WITH Rishi Sunak firing the starting gun for an autumn general election, the electorate will be excited at the prospect of a close-run race. If only legendary horse racing commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan were still on hand to describe proceedings . . .
WELCOME to this, the 58th running of the popular Westminster Cup steeplechase. It looks to be a thrilling race in prospect with a wide field of runners and riders. I wonder if we will see the favourite win, or whether we might get an upset with an outsider taking the trophy. I can’t help remembering past victors such as three times champions Grantham Iron and Mr Mendacious, or more recently outsiders like Lord Slippy.
Whoever you have put your money on, though, it will be a stirring battle. I can just see the contenders making their way to the start line, led by Stop the Boats ridden by amateur jockey Rishi Sunak.
There are great expectations here as this mount is from the same stable as Fill yer Boots which ridden by female jockey Michelle Mone scored a run of spectacular wins, most notably in the Covid Classic, before sadly and spectacularly unseating her in the seven-furlong Inquiry Stakes.
I can just make out We Have a Plan, with jockey and Knight of the Realm Sir Keir Starmer. Behind him in the bright orange silks is Totally Bonkers ridden by fellow Knight of the Realm Sir Ed Davey; this is his first outing on this fancied horse after ditching the dependable Stuff the Postie.
Further back is the attractive five-year-old Reform or Die ridden by novice jockey Richard Tice. A lot of interest has been shown in this horse coming as it does from the Farage stables which have been known to produce surprises in the past.
After them I can see Green is the Colour. This should be a fascinating outing for this four-year-old gelding ridden for the first time by two jockeys, Carla Denyer and Adam Ramsay, both experienced and capable riders with a string of successes behind them.
In a distinctive tartan noseband is thoroughbred eight-year-old Mr Motorhome with novice jockey Humza Yousaf in the saddle. Given its pedigree and the amount of money that has allegedly been spent on it, this could well be one to watch.
As they near the start line I can see some prodding and pushing between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir, but they’re lining up now, the starter has climbed the steps, we’re about to go . . . and they’re off.
A good start for Stop the Boats closely followed by We Have a Plan, Mr Reform has been hampered by Totally Bonkers on the inside rail but is now making good progress as they come up to the Red Wall. They all take it well bar Stop the Boats which landed heavily and has lost a little ground to We Have a Plan. Totally Bonkers is tucked in behind these two patiently waiting, Green is the Colour is a long way back and carrying two jockeys now looks like a bad decision.
As they make their way to the Net Zero Road, Stop the Boats and We Have a Plan are neck and neck but wait, oh no, there are some Just Stop Oil protesters sitting down and unfurling banners. This is a sorry spectacle and something no horse racing fan wants to see. Let’s hope the boys in blue will quickly sort this out, and I am delighted to see that there are several uniformed officers on the scene now. Wait a moment, I cannot understand this: the policemen are bringing what looks like coffee and doughnuts to the activists and are in fact now sitting down with them.
No matter, all the horses have all made it through bar Mr Motorhome who has been pulled up by Humza Yousaf – probably a wise decision.
They head for the fearsome Gender-Neutral Fence which standing at over 5ft high with a 5ft ditch in front will prove a considerable challenge. Here they come, Stop the Boats and We Have a Plan absolutely neck and neck as they jump, and it looks as though We Have a Plan had a better landing with Stop the Boats slipping slightly, Totally Bonkers has taken it cleanly, Mr Reform has fallen but jockey Richard Tice has clung on and is back in the race, albeit a long way back with really no hope now.
As they make their way down to the finish line there are only two fences left to jump and first up is the unnerving Lineker’s Chair. This will be a huge moment as Stop the Boats takes it cleanly followed closely by We Have a Plan, Totally Bonkers is looking tired with jockey Sir Ed Davey using the whip somewhat excessively.
Here they come now racing up to Meghan’s Brook – a truly monumental obstacle but one that needs to be taken, and it’s Stop the Boats a nose in front of We Have a Plan, Totally Bonkers is making a late charge and so too is Reform or Die, but they are battling it out for third place, they have no chance of winning now.
As they jump it’s Rishi Sunak on Stop the Boats who takes it first, he lands well, We Have a Plan is a whisker behind and as they race up to the finish the roar from the crowd is deafening. There’s nothing between them at all now, the horses are giving their all, I just don’t know how you can separate these two as they cross the finishing line. It’s a photo finish.
1st We Have a Plan
2nd Stop the Boats
3rd Totally Bonkers
4th Reform or Die
5th Green is the Colour
Pulled up: Mr Motorhome
Non-runners: Common Sense, Mr Democracy