Good evening from the Major who writes from a squally Worcestershire where the fire crackles lowly for comfort rather than necessity. The edginess I feel, the anxiety twisting the muscles taut across my nape shall dissolve with children being bedded and the reassuring pop of the cork.
The Major has been busy today, pointing coping stones on the long wall that winds along the front of the house and meanders up the drive. Having never attempted such building previously, I watched a single youtube video, then, one trip to my favourite ironmonger’s to pick up the essentials and then, ill-prepared, quickly bundled onto parade. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Should you find yourself in a position to be pointing, my notes for what they are worth are as follows. The tools are essential, find yourself a good builders trowel and a pointing trowel as well as a brick jointer. If the application of the official tools is not achieving the desired effect, find yourself some new tools. Unofficial pieces crafted for the job work well, cardboard, wood scraps, an old spatula all made it into my arsenal.
The second important aspect is experiment. Trying different techniques, for the amateur, is vitally important. You will find the best results from trial and error in the way you work. Not being worried to err is essential. Enjoy it.
Such lessons are universally applicable in punting. Gather what you can to assist and use it in novel ways.
While working on this wall, the wind whipping around me, body warmth defended in several layers, weathered working gloves bearing proud scars of manly activity; I had a beautiful moment. There is not much to say about it really that might do the moment justice, I fear you will find little in it.
I was lying on the floor, trying to seal a ridge under a coping stone, my mix dropping around me as I tried to work it in. There are cracks in my render caused by water freezing on the brick wall behind, I am doing my best to keep the water out you see. Anyway, as I lay there eyes skywards and crooked, the movement of the clouds became the sudden and captivating focus of my attention. Shades of grey swirling and moving across the heavens with intent velocity, a man could drown in that magic. I was listening to music at the time, headphones on and the track that happened to play at that moment was Asleep, The Smiths. Those cracks in the render, I am trying to repair them, I am. I fear they will be with me forever though, as long as I can patch them up my friends, is that not what we are all doing?
Do not judge the music, my taste is equal parts eclectic and questionable and it certainly runs to the odd. My wife once, bemused by my library of tunes questioned whether I was perhaps repressed homosexual.
‘Asleep’ has always haunted me. Yes, you might think on first listening it is a bit bleak, it speaks of suicide. Yet, I find something else haunting in those piano chords. What it is about the construction of such a set of quavers arranged at certain pitches and in certain rhythms, I cannot fathom. That man is great is contained within such witchcraft.
I lay there still watching those clouds swirl, wondering what a passing neighbour might think and resolving that I did not give a damn as to the answer. In fact, no soul was around, just me, that was just for me.
I have wallowed enough my political and media views of late but once again, I found the reporting of the events in Paris today pretty poor stuff. Tragedy as ‘entertaining drama’ belittles us all. I find the expressions of solidarity thin and unnecessary. It is not that I sympathise with the devil, no. Neither is it that I fail to feel sorry for the victims. If I am honest, I feel quite removed from it. The threat of terrorism is amplified far beyond that which I feel applies to me, to us. Security services need to feel valued, terrorists design acts to shock and the media sell the coverage to advertisers. Yet, statistically, you are about 5 times more likely to die falling from a ladder, you just don’t think about it.
This is an oversimplification but only because I feel badgered. There seems to be a correct way of thinking which irks my liberty. Every worthless irrelevant commentator spoke of the need not to blame the muslim community. I find those comments astonishing. Not because I do blame a religion, more because the thought never occurred to me. Yet it is repeated, condescendingly to an audience meant to be wide-eyed in wonderment, waiting to be told what to think. The assumption is that there are a lot of fools, needing guidance.
When I close my eyes, what I prefer to think of are those clouds, wondrous, dancing, like milk stirred into hot coffee slowly, patterns you can trace but not capture. A man can swim in that pool, isolated from fools, peace.
Anyway, there is sport to be had. Courage friends. Sharpen that lance point and join the orderly line as we ride to meet their cavalry in fine order. The lights breaking from trot to canter, points lowered and crying Shabash! The brilliance of the dragoons.
Kempton Lanzarote Day
Last week on the blog the tips purveyed were on the mark, not that I sell anything. the Major remains free, unhinged and unsullied. Four wins from five tips and the other placed – Not bad for a sermon! The Martin Hill bet saw two horse tips win (9/2 and 5/2 I think – too lazy to go back) before QPR let us down in the cup, stupid advice.
‘Poor Martin’ you might think, yet do not. QPR played on Sunday and late on Saturday I received a note from Mr Hill exclaiming how foolish he felt as he had accidentally backed QPR to beat Burnley the following (this) weekend and cursing himself for the error. I imagine he feels slightly better about that error right now after QPR crashed out of the cup, their victory this weekend will net him close to a bag of sand. Up the hoops.
Anyway, as they say in investment adverts, the performance of your Major portfolio may go down as well as up. Still, it was nice to have a damn good weekend. More please.
The first leg of the Mothership runs in the 1pm. Cocktails at Dawn represents Nicky Henderson and I thought that the Friday racing results were a sign of intent from Seven Barrows. 4 winners were sent out on the day and the stable who to date have been performing acceptably but below their personal high standards, look to me to be coming to the boil.
