Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Saturday Sermon – All of Aintree (Old Roan Day), Some of Chepstow, Doncaster (Racing Post Day) et al. Plus Crowd Sourcing Multiple.

Good evening from the Major who starts the post late, dead tired and a little off the running, intention is to complete in the morning.  The weather swept through the landscape today, great swirls of darkened sky deposited their contents swashing and gushing through the fields, leaving great dirty brown pools latterly violently displaced by transient blocks of metal, shuttling their occupants and cargoes about their business.  As each wave of water is thrown into the hedges and the culverts, one might think that the volume is diminished but like flies scattered by a slender elegant arm movement when al fresco, it returns, ad infinitum, congealing together once more.

The Majors state of mind remains in flux.  The Diazepam is running low and while I considered requesting a second batch, perhaps openly, perhaps with a little more guile; then a good friend suggested this was classic drug seeking dependency and I have little need for more vices.

Should you have never ingested Diazepam (Valium), I can describe it as follows.  It does very little to deal with your pain, yet rather, you shall no longer care about the pain’s presence.  In case you have missed previous updates, I am suffering a slipped disc following an innocuous reach for my laptop.  Has ever such a bad injury been incurred in such mundane circumstances?

I tested myself with an evening trip to Warwick University mid-week, propelled by the tickets I secured for my father in law to a lecture by a former Concorde pilot and instructor.  My father in law is an engineer himself and while aviation was not his field, he was immersed in the lecture which had a pleasing mix of anecdote, history and fluid dynamics.  Christopher Orlebar sadly suffers from seemingly late stage Parkinson’s and while active as a panther, his movements, impinged by such terrible demons, lack the grace of his brilliant mind.  He frequently bent over double in maniacal suddenness, his limbs no longer responding to commands from the central cockpit.

Yet, he was captivating, effortless moving through his presentation, determined to master the technology much to the chagrin of the assistants in the room who felt discomfort at this wayward man.  Yet it bought a smile to my face, he had flown one of the most fantastic machines man has created, he was not going to be beaten by a projector system.  His ungovernable frame lurched across his floor, his audience hearts stretching, all wishing there was something could be done to help the man.  Yet, his eyes still flickered with that sense of life.  Christ, Parkinson’s is a terrible illness.  For such a brilliant man to be trundling on that downhill train, relentless momentum, the brakes burned out and no escape route.

Now, the Major shall file a report but I request that folk with more engineering scholarship than I forgive any inaccuracies, it is certainly not my field and I can only report at my poor best.  Ah, what I learned.

23 miles a minute.  Think about that.  At a height where you can see the curvature of the Earth, a height where weather does not occur.  Did you know the speed of sound is slower up there?  I did not realise the extent.  I thought that must just be pressure related but no, temperature too, apparently.  Sound drops by 100 mph.

The sonic boom spans 20 miles and the iconic wing shape was required so that the disturbance of air as you come through Mach 1 can pass by the structure of the craft.

Conversely, as Concorde increases airspeed, unlike conventional aircraft (those very iconic distinctive wings), the vertical force is not lift but downwards.  Without redress, the craft would nosedive as the speed increased.  To balance the craft’s centre of gravity as it gained velocity, Concorde had a complex fuel tank system through which the pilots would pump the 80-100 tonnes of fuel towards the tail, through a network of 13 tanks.

My proudest moment, in a room of engineers, a club of which I am not a member, came when he posed the question as to why flying London to New York, Concorde would tile down to the port side by 2% throughout the flight.  A few suggestions were thrown but were dismissed and Mr Orlebar glanced up at me as I was rotating my hand palm up, fingers clawed out to emulate our blue globe.  He could see I was mimicking the Earth spinning, my poor mind attempting to construct the requirement to fly on the tilt, to understand the effect the flight path and he exclaimed – ‘There! He has it!’, I certainly didn’t but my feeble thoughts were clearly along the right lines and appearances were on my side.  In the end, who needs more than that?

I bought his book for the good lady.  She loves planes and Concorde, as for many, was something that made her heart race.  Once, driving down the A45 past Birmingham Airport, Concorde flew overhead and almost caused her to swerve and crash the mini pick up van she drove as a trendy young alternative girl back in the day.  She had to pull into the services and sit for half an hour to recover.  Ah, that’s my girl!

I recounted this story to Mr Orlebar, introducing myself by declaring that Concorde almost killed my wife and recounting the story.  His daughter assisted him to a seat where he kindly signed her book, rather uniquely.  Those points are in the bank Gentlemen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Anyway, my father in law; dressed in full ‘informed man’ regalia, resplendent in corduroy and cravat; for all the world a seasoned veteran lecturer, all salt and pepper hair, belly and beard; well, he reveled in it, in the lecture theatre and in the student pub later.

I can say that many things have stayed with me from that night.  The analytic demonstration of the Air France disaster in 2003 leaving all dead, all for a piece of metal you could rest in your palm.  As Mr Orlebar described, the devil himself must have designed that accident, 170 knots on the runway meant it had to lift off but with fuel tanks punctured and the rear engulfed in hellish flame.

This brilliant man, Orlebar, who had navigated VC10s over Africa with just a sextant and good sight of Beltuguese, Vega or Sirius, a man whose mind although so poorly deteriorated could still outgun me three to one, no question; to see him all wild arms like some blundering beast, wonderful and tragic, that maelstrom of emotions will stay with me the longest.  For some reason, the juxtaposition of the Concorde flight also remained with me.  Up front, in a small cabin, three technical experts, handling the complex beast with such competence and composure, all for the benefit of the good denizens who can afford such travel, sitting in comfort, all needs attended to just yards away.

God she was beautiful.  Those things we see with our eyes, in this world confined to the squalor of or own minds, a sudden shock, as struck my better other half, something that overwhelms our poor sense.  In the same way we cannot grasp at infinity or might be left dumbfounded by nature, frost dripping from winter bough, mist hugging lowly fields under , we cannot process with ease the greatest elegance of our own creation.

In the Q&A, he was asked whether it was right to retire the fleet.  His face sank slightly and he said that she needed great work.  The instruments belonged to a different era and that this refurbishment was going to be too costly.  He alluded to the importance of efficiency and that the new Airbus was 5 times as fuel-efficient per passenger.  He concluded that , yes, it was the right time.  Then, having given practical validation to his view, he gave another, seemingly more important personal perspective.  It was the right time to go, he said, because you should leave the party at the zenith….. leave them wanting more.

To the Sports.

Aintree

Old Roan day and a cracking Aintree card.  Good ground and that tight little track, on the look out for trainers in form, top jockeys, course form and at this stage, the ability to go fresh, on conversely, those that are improving after a recent spin to open the lungs up.

So…. In the opener.  Alan King is on fire and has been a cash machine for the Major this week and on that basis, you might think Handazan represents value at 12s.  I do and with another shift in headgear and the accomplished Coleman aboard, he is on the list.  I am hesitant because I think he wants it a bit softer.

