Photo Finish. April 2012.

Dear Rowley,

Has there ever been an event so inappropriately named as Ladies’ Day at Aintree? Should Little Britain make another series, they need look no further for inspiration than the tango-tanned, porcine, peroxide blondes absolutely crucifying the British fashion industry and teetering round Aintree on Louboutin-clad trotters. These ‘ladies’ walk like a transvestite on his first night out, behave with all the delicacy of a long distance trucker and grasp dainty little It Bags like baboons manhandling a Sevres tea cup.

It is terribly unfair of the newspapers to pick on Mrs Rooney who appeared to be channeling Adele but looked like a Julie Goodyear tribute act. She was positively demure in comparison to some of the monsters of frock on display at Aintree. I blame fast, cheap fashion and X-Factor culture that encourages every girl to dress like she’s auditioning for Girls Aloud. Perhaps most unforgivably, they attempt to upstage the horses.

The Grand National is one of those great sporting events that used to unite the nation. I remember being sent round to the bookies in Bakewell when I worked as a Saturday boy in my father’s shop to place our collective bets. Lorraine would bring in a portable black and white TV and staff and clients would gather round at 4.15pm to see the big race at Aintree. I always put a Lady Godiva on for my grandmother and we all hollered the winner home like fishwives poised to storm  Versailles.

Gambling is one of the few vices that I haven’t succumbed to since. At the last two Royal Meetings, I put a monkey to win on a horse with a cute name and long odds and won £350 and £500 respectively. The National is the equine equivalent of the Whacky Races and it’s anybody’s game. So yesterday better half and I studied the form and chose Sunnyhillboy. Knowing what a disappointment it is to lose your jockey at the first fence, I also backed Shakalakaboomboom to win.

Shakalakaboomboom led the field for most of the race before running out of steam over the last few fences. Sunnyhillyboy, having left the pace setters to it until the last four fences, shot into the lead and passed the finishing post nose-to-nose with Neptune Collonges. In the photo finish, Neptune had it and our collective winnings that would have been just shy of £900 evaporated like a Coalition promise. I could have sunk to my knees and ululated.

But frustrated avarice gave way to profound sadness at the news that Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and another fine horse had been put down having fallen at Beechers Brook. The death of Synchronised was all the more poignant given that the horse had unseated its rider before the race and had been filmed cantering round Aintree showing the racing world what a magnificent beast it was.

The Grand National is a hazardous race and has killed many horses in its recent past. The racing fraternity has also quite rightly said RSPCA intervention to lower fences has made the race more rather than less dangerous. However, there is something of the Roman Forum about watching and betting on a sport that necessitates the death of thoroughbreds such as Synchronised. Jump racing is a danger for horse and jockey and this enhances the thrill of the chase. But surely the racing establishment could take measures that make a horse’s death an infrequent tragedy rather than an inevitability.

Speaking of the Coalition, one cannot help but think the granny tax, the tax on charitable donors, the lame runners and riders in the London mayoral race and Mr Cameron’s globe-trotting are brewing a perfect storm. Like Mr Blair, Mr Cameron tends to step onto the world stage like a toy poodle at Crufts every time he or his cabinet foul up on home territory. The Dave and Barak show was nauseating enough. The photo opportunity with Ang San Suuy Kyi in Nepal hasn’t raised Dave’s currency with the home crowd any more than posing in a kiss me quick hat with President Assad.

God only knows why the Conservatives are making such a meal of gay marriage. Puts one in mind of Bette Davis’s last line in Now Voyager about asking for the moon when we already have the stars. There’s nothing quite so irritating as the PC lobby categorising one as part of the ‘gay, lesbian and transgender community’. I am no more in coalition with the lesbians as I am with the Maoris. It’s rather like grouping people who have blonde hair and blue eyes…and we all know what happened the last time that unfortunate experiment was tried in Deutschland.

Praise be for mavericks such as David Hockney who wrote a strident defence of smoking in the face of our Health Secretary making it illegal to display cigarettes and lobbying for plain packaging on all tobacco products. If the government was truly altruistic it would ban cigarettes and we’d all live a couple of decades longer to eke out our final years in abject poverty and ill health not related to smokes. But the tax revenues are far too lucrative a bounty to ban hence the pointless exercises that now make scoring heroin an easier proposition in London than buying ten Marlboro Lights.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining. Perhaps anonymous cigarette packaging will revive the vogue for gold, silver or gem-set guilloché cigarette cases. Speaking of elegance, it never got better than Suzi Perry at Royal Ascot. Until next time…