Top-class action coming thick and fast, as it does on Saturday, is music to all race-fans' ears. But what sort of music? Jamie Lynch turns album reviewer as he looks at the major races...
"Ten arrangements, three tracks, one afternoon... Ray Singh, assisted by an array of established performers and rising stars, has produced an exceptional compilation for our pleasure."
Ray Singh and Various Artists
Release date: 9th February
Ten arrangements, three tracks, one afternoon. Don't be fooled by the lazy, hackneyed title of Super Saturday, says previewer-cum-reviewer Jamie Lynch, as the prolific Ray Singh, assisted by an array of established performers and rising stars, has produced an exceptional compilation for our pleasure.
A conceptual masterpiece, the perfect marriage of form and structure, Super Saturday succeeds in undoing a lot of the sophomoric work by other misguided artists that have tried and spectacularly failed to celebrate racing through verse, such as the reworking (some say butchering) of Downtown by Cheltenham, Tom O'Ryan's Ballad of Frankel, and the Kauto Star song by that young Irish lad who just won't go away.
At over three hours long, Super Saturday isn't one for the ADHD brigade, but, for those with a vested (or financial) interest, the time flies as we gallop from track to track, transcending all manner of tempo, form and rhythm, and, as with all good artwork, there are intrinsic messages to be read and lessons to be learnt.
Let's (p)review some of the standouts within Super Saturday, a significant collection in its own right, but also a taster for next month's mammoth live concert: the C Festival.
Ire Needs A Hero
A homage to the Bonnie Tyler classic, Ire Needs A Hero is whimsical number outlining a country's desperate search for a youngster to carry the flag into an impending battle.
Ire needs a hero, they're looking out for a hurdler who is slick at eight flights,
He's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be four, and he's gotta be up for a fight.
Not that there's any strength in depth to the British juveniles, but the Irish ones seem a step behind so far, and this Grade 1 should determine who, if any, is going to impact in the Triumph Hurdle. Despite what the jockey bookings suggest, of the Willie Mullins pair, Blood Cotil has impressed more than Diakali so far, but what might help most regards Cheltenham clues is the presence of a British representative in Ruacana, who'll give some indication as to the respective levels.
You Aren't Gold
A Blues-style revamping of the Spandau Ballet anthem, the melancholic You Aren't Gold laments the futility of striving for something out of reach. Certainly not so meaningful as Track 4.
You aren't Gold (Gold), I don't believe in your goal,
There's something you ought to know, you are destructable, Cheltenham will prove it.
It might seem odd to be so downbeat about a field that includes last season's Gold Cup second and this season's up-and-comer, but neither The Giant Bolster nor Silviniaco Conti are major players for the main event in my mind. Silviniaco will win this, and probably by a wide margin, but the real Gold Cup trial is in Ireland, while I doubt Bobs Worth will even bother tuning in to the Denman Chase.
I'll Be Missing You (Notorious S.I.G.)
Yet another facelift for a song that has been used to commemorate such polar-opposite people as Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.) and Diana Princess of Wales, but the sentiment of the pain of absence remains.
It's kinda hard with you not around, Know you're laid up; legs coolin' down,
In the future can't wait to see, when you're winning the Arkle with Barry. Reminisce sometime.
Notorious by his absence, SimonS.I.G. being M.I.A has taken away all never mind some of the interest from the Game Spirit. Twenty minutes earlier at Warwick, Fago will have done his bit to strengthen the opposition, along with Overturn, in terms of the Arkle, and the pressure will really be on Simonsig at Cheltenham with just two chases under his belt, but in ratings terms he's already on a par with Sprinter Sacre at the same stage last year, which is the point to remember amid the jitters. As for what's left in the Game Spirit, it says everything about Nicky Henderson's armoury that he's still got two biggish guns to fire, but Wishfull Thinking will blow them all away if putting his mind to it.
We'll Meet Again (and again and again...)
A modern twist on the Vera Lynn classic, this rendition depicting the ongoing battle between two Irish stars.
We'll meet again, March 14th Cheltenham
Yes I know we'll meet again, but will you stay?
I'm on Sir des Champs for the Gold Cup, so this is judgement day for him, as it is for Flemenstar, who has the bigger question to answer. All the same, Sir des Champs can get beaten by Flemenstar (provided it's not by too far) and still win a Gold Cup, whereas that can't happen the other way round. If they try and do something slightly different with Flemenstar and hold him up more, it might just undermine the attacking qualities that make him so good, whereas I get the impression Sir des Champs will just run and run, and hopefully jump and jump better than in the Lexus. Tactics, therefore, will play an important role, more so than usual in a small-field, long-distance chase. While three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham will undoubtedly be more Sir des Champ's territory than Flemenstar's, there won't be much between them in this Irish Hennessy, but it's Sir des Champs for me.
A shorter version of the Jay-Z hit, 23 Problems is a high-tempo, fast-paced rap describing the difficulties faced by punters of trying to solve the biggest and best handicap for many seasons let alone this one.
If you're havin' horse problems I feel bad for you son,
We got 23 horses but Court Minstrel's the one. Hit me.
My gut feeling is that while everbody, myself included, says that My Tent Or Yours is too short a price in a handicap like this, he's got a stone in hand and will win en route to the Supreme at Cheltenham. Nevertheless, faint heart never won fair lady, they say; or thumping ticker bags Beyonce, Jay-Z said, so let's have a crack at Court Minstrel, who may just have plenty up his sleeve himself. Useful in bumpers and not far behind My Tent Or Yours in the Graded event at Aintree, Court Minstrel has threatened to climb much higher as a hurdler in races that haven't developed his way for one reason or another, but a scenario like the Betfair Hurdle promises to bring the best out in him. He has snuk in at the bottom of the weights, with capable claimer Adam Wedge compensating for the couple of pounds he's out of the handicap, and, with the drying ground also in his favour, Court Minstrel is ready to run the race of his life. He's [17.0] on Betfair. Hit me.