More buzz, more anticipation and more hype were on the menu for the first day of The Cheltenham Festival at Prestbury Park in Gloucestershire. There was also a beautiful spring day to bring out the crowds for four days of competitive championship racing.
Willie Mullins was rightly tipped to be the trainer of the week and kicked off the start of The Festival with Vautour winning the Sky Bet Supreme Hurdle, whilst his Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle and my hot tip in to get the champagne corks popping was just pipped on the post by the 33/1 outsider Western Warhorse. In the feature race of the day and the main race of meeting in my book Mullins had Hurricane Fly bidding to achieve his third Stan James Champion Hurdle, with my other hotpot for the day, My Tent or Yours the winner for me. In a race marred by the fatal fall of Our Conor My Tent or Yours just failed to beat Jezki, with Hurricane Fly back in fourth. Whilst Mullins was obviously downcast after Hurricane Fly’s fourth place, his incredible little mare Quevega then became the first horse to win six races at The Cheltenham Festival when battling in determined fashion to win the OLBG Mares’ Final for the six consecutive year. Incredible mare, incredible training performance.
My day of previewing and tipping for JPFEstival.com in The Gold Cup Restaurant featured one winner and three frustrating seconds! A frustrating day had a sweetener with The Wine Tipster’s day saved by winning the placepot!
Another great day ahead.
New Year’s Day at Cheltenham Racecourse was very wet and windy, with the racecourse team doing a great job in keeping racing going for the afternoon. Although racegoers were rewarded with some impressive performances by Annie Power, Oscar Whisky and Mendip Express it was certainly a day for staying inside and enjoying some liquid refreshment in the various racecourse bars.
The Golden Miller Champagne Bar was certainly a popular spot with many punters raising a glass of Piper Heidsieck Brut NV or those who had hit the jackpot were enjoying some delicious Dom Pérignon 2002. In the Final Flight bar Adam Henson’s Rare Breed Bitter, brewed by Butcombe Brewery, was doing a roaring trade.
On Cheltenham Racecourse Radio when interviewed in the wind and rain by presenter Rupert Bell before racing I tipped Oscar Whisky, who won, whilst my other tip Burton Port, was clearly off colour. Rupert had set me the task of finding a warming drink at the course and Tullamore Dew’s hot toddy was certainly enticing, however the Fireside bar delivered the goods with their not over spiced mulled wine. Hopefully when I’m back on Cheltenham Racecourse Radio on January 25th we can talk about good ground and dry conditions.
In terms of liquid refreshment, the festive period equalled quality imbibing in 2013 with the stunning Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, whilst my last bottle of Perrier- Jouët Millésime 1998 fizz was an exquisite, beautiful and complex champagne to savour on Christmas Day. Château D’Anglès Classique Rosé 2012, La Clape, Sud de France made from Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache was a top class, cerebral pink for Christmas Eve. Dalmau Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2005 made from fruit from their sixty year-old vines in their single vineyard plot Canajas was a brilliant example of what Rioja achieves at Group 1 level and tasted great with the duck. Folks never think enough about fortified wines at Christmas and Gonzalez Byass’ Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Muy Viejo VORS Sherry was outstanding with the stilton and mince pies over the festive period.
Boxing Day came with grade one racing from Kempton Park and it was great to see our local trainer Charlie Longsdon win at this high profile meeting with Loose Chips. The elegant Meerlust Pinor Noir 2011 from Stellenbosch in South Africa was perfect the with ham from Slatters’ Butchers in Chadlington and for armchair viewing too!
New Year Eve’s drew in with Louis Roederer’s Brut Premier NV and like my tips will be for 2014 this champagne was right on the money!
The Wine Tipster has selected four champagnes for Christmas and New Year which are definitely in racing terms “well handicapped at the weights” in terms of quality. First up is Canard-Duchêne Authentic Reserve NV, £26.99, Waitrose, down to £19.99 until 2nd January. Canard-Duchêne are making some lovely, fresh well balanced, easy drinking champagnes and I like the rounded, fresh character and soft, creamy, dry finish, which makes this fizz just perfect for Christmas morning or as an aperitif at your New Year party.
Charles Heidsieck is always one of the champagne houses I look out for at any tasting and Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, £45.00, Fortnum & Mason, is the bubbly to share once all the relatives have left! Their Brut Reserve NV is beautifully balanced, elegant with buttery, ripe vanilla, and a floral and nutty character.
Lanson Brut Rosé NV, £37.99, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose produced by an underrated, ultra consistent champagne house, this is a delicate, dry, crisp rosé with refined raspberry fruit, ideal with salmon or a light, spicy dish.
There is so much more interest in vintage champagnes that there was a couple of years ago and Laurent-Perrier Millésime 2004, £50.00 down to £35.00, Majestic, is well-priced and floral with light brioche, lemony fruit and tangy flavours. A champagne that will continue to develop and should be served at a couple of degrees above fridge temperature as an aperitif or with oysters.
