There are many occasions that arise in the life of an amateur where you just have to doff your faux-tweed cap towards your professional counterparts. I say counterparts as though it implies equality, parity or even comparability, but the gulf of knowledge and insight that exists between myself and Tom Segal of the Racing Post is equivalent to the 19-length canyon of space that stood this afternoon between equine perfection and mere mortality in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
On days like today, this fact makes me an extremely happy man as it helped me lift my sinking body out of the quagmire of deficit and catapulted me back into contention for days three and four, when I will be trackside at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sprinter Sacre’s performance was simply spectacular, and was everything pure racing enthusiasts longed to see. Sizing Europe, himself a significantly more impressive horse than the rest of the field in the 3.20 Grade 1 contest, was left so far in the wake of Sprinter Sacre’s magnificence that you could barely see him cross the line in the background on television.
Having the Sacre / Sizing straight forecast at 2.04 with bet365 was satisfying (as was the £0.38 I won with Betfair), and it means the “banker” portion of my festival Super Yankee did not fail to deliver, but truth be told, by this point in the afternoon, I was struggling for profits.
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I had 3pts on “sure thing” Pont Alexandre in the Neptune, only to realise that the price of 6/4fav may have been based more on hype than substance as The New Onebreezed past to give likeable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies a clear and professional duck-breaking festival win for his father / trainer Nigel.
More funds evaporated in the RSA Chase, as Unioniste was left well back in 4th, with my alternative selection Goulanes nowhere to be seen as Lord Windermere gave three-time Gold Cup winning jockey and 2002 Grand National winner Jim Culloty his first festival win as a trainer. His jubilation, along with that of his rider, the jovial Davy Russell, brought just a weary half-smile to my lips. I was around £190 down for the day.
After clawing about £100 back on the Champion Chase thanks to predicting the first two past the post in the correct order, the 4.00 Coral Cup sent me spiralling down out of control, like Goose ejecting from his F-14 Tomcat in Top Gun, having already broken his neck ejecting straight into the roof, before plummeting into the sea. Where was my wingman, my Maverick? Being more than a casual follower of Segal’s Pricewise tips meant that on top of my three selections, I had another two to add to my handicap portfolio in this race. All failed to provide profit, leaving me another £245 down.
Channel 4’s coverage had long since finished, and Maverick (Segal) had seemingly thrown my dogtags out to sea. I was down and out for the day, over £350 out of pocket and deflated after yesterday’s successes.
That was until a flare was put out there – Gordon Elliott’s Flaxon Flare. The William Hill shop in which I was watching the Fred Winter may have been quiet, but somewhere on a distant radio I could hear Flare-way to Heaven being strummed out. This horse had been tipped up by Segal in the morning at 25-1 and was now available at 32 on Betfair. I upped my stake from a standard £25 to an increased £40, sensing both a value opportunity and a lifeline to claw on to (despite having enjoyed a few decent days of late, I am miserably myopic when it comes to seeing the bigger picture of punting at times). Segal, not just a professional, a genius...
It won’t be of huge recompense to those who followed my tips today, but for followers of Tom Segal – a man who provides more useful professional advice than the Citizens’ Bureau – it was exactly what was required. Just like that, my wingman and I were back in the bar of life, pounding out “Great Balls of Fire” like the good old days and ready to shoot the pesky migs outta the sky. Right, I think that's enough of that terribly forced extended metaphor.
A bit was lost on the bumper at 5.15, but it seems more or less everyone I know incredulously failed to notice that a trainer / jockey partnership well clear at the head of their respective festival leaderboards saddled up a 25/1 chance in the race, Briar Hill, who provided Andrea and Graham Wylie with some welcome compensation for the Boston Bob fall at the last in the RSA earlier in the day. Willie Mullins having won this bumper with yesterday’s hero Champagne Fever just 12 months ago... how did we not see it? Did you?
Total profit for Day 2 stood at just over £800.
Jewson & Pertemps
Dynaste is another supposed banker but I will just watch this race I think – I got my fingers burnt on Pont Alexandre today and don’t fancy David Pipe’s grey enough to lump anything meaningful on. I will be at the track by this time and plan to enjoy the first couple of races, having already backed Sam Winner for the Pertemps in my Festival-week Super Yankee:
I’ll have a weighty bet on First Lieutenant, the favourite, here. Wearing the Gigginstownhouse Stud silks of white star set against a maroon backdrop, he’ll be as easy to spot as his owner is to hear. Having backed First Lieutenant at 22/1 for the Lexus Chase in which he was runner-up only by a head to a stunning Ruby Walsh ride atop Tidal Bay, I expect FL to go one better here, giving Michael O’Leary, the guy whose company also sponsors this race, reason to shout... as if he needs one. Thinking about it, I will also double up Dynaste (mentioned earlier) with this pick for a 7.75/1 multiple bet.
To think we only got tickets for the Thursday this year so we could cheer Big Buck’s home at the track, rather than from the boozer. I’ve backed Wonderful Charm in my Super Yankee. I’ll also back the Wayne – King combination, Smad Place, who at 10/1 offers decent each-way value for a horse who came third in this race last year and who is young and presumably learning his trade.
Byrne Group Plate
“Lump on!” says Anthony Knott about his fans’ favourite Hunt Ball. Quoted around 6/1 to defy top weights is pretty unattractive, but I’ll back him (having inexplicably backed him last year for this year’s Gold Cup) and hope to share the success with many elated punters. I’m sure Segal will have a say in this race too!
As discussed on Day 1, I’m on A New Story in this rescheduled, quirky card-closer.
This time tomorrow, we'll be out on the town in Cheltenham, so I'm not promising much. Get on Far West for the JCB Triumph Hurdle on Friday, Silviniaco Conti and Long Run (E/W) for the Gold Cup, and have a good one!