Oakley The Lad To Follow

March 20th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

It becomes increasingly difficult to revisit old haunts. Bringing up a granddaughter for the past four years – Matilda leaves with our son James (her father) for Taiwan, where he has a teaching post, in July – means additional driving duties, after-school activities, judo and all the rest of it.

Entirely ‘free’ days are few and far between, which seems odd at 70. Only yesterday I lost a bit more work but that hardly frees me up for detailed study of the Placepot in various hostelries miles from here. One can’t just disappear, though John Stonehouse, an old boy of my school, did. The Placepot wasn’t uppermost in his mind, of course, he just wanted to avoid arrest for fraud and other misdemeanours.

He made it to Australia after faking a suicide in Florida, where leaving a neat pile of clothes on the beach was a bit of a giveaway. No one believes a would-be suicide would choose being eaten by sharks. Old John was a bit unlucky, though. ‘The quiet Englishman’ was reported to the Aussie rozzers, who thought he might be Lord Lucan. Imagine their excitement! But apparently Lucan had a birthmark or some sort of blemish high up on his thigh. John had to drop his strides. He was clean in that respect if no other, no birthmark no world exclusive, but they asked him a few tricky questions and he was sent back to Britain to serve an eight-year term. He died in 1988.
Where was I? Ah yes, the Placepot. I suppose my favourites for detailed analysis, leaving aside the Platform in Southampton because it’s too far from Salisbury, meaning I have to stay there, are the Anglesey Arms at Halnaker close to Goodwood and the Regency Tavern in Brighton. Of course, there’s the other Anglesea Arms off the Fulham Road, where the Great Train robbers are said to have drawn up their final plans, but you need to allow for the traffic if heading for Kempton so the Pope’s Grotto in Twickenham is a better bet.

The Flask in Hampstead would have been absolutely perfect for Ally Pally and old Thames Trader winning the last race. Peter O’Sullevan would nap him in the Daily Express, you know, even at 1 to 3, because he wouldn’t countenance a long losing run, which never happened.

I was only thinking about Hampstead because Murray Head turned up in a an episode of Vera on ITV the other night. I couldn’t work out which one was him and that’s hardly surprising because he was in Sunday Bloody Sunday, the quintessential north London film, all barmitzvahs and Cosi Fan Tutte, as long ago as 1971. Glenda Jackson was good in it but Peter Finch, a doctor and Murray’s other lover, was brilliant and you should make a point of seeing his closing piece to camera. ‘I only came about my cough’. You’ll understand when you see it.

I don’t think you need any more on Cheltenham. The nap Hazel Hill won and Benie Des Dieux should have done. Just two things. Poker Player ran away with a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter on Saturday after finishing second at Exeter. Just behind him that day was Tom George’s Boyhood, who ran no race in the Pertemps Final. He was trying to give Poker Player 18lb at Exeter so Cheltenham can’t possibly be his form. Watch out for him and put Back To The Thatch in your diary for the Coral Welsh National many months hence. The form book will not reveal that he ran a blinder in the Midlands National until tiring and falling at the last. He wants up to three and three-quarter miles, not four plus and Henry Daly is the man to place him to advantage.

Sorry, three things. The certainty of the year has come and gone, Alan King’s Eyes Right hacking up in a Southwell bumper at evens on Monday. Maybe Oakley Brown wasn’t going to get enough chances with Richard Fahey or maybe his weight is a slight concern on the Flat. But he is a former pony racing champion, still a teenager and very, very good indeed. Whether he will quickly adjust to jumps, having moved to King, I can’t say. But he claimed the full 10lb, riding for what is now his own stable, on Monday and is a gift in bumpers from now on, claiming 7lb against his seniors. Watch out for the trainer using him very carefully and cleverly.

I was going to call the lad ‘golden’ Brown but I think that may have other connotations. The Stranglers, perhaps. Do try to keep up.