Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Saturday Sermon – Racing Post Trophy Day… Aintree and Doncaster

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, tired and ready for slumber.  The darkened sky howls and the air froths and swirls, dancing at an ever-changing pace, gentle to furious in a rising crescendo and at once, peace again, for a passing moment.  Change in the air.  Danger.

The Major scored some winners last Saturday, including a tasty hat-trick at Cheltenham from just the three selections.  Even Martin Hill (yes he really exists) commended my changing fortune with a smile and a generous acknowledgement that is barely deserved.  That man has endured a torrent of poor fortune, all my own doing, but hangs in there, determined to the end.  I fear his lot will be like one of those collies that following the death of a beloved owner, sits above the grave, full of melancholy.  He gets his glimmers of hope, enough to string him along to the next investment and for me, I am thankful and most of all hopeful, that one day, patience is rewarded.

Of course, there is never any need to offer thanks for any winners I might find.  For a start, I am barely profitable, as advertised, so, your wins are probably hard-earned (you backed a lot of my losers too) or lucky, you dropped in on a going day.  Either way, I cannot claim credit.  What is more, I would not consider it proper to claim credit where I would not accept blame.  You see, I merely offer you the thoughts I have, the deep reaches of my mind, piecing together information in some construct that seems robust.  What you do with this is entirely your own choice.  I would not accept someone choosing how to bet my money, I do not presume to tell you how to spend yours.

Writing the sermon each week is a grounding in my hectic life.  I considered parking the blog (dark thoughts of a year ago) but find the anchor in the week a pleasant bolt hole for myself and my thoughts.  The thousand odd souls that wander in are welcome but the benefit I fear is mine.

I often wonder what a brand new reader might make of this.  Would you describe this as a tipping site?  Well if you did, it is not exactly a typical one.  For a start, I benefit from no adverts (any you see are merely those of WordPress and keep the site free for me to use).  I also make no charge, sell any service or claim any special information.

My tips are actually profitable, this may at times seem hard to believe.  If you stray into the menu, you will find two separate parts of this blogs history where I went to the effort of recording the tips given and painstakingly creating a record.  It was profitable.  Just.  Not the sort of profit that might have you jet off to the Caribbean in the company of an expensive sort, more the sort that might have you reaching for a bottle from the top shelf in Asda.

What interests me more is the reaction a new reader might have to the first part of the blog.  In a lucky week, a thought to write about occurs well before I sit to write the blog.  Perhaps, A dark night driving home, black rain-slicked roads and a distant emergency blue light, stimulate a thought, that is incubated until the anointed hour to write the sermon and out it spills, gushing with little reverence or key message, falling loosely and thence on the page, lay wasted and abused, incoherent noise.  In other weeks, my mood is dark and it tightens up my mind, as fear will, so what is written is brief and curt.

If you stray to these parts and are new, welcome.  We are a gentlemanly bunch, no riff raff need apply.  The game is afoot my friends, it is the time of the weekend where our hopes and dreams are intact.  It is time to prepare the heavy charger, sharpen the point on that lance and ready thyself for the battle.

To the sports….

Tip For The Racing Post Trophy

There has been a lot of rain in the UK but seemingly, Doncaster is only good to soft as I type.  I would certainly want to be on the side of a horse who might cope if it was a little worse than that and may well hold fire on the betting until having seen the morning weather and perhaps watched the first few races.

The Racing Post Trophy has gone to the O’Brien Ballydoyle team in three of the last four years with Kingsbarns, Camelot and St Nicholas Abbey.  Thus it is credible to argue that this powerhouse have again saved on of the best of their crop again for this late autumn showpiece.  Century won his maiden with ease, a race that they put Magician through in the year before.  I am getting on now for small stakes at 4/1 and may well top up later.

The selection is one of three O’Brien horses and since Joseph has chosen Century, I see no reason to think he is not the better of the two stable-mates, Johan Strauss and Buonarroti.  Certainly, all of O’Briens recent winners in this have been his first string.

If there is lots of rain, then The Great Gatsby comes into it, simply for being a proven swimmer.  I am sticking with the obvious though and Century to win the Racing Post Trophy.

My second bet for Doncaster is the second favourite at 11/4 in the 2.05, Night of Thunder.  This might be quite an appropriate name given the band of weather set to sweep across the UK on Monday morning, fate aside though, I think the Hannon trained juvenile can take this.  His run at Goodwood was visually stunning.  It was on slow ground and for a horse to handle the camber and come away so readily with no previous racecourse experience, really spoke volumes of the underlying ability.

Clearly Stubbs is an interesting runner.  Followers of the horse would have been left scratching their heads after the Coventry where he ran no race.  A line through that and you have an unexposed O’Brien juvenile, not something you would want to strongly bet against.  Yet, the Coventry has left a question mark and I was suitably impressed with Night of Thunder to think him a threat anyway so the choice was easy.

