Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Saturday Sermon, from foreign shores – Chester, Sandown and Newton Abbott

Good evening from the Major who writes from Northern France where a deeply comforting set of tones to the dying night sky draw my foreign trip to a fine conclusion.

It has been a fine foray into Europes good weather, fine cuisine and pleasing inhabitants and I shall not linger on the detail for which you have little interest.  Of Switzerland I wrote last week, this week I visited Paris for the second time this year.  On my last visit I was running a marathon, this time, with family, we saw the more traditional tourist spots.

After the clean well-disciplined Swiss towns, each set against their thunderous mountain ranges, France has struggled to reassert to it’s former pinnacle in the list of places I enjoy passing time.  Paris is a town full of mischief, rats, smoke, rogues, history and glorious French women, who I regard with the greatest respect.  Cities like this seem to take on a persona all of their own.  Paris is sulky but talented and damned dangerous too.

This Parisian visit may well have been on the well trodden visitors paths but still some moments of clarity were evident.  None more so than being stood with my back to a red and pink stained sky, marvelling at Notre Dame and wondering if, 850 years ago, they calculated the beautiful tone of pink elicited in such conditions on that façade.  For it seems calculated.

Overall I prefer the cleanliness of Switzerland but Paris still has it, particularly if you have mischief in mind.

My travelling adventures meant less interest in UK racing and threatened the annual rhythm of the racing schedule that comforts me in the same way others look to the signs of the seasons changing.  My downtime spanned across the York festival, of which, I caught snatches of information, dripped to me where the occasional ‘wi-fi’ signs permitted a quick drawing back of the curtain.

All other day to day racing, I have been entirely absent from and my hunger has grown.  There have been other things that have remained unchecked too, news sources I frequent, small but seemingly important daily rituals that have been challenged as their absence has determined no noticeable difference to me.  Being out of context, it does make you question how you fill your time.

No greater example can I give of this that in watching my two sons at play.  They have had occasion while away to enjoy a series of standard holiday fare, visiting famous attractions, climbing mountains, much fun has been had.  Yet, the true gleam of excitement in their eye came when set free on bikes.  At age 5 and 6, freedom is a rare commodity, each action you take is observed and calculations and adjustments made on your behalf.  Ah, to be free of that, to ride and make choices over where you go… well.  Freedom has an incalculable value, it is what drives our desires for wealth as it is so often the key to choice.  Savour your own freedoms my friends and exploit them by making the wisest of choices.  Most of all, keep rolling those dice.

Yes, this down time has been refreshing and last weeks blog benefited from such renewed spirits.  We scored many winners amongst the racing tips, that sweet taste of success on our lips carries us into this weeks action.

Once again, charge that lance and prepare for action at close quarters, we shall meet the enemy one to one with 10 rounds per man and bayonets fixed if necessary.

To the sports.

Chester Tips

I am interested in a couple of horses at Chester, starting with one in the opener.

Free Zone would have been my selection but his wide draw has done the fella no help.  Some might cry that this race was won last year from a wide draw but it is far more likely to see a low drawn horse win.

For those unfamiliar with Chester and the significance of draw, it is a tight left handed track with a short run in.  This means that getting to the front early is essential and the low draws are against the rail.

Now some would argue that draw is of secondary importance to early speed and I have some sympathy with this argument.  Essentially as long as you are fast from the stalls you can achieve good position without being drawn there. This is true but patently you burn more energy doing so than a horse who breaks adequately from a low draw.  That said, it is a good reason to not back a slow starter drawn well.

Regardless of all of this, I fancy Captain Dunne at 16/2 to provide an upset.  If you look at the form, you might struggle to find good reason but the old warrior is still there at 8 and I believe there to be some talent still.  It has been three years since he was in the winners enclosure but this is not that strong a race and there have been runs from this campaigner of credit this year.  Plus, Graham Gibbons is pretty much the best jockey in the race and since Captain Dunne has shown he handles a tight track and accompanied by a capable pilot, let us hope he has a sudden recollection of his former self.

I am also going to back Es Que Love in the second at Chester.  There are few horses I bet that have run as many times as the Mark Johnstone inmate this year and at age 3, it is testament to the horses sturdiness that he is bearing that racing well.  You cannot make a strong argument for him being particularly well handicapped as we have surely by now seen what there is to be seen, yet I do feel that Chester is a track that will suit.  Plus, what other trainer on the planet is as good as coaxing a bit more out of a horse than Johnstone? I have always felt that they think Es Que Love is an under achiever and let us hope that at 7/1, today is the day.

Newton Abbott Tip

There is a good listed chase at Newton Abbott and many will be on Shoegazer who is bidding to follow up a win last year.  I am less concerned by the going (was soft last year after some terrible summer weather) as he has won on good to firm but the near stone increase he shoulders may stop him.

There are plenty of front runners on show so a hold up sort might prevail if they try and cut each others necks at the front.  Regardless of tactics, I am opting for Kians Delight at 5/1 who is showing greater form as a novice chaser than a hurdler.  Backing such youngsters (5) at such odds requires what the purist gamblers refer to as balls of steel.

Sandown Tips

The Group action of the day is from Sandown and the Major is going to be brief.

Firstly, all the talk of the racing world is whether Kingman deserves his 5/1 quotes for next years Guineas.  I would balance the two sides of the debate and conclude that he does not warrant it, quite yet.  He has been, arguably, the most impressive juvenile we have seen with a blistering display at Newmarket, yet a nagging doubt.  Firstly, the obvious, we are judging him on a single run, this is wrong.  His hype is big too, I have my doubt on that foundation too as I fear that folk are reading Kingman on the card and thinking Frankel in the colours.

