Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Saturday Sermon – Newmarket, Chester, Belmont, Santa Anita, Market Rasen, Football, Sports Bonanza!

Good evening from the Major who writes from Worcestershire where the clear evening air carries a chill, a message from the dark months to come.  The Major writes early with the blueprint of the evening being to eat and drink lightly and be to bed at a reasonable hour.

I know you are wondering if you have come to the right place or whether indeed the Major has been kidnapped and some phony is ghostwriting this weeks sermon.  Fear not, for I am to Birmingham tomorrow and a full day of debauchery with an old friend, an Australian, that sort of cheery soul who is good for a laugh, good with the bottle, good for some mischief, I liked him the first day I met him.

My Irish readers, who are legion, would be proud as the Major arranged to meet him some weeks ago as the All Ireland final was closing to a stalemate after an unbelievable match. You needed no expertise to feel that this was a special moment.  I was plenty entertained by the endeavours, the skill in the forwards was inspirational, shots were being fired in from every angle and distance, under intense pressure, that in spite of having no prior knowledge of the game, I determined right then, that I would watch the rematch.  

For those unfamiliar with the game it involves sticks, a small hard ball, nothing obvious in the way of body armour and two teams of strapping likely sorts intent on a bit of light hearted savagery.  The moment that stunned me the most was when the referee blew up for an infringement.  This was made shocking as to that point, I had no idea that there were specific rules in play, what is more, I could no decipher which barbaric act had fallen foul of the rules given that each action seemed as brutal as the last and as such picking which was a transgression, well, I would not like to live on the difference.

This week, saw the Major to London again.  In fear of sounding vulgar I shall not dwell on those magnificent pieces that stole my heart once more.  Lest to say that one wore a sensational grey one piece work outfit that shimmered each time the sharp crack of her heels rang out from the cobbles of Tower Hill.  Ah, she took some of my soul.

That soul was roused again, within minutes, as at Tower Hill there is a simple monument in honour of Malta.  With some time to kill, I lingered at it.  It is a large square simple stone decorated on each side by a black marble plaque, quite large and inscribed with various slices of the legendary siege of Malta.

Malta was already an island with decent form when it came to sieges.  In the sixteenth century, the island held out from an Ottaman invasion and as such was the first such successful European power to repel the Turks.

However, in World War Two, the resilience of Malta became a crucial act of the war.  The island is strategically highly important lying just a few hundred miles from the North African theatre, a crucial campaign to defeat Italian interests and divert Nazi resources from defeating the Russians in the East.

During the early stages of the North African campaign, while the Axis powers held the upper hand in Africa, Malta was a considerable thorn in their side.  British military assets could run sorties to disrupt supply lines by sea and air.  Rommel knew that without Malta, North Africa would struggle to hold and thus a full frontal siege and assault on the island was embarked upon using Luftwaffe assets deployed on Sicily.

Malta had limited defences and significant Luftwaffe airfields were within 100 miles.  In July 1940, the first relief convoys arrived with no intervention and a mere 80 raids were carried out on the island.  By Autumn 1940, the Italians were capitulating in North Africa and the Germans were sending reinforcements.  Malta became crucial.  The Axis command resolved to up the pressure and throughout the year, attacks increased until by autumn they were around the clock.  Axis plans to increase raids to intercept supply convoys were made.  In early 1941, HMS Illustrious was damaged by Axis bombers and the entire civilian population of Malta moved into caves for cover from the ceaseless bombardment.

By late summer 1941, severe rationing was in place as the island simply could not sustain itself.  In the August, Crete fell to the Axis but crucially, September saw 8 ships arrive with life saving supplies for the islanders, including more spitfires to aid defence.  Throughout this time, it is easy to think of the island of a defenceless sitting duck but this was not the whole picture.  Malta continued to be a magnificent asset to the North African campaign, even at this time of starvation, raiding forces from Malta were able to stop half of all Axis supplies intended for North Africa.

In October 1941, supplies were dangerously low again but once again the island was saved once again, this time by the deployment of the British submarine fleet to bring vital sustenance.

By February 1942, more than 250 air raids are run over Malta in a desperate Axis bid to put the island down.  In the same month, an allied convoy from Alexandria is destroyed and the supply and stockpile situation again reaches critical.  The balance of Europe hangs by the thread.  The Luftwaffe with inferior technology, losing five to one planes against the Spitfires and Hurricanes, continue to throw enormous resources at Malta.  Food that does arrive on the island is even tainted by the taste of high explosives and the denizens continue to burrow underground, resolute.

The allied forces also know that the island is a vital pawn.  Unable to succour the inhabitants at this time, with unbelievable bravery and determination, a consignment of two spitfires arrive by aircraft carrier along with 5,000 tonnes of supplies, all delivered while under sustained and heavy fire.  16,000 buildings have been destroyed but just 1,000 islanders have died thanks to their subterranean existence.  Six and a half million kilos of ordinance have been discharged on Malta to this point.  With the population unwavering, standing firm and fighting as best as their condition allows, the King made an astonishing gesture.  He awarded the second highest military award, the George Cross, acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger, to the entire island population of Malta.

