Good evening from the Major who writes from Mannheim, Germany, a clean cold landlocked evening where square and orderly daytime living is now squeezed into warm taverns with Weiss-beer flowing and great foods and laughter in the air. Streets stretch lonely into the distance, trams trundle and rattle while solitary figures hunched, walk dignified and anonymously in the distance where somewhere the Rhine snakes darkly and quietly by.
Tonight, I left the city, heading on the tram that runs up to Heidelberg, a fine old town on the Necker. I set off at dusk, with a pink sky fading away, hung over an inky river. We trundled down its’ banks through anonymous small towns. The tram abruptly stopped half way and clearly I needed another route. Thankfully, Tatiana, all Russian, free spirited, pale, individual, a streak of wildness; was on hand to help. She writes too, introspective and complex and just like me, her mind is wayward and crooked in the witching hour.
I fly for Birmingham in the morning, and while I am sorry to leave behind Germany with all of its benefits, Cheltenham beckons. Thankfully, we are arriving in good shape. The Major has substantial funds, afforded by several well-executed weeks in which winners dripped from the sermon. It served to position my accounts for the battles ahead. The enemy should be afraid, I bring to the field enough resource to engage the battle fully.
Being incredibly popular, or at least an oddity; I have been receiving requests for when the various Cheltenham content will appear. I have written up the schedule. You will find it here.
Festival week, we must ignore the sage modern social norms, dictating that we must live within means or moderation. I urge you to go forth and flourish, enjoy Cheltenham with plenty of excess and abandon for the experience is pretty much everything you can hope and aspire to in life.
Turn on your 24 hour news, everything is terrifying. rampant Ebola, ISIS beheadings, airliners that disappear without trace or reason, the weather, snowmageddon for goodness sake, violence is abound or at least, so we are led to believe. It taps into an innate human condition, a defensiveness and a belief that others are out to get us. We do not trust them, they lurk in the shadows. We used to have to fend off raiders and wild beasts, the feeling is the same, the paranoia, now a needless reaction.
If we were able to act rationally, these things would not be reported. We are not programmed to be able to calculate odds. Since the mid 70s, the U.S. has spent over a trillion (£1,000,000,000,000…. look at those 0’s) on various versions of its’ war on terror so far, to deal with an issue that has killed 20,000 people. It is not as straight forward as to calculate the value of that investment but at £70million per death, perhaps it does show how poorly fear guides our priorities.
Anyway. Germany for the week. Mannheim is a great place, perhaps I am seduced by the siren of immediacy and novelty. Yet, I cannot help but find credit in almost everything around me.
Perhaps the architecture in the round is a little functional. What one finds useful in practice, such as a grid like structure of city streets meaning you are never lost, perhaps loses some beauty in formality. Yet, I forgive the city, for it will replenish me with vitals so plentiful, I cannot fail to enjoy.
There is a great cocoa plant here and when the wind blows in a favourable direction, wafting dark chocolate aromas drift by. Being a university city, the feel is very international with an array of foods and sounds. Beer and sausages make me happy.
Cyclists meander around. Blue jeans cling filmed around youthful limbs, dark hair in bobs. The people are slavish to the conventions though. Pedestrians compliantly waiting for the signal to cross an empty road.
The peers from my business school class, such glamorous sorts in my group. Now I am more certain that I was intoxicated by the sights and smells of a foreign place and this raised my sensory perceptions, perhaps. Yet, I fell in love over and over again, and you know me too well, each new one is the apple of my eye.
One striking candidate was tall, she slid around the room moving with the metronome grace of a marble, finally clicking into her seat, with a statuesque gentle clunk, the confident poise of royalty.
A group of us at cocktails in the evening, I find myself gravitating to a student from Delhi (thus someone I had a lot in common with), compact, round face, tremendous fun and that sing-song voice that chirps out delicious sentences which drip and wobble with inflection. In the low lights, long Germanic benches, raucous company, leaning in just a touch and the heart leaps in the glow or enjoyment of company.
Never try to argue with somebody on twitter. This is general sound advice. Firstly, argument is largely futile. Since, we cannot help but feel everyone else is stupid or evil, you are unlikely to persuade each other to change opinion. Consider, when was the last time you heard or saw someone say, ah yes! Now that has been explained, I have changed my opinion, I was wrong.
The Adam Johnson news bought the worst of this effect to bear, with the revelation this week that he was arrested for alleged sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16.
Firstly an assumption of guilt and the torch bearing brigade out in force. Then facets of the case came to light that muddied some people’s opinions, he was in a nightclub so did he have reason to believe she was older? Then pictures emerged and more ill-informed opinion, then the pictures turned out to be his girlfriend.