To cut to the chase, I see enough talent in Music Theory to have faith in case the banker fails.  This Acclamation colt is happy to make it, has more experience and was not extended to put away lesser rivals with consummate ease last time out.  He would have a perfect three from three record if not breaking severely left  when green on debut.  His RPR is as good as Kingmans and 5/1 versus 2/5 makes my selection easier.

In the fillies Group race at 3.15, I am siding with Sir Michael Stoutes, Integral at 6/4.  This is exactly the sort of horse that Stoute excels with and she looked like she was going to be involved in the Nassau at Goodwood but found a wall of equine flesh stopping her momentum at the crucial stage.  She was not knocked about and I would have a large bet here.  I am always a bit wary of ‘unlucky’ sorts, Mars springs to mind but feel she will shed that tag in this contest.

In the football….

I fancy three teams.  Firstly, Sunderland have played adequately well and that might be all they need to get a win at Palace so 2/1 is good enough.  Wigan and Sheffield United I had selected as unfashionable teams to outperform expectation this year… both have started badly but I am staying with them for now.  The former have Forest and the latter the MK Dons, both Wigan and United are 13/10.

May your dinner be excellent and in fine company.  Courage and roll those dice.

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The Saturday Sermon (despatched from foreign lands) The Ebor, York, Goodwood, The Curragh, Premier League

Good morning from the Major who writes from a glorious landscape of looming rocky outcrops whose towering edges are burned crimson with the rising sun and whose flanks are dressed with heavy deep green foliage.  Frankly I have little idea of the Worcestershire weather, for I am in Gods chosen country, Switzerland, the Bernese Alps to be more precise and it has been damn glorious here for the last 5 days.

While I shall try to be brief, for travellers tales bore me like no other and I imagine you the same, I feel I must file my report for your examination.  The place is magnificent.  I am writing from the Valais, a spectacular corner of the world where rocky monstrosities rise suddenly and in gangs to intimidate the senses and leave you aghast at the damn splendour of it all.  There are the snow-capped peaks, mountain forests, gulleys running fast with thundering torrid streams, neat disciplined vineyards clinging to the steep lower slopes and as much good air as your lungs can take.

For some scale, from my balcony I can take in 6 good peaks and each is in excess of 3,200 metres, perfectly ordinary for an Alpine mountain.  Snowdon just breaks 1,000m, a mere trifle.  What the Alpine folk must make of our national parks I do not know, although I defy any of them to not find our finest terrain, the lake district as at least of merit, mixing as it will such a varied palette of greens and blues.  Committed atheist as I am, my faith in science is challenged by the glory of such creation, for creation is what it can feel like because surely some planning was required in such masterpieces.

There are other compensations to my locale, the scenery is matched by the people.  Of Switzerland’s good denizens, I shall say this.  I have found them to be modest, decent and impeccably well-mannered.  Cars stop at crossings, truly a sign of a great civilisation.  The food too is excellent, I breakfast on cured meats and eggs, leave lunch for the wimps and dine on any number of the Italian or French dishes.

Yet more, the attractions run to more than polite society and good cuisine, you shall think me indelicate to raise it but I care not.  There is a certain style of Swiss woman, youthful with short dark hair, dark eyes, slender of figure and tall, smooth skinned and confident in her every move, sporting and fun.  You know me, I fall in love with each and every new one.

Oh, I could imagine a life here if it were not for a few major flaws.  Firstly, the sport, there is lots of it but I would miss too much the comforting seasonal rhythm of our racing schedule to which I am fatefully well tuned.  Mainly though, it is the costs.  The bills will bankrupt me long before I had finished the fun.

Anyway, while I have been away, York has been ploughing on regardless.  Before now, I have only seen the results and read a few brief reports, as well as catching the drift of proceedings on twitter.  So, I may be a little out of touch.

Yet, I arrive for this weeks battle, freshened and relaxed, I plan on a few short and sharp incursions into the enemies positions.  No full frontal assault, no sweeping flanking manoeuvre, rather we shall skirmish in open formation, raiding the odd baggage train here, stealing the odd gun there.  To the sports.

Saturday York Tips

I used to think that York was a pretty fair course with its wide open straight opening some distance from the finish.  Whether there is much camber I do not know, whether the crowds that are attracted to the Knavesmire’s obvious charms intimidate the horses, I do not know but without obvious reason, it seems to me that it has become a specialist track and I often seek course form when appraising runners.

The York going could be the most significant factor though and this is the angle I attack with.  Early in the week, runners were being withdrawn from the Ebor with the likely fast conditions cited.  Now, after a sudden storm and further rain, we need a mudlark and since several are non runner already, you would think it gives us a chance to solve the puzzle.

Ebor day is a terrific bit of fun, the race can be a dark swirling mass of possibilities, the last 8 runnings have returned three 25/1 shots and a stunning 100/1 shocker from Mudawin in 2006.  In honesty, it is rarely a race that lasts in the memory, if I were to recall to you the recent winners of Willing Foe or Sessenta, it is unlikely that your heart springs youthfully at the recollection.  The latter was a winner for Willie Mullins in 2009 and in the subsequent year, Dirar was a winner for me, keeping the trophy Irish bound.

Recent years have seen a dominance of older horses winning as a result of the changing weight allowances for three year olds.  We shall stick to that rule and seek an older horse who likes to get a toe in.  Yet, before we arrive at the Ebor, there are other delights for us to review.

The listed City of York Stakes get the card off at 2.05 and Christoforo Colombo takes is favourite on his second start this season after finishing 5th in the 2,000 Guineas.  The Guineas form stacks up, as it should being a G! classic, and this is a significant drop in class back in listed company, he also placed n soft to heavy as a juvenile and his sire had no problem with softer conditions.  Yet, it concerns me that this is a race that O’Brien has never won and the break given to Christoforo Colombo may indicate that he has not been entirely straightforward.  Given the price, if you disagree and think the drop from the Guineas to this is the key, then I would highlight the fact that Glory Awaits finished ahead of him in that race too.

