Thursday 17 August 2017

Hoping for perfect birthday gift

AT this time of year, I like to take a trip across the water to take in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot and while I'm at the races, herself goes into London to run up a few bills on the credit card -- as is her wont.

The first staging of the Victor Chandler Chase took place back when Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan were No 1 in the Irish charts with 'Especially for you'.

I remember that song well, as a girl who lived up the road from me, whom I had my eye on, played the single constantly on her cassette player.

Maybe she was trying to tell me something, although as a skinny and shy nine-year-old, I never plucked up the courage to ask her out.

Another thing that stuck in the memory from 1989 is the first ever winner of the Victor Chandler Chase, as it was one of my late father's favourite horses -- the legendary grey Desert Orchid.

My old man had a nice bet on at 6/4 and myself and the brother each got two green Queen Medb £1 notes as pocket money that weekend instead of one. Happy days! He loved that horse and so did I, when it won.

I won't get over to Ascot this year as I've a more important engagement; my beloved mother celebrates the birthday that officially makes her an old-age pensioner.

We'll all be watching the race from the local, hopefully, and the party mood will really get kicking should Gauvain land the prize, priced around 7/1.

He was going well before he fell in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, but, generally speaking, he's a very smart chaser and is quite reliable too.

Before that race, he took the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and the 10-year-old again tasted victory last time out in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

While he normally runs very close to what his mark suggests, questions have been raised about whether he can handle it at the top level. I'm willing to give him a chance to prove himself, though, and by the formbook, he doesn't have too much to make up with Somersby, currently rated 166.

Paul Nicholls has won the past three renewals, so it's no surprise to see Al Ferof prominent in the betting behind Nicky Henderson's Finian's Rainbow.

Al Ferof was good over timber, but has also won his latest two starts over fences and could become an exciting chaser over the next year or two.

Finian's Rainbow took the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December, but it was a messy affair in which he made some blunders and those that backed him at 4/11 certainly didn't get the walk in the park that was expected.

On a sadder note, I'd like to mention Paddy Orr, the well-known and well-loved bookmaker who died suddenly last weekend.

It was a while since he had stood on the boxes, but many readers will be familiar with his son, Barry, who keeps up the family racing tradition in his horseracing/PR role with Betfair.

From the stories I've heard, Paddy was one of the great Dublin characters in the betting ring of yore, and sadly, such characters are fast becoming a rare breed.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

EACH-WAY OUTSIDER

TATENEN knows what it takes to win the Betvictor.com handicap chase, taking the prize home for connections in 2011.

He didn't do anything to write home about on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham in December, but at least it shook off the cobwebs and I'm confident that the eight-year-old still retains plenty of ability. Take him each-way around 25/1.

TODAY'S SELECTIONS

1.45 Haydock: Celestial Halo

2.05 Ascot: Cloudy Spirit

3.10 Ascot: Gauvain

3.45 Ascot: Tatenen (e/w)

LAST WEEK'S WINNERS

Menorah (4/7), Marodima (9/4), Moleskin (9/2)

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