Hawk High and Katgary have to be considered on the form of the Fred Winter, although both flopped at Aintree as often Cheltenham horses do.  I was on the defeated Katgary at the festival and was cursing the bad luck in running which surely cost him victory.

This is a tricky puzzle, figuring out who is tuned up and contrasting with class but in the end I settle on another in form yard, that of Hobbs and his runner, Garde La Victoire.  The horse will love the good ground, I do not think he is a star of the future but maybe today will be his moment to shine.  Small stakes advised, it really is wide open.  4/1 in a spot but 7/2 generally.

In the second, I have struggled to abandon my favoured combination of Longsden and Fehily and stick with the aforementioned King.  He runs Roberto Pegasus and while I was pained to leave Spirit of Shankly, my head tells me this is the NAP of the day.  9/2 is available in a place (Corals) and I suggest you load both cannons with the grape-shot and FIIIRREEE.  King surely has this one set to be an improving handicapper this year.  Previous achievements might not have been exemplary but his recent dismissive victory in a Worcester maiden suggests he is a proper competitor.  Many a bloodless maiden victor falls at the sight of seasoned handicappers, this I accept, but in the hands of this man.   No fear.

Follow it straight up with a bet in the Old Roan on Uxizandre, another King horse and I accept, another at the head of the market.  I know you must be concerned, is the Major going to point to an outsider at any point.  Well, yes, I will soonest but value my friends, does not purchase the finer vintages, only winners can do that.  My tip has won on good ground and look, it wins, OK.

Some classic names line up in the veterans (3.40).  Burton Port boasts the finest CV of the lot having competed gallantly at the top level.  This is a tough old race to crack though, even with a field of five.  While veterans, they are not old codgers just yet and the Major is having to balance some fine judgements.  The first to get the red line is Hey Big Spender who never runs well first time up and has never placed at Aintree, then there were four.

I am tempted by McMurrough, I love that horse, off the front, he jumps like a fluent beautiful machine and he will make sure they go at a reasonable clip.  He won’t mind conditions which is what makes me nervous about Burton Port.  That said, Burton Port has the assistance of Maguire, an excellent jockey and it is a rare ride for Jonjo; 2 wins from 3 rides in the last two years.  Just that blot on ground…. mmmmmm.

Then Pigeon Island.  Agonisingly close last year, dropped further in the weights as a result of running like a dog, a 10lb claimer up.  On this last point, lots of people simply take a positive from a claimer in a handicap, thinking great, an advantage, less weight.  I think you have to be much more selective about the signals the use of a claimer gives.  It could be that the trainer simply thinks the horse is still too badly handicapped.  In any event, what you get for your 10lb weight reduction is a damn worse pilot and this is a crucial part of the race winning formula.  Mr Bargary, I intend no offence but your record of 2 wins in 41 latest starts and the fact you have never ridden Aintree does not sell me that your 10lb advantage is a fair trade.

Alas, a decision is required.  I don’t like Lie Forrit over these chase fences but you can expect him and McMurrough to tank them along.  This sets it up for the class horse in the race, Burton Port.  Another shortie 11/4 Betvictor, so what, sue me.

We are rattling through the Aintree card now so let’s keep going shall we.  The conditionals race is one where I am looking for three ingredients, jockey, ground and trainer form.  Of these jockey is the greatest.  Experience and strike rate.  On that criteria; Tullyraine, Hollow Tree, Kilfinichen Bay and Gwladys Street are on the A list with Mawaqeet and The Road Ahead on the Bs.  The winner is in there somewhere.  18 runs and 1 win for Mawaqeet on ground with good in the title gives him the line.  It also makes Hollow Tree an A- as I’m not sure he will love it either.  I drop Gwladys at this point too.

I am now left really with Kilfinchen (loves good), Tullyraine (tolerates it), Hollow Tree (prefers softer) and The Road Ahead (looks OK).  The Road Ahead has two runs at Aintree and has won one and placed in one, good stuff.  Conor Shoemark has never ridden for Twiston-Davies, interesting that.  Hollow Tree comes from Williams and his yard boasts the worst form of the main protagonists (just 4 places from 35 attempts in the last fortnight), he is out.

Tullyraine 20/1, Kilfinchen 10/3, The Road Ahead 12/1.  We have it between them.  I don’t want any of them out of portfolio fo for the win it is the obvious claims of the in form Kilfinchen Bay but play small savers on the others and 6 bets to cover the forecasts all ways.

In the penultimate race, 4.50pm, Timesremembered is going to be well fancied being a Persian War winner who was formerly a pointer and thus should make this transition to the fences effortlessly.  Hobbs is going well and his Horizontal Speed can put up a good challenge showing significant improving form last year.

I am going against the tide and backing Golden Hoof who I thought started with an excellent effort at Kempton.  Clearly better was expected next time out at Uttoxeter but the  soft ground and a jumping error put pay to any chances.  Geraghty now takes over from Tinkler and again without wishing to cause any offence, that is a serious upgrade.  11/2 is available but either bet with a best odds firm or leave it a bit because I have a feeling I’m on the unpopular one and it might go off at 7s, let’s see.

Geraghty had a choice in the bumper and I am going with him and piling into Days of Heaven at 11/10 and such a price that it needs no explanation.

Chepstow – 3.35 Persian War Novices

Having mentioned last years winner, it is only right that we try to find this years.  Chepstow is a course I like to bet when heavy as it is truly one of the most difficult stamina stretching courses when the mud is flying and that gives you a great angle.  It is a funny old place, the home straight is very long and undulating but generally falling.  The bottom bend is as tight as Chester and slings some well out into country and the climb up the back sorts the men from the boys.

Nicholls has won this race twice in the last four years and when you consider that he had thrown Wonderful Charm and Silvianco Conti in, you have to respect any of his runners.  Go back a little further and he won it in 07 and 08 too.

This is why Vincente at 8/1 is a great bet.  I was there to see him battle up the Cheltenham hill to get the better of Present View last week and frankly, the fact the two came clear and he handled an undulating left-handed track was a great boost.

Doncaster – Racing Post Trophy

Hardly the most inspiring renewal.  St Nicholas Abbey, Kingsbarns and Camelot all won this for Ballydoyle but seemingly, they have not sent their best two year olds this time, or have they?

Jacobean came from a long way back but could not peg back Royal Navy Ship, another Ballydoyle horse in a  maiden at the Curragh.  The latter runs in the 3.10 at Leopardstown so Jacobeans price could rise or fall dramatically at 3.15pm.

Celestial Path has an unblemished record and has won in listed company too.  Sir Mark Prescott is in dire form though, 24 runs, 1 win, 2 places in the last two weeks.  No thank you.

