A warm welcome back to Harry Bannister
Harry Bannister was a good amateur rider and is now a good conditional jockey but hasn't been able to demonstrate it since November because one of his wrists has been stuck in a cast.
It may be his right wrist. If it isn't, it's definitely his left wrist. It will have been frustrating for him because Bannister had already ridden 22 winners this season before his wrist deserted him.
Now he's back and rides Apalis at Taunton (3.00) for Charlie Mann. Just as form figures of 11 are encouraging, form letters of PP are discouraging - and they are the ones next to Apalis's name.
Still, a friend of mine once used to follow handicappers trained by the late Brian Swift and when a horse had registered five 0s in succession, he backed it. It seemed to work.
A P and even a PP are sometimes followed by a 1 so there's hope. In racing, hope is so important, as are faith and charity. Bannister follows in the wake of the more exotically named Clement Lecoeuvre, Pierre Bazire and Pierre-Charles Boudot, who have been riding Apalis round French tracks I've never heard of, such as Evreux, as well as ones I have heard of, like Maisons-Laffitte.
Before the PP, Apalis's form figures read 1211 and although it's difficult to know what that Flat form is worth, it offers hope. It may be that the five-year-old mare, pulled up in novice hurdles at Wetherby then at Lingfield, objected to the hurdles, or to the heavy ground at Lingfield, or to living in England, or was protesting on behalf of the European Community. Who knows?
It's difficult to tell with horses. Anyway, let's hope that Apalis does better this time and that Bannister's wrists come out of retirement in fine form. Welcome back.
Bentham back in town
By then Mansion will have offered either hope or hopelessness in the opening novices' hurdle at Ludlow (2.20). In 2013 Mansion exited Tattersalls sales ring unsold at 220,000 guineas, which was a pity because he didn't reach the racecourse until last December, when finishing sixth of seven at Newbury before pulling up at Exeter.
The five-year-old presents trainer Venetia Williams with what is often called "a challenge". Later, there is the intriguing sight of Miss Michelle Bentham, whose Mr Syntax runs in Ludlow's hunter chase (5.05) and 2010 Bentham won four hunter chases with Jurado Express. She hasn't had a runner under Rules for almost six years.
It might be because she has been fully occupied at the British Geological Survey, writing numerous articles, including The Effect of Geological Structure and Heterogeneity on CO2 Storage in Simple 4-way Dip Structures; a Modeling Study from the UK Southern North Sea.
That might be a different Bentham but the trainer might be a descendant of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In 1789 Bentham wrote, "a full-grown horse is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal than an infant of a day or a week or even a month old." Interesting.