Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Wednesday Punchestown Gold Cup Sermon and the Ascot Sagaro Stakes

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.

The Tuesday Punchestown Festival Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire where a pleasant spring air hung in the evening as we left for dinner but by return had descended to a suppressing cold slippery mugginess.

Odd to be out to dinner on a Monday night?  Well it is none of your business but I shall accommodate your inquiry.  The good lady was a victim of a full-on road rage event yesterday.  Shockingly, while she had our two boys in the car too no less.  Assuage thy concern, all are unharmed and while the cad was aggressive, to the point of banging on the car window, that was the extent of the disturbance.

She was reporting the incident today at the police station at 4pm, so I sent her a message at 5pm suggesting…  ‘If I were to take you to dinner tonight, where should I book?’.  I would invite you to use this from time to time, works the charm.

And so…. To dinner, The Fleet on the River Severn, lovely spot.  All was well with their faggots, a little uncouth in my menu selection?  Well I couldn’t care, you can take the boy from the Black Country and all that.  The boys played on their crazy golf, the sun set and I stood outside content, beer in hand (Thunderbolt, not what you think), a few midges were present but not so many as to upset the mood.  Plus, a view over the expansive green flood plain to the droning M5 motorway a full interrupted half mile away.  You may think this punctuated the mood but for the Majors dark wayward mind, I like a constant noise to keep me anchored, I am the sort to sleep with the radio on.

Later in the evening, I drive to Pershore, the Georgian facades look grand at last light.  The window down to catch the cool evening air, like nectar after the earlier rain, a pungent whiff of the spring onions being drawn from the field.  Marvellous.

The peace is stuttering.  Two pieces of news drew sharp.  A teacher stabbed to death in front of her class, a dog tied to a tree, doused and burned alive.  I do not raise these things for sensationalism or to upset your disposition, just that the barbarous nature of it, unfathomable, it must be a madness, the first was committed by a child, it bares little thought.

All of these things, prey in the edges of my mind.  Such a world we occupy, yet there is cause for hope for statistically these things are noise.  Yes, you might think it hard to reckon the tally as I do but the positive ledger of life, even the midges, out scores the credit side with comfort.

With such recompense, let us set the mind to the Punchestown festival.

Even some of the keener National Hunt fans have failed to raise Punchestown with me in recent weeks.  I have no idea why….. the quality is exceptional, if a little elongated.  Perhaps, burnt fingers from backing many a Cheltenham good thing that has gone awry in years gone by, perhaps the weariness of the season, perhaps buying the Bet365 Gold Cup as the last significant act of the season as seemingly advertised by some commentators.  Whatever the reason, do not succumb.  This is a quality festival and we shall draw long on the goblet.  I love the early evening nature of it, coming from the office, one can swing by your turf accountant and seek the results of the day while chancing your remaining bank on the lucky last.

We have some rules.  Class can tell yet… Look for horses laid out for it.  Mullins is important.  Good ground animals too.  Ideally less than six races season to date.  To the business end of the sermon.

Tuesday Punchestown Tips

The festival opens with a low key race.  The thing with Punchestown is that the quality is a little more thinly distributed but this is splitting hairs, it remains excellent.

In the Hunter Chases, jockey booking is absolutely crucial.  Some of these jocks have ridden less than ten competitive races in the last two years, some have over 150.  Seven have not ridden a winner.   I am not going to mess about, the best jockeys are, in  the Majors order; Nina Carberry……………….. Derek O’Connor.  To be honest, Nina is the only game in town.  She is on an Enda Bolger horse, Be Positive, and it is 10/3 favourite but it is the only bet for me.

Faugheen 8/11 – He is one of those that is borderline overcooked but this is a horse that I was very taken with, I cannot wait to see him chasing but for now the first Grade 1 of Punchestown will do.  The drop to two miles is no concern.  Invest; it is as though the Bank has ordered up a touch more quantitative easing.

The 4.55 is a bit of a mystery and I am avoiding the top seeds as we damn well need value.  Of the top three in the market, I prefer the Charlie Swan runner City Slicker but alas I have set my guns on more distant targets.  The one I have settled on is Dermot Welds Diplomat at 16/1 generally (BetVictor 20/1*).  He has had a spin on the flat to be fit, the yard is in fine fettle and Robbie Power is a capable and rare (perhaps first) booking for the yard.

*For newcomers, the Major has no arrangements with any bookmaker, I advertise not, there is no membership.  Just unhinged, barely profitable thoughts.

