Good evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire scene where high cloud spirals with great panache reaching with ambition for the striking blue sky. The air is cooler and the ground still kissed with the evidence of earlier precipitation. Most pleasant.
The Major has been pounding the lanes. You may recall that a year ago, I ran the Paris Marathon for Meningitis Trust, well a year of loose living and I am 15kg heavier, do not recoil in horror dear readers, I am merely a man of extremes. Having shocked myself into action, I took my first tentative jog for a long time running a mile and a half last week. The legs felt weak, the lungs ached and my head turned an angry sweating puce… I was lucky to survive and it was 4/6 that is was the last run I was prepared to make.
A two miler on Wednesday felt no better but tonight, a three-miler through the pretty village of Burlingham where the cricket club quietly rumbled in the background and the old church stood guard… it rekindled old memories. Tingling sensations in the legs, rounding a corner to be surprised by a new view across the magnificent green rolling summer Worcestershire countryside. Running is a magnificent pastime, it quiets the mind and expends energy converting the negative to positive, health and vitality.
I have been forced to kickstart training again because in a fortnight, I am to run in the British 10k in London for Footsteps Foundation. An Oxfordshire based charity that is close to my heart. You see, I have this wonderful niece, a proper ray of sunshine, who turns four a couple of days before the run. From birth she has had developmental issues, she was a late crawler, a late walker and as yet has very limited communication skills. Footsteps have been a fantastic support to Izzy and her family, my sister, Jenny, her husband Pete and their other children, Charlotte and Thomas.
I know you probably have charitable commitments, myself I try to support as many as I can too. If you have a couple of shekels to spare, I would appreciate any support you can muster on my justgiving page. As my company (part of Zurich) are doubling contributions, even a £2.50 nudge is worth a fiver.
Outside of half killing myself to shape up in two weeks, it has been a busy week. Today I gave a leaving speech to a colleague who has been a tremendous support in the last few years. The man has such class, I admire it and since I fear I am devoid of many of his qualities, I feel well placed to judge them in others. I had quite the lump in my throat as I considered his wise counsel to me over the last few years. Still, I can still swing the clubs with him from time to time. Fare well DC.
It must be the exercise but my mind is cleaner than usual, the dark thoughts that creep under the door in the dark hours are held at bay. So we go to the sports… Recent form is strong, Ascot played out well enough and while the Major will not be going in with guns blazing today, we shall have enough invested to at least pay for a good dinner.
The Northumberland Plate
This is not a race I have traditionally done so well with but the statistical basis of that is thin, I’ll give it another ten years before deciding this is a bogey race. Last years winner Tominator was a bit unusual as top weights have a poor record in the race, he was also the first horse to win the Plate twice, bravo. Typically you want a horse shouldering less than a nine stone burden. Plots are thick in this handicap and before the off I am sure some of these will be plunge sorts.
Donald McCain has won two of the last five runnings both times with established hurdlers turning their hand at the flat. Overturn being the first, what a fine horse he has been, keep it simple, get to front and gallop the life out of them!
The McCain runner Mawakeet does not have a promising profile although is a change of accessories sparks him to life, who knows.
There is not a lot of draw advantage in the Plate but being high is a problem for a front-runner as you have to use a lot of energy to get prominent at the first turn. Not a problem if the plan is to drop in behind.
This race looked easy to me last week when Pique Sous was an Ascot winner for the Major in some style – If turned out again, I was ready to load a large cannon. Therefore it is interesting that the trainer Mullins has withdrawn a couple and relied solely on Lucky Bridle one of his Graham Wylie horses. We all know the colours, we have our memories, most recently Boston Bob, On His Own, Shaneshill and of course the one we all love, Tidal Bay. Graham is from the North East, he made his considerable estate from the Sage Group, the accountancy software which he created himself. He is from the North East and as a local lad, you must think that he would like to have a winner here. His string used to be entirely held by Howard Johnson until he had a 4 year ban for all sorts of misdemeanours…. If Lucky Bridle stays, which in this trainers hands is extremely likely, then he is a contender.
The thing that gives me hope of an angle is the ground. Very often this race is run on soft ground, only twice in the last ten years has firm appeared in the going description. As a consequence, trainers often have good to soft sorts in the race and not many of the runners are true top of the ground specialists. It might be a tenuous thread but it is the one I have decided to play. As such a few horses come under the microscope… Sir Ector, Boite, Noble Silk, Big Thunder, Van Percy, Totalize and Suegioo.
I am going to put the line through Big Thunder (weight and a watching brief on the yard), as well as Sir Ector and Suegioo on the grounds of weight. Boite has a very very interesting piece of form in the Queens Vase when third to subsequent Gold Cup and Leger hero Leading Light which taken literally means he wins. It is a bit concerning we have not seen the son of Authorized since last July and so we are relying on the skills of Chapple-Hyam to get the boy ready, 40/1 is wrong.
Noble Silk is unexposed as although has won over the distance on the all-weather, he may have improvement back on grass. Not sure.
The three on the shortlist are Totalize 14/1, Van Percy 10/1 and Boite 40/1. Totalize is running for Ellison under the guidance of the strong Robert Winston. Off the low-end of the weights, I am definitely interested in a horse who may well love these conditions and could be a plot. Van Percy I like a lot. Oisin is down to a 3lb claim but it is still a superb 3lbs. The horse looks like he is going to revel in these firm conditions and finally Boite whose case I have made. For once, I am going to suggest you back them all as singles and have a cheeky reverse forecast on the three and even a reverse tricast, just in case! Three darts to turn my plate form around.
The Irish Derby, The Curragh 5.30 – Australia meets a group of opponents he conquered at Epsom plus one outsider. I can make absolutely no argument for why the form of this brilliant colt should be reversed. I accept it is only a price for multiples and only put it in because I did not want to stay silent on the best Group One Irish Classic.
In the Railway (4.50), After the Qataris stepped in with an eye watering £1.3m for Capello Sansevero, it will be hoped he can start to pay off some of that investment here. I do not see any reason why his Coventry form cannot be upheld unless War Front responds to a new array of headgear. (They’ll try a top hat soon) and proves better than currently shown. In these cases, I find it best to stick to the proven case and that means a chunky investment on Capello, 5/4.
Chester 2.45 – I like the work of Richard Kingscote in the saddle. He is having a first ride here for Hills on B Fifty Two. The horse is fine on the ground and is adaptable in running style, 5/1.
Chester 5.05 – I am back in on a Dascombe horse, this time he is riding for Manor House and in a race where the old Holmes adage prevails:
Eliminate the impossible dear friends and whatever remains…..!
There are lots of these I cannot see winning and while Cherowee does not bowl me over, I am left with him as the logical choice. 11/2 looks a very decent price where the other market principles are inappropriately drawn.
The Martin Hill Trixie is Cherowee, B Fifty Two and Van Percy.
I trust your dinner is taken in fine company, fine fish, steamed fresh vegetables adding colour and a crisp white wine.
Courage friends, roll the dice.