Another surpise? No, not really

July 5th, 2020 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

Well, here I was, thinking about a Chepstow piece and how well David Probert rides the course (see Cool Strutter) or Pastfact overcoming a marked tendency to throw his head around in the stalls and a slow start before getting up close home. But not many people pay attention to my sort of races, so I thought I’d watch the Investec Derby in case it produced a better story.

Maybe it did. Curragh maiden winner dominates from start to finish and comes home alone at 25/1 isn’t bad, even if some of us stopped being surprised  by anything Ballydoyle achieves quite a long time ago. Just five of the first 8 home this time and a profit of £200 for anyone putting a tenner on all six. It’s not something we do, needless to say, because we’re purists but it does make you think.

Anyway, I was all set to describe the way Probert, the most underrated jockey in the weighing-room, and Liam Keniry had improved the financial situation but no one likes a clever dick and I found myself thinking about another of Aidan’s long-priced ‘surprises’ and a piece I wrote a few years ago.

In all the time I’ve been scribbling, I’ve repeated only one article  –  the short story Seeing Bessie Smile, because I like it. It’s in my first book Not Minding That it Hurts and the Racing Post and the Irish Field ran it at Christmas-time.  I didn’t send them a piece called Daydream Believer because they’d both have thought it slightly satirical and I didn’t think it was quite right for Marten, either, because it’s rather short on tips, though it appears in the new book due out later this year.

I’ll write about Probert and Chepstow the next time I clean up on a couple of Class 6 handicaps. Here’s Daydream Believer. It you missed Serpentine and are still shaking your head, it’ll help. Slightly.


In a frivolous moment I suppose you might wonder which of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs Susan Magnier is the karaoke fan.

Perhaps they all are. It’s hard to see how you’d name a filly Homecoming Queen unless you knew the lyrics to Daydream Believer  –  ‘cheer up sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean, to a daydream believer or a homecoming queen‘, etc. Someone on Channel 4 should have suggested an impromptu performance  –  Mrs M on vocals, Michael on vibes  –  when she bolted in by nine lengths in the 1000 Guineas but it’s a serious world we live in these days and it came as a surprise when Aidan exclaimed: “Stone me! Strike a light! I didn’t see that coming, did you?” (I made that up.)

Successful in a Leopardstown nursery off 72 (at the eighth attempt) as a youngster, Homecoming Queen was a shock winner and left at least one prominent pundit wondering whether detailed study of the form book is worth the effort. Well, of course it is. You just have to let the old Earth make a couple of whirls (September Song, Kurt Weill), wait for the wet spring to run its course and bask in the glory of Epsom and Royal Ascot, when all of your other calculations will bear fruit.

What is the alternative? Backing horses purely on their names? ‘Now you know how happy I can be’, as one joyful punter in the Tote queue sang soon after the Guineas, though you had the impression it was a one-off. It was still good to hear, for the very good reason that there will come a time when the link between horseracing and popular songs disappears altogether as lyrics are forgotten.

People of my age still hum tunes as they wait to place their bet. The earliest example I can remember is Only You  –  ‘only you can make this change in me, for it’s true, you are my destiny’  -who finished third in a Goodwood nursery the better part of fifty years ago.

Crowded Avenue  –  ‘I don’t know if we’re in a garden, or on some crowded avenue’ was very popular, as well, though you had to sing it through to get to the title, which is I Only Have Eyes For You, of course. Crowded Avenue was a good sprinter for Peter Makin but ended up in tricky Sandown claimers, though I never lost faith in him. Money gone, faith intact. He was by Sizzling Melody and a warm glow comes on when you realise someone must have taken the trouble to put it all together.

Of course, not everyone thinks things through. Some people were mildly irritated when commentators referred to Kris, the great miler, as Chris, the reason being that a kris (crease) is a Malayan dagger and the horse was by Sharpen Up. I sometimes wonder if the Chris thing bothered his owner Lord Howard de Walden, though I imagine, if you owned half of Marylebone, you’d probably get other people to name your horses for you.

Sometimes, you’re in a position to help out younger people and in my case the time has come when that means just about everybody. The ever-youthful  commentator Simon Holt was struggling with Googoobarabajagal one day; the trick is to emphasise the ‘raba’ bit in the middle, but he was in full flow and it was a long way to the Brighton commentary box. Goo Goo Barabajagal was a hit for Donovan in the late 1960s. Some have suggested that the lyrics owed plenty to a substance affectionately known as Bolivian marching powder. Be that as it may, Googoobarabajagal the horse remains a maiden.

Catch The Wind, on the other hand, made perfect sense and won twice. For a long time I thought Donovan had included a chap called Albert Almeers in this. “To feel you all around me, and to take your hand, along the sand; Albert Almeers, well try and catch the wind’. Clearly this was a grand passion thwarted and Albert had missed out. I was never entirely happy with it, though, and one night, in a blinding flash, I realised it was actually: ‘And to take your hand, along the sand, ah but I may as well try and catch the wind’.

Catch The Wind is by Bahamian Bounty, sea breezes no doubt, out of a mare by Music Boy. It all fits if you try hard enough. Sandy Lane in the Bahamas would be a good place for a karaoke, come to think of it. If I Were A Rich Man, The Best Things In Life Are Free, some of the old songs….I expect they’re setting it up, even as we speak.

Ian’s new book will be available to order from September on this website.

Ian is a weekly contributor to The Weekend Card.