Brian Monteith: Stakes are high as race gets under way

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And they’re off. Thank you for tuning in to our coverage of the Independence Sweepstakes, the much-anticipated longest-ever equine race in history.

This two-and-a-half-year handicap is over the jumps and is not for novices, oh, and in case you forget the number, it is being held over 1314 miles.

Alex Salmond, riding his grey mare Remember Bannockburn is already off to a flyer, leaving the rest of the field well behind as many of the runners and riders still try to mount their rides.

In fact it’s not too late to join this race as the jockey club rules don’t apply here – if anyone thinks they should take part there’s still every opportunity to do so.

Look out for some new steers without any past form being added to the chase with names such as Students for Independence, Keep Scotland British and Whae’s Like Us? all likely contenders. Some horses such as The Cantering Cameronian and Moore’s the Merrier are used to wearing blinkers and are expected to continue with them while Michael Forsyth is still riding bareback, as usual.

There’s a rumour going around the stable lads that the best riders have yet to enter but it’s not known if these are just half-known celebrities looking to cash in on some 15 seconds of fame after discovering they have a Scottish granny from Auchtermuchty, or are experienced old lags such as Willy Carson, John Reid and Brian Wilson finding their riding crops in the attic.

The stakes are so high – amounting to billions, even trillions if you believe some tipsters – that some jockeys have already been dropped from the race by trainers and owners worried about disappointing outings last year. Bella Goldie has been carrying too much weight while Iain Gray and Tavish Scott both frightened the horses.

Their replacements, new apprentices Babe-Ruth Davidson, John-boy Lamont and Wally-Dug Rennie are all raring to go but are still in the weighing room waiting to know if they will all be riding the same horse – which might be a little unfair on the poor beast – or are free to ride for their own stables.

There are some big jumps such as Bankers Brook, where the runners and riders have to explain how they would have bailed out the Scottish banks that went belly-up, as well as The Chair, where jockeys have to argue how Scotland will have a seat at the top tables of the world ever again.

Punters can place bets using the Pound Sterling, the Euro (so long as it lasts) and the Scottish Groat (a petro-currency that grows on trees and will pay for anything and everything that we can’t afford at the moment).

Lots of money is flooding in from foreign gamblers putting their filthy lucre on Remember Bannockburn while this commentator, whose ancestor John de Menteith actually fought in it is backing the Earl of Elgin, whose antecedent Robert de Bruis won the original race on Lucky Spider.

We all know the royals love the gee-gees, of course, and the family has already said it will be delighted to invite any of the winners to dinner so long as they get to keep wearing their jewllery.

The red in tooth and claw stable of Rose-Salmond Cunningham had wanted a grooms’ republic to be declared but has now decided that Lizzie Regina is acceptable as a temporary accommodation if it means Remember Bannockburn can win the race.

Regimental types always like a point-to-point and even though this will be a long one it will give them plenty of time to work out how Scotland would defend itself – keeping all those Scottish squaddies in a job, having an air force worthy of the name and a navy able to patrol one of the longest coastlines in Europe. It’s not that it can’t be done but nobody has worked it out yet. Even trainspotters will be shouting from the stands as they want to know how a new high-speed rail link with England can be built after 2014 if the English don’t want to travel further north than Manchester or Leeds. A fast train to Gretna Junction really does not offer the same cachet of reaching London, Paris or Brussels.

Fears that some of the steeplechase will have to be held at night have already been ruled out as power companies have said it is best people get used to power cuts now, before they have to introduce them in 2020 after the proposed banning of nuclear power stations in a nuclear-free Scotland.

With such a long race there will be lots of excitement for the crowd to watch and one ever-present stallion always coming up on the outside is that old stud Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics and this race will be no different – such is his form that everybody has a shot of riding him.

All in all it’s a tough course and the cocky Salmond may yet come a cropper at the last hurdle, my money’s on it, but you might fancy a flutter.