The Punchestown Champion Chase lacks our new star who chose Sandown on Saturday and to be fair, this is pretty poor Grade 1 fayre.  That said, it has to be won, and so… Sizing Europe would bring the house down but he is in the veteran stage and not for me.  Ballynagour is of a lot of interest after bouncing back in the Byrne Group Plate, Somersby has his fans, aye but not here.  I was against Module earlier in the campaign and had my fingers burned.  His third in the Cheltenham version was superb and at 7, he has a right to improve.  Ah, I hear you exclaim, pour quoi n’est pas Somersby! Well I retort, it is just a visual thing, I suspect that this less challenging track will suit my pick a lot more, 5/1.

The bumper at 6.05 has been won by Willie Mullins three times in the last ten and so a tentative nod at 7/1 for Very Much So. 

The the staying Novice Chase, it is all quality.  Ballycasey is probably suited by this slightly easier race than the RSA where he did not quite see things out.  That said, the RSA is a notoriously hard race and perhaps this is one to be avoided, especially as he had an extra run where he fell when distinguishing himself with some credit.  Morning Assembly ran a place in the RSA too and there is little wrong with his chances as I think the decent ground will be fine.  Djakadam is taking his fourth run of the campaign and gets a very handy 9lb age allowance and the services of Ruby.  I am bit concerned about the ground but think a decent run is expected.

You could put a pin in the lucky last and mine has landed on Disputed.  Find your own pin!

I trust your own dinner will be served in the best company and savoured because your soul is dripping in goodness drawn from a day of benevolence and winners, what more can I hope for you than that.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Landing the Scoop 6 Mothership – Ripon, Haydock, Sandown and a Wolverhampton runner too.

Good morning to all from the Major who writes groggy, still in the bed, all lethargic but comfortable.  The cold rain has been falling on Worcestershire smearing the roads into dark shiny slick surfaces over which the sound of tyres kiss.

Overhead conditions are grey and squally, bright pockets where clouds breaks in , not to reveal the calm pale blue sky, no just to uncover a brighter light, through thinner cloud that your eyes cannot take.  The sky is moving quickly, the scene unsettled.  I wish the sun every luck in burning through and showering us in those glorious waves.

The Major had a Black Saturday last week.  With the sole exception of Millwall who scored a 3/1 winner with their away day win at Middlesbrough, the losses stacked up.  It is a dangerous time to bet, early in the racing season, yards have their strings in different order, last seasons juveniles have had a winter of growth on them and some have come on incredibly, some not, some classy bred types that did not race at 2 are now ready and are unleashed, you have no comparative form just a sire, a mare and a trainer.  Treacherous times, hold on to the flotsam against the tides violent turbulence.

The Major has had a long tough week at work and could not bring myself to natural sleep last night.  Instead, I reached for the sleeping pills in the small hours and a chemical rest ensued.  I feel better for the result if not a little groggy.  If it is cheating, I care little, to us insomniacs, sleep is a precious commodity.

On the edges of slumber, my mind is on an overdrive, visions, ideas, vivid colours, my heart beats quickly; I can report from this far foreign lands where the normal rules do not apply, that dark thoughts hover just below the surface.  Surviving the night and coming through to the day, I can leave that world behind and am glad to.

It seems to me that there are only a few things we should be concerned about.  Most troubles I see boil down to a fundamental issue.  When will I die?  The tragedy of humanity is that this question can never begin with the word Will.  We are all heading to one place my friends, dust.  So what is left for us here, what purpose to be fulfilled, does any of it make a difference?  Wealth, Health, Power?

You can make your own mind up but the Major extols two things to aspire to.  The first is experiences, get as many of them as you can and bedeck them in mischief and fun.

The second is companionship.  Friends, partners, acquaintances – These people travel the same road, all of us towards the dust, walk the road with the best you can and make the journey that more the pleasurable.  Be charming.  I have no better advice than this, at the end, if your life is merely a futile exercise for which it is for almost all of us, perhaps with the exception of the great artists and thinkers; fear not, futility was part of the package for most of us.

Most terror in the world stems from this visitor who rarely announces his arrival too far in advance, death.  A lot of anger can be peeled away from its’ owner until you get down to the bare essence, I do not want to die yet.

I do not wish to be bleak, let us get to the sport, grab yourself a coffee my friends, we have a super-tanker to turn.  I have decided to give you all the winners of the Scoop6, if we all get on this lot, we shall have to share it but I don’t mind – That is all part of the Majors philosophy, share the wealth my friends, share the wealth.

