World Rowing Cup,Eton Dorney,Saturday 22nd June 2013

One of the standout events and successes at London 2012 was the rowing which took place at the rather plush Eton College Rowing Club and such was the class organisation of it that they were awarded the second regatta in this three regatta series with the first one held back in March at Sydney,Australia. 

Today saw a total of twenty three races,four of the opening five were the main finals of the Para Rowing all held over a 1000m course with the remaining races which were semi finals and the B finals all held over the standard 2000m race distance. 
The facilities today might not have been in the same mould as the Olympics but the crowd itself was not all that big although I fully expect it to be packed to the gunnels on the Sunday for the main finals which form part of the series. 
This was my first venture into the world of rowing,I always catch it when the Olympics is on but I wanted to give new sports a try this year with rowing being one of them so while this report will no doubt lack the credibility of a real rowing journalist I shall endeavour to do my best. 
Thankfully though unlike the horse racing reports here I won’t be reviewing every single race. 
Due to the weather forecasts today was a revised schedule with the first race at 9am and a lot of the races were starting when the current race in progress reached the halfway stage, personally this was a good idea as it kept the flow of races going and made it even more enjoyable. 
The finish of the day was no doubt the B Final of the Men’s Pair, in this one each rower only has one oar and it went the way of Team GB who just held off a late rallying charge from the China1 boat and hung on by 0.57 seconds, if this race was over 2200m then it would have been a Chinese celebration. 
The easiest final was the B Final of the Lightweight Men’s Fours,this is four rowers with an oar each and only two in this race which went to Brazil who over took a fast starting Egypt and won on the bridle or whatever the equivalent is in rowing. 
Below,Brazil easily defeat Egypt. 
One interesting contest was the B Final of the Women’s Double Sculls, only three boats which were China 1 and China 3 plus Korea so an intriguing battle here which was top and tailed by China 3 finishing first with China 1 in third and Korea being the meat in the sandwich. 
The main medal events though today were the finals of the Para Rowing,even though the athletes for this train over the traditional 2000m or 1m 550 yards in old money they still race over 1000m and they want the distance increased which hopefully will happen in time. 
First up was the B Final of the ASM1x, this is the Arms and Shoulders Men’s Single Sculls which is mainly for rowers with spinal cord injury of double amputation, The race here only had two which easily went to Poland who put the Irish boat in its place from the first stroke,no medals in this race and it only filled in the final positions of sixth and seventh. 
Second race was the A Final of the ASW1x,same as before but female rowers and if their was betting in this then it would have been a bookies benefit as the favourite Alla Lysenko from Ukraine who won this event in the 2012 Paralympics suffered a defeat to Russia who took over midway through and never looked like being caught with Norway getting third. 
Below,The medal ceremony. 
Third up was the A final of the first race the ASM1x and it was success and cheers down the lake as Team GB celebrated with an emphatic win by Tom Aggar who did what he so desperately wanted to do at 2012,taking over after 500m it was never in doubt,Russia got the forecast up with the second GB boat back in third spot to the huge cheers of the Eton Dorney faithful. 
Below,Tom Aggar (middle) winner of the gold medal. 
Fourth final of the day and it was the TAMix2x, this is the Trunk and Arms mixed doubles for rowers who cannot use a sliding seat but have use of their trunks, it was Viva la France here on the water as France got the win holding off Israel in second and USA back in the third spot. 
Below,Medalists of the TAMix2x
The last final was the LTAMix4+ and this is a mixed,coxed boat aimed at rowers minimal impairments or some visual impairment, This race became the second big win of the day for Team GB as the rowers who won Paralympic Gold came back to the adulation of the crowd to show the class is still in the boat after last year, this was a popular win and the crowd showed their love and affection during the medal presentation although the fact they only had one opponent in Ukraine didn’t matter as they put on a thoroughly professional show on the water. 
Below,Team GB and Ukraine get their medals after the race. 
This was a nice enough event to attend,The organisation was good with a knowledgable and respectful crowd cheering all the winners and competitors no matter who they represented. 
British Rowing is in a good place at the moment and the huge impact of 2012 has showed with reports in the official programme reporting of clubs being over subscribed of people wanting to try it and become rowers. 
As an event it works well, the races have four commentators working which helps keep things fresh with lots of races taking place during the day. 
Rowing is a very tough sport indeed, today we had a real mix of weather,the sun tried to appear but sometimes the conditions were like being at Towcester or Ludlow in midwinter as it got quite cold plus the rain didn’t help but as I’m used to being out in the middle of the jumps season I did what anyone else would do and just saw it out to the bitter end even if I felt like a drowned rat. 
Below a few images from yesterday,here we have Eton College Rowing Club. 
My view from the stands. 
Race Control 
Thank you for reading,next review is Haydock Park in two weeks,back to horses and its the Lancashire Oaks and the Old Newton Cup. 