Yet in that spring, Maltese fighter squadrons were at dangerously low levels and the outcome was very uncertain.  The USS Wasp managed to break the siege with a vital supply of new spitfires all the way from Castle Bromwich in Birmingham, god bless my home town.  Food stocks remained perilous.

The crunch came in the August of 42.  Supplies were at a critical stage, the Axis were determined to succeed in Egypt following some successes since they had joined the Italians there and the game of Malta became a death match.  The citizens would starve to death without further relief and so naval command ordered Operation Pedestal, an all out, must get through convoy.  We would throw everything we had at it and so would the Axis.

21 Destroyers, 7 cruisers, 4 Carriers and 2 Battleship were deployed to protect the fastest 14 merchant ships the allies could muster, all stocked with crucial fuel and food.  The Axis put to see 7 cruisers but a dozen submarines and their main assault was to be from the air.  Some 600 Axis fighters and bombers engaged the convoy who were to find it warm work all the way.  Five days and nights the battle raged.

On such small turns are great events won.    The fury of the Axis assault scattered much of the flotilla and sunk HMS Eagle, a carrier and HMS Cairo, cruiser class.  For such a high cost, supplies were landed.  The prized merchant ships the Luftwaffe wanted to sink were hit hardest and nine sunk.  Four landed, the island relieved, the tide to turn.  The most remarkable sight was that of the brand new American tanker Ohio.  Testament to the barbarous battle, she limped into the Grand Harbour, towed by destroyers, themselves badly damaged, on 15th August 1942.  Her engines ruined, she had endured bombs and torpedoes and  incredibly carried an Axis fighter ablaze across her deck.  The crowd played Rule Britannia before dumbstruck by the scale of battle that her scars told had preceded her arrival sobered them up and a silence fell in respect of the dead at sea.

Malta, once again became the first European fortress to withstand the onslaught.  They once again proved a pivotal point in a great conflict.  In late 1942, allied forces routed the Axis in North Africa and all thanks to a plucky beautiful lump of rock and the hearty residents that held out alone against a diabolical rainfall for so long.  In November supplies were arriving unmolested, so quickly after the moment did the advantage take hold, something we see, mimicked in sport.

That monument I lingered at, is not some fancy obelisk, no, something much more suitable.  A large block of stone, hewn from those Maltese caves in which folk sought refuge, praying for salvation.  As Roosevelt paid homage, in person on Malta in 1943, he said, one tiny, bright flame in the darkness.  A beacon of light for the clearer days which have come.

My own siege is unbroken.  I have not had a good week in recent memory.  The darkness is murderously thick and salvation seems so very far away.  Yet I call on us all again to don our war paint, to do so not wearily but with vigour and intent.

To the sports.

Newmarket Tips

The Royal Lodge looks a race full of pace this year with Elm Park and Medrano likely to unleash some serious early speed and they are amongst others who will want to get their heads in front.  Thus I am looking for the classiest closer in the line up and it looks an obviously sensible approach to consider Nafaqa who beat Toocoolforschool at Doncaster, which now looks like incredible form following the Mill Reef in which his defeated foe romped home.  I am a little scpetical about the Mill Reef form, the ground was sticky and plenty of the others did not act on it but Toocoolforschool absolutely murdered them and despite the fact I cannot take it on face value, it merits respect.

The thing is Nafaqa (6/4) also beat him very well indeed at Donnie and Hanagan in the saddle is a massive boost.  He has having a terrific summer and while I have always thought him a very good jockey, full of confidence as he is, he is a massive plus.

Tiggy Wiggy (11/10) wins the Cheveley Park.  She is one of the most exciting horses I have seen this summer.  An absolute ball of speed and so highly thought of by Hughsie.  I am all in.

I know you want a Cambridgeshire bet but I am not going there.

Chester Tips

Instead, I am heading to Chester where I normally can find a few winners.  The course will ride a little slower with the going being good to soft but that should not put us off horses that… like a tight track, are drawn low and don’t mind having their toe in.

In the 2.30, I am suggesting a massive 14/1 shot (Bet365) in Bethany Bay who has won at the course.  The horse spent some time at Meydan and returned with a slightly subdued run in Ireland latest.  I am not put off and I think from Stall 3, we could have a really good run for our money.

In the 3.05, Potent Embrace has the draw and the credentials to do us proud at 7/1.  It took some time for the penny to drop and two stiff rises have followed two wins, one here and one at Pontefract.  That said, these Johnstone sorts when on a roll can be worth sticking with and we all know he trains them with some sort of magic voodoo to be hard to pass.  Draw might not be as important over 1m 2f but it is still a factor and I like this one.

