Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Major’s Saturday Sermon – Goodwood and Galway Tips

Good morning from fine Defford, where the Major has been studying over the hot steaming coffee for hours in order to rectify our Goodwood and Galway weeks.

The carnage of a Stewards Cup – Can we find the winner?

We were off to a flyer with horses like Strong Suit going in and Hunters Light filling places at fancy prices.  Yesterday, we found a nice 13/2 second but the Majors guaranteed winner (the shame is a burden I will carry for at least the weekend) flopped.

Today we have a tasty Nassau which remains high quality despite the absence of Misty for Me, Aiden O’Briens highly impressive filly.  We also have the Stewards Cup and the usual quality Galway racing.

When people ask you what your hobbies are, do you ever hesitate?  I do.  Not because I am embarrassed to talk about the magic of horseracing, on the contrary, I am proud to know with certainty that the good lord gave us horseracing to separate those with quality from those that prefer reality TV.

It is however, hesitancy with which I sometimes talk about the Major.  Why?  Well, it is just not that simple explaining why your amateur blog about horseracing happens to strongly feature facets of Victorian military history.  The fact that we have quite a few subscribers, most of whom are strangers to me, suggests there is a small but niche market for such a publication!  Who you all are is a big a mystery to me as why this seems to work.  Welcome to you.

There are plenty of lectures I want to give you on the Saturday Sermon from the Major but this week I want to give you something slightly different.

In Victorian times, Britain conquered vast swathes of the globe in order to bring the three C’s of Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation to the world.  In parts we were very successful, building much of the worlds railway and introducing democracies that stand to this day.  Other aspects of our impact were less helpful and exploitation was often not far away.

Our power was based on both purpose and a strong military arm.  We had the finest army of the world and the biggest navy.  Our army expanded to include garrisons of Indian troops and to this day, the Nepalese Gurkhas still take the Queens salt.

If there was a reason we developed an impermeable view of superiority and righteousness, it was partly due to that military strength.  In itself it was drawn from our stronger equipment and sheer discipline.  That and the bravery or insanity of a group of men that could have been driven by an idealism.  Nothing else explains the actions of those who were awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery in the face of the enemy.  Those bronze medallions were said to be cast from cannon captured in our campaigns in the Crimea which featured the charge of the lights and the heavies as well as the standing of the thin red line.  This is unlikely to be true, tests suggest the lump of metal originated in China but regardless, we use the same materials today as we did over a hundred years ago.  Want one?  Well you can buy one for tens of thousands or you can try to win one……

When in action with a Lewis gun section. His company met with a most determined resistance from a strong point, which was strongly garrisoned, manned by numerous machine guns, and undamaged by our artillery fire, was also protected by strong wire entanglements.

The heavy concentration of machine gun fire caused many casualties and held up our advance. His Lewis gun having come into action and silenced enemy guns in one direction, enemy gunfire opened from another direction.

Private Dalziel dashed at it, and with his revolver killed and captured the entire crew and gun and allowed our advance to continue. He was severely wounded in the hand, but carried on and took part in the capture of the final objective. He twice went over open ground under heavy enemy artillery and machine gun fire, to secure ammunition, though suffering from considerable loss of blood. He filled magazines and served his gun until he was severely wounded through the head.

His magnificent bravery and devotion to duty was an inspiring example to all his comrades, and his dash and unselfish courage at a most critical time undoubtedly saved many lives and turned what would have been a severe check into a splendid success.

Good luck to you.  To the sports…

Roll the Dice – 3.45 Blue Square Stewards Cup

28 runners bowling down the hill, pace from either side, this really is as absurd a race to solve as you will find.  I have it down to eight and have isolated one for your delectable persuasion.

Stand side could be where they want to go but we will not know until 2.10 when the Stewards Sprint Stakes is finished.  When that warm up is done we will know where the preferential ground is and be able to judge the draw better.

PErsonally at this stage, I want to be on one drawn centrally to give us choice.  This is not sitting on the fence either, they often come up the middle in the Stewards Cup.

Who fits the bill?  I am opting for Nasri…  He is a Dandy Nicholls entry (one of many!) and has the benefit of being in this specialist yard and already has big race experience under his belt.

