Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Saturday Sermon…. Newmarket, Chester and Market Rasen…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the settee, restless and unsettled.

This may be the shortest Saturday Sermon in some time for various reasons. Mainly though it is time of which I am short. This weekend, I must repay a debt and spend a day with my two boys so I was committed to publishing before midnight. Having being under siege with a head cold for two weeks, my downtime plans first involve sleep.

I am so tired. It has been hectic at work and while I won’t dwell on the detail it has been an unsettling time of late. Coming home tonight, I left the motorway to beat a cross country path after a bad accident had closed a lane. The words are quickly passed over on a traffic report. Closer to home another road was closed following a head on collision. I am so tired, it comes over me like waves each threatening to dislodge my sea anchor and sweep me away, thrown in a tumult, spinning out of control.

There is so much to do. I have a lawn that needs cutting, runs that need to be set upon, decorating, business to tend to, purchases outstanding, lots of things that remain unread. These things pile up, each compresses the last like layers of coal and over time, the pressure squeezes out any enjoyment or contentment, nothing is pleasing, confused I slump and lunge from each item outstanding to the next, all purpose gone, acting not on impulse anymore but out of some strange conviction that salvation lies in ticking items off. How foolish. I am so tired. Sleep will come soon.

Newmarket Tips

Rumours abound that Betfred will go 16/1 the field for the Cambridgeshire in the morning. It is not a race I normally enjoy, 35 runners. I will get to my thoughts on that shortly…

The Royal Lodge opens the card and it looks a fair match up from Chesham winner Berkshire and 4th Somewhat. The latter has had more experience since and shown improved form and with match fitness assured I am on at 2/1.

It was a bit of a turn up yesterday when Charles Hill won the Falmouth but I think he has an excellent chance of another big prize with Kiyoshi in the 2.35. Truth be told though, I think Joyeuse has a solid claim too as is still improving and 6/1 is a fine price.

The Sun Chariot is a cracker with the rematch between Sky Lantern and Elusive Kate. These two have history and it is a hotly awaited showdown. I am all for Sky Lantern at 7/4 who I thought would easily have beaten Elusive Kate if not for the carry in the Falmouth. That is some form too as we are talking about a star European filly.

In the Cambridgeshire, my instinct is to go with Educate but having been let down so often, I have settled on two bets on Tha’ir and Forgive both of whom are 25/1 shots. I think both have been laid out for this and both have capable pilots…. It’s fun but not a race I’ve committed serious thought to.

At Chester, in the 3.05, I am struggling to split Zain Eagle and Gabrials Kaka both of whom have excellent chances. The former benefits from my favourite non retained jockey, Neil Callan and the latter has the crucial course form. On balance I am siding with Gabrials Kaka at 6/1.

At Market Rasen the Summer Plate is another open contest but I am opting for 10/1 shot Grandads Horse. My pick comes with Noel Fehily aboard and looks an improver over fences.

In the football, I have strong fancies for Arsenal away at Swansea (7/5) and Spurs (7/4) who I think will beat Chelsea. I also think Birmingham could win at Reading (10/3)

For Martin, I suggest a Sky Lantern, Grandads Horse and Spurs trixie.

The rest of you, I wish you a fine dinner in the best of company. Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ayr Gold Cup, Newbury Tips, splash of football

Good morning from the Major who rises a little later than usual to find Worcestershire blanketed in a consuming blue grey cloud.  We have fallen between the cracks in the season and all is calm for now.

Whether it be my heavy cold (which persists) I can not tell but I am feeling the chill air a little more than I should and so have lit a fire.  Now you might be thinking that it is September and the temperature really does not warrant it and I would find it hard to resist that argument, save this.  I am a pyromaniac and I enjoy it, I require little encouragement to reach for the flammables.

There is something enchanting about the dance and lick of flame, the warmth emanating from the violence, I find it irresistible.  No work in my garden goes without an incendiary event and my usual aim is to have something so fierce burning that the American military register as a suspicious launch type event.

The sparks that leap from the flame, I think it was Descartes who likened them to our lives.  When we are young and at the heart of the fire, things are so pure to us.  We are exquisite because we have not polluted our minds with knowledge, we can imagine the impossible because we have not yet blinkered ourselves with common sense.  This dulls as we grow, as the spark leaves the fire and spirals away in the air.  We might add knowledge but it weighs rather than frees, burdens us, until we fall to the floor, all light extinguished.

