Spectator Life

Spectator Life

An intelligent mix of culture, style, travel, food and property, as well as where to go and what to see.

Two bets for Ayr

There is plenty of competitive racing at Ayr over the next two days, quite apart from tomorrow’s Coral Scottish Grand National. With some decent prize money on offer too, it is not surprising that the quality of the cards is high. The Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle (tomorrow, 2.25 p.m.), unlike its English counterpart at the Cheltenham

Roger Alton

It’s no wonder Manchester City are top of the league

Well it was fun while it lasted, the closest three-way race for the Premier League in history, a title challenge as exciting as anything you will see on Netflix. It’s not over yet but it certainly feels like it. With six games to play, there’s still many a slip… But deep down even their most

The magic of Aintree

However hard some people try to make it a business, jump racing remains a sport and the Grand National its greatest race. Two fences out this year 20 horses were still in contention, ten still seemingly in with a serious chance of winning. As Ruby Walsh noted: ‘If that doesn’t convince people it’s a wonderful

Four bets for Aintree and beyond

My suggested ante-post bets for tomorrow’s Randox Grand National (4 p.m.) have featured prominently in this column for several weeks now. The good news is that these wagers are looking promising. My three long-term tips for the big Aintree spectacle were all put up at juicy prices that are long gone. My fourth Grand National

Euro 2024: a guide to Germany’s cities

Here’s a question for Spectator football fans: what’s the most memorable match you’ve ever seen? I don’t mean on television. I mean in an actual stadium, the way football should be seen. For me it was in 1996, seeing England play Germany at Wembley, in the semi-finals of the Euros. England were the better team

Golf keeps getting weirder

Golf has never been weirder or better. In 2022, the upstart LIV Golf, funded by Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion sovereign wealth fund, took on PGA Tour, poaching stars including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Mohammed bin Salman’s regime lured them by shovelling oil money into their pockets, with Mickelson signing for a reported

Three big priced ante-post bets for April

Max McNeill and his family, who own THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE, have been hoping for months that their horse would line up for next weekend’s Randox Grand National. However, they listened to the man who knows the horse best, 14-times champion trainer Paul Nicholls. He persuaded them that their nine-year-old gelding would be better suited to the challenges

Roger Alton

County cricket needs Bazball

It’s freezing cold and everywhere is flooded, so it must be the start of the county cricket season. Surrey, last year’s champions, head for Old Trafford on Friday, in what should be a three-sweater day, aiming to make it three titles in a row. And who would bet against them? It’s a superb tournament, the

The life of a cave diver

It was one of those beautiful August mornings, birds singing, not a cloud in the sky – not that we could tell. We’d set off before sunrise and were now a hundred or so metres beneath Chepstow Racecourse sorting through diving kit. Here, several hours descent into the hillside, Andy and I were hoping to

Two tips for tomorrow and my best bet of the season

The interestingly-named GOSHHOWPOSH has two ways of running: very well and very badly. He’s clearly talented and two of his four runs this season ended in victories at Exeter and Wincanton respectively. However, in his other two runs he unseated his rider at the last hurdle when having no chance of winning at Haydock and

Two tips for the Irish Grand National

Irishman Martin Brassil is a brilliant target trainer but even he has to handle the ups and downs that come with participating in the so-called Sport of Kings. Horse racing, particularly at the highest level, can bring despair as well as joy as Brassil experienced at last week’s Cheltenham Festival when he had three fancied

Safety tech is killing motorsport

Finland has a population of only 5.5 million, but it leads the world in motorsport. It’s the crucible of racing greats Markku Alén, Timo Salonen, Ari Vatanen, Keke Rosberg, Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen, Tommi Mäkinen, Mika Häkkinen, Marcus Grönholm, Kimi Räikkönen, reigning World Rally champion Kalle Rovanperä and current Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas. Known

An 18-1 tip for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30 p.m.) is the highlight of not just the final day of the Cheltenham Festival but this whole glorious week of racing. Yet, again, the Festival has been largely dominated by horses from the other side of the Irish Sea but I hope a British-trained horse will land the £350,00-plus

Game theories: is the head vs heart distinction real?