Ripon, Sandown, Wolverhampton

Scoop6 bonanza day and the card is spread across Ripon and Sandown.  A devilishly difficult one but surely worth a pop and so, for a change the Major thought he would walk you through his selections.

Scoop 6 – Race 1 : 2:05 Sandown

Baradari for the lovely Venetia was a horse that caught my interest but her yard are not in sparkling form and despite my feeling that he will step up well to this distance, overlooked.  Dispour has a reasonable mark for handicap debut and he has not been disgraced at the highest level.

The key form for me is the Fred Winter, a race that is spewing out plenty of subsequent winners so Keltus who was hampered that day before rallying to 4th is a serious horse and I am not surprised he heads the market.

Scoop 6 – Race 2 : 2:20 Haydock

The Haydock turf is described as good to firm, a good starting angle which advertises the chances of plenty including Louis the Pious, Big Johnny D, Sir Reginald and Consign.

The Barrons have three runners in the field including Big Johnny D but their yard form is concerning having despatched 21 runners in the last fortnight but just 3 places the spoils.

No the Major is taken by the chances of Sir Reginald.  We are sure of a big run with Richard Fahey booking up the Champ, Ryan Moore to do the steering and this horse has the ability to win a contest like this on ground he will be fine with.

Scoop 6 – Race 3 : 2:50 Ripon

Trainer form has put me off Body and Soul because the Easterby operation have thrown 50 darts out in the last two weeks and returned just two winners.  That, coupled with the fact that this horse has been seen to needing his first run, it has to be a no.  I think he is the best in the field mind and he has some interesting entries later in the year.

For the purpose of a winner today, I am opting for Hopes and Dreams – This horse has had plenty of issues and will surely be the last to be loaded into the stalls.  If she can bounce out from her low draw, she might just be able to call the whole race at her tune.  There are plenty of others that would like to dictate and that is a concern but in a field of quandary and question, we get a proven horse, in a good draw, ground versatile and Graham Lee to steer.

Race 4 : 3:25 Haydock

The Lincoln is a key form race in weighing up these runners but I am ignoring it and throwing in a wild one.  If you want to win the Scoop6, you want to be a sole winner so at some point, you have to roll your dice!  The horse I think stands a chance at 16/1 is Seamus Durack’s The Rectifier.  Seamus is a small yard but progressing nicely and this horse has the look of potential improver having won 3 of his last 4.  Better company and a further 5lb mark are considerations but I think we can do

Race 5 : 3:30 Ripon

Gordon Elliot has bought Bayan over for this and that has to be significant.  This dual purpose horse has some ability and I think is an excellent bet for the fifth leg.

Race 6 : 3:50 Sandown 

Can you imagine if we made it here!  The most likely outcome is that we fall at the first race, particularly as I am not doubling up anywhere!  If the Major wins the Scoop6, it will be with a single £2 sniper shot!

If there was one man I would trust to bring home our mothership, it is top jumps man, Noel Fehily who takes the ride on Paul Nicholls’ Bury Parade.  I think the extra distance will just keep improving the horse.

Courage and roll those dice.

Other racing.

It is fair to say that in offering the weekends best bets, the Major might not have gone to the Scoop6 races.  So here are a handful of the other runners I fancy on a typically busy Saturday.

I can find no earthly reason why Sire de Grugy will get beaten in the Celebration Chase (3.15).  He has had a magnificent season culminating in his emphatic Champion Chase win and there is nothing here that should trouble him.  1/3 is a bit short but I am not pricing against the other horse, I am pricing against… Is he over the top?  Could he have a significant jumping error?  I will have him in some multiples anyway.

Everyone would not begrudge Hunt Ball a win in the previous Oaksey Chase (2.15) – There are few horses whose careers have been so badly managed as this one but he is now back in good hands and has started to show his old enthusiasm, a fourth in the Ryanair followed by running in the grand national, who knows what he has left, not for me.

No, I prefer either Menorah who has given Hunt Ball a beating before or Rolling Aces who might just yet win a race of this nature.  Of the two, Menorah – Load a small cannon.

The Football…… Fulham will beat Hull in my view and 13/10 is a gift from the gods – They have won 2 of their last 3 in their fight against relegation with the loss being to Spurs.  Home advantage too…. Massive bet.

Millwall are turning into a money train for the Major and while I cannot have them quite to win away (14/5) at QPR, I feel backing a draw is a sensible choice, 23/10.  Millwall have appointed well and are tough to break down from a tactical and mental perspective.

