younger generation are taking part, not just by wearing the poppy, but with true pride at their ancestors’ courage over all the wars. Of course, the Afghanistan war is resulting in the deaths of their contemporaries and it’s wonderful that they are attuned and sympathetically proud of it. Social media may have its drawbacks – as in the haste to “out” Lord McAlpine – but it can also engender national pride, as we are seeing so clearly this autumn.