As you read this, the Derby will probably be over for another year with Royal Ascot still to come. What can we expect at this year's Ascot? Well, as usual, fancy hats, royal pageantry, high fashion, champagne and, no doubt, surprise results. Just let's hope that it doesn't turn out like the Royal Ascot of 1930, perhaps the most amazing in its 200 year-long history. Day one had taken place normally, but then on the second day, just after the Royal Hunt Cup had been run, it happened. A thunderstorm of exceptional ferocity struck Ascot with lightning, thunder and torrential rain; and in less time than it took The Macnab to win the Hunt Cup, the grandiose social splendour of Royal Ascot was turned into farcical chaos. Rivers of mud claimed not only shoes but hats and even dresses. Women fainted. But far worse, a bookmaker in Tattersall's was killed when struck by lightning. Panic took over as terrified race goers rushed to escape the mayhem, all thoughts of their finery forgotten. Racing, of course, had to be abandoned for the first time ever in the history of Royal Ascot - altogether a most remarkable day in racing history.
You would think it a pretty safe bet to say that lightning wouldn't strike in the same place again. But you'd be on a loser. Against all the odds, something very similar happened again at Royal Ascot in July 1955, and before you accuse me of having got the month wrong, let me explain. In 1955 there was a major rail strike in June and this caused the postponement of the Royal Meeting until the following month. And that's when lightning struck again. It was Gold Cup day and the time was 4.10pm when the almighty flash cut its way through the crowd on the Heath side. Bodies were knocked flat or hurled in the air; people stood dumb-struck in the torrential downpour gazing at the bodies; and then it was discovered that two were dead, including a pregnant mother. At that point racing was abandoned - for the second time in Royal Ascot's history.
I wonder how many people attending Royal Ascot this year, mindful of what I have just described, will lay down their glass of champagne and cast an anxious glance skywards, should a few storm clouds gather. Before we leave Royal Ascot, one system for it that could be relied on for winners in years gone by was to follow the mounts of Lester Piggott. I've actually seen that system for sale at a big price. I wonder what jockey this year could be put forward for following in the hope of making a profit?
Time for a joke, I think. I was watching Michael Palin crossing the Sahara Desert the other night when I was reminded of this one. A baby camel says to his mother, "Mummy, why do I have such big flat feet?" "Because, son," she answers, "we have to tramp across hundreds of miles of desert carrying big loads, and feet like that help us to walk without sinking into the sand." A little later the baby asks, "Mummy, why do I have such long, thick eye-lashes?" "Because, son," she replies, "when there are sand storms in the desert these eye-lashes help to protect your eyes from the blowing sand." Again the baby asks, "Mummy, why do I have such thick, hairy skin?" "Because, son," she says, "a covering like that is essential to protect your body from the intense heat of the sun in the middle of the Sahara." After a pause, the baby speaks again. "In that case, Mummy, what the hell are we doing in Whipsnade Zoo?" Soothsayer is the name of our system for this month, and as a slight digression, perhaps I should have had it for the month of March. For if I remember my Shakespeare correctly, it was the soothsayer who warned Julius Caesar to "beware the Ides of March". All right. Let's get back to the system. It dates from around 1990, is based on the Racing Post and contains sufficient common-sense rules regarding short priced selections that should ensure a regular and continuing supply of winners. From the year's results quoted with the system (which I see no reason to doubt) I would highlight some interesting facts. The strike rate is 78%, there is a longest winning run of 15 and a longest losing run of only 2. The level stake profit is around 50 points. All very impressive, and I would have thought a suitable staking plan could be used to very great advantage.
Soothsayer is based on clear favourites and their obvious chances. The only newspaper which can be used is the Racing Post, with present season form only.
1. The horse must be forecast favourite in the Post betting at odds of 8/11 to 9/4 inclusive.
2. The horse forecast second favourite in the Post betting must be 4/1 or higher.
3. The horse must be clear top rated by Postmark. No joint top ratings allowed.
4. The horse must have been placed in the first three on its last outing.
5. The horse's last outing must be within 28 days inclusive.
6. Minimum runners 5 and maximum runners 14.
7. The horse must be ridden by a professional or top apprentice.
8. The horse must be able to handle the going. Please read the following rules carefully. A. Any horse which has had 3 or more runs in its lifetime must have won or been placed (beaten 3 lengths or less) on going the same or very similar to the reported going. I.e. Reported going - good to firm, the horse must have handled good, firm or good to firm. B. Any 3 year-olds with less than 3 runs have probably encountered most kinds of going on the home gallops, so it is best left to the trainer's discretion about the going, so no going qualifications needed. Older horses with less than 3 runs also qualify under this group. C. All 2 year-olds with less than 3 runs must have shown they can handle the going by either winning or being placed (beaten 3 lengths or less) on the exact going reported in the Post.
9. Do not bet on the following. Selling races. Maiden Chases. Amateur Races. Juvenile Hurdles. Novice Handicap Hurdles. All National Hunt races until the 1st of September.
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