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Horse Racing: 'I wonder whether I've time to lay the filly for twice what I have just backed her for' GRAB A GRAND FOR XMAS Dropped into banded company, David Ashforth finds little when asked.

Byline: David Ashforth

YOU wouldn't believe how hopeless some racehorses are, unless you've been to a banded race meeting at Southwell. The 13 horses running in the first have raced 139 times between them, and won twice. Soon, they'll have raced 152 times, and won three times, so maybe they're getting better.

I couldn't sleep last night, either through excitement, or because the shower was dripping. As well as the dripping shower, Southwell's Saracen's Head Hotel, opened in 1460, boasts the creakiest floorboards in Britain. It would be hopeless trying to murder someone in their bed.

At 6.30am, I was already studying the first, so at least I've tried. I'm using the blob system - a big blob for a big fancy, a small blob for a small fancy. There aren't any big blobs, and there aren't any small ones, either. It's tempting to leave a blank space, with 'Nothing Today' in the middle.

Eventually, small blobs sit beside Stoneacre Fred and Franky'n'jonny. Stoneacre Fred's price (11-4) puts me off (there's something about backing a favourite in a banded stakes race), so I back Franky'n'jonny, at 9-1, instead.

In the weighing room, trainer Michael Attwater is giving Dale Gibson his instructions. I've heard some Reith Lectures shorter than Attwater's address to Gibson. It's lucky the race is only over seven furlongs. I was going to ask about Franky'n'jonny's disturbing habit of starting slowly, but first Attwater fills me in on the filly's other problem, the pulled muscles in her quarters. While I wonder whether I've got time to lay her for twice as much as I've just backed her for, Attwater says: "Hopefully she's all right now and, if she is, I think we've just got Stoneacre Fred to beat."

I feel a brief frisson of excitement when Franky'n'jonny doesn't start as slowly as she sometimes does, and then watch her run a respectable sixth, while Stoneacre Fred runs a more respectable first.

In the bar, Milton Bradley is having a cup of soup, possibly minestrone. This could be an omen, because I've awarded Bradley's Ulshaw a blob in the 1.30, and his Vlasta Weiner a blob in the 2.00, and have already backed them both, at 19-1 and 32-1.

The sort of comment I'm hoping for is, "I've brought the big horsebox, so there's enough room for the money." Instead, when I ask him if it's a tip that the trainer's here, he replies, "No, I had nothing else to do today."

Evidently the "old lad" (Ulshaw, not Bradley), is being retired after today's race. "Do you think he'll go out with a bang?"

"I'm not full of confidence," says Bradley. The conversation isn't going quite as I'd hoped, but Bradley does say that Vlasta Weiner would stand a good chance if he found his old form. "Is he finding it?" "Not really."

What's the point of asking trainers what they think if they're not going to confirm what you thought? When Ulshaw finishes a narrowly beaten third, it's worth pounds 230 to me, and pounds 302 to the owner.

Hang on a minute while I see whether or not Vlasta Weiner finds his form. No, he doesn't. Somehow, I've managed to accumulate a deficit of - well, quite a lot - so I gird my loins for the second time in two days, and have pounds 333 Misbehaviour for a place, at 1.7. It's a pretty stupid bet, and I'm lucky that Misbehaviour staggers into a distant third.

I've done my best, now it's up to Tacid and Boucheen in the last, trained by Dr J D Scargill and Ms Deborah J Evans. That's the only nice thing about banded racing - you get to see trainers you don't normally see, although somehow I managed to miss both of them. I do bump into a man who says, "You'll never win a grand here", and another who adds, "If you do, you can buy two of these horses."

Tacid finishes second but Boucheen runs disappointingly, which is a pity, because I bought him for pounds 10 at 15 on Sporting Index's 50-30-20-10. Stupid. After a ridiculous amount of adding and (mainly) subtracting, I can reveal I've lost pounds 289 today. I suppose suicide's out of the question.

The story of day two

Down on my luck - down on the day

Southwell

The lowlights

1.00

Franky 'N' Jonny, various bets - Lost pounds 197

2.00 Vlasta Weiner, various bets - Lost pounds 99

3.30 Boucheen, various bets - Lost pounds 227

Miscellaneous other contributors - Lost pounds 221

The highlights

1.30 Ulshaw, various bets - Won pounds 230

2.30 Misbehaviour, pounds 333 a place at 0.7-1 -Won pounds 225

Total for the day Lost pounds 289

Running total: -pounds 102

CAPTION(S):

Small blobs for small fancies - and they're all very small fancies on the banded card at Southwell' Milton Bradley: didn't say what was required
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 13, 2006
Words:818
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