As a tip look out for some of the lovely expressive champagnes from the 2006 vintage from Jacquart, Canard-Duchêne and G.H. Mumm.
Great session on BBC Radio Oxford today with Phil Mercer on the Garden Cafe show. Here are the four wines for Autumn that we featured:
Finca Flichman Reserva Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina. Stockist: Waitrose £9.99.
Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008, Rioja, Spain. Stockists: Waitrose £12.99, Ocado £9.74 until 3rd December.
Edmeades Zinfandel Mendocino County 2010, California, USA. Stockist: Hedonism £18.10.
Quinta do Vallado 2010, Douro, Portugal. Stockist: winedirect.co.uk £23.
Really impressive selection. You can listen again here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01kfj57
1:50 Newmarket Lanwades Stud Fillies Nursery handicap Cl2 7f Channel 4. Top weight and favourite Autumn Lily has a 12lb rise to cope with after her Chesham Stakes win, with the second and third in this race not franking the form in their subsequent races there is a value elsewhere with Cornish Path at 17/2. Selection Cornish Path win 17/2.
2:05 Newbury Denford Stud Stakes (Registered As The Washington Singer Stakes) (Listed Race) Cl1 7f Channel 4. Hard to ignore the talented favourite Somewhat. Selection: Somewhat win 11/8.
2:20 Newmarket 32Red.com Supports Racing Welfare Grey Horse Handicap (For Grey horses Only) Cl4 6f Channel 4. This race for grey horses only is a great spectacle and this year it looks sensible to side with the favourite Majesty, who is easily the least exposed runner in the field. Although last year’s winner Medici Time is in the race, I cannot see him taking on the favourite. There is some place value with Bilash, who looks good each way versus the single figure priced horses like Crew Cut and Baby Strange. Selections: Majesty 9/2 win and Bilash each way 12/1.
2:40 Newbury Betfred TV Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 1m 5f 61y Channel 4 At the top of the market Aitken and Biographer will need more rain to show their best form, whist there are others like Royal Empire and Testudo who have never raced over this distance. On the basis of there being plenty of question marks in this race The Wine Tipster will take a tentative chance on Aitken, whose second to Rite of Passage in his last run does stand out, with an each way wager on Red Cadeaux to turn back the form clock. Selections: Aitken win 7/2 and Red Cadeaux each way 11/1.
2:55 Newmarket 32Red Supports Racing Welfare Stakes (Handicap) Cl2 6f Channel 4 Tight between the top three in the betting Ninjago, Midnight Flower and Secret in the Park, however Ninjago has an advantage in the weights over Secret in the Park on their last running and Midnight Flower, who beat Secret in the Park by a length, when finishing second to Lucky Beggar – who also runs in this race but the 33/1 winner so might be a one off – doesn’t have the weights in his favour this time. Selection: Ninjago win 5/1 win.
3:15 Newbury Betfred Hungerford Stakes (Group 2) Cl1 7f Channel 4. The big question is how favourite Soft Falling Rain will cope with the ground and the course at Newbury on his UK debut and I prefer to look elsewhere and take on this favourite with Caspar Netscher, who will like the ground and run impressively on his seasonal debut when second to Garswood. Selection: Caspar Netscher win 3/1 win
3:30 Ripon William Hill Great St Wilfrid Stakes (Handicap) Cl2 6f . Baccarat was tipped for his previous race by The Wine Tipster, however this four yr old was slow off the mark, then badly hampered, before running on to finish sixth, beaten three lengths. The one slight worry is that he is drawn in stall nine in the middle of the track in a race where the draw tends to favour one side or the other, however with some deserved luck in running he is still my tip. Selection: Baccarat 6/1 win
3:50 Newbury Betfred Mobile Sports Ladies Day Handicap Cl3 7f Channel 4 Plenty with chances in this handicap and The Wine Tipster is going to take a punt with the Richard Hannon trained 3 yr old Janoub Nibras, who is having his first run of the season and won three times as a 2 yr old. Selection: Janoub Nibras 10/1 each way.
For some champagne to celebrate try Canard-Duchêne Brut NV, which is great value in Majestic at £19.00.
Ascot 12.55 Les Ambassadeurs Casino Shergar Cup Mile The main question here is how Nine Realms will perform after a slightly lacklustre first run of the season. The Wine Tipster thinks that Nine Realms has too much to do and his siding with Andrew Balding’s Roserrow, who is certainly progressive.Selection: Roserrow win 8/1.
Ascot 1.30 Redcentric Shergar Cup Stayers 2m Sir Mark Prescott is renowned for the placement of his horses and his Mutual Respect, a winner last time at Ffos Las over this distance, looks open to improvement against some tough opposition including Broxbourne and Brockwell. Selection: Mutual Regard win 5/1.
