Abby Rugg

Name: Abby Rugg
Qualification: Gold Standard NCTJ Multi-Media Journalism Diploma. (Including 100 words-per-minute shorthand)
Employment: Worked at BBC Sport and Deltatre for London 2012.
Future Aim: To work in broadcast/production television.
Blog: Started in November 2011. Published on The Sports Investor and Value Horse Tips. Please comment on a post or follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Swindon Town 5 - Port Vale 0 

For those who are following me on Twitter, you know already that I watched Swindon play at home against Port Vale in a bid to win League Two.

It was the first football match I had ever attended: my father, who is a Swindon fan, decided to take me a the game to see another side of sports journalism.

As you know I write about horse racing, but as the NCTJ sports journalism exam is 50 per cent football related, I needed to gain experience on writing football commentary.

I wouldn't say that I hate football, but I dislike it. I think there is too much attention surrounding the sport and too much money goes into it.

I believe that other sports should receive the attention football gets, but that's another argument for another blog post.

But experience is experience, and I needed some. We sat in the side stands near the press box and before the 3:00pm kick-off approached, Swindon's mascot, the Rockin' Robin, came on to the pitch and started strutting his stuff.

When I say 'strutting his stuff', I really mean trying to dance but ending up looking daft. Nevertheless, it was the first football mascot I had ever seen and it did bring out a smile.

Swindon had already been promoted from League Two last week but if they won today they would win the League title.

I watched the players from Port Vale and Swindon run on to the pitch with five minutes to go until kick-off and the crowd roared. 

Swindon started okay in the first half: I thought they were nervous as they had a lot riding on the game. Port Vale put up a good fight in defence and even though Paolo Di Canio's team did not attack as well as I anticipated, it was still a good half to watch.

Simon Ferry played well and had a few good attempts at goal. Matt Ritchie also performed well and didn't let his side down.

Ritchie scored the first goal in the first half and what a super goal it was. He powered the ball into the corner of the net and cheers exploded out of the stands.

From that moment on, captain Paul Caddis could see that his team relaxed a little. Swindon grew in confidence and they gained control on the ball. 

The second half was a lot better to watch: Port Vale tried to defend as well as they did in the first half but were unable to keep Swindon's confidence at bay.

I wouldn't say that Port Vale under-performed on the day, but Swindon had a lot to prove in the game and they had more ambition than their rivals to win the match.

Wes Foderingham put up a real fight in his corner. Port Vale had four or five opportunities in the same minute and Wes was kept the opposition's score at nil.

Swindon's Paul Benson scored two wonderful goals, putting Swindon 3-0 up. Now the team had rhythm and Port Vale knew that they would find it difficult to come back from it. 

Aden Flint also scored, giving Swindon a 4-0 advantage. From this moment the Swindon fans began to sing in chorus, knowing that their bid for the title was becoming a reality.

Substitute Alan Connell scored the fabulous fifth and Di Canio, who was standing on the sidelines, saluted the crowd.

When the match ended, the stadium erupted. It was an odd experience for me because I had never witnessed such an explosion.

Swindon won 5-0 and were awarded the trophy on the pitch. The crowd cheered, cried, sang and danced and it was actually quite pleasant to see.

My first football match consisted of a win, a presentation of a trophy, watching a manger salute the crowd, a Rockin' Robin attempting to look good and a delighted crowd.

I still find football exhausting but attending the match on Saturday made me appreciate the sport more than I used to and I will no longer dismiss it immediately. 

I thought that the match would be my last as well as my first, but as we were driving home my father turned to me and said: "Well, as it was a 5-0 win to Swindon you'd be welcome to come again."

Maybe it's his attempt to make me a lover of football rather than horse racing but the latter is my hobby and I'll be happy once I'm back watching Midnight Chase jumping the last at Cheltenham.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Reading through a number of articles about this year's Grand National and people's opinions towards the event has made me realise that professionals and punters in horse racing now have to unite to defend the sport that they love.