I like Shes a Worldie in the 4.15 at 7/1 – She started an outsider for the Flying Childers and did not trouble the principals but certainly was not embarrassed.  This is evidently a hell of a lot easier than G2 standard and I like the fact that she likes to be prominent.  If she can break smartly from five and get across then she stands a damn fine chance.

Market Rasen

It is a one race raid for the 2.15 listed hurdle.  At this stage of the season, it is worth following yard form for the jumps.  The summer jumpers have been doing their stuff, the proper beasts are warming up in the background with seasonal targets being mooted, punters are clicking on the antepost buttons in anticipation scanning the lists… Vautour, Faugheen.  I like to back yards in form as an important facet at this stage.

This can be tricky as between Henderson, Ferguson and Vaughan, three operations represented, they have only had five runners in the last two weeks.  That said, three were winners and so it is foolish to entirely rule out the yards who are brushing the cobwebs from the horse transporters.

Yet, Pipe catches the eye, he has had five winners and three places in the last fortnight from 11 runners.  I am backing his runner Purple and Gold who is one of those with mixed form to say the least.  That form is genuinely mixed though as in there are some decent themes to it and the animal is at least consistent.  That said, Mijhaar looks a damn worthy favourite on the hurdling debut he made but subsequently a fall and a misfire (although in far better company) while obviously not enough to write him off yet, caused some concern.  What puts me off is that the headgear he used to sport is left off and without a recent run, even in spite of the form I advertised for the Ferguson operation, I am left unsure.  Call me wrong if you like, it was a fine balance.

Belmont and Santa Anita

I won’t offer much fun on the Santa Anita card but do want to back the two good things in Beholder (Zenyatta Stakes) and Shared Belief (Awesome Again Stakes).  Forget I said it.

At Belmont, in the Joe Hirsh, I am backing Imagining as I have little faith in Main Sequence.

The Football

West Ham are a big price to win at Manchester United (7/1).  That defence is held together with string and West Ham have some powerful players that need marking.  Peterborough have not excelled in recent weeks and have returned to better prices and so at evens I want to dive in for them at home to Fleetwood.

The Martin Hill bet is Nafaqa, Tiggy Wiggy and Bethany Bay in a powerful trixie with Bet365 while they still offer up that 14s.

May your dinner be simple.  Boil some rice and dash in a little soy sauce.  It is delicious.  Do so in the company of a good friend and what you save on dinner, invest in the wine.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ayr Gold Cup, Newbury and HQ… plus the football.

Good evening from the Major who writes from an uncomfortable Worcestershire where an aggressive wind furls the flags furiously, trees pushed and shoved with a vicious indiscriminate violence.  The week has been long and the Major has a weariness of muscle and mind.

When in such mood, the darker thoughts that normally are confined to their night-time jail seep through into the day world.  They roam at their own will, spilling into the forefront of my mind, running in enthusiastic abundance.

The Major traveled to London this week.  Several meetings and a day of richness, the sort that rewards the keen eye and the open patient mind.  A session with my personal coach first, now that sounds posh.  I meet with her twice a year and she gives all sorts of hell.  A Persian sort with a soft face but a dark piercing eye that seems to delve right in and rummage in your thoughts with no invitation.  I like her though and while she comes across as having walls as thick as the Krak des Chevaliers, sometimes, when I am my wicked worst, I probe those defences with the best charm I can muster and do you know, she has a frisky laugh and a wicked curl of the lip.  They are all the same in the end.

Being in London is one of the perks of my job that I shall miss.  I left her and made my way to St James Square, glorious space, beautiful buildings and only spoilt by some temporary scaffolding and a relentless throbbing shrill of the alarm at the Cypriot embassy.  I am sure all was well enough.  I had business in one of the grander looking buildings and through a serious door, a Tardis like wonderland.  What was a Georgian building, became modern and spectacular, opening into a courtyard with the three sides reaching upwards five to six floors, a height not evident from the frontage.  The fourth had a simple sounding piece of art, the wall was all white but cut from it and protruding slightly was a section that had been polished further and was undulating and the gap to the smooth wall was greater where the peaks and troughs of the elevated section were steeper.  The impact as intended was as though this piece had been stripped from the wall itself.

That stayed with me for some time.  As I say, when tired, my mind taps into the nether regions readily and it was not long until the riches of our Capital washed those thoughts away and new flotsam arrived on the tide.  Alighting the tube at St Pauls, a vision appeared, one sporting an elegant piece of black fabric that covered curves so delightful that they spoke to me at once, god is alive and he is good.  She was glorious, long and very deliberate delicate flaxen hair fell to a shoulder length layered cut, my heart rose high in my chest and for all of 2o seconds, walking up those stairs, well sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines…..  Such rapture happens frequently to me and I speak to other women about it, they refute my claim of love.