When you play a game – cards, backgammon, chess – should you listen to your head or your heart? Do you sit there coldly calculating the odds, or do you go with a hunch, gut instinct, your sixth sense? It’s a question I’m discussing with Marcus du Sautoy as we sit in the Beaumont Hotel

Four bets for day three of the Cheltenham

There are two competitive big races to look forward to on day three of the Cheltenham Festival: the Grade 1 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (3.30 p.m.) and the Grade 2 Ryanair Chase (2.50 p.m.) The former race is for experienced staying hurdlers over a trip of three miles and I am happy to have already

Tips for day two of the Festival

The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.30 p.m.) is the highlight of day two of the Cheltenham Festival and – despite Jonbon’s defection this morning – it provides an intriguing seven-runner contest over two miles. There are various arguments to be made for the top two in the market – El Fabiolo and Edwardstone –

Five tips for day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Lucinda Russell is a trainer that I love to have on my side for the Cheltenham Festival. It’s not simply that she has got to be one of the nicest people in racing but, more importantly from the viewpoint of a gambler, she knows exactly how to prime one of her best horses for a

Tottenham have betrayed their fans

For as long as anyone can remember, Tottenham Hotspur have offered half price season tickets for pensioners. No longer. This has been scrapped from the beginning of next season. Those already enjoying the 50 per cent concession in the vain hope they will live long enough to see the team win a trophy again will see

Two bets pre-Cheltenham

It may come as a surprise that, even though we are just four days away from a certain major racing Festival in the Cotswolds, today’s betting column will be a no go area when it comes to putting up tips for Cheltenham next week. There are three reasons, all hopefully logical, for this approach. First,

Four bets for the weekend’s big handicaps

BENSON did this column a massive favour a year ago when landing the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle after being put up at 16-1 (he went off at a starting price of 11/1). In truth, he faces a stiffer task in the same race tomorrow because he is both one year older and running off the top

Is racing being ruined by ‘super-trainers’?

Back in November, 20 horses went to post in the Troytown Chase at Navan. Fourteen were trained in Co. Meath by Gordon Elliott, who provided the winner Coko Beach and four of the first five home. He broke no rules. To those who objected to his mass entry, Elliott retorted that he hadn’t stopped any

Looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival

Tomorrow’s Bet Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle is just the sort of marathon contest in which I usually like to have a bet but, with so many of the 13 runners out of form and the going likely to be very soft, I am happy to give it a miss this time around. Instead, I

Cricket is one of the best anti-depressants

I love it when the England cricket team flies east in the winter. It means they’re playing in the early morning, UK time, and that’s just when I need them the most. Because cricket is a powerful antidepressant. Without the sound or sight of bat on ball, early mornings at the moment would hold their

Roger Alton

Can England rain on Scotland’s Six Nations parade? 

Watching England play Wales in the Six Nations the other day, a lacklustre match between two middling sides and distinguished only by lashings of Welsh hwyl as the visitors outperformed their role as underdogs, I remarked to the Irish friend who was with me: ‘The Welsh don’t like the English, do they?’ ‘Get in line,’

Two bets for Ascot and Haydock

The run-up to the Cheltenham Festival is a quiet time for many punters with some of the best horses in the land effectively wrapped-up in cotton wool so as not to sustain an injury that would keep them out of their big-race targets next month. However, there is plenty of competitive racing on offer at

Football doesn’t need a blue card

Football is becoming a testing ground for every madcap idea the supposed guardians of the sport can come up with. The latest is the blue card, a stopgap between the yellow and red cards for bookings and sendings off, designed to send players to a sin bin for ten minutes should they commit one of

Two soft-ground specialists for Newbury

The heavy rain of the past 48 hours is good news for two horses that I fancy for the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle tomorrow (Newbury, 3.15 p.m.). The ground is now ‘heavy, soft in places’ and more rain forecast later today. I put up BRENTFORD HOPE at 14-1 for the race four weeks ago and his

Roger Alton

Farewell to rugby’s King John

You couldn’t miss the heartbreaking irony of one of the greatest rugby players who ever pulled on his boots passing away just as the latest tournament was getting under way featuring 18-stone behemoths smashing into each other. Barry John, who retired at 27 and died last Sunday at 79, could have walked through brick walls