Every time I flicker through an article on the deaths of Gold Cup champion Synchronised and According To Pete, I am faced with angry people who know nothing about the sport, claiming that horse racing is cruel and unnecessary.


Photo by Meteorshoweryn (Creative Commons) from Flickr

As a person who has loved and admired the sport from an early age, I believe that now is the best and most important time for jockeys, trainers and owners to unite and defend their decisions that are made in horse racing.

Putting down a horse is a sad thing to happen but sometimes it is necessary: if those who work in the sport can understand the risk (i.e trainers and owners) then why can't other people?

Another absurd idea is to ban The Grand National. The event is the biggest jump race in Europe as the prize money is near £1 million.

Banning the race will therefore put people out of a job and Aintree, as well as Great Britian, will lose its status of being the host of a huge sporting event.

The horses who run in The Grand National spend months enduring training that their owners specifically set.

They are therefore prepared for the four mile race and are not thrown into the challenge without the training that is required.

Yes, I agree that it is upsetting when horses have to be put down as a result of a fractured leg or a broken shoulder but it is the kindest thing to do.

During a race, if a horse does fall and fracture its leg, it has so much adrenaline pumping through its body it cannot feel the pain.

As the fracture cannot be fixed and before the horse can feel the agonising pain, it is put down, a decision that trainers and owners are sometimes faced with.

But then again, they understand the risk and I hate the thought of Synchronised and According To Pete's deaths constantly overshadowing the closest finish ever witnessed.

So here's to a fantastic win by Neptune Collonges - a fantastic horse that has always been living in his stablemates' shadows - Kauto Star and Denman - but has now deservedly won the biggest race of them all.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


The Grand National has finished for another year and yet again the sport has created negative headlines around the country.

Two horses had to be put down after yesterday's event: Gold Cup champion Synchronised and According To Pete tragically fractured legs so it was decided that they had to be let go.

It is upsetting to see talented horses lose their lives because of such incidents, but what many people do not realise, especially those who think horse racing should be banned, is that destroying the animals after these accidents is the kindest thing to do.

When a horse races it has a lot of adrenaline pumping through it's body - as would any other athlete in different sports. 

So, before it can feel the pain of a fracture, for example, the kindest thing to do for it is to destroy it.

If a human were to fracture his/her leg, then it can easily be fixed: crutches and casts will be used for several weeks. But with a horse it is different. 

The creatures are huge and repairing a fracture is impossible. If this does happen, killing the horse is therefore seen as the best, and the right thing to do. You cannot let a horse suffer. 

Horse racing should not be banned - it is a much loved sport throughout the country and if it was to stop, then the horses will serve no purpose.

Race horses are born and bred for racing. It's their job. Those people who are ignorant enough to say that horse racing is a cruel sport should spend several weeks at a trainer's stable and watch how a horse is trained, prepared and looked after. They would then be able to see how much love and attention is put in by owners and trainers to make the sport as safe as possible for their horses.

Also, if the sport was to be banned, hundreds of people will lose their jobs. One thing that this country has always moaned about is the number of people who are unemployed. It would not help matters, in fact I believe it would make things worse. 

I hold strong opinions and even though I'm only expressing my view through words, I hope it reaches a wide audience. 

I hope non-horse racing fans will learn to appreciate the sport through this blog article and will learn that time and effort goes into the sport to ensure that horses are well treated and kept safe.

Unfortunately, like every sport, accidents happen. Horse racing has that low risk. People need to understand that. 

