Castel Gandolfo ticks enough boxes this afternoon for selection in a seven-runner Maiden Hurdle over two miles of ‘good to soft’ Fakenham where emphasis is on jockeyship, natural speed, and experience with so many turns and junctures to negotiate around this popular left-handed ‘frying pan’ circuit; it’s always been a ‘favourite’ venue even though it’s more than a hundred miles from my home.
When the Cheltenham ‘Festival’ meeting spanned only three days mine was to leave Prestbury Park in a hurry after the last on Thursday and head for the East Anglian course fixture the following day; in the 1970’s it was a ritual for this veteran, so enjoyable crossing the English countryside at the time when traffic would have been at least 70% less than nowadays.
Regularly riving hundred miles a day represented a labour of love in several lovely vehicles, a stark contrast to ‘here and now’ which is all about working, studying and computing from this abode where I watch ‘telly’ racing every day of my life and, hopefully, for the rest of it!
Racing was never ‘work’ and my profession has indeed been a way of life in the ‘Sport Of Kings’ from fifty years ago, when my first Grand National tip in the London-based Racing Pink was a 20/1 winner, Gay Trip, ridden by the late, great Pat Taaffe, partner of Arkle the greatest racing thoroughbred I’d ever seen until Frankel came along ten years ago. It was a springboard success, no doubt.
Consistent, hitherto luckless Castel Gandolfo has raced eight times, trained by Aidan O’Brien and Jessica Harrington in Ireland but now with Fergal O’Brien which means his fourth run for the last-named involves veteran stable jockey Paddy Brennan whose work ethic is similar to mine; he’s dedicated and will go anywhere for a winner.
Paddy got a tune out of the Dark Angel gelding five weeks ago when they were headed and beaten a neck by heavily-backed Ernesto in similar circumstances at Exeter after looking certain to prevail on the run-in.
Point-to-point winner, Dynamite Kentucky, a useful Dr Richard Newland-trained ‘bumper’ and mount of Sam Twiston Davies, is on a retrieving mission, on the back of an ignominious twenty-four lengths defeat on a ‘gluey’ Ffos Las thirteen days ago; this six-year-old looks the only conceivable danger but at a difference of 6lbs weight-for-age allowance four-year-old Castel Gandolfo will carry my money, if 2/1 or better. It’s a business serious punting, strict rules are necessary.
Running in tandem will be an eight-race card at ‘good to soft’ Nottingham where Nankeen is expected to follow up his debut success at Windsor three weeks ago in division one of the Novice Stakes; dependable James Doyle rides again and in division two he’ll sport Godolphin blue aboard my FUN (follow up nap!) preference, Ranchero.
If front-running tactics are utilised by ‘The Doyler’ we should obtain cracking each-way double profit!
Selections, Nottingham 1.45 Nankeen; 2.20 Ranchero (nap); Fakenham, 4.45 Castel Gandolfo.
Jeffrey Ross, horse-racing correspondent for WMN since 1983 when winning the most prestigious racing journalist award, Sporting Life Naps Table, before winning it a record number of six times collectively in the Racing Post, the current ‘trade’ paper, including 2019