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Miracle on 34th Street – or the A34

April 15th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I have seen the sun come up over Sutton Scotney services.

It was a long time ago and I don’t remember the exact circumstances but it was a beautiful morning and I remember shaving in the car. I dare say it had been an expensive night but, all these years on, nights like that seem to run into each other. I know I was due to interview Compton Hellyer of Sporting Index later in the day at a time when spread betting was carrying all before it. Compton  –  very much the brain behind the enterprise  –  probably knew it would be challenged if not partially swallowed up by the exchanges when Betfair hit its stride. He was right.

Going south on Saturday on the A34, the traffic built up as usual around Sutton Scotney. This is  always annoying if you’re trying to get to Goodwood or St Mary’s. I’d give a good account of myself on Mastermind with the chosen subject ‘street map of Southampton’ but that’s no use this far out. Anyway, around 1.30pm my daughter Susannah texted Howard D and asked him to back Plutonian in the Newbury Spring Cup. I’d tipped him here and there, as some of you will know.

I couldn’t quite believe the morning price, which was 40/1 in most lists and 50/1 here and there. He was racing over the ‘wrong’ trip, a mile instead of ten furlongs, and had been gelded since last year. Against that, you ignore Charlie Hills at your peril early in the season and the booking of Silvestre de Sousa was interesting, to say the least. All I had to do was walk around to the Nailsea Betfred (40/1, each-way 1/5th the odds the first SIX) but I was looking after Susannah’s little boy before we set off and you know the way it is. Time flies. My only account is with Wilson’s and they certainly weren’t going 40/1.

Anyway, Howard is soon on the case and it’s the biggest certainty since Arkle that he will have doubled the bet if the terms still apply. They nearly do, but not quite. It’s the first five now, but the price is 50/1. And I’m bound to be wrong of course, I must be, and the only worry is that Plutonian will finish a never-dangerous sixth, because Howard will still place the bet.

Remarkably, the Saints (£60 at 13/8 from 17/10 with Wilson’s) score early against Wolves and then make it 2-1 before half-time after the visitors have equalised at a time when they threatened to take control. (This will not be apparent on M of the D later on.) 3.15 comes and goes, there is no message, no brief text and Plutonian has most assuredly finished in the ruck.

Wolves more of less take control early in the second half but we are dangerous on the break and, against the run of play, Shane Long flicks in for 3-1 and they’re effectively beaten despite, to my eye, looking a very good side indeed. Susannah checks her super-sophisticated mobile and the first four come up from the Newbury 3.15, indicating that Marten is spot-on with Chatez. Then come all the others, which we (wrongly) assume to be in finishing order. Anyway, we were only 2-1 up at that stage, which was a good deal more worrying.

We drive home in good spirits, with Premier League football more or less assured for another year and better times ahead, especially if a classy striker arrives in the summer. The big clubs will soon be sniffing around the French right-back Yann Valery, of course, but Saints supporters are so used to it that we don’t bother to think about it any more.

For some reason I didn’t bother to check all the racing results upon arriving home; playing with the little lad again, no doubt. So it came as something of a surprise when, turning on the laptop early on Sunday morning, I see that Plutonian, unbelievably, has finished fifth (25/1 from 40/1 on course). I rummage around for my mobile and there, timed at 3.54pm on Saturday, is the simple message : ‘Well done!!’  A phone call would have reverberated around my chest in the pacemaker area, an odd and vaguely worrying sensation which could have had me thinking about battery life, etc, but a text is a short, sharp note which goes unnoticed in the middle of 30,000 souls, all of them blissfully unaware of this petty drama.

Well, we should all have weekends like this now and again. I can’t actually think of anything that went wrong and I remain on cloud nine. No clouds at Sutton Scotney, of course, where the early evening sun was doing a fine job on the way home.

I think Plutonian will win a good handicap over a mile and quarter, incidentally, though maybe not on the same day the Saints oblige again. Miracles are rare anywhere, and at Sutton Scotney you almost certainly have to settle for one in a lifetime.

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