Robin Oakley

How to get your racing fix under lockdown

Last week a friend of mine backed a 65–1 winner in Australia

Will Rogers, the cowboy with a rope. Credit: Hulton Archive / Stringer

There is racing elsewhere in the world. It restarted in France on Monday, la course de chevaux being classed in that fine country as an agricultural activity. My friend the form guru, who combs back six races in search of clues, has even cast his net to include somewhere called Morphettville in Australia where last week he succeeded in backing a 65-1 winner. When, over the phone, he sensed my raised eyebrow at a horse with truly believable form being allowed to start at such odds, he explained that the animal had won two previous races: ‘The horse wasn’t to know they were lower-class events. He still got the same boost to his confidence.’ Good point. No wonder that a household name with whom I used to play squash once told me pityingly: ‘The world, Robin, is divided into those who know how to make money and those who don’t. You, alas, are in the second category.’

The coronavirus lockdown has been my chance to prove to a questioning Mrs Oakley that I can live without racing. Or it would have been had we not agreed to cheer ourselves up by drinking better wines, and had the televised races on Sky Racing from American venues such as Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream Park and Will Rogers Downs not, thanks to the time difference, started in the early evening at about the time she serves — insisting on candlelight — her fresh tuna with olives and tomatoes or her plaice with brown shrimps and sauce vièrge. There is simply no contest. The table wins every time.

In the Sky Racing studio Jason Weaver and Matt Chapman do their always professional best to enliven the spectacle but watching pretty low-grade animals belt hell for leather round invariably left-handed and mostly ‘dirt’ tracks without a trace of individuality excites me about as much as watching a never-ending loop of

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