If ever there’s a lesson on how a sure thing can unravel, it has to be Anthony Joshua losing his belts and unbeaten record against Andy Ruiz Jr this past weekend.
I first heard about the Ebony Horse Club in an interview with Richard Dunwoody. Known for his charity work and sense of adventure, he was at the time preparing to run a Marathon in North Korea (yes, really!). Part of the money raised was going to the Injuried Jockey’s Fund, and part to Ebony Horse Club.
Upon looking into this charity, I really took to the idea since it’s so different. Inner Ciy areas can be a bit grim and lacking in opportunity at the best of time. Combine that with the image of racing, of being a rather ‘in with the in crowd’ at times, and you have an interesing mix here. The kid in the video hadn’t even seen a horse in real life (not uncommon, London can be a bit of a bubble) and yet now he clearly has a love for them. Let’s hope one day he’s riding a winner.
A cowboy buys a horse from the town pastor. The pastor explains, “to make the horse go, you gotta yell, ‘Thank God!’ And to make it stop, yell, ‘Hallelujah.’” The cowboy rides off. He rides all day and starts to nod off in the saddle when he notices he is about to ride straight over a cliff. Searching his memory, he yells to the horse, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” The horse grinds to a stop just at the edge of the cliff. The cowboy wipes the sweat off his forehead. ”Phew!” the cowboy sighs. “Thank God!”
One day a man passed by a farm and saw a beautiful horse. Hoping to buy the animal, he said to the farmer: “I think your horse looks pretty good, so I’ll give you €500 for him.”
“He doesn’t look so good, and he’s not for sale,” the farmer said.
The man insisted, “I think he looks just fine and I’ll up the price to €1,000.”
“He doesn’t look so good,” the farmer said, “but if you want him that much, he’s yours.”
The next day the man came back raging mad. He went up to the farmer and screamed, “You sold me a blind horse. You cheated me!”
The farmer calmly replied, “I told you he didn’t look so good, didn’t I?”
A wealthy racehorse owner gets very attached to his champion horse. It has a very successful racing career and is then retired to stud duties, where it is again very successful. Earning a fortune in stud duties. Sadly one day the champion dies and the owner decides to give it a proper burial. He approaches the local Anglican minister who tells him that he is only interested in saving human souls. He then approaches the Catholic priest who tells him the same thing. As a last resort he asks a Rabbi who gives him the same sermon. As he is about to leave he says that he was going to donate $100,000 to the Synagogue. Hold on, says the Rabbi, you never told me it was a Jewish horse.
Riding the favourite at Cheltenham, the jockey is well ahead of the field. Suddenly he’’s hit on the head by a turkey and a string of sausages. He manages to keep control of his mount and pulls back into the lead, only to be struck by a box of Christmas crackers and a dozen mince pies as he goes over the last fence. With great skill he manages to steer the horse to the front of the field once more when, on the run in, he’s struck on the head by a bottle of sherry and a Christmas pudding. Thus distracted, he succeeds in coming only second. He immediately goes to the stewards to complain that he has been seriously hampered.
At the time of writing, the Cheltenham Festival is less than three weeks away and the feature race on Day One, the Champion Hurdle, seems increasing likely to involve a set-to between, or among, leading trainers Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott.
Of course, Henderson is responsible for the defending champion, and favourite, Buveir D’Air, who seeks to emulate Hatton’s Grace, Sir Ken, Persian War, See You Then and Istabraq by winning the race three years in a row. Now an 8-year-old, Buveur D’Air may have lost his air of invincibility when turned over, albeit narrowly, by his stable companion Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day, but still looks a worthy favourite at around the 2/1 mark. With a Timeform Annual Rating of ‘just’ 167, he may not be quite as good as See You Then, also trained by Henderson, but that may not stop him winning.
Next best, at least in the antepost market, is Apple’s Jade, trained by Gordon Elliott, at 9/4. The mare, who receives a 7lb allowance from Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, was beaten at odds of 1/2 in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle last year, but is 4-4 this term and did not appear to be inconvenienced by dropping back to the minimum trip in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in early February.
Willie Mullins, who last won the Champion Hurdle with Annie Power in 2016, may saddle another top-class mare, Laurina, who is unbeaten in six starts – five of them at odds-on – since joining the Co. Carlow trainer from Guillaume Macaire in France two seasons ago. She has yet to be seriously challenged, including in the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last year and, while her one Grade One win, at Fairyhouse last April, was effectively a “shoe-in”, it’s difficult to know just how good she is. The fact that she’s third favourite for the Champion Hurdle is a fair indication, though, and anyone who ignores her does so at their peril.
Looking beyond the leading trio, anyone looking for an out-and-out ‘punt’ in the Champion Hurdle could do worse than to consider Evan Williams’ 6-year-old Silver Streak, who can be backed at 50/1 antepost. The Dark Angel gelding has yet to race, never mind win, at Grade One level, but needs an end-to-end gallop – which he’ll almost certainly get in the Champion Hurdle – to be seen at his best. He could, yet, surprise one or two of his apparently more illustrious rivals.
A fairly brief yet interesting piece about ‘Jimmy the Hat’, a professional gambler who considers the Del Mar race course ‘his office’. Millions have passed through his hands over the years, with significant wins along the way. His insights about profiling horses is something worth paying attention to!