The making of a Classics winner

For a Radio Four programme she was hosting Clare Balding once had the idea that it would be fun to apply the techniques of horse breeding to the political world. Strolling around the parade ring at Newbury we duly recorded an item imagining gene mixing between the will to win of a Margaret Thatcher and the indestructibility of a Denis Healey, the feistiness of Barbara Castle with the sinuous positioning of a Tony Blair. Some of those in the couplings suggested even continued speaking to me afterwards. I sometimes become a sounding board for the views of racing connections aware of my political commentating past and at Newmarket on Saturday

The lessons of Newmarket

The swallows who nest yearly in my garage have agreed that ‘that’s enough baby-making for this year’, and started their 6,000-mile trip to the southern Sahara. Between burps, many thousands of wildebeeste are currently sniffing the Kenyan air and nudging each other south for new shoots on the grassy plains of the Serengeti. To me, Newmarket’s Autumn Double meetings, embracing the Cambridgeshire and the Cesarewitch, bring the same strong sense of seasonal change with the second of those Heritage handicaps over two miles and two furlongs offering a strong challenge to the Flat trainers from jumps specialists warming up their charges for the winter season. We also look to Newmarket

It is time to fight for the future of racing

Fortunately for me and the politicians we entertained over my years covering the darkest profession, Mrs Oakley didn’t do a Sasha Swire and keep a gloriously indiscreet diary. Indeed her rule was that politicians who came to our house and talked only about themselves didn’t get invited a second time, a test that was frequently failed. The Swires’s guests, especially the Cameroons, seem to have talked about nothing else. But Mrs Oakley can on occasion do the Swire sardonical. As our young flatcoat retriever, who longs to grow wings, disappeared over the horizon last weekend in pursuit of an indignant partridge, a one in three gradient loomed and I puffed

Horse-racing has made a triumphant return

Horse racing, it turns out, wasn’t the first sport back in post-lockdown action: that distinction went to pigeon racing when some 4,400 birds took to the air and raced from Kettering to Barnsley. Nor did the first Classic, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, provide the hoped-for tonic headlines about a new super-horse to succeed the great Frankel. Pinatubo, a scintillating winner of all his six races as a juvenile and the highest-rated two-year-old since 1994, ran a perfectly respectable race to finish third, but the high hopes that the hot favourite was going to prove to be something truly special were dashed. It seems that the bigger, rangier types caught