Aintree Old Roan Tips

The ‘Monet’s Garden’ Old Roan is a race which truly deserves its name.  I love the National Hunt season for the longevity of the horses which gives greater chance for their personal stories to develop.  Monet’s Garden was never quite the top draw but won this race three times over four years and with it, the hearts of many a racing fan.  He was a fine competitor and his white figure contrasted against the black silks stood out.

Again the Aintree turf may deteriorate from the currently advertised good to soft and I will err on that side.

Carrickboy has some ability and if you were assured of him putting his best foot forward, 14/1 might seem a decent proposition.  Indeed, he had today’s favourite, Walkon behind when winning at Cheltenham in the spring.  Yet, I am also minded that in the last fortnight, Venetia has sent out 9 runners and has not yet recorded a place.

Wishfull Thinking is not getting younger but holds some of the best form in the race.  His second in this last year was quite a distant second (nigh on 30l), that was on good ground behind For Non Stop (who I remember tipping by the way!).  Classy and cannot be ruled out./

I am not sure what to make of Edgardo Sol, he has been running well enough but does not look spectacular.  Is it possible that the step up in trip (not raced beyond 2m 1f) would improve him?  Possible but not for me.  I am also considering that if he was really fancied, then maybe Daryl Jacob would not have gone to Chepstow.

Astracad is not my sort of horse.  The Holmes quote is that once you have ruled out all impossible things, then what remains, no matter how improbable is the truth.  On these grounds, I would have nothing winning the Old Roan!  Thus I have to come back to Walkon, my 9/2 hope, whose stable are in form, has enjoyed visits to Aintree before (even if it was hurdling or on the national course) and has great form shouts.

Regal Encore was my Champion Bumper pick and while he ran second that day, I am hoping he will go one better over hurdles in the last today.

To the other sports

You will forgive me but I am too tired to start contemplating Newbury.  So a fistful of football tips and to bed.

I think Liverpool are a poor short price favourite because I fancy West Brom but shall not offer this as advice as I am prejudiced by my own support for the away team.  I do think West Ham are a massive 4/1 price to win at Swansea.  The home team had a tough game in Europe in mid-week and were deflated by a last gasp equalizer, West Ham can take advantage.  Other than that, Southampton look a banker at 6/10 to beat dreadful Fulham at home.  I would also back QPR at 15/8 away at Burnley.

The Martin Hill advice is to back an each way trixie on Century, Walkon and Night of Thunder.

To all of you, I wish you luck and prosperity.  I hope your dinner is taken in the most refined company and that the only discomfort be the wallet which digs into your ribs.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot Champions Day Tips | Cheltenham and a bit of football… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes, weary and happy, settling into the weekend, like a well worn glove.  It is late, very late, the Worcestershire scene tonight is dank, driving home, orange streetlights in the distance flickered, seemingly to fizzing and humming in the wet like a live wire gently caressing the damp earth.

I have been out with colleagues and friends this evening eating a thoroughly average meal but in such damn fine raucous company that the cuisine was merely a distraction.  Laughs so deep and primal, deep within, they are fine for the soul and in the company of good people, well… Ah, All is well in the world.

I remain on the cusp of exhaustion, as I write I hear the patter of rain against window glass and it sounds like tiny fingers tapping a rhythm.  I know I am warm and I know out there in the darkness, there are things moving.

I love the winter and it is coming to us now.   Even recently, while  deep into Autumn, the late days of summer held on dearly but now, things are changing.  The rain that kisses you now is cold and taking a morning walk, toes feel numb, fingers tingle.  Summer has had its time at the front, running freely, wild times of chaos.  Now is nearly the time for winter, climbing the hill relentlessly, coming home on a tight rein and the Major is pleased.

I have enjoyed the flat season immensely this summer.  While the classic crop was an average bunch, there were some great memories of which my favourites were Dawn Approach and Toranado going to battle, Talent fighting for her head and still finishing like a train in the Oaks and… momentarily the triumphant victory of War Command in the Coventry, to name but a few.

Yet, todays racing at Cheltenham has reminded me that the flat season is always the poorer cousin to the Majors real passion, National Hunt.  I think the reason I prefer it is the longevity of the horses.  It allows for much greater stories to develop.  Horses that start in bumpers, transcend to hurdling and become novice chasers before joining the staying chaser ranks and those glorious old servants that win ten years after their bumper dreams.  They become like old friends.

Today’s cards offer the perfect handover from flat to the jumps season.  Yes, we still have a few big days to come, particularly the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster but the Ascot Champions Day is a perfect climax to the summer contests and the first days of the Cheltenham season whet the appetite for the narrative untold.  Be still my friends, it is our season.  To the sports..

