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.
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.