I think Wolves will still have their minds on the job for a trip to Coventry who could also do with a couple of points to ensure they are not involved in a relegation fight on the last day.  11/10 is the price and the reason I see them as still motivated is that this win will take them 102 points, a record tally for League 1.  A further win in their final game and they will have 105 points, the joint second highest tally in any league campaign.  Chasing such records, creating that bit of heritage, it should be enough to keep the players focussed.

I trust your dinner is of the highest quality, finely cut medallion of beef, pink with a dark jus, a puree of parsnip and all of the trappings of luxury of which you are owed.  The company is exceptional, pleasant, not rushed, conversation not chat, a flaxen-haired, open-eyed sort.  Eat well and enjoy – This is one of the finest things you can do.

Courage and roll the dice.

The Easter Monday Sermon – Fairyhouse and Plumpton

Good evening from the Major who writes from Birmingham where rain, tinged with its Siberian bleak origin, splatters down onto darkened streets, diffusing the neon lights and making good shelter the more welcome.

The Major is visiting the parents for Easter and shall return to Worcestershire with the morning light.  I took the opportunity to take a couple of beers with my brother too, possibly the easiest person to spend time with that this Earth can offer.  We journeyed into Walsall to take in a few frames of snooker, I struggled to land many decent blows as my superior safety, a dubious claim, was not good enough to prevent his superior shot quality.

The club, I knew as a child as Masters had been renamed Midlands Snooker Academy.  This might sound grand but do not be fooled, the interior decor would be exactly as you would expect, dingy, dark, ceiling with random holes and water stains, poor lighting, the evidence of one or two disputes written into the fixtures and fittings; you know the sort of places.  Yet, the grandiose name is done justice in the quality of the new equipment.  Eight brand new championship tables have been installed with a view to making the club a hotbed of snooker talent in the future.  Pro’s are starting to show up too, earlier in the day, Mark Ford rocked up and gave some of the juniors some coaching.  He plays Judd Trump this week, keep your eyes peeled.  Good luck to the club too, ambition is a magnificent thing.

The snooker club was dry, perhaps in keeping with its new philosophy.  So, with the witching hour upon us, we fell into the cold desolate Walsall town centre to see what fayre was on offer.  Now, I shall not purport that one thin slice of a place should reveal everything there is to be known.  No.  Yet, your faithful correspondent can only report that Walsall at night is a representation of civilisation breaking down at the edges.

Police cars park across the streets where three nightclubs host bawdy revellers.  Probably sensible to close the road given the hazardous nature with which the establishments spill their guts onto street.  Yet, a heavier police presence is noticeable on the drag too and passing the clubs, with their cheap alcohol promotions, music that deadens the brain cells and dubious looking inhabitants thick with gold jewellery, it was only the determination that runs through the family line that kept us plodding on, in search of more favourable grounds in which to have a quiet beer.

We came across a generic town centre chain pub; could be a Lloyds or a Weatherspoons, I couldn’t care, neither could the staff and the quality of the beer served told of pipes screaming for a good clean.  The walls carried pictures of various famous denizens of Walsall; actors from Eastenders and Coronation Street; BBC presenters and comedians; Noddy Holder and a guy from a heavy metal band whose name now, in the small hours escapes me; I think it was Judas Priest, I literally cannot raise the energy to look.  All of this, reminded of a sense from a time long gone; I remember crab fishing as a child, pulling in the various lines laden with bait, only to find the smallest of returns.

I am most likely being unkind.  Walsall is a place that holds fond childhood memories, the market, the smells, the marble shop on the hill.

To the sports:

Easter Monday Racing

The Major is on a black run.  Dark times.  I recognise that mentioning this is probably not going to endear the following advice to you but it is only fair that I acknowledge the performance of my recent advice within the public record.

It is not only that Saturdays Sermon tips failed to perform, all of my extracurricular bets, also fell apart at the seams.  With Tottenham 3-1 up in an open ended game, 15 minutes to spare and Fulham with the ball on the penalty spot, well, I was on my way to collect my +4.5 bet.  That failure about sums things up.

Still, Easter Monday is a rich day of racing and maybe we can find something to put together in some sort of combination?

Plumpton is not normally a winning track for me and in present condition I should probably steer well clear.  However, I am taken by the record of Alan King at the track and he has a few nice runners.

Although no prices are up for the opener, I suspect Mystery Drama will be very short change but it goes in my multiples on account of some excellent listed form and a taste for good ground.