Ascot – Champions Day Card

There has been a real fuss over Champions Day and the prospect of moving key Newmarket races next year to create Future Champions Day.  In all honestly, it strikes me that a lot of the antipathy is simple resistance to change.  After all, why not try it and if it does not work, we can go back!  This is a superb card, FIVE group ones, we are spoilt.

One criticism of the timing of the card is that it is likely to have high-profile defections due to winterish ground.  That is true of tomorrow but you either have an end of season finale of you do not.  We definitely need some soft ground horses tomorrow…

In the opener, the horses that I think will go well on the going are Estimate, Harris Tweed, Biographer, Aiken, Pale Mimosa and Eye of the Storm.

Aiken ran well in this last year and likes it soft under foot but I am not convinced he is good enough.  The Queens horse Estimate must rate a huge danger to all having won all of her Ascot starts but I just fancy the chances of Eye of the Storm, 7/1, who won a listed contest latest and has a valuable weight-for-age allowance.  He is a smart colt who needs to up his game again but well could do that with plenty progressive profile and the Ballydoyle machine is purring again.  Pale Mimosa is no 14/1 shot either and I also like the favourite a lot so it shall be small stakes.

The Champion Sprint Stake is one of these top class races that could typically go to any of the protagonists.  Maarek was good when winning the Prix Abbaye and loves it soft but the home team has such a candidate too in Jack Dexter who the dogs have been barking for all week down from 12s into 4s overnight.  I have to say that it is hugely attractive, Jack Dexter has won 6 from 6 on soft or worse.  Yet I am loathed to support either at the prices and instead opt for 13/2 shot Viztoria who also has an unblemished record on soft ground (although only 2 races).  It is a concern that man of the moment Johnny Murtagh is not aboard the girl but I think this is his inability to do the weight rather than him feeling he has a better shot with Belmont Mast.

Regular readers will know what is coming next.

At 2.55, in a corner of Berkshire…. TALENT WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONS FILLIES AND MARES STAKES.  Get stuck in at 7/2 and thank me later.  She should have won the Leger (OK a bit stretched) and I would have like to have seen her in the Arc (next year) and she has nothing to fear here, I shall pray that she settles.  The Lark and the German horse Nymphea may be the closest to looking at Talents glorious behind at the finish.

The QEII is a cracking race and while it is a shame Toronado did not make the line up, we have plenty of quality to give Dawn Approach something to consider.  The one I think could completely outrun his price is Kingsbarns at 16/1.    This time last year, he had the world at his feet, was favourite for classics but his day in the sun has yet to come this year, missing most through injury.  His return was very poor but it is perfectly reasonable to think he may have needed that both physically and mentally.  We also get Joseph on board, the comfort that we know he has been in top hands (O’Brien is a master at getting these sorts to fire again) and he won both his juvenile starts on soft.  What is not to like?

In the Champion Stakes, Derby winner Ruler of the World is of key interest but is unproven on the ground, although he is a Galileo so perhaps we should not worry too much, of interest.  Mukhadram and Farhh are both classy sorts but all of them should really be paying homage to Cirrus Des Aigles.  We all remember him giving Frankel a good run last year and you may remember Cirrus winning the race in the previous year, he was 12/1 that day, tomorrow I can only advise you to be on at 5/4.

Cheltenham Tips

Poor old @limerickjfk – He tweeted me on Thursday night for some Friday Cheltenham tips and even promised me the benefit of a big drink should they come in.  I gave him a non runner and one that finished down the field.  I am the sort of friend you do not need.  Still, we shall try again and I shall stick a drink on the ledger the other way regardless, because it was nice to be asked!

There are some lovely sorts in the opener at Cheltenham, it is a tasty opening to proceedings.  Minella Fiveo is an interesting runner being an Irish raider with Noel Fehily up but the form is uncertain and despite a tempting price, I shall steer to more settled waters.  IT is the last time winners which I want to stick with and of them, Kings Palace stands out.  The Pipe trained horse won his last race at Fontwell very nicely indeed and I think may be better for further.  Oscar Magic rates a real danger as the stable has always been positive about him.  Others stand their chance too but I like my selection well enough.

Skipping a race and looking at the 3.10, I cannot get away from Samtegal, 9/4,  who was placed in a Scottish Champion Hurdle (a poorer handicap imitation of the Cheltenham masterpiece) which is good enough but he was also placed in a Triumph.  I am normally a bit hesitant about Paul Nicholls at this stage of the season, knowing he likes to leave a bit to work on but he had two winners here yesterday and I am in.

