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Get yer skates on if yer wanna Fill Yer Boots.

Byline: Paul Haigh

Maybe I'm not the right person to write about Fill Yer Boots, Attheraces' latest attempt to broaden its appeal. As an unreconstructed Old Labourite, I suppose I should welcome the colonisation of TV by those who speak in the accents of the common people. I can't do it, though, when the speakers are talking entirely unacceptable rot.

Here's a test to try on yourself. Imagine what you'd have thought of Fill Yer Boots if it had been presented in BBC English and featured persons who did not act - 1990s style - as though `it's all a bit of a larf'. If you didn't see it, try the test next Saturday. It's bound to be on for another week at least.

Then again, what do I know? Long ago I said the early editions of The Morning Line were so irredeemably dreadful it couldn't possibly last. Ten years on, and more or less the same bunch of irredeemables are successfully peddling their product.

Does this mean they've improved, or that they were really wonderful all along? Does it mean racing fans love racing so much they'll accept what they're given on the subject, regardless of the way they're given it? Or does it just mean the filthy cynic who said no-one would ever go broke underestimating the public intelligence was definitely right?

I caught the last five minutes of The Morning Line on Saturday - first time for years. The reasoning was that a glimpse of Thompson and McCririck (I'd taken the precaution of skipping breakfast) would help brace me for anything that might follow. (Sure I had preconceptions. You have preconceptions when you do just about anything - even pour yourself a cup of tea.)

Dear God, they were awful. McCririck I no longer comment on. I can think of nothing more insulting to say about `Thommo' than that he doesn't seem to have changed. Even so, the bracing process didn't work.

You just knew things were going to be bad when Patrick Kinghorn came on like a cross between Johnny Vaughan and Jonathan Woss. You knew it as soon as you were introduced to Louise Brady, a lady who has evidently been chosen for her possession of attributes other than those of encyclopedic knowledge or prodigious forensic ability. You knew it even before you noticed that her straining bodice sported nature's warning colours - colours that just happen to be Attheraces' own.

There was Mark `The Couch' Winstanley, dyed hair glinting in the lights, sounding like a cut-price Jim Davidson, if such a thing is imaginable, looking as you might expect Caligula to have looked if he'd ever made it to middle age.

There was Peter `Stage Northerner' Naughton still apparently bursting with pride at having been told to sharpen the pencils at primary school. (Someone really needs to tell him he doesn't have to talk through his nose; also that Burberry scarves are not cool any more - and certainly not at the end of May.)

Two `guests' turned up, both footballers. One was Steve Claridge, confessing to having been on the punting wagon "for the last 46 days" - as sure a sign of an habitual loser as a self-imposed drying-out period is a sign of someone with a drinking problem. The other was Stan Bowles. Even in a suit, Stan looked and sounded like a man destroyed. To say he had nothing to contribute except the fact that he'd once been Stan Bowles would be unfair. His contribution was as The Frightening Example. If Gamblers Anonymous ever want to put out a TV commercial, Stan has to be their man. Steve can stand beside him tearing up pounds 50 notes.

After earnest discussion about the Eurovision Song Contest and whether there'd be bonking in Big Brother, a man in an aeroplane "somewhere over the Atlantic" was interviewed by Kinghorn about football play-offs. He was addressed as "The Professor". Why was he in an aeroplane? Fleeing the country, one presumes. "It gets more bizarre," said Kinghorn proudly. Oh yes. No arguments here.

The baffling thing about this programme is what it's supposed to achieve. If they want to increase turnover on racing, then surely conversation on racing between the more learned members of their team (Doyle? Willoughby?) would be infinitely more productive. What we're witnessing, I'm afraid, is the first of Attheraces' death throes: a colossal demonstration of nerve-loss manifesting itself in a doomed attempt to woo the laddish brain-dead.

Fill Yer Boots? Empty Your Pockets more like. And your skulls. Catch it quick if you're curious. This one cannot possibly last.

Read Paul Haigh every week in the Racing Post Weekender
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 26, 2003
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