Ascot 2.05 Barclays Shergar Cup Dash 5f Ahtoug looks well handicapped and his trainer Charlie Appleby’s stable is in good form so with a pull in the weights Ahtoug can reverse the form with joint favourite Steps when they last met on July 28th at Ascot. Selection: Ahtoug win 9/2.
Ascot 2.40 Keltbray Shergar Cup Classic 1m 4f Chesterfield, despite a six pound penalty after his determined victory over Lady Pimpernel over 1m 2f, looks sure to benefit from the longer trip of 1m 4f and give trainer Charlie Appleby a double, whilst Cathy Gannon’s mount Cardinal Palace looks good for some place money. Selections: Chesterfield win 11/4 and Cardinal Palace each way 12/1.
Ascot 3.15 Pagegroup Shergar Cup Challenge 1m 4f Star Lahib will relish the return to 1m 4f and his two wins this season have both been over this trip. Ustura is the main danger and if runs to his Royal meeting form then he is a big threat, although The Wine Tipster still takes Mark Johnston’s Star Lahib to just edge this tight handicap. Selection: Star Lahib win 7/2.
Ascot 3.50 Dubal Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint 6f Trainer William Haggas continues in cracking form and look set for another successful Saturday in televised races with favourite Noble Deed’s three wins all coming at this distance of 6f, this looks the horse to be punting your pounds on.Selection: Noble Deed win 5/2
Channel 4’s is also featuring these races with my The Wine Tipster’s tips:
2.20 Haydock: Educate 9/1 each way.
2.55 Haydock: Telescope 4/5 win.
3.35 Newmarket: Wedding Ring 7/2 win.
To celebrate a successful afternoon The Wine Tipster suggests some wonderful fizz from Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaïque NV, £25, Great Western Wines or Laurent-Perrier’s delicious and expressive Laurent-Perrier Millésime 2004,Champagne, France £43.99. Stockists: Sainsbury’s, Oddbins
This September, my good friend Richard Evans will be embarking on his Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from London to Rio de Janeiro in a bid to raise awareness and money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Prostate Cancer UK.
For five weeks this autumn, he’ll be swopping his corkscrew for a compass as he and his Clipper teammates traverse the equator in the first leg of the 40,000 mile, eleven month-long challenge.
People wishing to donate money to MacMillan Cancer Support and Prostate Cancer UK can do so via www.ricardoracestorio.com, where more information about the race and Richard’s story can be found.
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2013-14 will start from St Katharine Docks, London on Sunday 1st September and will return almost one year later.
Best of Luck Richard!
On Monday evening The Wine Tipster was at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence 2013 Dinner at The Royal Horseguards Hotel. The evening was hosted by a couple of renowed chefs John Williams and Brian Turner, who incidentally are also both keen racing fans and who I invariably mix food chat with handicap form.
There are three competitions covering Kitchen, Pastry and Service with 33 young people achieving the finalists’ award, with each competition having an overall winner:
- Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Young Chef of the Year: Matthew Ambrose, Claridge’s
- Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Young Pastry Chef of the Year: Lucy Jones, The Ritz
- Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Young Waiter of the Year: Adam Willis, Le Manoir aux Quat ‘Saisons
The winners received silver trophies (donated by Gordon Hogg and Finclass), Meyer Cookware, Victorinox Knives, a bursary worth £2,000 – thanks to the generous support of the Savoy Educational Trust – and also a day’s work experience at The Fat Duck. The Honorary President of the Awards Heston Blumenthal was on hand to present the awards to the winners as was The Wine Tipster.
Earlier in the evening the 33 finalists had been called to the stage to receive their awards for getting through the finals, which included a magnum of G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge NV each.
Chef Ben Purton did a great job with the menu which included a delicious Chicken, Parma Ham and rocket pesto terrine and a Black cherry, Tahitan vanilla and Valrhona Opylis chocolate marquise which was a great match with the G.H. Mumm Demi-Sec.
We had a terrific evening and it was great to catch up with other chefs including Adam Byatt and Martyn Nail.
Wow! Been a busy few weeks for The Wine Tipster with the Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival, Taste of London, Abode Hotel Champagne Dinners, the Skills for Service Conference, Formula One, trips to Jersey and Switzerland and last night’s awe inspiring Coronation Festival evening.
In-between all these wonderful events and dinners I’ve managed to keep the waistline in check with my training for the Oxfordshire Mota-Vation Series, organised by Kidlington Running Club. There are five of these popular races of around 4-5 miles in the series, which take place on the first Thursday of the month from May to September and have around 300 runners per race. Diary commitments have meant that I’ve missed the first three races but I’m definitely up for the next two in Combe and Oxford. Another race I like is the Hooky 6 on August 11th, which usually has my ideal conditions for running with baking hot weather!
My perspiration has extended to the form book of course and I was delighted to see my tipping success on twitter featured recently in Robin Gibson’s Surf & Turf column in the Racing Post so make sure you keep following my tips!