Good Evening from the Major who writes from an extremely pleasant Worcestershire scene where spring light lasts deep into an evening of Gods creation blending deep greens, pale blue sky and clean cool air.
The Major had a flying visit to London today and with the tube strike in full militant action (there were real trade unionists with colourful ancient RMT banners), chaos was the order of the day. Great snaking queues led to tables with volunteers handing maps of bus routes, the taxi rank was a seething mass of impatience and all of the time, outside, unknown to the panicking masses, a highly gratifying temperate climate awaited the walkers.
My destination was Kings Cross, two and a half miles, taking in some of the fine architecture and seeing the full spectrum of the denizens of this great city, very good indeed.
The return train, late in the afternoon was thick with homeward bound weary travellers. The pressure released once we had despatched the Oxford crowd, then the remaining West Country folk collectively stretched into the new-found comfort and space and admired the North Oxfordshire countryside whirring past the window.
One of the memories I have from the Lambourn open weekend was of the drive home. The landscape was spectacular, monstrous fields that stretched as far as the eye could see without interruption by hedge, thicket or even an old oak. Industrial scale farming but the conformity and the scale, these things stayed with me as they sometimes do. In contrast, Worcestershire has a rural scene that is a patchwork of irregular design, variance, colour; what it lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in variety. I am boring myself.
The blog had a decent opening day at Punchestown. We had seven selections, one went non runner (Djakadam). Three did not feature. Diplomatic rattled the top of two down the back straight and lost interest. Module fell and Disputed in the last led the field into it before demonstrating a lack of ability at the business end.
On the positive side, Be Positive was the only game in town as indicated and I advised a significant investment on Faugheen and you could have joined the queue for payout half way through the race, he simply loved leading them off the front, tremendous. The turn up was our Mullins bumper selection that drifted to 12/1 (adv 7/1) but held on all the same, as they say, the horse knows not the price.
Faugheen may rightly feel a bit overshadowed this evening. While his performance had us racing fans purring, it was not as stirring as the spectacle of Sizing Europe, admiral old servant, pinging away off the front like he was rolling back the years. A tremendous win, a wonderful story but for the Major – I do not like my G1s won by a 12 year old. Yes, I can hear the names you are calling me.
Wednesday Punchestown, Cheltenham Hunter Chase and Ascot Tips
I may not cover every race, certainly the opening race for conditional jockeys looks a minefield and an unappetising one for me to unpick.
The second is much more interesting and Cheltenian is an excellent starting point now that this former Champion Bumper horse has commenced a belated hurdling career. He is proving a decent handicapper and his mark of 141 is marginally superior to anything else we have seen here, with Le Vent D’Antan a pound behind. I prefer the British raider and 11/4 is available this evening. The big danger must come from Carraig Mor who looked to the world a champion at Uttoxeter but has disappointed since, King is nobody’s fool and he brings him across, moderation, as my mother would say.
The third race, a Grade 1 novice hurdle is much more of Championship ilk and seemingly, two of the three key protagonists are Gigginstown. I have an easy decision here because I think the Albert Bartlett form is superior and thus Very Wood gets a strong recommendation at 9/2 with Paddy Power.
This is not the strongest Gold Cup I have seen. Do not be upset, it still is an interesting race but Boston Bob has never really translated from an accomplished hurdler to a top class chaser. This might seem harsh given he just won a Grade 1 at Aintree but that Melling Chase was much poorer than this, even if Ballynagour ran respectably today (without beating the admirable pensioner). Boston gets the benefit of a Ruby ride and there is enough to like.
Three of the last five winners returned at long prices, 14s and two at 20s. I do not see something from left field but do suggest Lyreen Legend might go well off the front. This has not been one of my favourite horses but is exceptionally capable and this track is sure to suit more than Cheltenham where the horse travelled but did not stay.
On balance, I think Boston Bob is the bet. It was not his fault he beat lesser beasts well in the Melling. He at least has a strike rate over fences that suggests more might be to come if he gets his jumping together. The flatter track will suit I guess…. I feel dirty, 3/1.
This is turning into an obvious blog but why can anyone see any of the Champion Hurdle horses reversing form with Silver Concorde? I cannot, Carberry gave the horse a great ride and is replaced here by McNamara who had the Dermot Weld winner today (ps looked like an Ascot Gold Cup sort to me!).
To Ascot….. I once took a group to the Sagaro Stakes day for charity – We had a spring buffet in the car park and a tremendous day of racing ensued. Someone remind me of the horse (First Something?) definitely two words, that raced and won in the Mill reef colours – Very useful sort has had a good career – Well it won that day…. Interesting? Not really is it.
This is an excellent renewal and worthy of greater than a Group 3. Simenon returns from his adventures including an excellent fourth in the Melbourne Cup, he will not mind the soft ground and is in good company because neither will Harris Tweed or Tac de Boistron, the latter boasts superb form from Longchamp after closing the season with a tremendous win.
When it comes down to it, I want trainer form at this stage and while Botti is only getting started, Mullins and Haggas are providing plenty of evidence that their string are in top order. I am backing Simenon who is available at 5/1.
Courage, roll the dice.