Spring sprung on British sport this weekend as the cricket season got under way under blue skies, the sun shone on the Grand National and, across the pond, the flag of St George continued to flutter atop the leaderboard of the US Masters.
I won’t talk about the county cricket championship, because seriously who gives a shit but after a long, cold winter that has left the horseracing industry on its knees it was fantastic to see the sport of kings back to its best. Racing has seen more meetings crossed off than Tiger Woods’ little black book and it desperately needed to put on a show at its blue riband event on Saturday.
It was duly provided at Aintree, where the soaring temperatures were aided and abetted by saucy Scouse girls sidling up for the best turned out competition, which won one lucky young filly a diamond ring. This is exactly the sort of event Racing For Change needs to put on to breathe new life into the sport. Of course, they don’t need to hand out diamonds all the time – to be honest in Liverpool a free JD & coke normally does the job. And they don’t have to make it a best-turned out competition every time either – how’s about a bikini contest?
The big story of the race itself was Tony McCoy finally laying his Grand National ghost by winning at the 15th attempt. The downside for those of us who followed Tim Richards’ advice is that the Irishman’s mount Don’t Push It pipped Black Apalache in the final knockings, but he certainly gave us a run for our money in an exciting race and cash back on each-way terms for both Apalache and another of his three recomendations Big Fella Thanks.
An estimated £250m was bet on the race and much of it went straight back into the punters pockets as the co-favourites finished first and fourth respectively, leaving the bookies bemoaning a ‘black-armband day’. Yeah, right, who are they trying to kid? If anything the punters’ success will soon have them coming back for more and anyway in World Cup year, methinks the bookies won’t be grieving for long.
They might suffer a double whammy if Tiger Woods or Lee Westwood wins the Masters today, though. For an hour of yesterday’s third round the TV coverage was nothing short of spectacular. Woods dropped shots, birdied back, dropped shots and birdied back again, Phil Mickelson came within a whisker of scoring three consecutive eagles and Westwood wobbled before recapturing the lead.
The Englishman, another of Richards’ tips last week, was the antepost second-favourite with most bookies at 18/1 but the bookmakers would rather he wins than Tiger Woods, who starts today four shots back. The World No1 was as long as 6/1 with some oddsmakers, who reckoned without Woods would make a winning comeback.
Westwood probably deserves to win as he has been knocking on the Major door for so long and has played some superb golf this tournament – but then again Westwood is English. And we just don’t do winning. Something tells me that much like the weather, which is due to get cold again next week, Westy’s Masters showing will be another false dawn. So enjoy it while it lasts – or lay it off on Betfair.