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'Does Oso Magic look much like a chaser? He's got quite a big bum, if that helps' On the fourth day of his mission to win a grand, David Ashforth fancies little, is frustrated by Britain's immigration policy, and leaves it to the last.

Byline: David Ashforth

TODAY, there are blobs, but no big blobs. I don't really fancy anything. Even so, one way or another, I'm going to turn a profit of pounds 237 into a profit of pounds 1,000. (I Can And I Will, by Dale Carnegie.) It's quite warm at Catterick, in the bar. Through the window, I can see the famous Catterick bend, the one after the stands, that tests the nerves of Flat jockeys. Is Miss L Allen (7) any good? What's Mr J Moorman (7) like and, in particular, where's Brave Effect going to finish in the amateur riders' race? I'd better ask Mrs Dianne Sayer, who trains him. He's carrying my medium-sized blob and, at 2.20pm, is likely to be carrying my hopes and fears. Go on, Mr D Jewett (3).

In the meantime, I've done a Placepot, the bet that requires you to select six successive placed horses, when you are only able to select five. If you want to see how it goes, I've done two in each race, numbers 1 and 11, 3 and 4, 1 and 9, 1 and 3, 2 and 8, and 2 and 6. pounds 64. Fingers crossed.

Maybe I'll just watch and write, 'Sorry, nothing today', and wait for Uttoxeter tomorrow. Or maybe I'll have another look at the first at Southwell and the second at Exeter, where Gaye Trigger, owned by Mrs Mercy Rimell, brings on an attack of nostalgia. Remember Gaye Brief and Gaye Chance?

The first at Catterick looms. I umm and aahh and eventually have pounds 40 on Aleron at 11-4 and pounds 20 Top The Bill at 15-2. While American President, like his namesake, sets off down a dangerous road (the one towards Catterick Garrison), Aleron runs quite fast but not quite as fast as Stan, who has come all the way from New Zealand just to spite me. Maybe our immigration policies need reviewing.

I have a chat with Warren Marston. Unfortunately, the chat is about Harrycone Lewis (medium blob) and not about Tiger Frog, who wins the two-mile chase. While he's winning, I'm hoping that Real Shady will hang on for third (pounds 20 each-way at 10-1). He doesn't. No wonder so many punters are atheists.

The wind picks up, sending an impressive collection of assorted betting tickets scuttling across the ring. I think I recognise one.

Like me, Marston thinks that Harrycone Lewis, racing off his lowest hurdles mark, has a decent chance in the stayers' hurdle. 'He worked well in blinkers the other day,' Marston says. 'I'll probably have him up with the pace.' Right then, pounds 20 each-way, 8-1.

TRUE to his word, Marston soon has Harrycone Lewis, keen without being silly in the blinkers, vying for the lead. Boldly striding on, into the final straight, six lengths clear, it looks promising - until Basilea Star, having no sense of decency, cuts him down with unwelcome ease. Spoilsport. Marston gave the runner-up a good ride, but you don't know whether to say, 'Bad luck' or 'Well done', or possibly, 'No point objecting, I suppose?' Excuse me while I try to find Dianne Sayer - be back soon.

On my way, Doe Nal Rua doesn't finish in the first two, sending me reeling out of the Placepot. Still, it's nice to think that I've boosted the dividend. Brave Effect saddles up beautifully. According to Mrs Sayer, there was a doubt about whether he really wanted to carry on being a racehorse. 'We've only got four horses,' she says, 'and we're hoping he'll be suited by our laid-back approach.' There's some debate about whether he's had two wind operations, or three - which rather dents my confidence. Let's hope he doesn't need another one.

Jewett rides a nice race, saving ground on the inside and, after dropping away, Brave Effect stays on again into second two out, only to fade again, to finish fourth.

Time to take stock. Minus pounds 192 for the day, so far. If it goes on like this, Racing Welfare will have to pay me. In a desperate attempt to be professional, I go to watch the maiden chasers in the parade ring. Does Oso Magic look like a chaser? He's got quite a big bum, if that helps. On the one hand, I don't want to lose any more money; on the other hand, I want to win some. You know the feeling. Oso Magic doesn't have a very big blob, but it's the biggest blob on offer, so I have pounds 40 at 3-1. It's lucky the fences aren't any stiffer, otherwise Dominic Elsworth would have been walking back.

That's more like it. It gives me just enough confidence to take another look at the amateur riders' hurdle at Exeter, my kind of race. I half fancy The Gene Genie and Seeador but keep going back to Delaware Bay, not least because he's ridden by Tom Dreaper, thin but good, and 28-1. Feebly, I have a tenner each-way. It was almost pounds 20 each-way. On the other hand, it was almost nothing. When he survives a last-hurdle blunder to win, the feeling is more relief than joy. Yippee! Suddenly, Uttoxeter tomorrow seems a lot more appealing. I'm going to give it a good shot. A grand or bust.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2004
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