Elm Park has advertised his credentials well, showing us he is a listed and then group winner and doing the latest work in good style.  I like Atzeni and when all is said and done, I think you have to consider it a worthy favourite but the 2/1 is going and I can look into the future and see O’Brien there, shades on…. the lads, the lads, well working well, done it nicely, best we’ve had…. etc etc.

Get on Jacobean 10/3 is there.

In the football….. Southampton (-1) to beat Stoke 29/20, a steal.  Swansea should beat Leicester 11/10.  Derby keep grinding it out and 4/5 to beat Wigan at home should be on the slip.

I trust your dinner is taken in fine state with good friends and the decent company.  None of those harlots you entertain from time to time, keep it clean, invite your mother.  Pasta perhaps but good stuff, fresh, none of your Bella Whatsitcalled or Frankie and Benny nonsense, research the finer Italian chefs in your area and attend.

The Martin Hill bet…… will win.  It is Roberto Pegasus, Vincente and Southampton (-1) in a trixie of glory.

Courage and roll the dice.

Crowd Sourcing Multiple

This morning, I asked the good people of twitter to let me have their best bets of the day.  Pick through these fine minds (all worth a follow by the way!) and enjoy.  Thank you to all who tweeted:

@MrDiscodave (Cannot vouch but tidy hair and good shoes) Charles Molson 5:30 5/1

@WaterlooDogg – (Seems to think that a good hat covers the sin of being bare-chested, keep a beady eye on this one) Kickboxer for me @DoncasterRaces today. (3.15pm 12/1)

@chrisjdavey30 (Believes he can have two NAPs the glutton) Sausalito Sunrise jumps Elm Park Racing Post Trophy not original but was told this in September before it won lto – Sausalito 2.25 Chepstow 12/1

@TJHeezy (Excellent young man) Shrewsbury – Betvictor have 17/20

‏@francismarshal8 – (well-mannered and impeccable breeding) Kickboxer Major. – As advertised above 3.15 Donnie 12/1

@garyafc1903 (a tipster with my sort of pedigree) Aubusson in the Silver Trophy, looks a decent e/w price. (Probably trail home last like my previous NAP!) – 4.10 Chepstow 13/2

@MarcherLord1 (Well worth a follow) Derby, Reading, Swindon. It’s like finding it in the street. #EasyMoney

@Hawditanddawdit (again lacks the understanding of a NAP but has thrown in a few) and I have Ruwasi at sevens, and Mr Moonshine at 10-1 with Crowdmania in a trixie. Fingers crossed

@TheGolfBandit (This man can tip) Celestial Path 3.50 Doncaster 6/1

@frankelslowbro (dubious morality) Derby, Ipswich and forest to win is just under 7/1. The nap in that lot? Derby at 4/5 is madness

@BennyFreer (he may be suffering some sort of breakdown) Leicester 8 Swansea 0

@keejayOV (very respectable advice) Son Du Berlais at Chepstow. Very excited.

Advertisements

The Saturday Sermon – All of Cheltenham, all of the Champions Day at Ascot et al. Football etc etc

Good morning from the Major who rises early while the sky is still deeply dark and my head hangs heavy.  The Major did dine in excess in excellent company and returning home was most merry.  The good lady entertained my drunken state including what she later described as an hilarious protracted exchange with the local curry house, to quote Kipling, We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.  Still, the Rogan Josh turned up in good order.

However to bed and the night bought terrors, terrible discomfort in my troubling lower back which wrenches and writhes, twists, spasms and stabs like the devils business.  To the morning where I slowly creak into a position from which I can type, at great pain.  I have downed a dose of Diazepam and hope for some comfort.  It is my first experience of the drug and I find it an interesting painkiller.  I would not say the sharp ache is dulled by the drug, more that I care less of it’s presence and in the end, that is as well.

I would like to file a comprehensive report for you concerning Cheltenham refurbishments and enhancements but alas, my mobility only allowed a sole shuffle from the table which my business associates had kindly booked for lunch, unto the grand stand to watch Frampton disappoint me greatly.  Then back to the table, a big screen and lashings of excellent vintages.

The blog had a middling day.  Court Minstrel and Commissioned although with no fun in the prices delivered as expected.  Definite Ruby who was entirely without support, drifted to 25/1 before giving us a hell of a race to just finish out of the places and  thought she had a decent chance until getting the third last all wrong.  Then we hit the bar with Henryville a double figure tip who again I thought was coming with a winning run until Syrabrite crossed his path which seemed to take some momentum from the final challenge, he may not have got there and perhaps I am looking to justify my ‘hard done by’ feelings.  We also had a double figure second in the last when Hammersly Lake, still looking a bit green ran on well but could not quite get to the winner, going down to a head defeat, deeply frustrating.  I had a significant win investment on this Hammersly and so was quite aggrieved.

Still, the master would mark me up as a B Minus, must try harder.

I would take Vincente out as one to follow from the days action.  He battled on well with the two of them coming clear up the hill.  Court Minstrel also won with plenty in hand coming to win easily and not being pressed for his maximum effort.  I suspect too that Court Minstrel might appreciate further, he is an impeccable jumper of fences.

What I did observe on my sole expedition from the restaurant was this.  I ambled across the new concourse by the old Guinness counter and the area is much improved with a smart new bar added.  Other than that, the building work continues and I cannot inform you any better.

What a Saturday, it is Champions Day and plenty of better folk than I have debated the merit and challenges of squeezing the end of season spectacular card in between the Arc meeting and the Breeders Cup meeting.  We certainly have lost some key ‘champions’.  Probably the star on show is Cirrus and the day does not have the lustre of previous seasons where we were treated to Frankel closing his season out.  You cannot blame connections, prize money and Group 1 races are in abundance at Longchamp and so, yes, this is second fiddle.  Yet a fine second fiddle so let us be happy with what we have.

I am not one to complain that the timing also draws a consequence of likely softer ground.  So what!  It is heavy ground, get over it.  It is mid October for gods sake!  Anyway, what would the alternative be, run in September and start to clash with the Irish version and the Leger?  No, no, we shall soldier on with the format and see how it is supported in the coming years, patience and let these things work themselves out.

Let us get straight into the business of Ascot and Cheltenham.  I am licking my wounds from yesterdays staking strategy which manifested itself in a loss.  Bring up my heavy charger and have the Sirdar prepare my lance.

Cheltenham and Ascot Tips

Let’s start with Cheltenham.  In the first, I want to get In the Rough beaten as I think his racing over the summer, while keeping him fit, might be a false premise.  He is meeting more serious opposition here at a stiffer track and while I can see merit in his sharpness and recent wins, I prefer to look elsewhere.

I like Vivaldi Collonges who has achieved as much as In the Rough with a decent handicap win at Ayr,  I think he is a chaser though and Nicholls seems to signal that in his comments on the horse at his stable tour

He’s still a novice over hurdles until 1 November, having won at Ayr in April, so we could start him in the Persian War Novice Hurdle at Chepstow and then go chasing.