The Major is going to tip up Sirius Prospect who under normal conditions I think would not be good enough for this.  Yet he has won twice at York (important) and been placed in every run on soft ground (more important) and his trainer has an exemplary record from his select few runners at York.

The Melrose, 2.40pm, looks a tough race to call with none of the runners holding any York experience bar Dashing Star and Hawk Hill (both unplaced) but it will take some winning in these conditions.

Mister Impatience (won twice on soft) is the sort of Johnstone runner that you have to fear in this field – Is there a better trainer for peaking a handicap runner, couple that with the legendary toughness of his horses and he is a threat.  Argent Knight is a proven stayer but was withdrawn from soft ground earlier this year and I assume the same fate lies in store.  Hawk Hill probably has the measure of Ambleside on these terms.  The latter is a horse I love, he looks a talented sort that makes his own mind up as to when he puts his effort in! Hawk Hill is one I do like and is exactly the sort of quiet horse that you get more favourable prices about.

I am also fearful that Dark Crusader is not merely company in the horsebox for Ted Veale who runs in the Ebor (more of that later).  The pointer though falls favourably in the direction of Havana Cooler who represents the Cumani yard, who last won the Melrose six times back with Speed Gifted.  The yard is in tremendous nick and he looks a ready stayer, this race should suit his style of being held up, switched off and coming late… we shall see.

The Gimcrack, 3.15pm, has only attracted seven runners, yet it is a wide open 4/1 field.  Astaire has the advantage of a Callan ride, a significant benefit in my opinion, yet a 4 runner conditions event at HQ is a departure from this company.  Saayerr was a good winner of the Richmond but might find this harder and I am always wary of juveniles who are burdened with extra weight through penalty.

I find it easy to be attracted to the attributes of Parbold, a general 4/1 shot.  He has won on soft and while some of his Group form has made him look a little flat-footed, with this distance and the conditions, I think he might be just the type for the job.

The Ebor, 3.50pm has seen plenty of non runners since the conditions turned.  Tiger Cliff and Opinion are heading the market and receiving the morning support.  Their compliments are that they are both progressive as an Ebor winner is likely to be.

Yet, the Major is smelling the mood in the camp and opting for Ted Veale at 9/1 with Stan James.  To win a poor Bellewstown race and then step up to the Ebor is an unlikely achievement but exactly the sort of thing that Tony Martin would pull off.  Ted Veale will love the conditions, will stay for ever and having got in from a penalty in the Irish race, looks well handicapped to do the business.  Fran Berry has made the effort to come over and I am all aboard.

The Roses Stakes, 4.25pm is the last interest I have in York and there are a number of very interesting youngsters.  Hot Streak won on debut and beat winners too but that was on fast ground and I am not sure the Ilfraaj colt will excel in this ground.  Outer Space looked a good prospect when turning over the Haggas odds on shot Jacobs Pillow but Hannon has not won this race and you would suspect he has much better in the camp.

Instead, the Major focuses on the much more highly used runner, Excel’s Beauty.  For a start, we are blessed with Callan, of whom I have extolled enough virtue.  The horse though has much merit, he was runner-up in a Newbury listed event having looked the winner only to idle slightly in front.  The horse that beat him (Wind Fire) has since placed in the Lowther and my selection has also strong form from beating Lilbourne Lass.  Experience can tell.

Goodwood – Celebration Mile

A cracking contest in order on the downs as Afsare, Premier Loco, Thistle Bird and Trade Storm come together to contest this Group 2 race.

Premier Loco won the race a year ago but it was not a clean running and there is doubt over that form.  Thistle Bird was amongst the defeated foe in that race but has improved significantly since and almost won a Group 1 last time out but could not match the turn of foot that Winsili produced (had first run).

Educate has his fans, myself included but surely is a handicapper at best.

All of them could be put away by the Major’s fancy, favourite Afsare at 9/4.  The Cumani runner was pretty dominant in G3 company last time out at Salisbury and I think the main risk is that the gelded son of Dubawi does not handle the Goodwood camber (never raced here before).

I also will be backing Mount Athos at Goodwood who is a horse of considerable talent.

The Curragh

There is a most pleasing card to be had at the Curragh and I would advise a bet on Dutch Masterpiece in the 3.10pm.  Moore has made the effort to go overseas and I suspect he was after the softer ground.  Had he known, he may have stayed home.  Yet, this boy has a live chance, he is hugely progressive and has O’Brien in the saddle.

It is the 4.20pm though that I want to tune in to, if I can find a way from these shores.  In it, War Command, returns swiftly to the action after disappointing me so bitterly in the Phoenix.  There was not an obvious reason for the flop and the Coventry form is now looking more suspect but I cannot deny the evidence that my eyes tell me from that race… This might be my cliff horse but I am all in even at evens.

To the football.

I fear for my West Brom team this year as we are significantly weakened.  8/13 that Everton beat us is a gift.  Villa should not be 7/2 to beat Liverpool either.  I also think that 4/5 Stoke to beat Palace is a bet.  I think Wigan have bought well and 5/6 that they win at home to Middlesborough is a bet and despite their poor start, I still feel Sheffield United are a team who could do well this year in League One – They are 2/1 to beat Bradford away and I would want to be involved.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Sheff Utd, Afsare, Parbold and Havana Cooler.

May your dinner be delectable and in the finest of company.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ripon, Perth, Tramore, Newbury, HQ, Chester, Arlington… We need more racing

Good evening from the Major who writes to you from the bed, the darkness is complete outside, the Major lies alone, it is late and still – My ears ring with the tinny silence.

