Promising 'Thatch' has more to come
During the industrial revolution, the early clothing mills became very important as they were able to produce material on a factory system - which was obviously much faster than hand-produced clothing.
Most mills were set up near rivers and used water to power them, although as steam power progressed, they popped up all over the place, especially in Britain in places like Manchester.
Cotton mills, largely developed in Lancashire, became very popular in the southern states of America although the vast majority of modern mills are based in Asian countries today.
When the early mills were producing material for a decent stretch of time, it was known as a good 'run of the mill' and being a factory system, all the products were largely identical, albeit lower quality than hand-produced clothing.
There were other types of mills producing mass products too and thus, somewhat boring or lower-quality goods became knows as 'run of the mill'.
After a week of top-quality racing, there's always a feeling of anti-climax on the Saturday after the Cheltenham Festival, and today's cards look decidedly run of the mill in comparison to this week's action.
Although in fairness to Uttoxeter, the Midlands Grand National is an interesting puzzle and I'm quite keen on Back To The Thatch, which is expected to go off around 6/1 for trainer Henry Daly under jockey Tom O'Brien.
I'm not quite sure where the owners got the name for the horse but "going back to the Thatch" was quite a common thing for people like my father from Sallynoggin; the Thach being a famous local pub in the 'Noggin, which has sadly closed its doors.
Anyway, six-year-old Back To The Thatch was a useful hurdler in his time, winning a novice at Bangor and further back, he was placed in two point-to-point starts in Ireland. But he's quite promising over fences, and caught my eye when winning in his fifth attempt over the bigger obstacles in a handicap chase at Chepstow off a mark of 120 back in January.
He was obviously unexposed off that rating, but a 9lb rise in the weights afterwards wasn't actually too harsh considering he won by 11 lengths.
He seemed to be going very well off his new mark of 129 before falling last time in the Eider Chase at Newcastle, a race in which only six of the 17 runners finished, so I'm confident he can be thereabouts today off that same mark provided he stays out of trouble.
West Of The Edge is another one to consider around 6/1. Second in the Eider Chase, he was no match for the winner Baywing, but he proved he can handle a good old slog and the 10-year-old has been fairly treated by the handicapper, with a rise of 3lbs in the ratings.
Both horses can handle the expected heavy ground, but West Of The Edge is now 10, so Back To The Thatch is more likely to have some improvement to come.
At Kempton, Copain De Classe looks nailed on around 5/4 in the Matchbook VIP Chase (2.05). Trained by Paul Nicholls, he was decent enough over hurdles, winning two of his five races, but he definitely looks a good chaser in the making and he shaped well on his first race over the bigger obstacles when third of five at Ascot - although he was a bit rusty as he hadn't raced since March.
He faced just one other runner, Space Oddity, in a novice chase at Fontwell last time and when that horse unseated his rider at the second, it really became a schooling session over the fences.
We didn't learn a lot from that but he's almost certain to improve and this looks a good opportunity to get another win on the board.
Kayf Blanco is also worth a mention around 9/4. A nine-year-old with 31 races under the belt, it's been ages since he's won a race but he's always knocking on the door and is still making the placings.
I can't sign off without mentioning Willie Mullins's amazing achievement of surpassing Nicky Henderson's record, to become the most successful trainer ever at the Cheltenham Festival. And of course, the host of other Irish winners this week. Not so long ago, just couple of Irish winners were a cause for celebration, these days, five or six winners would be seen as a disappointment.
Irish racing is in such a strong position and while some would argue it's not good for the sport to see the same top stables dominate, Mullins has raised the bar for everyone, just like Aidan O'Brien has done on the Flat.
Back in the day, Vincent O'Brien brought Irish racing to a whole new level and that's what the likes of Mullins and Elliott are doing today. Well done to the huge Mullins team, which not only provide a big boost to the economy through employment and other spending, but they provide a big boost to the spirits of this small, sports-loving nation.
It won't be a massive price, possibly 4/1 or thereabouts, but I'll be amazed if Akkadian Empire is not placed in the Betway Handicap at Wolverhampton (6.15), making him a great each-way 'bet to nothing'. Trained by Iain Jardine, the four-year-old is in flying form on the artificial surfaces and was the ready winner of a handicap here off 66 less than three weeks ago.
The handicapper has only put him up 2lbs for that which seems more than fair as he has ran well off higher marks in the past.
1.40 Fontwell: Big Robin
2.05 Kempton: Copain De Classe
2.50 Fontwell: She's Gina
3.35 Uttoxeter: Back To The Thatch
6.15 Wolverhampton: Akkadian Empire (e/w)
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