Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

Racing Life is all about judgment and I got one thing right at Cheltenham last Saturday after the overnight rain. Waved on to soggy grass by a parking attendant, I demurred, insisting that anyone who parked there would never drive off. I was waved on impatiently and foolishly let her win. When it came to leaving, I managed to start slithering across the grass towards safety, only for a 4 x 4 driving up the hard core to refuse to let me in. As I braked, I knew I was doomed. It must be something about being so high up that makes 4 x 4 drivers so arrogant but at least the arrival of the tractor 50 minutes later taught me where to find the bolt-on towbar for my car.

My assessment of the carpark going was the only thing I did get right on Festival Trials Day: in all seven races I managed to back the second. In the Triumph Hurdle Trial, I wavered between Paul Nicholls's Clan Des Obeaux and Nicky Henderson's Consul De Thaix. I went down the Nicholls route, only for Nicky to win with his other runner, the 25-1 Protek Des Flos. These French imports all seem to love the mud.

So do Venetia Williams's horses, so in the second I went for her Waldorf Salad. He was one of two who came clear of the field but was outgunned by Evan Williams's King's Odyssey in the blue and pink colours of Mr and Mrs William Rucker. From a point-to-point background, the Ruckers are true chasing folk. 'I regard hurdling just as a necessary evil,' William Rucker told me. But Trials day was already producing more fog than sunlight: by winning that race King's Odyssey had smoked himself out of his original target at the Festival, a novices' handicap. That did not worry his trainer; King's Odyssey cheered up a week that saw the stable down in the dumps. With Evan's stable jockey already out with a broken leg they lost a good horse in a fall that broke the collarbone of Adam Wedge, the No. 2 at the yard who has been riding them in Paul Moloney's absence. Hailing 'a proper winter horse' who had relished the soft ground, Evan declared, 'If he never turned up anywhere in the spring it wouldn't worry Mr and Mrs Rucker or myself.' When someone mentioned the words 'Grand National' with regard to King's Odyssey's future he declared, 'You don't win those kinds of races if you keep rushing them to Cheltenham. I don't have to chase those buggers round here in March. …

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