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My weekend started up at Bath Racecourse on Friday. There were eight races with paying customers and bookmakers on the course for the first time since March 2020. It rained and blew a gale for most of the day, and nobody gave a hoot, it was smiles all around, a real party atmosphere. The beginning of the end of our Covid nightmare has begun. The bookmakers all reported that the punters were keen to bet and to bet in cash. Happy days. 

The was a dream result for Jim Bolger on Saturday when he saddled the first and second home in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas over at The Curragh. His Rory Cleary ridden 8/1 chance Mac Swiney beat 5/1 shot Poetic Flare in a desperate finish. The latter had looked the likelier winner when challenging a furlong out but hung left allowing his stablemate to just hang on. The commentator called the result as the passed the post, but it looked less than clear cut to me. He was right though, Mac Swiney had prevailed by a shorthead. The winner will now have a crack at the Cazoo Derby at Epsom on June 5th. Talking to Nick Luck on Luck On Sunday the trainer told him ‘In my mind there isn’t anything ahead of him, the form is there now.’ He’s a best priced 15/2 for Epsom at the time of typing. 

13/8 favourite Liberty Beach winning the Casumo Best Odds Guaranteed Temple Stakes under jockey Jason Hart for John Quinn earned a top-priced quote of 8/1 for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot next month. Talking to Racing UK the handler said ‘I’m delighted. She had to be tough – 50 yards from the line but she dug deep and as Jason said, nothing passed her after the line.’ He added, ‘She has a lot of class, and a lot of speed. She could have been unbeaten as a two-year-old. She might have gone close in the Queen Mary, she was second in the Lowther when the winner made the running and kicked. We didn’t know whether she’d get six. – She’s won on good to firm, good, soft, heavy’.

The trainer was obviously delighted, I’m guessing there was someone ever happier than he. That would be the punter that was reported on ITV Racing to have won the £50,000 ITV 7. He  was the only remaining ticket holder going into the last leg with Liberty Beach his selection, Aye Aye to him. I wish they’d get the ITV winners on the telly the following week, maybe they could tell us where they buy their crystal balls and lucky clover!

There appeared to be an almighty gamble landed for the Joe Tuite yard when The Organiser veritably bolted up in the William Hill EBF Restricted Novice Stakes under Cam Hardie. The debutante must have been showing something at home, the colt had been available at a best-priced 20/1 the night before then backed into an SP of 11/2. What it must be to be privy to that sort of info, a flying machine on the gallops and all that. Then it dawned on me, I had spent a whole afternoon in the Bath press room with someone who actually rides out for the yard. The conversations during those eight races had been varied, fashion, drunk people, the prospects of future meetings being on or off, but not a bloody dickie bird about one catching pigeons up the gallops at Felstead Court Stables. Not a dickie bird, oh well fair play to them for having it spark off. It’s not always he best horse that wins first time out. People of a certain vintage will remember John McCririck telling everyone Reference Point would win his maiden, he got beat then but went on to win the Derby

The was another yard first and second over the weekend, this time at The Curragh on Sunday. The Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas went to Aidan O’Brien’s Seamus Heffernan ridden 14/1 chance Empress Josephine depriving Ryan Moore on the yard’s supposedly better fancied 9/2 shot Joan Of Arc by a shorthead. O’Brien’s other entry, 100/1 chance Friendly was back in sixth. Talking to Racing UK the winning trainer said. ‘We ran her over nine furlongs in Gowran Park and had a lovely run, but we felt the trip maybe caught her out. She is quick and Seamus gave her a lovely ride’. He added, ‘It’s a long time since Seamus rode his first Group One winner for us. He is a great fellow who works with us day in day out.’ Of her future plans he said, ‘We might go for the Coronation Cup, but we’ll speak to the lads and see what they want to do. She has the option of the French Oaks or coming back here for the Pretty Polly, but she is not slow, and I would say a mile maybe suits her better than a mile and a quarter’.

I was absolutely gutted when the news broke that legendary professional gambler and trainer Barney Curley had passed away on Sunday at the age of 81. Barney has been my racing hero since I first got into the sport. His photo on the front page of the Sporting Life glaring out under a headline saying that he’d been ‘carpeted’ by the stewards for one reason or another really caught my imagination. It was the first time that I became aware that there were ‘professional punters’ out there that bet for a living. I cut that picture out and had it on my wall for years. It even came with me when I joined the Army. While other lads in the room had Sam Fox and Linda Lusardi on their walls, I had Barney, needless to say they thought I was a strange lad. The list of things that Barney is legendary for is long, the man was without a doubt a genius, probably the like of which we’ll never see again. What’s lesser known about him was his charity work something he dedicated much of his later life to, providing direct aid for Africa.

RIP Barney. 

Simon Nott

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