My chief concern with this runner is not the handicap mark but the lack of proven experience in soft conditions. His sire stats are OK though and I’d take Barry Geraghty over most in the saddle. 13/8.
One of the trainers that has been impressing me this season, aside from the obvious Fry and Longsden operations has been the Oliver Sherwood yard. He runs Come on Laurie in the 1.35pm and this improver has every chance used in class and distance. Kingscourt Native is an obvious danger, the point convert had the Warwick race sewn up when taking a bad tumble at the last and the nature of the fall is partly the reason for me opposing. That said, I know I will kick myself as Noel Fehily has taken over in the saddle and if the horse is well, it could be an obvious winner.
However, we are yet to get to the bottom of Come on Laurie too so, what the hell, roll the dice, 4/1.
The 2.10 is a three runner race and Hunt Ball looked very much revived to me last time out. Balder Succes I believe will benefit from the step up in trip having been unable to get to the speedster that is Special Tiara last time out. So, Hunt Ball who won’t hang about and will be there to be shot at by Balder. Hmmmm.
As I contend for the prosecution, Henderson is coming back to the boil and Hunt Ball, although having taken some time to overcome his ‘ill thought out’ American exploits, is showing some of that class that had him once discussed as a Gold Cup horse. 13/8.
Then the feature, the Lanzarote, a big field handicap that in recent years, since becoming a staying race, has thrown up few surprises.
I have a cliff horse who may remain an excellent prospect never to win a race at this rate. I backed Hammersley Lake firstly at Cheltenham when pulling clear and not pegging back the winner. Then I went in again, at Newbury, when while proving his liking for soft ground, he seemed to throw his chance a little bit looking awkward , lazy or lonely at the business end but again, coming clear with his conqueror.
The handicapper is taking his pound of flesh for these solid runs but I still think Barry Geraghty can eek the right ride from a potentially tricky but talented sort and pay back my investment. Hammersley Lake, perhaps not at first but at last will repay me. 7/1.
Open Hearted for her Majesty looks a likely contender for the Henderson and Geraghty team in the 3.15pm. I am never sold on chase debutantes in this sort of field, it can get messy.
I mentioned earlier that Oliver Sherwood has been impressing but I also think Tom George is having a good campaign and Chartreux was a contender to carry my curse in this race. He has not had a recent run but was improving on spring ground when last seen in Ireland.
Masters Hill is my tip, having shown previous strong hurdling form, including fifth in an Albert Bartlett, he has been amiss over fences. That said, his last effort was his best and he is ridden by the excellent Fehily so I shall take the 5/1.
I am sticking with Noel in the finale, you know I admire him, sleek as silk, graceful and powerful. Paul Nichols said of his young rising jockey star Sean Bowen that horses just seemed to want to run for him. For me, Fehily is the essence of that thought. Sleepy Haven at 10/3 looks an excellent price with the last race working out as golden form. Embroil Silk (3rd) won a class 4 by 6 lengths next time out and Just Cameron (4th) beat up a class 3 field by 12l. Fill your boots.
T’other Racing – Warwick and Punchestown
A quick mention for Douvan at Punchestown who is already prominent in many of the novice hurdle markets at Cheltenham, in fact, favourite for the Supreme, rather inheriting that position. He should be shown tomorrow as another of the Willie Mullins battery of rockets for the festival. 1/3 mind, you’d have to put some down to buy a decent dinner as the payoff.
I am going to take a risk at Punchestown on Pencilhimin at 10/3 in the second race. He is chucked in over the big boy fences given what he has since gone on to achieve over hurdles and connections look well advised to try to exploit his one and a half stone lower chase mark. He has been scrappy to be fair when seen in this discipline and so the lower mark is needed if my plan to land the mothership is to be successful.
At Warwick, there is a very respectable card tomorrow and there are a couple I want to have onside in the Saturday portfolio.
Grand Vision at 12/1 is an interesting runner at a big price. Plagued by injury since a high-class Albert Bartlett placing, this is only the horses third start over fences. Connections have not given up and neither have I. The last run looked much more like it and if putting it together on a course he might just like, well, 12s eh? Lovely.
At 3pm, Shantou Bob at evens is a very worth favourite and having only been beaten narrowly last time, is surely to be on the premises again. However, his strong performances have bought more weight to his back and I think there might be one or two in this to give him a race again.
The one I like is 7/1 Ballabh who is entitled to improve again and the confident riding Daryl Jacob might get the best from him. He was an expensive purchase after good Irish bumper form and stamina is likely to be his game so a step up in trip is just what the Majors accountant ordered. Shabash!
In the football, Man City are 5/6 at Everton and despite injuries forcing the usage of Milner as a false 9, they have looked plenty dangerous coming forward. MK Dons at Crawley should be a reliable 8/13 play too.
The Martin Hill bet… Grand Vision, Ballabh and Hammersley Lake in a powerful each way trixie. Let’s not forget to cheer on QPR too!
May your dinner be the finest of steak in the finest of restaurants. The sort where the service is so damn subtle, so sophisticated and you know it to be reflected in the bill, yet you savour and appreciate it all, glowing in the company of a glorious piece, all smiles and hair in jaunty bundles, itching to be released and fall to vulnerable shoulders, slender and delicious. Her eyes letting you know how her mind runs, just like yours, to chiffon and flesh. How the heart races.
Courage friends, roll the dice.