Early evening drinks, cold beers served on long benches in Smiths of Smithfields, the old meat market evident in the furniture and setting.  Ah, it is good to be alive.  Then to dinner with a friend at a place named Lobster and Burger.  The entire philosophy of the place was simplicity and the only dishes they served were advertised in the name.  With the window flung open onto a thriving street of young vibrant souls, all was well in the world.  As Oscar Wilde said, youth is wasted on the young.

The late train back to Birmingham, while waiting for my taxi, I strayed into the casino but an ill wind blew.  You might think that I was well served for my malignant and vexatious thoughts, I retort that fate is a poor mans belief.

To the sports and let us be at the devil of an Ayr Gold Cup.  Shabash, call up the heavy charger and have that sheepskin a dazzling white, we shall charge full on and pick them with our razor-sharp lance points, handling all 12 feet of it at full gallop.

Ayr Saturday Tips

First of all, the Major is in terrible form.  I have not had a good week in three and my own personal returns have run concurrently.  This is not a good advert for what follows but none the less, it is only right that you are well-informed.

I do not normally like Group races for developing 2yo fillies but might make an exception for the 2.05 at Ayr.

I have no doubt that Ainippe is decent.  She was beaten just a week ago in arguably a better race, the Flying Childers and with improvement for the extra stamina test looking to suit, she is a player.  In fact, that form is blatantly the best on offer.  However, I always lose my taste for these young girls once beaten.  Mind you that Flying Childers form is looking damn solid, winners aplenty, while my next paragraph might suggest a winner, have a saver on this favourite and supplement the following in a forecast.  Confused?  I am too.

My pick is Spirit of Xian a Hannon horse that has Fran Berry in the saddle, there is a lot to like about that combination.  This will be the first Richard Hannon Jnr ride at Ayr and while the statistics are more fortuitous than revealing, Berry has had 1 ride for Hannon and won.  Is that why I like the horse? Well no.  It is an admirable campaigner and that experience is a useful attribute in an affair like this.  Highly tried from these quarters also suggests that some talent lies within.  The trips overseas have not been too bad, G3 4l defeat… a subsequent soft ground trouncing, I don’t know, I just feel there is a big race in her and all the stars are aligned.  10/1, tasty.

I cannot recall my Silver Cup and Gold Cup tips with great joy and these handicaps are an enigma anyway.  I may have already warned you that I am on the cold list and it would seem that these races are unlikely the ones that pull me thorough.  Alas, such poor news, it is my duty to impart. However, even the blind squirrel finds the odd nut and the broken Clock is correct twice in the day.

So… Where to look, which Rock to peek under. Christ, a man can get lost in draw analysis and speed.  The Silver Cup has one obvious angle for me.  It often goes to a northern trainer.  That sounds unusual, and thin, granted, but it does.  Maybe this is a race that the Fahey, Dods, Barron, Easterby et al clan target; they have been responsible for 4 of the last 5 winners.  Maybe it is a race which is less important in Newmarket and Lambourn. Maybe.

Three year olds and Nine year olds have taken this race, top weights and bottom weights.  I am struggling to find another angle, this is best guess.

Colin Keane is a fine Irish jockey and Mezzotint is one of many horses that might come good.  Some of the early form reads well, I cannot claim too much credit should it triumph so tread lightly.

The Ayr Gold Cup 

I must declare an interest that Jack Dexter is a warrior I have long followed.  Remember that glorious season where many of the good sprint handicaps were run on soft ground – I saw him at Ascot late in that season, I took my father, who turned 70 recently, grand.

There has not been a single price winner of the race in the last 15 years but then, there have not been many single price runners!

Surely my boy Jack will be undone by the good conditions, to the point where you wonder if he will turn up.  This is such a tasty sprint handicap, again, the mind wonders and wanders, how might we find the winner.  Well, on form, Fahey is a good start but Nicholls that bull necked monster has sought a harvest here too.

Being a test of the better handicappers, the weight range is tighter. I have the winner.

Watchable showed much better form last time and being lightly raced but campaigned well, you have to think that more is possible.  Some would treat the yards reluctance to declare as worries over his readiness, I treat it as a straight concern for whether they are going in too quickly and burying a handicap mark that might yet allow them a shot at a big prize.  We are at the stage of the season where you cannot wait, 12/1 BetVictor.

Newbury Tips

The 1.50 Arc Trial will be the weakest Arc trial in Europe, in fact, it has nothing to do with the Arc and the name should be changed.

Hillstar has the talent but hmmmmmm…. Not exactly the most reliable.  If you are to find an opponent to an unreliable sort then you need to be certain of one of two things, either your unreliable sort will reliably misfires or you found an alternate.  My starting point here is that I think Hillstar is a rule unto himself.

Tasaday is getting some good weight considering her York exploits she was in good company that day and acquitted herself well.  Yorkshire Oaks form is bankable but it worries me that she is an ‘almost’ horse.  Whilst in France she looked top class, finishing 5l down in third to Treve in a G1 before the Arc winner either won the Arc or subsequently lost her form… Fabre is nobodys fool and the idea that this horse is now better than when he sold her, I cannot take it – Conflicted.

