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.
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.
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.
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.