First Assignment can step up

November 23rd, 2018 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

This will be a shorter message than most because I’m writing it in the Bristol Royal Infirmary as I await a pacemaker. I’d been staying on at one pace for some time, quite unable to pick up the leaders    much the same as in all other areas of life, really    and tests soon indicated that a little help was required.

The list of casualties is growing steadily    birthday dinner with my wife, Chepstow lunch with D Ashforth, the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Awards at the Dorchester, Fulham v Southampton    but I remain cheerful, even though the whole procedure has been put back a couple of days. Worse things happen all the time.

Breakfast is interesting and I have rediscovered my appetite for bran flakes, which no one else seems to like. Thus my bowl is overflowing with enough bran flakes to feed half of Matabeleland. The chap in the next bed is from, well, search me because he is very quiet most of the time but his visitors, and there are many, speak in the native tongue and are dressed accordingly. One of them gave me a big smile and I said the patient probably had more friends than Bristol Rovers, especially now, but I don’t think he passed it on.

I managed to see all of Cheltenham before being admitted. The ‘after-timers’ were in good form following Nietzsche’s victory in the Greatwood, several of them going all the way back to his placed effort in the Fred Winter in 2017. Hmm. And all the coconuts since then didn’t matter, of course, and with the boy claiming 7lb he was well worth careful consideration. Each to his own but as far as I’m concerned the only person likely to fancy him was Kierkegaard. Do I really believe a Tote dividend only three points higher than the SP of 20/1? Better not go there.

We get older and notice changes in our behaviour. Someone said the other day that he only took a couple of things from his daily paper, one of them being the obituaries and, whilst I haven’t reached that stage, I understand what he means. Richard Baker, the perfect example of a man who was around at exactly the right time, has gone at 93. He was so BBC you could have relayed one of his newsreading efforts to a visiting Martian to help explain what the Corporation was all about. And the BBC soon used him in other ways, as an authority on light classical music on Radio 2 (not bad) and an occasional presenter of Radio 4’s Start The Week (hopeless). 

True arrogance is the assumption that, in any situation, it’s enough just to be you. Thus he would cheerfully admit that he hadn’t read a famous author’s latest book    “but I’m sure you’ll tell us all about it!”    or a witty columnist’s current offering, even if it appeared in that morning’s paper. But his classic performance, as related by Simon Hoggart in his amusing memoir A Long Lunch, was reserved for the theatre producer Richard Brook, who was bringing to London a truly horrific play about a Ugandan tribe which was so poor and desperate that it turned to eating its own children. Richard managed to get the gist of this across in his intro before turning to Brook and saying: “So, Peter Brook, do you have the same fear of flying as the rest of us?” 

Classic. These days there would be an inquiry afterwards and the host would either be pointed firmly in the right direction or forced to step aside. But, as I say, you can be around at the right time and Baker certainly was.

The ITV Racing interview with Ian Williams following First Assignment’s easy win at Cheltenham was interesting because the trainer, acknowledging that the three-miler at Haydock this weekend was tempting, pointed out that his constitution was not necessarily that of a horse to be entrusted with a major investment. 

That was good of him but it will not prevent the bookmakers from closing First Assignment down, or nearly. It’s a harder race but I shall stay with him because you don’t often see staying hurdlers win as he did last week.

Far less reliable is Hurricane Harry, though his Windsor second a while back is good enough to win the sprint handicap at Lingfield. He can throw in a moody one, though, and is worth only a few shekels.