Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Settling Up

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Settling Up

Article excerpt

Credit: Robin Oakley

Mrs Oakley takes a dim view of my using the BMW that consumed much of her savings to ferry sacks of garden refuse and discarded paint tins to the council dump. She took an even dimmer view when, in executing a three-point turn recently, I missed a marker post behind me and reshaped the bumper: replacing it will require regular success in the Tote Placepot. But it really wasn't my fault when a warning light flashed to tell us we had low tyre pressure. The garage reported that not just one tyre but all four had been penetrated by vicious-looking carpet tacks: it was either mindless vandalism or deliberate sabotage, which is not a pleasant thought to contemplate.

Nobody else in our village found any tacks in their tyres. We don't know of any local enemies and so Mrs Oakley came up with an explanation. Aware that I have lately been combing through theRacing Post results most mornings with groans rather than whoops of joy, she concluded: 'It can only be a discontented reader who has been following your Twelve to Follow.' That was a little harsh even from one who casts a scornful eye on my punting while keeping a chunk of her remaining savings in the financial con conducted by the Chancellor and known as Premium Bonds. I would never bet at those atrocious odds.

Sandown Park's meeting on Saturday was my last chance to balance this winter's books. As ever with the Surrey course, it was a joyful day's racing that proved to be perfectly choreographed. On the final day of the jumps season, there was a 218th winner of the season for Tony McCoy, who will now be seeking a 20th successive Jockey's Championship, an astonishing statistic in one of the only two sports in which the participants are accompanied by an ambulance. That winner, Donald McCain's Dispour, reminded us too that while Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have tussled for the Trainers' Championship (which is decided on prize money won) it was the friendly, Cheshire-based McCain who trained the biggest total of winners, 148 in all. To cap that, this season's most popular winner, Sire de Grugy, having previously triumphed in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, was bravely turned out for a seventh race of the season by trainer Gary Moore and made it six victories out of seven in the hands of son Jamie. 'A lot of people, good judges as well, told me I shouldn't come here,' said Gary, 'but he loves to be exercised. …

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