Whoever you fancy, avoid Hills, Corals and Stan James in this – They only go 4 places – Every other bookmaker offers five.

28/1 Nasri (Paddy Power), thank me later.

3.10 Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes

I have to say that Snow Fairy is a superb 9/4 shot in the Majors eyes.  She looked top class when taking two classics last year before some pretty impressive globe-trotting antics.

This season, she has had a delayed start and then did not perform to her own high standards in the Eclipse.  These conditions will suit better, there is no Workforce to beat and I think she will come on in leaps and bounds….

Take a chunky piece…

4.00 Galway Premier Handicap

Rock Critic is the absolute stand out in the market after his easier than simple handicap win on Thursday.  He looks every inch the certainty but the Major has a slight hope that two races in as many days might undo him a bit.  It is not that likely given the nature of his win, it is hard to argue he really exerted himself but I would say that he has raced best fresh.

Jamesie might have made the shortlist but up 7lbs and a poor draw make life tougher.

The one that also caught the Majors eye for a potential Betfair place proposition is Collingwood.  With a line through his Curragh run on unsuitable ground, this old-timer is still running well enough 14/1 is reasonable.

When it comes down to it, Rock Critic is the best evens shot of the day…  Get right stuck in.

Why not double up Rock Critic with Cowdenbeath who look a nice price at 10/11 to beat Stenhousmuir.  This way a £110 stake returns £420 which is enough for you to dine well this evening.

Day 5 Galway Tips, Day 4 Goodwood Tips – Friday CERT – Thank me later!

Good evening from the Major who has been through the Friday Galway and Goodwood cards and brings a guaranteed Friday winner, to give you a substantial war chest for your weekends projects whether the basis of your intention be simply further gambling or sheer debauchery.

The headlines might be about Galway and Goodwood but Bangor is where the Majors guaranteed* winner runs

The last two days have been spent on the road for the Major.  First Kent and then Bournemouth.  I stayed last night in Boscombe, a pleasant little spot.  My hotel was called Urban Beach, a trendy surf sort of place (not one in which the Major seamlessly blends in)…

I must say, the people were good, the room well appointed (if not a bit hot), the atmosphere relaxed and most of all the dining superb.  A beautiful fish dinner with excuisite flavour last night, this morning, the Majors favourite, eggs benedict, delightful – Bournemouth itself was busy with tourism but lively and nice enough.

I am just about over Frankels amazing Sussex victory although am looking forward to talking to Glenn, a colleague who was there on the downs for it, lucky man.  I saw a tweet earlier (sorry to whoever it was!) it was a quote about the best ever horse to have raced** Secretariat, they said that when he ran, the trees swayed.  Wow…. I think young Glenn knows the sentiment.

 Goodwood – Richmond Stakes – Group 2

Racing in Canford Cliffs colours, Harbour Watch is the one that the dogs are barking about.  He has won with ease…. strongly and readily are words that populate his race write ups.  In a yard where he is amongst 2yo stars, he must be good to be odds on here.  Can we get him beaten?

I believe we could, I have a 10/1 and a 14/1 pair that I fancy.  The only thing I have against Harbour Watch is a lack of evidence that he deserves his price and a slightly lower level of stable form from Hannon than is ideal.  OK, Hannon and Hughes had a nice 2yo winner today but he is sub 10% winners in the last fortnight.

The pair I fancy are the highly tried Bannock and the lightly tried Bogart.  The latter is one of Ryans best apparently, the former has plenty of experience which can be useful in this race.  That said on strict form lines with Saigon, Bannock might struggle.  Casper Netscher is the horse we are judging a few of them through and in the end, despite likeable connections I am going to assume this form is short of top class.

This leaves me with my 14/1 selection in the Richmond, good luck to you Bogart, bring home the bacon.  However, this is not my guaranteed winner*!

Galway Guiness Handicap

Galway is magical.  Weld has won ELEVEN races this week so far, incredible.  As the Major highlighted earlier in the week, he is the only trainer to follow.

Galway is a tough festival from a betting perspective.  Some Galway races finish and you think why on earth was I not on that.  This was true today in the Galway Hurdle.  Some other races finish and even when the results are in front of my eyes I wonder if I am dreaming.  Losing punters are left feeling like they could have done better.  This is the result of so many complex trends and stories that so many winners look likely after the event.

