By the time Legal Light won his Derby, the commentary booth was controlled by the wonderful Chris Armond, who brought a whole new style of race calling to the radio in which every horse’s position was noted on several occasions during the race and every finish was exciting. He dominated radio for JBC. RJR countered with the team of a young and brash Howard Abrahams in the commentator’s chair with Cliff Williams as analyst, but, as sound as that team was, none could usurp King Chris’ throne. Chris had the distinction of calling the thrilling winning sequence of Caymanas Park’s first triple crown winner, Royal Dad (1981), whose consecutive wins record stood for 15 years until it was eclipsed by War Zone.
Chris tried with many “apprentices” among them Donald Thompson. But Donald had difficulty wrapping his tongue around too many syllables and the letter “H” was an insurmountable challenge.
The little boy (now an adult) remembers listening to races on radio one Saturday afternoon with his favourite Uncle who was simultaneously watching golf on TV. The boy tried to keep the radio volume as low as possible so as not to disturb his Uncle’s golf. Suddenly his Uncle (who was a “baby brother” who accompanied the little boy’s mother to Abbie Grannum’s stable yea those many years ago) leapt to his feet and, without a word, strode purposefully to the telephone. He dialled: “JBC?” he barked into the phone, “Delapenha, please”.
A short hiatus was followed by: “Delapenha? Hall here! I’m calling to thank your station for letting me know Caymanas Park’s topography has changed since I was last there.” Another pause, “Well, I now understand that the furlong markers have been removed and replaced by trees” Another period of one-way silence ensued and then, “Well, Delapenha, your race commentator, one Mr Thompson, just informed me the horses were passing the tree furlong pole!”
Donald Thompson didn’t last long before he took up reading telexed commentaries on English racing for local bookies and persistently referring to the annual Andy Capp Handicap, run in recognition of the funniest of all British comic strip characters, as the “Handy Capp ’andicap”.
Chris finally mined gold in a timid young apprentice named Brian “Spuddy” Rickman whose first few trials were tremulous but who turned out to be a quick learner and a fluent commentator. “Spuddy” has been the voice of racing for 30 years and is probably the best race caller in the world and certainly the best Jamaica has ever produced.
“Spuddy” simulated his mentor’s experience by controlling the microphone for the exploits of Simply Magic, who, in 2002, became the first filly to win a Triple Crown. Six years later, Alsafra played Mavis Staples and did it again.
In-between, there were several other Derby-winning fillies like Hello Poochie Liu (also won 1983’s 1,000 Guineas and Oaks); Thornbird (whose 1 ¾ lengths fourth, under an overweight Emelio Rodriquez, in the 1984 Caribbean Classic in Panama, remains Jamaica’s best finish in that prestigious race). Distinctly Native (1990; went on to become Jamaica’s best broodmare, throwing consecutive Derby winners A King Is Born and Distinctly Irish); Poorlittlerichgirl (whose terrific battles with Khadullah in 1991 gave “Spuddy” plenty to shout about); Restless Babe (whose win in 1993 for second generation trainer Andrew Nunes gave Jamaica its first father and son Derby-winning trainers. Baby brother Anthony closed the family treble in 1998 with Terremoto; Good Prospect (1999); and Awesome Power whose epic duels with Milligram in 2001 energized the sport. And, of course, Simply Magic!
It has been simply magic for the little boy to have followed this exciting sport for 56 years mostly via the radio and TV commentaries of those remarkable race callers. Simple mathematics will reveal only a limited number of people can get to the racetrack or an OTB so the lifeline of the sport will continue to be live racing broadcasts. When the little boy came to racing in 1962, radio commentary was enough, although it was TV that drew him in. In this new millennium where video games, DVDs and iPads have rendered vinyl recordings, audio tapes and physical participation in traditional sport almost redundant, it’s visual broadcasts that’ll attract future generations of “little boys” to become lifetime fans.
The little boy? Well, he grew up to be a Terrible Tout.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
Last time we met I advised Virtuoso (-3) was “the one to take from” September 12’s maiden condition race as “her time of 1:21.0 (CT 1:21.3) is 4/5ths second faster than this grade”. She duly hacked up on September 26. On that day previous notebook horse Harry’s Train upset at 9/1 and Dontae became the second winning banker out of an August 26 key race.
Two weeks ago I also advised Queen’s Highway was “good enough to win a fillies’ maiden” which she did on September 29 at 5/2! Pay, pool pay!
Unfortunately, there haven’t been any performances in the last two weeks qualifying for the Clocked-In notebook but the daily track variants were:
September 22, 2018 [TV-0.5 per 200m (Rd); -1 (str)]
September 26, 2018 [TV-0.4 per 200m (Rd); +2 (str)]
September 29, 2018 [TV-0.2 per 200m (Rd); -9 (str)]
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
There’s exciting European horse racing on tap over the next two weeks. Tomorrow, Newmarket hosts the Group 1 (fillies) Sun Chariot Stakes where admirable French Oaks winner Laurens heads the early betting. She has had a long season and, again down to a mile, could be vulnerable to improvers like Wind Chimes (head 2nd to Recoletes in the Group One Prix Moulon at Longchamp; September 9) or Veracious (improving 3yo filly from Sir Michael Stoute’s barn). Both wouldn’t mind some rain but the latter is reportedly working well at home so is preferred, as long as the ground isn’t too firm.
The Arc de Triomphe is set to return to Longchamp on Sunday with defending champ Enable being all the rage after winning her sole 2018 start (a four horse Group 3 event at Kempton in September) after which Frankie Dettori was quoted as saying “That was awesome. I wasn’t sure how fit Enable was as she’s only being going a mile at home, but then she’s trained by a master trainer. She got the job done and felt as good as ever. Bring on the Arc!”
She’s opposed by another exciting 3yo filly Sea of Class (needs to be supplemented but won the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in the manner of a future champion). She has only run on fast ground so can’t be backed with confidence. The value in the race seems to reside with French Derby second Patascoy who steps up to 12f for the first time and seems certain to relish it. He was wide throughout the Prix du Jockey Club but only lost by ½l to Study of Man.
On October 13 the two features are the two-year-old Derby, the Dewhurst (one mile), and the Cesarewitch Handicap (2 miles 2 furlongs), the second leg of the popular autumn double, both to be run at Newmarket. The latter seems destined for Irish trainer Willie Mullins whose four-pronged entry of Stratum (favourite; badly hampered in Ebor); Uradel/Limini (1st and 2nd over 17f at Galway); and Chelkar (2 1/2l behind Stratum at Royal Ascot on seasonal reappearance over 20 furlongs then soundly beaten by Uradel at Galway). Stratum would come into the reckoning if it rains and Chelkar looks like a Melbourne Cup type but it’s difficult to separate Limini and Uradel. The former is the better hurdler but, on the flat, the latter gets the nod.
Two weeks ago my three very early NFL weekly picks all won so let’s try again. Week 5 early picks are Green Bay Packers (-1.5) to put the Lions back to sleep in Detroit; Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5) to drive another nail in Chucky’s coffin; and, week 5’s upset special, Arizona Cardinals (+4.5) to keep their game in San Francisco to a field goal either way.
Finally, the English racing notebook is updated:
Alaadel [5yo ch.g. Dubawi – Infallible (Pivotal)]: Does best in autumn on testing ground (beat Baron Bolt at Newbury last September on heavy) and did well to finish seventh in the Ayr Bronze Cup from a single-figure draw in a race dominated by high drawn horses. Very much one to look out for on heavy ground this autumn.
Good Luck! Mackensie Alexander Jersey