This may sound like an urge not to seek learning.  Quite the opposite.  I advocate a life of learning for you, it is tremendous fun.  When you are younger though, you absorb information in a different way, you thirst for it, as you age and weary, we are reluctant, losing the burning intense heat we once had.  Hold on to it.  Stay close to the fire my friends.  Allow wonderment.

Last week was much better, we may not have been sensational but we hit the bar several times.  I thought Talent was mighty unlucky in the St Leger, still, she once again stole my heart when barging between colts with just three hundred metres remaining, brave girl.

To the sports… Get on parade soldier, for it is a day of treachery, the enemy has conceived cards so deceitful, that only our best will see us through to a profit.  Tread warily and have your bayonet fixed for we will meet them hand to hand if we must.

Ayr Gold Cup Day

Now I must confess that these big sprint handicaps are not really my idea of finding a good bet.  Naturally, I understand the attraction of looking at a 28 runner field that is 8/1 but find the calculations too obtuse – Too many obvious candidates is my usual problem.

Therefore today, I shall give you my notes but know this, the Gold Cup is not a betting race for me.  You make your choice, this is your divine position and while taking my position is my business, I shall presume how to tell you yours.

One trend really stands out for me.  Ten of the last thirteen races have gone to Nicholls, Fahey or Ryan.  That is telling and where I would start my appraisals.  Such a stance is indeed quite a rough treatment of the data we have available but in this sort of contest, you have to make a stand somewhere.  On draw, my preference would be 6-16 but I would not make it a red line either.  This in spite that the high numbers seemed advantageous, seems illogical but watching the replay of those races, I am not sure too much bias exists and track record and pace has influenced my target stalls.

Of their runners, Baccarat would be highly interesting but the popular concern is the ground for which he is untested.  Being out of Dutch Art, I have no such fears as his sire tend to produce sprinters who like traction.  Highly considered with the capable Hanagan up top and drawn 14.  Definite candidate.

I would love Hoof It to win but he needs the ground to dry out.  From the trainers I discarded, the stand our horse is Red Dubawi who has been bought over from Ireland.  Conor King has been riding with such distinction for a teenager and is already able to go toe to toe with the best, his 5lb claim is simply a bonus.  Jack Dexter is also going to be popular, looking a group horse in his exploits over the last two summers.

Having meandered through the lot, my single dart is going to be a win bet on the Keith Dagleish trained Lover Man at 33/1 with Coral.  He does not fit lots of the trends for a winner in the race but is drawn well (for me) in ten and comes as an unexposed sort, this being his first run in Britain.

A horse I think is a must bet is the 9/2 shot Light Weight.  The Danehill Dancer filly looked a good horse winning at Newcastle in tremendous style and only has Braidley to be concerned about in my view.  That colt showed well last time too but has a ten pound raise as a consequence and my girl in good to soft (family have good record in it) with a stone in hand looks a must bet.  High Confidence.

I am not touching the Silver Cup but am prepared to stick with connections and back Valonia at 5/1 in the 3.15.  A lot of money has been invested in this good looking chestnut and she holds plenty of top class entries.  Qatar Racing have seen enough to think she is a worthy addition and the trainer has been able to keep her in the yard.  I suspect 5/1 might look big.

Newbury Tips

My bet of the Newbury card is for Meteroid in the nursery who is trading as 2/1 favourite.  He won a Warwick maiden with plenty of style and although that form might look nothing more than average, I think there is plenty to come.  While the ground may be unproven, the sire, Dynaformer, has a good record of his offspring so it is not off-putting to me.

Sticking with favourites chances, surely Kassiano is a good bet at 6/4 in the 1.50.  He has run with high distinction in Dubai (2nd in a G1) and has transferred Tapeta form to turf where he went readily away in a conditions event at HQ, last time out.  This is an Arc trial race although you won’t find any of these names prominent in the Longchamp betting!