I end up by the default position Sherlock preached to bet Glorious Protector at 4/1 with Paddy Power – Improving, friends, have a slice.

Newmarket Tips

I have one bet and it is a Johnson and Fanning assisted shot in the 3.40 Tatts £100k race.  Secret Brief will not let us down.

The Football

Arsenal are not yet good enough to beat Villa at home.  The Villains have started with intent and a draw at 11/4 is decent.  0-0.

I have a feeling that this might be the last day for Pardew and so Hull at 11/4 are to be backed.

Man United will go on from their slaughter of awful QPR and 7/10 is a price.

Derby is a 4/5 gift to beat Cardiff as are Wolves to beat Bolton (11/8)

The Martin Hill bet is …. Derby, Man United and Glorious Protector in a confident treble.


I say somewhere noisy. brick walls lit by careful lighting, a deliberate place but plesant enough.  I hope your company is as beautiful as your spirit.  Tip well friends.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Uber Scoop 6 – the 20/1 St Leger Tip and some other nonsense no doubt

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cool and pleasant Worcestershire where the last of the summer slides away rapidly each day.  The evenings draw in, the Majors thoughts run to where he might secure the winters wood, perhaps that ugly plum tree without the room to grow from behind the summer-house…. Ah sweet winter with your National Hunt siren call, here she comes.

The Major has negotiated an exit from the company I work for.  I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago but honestly some of you do not listen.  This means that from 1st November I am a free man.  No plans exist which means my emotions are an equal mix of one part excitement and one part sheer terror.  Mr Hill who has under sufferance followed my weekly advice for all these many years is a business associate and his company have organised a send off at the October meeting in Cheltenham, in fact the first day that grand course offers in the season, 17th October.  A restaurant is involved.  I was very moved that he did this for me and it goes to show that good will prevails.  Thank You.

The good lady has a significant birthday in early October and the Major has arranged a short trip to a small Italian island, north of Sicily.  A splendid looking spot, volcanic yet lush vegetation, beautiful seas and quaint fishing villages.  The hotel looks a magnificent bolt-hole, 17 bedrooms, all individual and a hostess that has excellent taste and employs a fine chef.

The island is Salina.  it is part of the Eolian islands and it is their food and drink festival while we are there.  We shall dine in the hotel, I envisage that we shall largely be quiet, lapping up the good air and peacefulness, after all the two heirs to the Majors throne shall be left with Grandparents, c’est magnifique!

The island once hosted a popular romantic Chilean poet who was living in exile from Chile.  Pablo Neruda was talking to crowds of hundreds of thousands in 1945 but by 1948, his ideology was abhorred by the governing powers who had put down communist led miners strikes with vigour.  Neruda spoke out against this violence, he was as a fulcrum in a network of intellectuals and artists that supported socialist ideals.

He was a slightly schmaltzy poet but since I delivered you verse last week, I felt you might permit me to serve a second dose.  Not here, later.  When and if you make it, this is like a triathlon you know, I ask you to consider the following line as the most important: I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.  Let that sink in for a few days.

Anyway, in 40s Chile, in fear of these upstarts, the authorities felt the sort of great anxiety, perhaps paranoia, that is  driven by greed, by the danger of losing your personal power, the government , darn their frivilous shallow thought, ordered the arrest of our romantic poet.   Neruda went into hiding in the port city of Valdivia, a pretty place that was almost bought to complete rubble by the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in the 60s.  While Neruda was there in 48, he was supported and hidden by friends, living in basements and after many months, slipping his chain and tip toeing over the passes of those great Andean mountains to Argentina and eventually escape to Europe.

As I meander through this story I must tell you something that I feel compelled to share of the Andes.  If you were to think of the point furthest from the centre of Earth, you would think of Everest.  However, the Andes has it.  How, you ask? Well actually I bet you don’t, you don’t care do you… Well I shall tell you, it is to do with the fact that the earth is not a perfect sphere, there is a bulge towards the equator.  Feel better, thought so.

Neruda spent time on Salina and there is a beautiful film of a downtrodden simple postman who longs for company (other than his fathers) and is inspired by the poet, Il Postina, if you are interested.  I played it to the good lady while telling her it was where we were going for her 40th.

Ah Major, I hear you sigh en masse, we never knew you were such a romantic.  Well, yes.  You have been coming here long enough to know me as I am.  I confess to being somewhat a rogue and certainly I feel that fate has dealt my wife a poor hand.  Hence, when the occasion arises, cometh the hour, cometh the man.  I consider a good investment, she is the down to earth sort but cares about things, important matters in a way that my cold heart cannot muster.

Anyway, I shall report on the volcanic green beauty, stunning shabby chic hotel and secluded bays of Salina in early October, around Arc / Champions Day time.  For now, we have the small matter of our last classic and the biggest Scoop 6 since the chap used his £2 for maggots to win a share of the win pot before not joining the other 3 tickets who won the bonus pot of an eye watering amount, strange that.

