Magazine article The Spectator

Tale of Woe

Magazine article The Spectator

Tale of Woe

Article excerpt

Seeing me leaving the races early one day recently a friend inquired why. 'Got to finish some painting, ' I replied. 'Oh, really, ' he said in surprise. 'Do you do watercolours or oils?' I would have said, 'No, walls, ' but he might then have imagined I did murals, so I had to explain that, surrounded as I am by plumbers installing new heating, bricklayers repairing our chimneys and electricians trying to trace the wiring in our 1797 abode, I have been trying to save a few pennies by doing the home decorating.

But economies, alas, don't always live up to the theory. As I tried to prise the lid off a fiendishly secured paint tin last week, the top suddenly flew across the room and a spume of white undercoat splashed unerringly straight into the works of the expensive sanding machine being operated by the chap stripping our floorboards. When it ceased to work within the next few minutes, I learnt that these machines cost four figures and can only be repaired a hundred miles away in Southampton. I await his bill.

Mrs Oakley's rather unfeeling response was: 'Stick to the day job, ' but the problem is that, racing books and this column apart, there no longer is one. So at least, I thought, I will now bet with greater caution. No more wild and greedy stabs at 20-1 shots. Be content with small gains on obvious choices.

Bet with your head, Oakley, I said to myself.

Don't let your heart follow the horse that 'owes you one' after a previous narrow disappointment or the animal trained by a friend.

So, for a start, I reckoned that with Kieren Fallon determined to give it his best shot in his attempt to win back the jockeys' title and going to the less fashionable meeting of the day at Haydock, I would do each-way cross doubles on all his mounts. With most available around 5-1 or better, it only needed two of his six rides to come in to be sure of some gain. So what happened? In six races he managed just two third places.

At Newmarket, John Dunlop's Farhaan, the short-priced favourite, was all the rage to beat Aidan O'Brien's three raiders in the first and looked impressive in the paddock, so I invested solidly, only for him to trail in fifth of six. In the next race, Richard Hughes, the jockey of the year for me, was riding Best Terms, unbeaten in four outings. Again I went with the surefire favourite, only for her to run far too keenly and come home fifth of the eight finishers. …

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