At Newmarket, I will be having a small interest in Amnesia at 2.30 with Murtagh booked.  His raids are so productive now he is more selective.  His strike rate in the last 90 days outstrips Buick, Moore, Barzalona et al by 5%.  The horse looks OK too!

Jallota on paper ratings looks a shoe in at 6/4 but horses being dropped massively in class after failing further up are not my bet.

Equally there will be no bet but I shall be watching the Cesarewitch trial closely where I would expect Broxbourne to run with credit.  This race could throw up all sorts though.

In the football, Liverpool looks a bet at 8/13.  I also like Cardiff at Tottenham who are 19/20.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is going under some reconstructive surgery.  I think Martin himself might be finally losing heart.  Yet, I ask him to hold on for one week further as: Light Weight, Valonia, Meteroid, Kassiano is one to set your watch by!

Good luck to all of you today, I hope your dinner is in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon on ‘Talents’ St Leger Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a heavy grey Worcestershire where a hissing and thudding signals the rains violent persistence.

The Major carries a heavy head full of cold, dulling the senses and slowing the reactions.  Fear not, for some this might result in sluggish thought but for me, deep down here between the moments, a clarity emerges.

Last week was a catastrophe of misfortune.  Each and every piece of advice faltered.  The sort of day where beyond financial ruin, not even a solitary winner can lift the soul, taking the edge away, I prayed but was not answered for just a small token.  Nothing, darkness, the empty void.

I was at Doncaster this week on business.  I had not been before and shall file a brief report for your examination.  I was in the Lincoln restaurant and the atmosphere was lively.  The hosts were generous and my immediate company a mixture of sorts embellishing all facets of life’s rich tapestry.  The sights were part glorious, part terrifying.  There were police dogs sniffing for drugs, barrel chested men drinking furiously, throaty voices shouting and smiling northern faces.

The course is not my favourite, a significant part is shrouded from view but the straight is long and fair.  The racing was wallet emptying, I should have been with The Lark who won like you would want an Oaks placed horse to canter away but bet foolishly.  I watched the Park Hill from an old stand that looked so empty, I assumed it was owners and trainers, it was not, the denizens of Doncaster, concern themselves greatly with their frivolity and those of us cut from the racing cloth are free to access the parade ring where plentiful prime seats tell of the crowds other intentions.

The Lark was impressive but I was on Seal of Approval who crashed to the floor in an horrendous moment leaving Hayley Turner momentarily and terrifyingly lifeless.  As the winner thundered past the post, my eyes were two furlongs back up the course waiting for Hayley to move.  The screens went up and it was not until twenty minutes later that the racecourse kindly informed patrons that Hayley was conscious and on her way to Hospital.  Get well soon.

Doncaster would not be my choice of course in the north.  York is finer, better views, more pleasant and slightly less like a stag do.  I hold no quibble with the fayre on offer at Donnie.  Leaving though, amidst the heavy police presence, amidst the tatoo’d heroes seeking more pleasure while their cups already overfloweth, amidst the stumbling happy, the doleful few, I saw the sight that shall stick with me.

Envision three ladies, two props holding up a dazed hooker who can barely support her own weight.  The three of them swaying and stumbling, as though competing in a slow motion three-legged race.  Not an unusual sight and but for the medical atrocity that had befallen the inebriated middle stump of our trio.

Some images shock the sense so that you might recoil again when they revisit you later.  Horror that peels away the calm surface we portray, the shield defences are momentarily lowered, scenes that awaken the senses.

I think the technical term is sharted.  I was informed of this term by a colleague I was escorting.  She is a fine soul, impeccable in turn out and manner.  I don’t imagine it is a word she uses often.

To the sports…

Doncaster – St Leger Card

Let us start with the St Leger and my appeal for you all to join me in a major investment in Talent.  You may remember that I was with Talent in the Oaks when she recorded a shock 20/1 win.  How she won that day still baffles me a bit, despite me tipping her up on the morning.  Coming down the hill, she was headstrong and spent plenty of energy fighting for her head.  Turning at Tattenham corner though, she came back to herself, I still thought her goose was cooked but as she went through the gears, she absolutely left the field for dead.  The Oaks form has been dragged through the mud but with the Lark winning so well in the Park Hill on Thursday, it removes much doubt from my mind.