Sir Henry Cecil, A tribute.

The passing of Sir Henry Cecil yesterday for me made me feel the same way that I did when I heard of Ginger McCains a few years ago. 
In racing you could not but agree that these were two totally different persons but both had been held in high regard by the British racing public with a huge amount of love and respect given to them for all that they had achieved in racing over the years. 
While Ginger was straight to the point,typically not politically correct and spoke as he thought albeit with the occasional twinkle in his eye whereas Sir Henry had the look of the quintessential Englishman about him with his dress since,head tilted to one side and self deprecating nature in interviews after a race in which he had just trained a winner. 
One did National Service,drove a taxi around Southport including driving a lion in a van for a circus plus ferrying Frank Sinatra around for a comb around Blackpool while the other one failed the Common Entrance exam for Eton while at Sunningdale but managed to get in. 
Sir Henry described himself as a “late maturing type and backward” oddly enough I think I know what he means by that! 
In years to come all you need to say to any racing fan is “Ginger” or “Sir Henry” and you will be thinking of Red Rum,Amberleigh House,Frankel,Slip Anchor,Oh So Sharp,Midday and Twice Over within seconds. 
Racing needs characters in it that make you sit up and take note and when Sir Henry was being spoken to on the television by god did your eyes stay focused on the screen and your ears prick up like Red Rum did when he made his appearance on Sports Personality of the Year when he heard Tommy Stack speaking from a studio elsewhere. 
Over the years the sight of how the stomach cancer had got to him was not for pretty viewing but somehow he was not suffering alone as racing fans felt it with him but he was not one for feeling sorry for himself it was a case of keep fighting and carry on as normal in a typical British sense of Keep Calm and Carry On and while he was giving advice to Derek Thompson about what would happen to him as he fought and won his battle against this deadly disease their was of course that one little extra thing that assisted him along with the chemotherapy,Frankel. 
No doubt it was this most magnificent and beautiful of thoroughbred horses that kept the fight up, Frankel was the reason for keeping going and his toughness,determination and will to win is what drew even non racing fans into this sport for a quick peek at what years and years of select breeding has done for the racehorse. 
For many it was Frankel that was the main antidote for his stomach cancer and I think will disagree about that. 
Sir Henry was one of the greatest trainers that this country and indeed the world has ever seen and while the racing community will be a much emptier place the sport will still continue and flourish because of the foundations he laid down for others to follow. 
After the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics during the closing ceremonies I was reminded of the saying “Don’t cry because its over,Smile that it happened”
I believe that is what everyone in racing from owners,trainers,jockeys,stable staff,media and officials should do, We should all be saluting the man who enriched our lives and showed that racing can have a fun side too and not be serious all of the time. 
Thank you for all the good times Sir Henry may you rest in peace. 

