Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Extreme unseasonal weather"

I enjoyed my stint with John Hunt on At The Races yesterday afternoon - and not only for the fact that it was warm and dry in the studio, while it was cold and wet outside.  Less cold and wet than today, mind: we woke to a covering of snow this morning (as you can see from these photographs of today's exercise) and, while it continued to snow for most of the day, the temperature did get up to +1 during the day, so conditions weren't frozen.  Which, of course, meant that we were cold and wet, rather than just cold.  Having the temperature drop below freezing again overnight will almost be a relief.

But, as we can see on the BBC news just now, we've got off very lightly compared to many other parts of the country in this "extreme unseasonal weather".  Anyway, wherever one is, there's plenty of weather at present.  This weekend, which apparently is the coldest March weekend for over 50 years, is the first weekend of the new Flat season, and we have no racing on grass in Britain today, only the ad hoc AW meeting at Southwell.  Yesterday evening Ireland lost Dundalk (AW) because of high winds, while today the casualties have been Bangor, Doncaster, Kelso and Newbury because of snow, and Stratford, called off yesterday because of waterlogging (but presumably covered in snow now).  Looking ahead Towcester on Monday has already been cancelled because of snow, while the same day's Taunton fixture has been called off, waterlogged.

We were lucky that the two ATR meetings - Doncaster (Flat) and Sedgefield (jumps) - took place yesterday, albeit in snow flurries, so that John and I had something to cover.  The last time I'd covered a Doncaster meeting on ATR we'd had one debacle when Tom Queally was narrowly beaten in a race which he should have won, and yesterday there was another debacle when an apprentice, who was either having her first ride or one of her first rides, forgot to remove her horse's blindfold before the stalls opened.

Such situations provide reminders that one can't please all the people all the time, as a balanced and non-sensational appraisal of the situation inevitably provokes some degree of audience reaction, complaining that one hasn't been critical enough.  Otherwise, though, I was very pleased with what was an enjoyable programme for the broadcasters, if not for the audience.  What I was also pleased about was that one could say that I tipped the Brocklesby winner two months in advance.  Sheikh Fahad's new trainer Ollie Stevens had tweeted a couple of months ago that the Sheikh's jockey Jamie Spencer had been in to work the two-year-olds, who were, apparently, flying.  My tweeted response was that, in that case, we'd see the Brocklesby finish fought out by J. P. Spencer and R. While (7).  Inevitably, the Pearl Bloodstock team ended up without a runner; but the race's specialist Bill Turner trained the winner yet again - ridden by, you've guessed it, his grandson Ryan While (7).

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