I am going to stick with him on the implausible looking No Substitute who can be backed at 6/1 for the second race on the card.  This horse has taken no racing but is in good ownership and it is telling that they have persevered.

The third and we have a hat-trick of King bets with Hollow Penny – The Exeter race last time was better than this and given the horse has been laid out for these better conditions, I am a buyer at 5/2.

Probably the best card of the many, is Fairyhouse, which contains a 12/1 the field Irish Grand National head scratcher.  Only once in the last ten years has the race been won by a horse shorter than 10/1 and the winners have returned 50/1 once and 33/1 four times… That tells you everything you need to know.  The race has also had only one winner carrying more than eleven stone since the millennium.  You are as well off with a pin and I shall not pretend to shed much light beyond what I have already and suggest with extreme caution that Saoirse Dun might just give us some fun for 25/1.

The biggest bet of the day for me will be on the Fairyhouse card (2.45) as I am hugely interested in the chances of Clarcam, 11/4.  Regulars know that Noel Fehily is a jockey I consider to be at the top of his trade and he makes an effort to get over to ride for Gordon Elliot, which is a debut.  This horse ran respectably until crashing out of the Fred Winter and followed that up with an excellent second by under 2 lengths to Guitar Pete in the Aintree juvenile event, form enough and an expert ride, load up.

Feeling weary and, as you can readily tell, defeated; I shall leave Easter Monday to the rest of you with the energy to read all of those races.  I shall retire a poorer man in pocket but much richer with the sights that Walsall has given me.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Racing… The Football… What more do you want?

Good evening from the Major who writes from the closing stages of a blistering Worcestershire day, the light slowly fading, enriching the depth of colour within the gloriously virile Bluebells which dust the forest floor.  Deer, on the verge, ready to bolt yet remaining alert, limbs locked tight, it is good to be alive.  Despite the brightness, the air is cool and with no cloud visible, a chill is coming on the night air.

The week has been tiring but not without recompense.

Thursday, London, in the sun, a stupendous dose of good medicine administered directly to the heart, I would recommend all of you to partake in our magnificent Capital on a glorious Easter Thursday… After finishing my afternoon of work, I met with a friend to imbibe of our environ and be thankful for existence.

It starts in a traditional busy boozer within a stones throw of London Underwriting Centre, drinking at pace, the throng spilling onto the streets.  Then we migrate to a more youthful urging crowd of Leadenhall Market, a full throttle drinking festival – long curvaceous chambers of ancient trade, magnificent carvings, the contrast of cavern with antique ironworks that blend perfectly with the classical red and gold livery above the retailers premises, many of the inhabitants still hard at their craft.

A dropped glass shatters, amongst the packed crowd, onto hard blue black cobble, it only punctuates the moment, nobody fear cessation, the feminine curve of calf in black stocking, a rush of blood and your shoulders stretch back and your chin struts out, just instinctive reactions.

This all surmounts to a wondrous summation of the parts… God is present, the sheer endeavour of spirit in all men to partake, to hold gratitude, that is blissful and all are welcome… While criticism runs amok for financiers; the Major, a visitor on their shores suggest that in amongst them, you will find good souls who possess the most beautiful of characteristics, humbleness, perhaps weaved with a wicked charm and a glint in their eye.  Good luck to them, for without it, we are paupers.

On the late train home which seemed to sway in rhythm with my mind, I sent a text to ‘the taxi driver in our village’, lovely Lorraine, a woman who probably knows more about my general vices of drinking and gambling than most, yet she wears a straight face that gives confidence, she is discreet as the cat.  She certainly would not judge the scene just an hour earlier as an already wine-flown Major scampers down the first class carriages to be the lucky last recipient of First Westerns hospitality, when they are about to close the bar, I can move like Usain… shame is an alien emotion for me.

Then to Good Friday.  A day with the family at the open day at Lambourn and what a triumph that was.  The sun shone, we had a walk around Harry Dunlops and Matthew, 6, declared Cadmium his favourite inmate, while Daniel, 7, went for Le Grand Cheval.

The Good Friday racing from Lingfield has to be declared a triumph.  They had to lock the doors…. this is Lingfield right?  A fabulous new card that offered more prize money than any single day at Royal Ascot.  If there was a valid argument against, it is not a religious one.  Good Friday is a public Bank Holiday and while the roots of it are based in Christian heritage, it is not obligatory.  Those with faith can choose not to partake (or sod it, join in, be merry and pray for forgiveness, God loves a sinner), those without can celebrate the addition to our bank holiday of an excellent initiative.

