Happy Monday, dear reader, and welcome to another sometime installment from yours truly on matters equine and general.
Today, its a jolly up to gay Paris, and a little lay system for the winter all weather...
First up, I'd like to take you on a little journey... For it was with much glee, that I and my lady friend took to St Pancras on Saturday evening to experience the new Eurostar Express (London to Paris in a formidable - pronounced for-mee-dah-blur - 2 hours and 20 minutes).
Now then, lest you get gobbled up by the hype, let me tell you, the world's longest champagne bar may also have the world's longest waiting line. And it didn't look worth it to me... By long champagne bar, what they actually mean is they have a pretty small square bar in the middle and - alongside platform 1 of the Eurostar lines - they have assembled tables and chairs for a fair distance.
The bar has zero ambience, and it costs no less than £7.50 for a glass of the cheapest house champagne. The words 'rip' and 'off' spring all too readily to this hack's mind.
However, the Eurostar experience itself was much more wholesome. I'd booked through the website, and - because I needed to go at a certain time, and return at a certain time - the price was higher than it would otherwise have been (though still pretty reasonable at under 300 notes for two).
Imagine my surprise when the website asked, "Would you like a three course dinner, with champagne and wine, for another £10?". "Why yes", I replied. Then I ticked the box on the screen, on the basis that my laptop can't do voice recognition yet... So that was it, five quid each for a perfectly palatable platter and some splendidly sippable wines (Crozes Hermitages 2004 for me, Gris des Gris rose for she), and of course a quick quaff of the bubbles...
We stayed next to Gare du Nord, for reasons of expediency, rather than salubriousness. Indeed, whilst on the subject of expediency, or - more correctly - expedia... those bloody numpties really do me in.
After booking a hotel with them for the 2006 Breeders Cup, only to arrive in the city and discover - believe it or not - that said hotel had closed down two months before(!), I really should know better... And that hotel was a Ramada, one of the biggest chains in the world! I digress...
Yes, I had printed off my itinerary from the email. Or so I thought. It was only when we got to Paris that I opened the bit of paper to reveal my itinerary number, and a link to a web page with the hotel details. Not even the name of the hotel was on the page.
Being super prepared with my papers, I hadn't bothered to check the hotel name. So there we were, 11pm in Paris with a hotel reservation but no clue what it was called or where it was.... Sacre Bleu, indeed!
What would any sane Englishman do in this predicament? Of course, head for the nearest bar and curse. As Lady Luck would have it however, the nearest bar had wifi, and my little phone was able to tap into that and get to my email, from whence I established the name of the hotel.
The kindly barman helped me with directions, which I patently failed to understand. (I have this problem whereby I convince myself that if I spend a minute or two preparing what I need to ask in French, that makes me conversant. It's only when the reply comes back that I realise he's speaking too fast and I don't understand it anyway... hmmm, is that just me?!)
So to the hotel, and an 8th (which was to say, top, in this place) floor room, with as good as view as you get at Gare du Nord: the Eiffel Tower chatting merrily to the moon directly to its left on one side, and the illuminated grandeur of the church of Sacre Coeur to the other.
Mrs Woman was most pleased...
Conscious that this may be the most boring post in all of the 208 I've put here to date (yes, 208!), I'll scoot through Sunday: lazy breakfast in bed (usual pastries and fierce caffeine infusions), stroll to aforementioned superchurch, further stroll through the Baltic conditions southwards, and we found ourselves back at Gare du Nord. Coffee and a squint at the map, and it was time to take le metro (one line working only, as the Frenchie blighters were striking again: I suspect M. Sarkozy has bitten off more than he can chew on this occasion... Its a foolish man with delusions of deity that takes on the French proletariat regarding matters welfare or social...!)
Six stops south and we alight at Les Halles, which stinks of urine and excrement. Out the door and its VERY cold. What else to do then but grab a Guinness in the nearest Irish bar, which happens to be no more than ten strides away. Or, if you're a giraffe, probably about two and a half (though you would have struggled to get through the door in the latter instance).
Lunch was booked for 2pm, and a pleasant if frosty amble along the Rue de Rivoli, past the Louvre, found us at Le First restaurant, an interesting 'boudoir' establishment.
We went for the tasting menu, which consisted of seven, yes seven courses, including veal sweetbreads, which - unless I'm mistaken - are the testicles of baby cows... Very nice all the same.
Washed down with a bottle of Brouilly, a wine I've never before come across, but which makes its way straight into my top ten. Very easy drinking, elegant, and goes with anything, as those seven courses testify!
Somewhat sated gastronomically, and mildly inebriated, we once again braced the biting Baltic breeze, across the Tuilerie Gardens, through Place de la Concorde and its Ferris Wheel, and along the south bank bypassing the Champs Elysees to the north.
We followed our noses - easy enough for me! - to the Eiffel Tower, and began to queue. Forty freezing minutes later and we were heading up, up and away. Now I know how Charlie felt in the great glass elevator. For someone like me, who is not a big fan of heights, I can tell you that the top level of the Eiffel Tower is - excuse me and my dyslexia - fckuing high!Not too bad from underneath...
Not much sooner up there than it took to snap four sides on my phone cam, and we were heading down, down, deeper and down. And also very late. 5h1t! Late. We needed to catch a taxi to assure our train connection. Problem was, with the strike and all, it seemed the rest of Paris needed a car as well. The line was worse than the champagne bar back at St Pancras...!
So, ever the romantic improviser, I invited my girlfriend to join me in a little jog / sprint to the metro station about a mile away. Mercifully, oh sweet mercy, after about 200 metres, Carole spotted a taxi with what appeared to be its light on. And so it was. Warmth and transit for the price of.. well for considerably less than the price of two tickets from Paris to London!
We had just enough time to buy baguettes and champagne, and blag two paper cups, for our impromptu picnic in Coach 1.
All told, a wonderful day, and an experience I heartily recommend, should you, like me, be lucky enough to have the chance.
If you're still awake, well played, and - by way of reward - I've done a little digging on donkeys. And the best kind of donkeys: those plodders on the sand!
Yes, that's right folks, I've found a warming winter lay system specifically for use on the all weather tracks..
Here's how it goes:
- Races must be between November (i.e. now) and end of March
- Southwell, Lingfield, Kempton or Wolverhampton all weather tracks
- Forecast favourite in the Racing Post
- NOT top rated by Topspeed in the Racing Post
- Starting odds of 4/1 or higher
- Having first run today, or finished 5th or worse last time out
- Last ran 8+ days ago
It may seem like there are too many criteria here to yield many lays, but in fact there is on average one every other day...
The results are as follows:
YEAR WINS RUNS STRIKE% LSP LSP% VSP%
2000 3 29 10.34 -13.50 -46.55 -33.41
2001 3 37 8.11 -16.00 -43.24 -48.43
2002 5 48 10.42 -17.50 -36.46 -35.50
2003 6 67 8.96 -30.50 -45.52 -41.81
2004 13 75 17.33 1.50 2.00 9.40
2005 11 83 13.25 -12.00 -14.46 -13.27
2006 8 67 11.94 -19.50 -29.10 -22.96
49 406 12.07 -107.50 -26.48 -22.57
7 out of 8 get beaten, and yield a 26.48% loss at SP to level stakes.
Even with betfair commission and over odds, you could expect to make 10% ROI with this.
I'll try to have a look at some jumps lays as well this week, but - as you'll have worked out - time is not the cheap commodity it was just a few short months ago...
Hope this post finds you well, and until next time...