So….. Value punt it is and I am going to play a small hand on Bally Beaufort who is a general 10s chance.  It is a big switch from pointing but he is in good hands and word has it that they like him.

The second race, a handicap affair is a lovely tricky conundrum with plenty of horses that I have liked in the past clouded by the confusing fog of their seasonal debuts.  Champion Court feels like he has raced for many more years than his 9yo status would allow.  He is a reliable yardstick and sure to put a good tempo in and create an honest race.  He is also not without a chance.

The Major though is backing two and starting with an investment into Johns Spirit who has won two of his previous three seasonal debut and came a respectable 5th in the other.  Yes he has not been given much leeway by the handicapper for some shocking later season runs but I think in that respect the handicapper has a good point, after all he won a Paddy Power – In fact he has a distinct liking for Cheltenham boasting the best strike rate at the track in this field.  I also think this race might pan out his way, Champion Court, Astracad and others will ensure a reasonable clip and Johns Spirit will be doing his best work at the close, lugging up that sapping hill to the delight of his fans.

The other I feel a saver for is Astracad, Twiston-Davies had a winner here (both father and son) and he is well-tried round this circuit, he has had a seasonal pipe opener and we may see some marked improvement today.  6/1 and 8/1 the tips if you shop around, back them for wins and a reverse forecast.

The 3.10pm looks a straight punch up between the two Triumph horses and I am going to take the market view and opt for Calipto at 5/4.  I was on him in the Triumph and spitting feathers as the horse had traveled so smoothly before finding little – I did not know then what I came to understand later that he accomplished 4th with a snapped stirrup which on reflection is some achievement.  Mr Nicholls has this to say:

Was running a great race in the Triumph when the stirrup leather broke before two-out. He was still fourth but you can’t be winning at Cheltenham without stirrups. Physically, he’s done well. Along with Le Mercurey, he’s a possible for the French race we won with Ptit Zig last year. There are loads of races for a horse like this. He’ll be a chaser next year.

Tiger Roll has a lot going for him, he won a Triumph after all and Elliot is in tremendous form,  Mind you, Triumph horses often flatter to deceive, here is a question (answer at the bottom)… Which was the last Triumph winner to win a Champion Hurdle?

The 3.45 handicap is some puzzle to crack but my eye is drawn down from the Pipe and Lavelle horses trading at shorter prices and all the way down to the trainer of the moment, Mr Alan King (4 winners from 7 runners this last week) and his representative, Midnight Appeal, 14/1 available.  The horse can go well fresh and will enjoy the conditions enough.

In the 4.25 I think two have excellent chances and suggest backing both for wins and a reverse forecast again in Ulzanas Raid and Andy Kelly.  The former is Kings second runner at the meeting and haven backed his first, I have to remain committed to that plan.  He finished last year with a handicap win at Ayr which reads well and he has gotten away with a half stone rise in the weights.  Andy Kelly I like too but if forced for just one, Ulzanas every time…. In fact, pile in at 8/1 – It is going to look a great price later.

Ainsi Fideles should win the 5pm novice chase but while the form and fitness is not in doubt, will the horse enjoy Cheltenham?  It is a doubt and I cannot find an alternate in a muddling betting race.

In the bumper, Moon Racer turns out for Pipe and this one was an expensive purchase at a few quid short of a quarter mill.  Going for Gold beat an ordinary Uttoxeter field but did so well enough and Greatrex is a superb trainer of a bumper horse.  I prefer to back Noel Fehily who picks up a rare ride for Ferguson aboard Arabic History.  The horse has picked up two lesser bumper contests, the second under a penalty and 8/1 seems a generous price for him.

Ascot Tips

It is going to be bloody hard going at Ascot which is a track which is deceptively more tricky that you might think.  Expect them to be strung out like the washing!  As such, heavy ground form is a must.

The younger legs of Leading Light appeal very much in the opener with him already beating the Queens crack addled Estimate this year.  A drop in trip and a mud slog will suit even more and I think 5/2 is massive as I think he will win easily.  Stand on me.

In the sprint, I would only consider the following.  My old friend Jack Dexter who is not quite top draw but will love the squishy feeling he gets when he slaps his hooves down.  Gordon Lord Byron has lost a little lustre for me but again is one to consider in such conditions.  Maarek could pop up again and at a bigger price, Tropics is one I keep thinking will give us a good show (although not in this mud).  Anyway, I readily want to be onside with an in form mud loving sprinter and the horse that leaps off the page and onto my betting slip is Viztoria who is a general 7/1 shot.  She has not had much racing this year and likely has more to offer at this end of the season.  She readily won her last race in Ireland (I was not on) and I think this is perfect for her.

I am not a massive fan of the Fillies and Mares race, the last proper G1 winner in my view was Ouija Board all of ten years ago.  I considered a number but found the compelling evidence for Cubanita the Beckett yard are going OK (half of all runners hitting the places last fortnight) and this is the only girl in the line up to have won on heavy.  We get Ryan Moore which is a massive plus and 7/1 is a decent price.  Silk Sari and Seal of Approval head the dangers.

Then the big one, the QEII.  Will Night of Thunder show us that he is a proper classic winner?  Possibly, he has won both of his races on soft and so I don’t think the ground will be a problem.  However, I am going to stick my neck out a bit and back Kingsbarns at a generous 18/1 in a place (Coral), 14s generally.  I still think he has been unlucky on a few occasions and clearly the one time Derby favourite has had serious issues but O’Brien persists…. and so do I.  All aboard the ‘over the cliff’ bus.

Noble Mission has started running with some intent and is no longer a disgrace to his illustrious brother.  The house would be bought down for a winner in these colours for Lady Cecil, especially given his family.  However, I remain convinced that he is reliable yardstick material and not Champion Middle Distance stuff, even in the conditions.  Cirrus would bring an almost equal cheer for us Brits love a trier and this boy at the grand age of 8 for a G1 horse has persistently given his best, giving once one of the better challenges to Frankel himself.  7/4 is about and I suggest you speak to your money man and liquidate some assets.

The bookmakers will be happier in the last with an 8/1 field.  I am backing one of those favourites to give us value in the last.  Chatez has some of the best mud form in the race and hails from the King yard, whose recent form I have already advertised.  Have a slice 9/1.

Football

Fulham have been released from their despot ruler and 2/1 to beat Norwich at home is huge.  Load the big guns.  I’m giving up on Peterborough, good money after bad and all that.  MK Dons though continue to impress and are good enough on the road to suggest that 17/10 is a price worth taking.  The early kick off with Man City playing Spurs is an interesting game.  City hardly look at the top of their game and Spurs look better organised, although short on class.  I cannot see City dominating like they did last year (11-1 aggregate) and so I think a 16/1 punt on nil nil is worthwhile.

May your dinner be taken in good company with someone who cares for you.  Steak, juicy and pink in the middle, lightly salted and with none of your nonsense on the side (no béarnaise for me, I do not truck with witchcraft).