What a disaster last Saturday was.  I knew that I was chancing my arm with a full run down of the Shergar Cup but all the same, I put up no-show for you.  This week, we shall be more selective, we are presented with a great koldtbord of racing and variety gives us plentiful angles of attack.  Opportunities to approach the enemy entrenchments under the cover of darkness and deploy our arsenal before the devious swine has time to respond.  Let us select well.

Keep a weather eye, there are some heavy downpours predicted, coming in as most of our weather will from the Atlantic.  Tramore and Chester will get the most of it.

Newbury hosts the best racing of the day and I am very much looking forward to Soft Falling Rain testing the metal against a British mob.  He has done everything asked of him internationally but his form is open to question, even if the string of 1s does catch the eye, more of that to come.

I have no time to review the Tramore festival where I expect the ground to turn heavy and will seek some early value accordingly.  It is my wish one day to tour Irish racecourses in a drunken fortnight of frivolity.  The mischief I could make given the chance.  I shall be at Limerick at Christmas and intend to do it justice, I would like to see Punchestown too for their Christmas card but shall be in Dublin City instead, family commitments.

While there, I shall go with purpose to the Merrion Hotel, a fine five star establishment which looks worthy of a visit for the hospitality alone.  You cannot glean from their glossy website though the true purpose of the Major’s visit, no, they do not advertise it, probably as it might not be such a popular draw locally.

The Merrion is argued as the likely birthplace of Arthur Wellesley.  As a young buck, he joined the British Army and was soon enrolled as an aide to Lord Buckingham who ruled in Ireland at the time, that suggests a high background as these things were important at the time, he was high minded enough to run successfully for parliament too.  Pleasingly to me, he liked a gamble.

Arthur served as a light dragoon for a short while as subaltern but did not stick around to enjoy the drubbing they gave the French in Egypt at the turn of the nineteenth century.  No, greater things were destined for Arthur – He was to buy more senior colours and act as Colonel of the 33rd seeing action in the low country in 1793, commanding with such deft touch that he soon rose to Brigadier and was largely credited with the drilling of infantry to fire their muskets in steady organised rounds against advancing enemy, which it is easy for me to visualise in your mind by simply reminding you of the film Zulu.

Back in England, Arthur stood in parliament again but you cannot cage such a soul and soon he was embarking on adventure in the East and India bound with the 33rd who were to see vigorous action around modern-day Bangalore as the British suppressed the last of the local resistance to rule from the Mysore princes.  His action and leadership were highly regarded, becoming known for valuing preparation above all things.  His promotion to Major General followed but was a heavy prize as it came with immediate action against the Marathas in Peshawar.

This was a short and nasty piece of action and Arthur led his men against a far more numerous force, he lost two horses and was injured in the action in which many thousands of Marathas were killed in a decisive but bloody victory.  An officer of his company was quoted as saying that our Arthur was as calm and collected as anyone could be.

I do not have the time to recollect his entire actions of the following years but from 1810, he saw more action in the Peninsular Wars than most of us would see in several lifetimes over.  By 1813 he was building to his finest hour, warming up with some skirmishes against Spanish and French forces in Spain, keeping the lads match fit.

Fighting the French in Spain, his military brilliance defeated Joseph Bonaparte, elder brother of the more famous.  Arthur was promoted to Field Marshal, you know you have secured a place in history when Beethoven pens a ditty in your honour.  It was also this action which secured further title for Arthur, in his mid-40’s he was bestowed with the title which we commonly refer to this man, one of our finest Britons, the Duke of Wellington.

Two years later, 1815, present day Belgium and one of the most famous victories of our bloodthirsty history as the Iron Duke served it up to the French at Waterloo, a short distance from Brussels and served the same to Bonaparte junior.

The battle was joined badly and Napoleon was able to make an early ransacking of the Prussian (allied) force who bought a force of 70,000 well-drilled Frenchmen to the field.  The Duke had a similar sized force of which a third were British and of which a third, battle hardened veterans of the Peninsular Wars.  These men had served with the Duke previously and placed great faith in his ability to see it through.  Napoleon felt he had the upper hand and even remarked at breakfast on the day of the great battle of Waterloo that the Duke was a poor General and that taking victory was as easy as eating his breakfast.  Oh you poor man Napoleon, run, run you fool, for he will surely do as he has said.

Of the 140,000 on the field, 40,000 would not survive the day at a rate of 4 to 6 in favour of the Dukes allied force.  The French would be forced into a disorganised retreat and Napoleon, dominant master of Europe in two careers would be finished, for good, exiled to St Helena for the rest of his days.  We still keep some of the guns we captured at Waterloo in the heart of London at the Tower.  The Duke went on to serve as Prime Minister and granted equal status to Catholics.  Upon death at 83, he was granted a full state funeral, no quibble or complaint.

My favourite snippet of the Dukes life was an account of a publisher who threatened him with blackmail,seeking payment to prevent distributing an account of a rather racy affair the Duke had engaged in.  Wellington’s response, publish and be damned.

Well in the shadow of such great men, we deign to bring battle to our enemy.  Saddle up young man and remember, preparation is the key.  Be sharp.  To the sport.

Saturday Chester Tip

I always fancy my chances at Chester.  Draw, jockey and course aptitude are what we seek there – Low, good and frequent are what we look for! The tight little turns of the Roodee mean that a rail draw is important, a jockey that knows to ask for full effort before the bend has finished (short run in) and a horse that does not mind the sharp contours.  Throw in a penchant for softer conditions and I fancy we have a set of criteria that will narrow most of these fields nicely… Shabash.

I like two of the runners in the 2.35, the favourite 11/10 shot Bushranger and 6/1 shot Weisse Socken.  The latter has course form which is vital and I would be on but coming out of draw 6 and being a hold up sort, I would fear that the race set up is not right.  Thus I suggest a hearty slice on the favourite who is just the right side of evens and comes from a yard with a present 30% strike rate.