The other critique comes from some folk in the racing industry who valued the day off.  This holds a little more weight.  It is probably not a bad thing to have some occasional days off but why choose one of them to be a day in which you could engage and entertain a greater audience?  Sack some of those Mondays where an utterly dreadful Southwell and Beverley concoction tables less prize money cumulatively than the average single race from Lingfield today.

Some improvements are needed.  Channel 4 need to pull their finger out and provide domestic TV coverage.  It also needs better promotion too, to capture the imagination.  It is not the Breeders Cup but it could attract overseas runners with some of the money on offer, let’s hope it builds enough prestige to do so.  Finally, it needs some better quality horses, I have no idea why some of the bigger guns did not roll up to have a crack at these excellent pots of gold… Still an excellent start and who could wish for more than that.

While we are on a high, let us break cover and move forward with aggression, skirmishing in open formation; to the sports:


I have to be honest, this might be the focus of Channel 4 tomorrow but it looks horribly like a bookies benefit to me.  I shall pick my way through with caution.

The opener is a five runner affair and I suggest a punt on the outsider of the field, 7/1, Un Bon Ptit Gars.  Why the optimism?  The ground is less of a concern with him than some others, at 6, there is still some potential to come too and Nick Williams although only running a few in recent weeks has scored with a couple…  I won’t be loading the large cannon but it shall not pass without some loving attention.

Two horses catch my eye in the second.  Harry Fry has never had a winner at Haydock but to be fair he has only ever had two runners there.  He relies on one bullet for Saturdays card and that is Bold Chief, a general 4/1 shot who will be very comfortable with the rattling ground and was damn impressive last time out at Uttoxeter, lengthening away from Knock a Hand in a manner that suggested the 8lb rise was entirely reasonable.  The other I like is Beforeall an Oliver Sherwood horse, also a Haydock irregular, who is ground versatile and I thought showed tremendous spirit last time at Ffos Las.  That race was in heavy ground and at Ffos LAs, that is gruelling gluey stuff and it only took place twelve days ago so it causes me to side with young Fry and Bold Chief.

In the third Generous Ransom, No No Mac and Hold Court all look interesting but I shall leave my bank safe and move on…

In the 3.15, I like Bincombe who has being winning well but also suggesting a step up in trip would benefit the horse.  He also likes good ground having won twice upon it.  Midnight Sail looks to be in remarkable form and could play a role but generally I do not like the older horses.  I would enjoy watching Lost Legend win and am a fan of his 5lb claimer Linehan.  I shall stick with first instinct and Bincombe.

In the 4.20, I am back to making a case for the outsider of the field in Wake Your Dreams.  Clearly there was an issue with the horse after he overcame blunders to win at Market Rasen last August.   That was a second win on the bounce and in the former, he put away The Cockney Mackem, OK no superstar but still a decent 129 rated hurdler.  Could be more to come and if fit, 8/1 is a nice price.

At Nottingham, the form trainer of the moment, Mr Gosden sends two of his string and a double feels like an essential part of the Saturday investment portfolio.  At this stage of the flat season, trainer form is incredibly useful as some yards are more forward than others and irrespective of ability, if they are not ready, they do not win.

6.45 Gilbeys Mate and7.15 Court Room

I cannot get motivated by the rest of the cards, don’t let my curmudgeonly view infect you, if you find the requisite enthusiasm, knock yourself out.  I shall sign off with the football as usual.  Someone told me that they came to the blog only for the football tips, they were expressing their thanks.  I told them to piss off, how rude, this is a racing blog with some football thoughts tagged on; his sort not welcome to our exclusive club of refined gentleman.

If you wanted a manager to dig you out of relegation troubles then Holloway would be on your list.  Millwall are now unbeaten in four games including trips to Forest and Wigan and while Boro might be in decent form themselves, I will partake the 3/1 on the Lions.  My second bet is much nearer the bottom of your coupon.  4/6 Annan.  That’s it, I’m still smarting from the idea that someone was only interested in this bit…

The Martin Hill bet is an each way trixie on Bincombe, Bold Chief and Un Bon Ptit Gars.

I trust your dinner is in a fine Italian restaurant with marble everywhere.  Have you ever noticed how good Italian restaurants only have waiters, not waitresses?  Well I hope your company is enchanting and you are ordering the finest Barolo they can muster from the cellar.  Eat well, you can trust the Italians for that.

Courage and roll the dice.