In Need of a Pink Gin

January 5th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I have experienced a few days which can only be described as ‘mixed’. 

By and large, Christmas went well and it was good to see the Canadian branch of the family    my daughter Catherine, her husband and the four children    for a proper period which involved football, rugby, skating in Bath and many other delights. However, they had not noticed that Cathy’s Permanent (?) Residency Card (she has lived in Canada for 11 years) had expired and on Sunday she was not allowed to board the plane.

Not to bore you, she and the baby are still with us while Jaret and the boys flew home. I have never seen a renewal form quite like this one and it took me a day to fill it out but at least it’s at the visa office in London now and, we hope, the passport with said card will be with us soon and we can sort out flights. Little Freya is only six months and the family needs to be reunited asap. We’re doing our best.

I wrote a Racing Post column in the middle of it all and mentioned the late Julian Wilson in passing. I miss him and his acerbic, sometimes haughty manner because he was extremely well-informed and never called a spade a garden implement. He was also around at the right time, of course. 32 years at the BBC when he effectively ran the racing side of things on television (and the Corporation still cared about the sport) and stood in the same place all the time with a sweating Robin Gray, lovely man and much missed, bringing interviewees to him. 

Like anyone else, ‘Jules’ or ‘Wislon’ as the press room referred to him, would have been replaced by La Balding but he was close to retirement anyway and working on his autobiography, Some You Win. And if you read only one, as they say, you should read this one. Everything from head-first down the bobsleigh run to high-class ladies of the night in London (I am not making this up) with many fascinating racing memories.

I don’t know what he’d have made of television coverage now. You have to move around, interview people on the hoof, as it were, welcome surprise guests to the commentary point and conduct the same (often tiresome) interviews with jockeys and trainers before the heat of battle has died down. A cultured and highly intelligent man, he’d have been pleased that racing was receiving this sort of blanket coverage, whilst admitting that things had moved on. Jules would have flatly refused to get down and dirty by pursuing people around, that’s for sure. 

I rang him once about the book and he chuckled down the line when I said I thought he wasn’t the most relaxed performer to camera. “Well, at least you’re honest,” he said, admitting it was true. The fact is, he hoped that Peter O’Sullevan would retire in time to leave the commentating job open, which would have meant an opportunity for a new front man. Whether he would ever have let said individual go his own way is a moot point, however, so maybe I didn’t really miss out when the call never came. (He and O’Sullevan didn’t get on, incidentally, but like Morecambe and Wise they got the job done in a highly professional manner.)

The Saints have picked up but otherwise it’s been a poor start to the New Year with Big Time Frank idling on the run-in and allowing a 14-year-old to get up and beat him a neck at Lingfield. Polly Gundry knew what she was doing when she put cheekpieces on Frank for the first time but he still threw the race away. I don’t often bet close to evens in steeplechases and in betting, as in life, we are often punished for breaking our own rules.

It’s all down to Pink Gin to put things right at Wincanton on Saturday. He will like the better ground and Jim is optimistic that he’ll atone for a poor effort at Lingfield last time. Eight runners overnight so each-way available but I think he’s probably an all or nothing sort of horse. Better set off. The distance between here and Winkers bears no relation to the time it takes to get there. 

Have a good day and a good week.