Her last run in Ireland was too bad to be true and connections think the lively ground may have had a role to play.  No such problems exist on Leger day, plenty of rain has fallen.  My girl will love the softened ground and Doncaster suits a horse coming last from the back on the stands side, which is exactly where I envisage her run.

Since Galileo Rock is likely to run in Ireland on Sunday, the spirited opposition is going to come from Excess Knowledge who runs for Gosden.  On breeding, I think the ground will be against his runner but the yard has an excellent Leger record and so the lack of book form is no concern.

Foundry is unexposed but his second to Telescope looks a little more ordinary now we see the extent of the limitations for that hype horse.  Stablemate Leading Light is my main concern.  He has been laid out for this race and has already demonstrated a stamina appetite.

The Champagne Stakes opens the card at 2.05.  Hannon and Bin Suroor have shared the spoils in the last 4 years and Hannon took the last two.  He bids for a hat trick with 7/2 Anjaal, who was a very tasty winner at Newmarket last time out.

At 7/2 I think Gregorian is also a bet in the Park Stakes at 3.15.  The softened conditions can help him reverse form with Aljamaheer.  Gregorian was a winner on the Oaks car so it could bear a good omen if he were to take this.

The Curragh – The Blandford

On Thursday, Hot Snap was due to race at Doncaster but was removed from the race and now pops up at the Curragh in the Group 2 Blandford.  I liked the chances at Doncaster and I like the chances here too, especially as the Cecil yard have made the effort to cross the Irish Sea.

I hope their efforts are rewarded and 7/4 is the best you can get.

Chester Listed Race – 2.55

The patchy form of Allied Power might be a little off-putting but I see enough merit in the horse to not give out all hope.  Yet, my ready preference is for Tac de Boistron who has won in much better company – 7/2 is a must bet.  This is a little unusual for me as I am flouting one of my golden rules which is to only back horses at Chester with course form.  Still, the usual rules have served me little use in the last few weeks!

The Football

I would always treat the return from an international break as an opportunity for teams to reverse their form, whether they entered the break on a high or low, the loss of momentum gives an opportunity for confidence to ebb or flow.

As such, a bet I fancy that will not be too popular is for Newcastle to win at Aston Villa.  Now I quite like the Villa who look a threat this year and they have started the campaign looking a half decent unit.  Yet, the team is workmanlike and at 14/5, I am following an instinct.

More obvious is the claim of Chelsea at Everton.  This is a banker surely!  11/8 seems massive for an accomplished team against an Everton side that might struggle even with young players like Berkley breaking through.

Sheffield United travel to Carlisle and will take to the pitch without the burden of my money on them for the first time this season.  You know what will happen.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Talent, Tac de Boistron, Gregorian and Hot Snap.

May your dinner be a sensational onslaught of the senses taken in good company and as you settle the bill from a wallet bulging with the days excesses, remember just how good it is to be alive.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Irish Champion Stakes Tip – A dash of serendipity… Leopardstown and Haydock etc

Good morning from the Major who writes from a glorious Worcestershire scene with stunning early morning light splashed across the deep green lawns.  A faint sharpness to the temperature betrays that we are at the edge of the seasons.  The jumps are coming my friends.

A few nights back, I was driving late at night across the Warwickshire countryside, the last flickering of a blood red sunset was extinguished and the peaceful nature of the empty road was in harmony with the dark sky, peace.  It was still warm enough to travel with the window open which is a ready preference to air conditioning to me.  If not for the freshness of the air then for, the rush of it over skin at high speeds, testing the resistance, very pleasant, very childlike.

While the road was fast, my mind wandered, as it will, I was able to tune into the radio in the background from time to time and what I heard, I found interesting.  The programme was concerned with Serendipity and the presenter seemed to be examining how it is created, it struck a chord.

For what it is worth, I consider your chances of enjoying your life almost entirely dependent on you and bearing no correlation to the random nature of your environment.  There are those that believe themselves governed by luck, dark forces or benevolent powerful religious deities.  Crackpots aside, I would accept that to a point, fortune is an influential factor in your happiness but not necessarily in the way you might expect.

I believe you create your own luck in one crucial aspect, by seeking it with a healthy outgoing attitude.  Finding luck in my view is one part state of mind and one part fortune.

