Vado Forte not a hopeless case

November 16th, 2018 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

A hugely successful Friday at Cheltenham saw a record crowd of over 22,000 in attendance. NH racing has never known times like these and Cheltenham is at the forefront of its impressive growth. Sponsors are queueing up to be involved and it is only fair to mention that quality jumps cards are now so popular that Ian Renton has slipped into Edward Gillespie’s chair with the minimum of fuss.

Friday was galling for me in that Jameson was still there with a chance when falling with fatal consequences in the opening amateur riders’ chase, while Try Again finished fifth in the multi-runner handicap hurdle. Paul Flynn also entered him for the Salmon Spray at Fontwell on Sunday but I assume he will skip that now. It looked an easier race to me but these things are always straightforward afterwards.

If Nigel Twiston-Davies was subdued following Jameson’s sad demise he almost certainly perked up when Count Meribel and Mark Grant made a remarkable recovery in the Steel Plate And Sections and got back up close home. I wrote last week about the horse going with Jim Old to Naunton but perhaps one should not ramble on. Even so, the fact is that no one else has ever ridden Count Meribel, which suggests to me that Jim is still very much ‘hands on’ but I’m not there so I don’t know.

When I did the interviewing job for the crowd at Cheltenham I found Twiston-Davies a little tricky. In a way I think it would be better if he simply sidestepped interviews because he doesn’t enjoy them and often gives the impression he is on the look-out for criticism of any kind. He was polite if clipped with Alice Plunkett on Friday, whereas they would probably be like a couple of mates in the pub. 

By and large I think ITV Racing does a very good job but there is a sort of ‘luvviness’ about it that can irritate. Everything is pretty wonderful, and I dare say it is if you’re one of the team. Compare and contrast, as the old exam papers used to say. When I watched Channel 4 racing it was fairly obvious that various duos would never be sitting down together at dinner. There is nothing wrong with that; Sir Peter O’Sullevan and Julian Wilson didn’t like each other all that much but it never affected their performance on air. (O’Sullevan certainly didn’t warm to his Daily Express colleague, the ebullient Charles Benson, either. Having read the latter’s autobiography No Regard For Money and bumped into him soon afterwards, he remarked: “No regard for the truth, either, old man.”) Actually, Charlie’s book is a good read.

Another Charlie, Charlie Austin, made his opinions known after having a goal disallowed when playing for Southampton against Watford. It was a ludicrous decision which has quite possibly hastened the arrival of VAR. Not that Watford deserved anything less than a draw, because if they’d been awarded  a certain penalty earlier on, Ryan Bertrand would have been sent off for a second yellow and the Saints would have played out the final half-hour with ten men. Although I still fear the worst, they have improved a little and may beat Fulham next Saturday. I doubt very much that Claudio Ranieri will have a dramatic effect at Craven Cottage and overall his record remains patchy, the extraordinary events at Leicester two years ago notwithstanding.

I shall be 70 on Tuesday    three score years and ten, a biblical time-out    with nothing special planned, though dinner with my wife at Giuseppe’s in Bristol is always enjoyable. Then the Sir Peter Awards Luncheon on Thursday, when John Francome will be conducting the auction. Effortlessly funny and cheerfully irreverent, he is a great entertainer. So was Peter Brackley, who is sadly no longer with us. A brilliant mimic, he could reduce an audience to helpless laughter and was far funnier than many on television earning huge sums. I worked with him at BBC Radio all of 35 years ago, having first met him in 1970 or 1971 when we were both covering Brighton 0 Preston 0. I have to say I think he made rather more of his career than I did.

Not much for me over the weekend, especially now that Try Again misses Fontwell. Vado Forte will be a big price in the Greatwood at Cheltenham on Sunday but was closely handicapped with Twiston-Davies’ possible contenders, who both miss the party. Tom Lacey’s horses are running well and Vado Forte may nick a place.