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With a song in my heart

August 13th, 2019 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I sit in the middle of a good run. At least, I hope it’s the middle and not the end, Koeman having finished a fair fourth in the Shergar Cup  –  a near miss but no cigar, not that I’d have the first idea what to do with one of those. I can tell you all about the differences between Bordeaux and Burgundy, the revitalising effects of a vodka and tonic at 11am and the halcyon years of Young’s Special, but I’ve never had a puff of anything. ‘Chacun a sa folie’ as Roddy, an old wine trade friend of mine used to say, his own particular weaknesses being J &B scotch in the evening and Smirnoff and tonic the following lunchtime. He’s gone now.

When I was selling drink in Hounslow and Isleworth in the 1970s, there was a pub in the latter manor, as they say in Minder, called the Chequers, presided over by a man called Ken Balls. (I am not making this up.) Ken was a decent cove and we’d sort out the order early before settling down for a chat about this and that  –  women, racing, QPR, women again  –  with a regular called Malcolm, who’d set about the morning-after vodka at eleven on the dot. The strange thing was, he had only two of three drops of tonic, always Schweppes, added to it. Midway through the second large one he’d look up, say ‘Hello Ian, I didn’t see you there’ (even though I’d been present for at least twenty minutes) ‘anything good for today?’ Then he’d indicate that he was ready for another and Ken would oblige.

“Why doesn’t he take more tonic with it?” I asked one day. Ken paused. “He worries about the quinine,” he said.

When I tipped Koeman the Wednesday before the race (12/1 available), I couldn’t know that Nanako Fujita, still entitled to a 3lb allowance, would be riding. In fact, she kept him perfectly balanced the whole way and when she finally sat down to ride a finish I thought he’d be second. He didn’t quite last home and was passed on either side in the last forty yards.

Koeman is a shade too high in the weights and I couldn’t fault the jockey. I’m not saying many people did, though there are those who refuse to take the competition seriously because of the contrast in styles and the fact that Ascot is relatively new to some taking part. Well, if you’re going to use that argument, you have to acknowledge that it can work the other way round. There is no better jockey around Ascot than Jamie Spencer and he happened to be on warm favourite Victory Day for William Haggas in the last. Sure, Spencer can overdo the waiting tactics now and again but he produced Victory Day with perfect timing to win comfortably. Given that Haggas is in a rich vein of form after some misfortune with his classy fillies, 7/4 was a very tempting price. The Shergar Cup can be made to work for you if you take all relevant factors into consideration.

David Ashforth and I went to Bath on Wednesday and had several winners. We haven’t quite worked out why it’s become slightly more straightforward now that we bet in fivers and tenners than it used to be in the old days when we risked rather more, but at 70 we don’t spend too long analysing it. You don’t want to run out of time trying to figure out where you went wrong in the first place.

On the way home I started thinking about final words  –  well, the traffic between Bath and Bristol can be tiresome  –  and Oscar Wilde’s celebrated ‘Either that wallpaper goes or I do’, though he may have said it a few days before.  But Pancho Villa definitely signed off with the words ‘Tell them I said something funny’, which makes you warm to him. Incidentally, you’ve probably never thought of this and may not even care, but it’s probably as well to shave every day from now on, just in case. I shouldn’t think Ryan Giggs has thought of it, but he’s quite a bit younger, of course.

At Bath we were keeping an eye on Brighton (sheer paradise, though even better the other way round, with the Regency Tavern to follow), where Solveig’s Song loomed up in the ten-furlong handicap but weakened a furlong out. The fact that she started at 14/1 having touched 25s suggests Steve Woodman has got her about right now, so we may have a touch on Carnaby seller day, September 2.

She won off 46 (10/1 from 14s) at that meeting last year and there was much rejoicing in the box. She’s a nice old mare and cleverly named, too, being by Norse Dancer. Solveig’s Song is from Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite, Solveig keeping Peer’s soul safe in her heart. I’m not saying it makes the equine Solveig’s Song, down to 48 now, run any faster, though well-named horses do tend to perform better than those with hastily-contrived monikers. This is why My Volga Boatman failed to win the Derby, as you know.

Anyway, I hope Solveig’s waits for my day, although there is another meeting before then on August 20. It’s rather a long time for this hot streak to last, but I live in hope. Jack Mitchell on top would be a bonus.

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