Finally in the 5.00, Balder Success is going to be a hot ticket after winning a Chepstow race latest, proving jumping and fitness.  I see those benefits but thought it a slightly odd race.  At the finish he appeared either idling or more likely running flat and I am not sure stiff tracks are what this horse needs.  Turned out again quickly, we will find out.  I shall back my argument with a stake on another.  Dark Lover, 2/1, was  a better hurdler than Balder Success and gets 8lbs here.  He also comes with the benefit of winning at Cheltenham before.  If you are feeling brace, Mr Watson could beat the lot if he decides to apply himself, a big if!

In football, one bet.  West Brom (my own team, I do declare an interest!) have a great chance of winning at Stoke – The team are brimming with talent and confidence, it is a good time to be a baggie.

May your dinner be as well as @limerickjfk who shall eat at Queens Hotel, in excellent company and with good wine, having solved several of the large Cheltenham handicaps.

He will be joined by Martin Hill should the Major break a string of bad losing advices to him with this suggested each way trixie: Talent, Kings Palace and Kingsbarns.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newmarket and Chepstow

Good morning from the Major who writes wearily but contented.  It has been a long week and I shall not trouble you, my good friends, with the travails that sapped at the energy, suffice to say that there are many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Yet here we are at Saturday, the moment of the week I long for, before the sport has gotten underway, all of our hopes and dreams remain intact, untouched by the real world and the hazardous existence we live spinning on this fragile globe.  We can believe, just for a moment that today, we land the mothership.

In one sense I dread that day.  I think you know why.  I have such well tuned readers, the sorts of folk that risk it all in one turn of pitch and toss and lose and start again at their beginnings but never breathe a word of their loss.  You know why I fear catching the thing I chase, purpose.

For 200 odd Saturdays I have galvanised myself, come rain or shine, sickness and health, from green Worcestershire scenes to foreign fields; to collect and record my views of the weekend sport, maintaining the view that one day an amazing combination would land.  The pursuit gives me something to hold on to, a steady post in the maelstrom of existence, a commitment and a piece of unfinished business. Purpose.

To land the mothership, to remove that purpose, what then dear friends.  We do not know.  Things would change immeasurably, beyond the wild celebrations, accepting the accolades, a darkness exists, that I could fall between those cracks is certain..

So why pursue it then.  Why keep writing and sharing racing tips? Well for one, (and I shudder at the realisation) I must love the sound if my own voice. A fool uttereth all his mind but the wise man keep it in till afterward, Proverbs.

Is that it? Well no, consider this dear friends, imagine not pursuing glory, just think about that, 200 less moments of hope, of virgin dreams.  That is not to slip to the chasm, it is to lose your grip and plunge hurtling down permanently, twisting through the darkness, losing any sense of direction – The spark leaps from the fire and dims until extinguishing itself, so stay close to the fire, stay bright.  It is good to be alive.

To the sports.

I love Cesarewitch day, ever the heady days of 2007 when Sir Clement Freuds column which was worth the Racing post cover price alone tipped up Legspinner at 14/1.  I was at Cheltenham races that day and me and a couple of good friends were having a decent day, I seem to remember Joe Lively being our big course winner and topped up with Legspinner well, we had a royal time and steak for dinner.

Newmarket Future Champions Day

The ground at both Newmarket and Chepstow where the Major concentrates his energy could be a significant determinant factor in the outcome of the races and the Major has to take a view.  The decision I have made based on reports and forecasts is that both courses will play slow and soft and I want to be on horses where those conditions play to strengths.

The Dubai Challenge is the opener on the cards at Newmarket and one could do worse than focussing on three year olds who have a good record in the race.  Highland Colori showed last time that he has plenty of ability and a reproduction of that run might put him close.  My issue is though that with these sorts of runners, a reproduction of anything is a big question mark and so with a little caution I am opting for Amarillo the German raider who is certain to like soft conditions (should they arrive).

The Middle Park is the first of two Group 1 races where we get to see two of the big guns from the O’Brien yard unleashed and ready to do some damage.  Great White Eagle was about as visually impressive a winner as you can get on debut and I think may be very good.  He is out of Elusive Quality who is bred out of the Darley US operation and so you might be forgiven for thinking, what not a Galileo, not a Montjeu?  Elusive Quality has a progeny record of excellent juveniles (4 times has produced the US juvenile champion) and we would probably know his son Ravens Pass best.  Look, I know you are probably thinking, why did I come here to read that Great White Eagle might be brilliant, but what can I do?  He might be.  Get on.  2/1.

By the way, if Supplicant outruns his 8/1 price in this race, have your trigger finger on the bet button for the 3.55 at York where Rufford is 7/2 at the moment – The tied Mill Reef form would get a tremendous boost from Supplicant.

