Robin Oakley

Numbers game

The beginning of the season is always tricky for punters, but there are helpful indicators if you know where to look

‘After a few decades of marriage a man ought to be able to recognise his own wife,’ Mrs Oakley observed a little tartly last Saturday when I picked her up post-Goodwood from Reading station after patrolling the concourse for 15 minutes. But if a woman buys herself a beanie to keep out the rain and buries herself behind A Month in the Country in the station café’s furthest corner he might be excused. Well, I thought so anyway.

It has been excuses all round this week with three of our Twelve to Follow running unplaced while Brando, She Is No Lady and Mecca’s Angel all occupied the dreaded second place. Mecca’s Angel was particularly unlucky, having been carried across the course by the swerving Profitable, but after 15 minutes deliberating the stewards let him keep the race.

It is always hard to find winners in the first few weeks of the season proper, by which I mean Flat racing after jumping’s Sandown finale. It takes time to determine whose horses are backward and which yards are running hot. All the more frustrating then that with Clive Cox’s yard going so well Kodi Bear flopped in the Lockinge. I shall keep the faith.

There can be helpful indicators. With top-class racing at the Curragh, Haydock, York and Newmarket too it was worth checking which trainers had bothered to turn up at Goodwood in the rain. They included Richard Hannon, constantly glancing at his dance card and dashing to a TV to watch his runners elsewhere, Roger Varian and Ralph Beckett. Hannon, who had two winners at Newmarket too, was beaming after his Oh This Is Us picked up £64,000 for winning the seven-furlong race for a City group who call themselves Team Wallop.

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