Ripon – Great St Wilfred Tip

The Great St Wilfred is the main event and it could be a bookmakers party with it difficult to thin the field down too easily.  I am only having a very light investment and first of interest is Louis the Pious who represents the yard of O’Meara who is seeking a hat trick of wins in the race, some feat.

Dangers litter the field and Zacynthus stands out as a potential handicap blot on first run for Kevin Ryan who notably has come from Luca Cumani and having been campaigned previously at 7f is now dropped back to 6f, suspicious.

They go for the hood on Hoof It who could outclass this lot if remembering a little of his old self, remember this one looked a Group 1 sprinter waiting to happen when winning the Stewards Cup two years ago and although he has yet to rekindle that enthusiasm for racing and despite that he may fast becoming a cliff horse for the Major – I am willing to go in again at 12/1.

Newmarket Tips

From a Stewards Cup winner to a Stewards Cup respected 5th… The 32red class 2 handicap at 2.55 has two horses I am interested in.  Richard Hannon seemed pretty relaxed about the performance of Ninjago when finishing 5th, this seems fairer company and at 5/1 I would not put you off.  Yet my preferred option is to back the Neil Callan ridden Hasopop at 10/1.  Last time, the selection was slow away and then met trouble early on, he still made good progress to finish within three lengths of Body and Soul and that race was of similar ilk to this, 10/1 does not give his chance justice and regular readers know the value I draw with Mr Callan in the saddle.

Arlington Million

ATR are showing the Arlington Million which is excellent as we have an excellent chance of winning it with a European horse, we have some good contenders and Europe carry a good record in the race.  Quarter to midnight is the allotted time, I am sure I will see you there.

I will have an interest in The Apache currently freely available at 9/1 and a horse I think has an excellent chance.  OK, Grandeur has given my selection a bit of a beating at York last time but it was not that far and the real appeal is in the record of Mike de Kock in this North American forays.  He has had 19 runners at Arlington and won with a rather impressive 9, he knows how to get one ready.  I think it is perfectly reasonable to assume my horse was more in need of the run when finishing behind Grandeur and I am hopeful.

Newbury Tips

No rhyme or reason as o how I jump from course to course, just the meanderings of my mind, broken and misguided but still full of energy firing off at wild tangents like a hose broken free, dispersing it’s highly pressured contents, spraying them wildly causing disruption.  Deep and dark run my thoughts, cold and scared in the night, yet come the morning as the sun rises, those thoughts are confined back to that world and in the day, I breathe again in normality.

Does that give you faith that I know the winner of the Geoffrey Freer?  It seems it should not.

A big price winner of the Geoffrey Freer is a rare thing and so it pays to concentrate on the principles.   There are some pretty good stayers might yet emerge from this pack.  Lost in the Moment is one that stands out.  He has finished fairly close up in Dunadens Melbourne Cup and so has every right to command a mark of 110.   The issue with him can be applied to many other of the contestants here too – Is this his main assignment?  Is he fully wound up?

The rain though is persuading me to back either Biographer or Red Cadeaux.  The latter is a fine globetrotter who has won hugely valuable prizes in Hong Kong and was runner-up in the Dubai World Cup.  He is Melbourne Cup bound and so think this will be a confidence booster and do not expect him to be knocked around too much.

Biographer though looks to be a good bet – He looks more sure to be targeting this prize and at 5/1, I think we have a very live chance.

In the preceding race, the Singer Stakes, I think New Approach will continue his fine early stallion career by producing the winner from either Speedy Approach or Be Ready.  The latter is a Godolphin horse who must be incredibly well-regarded to be put in at debut at this sort of level, the money has been flooding in and he is 2/1.  Whatever you say about class though, I always value some experience with my juvenile tips and thus, I am sticking with Speedy Approach who has experience and the assistance of Mr Murtagh in the saddle… 6/1… easy!

The Hungerford Stakes is a cracking contest because of the intriguing presence of Soft Falling Rain, a horse I have been looking forward to seeing.  Having tipped up Mike de Kock for victory in the States, you might think me about to plunge heading into making it a fine day and suggesting his highly regarded colt who has won all seven starts is a great 6/4 bet. well….

I am less certain, on a line of form through his Dubai exploits, he is not far ahead of my selection, Tahwid at 9/2.  Now I accept that Soft Falling Rain probably has more potential but we have a price on our side, a small field and crucially, match fitness assured.  The de Kock runner missed his target assignments at Ascot and as much as I would like to see a star emerge, I shall stick with Johnny Murtagh at Newbury.

Perth Summer Champion Hurdle

The summer champion hurdle is a listed handicap affair.  This is simple.  Aazif will win and 4/1 from Bet365 is a godsend.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15: Aazif, The Apache, Biographer, Bushranger

May your dinner be delightful and in the finest of company.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Ascot Shergar Cup Card, Newmarket and Haydock – Telescope and Simple Good Fun

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene of early morning beauty.  The sky is a fine profusion of god’s elegant palette.  The palest blue melts gently into formless agreeable white clouds made peachy by the pale weak lemon sun yet to impress it’s forceful splendour upon us.

The Major is up early as in need of a productive day to fulfil numerous and important obligations.  The mind is whirring away with a thousand matters at hand to be seen to.  For reasons I am unable to fathom, I can feel the force of intent, my body galvanised behind the task, seeping out a chemical balance that had me up with the sun, eyes narrow and full of intent.

To be able to control one’s own mind wholly – What power.  How much are we slaves to our own emotion?  The Major is of the camp that believes the answer to be ‘as much as you want to be’ but it would be rude to get started on that puritanical tract now, you do not need such preaching at this hour on a Saturday.  Relax in this company stranger.

Instead consider the question of happiness?  Are you in control of that at least?  What makes you content?  Is it important to be happy?  I shall summarise for your delectable taste, some of the findings of the studies on happiness….