Tomorrows handicap is tricky, potentially lucrative but insanely dangerous.  It is akin to being blindfolded and at a Berlusconi Bunga Bunga party but knowing Susan Boyle*** is also a guest.  Choose wisely and rich rewards await.

Dawariya is the class act in the tomorrows Guiness Hurdle.  At 13/2, she just seems to be the obvious choice for the Major.  On debut she was respectable.  At Ballinrobe uncomfortable, but she is better than that, her handicap mark looked light when winning with something in hand at Leopardstown.  She clearly has a bit more to give and who is to say that further opportunity is not there on her fourth start – Get stuck right it….

The Guaranteed Winner….. Thank me later

The Dee Hurdle at Bangor is one of the Welsh courses big races.  On a day where eyes will be again at the two main festivals, Bangor holds a tidy handicap over an extended 2 miles, it has attracted 8 interesting runners.

There is a certainty here too for the Major.

The Major has a slight fear about the Jigsaw Man whose good to firm ground record is superb but it is not the winner.  The winner… and I am shourting this…

is KNIGHT IN PURPLE available at 4/1 right now but I fully expect this to tighten up rapidly in the morning.

Knight in Purple is a hold up type and there is pace aplenty in this race…. Trust the Major, have I ever let you down?

*The Majors guarantees are about as solid as Lehmann Brothers

** This is guaranteed!

*** Mr Hadden, I accept she is probably your thing!

Legends are born, Frankel…. Plus Day 4 Galway Tips, Day 3 Goodwood Tips

A late post but one I have thought a bit about tonight…. What a day.

History, writen. Legend, cemented. Frankel you took our breath….

If you read yesterdays post, I was a Canford man.  I maintain given the evidence available, I feel it was the right choice for me.  Yet, Frankel not only won, he destroyed them.  We witnessed racing history.

Is that a strong statement, of course not, it is under-statement.  Frankel is the horse of my generation, surpassing in my view the achievements of Sea the Stars.

What did he achieve?  Canford Cliffs ran his race.  Forget what Hannon suggested about being less effective on downhill courses, he gave his show.  Rio got closer to Canford because Canford was forced off the bridle earlier.  In my view Canford ran to form, without Frankel in the race, CC would have defeated Rio to the same length as his Ascot win.  So Frankel floored Canford and I mean floored.

This does not mean Canford has a diminished reputation, not at all…. Consider, Canford came into the race off the back of five Group one victories, on the bounce.  He had just defeated Goldikova (as mentioned with Rio in behind), herself a 16 Group One winner who has shown good form this season.  Canford Cliffs is 4 and at his prime, he had to give Frankel 8 pounds for his extra year of development and experience.

After watching the race, I think Frankel could give Canford 8lbs tomorrow and win.  That is how good it was.  If further evidence was needed, Rasjaman and Rio de la Plata, two of Europes best were toiling away like Class 5 handicappers, unbelieveable if I had not seen it.  If another factor was required to make this performance exceptional, he did it Secretariat Belmont style….. from the front, come and have a go if you think you are hard enough.  No pace to aim at, have you ever seen the like?

To reflect on what I got wrong is simple.  The answer is that the Major believed Frankel would never settle well enough in a small field.  Watching the race, this was evidently wrong after 400 yards.  Forget the physical development of the horse, this was the moment, Frankel became a star.  If connections have got the key to settling him, then forget mile company, there are new targets in sight.  Frankel raced beautifully from the gates opening.  gone was the lit up Guineas attitude, gone were the tactics at Ascot where he was asked for maximum effort at half way.  Instead Queally had the pleasure of playing statuesque passenger while his utter machine of a horse cruised the sting out of the best mile horses the world could throw at him.  Then, a simple shake up and a collective breath drawn, christ what acceleration.  It was to bed in two strides, goodnight.

In fact, throughout the race, Frankel settled so well, Queally had to fight to pull him up.  Stay?  On that evidence, 1m 2f and who knows is in range.  An Arc horse? Well noone has dared enter him in the market (quite right too) and connections would be foolish at this stage to speculate, his stud value needs protecting.