I don’t proffer an opinion on what Adam Johnson may or may not have done. I raise it only to show that generally, people are willing to form strong opinions on things that they have absolutely no (and I use a rare profanity for the sermon to illustrate my own strength of feeling) fucking idea about.
This is the way these days. Radio phone-ins elicit the opinion of people in the street about the deficit or about an appropriate reaction to Islamic State. As though the people ringing in have even feint ideas of how to answer the question. In the modern world, partisan opinion is abundant. We are urged to be either #TeamKauto or #TeamDenman but on much more serious issues. I warn you, argue on twitter and people will be furious with you and lambaste your knowledge over things that they learned yesterday.
The amateur is given the pedestal and feels nothing about abandoning those nagging doubts that you don’t know, in favour of using your views as a weapon. The goal is not to seek the fact but to induce submissiveness in your opponent. Self affirmation that you are right. We have not evolved enough yet to appreciate our place in the world. We are the world. We wish to fend off those wolves which we imagine prowl just at the peripheries of vision.
Our last Saturday before battle commences. This is an opening skirmish and we must not commit too many forces forwards. Protect the baggage and ammunition trains. We cannot rush our fences, the time for the full deployment of our resources will come. Play steady.
To the sports….
Sandown – Imperial Cup Day
I am going to keep the post fairly concise this week. Partly because I am due out with some of those fun sorts in Heidelberg for dinner and cocktails and partly because we are keeping our powder dry for next week.
The Saturday before Cheltenham is a time in which the big guns are wrapped up for next weeks feast. Yet, the structure of the bonus offer for a winner of the Imperial Cup who can follow up in the following week ensures an intrigue as to which dark horses have been laid out for the job in hand. The bonus amounts to a £100,000 so is an entirely worthy pursuit, in addition to the prize monies collected.
It is no doubt that fact influencing the price of Bidourey who heads the market at a general 7/1. He has won three on the trot and so you might think he is a little exposed to the handicapper but these three qualifying runs were in handicaps and so the handicapper has yet to test the judgement mark against other handicapped horses. We shall see tomorrow.
At first glance I was concerned that they had shown too much of a hand. double-digit length victories and an opening mark of 137 surely don’t give the Pipes a lot of wriggle room. Both the last two winners they fielded came in with marks more than 10lbs lower than this. However, the quality of the race this year means that Gaspara and Baltimore Rock would both have missed the cut and the presence of Camping Ground, racing off 150, keeps the weight of many of the contenders backs.
West Wizard is an interesting runner. Many have kicked the furniture watching this one disappoint at silly odds on but perhaps now switched to handicaps, if the keys have been found and the turbo is turned on, perhaps this very expensive purchase can finally show some ability? Not for me, although it must be noted that Nicky Henderson has really hit the big form when it counts.
No, the one I want is the John Ferguson Zip Top. He is just the sort to prove effective as a spring hurdler and the AP effect cannot be sniffed at. Not that the champion has ever let us down but he must be riding like a man possessed at the moment, each race a cup final. This horse has a featherweight and although compares unfavourably with Fascino Rustico on their Newcastle performances, I’ve confidence that these circumstances will prove more suitable.
My bet of the day would be Traffic Fluide (4.20) off 6/4 who absolutely took to this business like a duck to water and surely is too progressive for this field. Easy.
One tip, in the 2.10…. Quite The Man is the horse with a jockey I rate in the race, King of the north Hughes has to face his rival Harding but I think he might have the ammunition. A small field will help Quite the Man who will appreciate the quieter reintroduction to the course after his absence. 7/4 is available generally.
I am only there for Upazo and only a small bet is recommended. Last time out it was a faller on chase debut but it was very tired in heavy ground and it is entirely possible, these conditions will suit. I suppose it is also entirely possible that this is a barking dog so go easy.
Rouquine Sauvage, one of the most expensive national hunt horses of all time races again at Chepstow and this quirky sort should surely be able to put another step forward in with her favourite jockey Green, back in the saddle. I think the horse might be better up in trip and it could win well. 7/2.
In the football…… I made a prediction that Villa would win both of the derby games with West Brom and I am half way there. I do not want to upset Martin Hill but I see their tails up. 15/8.
The Martin Hill Bet is an straight double between Quite The Man and Traffic Fluide.
May your dinner be homemade, fulsome and taken in relaxing state. Savour in the quietude because next week, it all changes. Boredom is a disease, life gets boring, it is temporary for a reason. Enjoy your chapter.
Courage, roll the dice.