To the sports and as I type, I am conscious that I am as cold as the fish on the mongers ice counter.  This week, Doncaster has been an appalling and embarrassing stain on my record.  I started with consistent ground and a choice of races.  There were fine horses and no pressure to rush.  Yet, with the touch of true genius, I managed to sweep away these obstacles with impeccable consistency and return 8 picks, unplaced at odds less than 7/1.  Read on at your own peril.

Yet losses are not as hurtful as you might expect.  Lessons are never for free, well apart from the MOOC courses I have signed up for and would recommend.  Generally though, failure is a fantastic teacher – So let us see how we do.  To quote a fantastic twitter acquaintance, @onedeswalker, after the drought, the mothership.

Saturday Tips – The St Leger

I have a really simple position with the St Leger.  I do not think Kingston Hill will win and so I hope he runs as it keeps a nice honest market.  You see, there are the ground worries, there are the form worries and then there is the trip.  Will he stay?  It is enough for me to abandon and pray that he takes his chance.

Gosden has such a great record in the St Leger, Masked Marvel, Arctic Cosmos et al… The year Masked Marvel won, he beat Sea Moon and Brown Panther; that one was a fine renewal.

So, this years winner then… I must confess that Kingston Hill stepping up in trip, fills me with hope and fear.  The hope is that, as stated, I am not convinced that he is a stayer.  The fear is that in this thought, I seem to be in conflict with Roger Varian…. quite.  Stay the course though Major, the mothership lands when you swim against the tide and find the seam of truth, richly running through the rock, we turn the drill into it and reap our rewards.

There are proven stayers here, they include Hartnell, the Ascot Queens Vase winner, 2m, he was defeated by Snow Sky in the Great Voltigeur.  They will make sure there is some good pace on.  Both are well fancied but my mind runs to a turn up and I have the perfect candidate.

Alex My Boy  is a Johnstone inmate and we know he can train a stayer.  On blood, he has already won (Dalakhani — Alexandrova (Sadler´s Wells)).  He has acted well and moved off decent paces with a bit of acceleration.  I like the chances and 20/1  is a gift (Paddy Power)

2.20 Chester

I am going long again in the opening race /of the Scoop 6.  I have a fancy that Clockmaker might outrun his generous 18/1.  He finds Chester to his liking, which not all horses do (10 runs, 2 wins, 5 places).  There are two major obstacles; the first is form, he has not run well in half a dozen efforts, including two on the Roodee.  The second concern is Hayley.  A long time and a lot of quality seems to have passed between now and her weaving beautiful win on Dream Ahead in the July Cup.  I want her back and she is capable but I watched her run on Aragosta on Thursday at Wolverhampton.  She had the best horse by a mile but managed to get beat.  I know she is not as well supported as she used to be but her win % is desperate.   Yet, I hold a flame, sensible souls… abandon hope all ye who enter… the rest of you, have a tickle.

5pm Doncaster

I had this chalked up between the Bell and Hannon horses and came down on the side of the latter on account of yard form.  Bell has had just one winner in 25 and I must confess, the Hannon sire, Lawman, is one I watch when his crop improve as my selection, Marshall Jennings has done.  Get involved, I love Kirby around Wolverhampton but son, this is big school.

Thus the Scoop6….

Race 1 : 2:20 Chester – CLOCKMAKER

Race 2 : 2:40 Doncaster – OUT DO 

Race 3 : 3:50 Doncaster – ALEX MY BOY

Race 4 : 4:25 Doncaster – MOUNT LOGAN

Race 5 : 4:40 Leopardstown – DIGEANTA 

Race 6 : 5:00 Doncaster – MARSHALL JENNINGS

Other Considerations and the Football

2.55 Chester, NAP of the day for me is Pinzolo at 11/4, right draw, right horse. Appleby have the strongest form, the horse has been competing and fairing respectably in far better races but has recently won dropped to this grade.  SHABASH, load the cannons.

Leopardstown – Free Eagle, John F Kennedy and Australia – They might not be independent bets but as a treble, rest assured, it is what Jesus would do.

In the football, it is rare that I back my own team, especially against ‘quality’ but West Brom are bedding in new players and I have this sense that we might come good with an ex Everton member of staff on the vanguard. 12/5.

Wolves at Blackpool at an evens bet is golden.  I am also a Peterborough advocate 4/6 so stick them in the double.

I am also sticking with Portsmouth, 11/5 at Southend, I hope they are not my Wigan.

The Martin Hill bet: Martin Jennings, Pinzolo, Wolves and Portsmouth.  Yankee straight.

I hope your dinner is a fine cut of meat, served on good china.  The wine gently falling, gurgling in the neck and splashing in the glass.  The company, raven haired, pool like eyes, in which you swim, dreamily forgetting your pretense.  A turn at the corner of the mouth, wholesome smile and chiffon dress, cut to classy and shimmering to thrill.  Christ, the heart races.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

Clenched Soul

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.