Khalid Abdullah has given so much to racing, could he possibly give us the gift of seeing Frankel at 4?  This is what will be on my letter to Father Christmas!

In a fortnight, Frankel will celebrate the anniversary of his first race.  A few points of note.  On debut he won by half a length in a class 4 maiden.  He was one of a pair of horses to pull clear from the rest.  That day he defeated Nathaniel, last weeks King George winner by less than a length.  He returned 7/4 and it was to be the last time he went off odds-against.

What we saw today was as good as it gets.  Often the tendency when reviewing top class sporting stars of any code, is to revert to a view that historic figures are always greatest.  This is wrong.  It is right to consider, for example, whether Tendulkar is the greatest ever batsmen.  Are Barcelona the best ever team, I think so.  Things get better, like the mens 100m record….

With Frankel, I think it is evident he is the greatest miler of all time.  Where he goes next, I do not know.  If he were my horse, he would be packing his bags for the Breeders Cup Mile.

To tomorrow…..

You will appreciate that tonights post has been given over to appreciate the stunning performance of Frankel.  Thus I have curtailed the reasoning that follows…. enjoy.

4.50 Galway Guiness Hurdle

Simplicity is wonderful.  The Real Article went down to Captain Cee Bee by a short margin, demonstrating his real ability.  In future handicaps, his mark is due to go up a stone and a half.  4/1 Thank You – Shoe in!

Silverhand and Hidden Universe would be my each way considerations.

3.45 Goodwood Lillie Langtry

Plenty that are appealing but none more so than the French raider, Shankardeh 13/2.  I am sure she is improving as Azamour fillies do.  Last time out in good group company over slightly shorter, she was staying on well and went down by a mere quarter length.  More to come and the price is good for the Major.  There will be plenth of cash for the Cecil / Queally horse, keeping our price honest.

Day Two Goodwood, Day Three Galway plus Canford v Frankel – The Majors verdict

Canford v Frankel….. Two top class milers, Canford reliable 5 G1s on the trot v Frankel the dynamite Guineas winner

More winners for the Major…. Hunters Light returned a placed horse at 12/1, Strong Suit winning at 11/4 from 4 selections.

As the week of festival racing rolls on relentlessly like the great Mississippi, the Major stretches his limbs and prepares for another days battle…..

What a day too.  The Group 1 Sussex stakes is the highlight of two superb cards.  Plenty of puzzles, hotpots, likely sorts and value outsiders.  It does feel though that Canford Cliffs versus Frankel is a real racing treat, when that rattling noise of the starters gates indicates the speculation time is done, your heart may flutter and jump, prickles may spread over your skin, your eyes widen and for a moment you feel like a child; Descartes described us as sparks always moving from the fire until death; this is one occasion where the wonderment of childhood can fill your soul and for a few glorious moments, sporting action from the rolling Sussex hills will be restorative….. remember what the Major told you, it is good to feel alive, fill your lungs and be glad, there is nothing else of substance in this life, accept it and be liberated.

The Major cannot control his gluttony so we start with the group contests at Goodwood and first, Canford and Frankel…

The Sussex Stakes

The Major has been flitting between these two world-class milers ever since the plan for Frankel was announced.  Here are my thoughts…

Frankel is unbeaten.  He is exceptional if for no other reason than his explosive and exciting method of racing.  If the tactics employed in the Guineas were brave, they were damn effective.  Most of his rivals were off the bridle at an exceptionally early stage.  In one sense I think that was an error, many riders got panicked in the Majors view.  You see, the clock for the 2,000 Guineas was not that brilliant and I think Frankel tired badly, no matter what connections say.  It was a great piece of speed and good initiative.

At Ascot, a similar early committal was made and Frankel would have lost his unbeaten tag if the race had an extra quarter furlong in it.

This leaves three questions, will connections persist with this tactic and if so, what does it mean for his chances?  If he settles well and tries to strike off a pace, what will that mean?

Before I answer those, let’s have a look at his rivals.  Rio de la Plata is a very very good animal.  It is a measure of the sheer world-class nature of this race (you are a lucky boy Glenn) that he is available at 50/1 – I would not put you off either of the outsiders if you fancy them as Rasjaman is also a quality animal – Surely they are filling the minor positions though.  That said, Rasjaman was within a length of Goldikova this season, I suspect 1m 2f will see this one at it’s best.

