Good evening from the Major who writes from a pleasant warm Worcestershire where the most beautiful of evenings departs gracefully and the clear shimmering celestial plafond is revealed.
For some, such a pristine summers evening is the pinnacle of the environmental condition and I can see the merit. Earlier tonight, I was sat as an uninvited guest at my company’s Finance team rounders barbecue. The sun was setting, turning the vista coral and warming soft skinned arms, the air gentle, the birdsong in perfect proportion to the mood. Yes, it is the finest that the season can offer.
Yet the Major looks to winter for the true splendour of nature. For a start, I prefer the season in general. Being born of Northern skin, summer’s blessings are always tempered by my inclination to burn and a strong dislike of insects.
Winter bears the gifts of darker nights in which I sleep contented. Ah, to awaken on a bitterly frosty morning and to be about the Worcestershire countryside, drawing sobering cold air to pain the lungs. The frost crackling on brittle looking branches, all the land a wonder, pristine whiteness, the air thickening in front of your face with your own breath…. Yes, it is better, I know, I was there.
Thinking of sleep, this week, there was news that Karl Burke has his trainers licence back. It reminded me suddenly of an unfortunate dream I endured that Frankel had been billeted, not into the intricate and delicate hands of the late Cecil but instead into the Burke yard.
The dream revolved around me backing Frankel for a seller at Southwell and I was the only person there who knew his true ability and of course, I could not have explained to others what I knew. It turned out that it was not to be Frankel’s day and he toiled across the sand stamping his stride down hard as a course specialist took the race. I was angry at the insulting performance, at the wasted magnificence but being powerless, what could I do?
That morning, I woke with a sadness. Now do not get me wholly wrong, I do like a touch of skullduggery in racing as well as life, it adds flavour. There is a fine line which I often cannot draw myself between a plot horse laid out for a race and darker practices afoot. As for Burke and where the Major stands on his licence, I have my view, I shall let you draw your own.
It is such a beautiful night. The stars above, seemingly everlasting, immeasurable, so distant. For many, considering such vastness seems overwhelming, the fear, a realisation of mortality, of insignificance. For the Major, while the realisation is undeniably true, the feeling invoked is one of liberation. For understanding the simplicity of your existence, well… you have a duty my friend, a duty to yourself, you are the lucky one.
So Let us enjoy ourselves and be good to others. Care little for the pointlessness which others may fixate on. Savour in the moment of the small detail, we float by the once my friends, just the once.
To the sports and fair warning. The Major did not manage a post for Thursday but it is to your own benefit. My race reading for Thursday radiated defeat. Let us hope it is done with.
Newmarket Friday Tips
In the opener, I am opting for Nardin who is generally priced at 6/1. Stepping up a furlong will probably draw more advantage and watching her last race (at Newmarket) she did well coming late to get up for second. It is a little off-putting that Ed Dunlop has only managed 4 places from his 20 runners at HQ in the last few years but I shall overlook this. Indignant is a viable alternative to my selection, Hannon had two winners yesterday and I thought his string looked in reasonable order.
In the 2.10, much of the focus is on Rizeena and rightly so. She looked a very good winner at Ascot, though Fig Roll was not far behind and may improve again now with an extra 200 yards to exact the damage. Bye Bye Birdie has a question mark after being well and truly beaten at Ascot by Rizeena, before turning in a much better performance on home soil… interesting. On balance, I think Fig Roll is a generous 15/2 with Betvictor and she goes on the slip. Hannon has won this race a couple of times in the last ten years, most recently with Memory, a Highclere horse that I had a soft spot for but was never the same afterwards.
The Falmouth sees just three oppose Sky Lantern and my first reaction to the card was of surprise. I had to exclaim to the heavens that this was a gift from God as I could not understand why Sky Lantern was only just shading odds on at 10/11. Giofra is the most interesting opponent but one that strikes me will be ill at ease with the small field and firm conditions. It was while considering this contender that the style of Sky Lanterns wins started to gnaw at me. She has been a hold up horse and I wonder how tactically versatile she is. The same is not true of Elusive Kate at 5/2 – Make no mistake about it, my tip is hard as nails and can have them stacked up to accelerate off a slow pace… In my head, it is mapped out for victory already!
The 3.15 handicap is 8/1 the field which tells you what you need to know. The Major is keeping stakes low on Barracuda Boy at 14/1 with Stan James – Plenty of time to improve yet and last time was not his likely best, in a yard that does well in this sort of race too.
Regulars who know me well understand that I like my two year olds with a run in them. That leaves me Collaboration, Expert, Right of Appeal, Edge and True Story to concentrate on in the maiden at 3.50. True Story is an obvious contender but was not first choice for the yard on debut and either surprised or is simply not a top player for them. Expert ran well at Bath which is a tough course to make a debut on, the step up is a bonus and I like Sean Levey in the saddle. He looks the Hannon second string though and Edge is a preferable sort and almost got the nod.
Instead the Major tips Right of Appeal at a likely 16/1 or bigger. Johnstone had a fine first day of the festival and this horse has some strong credentials. He has seen a racecourse, his form is nothing to shout about but his trainer would not have him in this without a chance. I like his breeding and will trust that, being out of Dubawi, he will relish the rattling ground. All in a decent long shot.
The second maiden looks a better race and only the booking of Fallon for the favourite, Vermont, puts me off. I just do not think Fallon is the jockey he once was and I much prefer to stick with Mark Johnstone and a maiden double if de Sousa can bring Lions Park home at a likely 7/2.
Famous day for Johnstone? Could well be if I am right because I really fancy Henry the Aviator in the last. I was absolutely stunned in the horses defeat last time out and now having been freshened up with a small break, am ready to believe that normal service will be resumed – 7/2, have a significant slice and thank me later.