The Martin Hill bet is Ulzanas Raid, Viztoria, Leading Light and Cirrus des Aigles – Take an each way yankee and have BA on speed dial to check those flight times to St Lucia.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

Oh and the last Triumph winner to take a Champion Hurdle: Katchit

Cheltenham Open Meeting Friday….. Gather round the camp fire my friends

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, weary and aching.  The evening has set still and dark and the Major lies rather content typing away at leisure for the day has worn on me and the best wine that Great Western can muster has contented my appetite but not resolved the twisted violence that bedevils my back.

The Major has been at his business in London today, two meetings.  The first, a poc faced rounded man whose candour put you at ease instantly.  I am always a little wary of such easiness that might belie a sharper intellect but this man had a watery eye and I think his success came from his affability and all luck to him for it.

The second meeting and a wholly different fellow, he walked in like he was inspecting god on parade, striding into the room observing me up and down as though I were his orderly of which he was appraising before a dressing down.  Darn the rudeness of the man, I shaped up square and fronted him out, knowing well that, no business would I serve, with such an ill-mannered buffoon.

You know me well enough, you know where this ends.  London and business led to  a late lunch, running to wines.  Then, my hairs rise, a sharp crack of a well cobbled heel on the tile of the restaurant floor announced the arrival of the latest love of my life.  A deep grey suit, charcoal perhaps and cut to a slice above the knee, a cut that retained all dignity while releasing all the hounds of hell’s temptation.  All glories of gentle curves fell from that knee arcing out gracefully before falling as your eyes wantonly fell to pristine ankles held aloft by those clippetty-clop smart shoes.  Flaxen hair in waves fell tumbled to the shoulder, smartly hugged by that same grey cut of cloth and as she confidently arrived to her hosts, she warmly greeted her friends  with such vibrancy that my heart ached, it ached for her, it ached for me, it ached for all of us.

Enough.  Good order needs to be bought about this post.  For one, the good lady might stray this way and wonder upon the utility and intention of my London business, well, that would not do.

Tomorrow, Cheltenham begins.  We shall emerge slowly from the cocoon aching and stretching but we have dreams in our mind… Dreams of March when memories past conjure glorious hopes for the future.  Of Punjabi sticking that head out one last time to deny Celestial and Binocular, of Jane Mangan exiting from the side door in front of the throngs when glory was presented, of Our Conor sauntering; and of my favourite memory, of Denman and Kauto coming down that hill for one last ding-dong, but for that to be a facade, for the greatness to be with us, the memories bought to the surface and then the reality of Long Run, all gangly uncoordinated but staying on beyond to tell us of a new era.

What stories this season might tell.

As for tomorrow, I am attending at the kind hosting of Hiscox, long-term business partner, excellent company all round.  Now you might be thinking that I offer this praise because they let me order the wines.  Oh no… I can do all of that on my very own thank you.  No, as a rogue, rascal and disreputable scoundrel, I know honest company when I find it and in Martin, with whom I have conducted good business; I can only say this.  Thank You.

For the Major is moving on from his current employ.  I am thinking of something a little entrepreneurial, I have a few backers (fools) but as you know, my philosophy is to allow the river to dictate my flow, should the opportunity present, as the Chinese say, I shall lick up the honey…. asking few questions.

Now to the sports.. We have a Cheltenham card to crack.

Friday Cheltenham Open Tips

First of all, living just 15 miles north of the course, I am surprised that the going is just Good to Soft.  Sat in the mid Atlantic is a tremendous low, hurling front after front our way.  As a result, we have seen plenty of precipitation fall but according to the course, it is good to soft…. hmmmm.

2.05 – Neptune Novice Hurdle

Given that Present View has an entry for the Paddy Power, you have to assume this is a pipe opener for the boy.  Could be that connections are confident enough that the mark will be fine if he destroys them but I expect a quiet ride and a decent performance only.

That leaves us the two at the head of the market who both have big appealing claims  Blaklion has won his last 4 races including a decent point to point, two bumpers and then a reasonable race at Perth.  At this stage, he looks versatile as far as ground goes.  Despite that record, arguably Vicente has achieved more to date having won a decent handicap at Wincanton.

Vincente is trained by Nicholls who aims to follow up on Saint Roque’s win last year while Blaklion has illustrious hoofprints to follow in as Twiston-Davies won this with stable star The New One in 2012.  Both stables are off to a good start.

Yet, the Major is swayed by the excellent form of another yard, young Longsden has upgraded his field guns for this campaign and the way that Frampton battled on with the more experienced Milord last time out bodes well.  Yes, this is up in class but come on, we have Fehily in the saddle.  Get involved, plenty of 11/2 about.

2.40 Novice Chase Tips

I will get straight to the point, there is a horse I have been looking forward to here.  When I say straight to the point, I am simply dangling the carrot…

The favourite Court Minstrel has won this season already and that is well and good.  In fact the Major always likes a run at this stage of affairs and the yard has had 6 winners from 18 runners to date.  So why the hesitation Major?  Well, this is not Newton Abbot and I feel the price has over-estimated his win.  He really blundered the last and at Cheltenham, the fences won’t let you do that and win, less you are a star and I do not think he is.  That said he did win a Scots Champion Hurdle, albeit a handicap poor mans CH…..

The one I really like is Thomas Crapper who is available at a princely price of 5/1 with Ladbrooks and if the rain had come, he would be my tip but as it stands, Court Minstrel for my misgivings is the safest bet, 11/8.

3.15 Pertemps Qualifier

I can think of no greater cheer than Knockara Beau leading bravely and battling on tomorrow to win this but I fear as much as Faltesjek gets on with the horse (and the jockey won the Velka Pardubicka, a race I would not care for), I say no.  I know he had his finest hour as a senior horse when defeating two absolute top drawer staying hurdlers in At Fishers Cross and Big Bucks on New Years Day but I struggle to swallow the form.

The Major has two fancies in this though and the first is the Hobbs horse.  The yard has started OK and what adds to the appeal is the course form of Return Spring.  Cheltenham is a specialist track after all, not all horses get it but he does.  Yes, his last runs last year were poor but the Hobbs yard can be a bit like that and 11/1, we have plenty priced in that a big return is on the cards, especially as he goes well after a break.

The other horse has to be the improving summer horse Henryville.  We are assured of good fitness and while I am always nervous about replacing additional weight with a jockey claim* I still think it is worth following an in form horse, rain would do no favours to my saver.

* In many minds, if a jockey goes up 7lbs but a 5lb claimer takes the ride,they are happy to think that the difference of 2lb is the only calculation.  In my mind it is far worse.  A top jockey with no claim is worth far more than 5lbs of even the decent claimers and so it signals often to me tat th trainer thinks the mark is beyond the horse and he reaches for some help from the allowances of less experienced pilots.

