We are very close in age and we have been watching racing for the same number of years, but Jim has the better memory for horses. While I can recall my first bet, and although we agree that Brigadier Gerard was the best horse we’d witnessed (arguably until the arrival of Frankel); Jim has memorized and can recall at will the pedigree of racehorses I have forgotten about.
Jim is the best asset Channel 4 racing has and he’ll be part of their broadcasts from Glorious Goodwood this week, beginning on Tuesday.
A few days of top class flat racing in the most wonderful of settings.
For my part, I’ve had good and bad years when it comes to punting at Goodwood. There was a period of time when I thought I was cursed at the Sussex course. But we had a good year in 2012 and I’m hoping for some profitable punting there this week.
In the meantime, here are the views of Jim McGrath and his preview posted on the Channel 4 Racing website.
“On a nice day, Goodwood is surely the best racing stage in Europe. It’s such a beautiful setting. I would have the prerequisite that I can’t stand the place when it’s wet and we get that sea fret, but wouldn’t everybody say that? But if the meeting lives up to expectations there’s some very good racing, beautifully and stylishly staged at a lovely venue, and there’s invariably a terrific atmosphere.
“Glorious Goodwood spans five days and it’s not unfair to say that one or two of the races don’t reach the same sort of standard that Royal Ascot can provide, but nonetheless on every day there is at least one top quality race. The meeting also isn’t quite as formal as Royal Ascot. Not that there’s anything wrong with the way we do Ascot once a year, but this is just slightly more fun I’d say.
“Toronado’s trainer Richard Hannon has expressed slight doubts as to whether the John Gosden-trained Kingman would be ideally suited by Goodwood. The ground in proper summer weather is usually on the faster side of good, even though it’s beautifully prepared and there’s usually a lovely cover of grass. But as a generalisation – and nothing to do with Kingman – I think because the straight is sort of downhill and round a bend, I do think that a heavy-shouldered horse maybe doesn’t handle the undulations as well as one who isn’t so heavy does.
“This clash features two huge names. Toronado, last year’s winner and a fast-ground horse, is one of the many flagships that the Hannons have to launch during the week.
“The facts don’t lie. Mark Johnston and the Hannon stable overall have fantastic records. That’s not to say every runner they’ll send there will win, but you know that both trainers actually target the meeting. Mark uses it as a working holiday. His wife Deirdre comes down and does eventing on the Goodwood estate and it’s a big family week for Mark. Richard and his family all stay down too. They have a lot of fun in the evenings after racing, but they bring plenty of horses and they do really well.
“I do think that the type of horse you’ve got does dictate the way you can ride Goodwood. You need a strong travelling horse and a nicely balanced horse, and obviously if a jockey isn’t riding horses with those qualities – irrelevant of their form and ability – he’s not going to have the same chance of winning as someone who is.
“You need a lot of confidence because the fields are generally tightly-packed and you have to make quick decisions. I know it’s a bit of a cliché but, as a generalisation, the jockeys in form ride well at the meeting. In this instance, riders like Richard Hughes, Ryan Moore and Paul Hanagan seem to excel. They get on horses with good chances, they’re making those split-second decisions and so they’re able to handle the pressure.
“Ivawood, the July Stakes winner, was very impressive at Newmarket. He’s a lovely horse and definitely the one I’m most looking forward to at the meeting. I know that he was as good a July Stakes winner in terms of a ratings performance as we’ve had in the last 10 years, so seeing whether he can progress on that high quality rating he produced at Newmarket is something that I’m personally really looking forward to.”
Jim is not alone in looking forward to this meeting. There has been some freak, heavy rain in Sussex but – as of Monday – the ground should remain Good. I hope it remains that way all week long.
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