If the professionals understand the risk, then everyone else should. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012


1:45 - Simonsig

2:15 - Sprinter Sacre

2:50 - Oscar Whisky

3:25 - Chapoturgeon 
          Saint Are (e/w)


Planet Of Sound
West End Rocker

5:05 - Kazlian
          Try a David Double! (Pipe)
          Dream Esteem

5:35 - Howaboutnow

Friday, 13 April 2012


2:00 - Darlan
          Captain Conan (e/w)

2:30 - Champion Court
          Join Together (e/w)

3:05 - Finian's Rainbow

3:40 - Triangular 
           Chance Du Roy (e/w)

4:15 - Cotton Mill

4:50 - It's A Gimme
          Tour D'Argent (e/w)

5:25 - Call Me A Star

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Big Buck's has made history at Aintree with a 17th consecutive victory over hurdles in the Liverpool Hurdle.
The horse, ridden by Ruby Walsh, cruised round the course and didn't seem to build up a sweat throughout the race.
The nine-year-old jumped fluently and grabbed victory by nine lengths, ahead of Crack Away Jack (second at 33/1) and Across The Bay (third at 50/1).
Nicholls' horse beat Sir Ken's previous record, which was set in the 1950s.


2:00 - Big Bucks
          Tidal Bay (e/w bet)

2:30 - Lyvius
          Grumeti (e/w bet)

3:05 - Riverside Theatre

3:40 - Boxer Georg
          My Way De Solzen (e/w bet)

4:15 - Tanks For That
          Kumbeshwar (e/w bet)

4:50 - Pepite Rose

5:25 - Oscar Prairie 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Synchronised is on course to do the double, but can he produce that rare headline?

After winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month, Jonjo O'Neill's horse could become the first horse in 78 years to grab Britain's two biggest steeplechasing titles in the same season.

The only horse to ever achieve both titles in the same season was Golden Miller in 1934.

Tony McCoy rode Synchronised to victory at 8-1 ahead of The Giant Bolster (50-1) and 7-4 favourite Long Run.

Synchronised could do it. If Tony was riding then maybe the horse could be his second Grand National victory. I can imagine that now that McCoy has broken his Aintree curse, winners will keep on coming for him. 

He'll be like a London bus - you wait all day for one then many will come at once.

If the horse can keep hold of his stamina like he did in the Gold Cup then he'll be in for a shot. He is capable and could rattle up headlines with the double. 

Monday, 2 April 2012


The early stages of this month's John Smith's Grand National will be crucial for Chicago Grey, according to Gordon Elliott.


CHELTENHAM 16-3-2011. The National Hunt Chase.

Derek O'Connor and CHICAGO GREY with trainer Gordon Elliott and Annie Bowles after he recorded his 1st Cheltenham success. Creative Commons by Horse Racing Ireland

The nine-year-old has got detached early-on in previous races and Elliott is worried that he could get too far behind in the Aintree event.
Elliott told At The Races: "He schooled last week, schooled very well and stays well, he won the four-miler at Cheltenham last year," 
"If he can get into a nice rhythm in the first half of the race I think he`ll run a massive race. The first four or five fences are going to be very important, if he can get into a rhythm and get jumping.
"He`s probably not the best jumper in the world, he`s adequate, he has his own technique. It`s hard to know what horse is going to take to it."
Paul Carberry will ride the grey in twelve days time while Paul Nicholls is down to one representative (Neptune Collonges) after the retirement of Niche Market due to injury.

My Opinion:

There has been a lot of media hype surrounding Chicago Grey and there is no doubt in saying that he is a talented horse. 
Elliott has said it right though, if the grey gets detached from the group in the early stages of the race then he's out. Carberry needs to time it well to ensure that the Cheltenham 2011 winner has a chance of winning.

Ballabriggs is another horse that needs to be watched but I cannot help but be tempted by Sunnyhillboy. I have seen him run before and is decent horse. One to watch over the next few days.
The Grand National is anybody's game - all horses are in for a shot. 

What I am worried about is whether or not the high-profile racing event will attract bad publicity again. Last year was a bad year for the sport as a result of Jason Maguire's ride on winner Ballabriggs. I think people who aren't into racing need to read up on the sport so that it does not come under inappropriate scrutiny.

It angers me when people are ignorant towards the rules of the whip. With all the media attention the sport has been receiving it wouldn't surprise me if many viewers or spectators will be eagle-eyed and on the prowl for any mistake made by the jockeys.

Should it happen again: watch this space!