Brendan Duke: Here’s one Hardline position that’s getting my vote

Dukey ruminates on young Welsh goalkeepers before moving on to making his picks for Cheltenham and Punchestown this weekend...


Quiet week so far. The undoubted highlight being a rare LOL.

I seldom enjoy a good belly laugh. Contented chuckling is my stock response to something funny. Not much use to a stand-up comedian. An audience of contented chucklers must feel pretty similar to dying on your arse. The source of my hysterical laughter was a 20-second clip from an under 8’s soccer game in Wales. This video has gone viral, so plenty of you will have seen it. For those who haven’t, I heartily recommend a look.

Ideally, watch it multiple times. There is plenty going on. The referee has clearly lost control. One spectator was allowed to leave the sideline. He has now trespassed on the sanctity of the byline, yards away from the goalkeeper. Turns out this spectator is the goalie’s father. The young fella is not taking his last line of defence role seriously.

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Possibly, in the noble tradition of philosopher stoppers like Camus and Kavanagh, he has weightier issues on his mind. It’s also possible that like Grobbelaar or Higuita, he’s using madcap antics to unsettle the competition. The former option seems most likely to me.

The boy, weighed down by his metaphysical musings, continues his head clearing and wanders away from the goal. An opposition player spies the open goal and tries a speculative long range shot. The father, alert to the danger, hollers at his son. The boy can’t refocus quickly enough. As the ball heads towards the line, the father, with exquisite timing, pushes the boy to the ground.

The initial shot is blocked.

Alas a poacher from the other team is quickest to react. He tucks the ball into what in any other game would be considered an open goal. The father’s reaction is priceless. He half turns away to celebrate the initial save. His arms are midway towards being raised to the heavens.

Those arms get no higher though. He sees the rebound go in and, like a frustrated angler, throws an arm out into the ether. The reaction was eerily familiar. I’ve done the same on numerous occasions, when backing a fast finisher up the inner at Lingfield. Looking a certain winner, only for the angle to change and the horse on the near side hangs on by a whisker. We can only speculate as to the relieved reaction of the hard-pressed ref.

Were that rebound cleared, his understanding of the rules would have been sorely tested. Life-affirming stuff, that video.

More life-affirming action this weekend. The annual November pilgrimage to Cheltenham is upon me. Now all we have to do is find some winners to pay for it. The best bet looks to be Hardline in the Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown on Saturday.

Paddy make Voix Du Reve the market leader. He probably deserves the favourite’s tag but it’s hard to credit that Hardline should be three times the price.

There wasn’t much between the two over hurdles and Hardline looked a complete natural over fences at Fairyhouse. Voix Du Reve jumped well in the main at Galway, though wasn’t foot perfect.

The prices look all wrong to me and Hardline warrants a good bet.

Benatar looks interesting in the BetVictor Gold Cup.

He’s a frustrating sort. Headstrong tendencies have held him back. He was too free in the JLT last season but still finished third to Shattered Love. Third was a commendable finish in the circumstances. That looks strong form and he should be competitive off a mark of 149. His comeback at Plumpton didn’t go well. He pulled far too hard on heavy ground.

The race on Saturday sets up well. It’s a big field with plenty of pace on. Jamie Moore has chosen Benatar over Baron Alco. This is a positive. I imagine he’s a horse that takes some knowing. He will always be a risky betting proposition but I think we’re getting a fair price at the weekend.

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What do you think?