It gets worse.  I think War Command will also trounce the Dewhurst opposition.  A lot was made of the form of the Coventry with most speakers detracting from its value but again, the visual prowess of the win for War Command spoke volumes of the class he has.  He is out of another American Sire, War Front who has also sired Declaration of War (following all this?) – The Sire works out of Clairborne Farm and in the last few seasons seems to be producing much better crops (6th crop in all).  Dont shoot the messenger, I just think a tasty O’Brien double is in order.

In the big handicap, the Cesarewitch, I haven’t a clue.  I am guessing as much as the next man and so will opt for the well drawn, Murtagh assisted, Oriental Fox at 11/1.

Chepstow Tips

Chepstow has a decent day of racing for National Hunt fans and one stand out on the cards for me is Double Ross at 3/1.  This horse had to work hard to win over the chase fences at Perth but that was decent form and since he is proven over the big timber, I would take him against the obviously progressive looking Balder Success (Champion Hurdle runner) and Nicholls’ Chase debutante, Easter Day.

he 4.45 has a great value bet in my view in Swynmor at 15/2.  The Rebecca Curtis trained hurdler came down when arriving with a winning chance in the Grade 1 Future Champions race here in January and I think subsequent lacklustre performances were as a consequence of that fall.  If that proves right then this could prove a tremendous price.

The Martin Hill bet is a double on Swnymor and Amarillo.

May your dinner be of the finest quality and in the finest company.  courage and roll those dice.

Longchamp Arc Day Thoughts

Good day from the Major who writes from the office in glorious Cheltenham where the fine conditions betray the mind into thinking it is late August.

Yesterday was a mixed bag and probably edged by the enemy if being fair.  Today though, in conjunction with the skies bright dawning, I shall share the riches of my mind for Longchamp Arc day.  Let’s get stuck in to the big one.

Longchamp – The Arc

Any racing fan and punter who has any notion of improving their staking strategies focus their energies on value.  The most likely winner is less important than the biggest disparity between price and chance.  Thus, our aim always is assess chance as remotely and impartially as we can.  I would concur that good advice is often to do this before seeing the market, then you can back your own view independent of others.

That said, the market itself is often a great indicator and can reveal useful information in its own right.  In the instance of the Arc, the market is an opportunity in itself.  The Japanese have such a fixation on winning the Arc that they flood the PMU with bets for their own runners, thus Orfevre and Kizuna will be the subject of sustained betting, making the pot imbalanced.  If you want a value punt, then baking anything other than these two on the PMU represents value. Secondly, if you have the time and the energy, it would not be too difficult to use this market disparity to put yourself into a no-lose situation.  Backing Orfevre and Kizuna in the UK and the remaining lively hopes on PMU should be a strategy to which you could return a profitable book regardless of outcome.

Regardless of this nuance to the day, I am sure you are more interested in the race itself so here are some thoughts.

Ruler of the World

I was not that impressed with the Derby this year, I felt at the time that the classic crop was poor (Dawn Approach and Talent being the exceptions) and that thought remains.  Yet Ruler of the World performed with some credit in his trial where he was pipped by Kizuna.  In fact, he was doing more work at the death… Interesting.

Here is a thought though – I think the trials which are held just a few weeks before Arc weekend give a false sense of certainty.  We tend to place too much value in them.  consider this, just four of the Arc winners from this century have won an official trial on the way, plenty of Arc winners were not tuned up for their trial and plenty more did not bother with one.

Kizuna

If you like Ruler of the World then surely you must like Kizuna.  I think this horse brings some of the best form into the race and has a profile that would befit an Arc winner.  According to the trainer, there was plenty left to work on when he won his trial.

The Prix Niel though asked more questions than it gave answers.  Yes Kizuna beat Ruler of the World but the latter was doing more at the finish.  However, Kizuna probably had more to give and I do not think was fully extended, in fact I would argue the horse had a fairly gentle race.

Leading Light

You pay serious money to be supplemented for the big race, couple that with the profile of Leading Light, a certain stayer and many will be hoping that this horse can get to the front and stay there.  That in itself is an interesting conundrum.

Longchamp is an interesting course, the wide bend they take can catapult a well timed runner from the back into the momentum needed to win and generally, those coming from the middle of back of the pack fare better than those in front.  Thus to win the Arc from the front you have to be special or lucky.  I think Leading Light would have to be in the second group.

Should he get to the front, I would be relying on better horses not getting their run combined with bad timing from other challengers to see him as the winner.

