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The Weekly Blog

Keep the Faith

As April Fool stunts go, dying and then being discovered alive again is quite a biggie.

It certainly got people talking when John Darwin did it in 2002. He was the man who paddled out to sea from a beach near Hartlepool, sparking a large-scale search which eventually ended when they found his empty canoe. He reappeared five years later and received a six-year prison sentence for his trouble. Interestingly, his wife, who colluded but didn’t actually disappear, received a jail term which was three months longer than her husband’s.

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The Weekly Blog

Not So Smart

Readers of last week’s blog will have discovered, by now, that my Cheltenham Festival intelligence, gathered from a friendly time-traveller, was not quite so valuable as first imagined.

I’m fast beginning to wonder whether the late Professor Stephen Hawking wasn’t right after all – and that the physical transference of the human body through time isn’t possible, or at least not without losing all knowledge of the form-book.

Which means that, not only did I waste the price of a pint of beer on my time-travelling friend, but that we may also have to re-examine other theories put forward by the eminent physicist – not least his warning that Artificial Intelligence could pose one of the greatest threats to the future of mankind.

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The Weekly Blog

Back to the Future

While Stephen Hawking was obviously quite a clever chap, I’m sorry to reveal that some of his theories were deeply flawed.

Take, for example, the party that he threw for time travellers in 2009. Apparently the world renowned physicist hosted a lavish event, complete with Champagne and canapés, before sending out an invitation which read: “You are cordially invited to a reception for time travellers hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking, to be held in the past, at the University of Cambridge Gonville & Caius College, Trinity Street, Cambridge.”

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The Weekly Blog

Waiting Patiently

Good things come to those who wait. Which is why you’ll find the customary selection, a 33/1 dead-cert, at the very end of this week’s blog.

Patience should also be rewarded for all the people who were frustrated following the postponement of last weekend’s major events. And that’s not just Kelso’s Totepool Premier Hurdle Day, which has been rescheduled from last Saturday to Sunday 11th March… There was much rejoicing when it was announced that BOG Potato Day had also been saved, although that too has been scheduled for Sunday afternoon, on the other side of the town.

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The Weekly Blog

The Lion, the Witch and Musselburgh Racecourse

I’m not sure that it is a coincidence. Much of Britain has been plunged into a Narnia-like perpetual Winter following a closed meeting, on Tuesday, at which East Lothian Council unilaterally decided to replace the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee with a new structure, which effectively puts the racecourse under direct council control.

The racecourse staff were notified that they would become council employees and, almost immediately, Scotland was brought to a standstill by cold winds, ice and snow.

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The Weekly Blog

The Word on the Street

Now don’t get concerned, I’m not so down on my luck that I’ve descended to the street, but during a trip to London this week, I was flattered to be offered a swig of whisky by a member of the homeless community.

Waiting patiently on the pavement outside a bank, near the Jockey Club’s offices at High Holborn, I was standing under a bus shelter at a discreet distance from the ATM which was being used by another customer. Huddled in the corner of the bus shelter, the homeless man gave me a glassy stare and said “If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t look as though you’re from around here.”

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The Weekly Blog

The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Irish Racing TV Rights

There was much muttering amongst the radishes at Hill Top Farm this week, when the new Peter Rabbit film sparked criticism for a scene which allegedly depicted food allergy bullying.

Hill Top, at Near Sawrey in the Lake District, is the National Trust owned former home of Beatrix Potter, whose books about Peter and the Flopsy Bunnies have inspired a movie which is due for UK release on 16th March – creating a conundrum of fiendish complication. Should I go to watch Peter Rabbit or the Gold Cup at Cheltenham? Hmm, difficult decision.

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The Weekly Blog

Don’t Wanna Give It Up…

If you haven’t yet been out to buy your lemons, here’s a timely reminder that Shrove Tuesday falls next week. Pancake Day is the day before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent, when many Christians undertake a period of fasting and abstinence in preparation for Easter.

It would clearly be a poor time to give up going horseracing, given that Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle takes place on the following day, Thursday 15th February, and the Cheltenham Festival falls midway through the Lenten period on 13th – 16th March. I’d therefore just about made up my mind to abstain from watching winter sports and listening to the Spice Girls – but all that seems to have gone out of the window.

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The Weekly Blog

The Tallest Mountain

When I read that Michael O’Leary had called for a Ryanair-style hurdle race at the Cheltenham Festival, I thought perhaps he was proposing a race where half the horses couldn’t run because there weren’t enough pilots.

But it turned out that I’d got the wrong end of the stick. It was much, much, worse.

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The Weekly Blog

Have Ye a Sonsie Face?

A cross-border disparity could arise between students in England and Scotland following the announcement that English pupils will not participate in a new international test designed to assess respect for other cultures, challenge extremism and help to identify fake news.

The tests have been devised as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to measure tolerance, cultural awareness and how well teenagers can distinguish between reliable sources of information and fake news. Rumour has it that, in order to minimise the impact on horseracing, the British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust (BHEST) is developing a test of its own, to ensure that racegoers are equipped to handle differences in culture as they explore the varied delights presented by racecourses throughout the British Isles.

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