Modern wisdom seeks happiness at the heart of everything but what is it that truly makes you happy?  Science suggests a number of factors.  You would guess the first, I am at pains to write it, for fear of sounding mawkish, but it is seeking deep loving relationships.  That makes some sense but for the Major, I have always felt comfortable in my own skin and not felt the deep need of company.  I must admit to wishing I had more friends, or more time with friends but have come to accept with contentment that I alone am OK.

Some studies suggest more important that relationships is having a clear picture of life’s meaning.  Well make your own because whatever you fabricate is your invention and only has personal value.  The Major has a simple understanding of life’s meaning.  Have fun, we float by the once – This is well trodden land for the Major – Regulars know that I believe of all wastage on earth, the greatest is of the joys of today that pass you by while you were busy.

For true happiness you also need to think you are good-looking, yet it is less important that it be true.   So spend some time with beautiful people, that will perk you up, so to speak.  In this, I suggest you exert vigorous discipline.  The good lady often accuses me of only liking her best looking friends…  I, for one, do not defend the position, after all, why would that not be true?

Eat out more – The Major has been urging you to do this every Saturday for these many years.  People who eat out are happier souls and this I heartily agree with, if combined with the latter point regarding beautiful company, it is a heady mix.

The most powerful stimulant of a happy life I have yet to mention though.  It is activity.  Yes, the happiest people are the most active.  This, I can understand.  If you take pleasure from a roll of the dice, roll them more often.  Is this not in tune once more with the Major’s weekly urgings.  Do I not ask of you to roll those dice each week?

In this, I have started to understand my own meaning.  I am here as one small ingredient in your happiness recipe.  I am here on each Saturday urging you all to do those things to make you happy.  Roll the dice, eat well in fine company and seek pleasure in the small.

Today, we go to the well again in search of the mothership.  Our search thus far has not been fruitless but we know out there is the ‘life-changer’.  The Saturday where the stars align and the momentous result lifts us up.  What I fear is the aftermath of that day, for searching for it has meaning n’est pas? Losing that meaning is as equal as the spoils we gain from finding it.

Yet, we shall not tackle that fear until the mothership has landed.  So daub thy war paint once more young lancer, straighten that fine blue tunic with gold braid and raise that lance so it’s point glitters in the morning light.  We shall go forwards with great victory in mind.  Think of Hannibal who with fewer men, enveloped the deep Roman lines at Cannae, defeating their flanking cavalry and circling in behind the heavy infantry to complete the rout.

To battle friends.

The Ascot Shergar Cup Card.

For many horseracing purists,  know that the Shergar Cup is a bit of a tasteless distraction.  Competing teams of jockeys change the emphasis from horse to rider, the razzamatazz seems shallower and cheap.

Well bah humbug to you, it is good fun, simple.  While the card is compromised of a variety of handicaps and jockeys whose skills may be untested at Ascot on horses that are unfamiliar to them, we shall regardless have a pop at the key races.

The opener is a race that revolves around Nine Realms.  Last year, he won a decent looking Leicester maiden that has produced subsequent winners, some of whom are rated in the 90’s.  Clearly he was fancied on seasonal debut where he was backed before being help up and then making no impression when asked for his effort.  That was his first attempt at racing at York and I would be comfortable putting a line through that form and giving another chance to this one.  Of serious interest at 4/1.

The Major though is suggesting Roserrow as a 15/2 shot – This selection looked entirely trustworthy and progressive until his last run too where he was used up too quickly in an effort to get prominent.  You could argue he faces the same problem here today but I am backing his jockey to play his hand well and put us in the race neatly.  Andrew Balding has won this race several times before which is a plus and the jockey is a skilled and experienced as you like.  Gary Stevens is an American who came out of retirement this year to ride again, if you are worried about whether he still has it… He won the Preakness on 16/1 shock Orb  – Think ‘American’ Johnny Murtagh.

In the staying race, I want a proven stayer and non stands out more than Broxbourne whose record at 2m+ is 4 runs, 3 wins and 1 place.  If they go quick, this girl will be doing her best work in the last two furlongs.

Yet, the Major is sticking with red-hot trainer Sir Mark Prescott and his Ffos Las winner Mutual Regard who is available at 11/2 with Coral and 9/2 generally.  The appeal here is in both the trainer form and the nature of the last win.  A small field at Ffos Las might not be the most reliable of yardsticks to count on a  horses worth but there seems merit in the run.  The second Estyaaq went back to Ffos Las to simply destroy the field in his next race.  I would accept that it represented a drop in grade but it was still eye-catching and considering that Mutual Regard has a 5 from 11 strike rate, I am willing to bet, there could be more to come.  Mark Johnstone has an obvious danger in Broxbourne.

We jump from staying into sprint company for the class 2 dash.  With these sort of highly strung racehorses, it is difficult to judge which are to be at the peak of their game and for me, this is the hardest race to take a firm view in.  As such, I like the chance to 20/1 shot, first reserve Swan Song who is in the race after the defections of Prohit and Stone of Folca.  You need improvement from this girl who was behind Steps and Ahtoug but she does keep getting better.  Yet the key form to me is the 4th of Racy in the Stewards Cup.  This is not a horse that has shown superstar tendencies but that form is very solid and he has only been in the hands of Brian Ellison for this stage of his career – 7/2 is available.

The 2.40 is a middle distance contest that Mark Johnston seems to own having sent half of the field down on a northern raid.  Yet the favourite is Charlie Applebys Chesterfield – The yard is in tremendous form and there is a lot to like in the progressive sort.    There is still some 3/1 available and I would gobble it down like the glutton you are.

