Well. First and foremost a thank you to The Major for having me, and an apology for everyone else who has to read my waffle. Though my aunt is a vicar so I should have something resembling a pedigree for writing sermons.
I think I’m meant to introduce myself? I’m Emma-Louise, on twitter as @emmykgts, one time fairly prolific photographer/blogger when at University, one time BHA graduate scheme participant, followed by spells for Tweenhills, Newsells and Weatherbys. Following which I put that early promise to good use, by ducking out through the railings, booking flights and going travelling with 5 days notice (it’s acceptable if you are in your 20s ok…), and then getting a boring job in property.
So I am writing this at my desk trying to make it look like I am sending an email, and not doing the pile of filing on my desk that is so enormous I think it might be single handily responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The longest email in the history of long emails. Aside from trying to look busy my life is mainly taken up by the most compulsive of all boring hobbies, distance running. And we all know runs, especially long ones, don’t count unless you tell everyone about them, sorry to anyone who still follows me on twitter.
Racing wise well, one time massive national hunt fan, then flat convert, and now just slightly out of touch. Which is good when I need to pretend I know what I’m talking about on a huge weekend of NH racing. My usual theory with National Hunt is “is Aidan Coleman riding it?” a surprisingly successful theory.
How I met The Major? I had a go at him for pinching one of my photos. Thankfully first impressions don’t stick and I don’t think he is a ruthless copyright thief but actually an all-round nice human. Though perhaps if I did still think he was a ruthless copyright thief none of you would have to be putting up with all the losers and fallers I will no doubt shortly mention.
I know previous guest posters have written long, witty eloquent observations on various aspects of modern life and its foibles. While I am long winded, I’m not witty or eloquent. As much as I enjoyed reading about all the wonderful food of Portugal last week, I plan on getting a takeaway from a shop near Scunthorpe we have given an obscene nickname. Not really worth discussing.
If I spoke about any other aspect of my life it will involve talking about running, Haruki Murakami wrote a brilliant book called Things I Talk About When I Talk About Running, that is a good read, and far more interesting than anything I have to say on the subject. If you are reading this on Saturday morning I will be plodding round a 13 mile route in the North Lincolnshire countryside. Is that a dull enough comment? Thought so, I’ll stop there.
Right, racing. Before we get onto the weekends events a brief but sincere farewell to Rock On Ruby who was retired while I was typing this up. I backed him ante post for his Champion Hurdle win when I was still at University, so he kept the tequila and 2am chips fund very healthy for a very long time. Aside from keeping me in alcohol and fried goods he was a remarkable horse, and I think what says more than anything else is that in nearly 30 starts he was unplaced only once. A magnificent horse to help get Harry Fry’s training career off the ground, and I’m sure he will be repaid by being spoilt rotten in what I hope is a very long and happy retirement.
This weekend is of course the Hennessey Gold Cup, at Newbury. One of the highlights in a of the calendar of standing around in fields, unable to feel your feet watching big horses run around and jump stuff, also known as the National Hunt season (if anyone is interested similar things happen at three day events, but there are no men in shiny suits).
I digress. This is a race has been won by some of the greats, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad (both before I was born, I’m assured they are good), One Man, Bobs Worth, Many Clouds, and of course the wonderful battle hardened Denman, who captured hearts and imaginations in a friendly rivalry with the late great Kauto Star. And I was on Radio 5 Live talking about Denman once, so he’s my lame to fame too.
There is also the grade 1 Fighting Fifth and Newcastle and some good racing from Fairyhouse, so losers/fallers/non finishers from that can also be expected, and maybe if you’re really lucky a bit of the action from one of the UKs premier tracks, Wolverhampton.
It’s an early start at Newbury with a listed event kicking off proceedings at 12:15. With Tea In Transvaal maybe a touch disappointing at Cheltenham, I’m going for the lightly raced Fortunata Fashions, who ran a huge race to finish third in a race of 14 at Exeter when going off unfancied at 33/1. The services of the rising star of the weighing room in Gavin Sheehan only serves to strengthen her case.
Sticking at Newbury there is the imaginatively named Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle. An interesting contest looks to be in place between Nicky Henderson’s Whisper and last year’s World Hurdle victor, Cole Harden. Whisper is a real class act, and Newbury won’t be quite such a test as Cheltenham, as any distance runner will tell you, hills can finish even the best of us off. However Cole Harden won on his reappearance last year, and Whisper was turned over at odds on. So we will go for Greatrex in this contest.
Finally at Newbury we have the main event, the Hennessey Gold Cup. This year looks a stellar field, with the likes of Bobs Worth, of Gold Cup winning fame lining up to take his chance after looking like he might be back to something resembling his old form when unexpectedly winning last time out.
At bigger prices The Druids Nephew can land a big prize, the mercurial Theatre Guide who is incredibly talented on his day however never quite seemed the same horse after a shattering fall at Kempton a couple of years ago. However if he’s on song he’s got a good mark and could run a big race. There is also, Splash Of Ginge who pulled a big race out of the bag here once at a massive price, admittedly over hurdles, but 50/1 could be big.
There is one winner for me though, and I’m sure all who used to read my blog in the olden days, when I actually had time to write regularly will have already guessed, and that’s Houblon Des Obeaux. Never underestimate the Venetia Williams yards in these big Saturday staying chases, with services of Aidan Coleman pinched back from Bloomfields for the afternoon. He was a 50/1 second in this last year, and while he hasn’t won since December 2015, and does tend to save his best for Ascot, if any horse deserves to land a big prize it’s this one so sod it. With a bit of head but mainly heart, Houblon Des Obeaux for the Hennessey.
There is good offering at other tracks too. Newcastle is hosting the Fighting Fifth hurdle, and admittedly it is hard to see this going away from the first three in the market, Wicklow Brave hops across the Irish sea to have a go, but I’m more interested in the rematch between Irving and Top Notch. While I may make myself look silly here, Top Notch I think has a chance to reverse the form with a run under his belt. Winning three good races on the bounce could be a big ask for Irving, and Top Notch may strip slightly fitter for his efforts last time out. 11/2 looks a good price.
My final one from the day comes from what must be ‘someone out there’s’ favourite track, Wolverhampton. Those who used to read my blog will know I’m a big fan of changing my arm with unraced 2 year olds in maidens however late in the year we are. Well, surprise surprise, in the two races at Wolverhampton I managed to find one I liked the sound of…. Hutton may already be gelded, but proper pedigree, top yard, weak race. Done.