That said, it has happened plenty of times before and since I believe Talent to be very good, I would be disingenuous to suggest that Leading Light is a forlorn hope.  I thought Talent might have got to him with a clear run in the St Leger and having tweeted Mr Beckett to suggest she be supplemented if Leading Light was, I got a two word reply…. ‘next year’

Orfevre

What of the favourite then.  He is going to popular and unpopular depending on the partisan camp you find yourself in.  I have already observed the near fanatical home support he will receive.  Suggesting he will be beat to a true Orfevre fan is to place your life in danger!  There is also a significant camp that believes he would have won the race last year if it had panned out slightly differently, reminding myself of the race, it seems impossible with 300m to go that any other result than an Orfevre win was possible.  Yet the leader tied up after showing us that explosive burst of speed…

In the ‘agin’ camp, you have the trends argument.  Five year olds do not do very well, no Japanese horse etc etc – I always have an issue with trends and the people who use them – They need to be grounded in something!  It is clear that with Japanese racing amongst the best quality in the world, it is a matter of time before we have a winner of the Arc from their quarters, thus as a trend it is of no use to me.  The five year old trend also needs some context – There are not that many highly fancied five year olds that compete in the race so pound for pound you would expect them to have a sparse record.

I am not put off by the trends, I am slightly concerned for him in the ground and against a better Arc field than last year.  In fact the 2012 Arc has a very shaky look to it, won by a long shot, with Masterstroke third(anyone?).  In fact, St Nicholas Abbey finished down the field but it was not his day and overall, I am against Orfevre not because of his age but because I doubt the form.  His Arc was weak and his trial the weakest of them.  I think that weakness also provides succour for those that support him and point to last years wide draw… My argument is that in a very weak Arc, draw is less important (as it is if you are a natural hold up sort)

Clearly he is very talented and he has a blistering turn of foot but I am going elsewhere.

Treve

She is good and is yet to be beaten and there was a time where the three year old filly allowance would have given her a significant advantage.  Yet that gap has been narrowed and I think it is a big ask for her.  It is easy to be swayed by her unbeaten record and she is in fine fine hands, I just think this might be too much for her.

The most unsettling part of her profile is the year she has had – If she were top class why not be campaigned as such?

Intello

Will Intello stay?  that is the key question about this runner.  Fabre / Pelier are a formidable pair and seeking their third Arc win (although first this century!).

On the subject of stamina, my view is that Intello should be fine.  He was a ready winner of the French Derby and that was in good to soft ground – He stayed on fine that day and although this is an extra 300m, it is a trip into the unknown and in the breeding there are mixed messages.

It is also an odd course he has charted to the race and last time must have been set up as a confidence booster.  He is a hard horse to assess because we have not seem him in the top races recently and we have not seen him extended in distance, a definite question.

Al Kazeem

There seems no easier of the main players to back than Al Kazeem following a tailing off of his form in the last two runs and a wide draw.  Seriously, the way people have written him off seems a tad unfair.

I don’t see him as a winner myself either but that is not to discredit his positives.  I think he has a style of running that would suit the Arc, right up until the end.  Watching the race last year, Orfevre drifted right quite badly and Al Kazeem suffers the same.  He has done it on a few of his wins, most notably his last G1 at Sandown and I wonder if his tailing of form is connected to that.

Not for me but give the boy credit.

Flintshire

My antepost book is focussed on Flintshire and I wish it were not the case.  The Dansili colt needs decent ground and I think that will be his undoing.  This seemed apparent in his trial and on similar ground, I think he does not have the racing style to glide to victory.

Summary

If you believe Orfevre to win, you have to think any Arc is quality and that he was unlucky last year and that the age and returner stats are less important – I have some sympathy for that view but not at 2/1.

If you think Ruler of the World then you must overcome a slight ground concern but believe he was better than Kizuna for the bare result in the Prix Niel – I can accept that too.

For you to back Kizuna 15/2, you have to think that there was plenty left off for his trial where he was treated lightly and travelled much the best.  this I have significant sympathy for and thus he gets my nod.

As a post script – What a shame Novellist is not there, he would have carried my money.

The Rest of the Card

12.45 – Maarek 8/1 – Likes the cut and needs some luck

1.20 – Veda – 8/1 – Seriously sinister profile – Once raced and thrown into this!

1.55 – Charm Spirit – 7/1 – Can win from the front, looked mighty impressive here latest.

2.30 – Silasol – 7/1 – Time for some revenge over Tasaday over this more suitable trip

4.40 – Moonlight Cloud – Evens (Coral) – Easily the best in this field

5.10 – Tac de Boistron – 6/1 (Ladbrokes) – Unexposed at marathon distances and in good heart

The Saturday Sermon… Tips from Longchamp, Ascot, Gowran Park, Newmarket…. Politics and Fortune

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene that has stirred dramatically like souls awakening.

Last week I wrote on Friday night, dead tired like, in a dark melancholic mood and a few folk tweeted to check I was not too effected. A few others spoke to me in person and I can assure one and all, as I did them, that I was merely wallowing in my own dark soul. Thanks for asking, it is nice to know that someone will attend your funeral, even if just for the brandy.