Mark Johnston is well represented in the following race too and if Star Lahib continues recent form, then I would expect to see it involved at the business end.  She ran very well over 12f when getting up late to win the Old Newton Cup and had some solid handicapping sorts in behind.  Dropped two furlongs next time out, it looked too sharp – She ran with credit and was running on when many had cried enough but it simply looks like 10f was too quick.  Thus today’s 12f with a stiff finish should be ideal.  I may well regret not backing Star Lahib but I am tempted away by Beaufort Twelve who is available at 13/2 in a few places and was a very capable looking younger horse that seems not to have quite fulfilled the promise.  He ran earlier in the week at Pontefract with credit and runs off the same mark, I hold a candle.

Finally the 3.50 – In the lucky last I am with Tom Dascombe and Barracuda Boy at 8/1 (Ladbrokes / Betfred).  We need to find form but when we do, the line with Body and Soul shows it is meaningful.  Have a large slice, I think this is the day.

Haydock and Newmarket.

I know purist racing fans will be analysing these cards with much more vigour than the shallow fun being had at Ascot – Well, I do not blame you.

Patrons of Haydock are rewarded today at 2.55 with the second appearance of the highly fascinating Telescope who is 4/6 to win.  Let us remember a few points about this one… He was the most expensive yearling, he was favourite for the derby, he was injured and missed the lot and then hacked up in a Leicester maiden by as far as you like.  There is no reason to think he is anything other than a class above this lot and more interesting is the 16/1 about him for the Arc.

Haydock also host a listed fillies contest and I am interested in Expressly and Zurigha.  I settle on the latter at 7/1 for the value of Levey in the saddle who I readily prefer to Barzalona.

At Newmarket, I am going to take my chances with 4/1 Conduct who runs in the 3pm contest.  She is the most lightly raced 6 year old you might find having run only three times in her injury beset career. Yet she is in good hands in the Haggas camp and was well fancied for the Ebor last year before being withdrawn.  Anything like decent fitness and I think she is a danger to all.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 is Conduct, Zurigha, Chesterfield and Mutual Regard… Load a cannon young man.

That is it from the Major – May your dinner be taken out with fine beautiful company, may the tip swell the waiters pocket, a mere slice of the days excess.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Goodwood and Galway Festival Tips #crowdsourcingmultiple

Good evening from the Major who writes from bed, tonight alone, the warm air that held Worcestershire tightly has been disrupted by newer fresher air.  The scene is turbulent as these two competing forces skirmish across the sky, flashes of battle, the roar of conflict.

The good lady has left for Birmingham for the evening, my two boys sensing my lack of true paternal control have sought some ruin, getting amok among the house.  At first it seemed that they were not to be quieted but like all things, decay came to their once seemingly perpetual energy, at last, peace fell.

Peace is a precious commodity for the Major, such is the nature of my work and home, that seldom is there time to spare and nothing to think of, all is vigour, rush and noise.

As I lie here now, listening to the wind and rain rising again in the country air, the window flung open, one can appreciate the tremendous value of peace.  It is akin to being free….. freedom is choice, I choose to listen to the fat rain, thrown down in a childish tantrum.  The good lady finds the occasional passing traffic a reason for the fenetre to always be ferme.  Yet in these moments alone, well the kiss of tyre on wet tarmac is a pleasurable a sound that I could wish for, a sound that denotes my free will.  In such small things is my happiness grounded.

Doing things that please you is a common theme in these parts.  We float on the breeze just the once.  Latch on to whatever meaningful pleasure you can my friend, you have my explicit permission.

This year, I received a piece of advice from a respected fellow gentleman gambler that struck me at first as an odd suggestion but it stuck with me as sometimes these things do and I dwelt upon it, which improved it.  He suggested that unless you are one of these snooty professional gambling sorts (if you came here for highly reliable tips by the way, you have made a grievous turn) then you can do worse than simply waging on outcomes that please you.  If there is a football game on, back the team you would like to win.  If a horse runs and you like it, or the trainer, or silks, or jockey, or name… you get the idea.  Wage on your desire.

This may seem simple but it is unusual.  Most gamblers I know select the most likely outcome they can imagine with the caveat that the outcome gives them a return that will excite them.  Fools.  Such men will happily bet a horse to win but even if they think an odds on horse is an utter certainty, they refuse to wage because the rewards of success are too slender for them.

The slightly more sophisticated approach, that more seasoned and considered sorts preach concerns value selection.  Us ‘value’ advocates consider ourselves more refined than the other ‘hoi polloi’, we certainly accept defeat more readily, seeking to learn it’s precious lessons.  Indeed ‘value seekers’ regard themselves as superior,a  wonderful feeling I can tell you.  It is not the likeliest outcome we seek but the greatest difference in our favour between likely outcome and bookmakers price.  This can have you backing all sorts of weird and wonderful outcomes, solely because you feel them ‘over-priced’.  I once was explaining this to a man who asked me for a tip.  I gave him a 20/1 horse and just before the off, he asked whether I thought it could really win.  I said it was unlikely, I thought the correct price for the horse to be 8/1, thus unlikely to win anyway.  He seemed perturbed.  The tip came last.

What about this  advice then, to back outcomes you simply desire?  Well, I have to say, it bears examination well.  Consider with me a moment.  Permit yourself to forget our continuous crusade,  our strain against the dark enemy who prices his markets in such wickedly deceptive ways and would have us twisting and writhing in our own doubts.  Imagine instead that each sporting wager was determined by your preferred outcome.  It may not be sophisticated but it would make winning somewhat more pleasurable, n’est pas?  Pleasures enhanced, simplicity, no need for calculation.

Anyway, I wish I was at Goodwood tomorrow.   Regular gentleman @iamnotluke  is reading this on a train, travelling across our green and gold land, hurtling towards those Sussex Downs – Train travel can be the most pleasing.  I hope that his train carries good coffee, I hope the Racing Post is spread on the table, that the company is excellent, that the choices made, the freedoms expressed, whether resulting in bounty or defeat are appreciated for the wonderment they bring.

