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Angus McNae

Captain's Blog - 25th February 2011

The action continues apace here on today with two meetings for your punting delight. We will be at Sandown and Warwick where the action is as competitive as ever. I will be based in the booth again today armed with a flask of coffee and sandwiches. I feel it is about time the flask got an outing again. I usually only use it during the four days I spend in the booth for the Cheltenham Festival and when carrying out polar expeditions, but I feel like giving it a go today. I certainly need the caffeine after being in charge of giving my daughter a 3.00am feed last night! She took an hour and a half to feed and then settle down again so all stimulants will be gratefully received today. That is stimulants for me, she is bright as a button this morning and clearly needs no stimulation at all.

There will no doubt be plenty of consternation amongs the purists in our game who will have been offended by the win of Aikman at Huntingdon yesterday. He was able to gain a ten or twelve length advantage at the start and was never headed thereafter. Harry Haynes was the jockey on board the winner who has made the running before and he simply jumped off and went as the tapes went up. The other jockeys were happy to let him do so. At halfway the advantage had been reduced to a few lengths and over the last two hurdles a number of the runners had a chance to win but Aikman stuck on gamely. Clearly the winner had distributed his energy more evenly than the others, but it is just possible that he was the best horse in the race anyway.

I think it is a case of the subsequent events in the race making the start look bad rather than the start itself being all wrong. Aikman got an easy lead and a strong stayer with an easy lead is a potent force, he would have got one even if the horses had started together because none of the others wanted to be up there. This easy lead makes the start look worse than it actually was. If Harry Haynes had gone too fast in front and the horse had faded over the last two into third would anybody be bleating, probably not. Of course it is unsatsfactory to have a start such as we witnessed yesterday, but without starting stalls they are not all going to start together.

Some may believe that such starts raise serious integrity questions for our sport, to be honest I do not agree because there are many more subtle ways to get a horse beaten than to lose a few lengths at the start and then be a hostage to pace. Should we meddle with the starts? Probably not, should we ask jockeys to line up and walk in together to ensure as fair a start as possible, yes, but if jockeys do make a misjudgement at the start it is surely no worse than going too fast from the front or overdoing waiting tactics or kicking on too soon from the front, it is part of the tatical tapestry of our sport. We are right to question what happened yesterday and the right to do so should never be denied but should always remeber that in the majority of races the best horse wins the race.

Incidentally Aikman was beaten by a horse called Wlaldvogel at Mussleburgh and he is one to look out for as he was very useful on the flat, jumps well and put Aikman to bed with ease. You have been warned.

Right I am heading to the office now. All the best.


Today’s Selection

4:15 Lingfield - Buona Sara (each way sp)



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