I slept last night deeply and soundly for the first time this week. Gazing out now across the Worcestershire rural rolling fields which have a deep healthy ruddy look towards Bredon Hill topped by its folly. I once stood there in winter and met another walker who gave me a history lesson. The manor house on the hill used to be a magistrate and a regular punishment would be to stake convicted souls to the ground and leave them to the will of the wolf packs that lived in the long disappeared forests. Sobering stuff.

There is an old Chinese proverb that I have often found serves me well. Do not begrudge another mans fair fortune. For that reason, I hold no ill feeling to those that, as I type, are hurtling towards Paris for Arc weekend.

Consider their luck. They are combining several of life’s finest facets. Train travel can stir the childish soul in each of us with a tickle of excitement in our chest, St Pancras drips in opportunity, to stand and see the multitude of people and trains, each following a unique path, curving away, it is the essence of life itself. Liberty and Opportunity. To be travelling to Paris as well. One of the worlds finest cities, a place where a man can be immersed in his own mischief. The Eiffel Tower is the second most beautiful thing I have seen created by our own hands.

I say second because I consider it only bettered only by the Sagrada Familia which baffles the mind, a building which towers, soars and then melts and drips in front of your eyes, great tree trunks of columns, facades of such devilish detail and so well combined, I cannot describe well enough to you, dear readers, how each vista of that building compliments the next, I can not do that justice so you must go for yourself. To be baffled by our own creation, wonderment immeasurable.

Regardless, those heading to Paris must surely feel so alive at this moment and to them I say this. Soak it up, savour the Parisian air, take your time to absorb the environment as you, for you are the lucky few. Arc weekend is one of my favourite moments in the racing calendar. I normally draw a profit from it and may well write up a Sunday blog to cover the main card.

I used to hesitate when I told new acquaintances that my main hobby was horse racing. It can have ‘low rent’ connotations, for some (and certainly not I) it is a step removed from Babs Windsor advertising bingo in horrendously tacky style, a parody of itself. Aye, we can be tarred alongside a bad lot.

These days I feel a growing self assuredness to share my hobby which reflects my burgeoning confidence that we, the steady readership of this blog, our small community of hardy, intelligent, courteous and humble souls, sticking with me to land the ultimate mothership, willing to take on Kiplings impostors of triumph and disaster, together my friends, we hold values and understand philosophies that are worth sharing. Consider.

This week, in the UK, the partisan nature of our politics has been at the forefront of national events. Now I shall not bore you with my own judgements largely because I am not sanctimonious enough to believe you are incapable of forming your own.

I shall share an observation though that whatever you think, the system is designed to club you into one team or another. Partisan views rule and like flys to light, once people associate with one, there is a sense of obligation to remain loyal to a philosophy, restricting your reasoned ability. It makes people more stupid than they need be.

You either think that Ralph Miliband was a militant Marxist bent on the destruction of Britain, or he was a polite academic who fought bravely for the country. Either the BBC is promoting a left wing agenda and determined to do damage to its commercial competitors or it is a fine British institution bathed in its independent values. It strikes me that you have to belong to either side, the uncomfortable place to be is in the middle, with a complexity of views that would suit neither side.

Yet that is the more natural position for most people. We see this in the politics of any major party, internally factions disagree on major themes but unity is seen as an overriding value. To be a supporter, you have to sign up to the whole agenda. You commission your critical analysis to a third party.

Yet in racing, we learn to examine each aspect, independent of others. Our greatest profits often come when we swim against the tide. We are used to dissecting the components of an argument and reconstructing them to our own view. We are familiar with being wrong, for some of us it is a most regular event! We deal with this by examine our calculations and are willing to change our future patterns accordingly, to learn. Even when we are right (and there are considerable lessons here) we should conduct the same.

My biggest ever win was when, god bless the little toughie, Punjabi battled on up the hill to win the Champion Hurdle. It was the last time I backed the horse. Why? Well I was wrong to back it, yes Punjabi was worth a place but was a tad fortunate to win (a nose) and others should have reeled in the winner on the hill. A useful question we ask (following win or lose) is would I follow the same staking plan. We should ask the same in our wider lives. To be right and to question whether you made the right… It is a gambling lesson.

While we are spreading the enlightenment, let us get to the sports….

Longchamp Tip

In a fantastic warm up to Arc day, the highlight is an interesting Prix Dollar. If Cirrus Des Aigles is anywhere near his best form, then he surely should teach this lot a lesson. I would love to see the boy back to his best and lead them a merry dance but you have to be concerned with his form. His last win at Maison Lafitte was OK but represents far lesser form than he has previously shown but it could have boosted his confidence. One major plus is that Cirrus is certain to go in the ground which looks like riding quite soft. He has form on heavy. A return to top form (far from certain) is the key issue…. As I love the horse following his gallant pop at Frankel, I will be a backer but I want a saver and that horse which I offer as a tip to you is Willie the Whipper.

