Thursday, 24 September 2015

Feeling Better than Jeffrey Bernard

I am sitting at home feeling unwell. Not the Jeffrey Bernard sort of unwell, the result of nights of excess in Soho - but a boring, coughing, sort of unwell, whereby the doctor has told me to stay in bed.

Jeffrey Bernard wrote for The Sporting Life (before and after being sacked in 1971) and famously enjoyed the company of many women while over-indulging in strong spirits. A play was written about his life: Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, written by Keith Waterhouse and set in a pub, where Bernard (played by various great actors including Peter O Toole, Tom Conti and more recently by John Hurt for radio), has mistakenly been locked in the bar overnight. The title refers to the line that would appear in The Spectator magazine when his regular column did not. 

It happened that Jeffrey Bernard, who was alive and well when the play was first performed, died during the same week as Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. The scene at the pearly gates could have been the basis for a great joke, although I have no idea what the punch line would have been – something about pure spirits for sure. 

In any case, you’ll understand now why I couldn’t just ignore the blog this week and post the note “Jonathan Garratt is unwell”. It would have created quite the wrong impression and, honestly, my life is not nearly so exciting. While sitting at home, I am working on next year’s race programme and waiting for the Levy Board’s auction, where racecourses are expected to bid for the right to receive prize money grants for selected race-days.

There are some days in the racing calendar when the BHA permits more race-meetings to take place than the Levy Board feels is optimal for the off-course betting industry. Bank Holidays are a good example – they are a great day to attract visitors to the races all over the country, but there are only so many races that are required on the screens of the betting shops. So the Levy Board sets a funding criteria, stating how many fixtures they will award prize money grants to.

Confusingly, to determine which fixtures receive the grants, racecourses have to bid using prize money. If there are three prize grants on offer, the three courses to pledge the highest total prize funds will secure the grants. It is a competitive process with some racecourses upping their bid several times.

Since the process was introduced, it is noticeable that the programme of racing on Bank Holidays has improved too – which is good news for horses like Alderbrook Lad (last seen just failing to get the distance over an extended 3 miles at Cartmel’s August Bank Holiday Meeting) who is our selection for a valuable chase at Market Rasen on Saturday.

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