3.50 Novice Chase Tips

The feature novice chase is a small but select group and I think the market over emphasises the chances of the favourites.  It is a hard thing to type when you are a big fan of the Fry operation and a massive Fehily fan.  I tweeted earlier that Fehily was close to Ruby the God but I would not care to live off the difference.  Yet although Highland Retreat has some excellent form, these are decent fences and you’d want to be confident about the 6/5 shot’s jumping.  A point to point does not a Cheltenham Chaser make.

The value for me has to be in the massive 12/1 (Stan James, 10s and 11s more freely) tip Definite Ruby who runs for the Elliot yard who have got off to a flying start, firing lots of bullets and finding their marks.  10 winners from 30 runners in a fortnight.  Gordon has won the race twice with Traffic Article and Chicago Grey in the last 5 years and we cannot let this progressive little mare go off at such a heady price…. pile in.

4.25 Maiden Tips

This is a bit of a difficult task, there are no markets available but there is an obvious contender in Commissioned who is a former Johnston stayer who has translated his form well in the best of company.  The fact he has placed in a Grade 2 and shown top form behind Cheltenham Festival winner Guitar Pete says he has class and really he should win, unless there is an unknown star in the mix.  Ballyboley has some credibility as a challenger having won a grade 2 bumper but his last run was full of greenness and he is yet to show that hurdling is going to suit.

In all honesty, there is little opposition I can conjure against the favourite, Commissioned but you won’t thank me.

5.00pm Tips for The Amateur Riders

So… Regulars will know that I have a simple approach to these races…. Find a good bloody amateur.  The jockey makes such a difference and frankly, some of these are experienced riders, as good as the pros, some are chancers.

At this sort of amateur race, you get a few more of the experienced riders.  9 of them have averaged over 45 rides a year: Carroll, Clements, Bannister, Blackmore, Stirling, Legg, Codd, Waley-Cohen, and Biddick.  The remainder average 5 a year.

Of them, Waley-Cohen has the best strike rate but he is the best supported.  Not to do him a disservice, the dentist knows his business and is a brave warrior, throwing his horses into fences when he needs a big one.

I’d be tempted by Buck Mulligan for Will Biddick but I suspect he will be tapped for toe and pushed along at the top of the hill, he needs a further half mile.

The Young Master has a very appealing profile but I am not convinced by the young pilot and I must stick to my advertised guns.

Although he has not quite been on the boil as 2 years prior, I maintain that Sam Clements is a fine jockey and thus bring you to Five Star Wilsham who can be backed at a general 7/1.  The horse is patchy, yes he throws himself at the birch sometimes rather than over it but now with a good amateur jockey in a possibly more sedate pace, even over these tough obstacles…. do you know I have a most warming feeling.

The Lucky Last – Conditional Jockey Hurdle

Same thoughts apply in terms of jockeys but I am going to put in my NAP here with the Henderson yards Hammersley Lake in the colours of Michael Buckley well known for Finians Rainbow and international superstar, Toast of New York.

Henderson only has this runner here today and while he has kept some powder dry to date, I would not want to miss him here.  7/1 is well enough.

I hope to be writing the Saturday Sermon on a golden bed of bank notes being served my every whim.

Until then, courage and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Colder than the Arctic but you care not. Newmarket, York et al.

Good Evening from the Major who writes from deep dark Worcestershire where nothing stirs and a cold draft runs through the Majors pile.  The seasonal rhythm moves, the change quickens, enveloping dark, winds that terrorise the slender branches with their turbulence.

The Major is struggling with a painful back.  I made Italy last week, thanks for caring, but it was a most uncomfortable journey with me looking most unchivalrous, having the good lady play the part of porter.  Still, the destination was worth it, high-class, small and a well-appointed cellar with a barman and sommelier that knew their business.  The weather held and my ear even picked up a few words of the language which I have to report is fantastic.

It lilts and sways and inflects in both directions, a sing-song tone often accompanied by wild hand gestures and wild eyes.  We traveled through Sicily (on the way to our paradise island) the centre of which looked green and mountainous.  We crept up the East and Northern coasts on a rail network that cannot provide a single service on time.

The buildings were ugly, square and squat.  Many of the people bore a similar look.  The more fashionable men wore tight trousers and had angular faces with hawk like noses, stood still they would lurch gently to one side over a hip.  Many of the women were short, heavy-set and aged badly.  That said, not all were the same and the finer sort had a pleasing length of bone and dark hair that tumbled to the shoulder which they would expose bare and the mere sight of that olive skin, made healthy through good breeding and fine cuisine would be enough to heighten the senses and pulse.  I fell in love with many but kept those thoughts well concealed.

Trouble lurks in the dark recesses of Sicilian towns, small cabals of youths gather in puddles of trouble, sharp bright tracksuits, full of business and menace.  Sicilians in general are spoiling for an argument.  Strangers converse from scratch and within minutes the arms flailing and the decibels are in ascension.  The place has a look of menace and you know what; I like it.  Perhaps though, a landscape to travel alone, content that the danger you bear is yours alone and free to wash through it on the tide, coming ashore in strange places and lapping up the honey, asking few questions.

The other observation I would offer of Sicily is that their tempestuousness does not translate into their tastes.  The food and drink are simply excellent, in this, even the French have something to learn, although should the tomato crop fail, I would fear their extinction.  Fine pasta, fresh, is a wonderful ingredient.  In the hands of a talented Sicilian chef (of which half of the population can lay a claim), it can be mingled with tomato, garlic, capers and wild mushroom to create delights beyond which my poor palate and eloquence can do justice.

Anyway, we have business to attend to.  For many weeks, the Major has been off-key.  My apologies to those souls of you that follow blindly.  My only hope was that you saw the error of my ways and in wisdom treated my advice as adversely sage.  To clarify, valuing the information not for accuracy but rather through the lens of a keen foreboding sense of caution which you profitably applied.

Once upon a time, I received criticism online following a similar relentless spell in the doldrums.  I dismiss such things easily enough.  After all, I always think of offence in the same way in which the Buddha taught.  If you offer a gift and I do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?

My refusal to accept criticism is not because I fail to see my own failure, rather it is the victims failure to see their own.  You see, I see it as this.  I play out for you on these pages a tale of my life, a record of the waves as they crash and eddy over me.  The advice I lay out is my own honest best.  I grant you, a poor best, for much of the time.  Yet, it is free.  As are you.  You are free to do with it as you choose, discard, twist, blindly follow.  Do as you see fit and take responsibility for your actions.

Lest you think I am skipping responsibility, I say this.  Firstly, when these guns misfire, I pay the price too.  More importantly, I treat success, the same as failure as far as you readers are concerned.  Partly as imposters just as Kipling enthused but mainly I treat praise for winners consistently with this philosophy.  I remember putting a good deal of friends onto Margot Did at 33/1 ahead of the Nunthorpe win.  That was some day.  The lads had won packets and offered to send a fine bottle of what I liked.  My message then was the same as always, I could not accept in good conscience.

