Magazine article The Spectator

A Feeling in Your Bones

Magazine article The Spectator

A Feeling in Your Bones

Article excerpt

Racing at Newbury on Stan James Day was more like yachting, once defined as standing in a gale tearing up £20 notes.

Nor did it help when the heavens opened that my umbrella was in the stands 200 yards away and that, thanks to a back injury, I could only hobble at the pace of an asthmatic turtle.

It just wasn't my day. On the way from Kennington to Paddington I had been foolish enough to question the sainted Mrs Oakley's navigational skills and only narrowly escaped being turned to stone in the froideur which followed. I had mistimed my trains and was bound to miss the first race anyway, then First Great Western could not find a driver for the next train. If I had had any sense I would have turned back and spent the day on the sofa.

At least I had a more romantic explanation than usual for those kind enough to notice my back pain and inquire, 'How did you do it?' Not this time retrieving a fallen soap bar in the shower or bending for a loosened shoelace. 'It must have happened while I was stretchering a casualty out of a minefield, ' I told them, bringing their eyebrows back down to horizontal by adding that at my age perhaps it was unwise to have undertaken a Hostile Environments course with ex-SAS instructors. I have suggested they hire lighter actors for future simulation exercises, but there has been scant sympathy from Mrs Oakley. Having lived with too many of my holiday injuries, she merely sniffed 'Boys' games' and returned to her Kazuo Ishiguro.

A feeling you get in your bones is the biggest bane in racing, too. Like sentiment and greed, such urgings should be suppressed if you are ever going to make money. But Marcus Tregoning's marvellous old battler Mubtaker, now an eightyear-old, was running in the Stan James Geoffrey Freer Stakes, a race he had won for the past three years, and I had an overpowering instinct that he was going to do it again, despite having finished 19 lengths behind Azamour in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes on his previous outing. Finding him at 6-1, I tripled my bet.

The old boy then ran an absolute cracker, with Richard Hills riding a cool race from the front and having the others struggling behind him. One of those who appeared to have been struggling was the 12-1 shot Lochbuie, on whom John Egan had been working hard from six furlongs out. But in the final furlong Lochbuie grew wings and flew, collaring Mubtaker in the last few yards to win by a neck.

Trainer Geoff Wragg and his jockey knew they had produced an unpopular result and had sympathy for Mubtaker and his connections. …

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