Haydock Park,John Of Gaunt and Pinnacle Stakes Day,Saturday 8th June 2013

Haydock Park,John Of Gaunt and Pinnacle Stakes Day

A very warm afternoon here for the second day of this two day meeting and with Royal Ascot slowly coming up it was a last chance for a few of these to put their credentials on the line on a competitive seven race card. 
Today’s card involved a mixture of Handicaps,Listed,Group Threes and a Classified race from distances of 6f to 2m so a real mixture for flat fans. 
2.05 The BetVictor Royal Ascot No Lose Hughes Stakes ,2m,4yo+ (81-100)
The day started with the longest event of the day over two miles with fourteen stayers, the early pace was set by Beyond Conceit until three furlongs out and he was tracked by Oriental Fox throughout most of the race until De Rigeur took over in the last furlong to hold off favourite Sun Central by 1.5 lengths with Beyond Conceit back in third. 
The winner is a tough stayer and was winning his fourth race for Marco Botti,wether or not he makes into a Cup horse is another thing but he won well and could well be aimed at the Northumberland Plate in a few weeks at Newcastle,One horse who caught the eye was Apache back in fifth and could be suited by further so races like the Ascot and Goodwood Stakes later on may be ideal. 
(Below) De Rigeur winner of the 2m H’cap. 
2.40 The BetVictor Royal Ascot Money Back Pinnacle Stakes,1m4f,Group Three 4yo+ Fillies and Mares. 
A chance for some black type here in what was an ok renewal with the highest rated being 107 and the lowest 97 and this went to the Newmarket trained Moment in Time from the David Simcock yard who was held up in the early stages before making ground up and taking over from long time leader Nymphea in the last fifty yard to record a victory by a head with favourite Ambivalent back in third who was keen in the early stages which didn’t help. 
Moment in Time is lightly raced but consistent and this will have enhanced her paddock value by a fair amount,hopefully she will be back next month for the Lancashire Oaks and maybe Ambivalent will too, Nymphea was runner up in the German Oaks and fourth in the German St Leger,she is a lovely well built filly and can pick races up this year. 
3.15 The Timeform Jury Stakes (Registered as The John of Gaunt Stakes) 7f,Group Three,4yo+
It was compensation time for Germany here as Amarillo just hung on from the fast finishing Pastoral Player by a very short head with Red Jazz showing his old sparkle back in third. 
Red Jazz led for the first three furlongs until headed by the pack and Amarillo hit the front with a furlong left,Parstoral Player was held up probably a bit to far off the pace but made up ground when asked by Graham Lee and was a very unlucky loser but he will get a win at some point this season. 
The winner looks a good horse but its hard to equate his German form but he’s an honest enough sort. 
3.50 The BetVictor.Com E.B.F. Cecil Frail Stakes,6f,Listed,3yo+ Fillies and Mares. 
Compensation here for Artistic Jewel who was runner up last year and got the better of another German raider Gracia Directa by 1.25 with Hoyam back in third faring the best of the three year olds on the race. 
Artistic Jewel is an ideal filly for the smaller trainer and Ed McMahon will be delighted to get some Black Type with her and step her up in grade at some point while Gracia Directa will be winning soon. 
4.25 The BetVictor No Lose Hughes Money Back Sandy Lane Stakes,6f,Listed,3yo
A nice looking contest on paper which was took my the hot favourite Professor who followed up a recent handicap win at Ascot with a nice victory here defeating Glass Office by 1.75 lengths while Mar Mar ran the best of all the Godolphin horses today back in third. 
Professor is much better than this class and will be aimed at much better races at the bigger festivals and could even end up here in September in the Sprint Cup which would not surprise me at all. 
Mar Mar was having her first run since being sixth in the Meydaan Oaks back in March and while she has ability it’s going to be tricky to place her at the correct trip. 
5.00 The Download The BetVictor App Now Handicap Stakes,6f,3yo (66-85)
A trappy event on paper and so it proved to be with Shore Step getting his second win of the season with Robot Boy still in need of some fine tuning in second but seems much happier back at sprints. 
Shore Step won here off a rating of 78 which will no doubt be raised but he can build of this and be a useful type during the summer. 
5.35The Royal Ascot Money Back At Classified Stakes,1m2f,3yo (0-80)
Only four for this race which was for winners of only one race but it was tight on paper with the four rated from 77-80. 
As expected Enzaal made the pace but was headed inside the last two furlongs then favourite Double Discount took over and held on from the fast finishing Elhaame under a strong Kieran Fallon drive. 
This was a much stronger performance from Double Discount and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here as the season progresses. 
So a fair days racing then, not the biggest quality for a Saturday but with Royal Ascot on the horizon its not that surprising really, The crowd were treated to some good finishes with the judge having to be called upon a few times to work out the results. 
After today my next blog review will come from the World Rowing Cup at Eton Dorney in Windsor which will be the semi finals of the World Cup events which is fourteen class of boat and the three finals of the International and the five finals of the Para Rowing which are at the moment scheduled to take place that day on the lake with the stars of the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming back to entertain. 
Meanwhile Royal Ascot is approaching with the cream of flat racing taking part on the Royal course for five days of amazing sport. 
Looking ahead the next racing will be the Lancashire Oaks,Old Newton Cup at Haydock in July followed by two days in Yorkshire at Pontefract and Ripon then Para Athletics at the Olympic Stadium. 
Until then keep reading and thank you for doing so. 

Hexham,Nova International Raceday,Saturday 1st June 2013

Sunshine in the wonderful setting of Hexham racecourse up in Northumberland on Derby Day and while all eyes in the racing world were gazed down on Epsom the other big race of the day for 3yo was also here, the first juvenile hurdle of the season.

Today’s card was a seven race affair with a one hour break after the fourth to enable the crowd to watch the Derby and no doubt to take stock as to how their betting had been going on.

Also it was Nova International Day here,they create and develop some of the UK’s biggest mass participation sporting events such as the Great North Run,Great Swim and Great City Games and I noticed that Brendan Foster was here, he is into his horse racing and also had a horse that he was a co-owner of in the sixth race.