I am a humble soul, we go to war together, I take my risks and you take yours.  The decisions you make are yours alone and the burden or joys of consequence ; well they are yours to bear or pleasure.

To the sports.  There are my usual selections and then at the base, are those posted by twitter followers.  Let their judgement mix with your own in a powerful cocktail my friends.

Newmarket, York et al.

Cesarewitch day – Going is troubling me, rain? Petetre.  Always stirs a memory of 2007 when the race fell on the opening day of the Cheltenham annual card.  This year, there is a week difference but back in 2007, I was entertaining friends at Prestbury Park and was very much taken by my hero and his recommendation of Legspinner in his weekly Racing Post column.  I miss Sir Clement Freud and his rambling rich verbosity.

Tony Martin saddles the favourite in the 2014 Cesarewitch too in Quick Jack.  Well backed and you can see why.  His mark looks derisory and he laughed at it when staying on best to win at the Galway festival in a decent handicap.  He is up 9lbs for this and surely remains well treated.  Yet, I must confess that I think that might also bring Swnymor in, an inconsistent sort that has shown real ability at times and might be much closer on these revised terms.

66/1 shots have won the last two runnings, one being Aaim to Prosper, the only horse to have won twice in the rich history of the race.  Basically, anything can happen, so do you want to be on a 6/1  shot, no matter how attractive the profile?

Alternatives?  Nearly Caught with the best jockey I have ever seen (Moore for those imbeciles that would be uncertain) has some appeal but I would be bothered that the Newmarket ground, under a fresh breeze is going to be too solid for his action, he has been removed from several races with firm in the description.  Rhombus is very high on my list, young Cam Hardie (such an excellent future) is 2 for 3 in his rides for Mohammed and the trainer has been a handicap plotter of some merit, most interesting.

National Hunt trainers have had their winners of the Cesarewitch and Digentea catches my eye at 25/1.  I like Wayne Lordan and I suspect this one is a thorough stayer.  In the hands of Mullins, he is a contender.

As is Earth Amber, written off on form chances but Henderson does not muck about and the fact this is a reappearance in a Cesarewitch from a top yard spikes at least a raised eye brow from me.

There is no reason to be frightened by the inexperience of a good three year old, even in such a daunting handicap.  They have won a fair share and Groovejet appeals a fair bit.  The last pieces of form are very worthwhile.

So, to draw this listing of potentials to a conclusion.  What do I want?  A decent jockey for a start and a dose of good fortune to follow.  I would feel foolish to abandon Quick Jack after previous support and so a saver there is in order as well as a fun reverse forecast with my main selection…. Digentea at a best price 28/1 (Betvictor).

Two very good horses have won the Group 3 Autumn Stakes in the latest renewals, both going on to win classics; Trading Leather and Kingston Hill.  At first glance, as typical with such races, there are lots of sorts that could be the answer.  The Major has settled on one that seems off the bookies radar.  A 20/1 treat.  Dance of Fire has taken a bit of time to get going but comes with the young talents of Oisin in the saddle and having done over a nursery field latest, I just fancy it to progress again.  Future Empire has the clear best form, that is in the bank, mine is in the futures market.

To York!  The only city other than Canterbury to boast an Archbishop.  You know where I learnt such a fact?  Daytime quiz shows.  Has that spoilt your coffee?  You never knew I could plunge such depths eh?

@sarnie and @garywilson3 asked me to review York and so, being a sucker for a request, I shall run through how I see it.  York is more and more a specialist course these days and so I look for that in my selections.  Soft going  as well, surely this gives us the refinement of choice us gamblers need.

In the opener, I like Lily Rules at a massive 12/1  with William Hill.  She is a filly that has been trying at a better standard than this and has placed here and won and run well on soft ground.  At that price, have a taste.

Mohammed has a chance in the Cesarewitch with the aforementioned Rhombus.  Educate is a York runner and he has been targeted at top prizes.   He has one twice on soft ground and is in the frame.  However, I am suggesting another massive priced runner in Indian Chief at 33/1 who was missing for a long time before being bought back by sprint king and handicap magician Dandy Nicholls.  That was in the Cambridgeshire and while a bit of support would be extraordinarily welcome, I am putting a small interest down.  Seriously, I would prefer to see more support.

In the Rockingham (2.55), I liked Bonds Girl for various reasons but Fahey’s terrible form has dissuaded me, among some other entries on the negative side of the ledger.  This is a race in fact, where, if you follow Holmes’s advice; then I have a certainty as I have ruled many out readily.  Nothing can win other than Fanciful Angel who is available at 9/2 with Skybet (NAP chaps)

In the 3.30, Spinatrix is one I would consider, being consistent, especially on soft.  I’d follow any money for Lancelot du Lac who if prepared), is well worth a punt.  Drying weather would attract me to Highland Acclaim.

In the end, I go for Mass Rally who has an excellent Northern jockey aboard in Paul Mulrennan and I feel could be a player.

The maiden is hard to read but expensive Mutamakkin at a forecast 2/1 has plenty of appeal.  His price tag suggests he is well made up and he has a run under his belt.  A lot better will be expected and another top northern jockey, Graham Gibbons can extract it from him.

The penultimate race is one in which I fancy the Todhunter trainer Miss Macnamara.  She has not been badly treated for her last win and will flourish in the spongy ground.  It is her first time on the Knavesmire but I am not going to hold it against her.  10/1, become involved.

In the lucky last, Mystery Bet has some appeal but again, the recent form of Fahey is not exactly inspiring.  O’Meara has arrived mob handed and Shouranour is his best shot it seems but not for the Major.  No, my pen rests on War Poet at a massive 14/1 – Last year he did well in this race off a mark of 82 under Robert Tart (claiming 3).  I don’t rate Tart the way I used to and today off 80, under the experienced and very strong Winston, I feel more compelled to get the notes out.

Good luck chaps.  I hope your dinner is glorious, clad and smothered in followers as glamorous as the drinks you serve, buckles and belts shining.  We float by the once on the tide, grasp on my friends.

The Martin Hill bet: Fanciful Angel, Miss Macnamara and Dance of Fire, e/w Trixie.

Twitter Naps!

Thanks to you all who posted a twitter NAP.  For all readers, here they are:

Matthew Towler ‏@TazT69 – lucky last at York 5.20 Mystery Bet ew 22/1

@garyafc1903 not sure I’m qualified enough to give a nap, but Dispour in the 4yo hurdle at Chepstow got my fancy.

@maxbanner17  Famous Kid 3:10 Newmarket

@SamPreen  Fast Shot, Sprint Trophy (330 York)

@theweldon88 Rene Mathis and Quick Jack e/w double #NAP

@Lukeelder13 First Flight at York 2:20!

