De Bromhead's Special Tiara can shine in Sandown prize
In the 1850s, telegraph lines were spreading all over America, but erecting the straight wooden poles to run the lines along was proving quite costly - so a bloke by the name of Colonel Bee came up with the cheaper idea of stringing the lines across trees instead.
He was working on a rather large cross-country line from Virginia to California but unfortunately, when the trees swayed in the wind the wires became stretched and tangled leaving them resembling wild grapevines.
The end result meant that information sent through the 'grapevine line' was often slow, out of date, or even inaccurate.
I should have thought of Captain Bee and his grapevine last week when I got a text message to tell me Quite Sparky, from Lucinda Egerton's yard, was laid out to win the last at Wolverhampton.
I've been involved in racing long enough to know not to back horses on hearsay but following a horrendous day for this column in which every horse I backed appeared cursed, I was perhaps a little vulnerable and willing to clutch at any straws going.
I'm raging with myself now but I backed the gelding at 8/1 with fifty quid in a pathetic attempt at loss recovery.
Yet, as we all know, the gambling gods have no mercy and despite trading as low as 1/4 in-running, Quite Sparky wasn't quite sparky enough, and ended up third.
Talk about getting a kicking when you're down but it's my own fault I suppose and there's no point complaining.
Having suffered a big loss last week, it would have been tempting to go all in on Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek (3.0 Sandown) but for better or worse, he won't be running today as Willie Mullins felt he was a little "flat in himself". While it's always disappointing to see a strong favourite pull out of a race, it does open it up from a betting point of view and Paul Nicholls' Vibrato Valtat is now the forecast favourite around 2/1.
In my view, that's a little short considering he had a number of near misses last season when he raced in Grade One company following an excellent novice campaign.
Fair enough, he was very convincing when winning the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last month and he did win a four-runner Henry VIII Chase last year but he's come up short more than once in the top-level races and I'd rather wait until he proves himself further before lumping on at a short price.
Special Tiara, which beat Vibrato Valtat in the Grade One AP McCoy Celebration Chase in April, is a good alternative at 7/2 or thereabouts.
Mr Mole and Somersby, which re-oppose today, were also behind Special Tiara on that occasion and Henry de Bromhead's charge wasn't disgraced at the Cheltenham Festival when third in the Champion Chase.
On the downside, he flopped last time when fourth in the Fortria Chase at Navan but I reckon he was simply a little rusty after seven months off and I suspect we'll see a rejuvenated gelding today, described by his trainer as being in "super form" at home.
There was no running of the Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.55 Sandown) in 2010 due to heavy snow around the Surrey area, but since it was upgraded to Grade One status in 2011, Paul Nicholls has won three out of the four renewals.
This year, the Ditcheat handler is represented by Bouvreuil and As De Mee which both have reasonable claims but the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bristol De Mai should take all the beating - and the 15/8 available in the early markets yesterday looks a cracking price.
He's quite young for a chaser aged four but that means he gets a valuable 6lb age allowance from the rest of the field bar Bouvreuil, which is sure to come in useful.
A Grade One winner over hurdles, he jumped beautifully to win a novice chase at Warwick last time in a style which belied his age.
I backed Soll in the Grand National back in April and he ran very well to finish ninth considering he burst a blood vessel.
It's tempting to back him again over the same fences in the Becher Chase (1.40 Aintree) but his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham was woeful recently and he may be one best watched for a while.
Instead, a chance is taken on the Sue Smith-trained No Planning, which is expected to go off at a nice each-way price of 12/1 on a mark of 137.
Third in a good quality handicap at Haydock last time off 139, he acts on heavy ground so the tough conditions at Aintree today won't be a problem.
1.40 Aintree: No Planning (e/w)
1.45 Navan: Shadow Catcher
1.55 Sandown: Bristol De Mai
3.0 Sandown: Special Tiara
8.15 Wolverhampton: Red Verdon