They have a website which is

Below, overview of Hexham racecourse



Race One here was a 2m 110yards Selling Hurdle and five went to post with the well fancied Humbel Ben being taken out, It was an all the way win for Kaolak who made all under Henry Brooke to beat favourite Piment D'estruval by 3.25 lengths, the winner stayed on well and while the runner up made a real hash at the second last flight which cost him his chance of taking this race, Kaolak is a 7yo and still an entire and after the race there was no bid for him.

Second Race was a Novice Chase over 2m4f 110yards which was a really eventful contest, The two at the head of the market Bygones of Brid and Rudemeister decided that as they were the two best horses in the race it would be better to treat it like a match even though eight runners set off, Coming up to two out they were still nip and tuck and Rudemeister just began to lead before tipping up Wilson Renwick which effectively gifted the win to Bygones of Brid who recorded at 28 length win over the only other finisher Indian Voyage as the rest either pulled up,ran out,refused and unseated, all came back safe though. The winner is 10 and while having good quality hurdle form is a bit short of top class but is a safe jumper.

Race Three was our longest of the day a 3m1f Chase with twelve runners and this went to the 10yo mare Almond Court who made all the running and thrashed Chernik by 18 lengths with recent Cartmel scorer Solway Dornal back in third, this was a low grade affair but one to take out is Presenting Junior who is only a 6yo and was on his first handicap run who will be better with a bit of juice in the ground and could be a reasonable stayer the more he learns about long distance steeplechasing.

Race Four was the feature hurdle contrast over 2m 110yards and again another made all victory but this time for Baccalaureate on his second start for Sue Smith and seems to enjoying his new life in Yorkshire as he did a professional job here off his rating of 107 and know doubt he will be raised a few pounds after this, back in second was Foxcub who running after an 11lb raise but a mistake three out didn't help him while back in third was handicap debutant Montefeltro who is still a bit green and he will learn.

As for Baccalaureate he could possibly go for the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen or maybe the Scottish Summer Champion Hurdle at Perth.

The Fifth contest after the extended break was the first 3yo Hurdle of 2013 and as all of them were having their first run over hurdles it was a case of see which horse had the best flat rating and good middle distance form and that theory proved correct as the favourite Akdam set out to claim the prize by making all the running to hold off Irish challenger Lindenhurst by 3.5 lengths under quality conditional Trevor Whelan (5)

While the top 3yo colts were at Epsom the ones here at Hexham would be in solidarity with them for giving advice on how to handle a course with undulations and going uphill and downdale albeit with eight flights in front of them plus the extra 4f.

Akdam had a flat rating of 68 and he will learn from this but could be vulnerable under a penalty on his next start but for now he is the top 3yo hurdler at time of writing.

 Below,Akdam (noseband) sharing the pace setting out the final circuit. Image</

Race Six was a tight looking 2m 110yards Handicap Chase and it was back to winning ways for top weight Sleep In First who was recording his fifth win of the year, he had never won a race over hurdles but has taken to fences like a duck to water and won here off a rating of 120 which was part of a 39lb rise since his first steeplechase win back at Sedgefield in March.

Runner up was Exotic Man who may be better over 2m4f but he travelled well and can pick a race up during the summer.

The final race of the day was a 2m 110yards Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race with the biggest field of the day of fourteen starters, It looked wide open on paper but it was a case of the cream rising to the top here as the three horses at the top of the market were involved at the finish, It went to Mister Jones from the Grand National trainer-jockey combination of Sue Smith and Ryan Mania  to hold off Jimmy The Jetplane by 2 lengths with Cobajayisland back in third.

Oscar Jones was having his second start and looks useful enough,he will be interesting to watch when he goes hurdling next season and 2m4f would suit him while the third has come through the pointing ranks and again those early season novice events at Carlisle,Kelso or Perth will be of note for him.

Some interesting races then,not the classiest days jumps racing but this is June after all and while the big stars are having their summer break with the hooves up chillaxing in the fields it is the stables lesser lights who get a chance to earn some corn.

Summer jumping may always divide opinion but the crowd today enjoyed the action on course even though it wasn't the biggest what with Newcastle having an evening meeting just across the A69 which would have drawn more people from that delightful city.

Hexham is a charming racecourse to visit,it may not have the huge grandstands that you get at Aintree,Ascot or Newmarket but it has a lovely charm about it and one of the most breathtaking views in the sport,looking out at the hills and all the greenery,the trees,the farms and animals in the fields you really do know why this place was regarded as being The Heart of All England.