Time for a single payment at 50/1?

April 3rd, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I approach the Randox Health Grand National meeting in good heart and good form. Southampton’s victory at Brighton probably means the continuation of Premier League football at St Mary’s, while Right Action’s victory at Doncaster on Sunday bolstered still further my already unshakeable faith in Richard Fahey.

Right Action won the same seven-furlong handicap, with Silvestre de Sousa on board, off 82 last year. He followed up at Catterick, which made things difficult for the rest of the year. Keeping him on the go, Fahey saw his mark drop to 81 in time for last Sunday. De Sousa had not ridden him in any of the 11 races where he was beaten but, surprise surprise, he was back on top on Sunday. Last year Right Action won by three-parts at 8/1, this time it was half a length at 7s. If you look back at the tapes, he hits the front at the same time. It has spoiled me for the rest of the season; I shall miss a few Fahey winners, of course, but not too many.

I feel more affinity for Aintree than Cheltenham, though memories are mixed. During my time at BBC Radio, Des Lynam presented the Grand National programme on Radio 2 until 1984, when Mike Ingham took over. I was fortunate enough to bump into Richard Shaw, Hallo Dandy’s owner, the night before and he spent part of the evening with us. Hallo Dandy won at 14/1 and it was a perfect result for Mike, who did all his homework but was (and is) a football man.

More recently, I fronted the Friday pre-race dinner at the Holiday Inn, an event organised by former Merseyside copper Peter Hart, a lovely man. Cancer took him very swiftly a few years ago and when he rang me near the end it was to say he’d been turned away because he wasn’t strong enough to take the chemotherapy. A die-hard Evertonian, his ashes are kept in a special room they have at Goodison Park.

When it comes to happier memories, Echo and the Bunnymen and John Oaksey are right up there, together with Alexei Sayle and Ma Egerton. I’m still rather fond of David Icke and Frank Windsor, as well.

The night before the 1982 Grand National, Grittar’s year, animal rights protesters set fire to two of the fences and Margaret Thatcher sent the troops to the Falklands, thereby upstaging Ken Bates, who bought Chelsea for a pound.

It was a time when people who knew a little about these things would tell you the Bunnymen were the second-best band to emerge during Liverpool’s extended golden era. Everyone crowded into Brian’s Diner, the group’s favourite café, where coffee soon arrived if you didn’t mind waiting an hour or so.

I don’t work at Aintree these days, which means I can go to St Mary’s for the Liverpool game on Friday. I used to head for Ma Egerton’s on Pudsey Street or there was a place in Birkenhead where they used to run a Billy Fury competition. If I’d chosen When Will You Say I Love You? instead of Halfway To Paradise, I feel I might have nicked it instead of coming third. Obviously you’ll say it hardly matters thirty years on, but if they allowed lingering regret as a subject on Mastermind I’d be a 10/11 chance.

Ma Egerton’s (was?) opposite the Empire Theatre, a famous old music hall venue. Dr Crippen’s wife used to drop in; she sang under the name Belle Elmore, or at least she did until the doctor decided she was surplus to requirements in 1910. Legend has it that he visited the pub before fleeing to America but Ma, no mean performer herself, shopped him to the police and was therefore instrumental in his capture and execution.

No doubt lots of other people saw John Oaksey dance but I’m probably the only person still alive to have witnessed it in the commentary box. He did well to make it in the first place, because in 1982 Aintree had a long, long way to go and there were still ‘danger’ signs here and there on the roof of the County Stand.

Anyway, the Noble Lord started bouncing up and down in sheer delight as soon as Grittar went clear. I suppose, as a very talented amateur rider himself, he was thrilled to see Mr Dick Saunders become the oldest winning rider at 48. Unfortunately the ancient commentary box had been constructed along Heath Robinson lines, there was a sloping floor and John’s erratic progress carried him across Peter Bromley’s line of vision.

“Most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen and I shall be taking it to the highest level”, the commentator said afterwards. It never happened. Peter was a lovely man and his bark was far worse than his non-existent bite, though when he threatened people it was generally with the name of someone quite close to Lord Reith. Happy enough with a winning favourite at 7/1, I nodded sympathetically. I can do the furrowed brow bit, no problem.

Frank Windsor (‘it’s time to think about those final expenses’) was DS John Watt in Z cars from 1962 but I liked him best as the harassed, well-intentioned paterfamilias in the film Sunday Bloody Sunday, which captures perfectly the easy-going liberalism, the amiable household clutter of the comfortably-off in  Hampstead and its environs. I shan’t bore you with any more stories about the film.

Frank was at Aintree in ‘82 and so was David Icke, the former goalie turned would-be seer and evangelist who predicted that Mount Rainier in the USA would explode, followed by the Channel Tunnel and Naples Cathedral. You may laugh and shake your head but that merely puts you in the same camp as the Pharisees and Sadducees all those years ago and they’re not laughing now, are they?

Grittar triumphed a few months before Alan Bleasdale’s seminal television drama Boys from the Blackstuff underlined chronic unemployment on Merseyside, especially within the building industry. Yozzer Hughes  –  ‘Gizza job!’  –  and his gang became national heroes for a while.

Sensing that trendy Londoners would soon be taking the mickey, Alexei Sayle recorded ‘Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?’ which effectively debunked flash Essex boys long before Essex girls became famous.

I don’t suppose he’ll be there on Saturday and nor will a few other faces from the old days. I don’t really enjoy it if I’m not working and it’s a few years since I backed the winner although I edge towards nine-year-olds (whose overall record is pretty impressive) and something around the 10st 6lb mark. So it’ll have to be Singlefarmpayment, which would be fair enough at 50/1 and would finally reward trainer Tom George, who has saddled Saint Are to finish second and third in recent years. I don’t think Tiger Roll is handicapped out of it (unlike many previous winners) but his price is bordering on the ridiculous.

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