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Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Moore’s integrity unlikely to be mirrored on Love Island

The Thursday column

Tom Queally riding The Tin Man leads the Diamond Jubilee Stakes
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On Saturday I did something I usually hate other people doing. I highlighted a commendable act in another sport and used it to decry an aspect of football.

After the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot there was a stewards’ inquiry which was televised live by ITV. The process of getting the jockeys involved to give their side of the story included Ryan Moore, who had been beaten on Limato by The Tin Man and Tasleet, telling the officials he was only ever going to finish third, thus revealing he did not feel remotely hard done by.

Now it might well be that Moore did not believe there was the remotest chance the placings would be changed so he just wanted to get the inquiry over with as quickly as possible, but it seemed like a commendable piece of honesty anyway when we sport fans have become accustomed to competitors doing all they can to win.

So I tweeted that it was nice to see Moore’s attitude when compared to footballers diving and doing all they can to con referees even though it drives me mad when people do such a thing.

And it drove plenty of people mad that I had used Moore’s integrity to make a point about cheating footballers, with tweets being fired back at me along the lines of how racing is not perfect.

I didn’t say it was merely that in this specific moment Moore had done something similar to what Robbie Fowler did at Highbury 20 years ago and told the ref he was wrong to award him a penalty because David Seaman had not fouled him.

It doesn’t mean racing is better than football in general, just that if more players adopted Moore’s attitude we would not get these stupid situations whereby two opposing players vehemently appeal for a throw-in when one knows the ball came off him last.

As it happens, I am missing football less than I expected. Usually in odd-numbered summers the gap between last season and next stretches on forever but this time I’m finding the break perfectly manageable.

That’s partly because with so much football on TV these days come May you tend to feel like you have overdosed, but also because the summer sport is so good.

As well as Royal Ascot, which was excellent despite being the worst major meeting I have ever endured as a punter, there has been plenty of decent action, with the promise of much more to come, with an enthralling Tour de France starting on Saturday and Wimbledon two days later.

The main role of sport this summer has changed, however. Instead of providing some decent entertainment while we wait for the resumption of football, it now exists primarily to prevent exposure to a horrific new phenomenon called Love Island.

This hideous show has replaced Big Brother as the summer snoozefest, the main difference being Love Island takes place in a warm climate and a less secure location.

Living in an otherwise all-female house, I have found myself subjected to this abysmal series seemingly every minute of every evening.

The content is always the same, and I mean always. Beautiful young women and men who spend too long in the gym lounge around a pool discussing what they think of one another and whether they would like to have sex with their fellow contestants.

Occasionally there will be a kissing competition or two of the contestants will be paired up and sat down for a bowl of fancy-looking pasta and a bottle of champagne, but never, ever do viewers catch wind of a conversation that would not be right at home in a church hall youth club.

At first it was mildly fascinating, but the repetitive nature of the chats soon became acutely tedious and now I have discovered the series has another month to run.

In previous years I used to cope with Big Brother by having a bet but it seems that avenue of relief doesn’t exist for Love Island beyond an occasional show of prices on top boy and top girl.

So by the time August begins and the airhead contestants of Love Island have returned to real life I will have forgiven footballers and will never criticise them or compare them to other sportspeople again.


Patience is a virtue with Ballydoyle virgins 

This column’s most recent attempt to serve up a potential winning system on racing turned out to be slightly less than spectacular, as I stumbled across the fact Newcastle’s new all-weather track was a favourites’ paradise in its early days.

Sadly the familiar cry of ‘system working well, send more money’ has since gone up as the market leaders have proved marginally unprofitable to follow blind, but the search for easy money goes on.
And here is the latest attempt to make profits just by carrying out a repeated action without having to engage the brain: lay Aidan O’Brien’s two-year-old debutants.

You do not need an honours degree in racing to be aware the legendary trainer’s juvenile newcomers are not wildly successful, but here is a stat that blew my mind when I was made aware of it this week.

Of the 75 Ballydoyle-trained two-year-olds that were having their first race in the last calendar year, two won. Two. TWO. TWO!!!

Don’t you find that incredible? I do. These include horses who have gone on to win the Derby and other massive races. Yet their record first time out is astonishingly poor.

This year O’Brien has blooded 27 juveniles and of those only September, the current favourite for the 2018 1,000 Guineas’ made a successful debut, and indeed only eight of the 27 finished in the first three.

The 26 beaten beasts started at (shortest first): 1-2, 13-8, 7-4, 2-1, 2-1, 5-2, 11-4, 3-1, 7-2, 7-2, 9-2, 5-1, 5-1, 11-2, 13-2, 13-2, 7-1, 15-2, 8-1, 8-1, 8-1, 10-1, 12-1, 12-1, 14-1 and 16-1.

Clearly, then, a blanket lay policy has paid spectacular dividends, but, as with all systems, it is crucial to measure a wide sample before believing you have grown a money tree and can just sit back and harvest the winnings.

So let’s go back to the start of the 2014 season and see how O’Brien’s newcomers have fared. The lack of success remains constant even if slightly less eye-catching than it has been in the last 12 months.

There were 25 winners from 314 runners, and if someone had put a tenner on each of them at the SP they would have lost £1,375.30 or 54 per cent of their total investment.

Exchange layers would obviously have had to play at less advantageous prices but there is still ample evidence that, even if you do not actively oppose the Ballydoyle virgins, you should be extremely wary of backing them.


Rescued dogs have gone to better home

THE closure in March of Wimbledon greyhound track was a cause of woe mainly because it left London without a venue for the sport but also because it left the sport without a home for its flagship event, the Derby.

Towcester emerged victorious from a disappointingly small field to replace Plough Lane as the host venue and from my sofa it appears to have done a pretty marvellous job of it.

For nearly a decade the Derby was the highlight of my professional life, but my days of attending every round and living and breathing the competition for an entire month are long gone, so I am no longer qualified to say whether there is a significant trap or pace bias at Towcester.

But what I can clearly see is that they have built a handsome location for greyhound racing, with a massive giant screen, fine modern facilities and smartly turned-out staff.

And with Ben Keith’s Star Sports having ensured the prize money remains generous, it adds up to an admirable first staging of the
event at the Northamptonshire course.

So while London is now devoid of a dog track, the sport’s biggest attraction has gone to a better home than the increasingly decrepit old dump at which it used to be staged.

At first it was mildly fascinating, but the repetitive nature of the chats soon became acutely tedious
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