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.
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.
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.