Thanks All.  One rule applies on the Twitter Naps  -You must all follow each other so get on it folks.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Only but all weekend Group 1s covered

Good evening from the Major who writes from a bright blue skied Worcestershire with candy fluffed white clouds protruding bright white and bold towards the heavens but with a darker grey underbelly akin to the snow polluted after being on the ground for days.

The Major is writing the sermon early for good reason.  I am to embark on a small trip but in some peril and pain, I must add.  This week, I managed to tear some back muscles, a repeated trick having managed the same a year ago.  This is going to make travel borderline unbearable but bear it I shall.  For it is the good ladies 40th birthday next week and we are leaving for the Aeolian Islands.  A small collection of green spots in the sparkling blue Mediterranean, just north of Sicily.  I am hopeful to wear short sleeves, that is the extent of my wishes.

I had in mind a hike up the green sided twin volcanoes that rather suggestively mark this island.  Oh, I was careful where I booked, no fool I; that said, present condition will allow for no hiking and I very much doubt that I will be at le galop this weekend either.  There will be compensations, a magnificent suite in a small hotel, very Italian, a terrace from the room that overlooks the sea and a hotel restaurant of excellence, in which we shall dine and be merry.  And, do you know what; no children.  Ah, the Majors sons and heirs are left in the unfortunate and misjudged hands of their grandparents, God help them… I mean God bless them.

My back has had me bed-ridden all week.  A sorry state of affairs.  Alone and peaceful, rather beautiful in a way, a condition I prefer but also one in which my mind will wander and wander as it will.

Lying still, wondering if I would make the plane (75/25 in favour as I write), I started to wonder what was making me so tense about it.  Of course a gesture of affection for my partner whose birthday the trip is honouring could be partly spoilt, although she might have preferred it should her mother have had to step in as travelling companion.  No, it certainly was not the fear of losing out on a nice trip.  No.

What gnawed at me was the pointlessness of it all.  I mean, the trinkets we collect, the things we strive for, the things we build.  I looked at the walls of my home, the original old cottage, extended many times through the centuries but dating originally from around 1830.  Those beaten cold stone walls, the permanence of them is only in my mind.  For in another 200 years, they are unlikely to stand, no they shall crumble like my skin, blood and bone, all to dust in the end.

It is the natural state, atrophy.  Consider the woolly mammal, the last of them were with us just a few thousand years ago, huge beasts roaming the Earth, lumbering around the Norther tundras and then gone.  Probably our fault.  The last outposts of Mammoth were on Wrangel Island frozen aloft above the Russian Eastern wastes.  They like us, like buildings, like the device you are reading this on; we are all the same in the end, dissolving down into our component particles.

What lesson is there in this?  What template does this give us by which to lead our lives?  I am too poor a man to provide a worthwhile answer, find yourself a priest, poet or philosopher.

I am for Italy and to leave morbidity behind.  Some sun, some fine wine and fine food is just what the doctor ordered.

The Weekends Top Races.

Let us start with the Sun Chariot shall we (3.30 Newmarket).  This is the only Group 1 on the UK cards this weekend.  It is very exciting to see that Andre Fabre has three entered, this is a serious raid with Miss France, Estorique and Fintry.  The two I like are Fintry and Miss France and I am opting for the latter because it is exactly what Maxime Guyon has done.  Having won last time out with Fintry, the jockey has decided to go with Miss France and I am following suit.  In the end, who can blame him, she won a 1,000 Guineas and at 11/2 with Ladbrookes, I would post a good bet.

My bet of the weekend comes in the listed race at 2.05 at Ascot.  You can get 6/4 about Muthmir with Bet365 and it is a must bet.  Ring your international money man and see what funds can be freed up and get on.  I thought he was mighty impressive when winning the Portland and since he won that off a mark of 100 but by 2 lengths and almost did a somersault coming out of the stalls… well, this step up is well in his grasp.  Load both cannons.

Since i am writing this late on a Friday afternoon, I am going to give to cover events at Longchamp.  To mix up the order and play with your minds, that will come after the football.  That’s got you feeling uneasy hasn’t it?

The Football. 

Very simple.  I like backing teams that are playing down and out squads and could any be more down and out than Newcastle?  The fans want the manager out, the players are hardly putting in a shift to protect him and for himself, he is complaining that the venomous reaction he is receiving is having an impact on his family.  Swansea are playing nice football and I expect them to beat Newcastle well enough so 10/11, stick that in.  Peterborough are still playing some attacking football so 6/5 is going on to the slip too.

Longchamp – Sunday – The Arc

The Arc is my favourite race of the year.  Yes, I am a National Hunt man at heart but the gathering at Longchamps of the worlds best horses, there is something quite special about it.

Regulars need not wonder where my investments have been, I started backing Taghrooda at 20s right after she won her Oaks, that 20s lasted about ten minutes, so I went in again at 16s, 14s and a host of other prices.  She would be a handsome win for me and possibly my 4th biggest of all time.

However, enough of my own brilliance.  Would I back her at todays prices?  Well the draw has been made today and I don’t think her style will be a big problem from stall 15.

If I were betting one today, I would be going Japanese.  How much colour their fans add to Arc day, how passionate and loyal their support and how they match that with balls deep (Mother, it is a technical term) betting on their appointed hero.  Yet, for all they have given, they are yet to be rewarded with a winner.  Who can forget Orfevre, runner-up twice, getting nutted the second time by Solemia when seemingly home a furlong out?  Hands up if you have not seen the Japanese fans reaction at home.

Anyway, I think it will be their year.  There are three to pick from; Harp Star, Gold Ship and my tip, Just a Way.  This horse took some time to get his career going but has been a revelation this year.  Two pieces of outstanding form mark him as top-notch.  First of all he beat Gentildonna, the very same who went on to win the Japan Cup under Ryan Moore to collect a cool £1.8m.  The second piece of form was in Meydan when setting a track record in the Dubai Duty Free.

This Arc does not have quite as many three year olds who I would judge to hold an excellent chance.  I like Taghrooda, those filly allowances at this time of year are exceptional.  However, an older horse and a Japanese raider at 8/1 is where my saver will go.

What else should we be backing at Longchamp?  Well one of my horses of the year has his toughest test yet in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere but I think The Wow Signal can prevail at 7/4.  I have been a huge fan.

Good luck watching the Abbaye and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  Ran on the opposite side of the track (yes Longchamp has two finishing posts!), with camera work shaky from a distance and at a funny angle, it can be damn hard to see what is going on, particularly how far there is to go!  Anyway, Sole Power is our key interest and I wish connections the best, that horse owes nothing.  For value though, a 12/1 punt on Cotai Glory is my angle.

The Martin Hill bet is Swansea, Muthmir and The Wow Signal.  Trixie.

Good luck with your dinner, mine is a fine tasting menu with wines, overlooking the beautiful sea.  We might be doomed but let’s enjoy it while we can.

Courage, roll the dice.