Give Gunner Lindley a timely salute for seasonal changing of the guard

Inside Track

A disappointing April Fool's Day for the lads at Racing For Change. An online search yesterday suggested that the rather laboured canard they distributed on Thursday had been appreciated only at the Coventry Telegraph and Swindon Advertiser, whose readers' credulity was duly tested by a story that the Grand National would in future be run clockwise, to satisfy a European Union directive.

Compare that with last year, when Racing For Change hilariously persuaded dozens of global print, broadcast and media outlets to recycle a genuine crackerjack. Admittedly, the press release may have been sent out on the wrong date. But it is still unbelievable so many people are persevering with the transparent hoax that a British Champions Series, comprising "five easy-to-follow champion categories", will become "a major new premier series of British horseracing". Last week they were even reporting that Qatari sponsors have been talked into lavishing millions on this outrageous bluff.

No points, no prizes – just a brazen stunt by the high priests of the branding cult, achieved through the maddening lie that the Flat season lacks "narrative". Of course, the fabric of the emperor's new clothes is only invisible to those of us unfit for service, or just hopelessly stupid. But perhaps an urchin will emerge from the crowd at Ascot in October, and remark that the winner of the Pride Stakes, or Diadem Stakes – two crowning glories of these "easy-to-follow categories" – is not wearing anything at all.

Yesterday was a more significant day for Racing For Change as the first in a month of free racing. Here is one initiative that has received, and deserved, nothing but praise. After a successful experiment last year, complimentary tickets are being offered at 27 tracks during April. Over 70,000 have been reserved, but online bookings remain available at 15 meetings (lovetheraces.com).

And that should remind us that all these innovations – good, bad or indifferent – are at least proposed with the best of intentions. Some may make us feel disenfranchised, embittered even, but it is important to resist an automatic hostility. After all, while some may view the Champions Series concept as little short of fraudulent, the bottom line is that it has now seduced a significant new investment in the British sport.

Another "brand" of nonsense, however, is perhaps being recognised as simply too silly to be peddled any harder – and that's a formally designated "premier" season, over jumps and on the Flat. True, some felt a little disoriented by the notion that a new Flat season could have begun at Catterick on Wednesday. But at least the switch to turf always guarantees an annual line in the sand, while allowing the season to develop by increments. Contrast the absurdity that permits the jumps season to "end" at Sandown in three weeks' time – and resume at Plumpton and Towcester, less than 24 hours later.

For various inconsequential reasons, Doncaster has had to wait three days to resume its role as the harbinger of spring, but another three months would hardly make the William Hill Lincoln Handicap any more intelligible. It is hard enough to choose from the six saddled by Richard Fahey, never mind the other 16.

Emboldened by consecutive Newmarket gambles landed by Expresso Star and Penitent, punters have got stuck in to the lightly raced Taqleed. But he is a short price, and a diffident recommendation is instead made for another of the younger runners. Gunner Lindley only began to piece together some top-class genes last autumn, and has crept into the race on its bottom rung.

The weekend's real highlight is the return of St Nicholas Abbey in a Listed race at the Curragh tomorrow. The champion juvenile of 2009 disappeared after the Guineas last year, but his trainer is intent on making up for lost time now. High time, one way or the other, to call this horse's bluff.

BHA tries patience with its ill-judged intervention

So the British Horseracing Authority has announced Nicky Henderson will face no charges after backing himself to draw a blank at the Cheltenham Festival. It did, however, pompously reprove his wager as "ill-judged and inappropriate" and intends to redraft the rules as a result.

Well, that's a relief. We wouldn't want anyone to think that anything approaching a sense of proportion might infect the BHA in its service of those who perceive a menace to probity under every trilby. Good grief. Are we all now so sanctimonious that we must discover something disreputable or sinister even in this, perhaps the most transparently innocuous bet of all time?

By treating trainers like imbeciles, the BHA may find they start censoring anything hazardously suggestive of colour in their dealings with press and public. After all, if he can be made to feel persecuted over something so trivial, how will Henderson respond to more serious questions, such as those raised by recent medication controversies?

He still has every chance of overhauling Paul Nicholls in the trainers' championship going into Liverpool. If he were to have a tenner on Nicholls, mind you, presumably no punter could back Long Run or Binocular with confidence next week. Come off it, BHA. Get yourselves a life.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap

Bonfire Knight (5.20 Doncaster) From a stable back in the groove after struggling in 2010, and shaped so well this time last year that he may have still more to offer.



Next Best

Eton Forever (2.05 Doncaster) Beat a smart one in his maiden at Kempton last spring. His first effort in handicaps promised more off this kind of mark, and he was presumably amiss next time, not seen since.



One to watch

Byron Bear (Paul Midgley) was soon outpaced over the sharp 7f at Musselburgh yesterday, but picked up strongly for a midfield finish and can win a little handicap over 10f.



Where the money's going

Backstage is 11-1 from 14-1 with Paddy Power for the John Smith's Grand National next Saturday.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links