Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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 Blue Ditch  - Ffos Las 5 Feb 2011


There is no town or even a village called Ffos Las. It translates as Blue Ditch, the name of a farm that used to be here. It’ s nine miles from Llanelli which is on the same Arriva Trains Wales line that connects Cardiff to Swansea. A “cheap” day return ticket from my town Ludlow was priced over £40. Well it is a long way – the journey time is not far short of three hours with no changes. Fortunately, Arriva is running a “55” promotion until April whereby you can travel anywhere on their network for £15 return (provided you are over 55, £13 if 60+). 

A courtesy coach service operates from Llanelli railway station to the track. Timetable details are on the Ffos Las website. I sat next to a friendly farmer with smudged spectacles who was quick to tell me he’d been following Timeform selections since 1970. I resisted the opportunity to ask him how he could still afford to go racing! Fair play to him though as his nap Shoegazer, unsupported by me, obliged later at 10/11. 

You should get some idea of the size of the track from the above photograph taken just before racing. It’s comparable to Newbury with three hurdles and four fences in the straight. It has a large circuit in excess of 1m5f. 

The main attraction was the William Hill sponsored Welsh Champion Hurdle which had not been staged for nearly a decade. In its heyday – in the 70s – it attracted top quality runners. For example: Comedy Of Errors and Bula in ’73 and Night Nurse, Dramatist and Beacon Light in ’77.  Small fields were the historical norm and today was no exception with just five runners taking part. Henderson’s Oscar Whisky, owned by racecourse founder Dai Walters, was the hot favourite. I’d taken a little 14/1 each way for the Champion Hurdle (with Skybet who’d just decided to offer NRNB).  Connections were still pondering whether to go for the Champion Hurdle or the World Hurdle, therefore I thought this represented a bit of low risk value.

Before the main race Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre trotted up in the first by ten lengths at 2/9 and I had wasted a few bob trying to oppose him. In the second race a change of luck as I backed Massini Man on the tote (£13.10, sp 11/1) which lead all the way in the five-runner 3m novice chase.

In the feature the favourite obliged very comfortably indeed against his inferior opposition. Skybet trimmed him a couple of points for the big one after Dai Walters announced in his victory speech they would go for the Champion Hurdle. It was interesting to see Nicky Henderson here rather than at Sandown where his Champion Hurdle favourite, Binocular, was also obliging at short odds.


 Barry Geraghty with Welsh Champion Hurdle winner Oscar Whisky

Following the euphoria of a 12/1 payout and the spectacle of a decent horse winning comfortably, my betting exploits went into reverse. I didn’t back another winner and finished the day in deficit!

Plenty of punters were inside sheltering from the strong winds

Blazing Bailey looked an impressive winner in the 3m4f handicap chase, staying on very strongly. This former top class staying hurdler now looks set to impress over the larger obstacles given a decent trip.

I opposed the Timeform good thing Shoegazer of course and then supported Twiston-Davies’ gambles in the final two races which both finished third after flattering to deceive. 

A good day out and I am looking forward to watching “Oscar” in the big one! 

8 February 2011