Consider coincidence for one moment.  When something seemingly, incredibly unlikely occurs, we could consider this to be an act of a hidden hand.  Yet, I would say that it is massively unusual that incredibly unlikely things do not happen all of the time.  This is just a statistical view, after all we are involved in hundreds of thousands of interactions each day.  Some are personal, others with objects, others with technology.  Is it not reasonable that if we are engaged in a thousand activities a day, then once in every three years, a one in a million event will occur?  Since you know 500 people, it is likely that you here of a one in a billion occurrence, twice in a decade.  In other words, incredibly strange things are surprisingly common.

We don’t believe this to be the case when a coincidence occurs because we only consider the coincidence in the context of that event.  If for example, you bought a second hand car and in the boot found an old possession of yours that you had left on a train some years ago, you would consider it a fateful act.  Considering the odds of an occurence such as this in isolation it is understandable that you might seek a solution that involves some hidden hand of fate.  Yet the solution is more boring in one sense.  While you found a possession in the boot, you did not perhaps crash into an old school friend on the way home, or find that the car dealer shared the same name and date of birth with you.  In other words, coincidence happens because of the massive number of opportunities it has to occur.

More vital as to whether coincidences will occur in your life is not whether it will happen but your ability to spot them.  Your ability to live a life enabling happiness to occur in the twists and turns of lifes path.

I think there are two facets to your ability to spot the swing of fate and fortune around you.  Firstly, it is about routine, if you live a clockwork existence, you will not be exposed to as many new experiences and will not have the framework for the serendipitous events that may occur.  Secondly, I believe attitude has a role to play.  My opinion is that you need to give good fortune your permission.

Last night, returning from a long week of study, I visited my local bookmaker and found him surprisingly busy for a Friday.  Not busy enough that he would not offer me a coffee, good man.  I got chatting to a very knowledgeable chap next to me about the chances of the Godolphin good thing in the 8.20 at Kempton.  The conversation was good and as it went on, I was taken by the good mans deep knowledge and strong views.  Turns out he has a string of horses across major trainers both sides of the Irish Sea.  He gave me one to follow.  Luck finds you my friends it is intrinsic in the materials and events around us.  It is happening now, relax and turn yourself in to that beautiful music.  I do not know where it might take you as there are billions of outcomes but I urge you to dismiss bad feelings as good events are upon you, if you let them be.

It might not be the best example I can give you but if you live your life in a generous and sharing manner and are open to the possibilities that may present themselves, such things will happen.  In each generation of human existence, our lives improve.

Irish Champion Stakes Tip

Without doubt, the sporting highlight of the weekend for me is the Irish Champion Stakes.  Being run as a twilight card, it is not until ten to seven this evening but I quite like that format.  It has the look of a cracking race.  I really hope that the rain has not been too heavy to persuade John Gosden to remove The Fugue who is a key actress on the stage.

Current Irish rain radar

Current Irish rain radar

That weather looks key to picking a camp to be in.  As you can see from the radar, there are some violently bright colours which look to me to be just to the north of Leopardstown.

If the track goes good to soft or worse is the key question .  So the Irish Champion tip is based firstly on how much water they are going to get and then on which horse will cope best with a downpour or the good to firm they advertised overnight.

I am gambling on a good dousing of rain.  I think the horse most unlikely to be involved if the ground goes soft is The Fugue.  She has only placed once on anything with soft in it and has more often than not, been withdrawn in such conditions.

O’Brien is claiming that Declaration of War is a better horse on good going but the stats seem to suggest he is less bothered by soft than his trainer thinks.  He has won in heavy and soft and in fact has never put a bad run in under those conditions.  There are times where I wonder if such statements are based on the trainers preference than the horses.  If you have a top horse, you might be reluctant to want to consider it versatile.  Like a utility footballer, the suggestion is jack of all trades, master of none.  For one, I am convinced that Declaration of War will love the conditions.

Kingsbarns did his winning in the slop too and while O’Brien has stuck with Declaration of War, the belated return of Kingsbarns could be quite a story.  Off the track for so long, it is hard to interpret the signal of him being bought back in at this level.  I do have a view though.