The Saturday Sermon – Haydock Sprint Cup Day. Mothership Scoop 6. My Worcestershire landscape.

Good evening from the Major who writes from the comfort of the drawing-room gazing out over a dull hazy Worcestershire. The day has been unseasonably close and the Major has been out running in the busy lanes that fall from Defford to the old Eckington Bridge.  The backdrop to my endeavours was serene with the fields flowing towards Bredon Hill to the South East and Malvern far to the West.  Indulge me with a brief essay on my locale, we all live in richness if we were to lift our eyes from the floor.  We shall weave and meander through, not staying for long, just like the Avon which winds through this land peacefully still, the brown waters calming and banks teaming with life.

Eckington Bridge, a gorgeous stone multiple arch construction, has crossed the Lower Avon at this point since the early fifteenth century, although the present version is three centuries old.  It is of red sandstone and has a turreted design, very pretty and gloriously impractical for modern traffic.  The elegance of this scene inspired a poem by Quiller-Couch, a Cornishman who was writing in the early 19th century;

Of green days telling with a quiet beat
O wave into the sunset flowing calm
O tired lark descending on the wheat

The bridge always echos to me Parsons Folly, a small tower that sits atop of the aforementioned Bredons Hill just a few miles off.  The two structures are of entirely different material and style but the quaintness of them, the smallness, they sit almost lost in this sweeping English rural scene.  Yet these small man-made structures have disproportionate  impact.  From my bedroom as the summer sun sets against pale blue cool skies, I can see the sun glinting pink off the stone walls of that tower.  It is always there, watching over us.  There was a real Mr Parson that built the tower, he had purpose too, it stands at 39 feet tall and brings the hill height, including the tower to a round 1,000 feet.  The folly had an incumbent hermit before the second world war but now stands alone and locked.

Our ancient fathers were a literal lot.  Bre is ancient English for hill, as is Don, so Bredon is hill hill.  Later in our language, Bredon also became a word for hill, confused, you should be.  Avon comes from the Welsh, Afon meaning river, England has several Avons, this one, joins the Severn at Tewkesbury having been born in the Midland springs.

I once climbed Bredon Hill and met a fellow walker on the long broad ridge that leads to the summit.  He was a local historian and told me that the manor house, half way up the Western face of the hill, served as a magistrate in centuries past.  Capital punishment was served there and the method would chill you.  They would stake criminals onto the hillside and leave them there to starve and be taken by the wolves.  I have never been able to verify those claims, which to me seem improbable.  Certainly though, boar, wolf and even bear would have roamed here in centuries past.

It is a nice walk to the top of the hill and it has inspired several other poets.  Housman, a nineteenth century writer penned verse and I have added it to the post for your delectation.  I felt one poem snippet was enough to subject for your mandatory Sermon read and so have left it for you as a present at the bottom.  It speaks of death.

Mandatory reading you cry! Well, yes, skipping to the tips is ungentlemanly given I expect you to read the outpourings of my dark soul and share with me the riches and worthless thoughts contained in my spirit.  In any event, you are a damn lot poorer for cheating your way to the sports as you certainly cannot be coming here for the punting profits.  God alone knows that.

My entire locale has ancient secrets, the English Civil War came through with major battles at both Evesham and Tewkesbury with a warm skirmish over the destroyed Pershore Bridge.  That war bought Englishman upon Englishman, musketry, cannon, mortar and for the close warm work, the Pike.  What stories these old fields and trees could tell us.  What lessons we might learn.

What stories, perhaps one day, one might tell of a stubbornly brave or foolish Englishman who against all teaching pursued his dream and landed his morthership in the Ladbrooks at Pershore, thus driving the enemy foot and hand into the river mercilessly.  Daub thy warpaint friends and join me, we will meet them man to man with bayonets fixed, they shall see our intent, see in our eyes, our deep resolve and tremor shall infect their hand.

To the Sports

Haydock Tips – Including the Betfred Sprint.

The evergreen Martin Hill called me this week.  For those who did not catch my news a few weeks hence, I am leaving my employer for pastures new.  That the pastures are unidentified yet is both exciting and terrifying.  Mr Hill is a business contact who in short time, became a friend.  I could tell early in our acquaintance, from the glint in his eye, that his mind ran to skullduggery.  He became a regular reader and would always ask me to post him a multiple.  To this day he backs them all religiously.  We have had some good results too but in recent weeks, the negative ledger has seen plenty of entries and so I promised him today that I would find him gold.  Stand on me, today’s Martin Hill bet will land.