Canford Cliffs is the star of the Hannon stable (although Strong Suit could soon be challenging!) and beating Goldikova, as advised by the Major, was the race of his life.  Being a year older, he gets to shoulder an extra 8lbs.  Is he good enough to stop the machine that is Frankel?

The Major thinks this is going to come down to the questions I posed about Frankel.  To solve this race, I have to take a view and mine is this.

I do not think connections will try to use as much of Frankel as they did at Newmarket or Ascot.  I think they know that he is going to be better if settled and using his turn of foot in the final 400 yards only, this is my view too, if you can ride Frankel like this he would be devastating.

I think they rode Frankel more aggressively though because he has speed in bundles and a bit of their plan was to show off!  I am just unconvinced that he will settle though if they try to tomorrow.  All of his rivals are hold up types which may force him to lead, in this case he must revert to old tactics.  If they try and get him cover, he may find the pace way too slow and could well be fighting for his head early.

In summary I think Frankel is exceptional and weighted to beat Canford Cliffs.  I also think the small field will be bad for him in the way it was for Workforce.

Canford is available at 11/8 – I will back him.  Oddly, I am in Bournemouth tomorrow night, I did not realise that is where Canford Cliffs are until I was Google mapping my hotel!  The Major does not believe in signs, I do not truck with the devil.

The Vintage Stakes

the Major hinted at the embarrassment of riches in the Hannon yard when it comes to juveniles and the Vintage Stakes is a great example of this, he saddles no less than 4 of the 7 runners.

Red Duke was a tasty 14/1 winner last time out and looks joint 3/1 favourite here.  It seems that the weight might be against him now and Chandlery may well get the upper hand today (Also 3/1)

I suspect Lethal Force does not want 7f and will fade, Dark Angels progeny seem to want 6f or less.

The one that catches the eye for the Major is Rockinate, the Hannon second string.  Of course it could be anything, judging the worth of two year olds, even in the same stable is hard work and Ryan Moore might just prove that Hughes took the wrong horse out.  This Rock of Gibraltar offspring might just spring a small 5/1 surprise here.

The Galway Chase

What glorious racing, by the time we have digested Frankel versus Canford, Grade A chase action, the best of Galway races.

Bahrain Storm looks exceptionally well handicapped, participation looked unlikely at one stage but enough defectors mean that he takes his place.  Although he has recently been racing over shorter distances, he has form over just short of three miles and so 7/1 looks fair enough as he is off bottom weight.

Qulinton is a very interesting horse.  Winning any which way you like in the Market Rasen Plate, he has been raised more than a stone but who knows if that is enough to halt progress.  He is running into a much greater class of horse but clearly an improver.  Considered.

Rebel de Marquis, the Paul Nicholls raider could go very well.  I think he will enjoy the genuine good ground.

It is another that will enjoy conditions that the Major opts for, Dr Whizz, 12/1.  This one has had a bit of bad luck but has started to show some decent form of late.  Stepping up considerably in distance, the stable, I am sure, would not be trying this in the Galway Plate without a view that he might take to it.  Slippers is amongst the Majors preferred jump jocks, have a slice and thank me later.

Good luck to you, whether you follow the Majors three suggestions or not.  I wish you all well, there is too little time for ill feeling.  Roll those dice.

Day Two Galway, Day One Goodwood Shabooooom

Goodwood Racecourse Stand, West Sussex, England
Goodwood is Open for Business

The opening day of Galway and the Major could not find a winner from the two fancied selections in the feature race.

Tomorrow Goodwood opens and we are into day two of Galway.  The Major has a couple of races in which I think there is a value selection.

Before we get on to that I want to repeat a view I have of racing on terrestrial TV.  Channel 4 = legends.  BBC = bit part, part-time and irritating.

Here is my case… OK John McC is a bit of a clown but he is a racing man with an opinion – I might not choose to dine with him but I am interested in his views on the whip and he is racing every week.  That is my main point.  Channel 4 are there every week.  Rain or shine, Group 1s or the lowly fare served up the Saturday before some major festivals.  They run a morning show as well as the main event.  In my view they deserve the lot.