We float by on this breeze just once and I pity those that never savour the moment, the anticipation building towards a great sporting event, that childish tremor inside, the moment where all dreams of tremendous successes and beautiful equine explosive displays and beautiful people, the colour, the muscle, the definition and the ambiguityLike strands flung far out, weaving their stories, it comes back together in the end, for all of us.  In that you can trust, it is one of your only certainties.

Goodwood is one of our sports finest days and know this, racing is the finest of all sports, to all in attendance today, enjoy – It is good to be alive in England on such a day.    To the sports.

Goodwood Tips

I love Goodwood – It is such a stunning course and while the racing is top class, the atmosphere mingles smartness, down to earth anti-snobbery and damn fun in fine measure.  I also think that Goodwood is a specialist track.  It has quite a camber and not every horse will act upon it.

It is Nassau day at Goodwood and Hannon and Hughes will unleash Sky Lantern, she seemed desperately unlucky not to master Elusive Kate at Newmarket.  Carried across the track by the winner, who has previous when it comes to a leftwards drift.  We will come to the Nassau.

We start in the 2.40 RAC handicap.  This is very strong handicap and it would not be surprising to see some of these sorts competing at a higher level before the autumn closes.  

Sir Michael Stoute has had a few winners in the last few years and he is represented by the Queens horse Bold Sniper.  When it comes to potential improvers, he is high on the list as he bears a St Leger entry… interesting.  He looked a little unlucky at Ascot to me as his draw did not help and considering that, he performed well.  Royal Signaller appeals at 14/1 as one that is overpriced but I am happy with the 11/2 about my selection (Stan James / 888).

The Nassau looks a cracker and it seems to revolve around Sky Lantern.  She was a powerful winner of the Guineas and was unlucky against the older Elusive Kate at HQ.  She has also won here before, which is a huge plus too.  Perhaps the big question is whether she will step up well.

The same question applies to Just the Judge who is also asked to race over a further distance for the first time, having finished in the places behind Sky Lantern twice.  Connections could have put Secret Gesture into this but opted for another crack at Sky Lantern with Just the Judge – Will she exert a Toronado style revenge?

Just Pretending is the O’Brien main threat and is seeking to improve on classic places too.  Ambivalent has won a G1 in Ireland when doing it from the front in the Pretty Polly.  I imagine that style will make her vulnerable here.

Two very interesting runners are Hot Snap and Sajjhaa.  The former was the big let down in the Guineas.  She beat Sky Lantern as a juvenile and surely the 1,000 guineas was not her running, yet it worries me that she has been off for this time.  Sajjhaa is an international sort that has won at the highest level in Dubai and run well in Hong Kong.  Suroor suggests she will be better for the run and conceding a chunk of weight here would be hard.

For all of these intriguing sorts, the Nassau normally goes to a fancied sort.  The biggest winner in the last 15 years was an incredible 11/2.  As such, I suggest Integral as a valid alternate to Sky Lantern.  My selection gave such a blistering display at Sandown in a listed contest that you had to take notice.  As Moore v Hughes hots up, I shall be on the former here.

In the Stewards Cup, I could get immersed in terrible detail but instead I am going to gamble that Hoof It has been campaigned with this in mind.  The horse is 16/1 (Bet Victor / Stan James) which could look huge if so.  He is only a pound higher than his last victory in this and although he looked bob average in the listed debut this year, it is noteworthy that he carries two G1 entries later in the season.  The race has a history of quality – Some winners of this have lumped the big weight, let us hope Hoof It can do the same.  Heavens Guest is just one of a host of dangers.

Mezel did well to win up north combatting inexperience and may be a much better prospect here.  That is my last selection at 4/1 in the 5pm, that is my last Goodwood selection but a strong one – That form was well advertised by the second, Free Code who went on to win at Thirsk next time… plenty of scope for Mezel.

Galway Tips

I am going to have a pop at Iniesta in the opener which looks both an obvious and ill-informed choice.  I care not.  Princess Aloof looks similarly well placed to win the second.

Stuccodor last lost a year ago in the Galway festival of 2012! Since then he has won 5 times and has risen 30lbs in the handicap as a result! Now you might worry that such a rise might put pay to his chances back in hotter company but there are two reasons to stay aboard.  Firstly, the horse loves the slop and not all of these will.  Secondly, his last victim has since won three times, hardly suggesting the handicapper has caught up!

Three favourites I hear you cry! Well look, I think they are the best value.

Now, something from the other shelf, the winner of the Ladbroke Hurdle.  Two appeal and I am having a slice of both.  Security Breach is only a 4 year old and has taken some backing but did get off the mark at Gowran last time and has won on heavy too.  If Landero did not have such concerns over the ground, I would have been investing.  He was pulled from a race earlier in the week when the ground went soft and it is much worse now.  This leaves me with my Mullins runner, a 9/1 chance with Paddy Power.

The football season has kicked off but I shall watch for now.  Sheff Utd looked mighty impressive tonight although lack a finisher.  They may be my new money train, watch this space.

May your dinner be held in the most upliftingly beautiful company.  Courage, roll those dice.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15: All Goodwood Mezel, Integral, Hoof It, Bold Sniper

The #crowdsourcingmultiple

Thanks to all who submitted their tips – If you are not part of the conversation on Twitter… get involved!

@h103efa 3.05 Thirsk Blockade

@onedeswalker 3.15 Goodwood Just The Judge

@Spinitg  2:35 Galway Princess Aloof

@Lukeyboy1325 3:30 Newmarket Urban Dance

@IamNotLuke 2.30 Goodwood Bold Sniper

@cafcbrad  3.10 Galway Stuccodor

@mytentoryour 4.30 Newton Abbot Union Saint

@danieldrazek 3.45 Galway Landero