The claims are not as obvious at first but I am sure Duffield is not tilting at windmills. The Great Voltigeur form is pretty strong and that was run on ground that was much better than this horse needs. These conditions will suit and in a race where plenty could set aggressive fractions, I fancy being on one switched off at the back and arriving at the business end like a hot knife slicing through butter. 14/1, have a slice of what’s good for you!

The Prix Chaudenay looks a very good race and I like both of the Aga Khans runners but since I think the Fabre trained Montjeu colt, Montclair, could improve and the ground adds an uncertain dimension to these progressive sorts, it is a contest I am going to enjoy watching with no financial interest. On the subject of Montjeu, did you see that his colt to Finsceal Beo (what a cracker she was) sold for nearly €3m in the week. With Montjeu sadly no longer with us, it is true to say that they don’t make them like this anymore…. Good luck to the young blade. If he were mine I’d enjoy naming him.

Good luck too to Neil Callan on Fire Ship – it would be great to see the best freelance jockey from the UK get a deserved international high profile win although I must confess that I shall be keeping my powder dry!

To Newmarket…

The 2.20 is the half a million pounds sales race and one in which there is an expected significant array of progressive angles to take.

I might not be popular if you cam here for an alternate view but Toofi looks the part for me. He has the experience, has shown the form, has positive trainer vibes and crucially has Mr Murtagh, the man we all trust over from Ireland for his usual Saturday raid. 3/1 as I type.

I do like these sales races and in the opener, I have a strong strong feeling about Night Song at 3/1 – this Oasis Dream filly has definitely been targeted at this and Gosden has issued positive statements. She holds all the right entries and I suspect this will be her arrival on the big stage.

My other Newmarket bet goes in the last where Ajman Bridge looks for all the world a weekend NAP. 13/8 is a steal. I like these profiles when in the capable hands of Cumani, the Pontefract win was highly impressive on seasonal debut and 8lbs higher is nothing really.

Meanwhile at Ascot….

Just two bets for me and again they are reasonably easy to find. Umneyati deserves a tremendous amount of respect in the 2.05. James Tate has a decent one here as she looks progressive but has enough experience (4 wins) and some decent soft ground form. Ascot can be a killer when the ground is described as soft, no other track in my view drains as quickly as the Berkshire turf and what starts soft can finish anything but.

Still, it will not put me off a big bet on Ascription who should love conditions. I know I am joining the world and his dog but who could not be impressed with the last time out performance. The Doncaster performance was emphatic and 11lbs will do nothing to stop this one. Let’s be honest, the moniker ‘group horse in a handicap’ is going to be used plenty about this one. Right now though, I’d rather be on the train. 8/1 last night, a kew withdrawal drew the price in but the money is flooding on, Pricewise has given it up – your cousins granny is on as is your Doctor and your Mistress and 4/1 is starting come under pressure. If you can’t beat em.

Gowran – Jumps Grade 2 Action!!

Fantastic, the jumps season is back. Sizing Europe is running at Gowran and at age 11 is seeking the hat trick in this race. At some point these horses have to give way to age. It comes to us all, the sensing of the competent by the inexorable whim of time, creaking and continuos the introduction of decrepitness until the end and dust, we float about the cosmos.

As much as I would love to see Sizing Europe win, I am going to opt for Quito de la Roque with Davy ‘Iron Man’ Russell in the saddle. I think Davy has another cracking chance in the follow up race where he is in Minella for Value’s saddle. Davy at the Double?

In the 2.25 at Gowran, I am going to be on Guitar Pete too.

American Racing

There is some terrific action at Belmont and Keeneland tonight and I shall be tuned in to At the Races for all of it. Worth the time alone though is Wise Dan who will go off at short prices for the 10.21 at Keeneland. What a horse, well worth watching.

For betting purposes, I suggest Day at the Spa in the 9.17 at Keeneland (where incidentally Say makes her American debut), Artemis Agrotera in the 10.14 at Belmont and Havana in the 10.46 at the same venue.

In the football, I do fancy two. Walsall, a club I supported as a boy and watched at the LS Fellows Park are going well and I trust them to beat Brentford. I also fancy Leyton Orient to beat Oldham purely based on the views of @tjheezy.

May your dinner be fine and Italian, possibly the greatest cuisine on earth. I wish that the only discomfort for you is the size of your bankroll digging into your ribs. As the bill comes and your over fattened wallet drops to the table, remember how good it is to be alive. Next year my friends, I shall be typing this from Paris, no questions.

The Martin Hill sponsored bet is Ascription, Quito de la Roque and Ajman Bridge in a Trixie.

Courage and roll those dice.