Nick Gordon with Frankel.

Life is good when you’re in the company of legends

SATURDAY COLUMNIST: NICK IN NEWMARKET

There I was, stood in the sunshine on Monday afternoon. I wasn’t just anywhere. I was standing in the sunshine at Banstead Manor. And in front of me, coat gleaming and generally enjoying being paraded was the main attraction himself. 

You see, this wasn’t an ordinary Monday. This was a day that I got up close to one of the greatest horses to ever grace the turf. One that went through his career unbeaten. A horse who has such a profile that he still receives fan mail in the form of bags of carrots and letters from his adoring fans. 

Frankel, the jewel in the Juddmonte crown, has an aura about him when he first walks out of his box. He moves like a panther and it’s easy to see why he is considered a supreme equine athlete. 

Add in the fact that Expert Eye, Oasis Dream and Kingman were also put on parade and this was the perfect way to start the week. Definitely not the worst day I’ve had at work. 

“I love this game,” as Johnny Murtagh has been quoted as saying several times on ITV after saddling winners or picking out a big priced fancy. It’s a sentiment I can echo. Especially after an afternoon in the sunshine alongside a legend on a Monday. 

And following a weekend where an amateur jockey ended up bowing out from his career in the saddle with a memorable victory in the Grand National at Aintree. Yet another reason why racing has the ability to capture the nation. 

The only other sport that I can think that this might happen would be if an amateur ever had to capture The Open. Not totally impossible but highly unlikely in today’s day and age. 

It seems fitting then to start looking at this weekend’s racing with a mention first for the Greenham at Newbury, a race that Frankel captured back in 2011. It’s a race that has featured greats of the past like Mill Reef and Grundy. The question is, who takes this year’s renewal? 

Just six runners line up for this in a bid to answer one of the timeless questions. Have they trained on from two to three? One runner that I think might be able to do that is Lusail, a general 7/2 chance. 

He’s never actually run a bad race despite finishing fourth of four over the seven furlongs when last seen but he won well enough over the trip last summer to suggest that he’ll be OK. Angel Bleu looks the main danger but possibly wants it slightly more testing underfoot. Perfect Power is a worthy favourite after exploits over sprint trips last season but I’m keen to take him on. 

Ilaraab has to carry a penalty in the opener at 1.50 but could well defy it. There was a period last season where this horse seemed to struggle but he regained his form at the back end of the campaign and proved his class. He enjoys the track, has won over the trip and ticks a lot of boxes for me with the 3/1 available seemingly an added plus.

The Fred Darling (Gr 3) looks an absolute minefield and while the favourite for this, Wild Beauty, was a Group One winner last year you’d have to think that some of these fillies are still finding their way and a few have the ability to pop up here. I’d be steering clear. 

But it’s a different story in the 3.35 where my colours are firmly nailed to the mast with Saleymm, the horse who very nearly got the job done for us when I tipped it in this column for the Lincoln. I’m on at 11/4. 

There’s plenty of racing to digest this weekend and there are plenty angles you could take for a lot of meetings but one that I have spotted is that Nico De Boinville goes to Haydock for a solitary ride today. Go Chique, an 11/2 chance, runs in the 4.29 where a valuable pot of money is on offer for the winner.

Burnley don’t seem to have done themselves any favours having shown manager Sean Dyche the door this week. They face a tough ask against West Ham.

The FA Cup semifinals take place this weekend and Chelsea should get the job done against Crystal Palace but it looks less straightforward in the other tie where Manchester City and Liverpool meet. 

Now, we haven’t had too much luck with the football accumulators but Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham and Manchester United all lumped together to win their respective fixtures is available at a shade under 4/1. 

The bookmakers were quick to price up on the next England Test captain and Ben Stokes appears nailed on for the role but I am not so sure if I’d be rushing to take the prices offered. He’s worthy of the title but has also needed time away from the game in recent months when things got a bit too much. The captaincy brings plenty of pressure. How about Sam Billings at 6/1?

Be Lucky! -IRC.

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