Coolmore may have an embarrassment of riches but they like to tell good stories with their top horses.  If they felt that Kingsbarns was not ready, I am sure they would have found him an easier entry point.  As such, that does not concern me.  His inexperience does, he has only raced twice, even if one of those victories was a very good Racing Post Trophy in which Trading Leather could not lay a glove on him.

Joseph O’Brien has voted for Declaration of War.  What does he know.

Then we have Al Kazeem, one of the heroes of the flat season.  When this horse retires, I am sure my enduring memory will be of the day he truly popped Camelots bubble.  He has been brilliant this season.  I do not think that it was the ground that got the better of him at York (when defeated by Declaration of War and Trading Leather), I think it was York itself.  York is definitely a specialist track.

I could dance and dance in this race but this is my confirmed position.  Forget reason.  I want the excitement of a Kingsbarns bet in my life.  I really like Seamie Heffernan and this horse was favourite for classics before his setbacks.  He will love the ground.  My view is cemented by the opinion that both the main protagonists to my tip, Al Kazeem and Declaration of War are highly tried this season (13 runs between them).  My boy might well lack experience but he gets a generous weight allowance and is fresh.  At this stage of the season, that might be the key factor.

Lots of horses get turned over at this end of the year and post race, the trainer will be telling us that they are to be put away.  I can imagine that being the case with at least one from Al Kazeem and Declaration of War.  The Fugue, if she runs, will hate conditions and Trading Leather, needs further.  Kingsbarns may well lack experience but I want that edge in my life and at 7/1 with Stan James makes a great bet.  Watch your each way selections because without the Fugue we are reduced to 7 runners.  Pray for rain.

The rest of Leopardstown…

Free Eagle may be 1/2 but is a reliable bet for multiples in the juvenile race.  Already favourite for the Derby, this looks an exciting sort.

The Matron Stakes is the poorest Group 1 race I have seen in some time and this is underlined by the market who go 4/1 the field.  Kenhope probably has the best form in the book but I am never a fan of horses with good placings hoping to translate that well to a win at the top-level.  This race might not take much winning at all and I am interested in three.  Caponata, will not mind forecast softer conditions, while not electric, she has ability.  Lily’s Angel could easily run into a place although even I am wary of advertising her win potential, it just strikes me that 20/1 is wrong.

However, my tip for the Matron is the only truly progressive horse in the line up, Fiesolana.  She has improved massively on some OK French form and is being aimed at a race on Arc weekend.  She has placed on heavy in the past so bad weather might be OK and at 8/1 with Ladbrokes, I am a buyer.

Haydock Saturday Tips

Haydock boasts an excellent card starring the Sprint Cup.  There has been a fair amount of weather related change here too.

The favourite has been a star of the season, Lethal Force surprised a fair few at Ascot but upheld that form well and looks the real deal.  However, clearly the trainer feels he likes better ground and the slight toe in conditions surely give others a squeak here.  I am slightly cautious of this view as like Declaration of War, Lethal Force has a good record on good to soft and I have seen nothing to suggest he might suffer if it is truly deep.

More than most race types, sprints I find rotate form more frequently.  These highly strung racehorses can have off days more easily than their relaxed middle distance counterparts and I am always reluctant to be on at a short price.

I am less keen on Gordon Lord Byron but you cannot rule out any sprint horse with Johnny Murtagh up.

You know what, I am sticking with Lethal Force.… That drift might be the making of us.

It seems the Haydock card has me backing favourites…. In the 2.40, Monitridge at evens looks a fine bet as Tawhid needs more than a 4lb swing to get back at him and these conditions will suit my tip.  Sir Mark Prescott delayed the start to his season but has been sensational and Pallastor at 10/3 is all the rage in the Old Borough Cup, I am in.  I also find it hard to doubt that Musical Talent 5/4 is a bad bet on handicap debut for the Queen and Hannon.

My only football tip is to give Sheffield United their opportunity in the last chance saloon.  2/1 away to Rotherham.  They might have recorded some poor results but I remain convinced there is a good team there who play nicely and will come good.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Montiridge, Lethal Force, Fiesolona, Kingsbarns

I trust your dinner to be taken in the finest company.  Eat heartily, drink well and remember… Courage, roll those dice.