The Group 3 Superior Mile, 2.40pm, is a race in which I am going to advise a bet.  Ocean Tempest landed a 14/1 win at Chester last Saturday and what an incredible performance that was.  He carried the burden of a welterweight around that tight little track and was brave in the home straight to come between horses and get up, incredible stuff, what we all love to see.  Can he repeat it here, no.  That is my verdict!  For one, that win was the only piece of worthwhile form his yard have recorded in the last few weeks and it must have taken some toll, he is brave but not super-equine.

Anyway, Charlton has a great record at Haydock and has won this race twice in the last 5 years… Thus Captain Cat is an excellent bet at a general 7/4.  Yes he swings his head high but does not look ungenuine and both his G3 win at Salisbury and his effort in the Celebration Mile give him excellent chances here. Particularly the last run which if you had been one of his many backers (went off 9/4), you might have validly vented your spleen as jockey error gave the horse (cruising a few furlongs out), way too much to do.  To be fair to Mr Doyle, he was quick to apologise, fair enough, public error, public apology.  Anyway, lump on.

In the 3.15, I can smell a Prescott gamble developing and am advising an early investment on Big Thunder.  My case is such m’lord.  This time last year, the horse looked highly progressive and won off a mark of 93 here in a campaign that saw him lower the colours of Salutation and Glenard.  This campaign has been poor and the handicapper has not yet released his icy grip, the bastard.  MAJOR!  Where did that outburst come from!  I do hope my mother is not reading.  Anyway, Prescott is in form and that yard is one that are well worth following when in good spirits so the last remnants of 12s should be gobbled up before they are mere memories, because those prices are not long for this world.

The the big Saturday race, the G1 Betfred Sprint.  This race was won by Gordon Lord Byron last year and prior to that Society Rock, Dream Ahead; names to earn that top draw status.  This line up is worthy.  Gordon Lord Byron is back, Sole Power one half of a powerful sprint duo et al.

First of all, Es Que Love.  No chance.  Yet how much racing has this horse seen?  When with Johnson, he seemed to be declared every other day!  A worthy yardstick but not a G1 sprinter surely.  Sole Power troubles me.  This is going to be an all out pace assault and the horse has never seen out 6f having had 5 attempts at it.  I am going to look for something else.

I like G Force although he has yet to fulfill on some of his potential.  He looked a G1 sprinter in the making to my eye early in the season but maybe next year is the time to return to this project.   He only gets 2lbs from some serious top draw sprinters here.

I am left with wanting some value and I am going to opt for two.  Tropics is available at an astonishing 11/1 with Paddy Power and if you can get it take some.  His July Cup form is not to be sniffed at.  The other I think is worthy of a tickle at a big price is Pearl Secret  at 28s with Corals and 25s generally.  The horse has a good Temple Stakes piece of form and came back to form with a listed win last time.

Finally at Haydock, I can smell a talented Godolphin runner with Latharnack in the 5pm.  The competition seems to be the Prescott horse and I have extolled the stable form there already but I have a feeling that this boy in blue might give them a well needed quality boost a genuine contender for the G1 juvenile Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

Ascot Tips

Have a few shekels on Highland Acclaim in the Ascot opener.  Course form is important here as it is deceptively tough.  The O’Meara yard is in OK touch and the Shergar Cup win last time was decent enough.  A small rise was justifiable and at a 14/1 stand out BetVicotr price, well worth a punt.

I am jumping to the 4.40 at Ascot and the Ryan Moore assisted Fray.  I thought the horse deserved to be whacked for a very smart Newmarket handicap debut win and the rise of 7lbs did not stop a good effort behind Water Hole, last time out.  That her conqueror went on to place in a G3 gives me some hope, that she is lightly raced and progressing helps me more, go for it at 3/1 with Paddy Power.

Scoop 6 Mothership

It is another Scoop6 mothership.  Here is my full single sniper shot at the massive prize.

Race 1 : 1:55 Ascot – Highland Acclaim
Race 2 : 2:05 Haydock – Barnet Fair
Race 3 : 2:55 Kempton – Tenor
Race 4 : 3:15 Haydock – Big Thunder
Race 5 : 3:30 Ascot – Montaly
Race 6 : 3:50 Haydock – Tropics

The Football

One bet this weekend and it is Sunday.  Portsmouth are 21/10 to win at (admittedly top of the league) Burton on Sunday and I would urge a lumpy lumpy bet on the visitors.

The Martin Hill Winning Bet

Mr Hill.  Take a sprinkling of Captain Cat, add to a base layer of Latharnack and then Fray at Ascot.  Mix in a trixie 1pt (to be 4pts) and add a further 1pt treble.

I trust that all of you dear readers are bedecked in your finery at dinner with cash to spare.  Good wine, delectable dining and the finest company.  A raven haired sort with lilting mesmeric voice and dark watery eyes that you can swim right into.

Courage friends and roll the dice.

Bredon Hill by Housman

In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.
The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away;
“Come all to church, good people;
Good people come and pray.”
But here my love would stay.
And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
“Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.”
But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.
They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.
The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum,
“Come all to church, good people.”
O noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.