Bon Soir from the Major who writes from the lounge, cold beer to hand, hostage in my country sanctum, the dampness of Worcestershire locked out. The sound of the cold moisture is everywhere, drips, splashes, squelches and trickles. The temparature hovering around the single figures is accommodating enough for it to embrace the skin.
The Major is still on the slow list. Recovering from that slipped disc, under strict instructions from Gorgeous George the physio with her curled lip and experienced knowing hand. Do you know, sometimes, just sometimes, a wanton glint in those eyes, well.
With injury allowing, I had my father and brother to the Majors Worcestershire pile, in recent days, to carry out essential outdoors maintenance. It was good company. I had them working vigorously cutting at the thicker growth while I stoked (for which George will be furious) a fire to burn what they cut. The work on my home is perpetual and having been horizontal for many weeks, the decay was winning, as it will.
That, the last statement is futile, that we men are all to to decay in the end, as is everything; is not lost on me. When you might consider some disquietude in your life that might feel significant; a divorce, a financial loss, some trinket of seeming importance; always remember. You will die, the building you are in will be destroyed; nothing will last. That we are all dust in the end, is the greatest truth the bible holds. More than that, it is the finest principle by which you can live your life. Those you admire, the things you desire, go for them if you want. However, they will all succumb in the end to the wind and water.
Anyway, the wages for their groundsmandship was a pub meal in the homely local which I frequent. It is a small establishment, they know me well and when we rocked up, as they were closing for lunch, they re-opened and served up ham, egg and chips of the highest order. The landlords father was an inspector in livestock, very senior; the meat they serve is first rate.
Here is a question for you. How many people, do you think, are on death row in the US? Think about it. How many people are at this moment awaiting execution for crimes committed. How many of them are guilty and how many innocent?
I got to discussing this with my brother over a leisurely breakfast. A good cafe in the heart of my Georgian market town. They serve sausages infused with some of the local trumpeted produce, plums. It could be worse, the Vale of Evesham has another specialist crop, asparagus. That, plus the pears and apples and you have my scene.
I was recalling that, in recent years, (and forgive me if this proves inaccurate), in Texas, they were considering abandoning the final meal for death row inmates. I recall the Governor expounding his wisdom and insight, that the heinous criminal had given no thought to his victim and that as such, he deserved no less himself.
When I heard this, I recall thinking what an appalling stain it was on the human condition. That in the last moment, as we commit the uttermost trespass on our nature, to take the life of another, we might not allow a final dignity. A final choice and a gracious gesture, even to one whose evils might sicken your spirit. Odd attitude for a state so beset on Christianity. Forgiveness, turning the cheek, giving the tunic too; oh I know my bible. Humility was one of the more attractive traits of Christianity, we should hold onto it. Not that I am a man of the church. A final meal says something important about society.
Anyway, There are over 3,000 people currently held on Death Row. The best estimates, on the US Justice proven track record, suggest between 48 and 126 are innocent. Put your coffee down and think about that. An average inmate will wait 9 years for execution, 9 years. The most advanced nation on Earth has a glaring defect.
I have always valued liberty. That I might be poor, that I might have little riches of wealth or company, may end up being my lot. Yet, no matter what aggression is committed upon my person by another; to strip one’s freedom, in body or mind is a crime. In one of these sermons, I might extol of the work of Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and author of Mans Search for Meaning well worth a read. Ultimately, our freedom is ours, nobody can tamper the integrity of your mind.
Anyway, I am drifting on the tide writing this sermon. Let us meet the battle and be fully engaged. We have rich seams to mine and that Mothership needs us to light a beacon. She is coming my friends.
To the Sports.
Haydock – Betfair Chase Day
What a fantastic renewal of the Betfair Chase. As I type the field are 4/1 the first four, intriguing does not do it justice. We shall start with the big one.
Last year Cue Card caused a minor shock when winning. He had previously looked a non stayer but put his King George fading effort behind him to command Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti and claim a Betfair Chase. Favourites have a good record in the race but that is tempered by the disturbance in the signal that was the great Kauto Star who won the race four times from 2006 to 2011.
What a fantastic renewal. Where to start.
Let me start with the one’s I do not want. Menorah. Revitalised? No, not for me – Hobbs might have the order singing well but this animal has always been a little short at the top table and I expect that to continue. The Giant Bolster is one I would not put you off, if considering backing for a place. His 50/1 with Betway is dismissive of a horse that has now placed in two Gold Cups. Not my sort mind, especially as the yard have sent nine runners to post in the last fortnight and have yet to secure a placed finisher.
Cue Card is a horse I have underestimated sometimes. After a slow start, the Tizzard team are cranking up slowly. Today, Third Intention won a decent contest, they stir from slumber. Their previous sloppy start might account for Cue Cards below par finish in the Haldon Gold Cup but despite this being the season where we might expect his greatest triumphs, I remain unconvinced.
Conti has the advantage of Fehily in the saddle, the best jockey in the field, in my controversial view. Yet, his Gold Cup weakened finish and a below par return have left a couple of niggles about the resolution of the horse. They have reached for the cheekpieces and they might have the desired effect.
Dynaste has been beaten by Conti twice and I think is a horse that is short of the best staying chasers and not a horse or a yard who I feel will prepare a Gold Cup horse.
Look. Regulars know where I am going, so let’s get there quickly, acknowledge the elephant in the room and move on.
