Ask anyone for their interpretation of what a poker player looks like, and you’re guaranteed a mixed bag of responses. For some, poker players are maths pros: people who make lightning-quick calculations and harness huge brain power. For others, a poker player is someone with excellent reading abilities: analysing their opponent’s every move like a seasoned psychologist.
I’ve just spent a whole weekend in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I barely moved out of the casino!
Edinburgh is one of the best places on earth to visit, amazing scenery, great nightlife, loads to do, but I was there on business! The inside of the cardroom at the Grosvenor Maybury Casino was as far as I got.
Favourites have taken just one of the previous eight renewals of the Manifesto Novices’ Chase and it could be worth opposing current market leader Top Notch in the opener on day one of the Aintree festival (1.45). Top Notch ran a fine race at the Cheltenham festival when second to Yorkhill but that was his sixth run of the current campaign and he may have had enough for the season. CLOUDY DREAM, runner-up to the brilliant Altior in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, tends to come good in the spring and looks the one to take advantage.
Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil, unbeaten in seven starts since his racecourse debut, holds obvious claims in the Doom Bar Anniversary Hurdle (2.20) but is priced accordingly and it might be worth hunting for some each-way value further down the market. The Nick Williams-trained FLYING TIGER also won at the Cheltenham festival – taking the Fred Winter at odds of 33/1 and looks to have been underestimated. He only scored narrowly at Cheltenham but that was some performance after he failed to settle in the early stages of the race and he remains open to plenty of improvement after just four runs for his Devon-based handler.
Cue Card heads the market for the Grade 1 Bowl (2.50), a race he won last year after falling three out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Coincidentally, he departed at the same fence in this year’s Gold Cup but no horse older than ten has won this since Grey Abbey in 2005 and it’s asking a lot for him to bounce back from his Cheltenham mishap now that he’s in the veteran stage of his career. At a much bigger price it could pay to take a chance on the Venetia Williams-trained ASO. His early chase outings were littered with jumping errors but the seven-year-old has improved in that department this season and shaped as though the return to a longer trip were needed when third at 40-1 in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
The Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle (3.25) sees Champion Hurdle one-two BUVEUR D’AIR and My Tent Or Yours clash again. The wonderfully consistent My Tent Or Yours was runner-up to Annie Power in this race 12 months ago but has gone over three years since his last success and may have to settle for second place again. With Buveur D’Air a short-priced favourite, the Buveur D’Air/My Tent Or Yours straight forecast might prove to be the best bet in another fascinating contest.
On The Fringe is bidding for a hat-trick of wins in the Foxhunters’ (4.05) but the 12-year-old was a little disappointing when only fourth at Cheltenham and can be taken on with BALNASLOW. The Irish raider finished behind On The Fringe last time but reportedly lost a shoe and might have been closer but for a couple of jumping errors. His prominent running style will be an asset.
The Red Rum Handicap Chase (4.40) looks typically competitive but the Malcolm Jefferson-trained DOUBLE W’S makes plenty of appeal. His trainer doesn’t have many runners in the handicaps at this meeting – just seven in the past five seasons – but two of them won at 14/1. DOUBLE W’S ran a good race in the novices’ handicap at the Cheltenham festival last month, leading two out before fading into ninth place after failing to see out the extended two and-a-half mile trip. The shorter distance will help and he’ll appreciate the flat track. This race has thrown up some shock results in recent years, with winners at 33/1, 25/1 and 20/1 (twice) and DOITFORTHEVILLAGE is also worthy of an interest. Trainer Paul Henderson is in fine form, with three winners and two placed horses from his last five runners, and the nine-year-old will relish the likely strong pace.
Thursday’s card ends with a mares’ bumper (5.15) in which DAME ROSE could outrun her huge odds. The Richard Hobson-trained four-year-old was only fifth at Worcester on her debut but that race has thrown up a host of winners and Dame Rose landed a gamble (10/1 from 25/1) when scoring under a prominent ride at Doncaster next time. The combination of very soft ground and patient tactics saw her disappoint at Newbury on her third outing but, with the forecast quicker going in her favour, she could well bounce back.
My main reference point for performing under pressure is my music background. I was immersed in music throughout my childhood: I was taught the piano from an early age, aspired to compose my own music, and sang in several choirs. I studied music up to A-level and learned piano to grade 7. Before my voice broke I was quite angelic—I was the boy who was invariably picked to perform the solo parts at concerts!