The BBC have been cutting back on racing consistently.  Balding I do not mind.  Rishi, I think is weak.  Most of the rest are simply not great presenters.  As they only drift in and out of the big race days they have lost their common racing touch.  It is all show and nonsense.  Too many hats not enough serious racing.  They choose to keep the Welsh National on the schedule but the Arc this year is behind the red button.  Does that not say it all.

I would like to see channel 4 get all of the racing on terrestrial, they would do a better job and they deserve it.  Lecture over.

Goodwood Day One Tips…..

OK.  I am going for the Gordon Stakes as an opener.

There is a hot favourite in the Stoute trained Fiorente.  The warm way in which this one is being treated in the market reflects the manner in which Nathaniel won the King George.  Fiorente was a decent second to Nathaniel last time out, that form is serious.  Now Nathaniel is a first-rate Group 1 performer, down in Group 3 company, Fiorente only need show the same level of form to be well involved.  Is there anything that could?

Well the one that I think could possibly do it and the each way selection is 12/1 Hunters Light.  The listed race at Hamilton it narrowly won was pretty impressive and with Saeed Bin Suroor in good form, this three year old may just have improvement to come.

If this were a handicap, Fiorente would be in receipt of 9lbs which makes you think that Sir Michael Stoute must know he has a good horse to go straight into Group company, there are valuable handicaps he could target with Fiorente who would be on an absolute featherweight.  In a way that is a sign of great confidence but there is plenty of that baked into a price of 11/10 already.  No it is the less fashionable Hunters Light for the Major.

Now for the Group 2 Lennox Stakes….

This is a cracker, no doubt.  Delegator who last was seen racing over 6f which was an interesting move and one the Major thought would suit… it did not work out!  Now tried back over 7f, is it a class horse but at 5, we know plenty about it – one for a place… the 3l 5th to Dream Ahead was good.

Libranno is one of those horses that will never carry the Majors money.  Good but now insanely difficult to place in my view.  Not quite group class, has run way to well to find handicap company easy…. not one for me.

The selection is Strong Suit.  This is a horse that Hannon has always fancied strongly.  A little bit like Monsieur Chevalier, it has flattered to deceive at times or perhaps, more accurately, not quite fulfilled potential.  It has a strong tendency to edge left under pressure but I do think it is an improver and the Chantilly Group 1 it contested was strong, although third, it was within a half length.  In receipt of 10lbs from Delegator, it is my 11/4 selection.

Then the Molecomb….

This Group 3 is a real puzzle, there are no obvious answers at all.  Hannons Crown Dependency and O’Briens Boris Grigoriev are the two that the Major fancies the most.

While the latter has not excelled in every race, Ryan Moores booking and the fact that O’Brien has targeted this race for his juvenile is enough to suggest that there could be more to come.

Crown Dependency is more of a sensible suggestion.  A good third in decent company last time, this good looking bay Acclamation colt would have learned a lot.  Hmmm

Charles the Great is also on the shortlist after a great listed win…. also gets the assistance of Jimmy Fortune, one of the Majors favourites.

Hard to call, on  balance a win stake is suggested on Crown Dependency who, in an embarrassment of riches in the two year old stables of the Hannon yard, is the sole representative here….

Although I have not covered the 4.20, 9/4 is still available tonight about Warcrown.  This debut runner for Fahey has the dogs barking – the Major warned you before the midnight hour… it is apparently the yard pigeon catcher

To Galway…

Galway Festival Day Two

In the opener, I do not fancy any of the first few in the market.

Sublime Talent has achieved little so far although lightly exposed over hurdles.  Never dismiss a Weld horse at Galway but 7/2 has way too much trainer-factor baked in…

Princeton Plain was knocked over  by Sulwaan last time out – With that one doing little to frank the form yesterday, I am unconvinced.

The one the Major opts for is First in the Queue – This is a Henderson raider who gets the benefit of one of the finest, Barry Geraghty..

8/1 reflects the fact that improvement is needed but I am sure that Nicky has not made the trip for the air.  Although the experience is mixed, it has a lot of it.  Some of it is quite good, under this pilot I back it to get me a result.