Taquin du Seuil – I actually think the enforced change of jockey to Geraghty will be a massive boost. You all know I love the horse and I have a history with him, having being advised by AP himself to follow him in his novice hurdling year. He is a gangly jumper, he reminds me of Long Run, graceful in movement but like a daddy long legs at his fences. He gets scruffy and in trouble and there are few jockeys I would prefer to be aboard to straighten him out than Barry. Do you know he has won 24 times in 66 rides in the last month.
There, it is done. Let’s move on and never speak of it again, unless he wins, in which case you can expect much enthusiastic trumpet blowing.
Faugheen and The New One
I am not betting either at the prices but at 1.50 Haydock (The New One) and 2.40 Ascot (Faugheen), we see two genuine contenders for the Champion Hurdle. Currently trading at 2/5 and 1/4. Thats getting close to double your money!
Many think The New One was very unlucky not to be challenging Jezki in last years championship race until meeting trouble with the tragic and fatal fall of Our Conor. I agree. I like Champion Hurdlers that have placed in the previous year too, they tend to come on.
Yet, Faugheen is spoken of in hushed tones by the Mullins team, they know they have a superb specimen on their hands and god only knows what Ruby rides if Hurricane Fly is treated with kid gloves and arrives fresh and ready for a Champion Hurdle as well as this beast.
You might notice in the menu that I have started a ten to follow – There are only 4 entries so far but I will endeavour to complete it this week.
The Ascot Opener – 12.25
I am going to back the favourite with violent ferocity. Let me explain. When Ruby quit the Ditcheat operation, I always felt that it was a crying shame. Nicholls, loss was Mullins gain as Ruby became available to ride in the week in Ireland. Although I note he is often on the hottest Gigginstown, Ricci or Wylie recruits but rarely available to other trainers on the open market to ride some handicap chaser in a field of 20 at Thurles! I don’t blame him though, he has a strategy, not to be bothered about number of winners but be concerned with quality of winners and reputation. What is more important than that?
Tomorrow, Ruby takes his first ride for Harry Fry. Harry was once the satellite yard for Nicholls which in a way has robbed Harry of his only G1 victory (Rock on Ruby) which technically belonged to his master. Now Ruby is taking rides with Fry? Interesting.
I really like Harry Fry, his horses are always fit, he keeps things simple and seems to get the best from his stock. He is getting better backing from owners, which is not a surprise.
Fletchers Flyer is 7/4 in places and 6/4 in the worst case and at both prices I would buy. He really fluffed his lines when coming over the last at Ffos Las to be denied by Shantou Bob. That one went on again to smash a Lingfield race apart and frank the form and the two were well clear in South Wales. Fletchers Flyer won a decent Punchestown Festival bumper too and I cannot recommend enough with the best jump jockey in the world aboard.
7/4. Gift from God. Free up anything liquid!
There is a well handicapped Henderson horse in Spartan Angel who I really like the look of. A 4/1 shot, she could be thrown in on the current mark. She beat a reasonable looking bunch at Worcester last time out and Queen of the Stage, who finished 30l off my selection, went on to win a race at Ludlow. Hard to know what to make of it but reassuring anyway.
On the negative side of the ledger, we get Bass not Geraghty as the latter is on duty at Haydock. I do not mean to be too critical of David, more regretting the lack of Barry. The horse is also unproven in a slog in the mud and being from Beneficial, it might pose a problem.
On balance, 4/1 is a decent price but if the heavens have opened and it is a proper attritional battle, hold those rifles steady, arms to shoulders.
The Amlin Chase
Having commented on Ruby’s first ride for Fry, it is great to see him back in the saddle for Nicholls. Al Ferof brings a sprinkling of stardust to the line up with his elder Wishfull Thinking contributing too.
Wishful Thinking was exceptional in the Old Roan and my heart soared in unison with some of his majestic stag like leaps.
I like Bury Parade a lot but prefer it when Fehily rides this quirky sort. Somersby has never been my sort, often to my cost.
The one I find myself attracted to is Rajdhani Express. He has the best amateur rider aboard and if he wins this, he may as well be thrown in with the other Gold Cup hopefuls of which there are likely to be 15 to share the market soon! He has youth and improvement on his side in this line up and it is enough for me to have a small slice.
Rajdhani was in the Old Roan which Wishfull won so convincingly. I remember my eye being drawn to the horse who I thought was travelling particularly well. In the Amlin, we find out how well.
I fancy Brick Red who is being backed (Pricewise?) in Ascots 3.15pm chase. You can get 5/1 but not for long. The horse now a little more mature might well be seeing his races out better and I have a feeling there is more to come. Plus… It is Saturday and you want to be on a Venetia sort.
I would back the Ferguson runner in the bumper at Huntingdon – Joe Farrell. There are no markets bar Betfair where the suggestion is 15/8. John has his runners in the best form and my chief concern is the ground.
Ballycasey, Tell Us More and Dom Poli all run at Gowran, they all should win but it won’t be much fun.
Manchester United to win at Arsenal is massive at 13/5 – Arsenal have Sanchez and after that it is a bit thin Newcastle at 17/20 is a buy.
The Martin Hill bet…. Manchester United and Fletcher Flyer in a big power double.
I trust your dinner is with your favourite companions. Pasta, fresh and great ingredients. Toast with a passion and remember that nothing you see, none that you speak to will exist in the blink of time’s eye.
Courage, roll the dice.