Good morning from the Major who creaks out of bed, cracking as I straighten to find a light grey Worcestershire laid before me, the rising light kisses and edges Bredon Hill, an other-worldliness and I wander in a daze.
As festivals go, 2015 was pretty good. Maybe I will write a full piece appraising what just happened but I think I might need a few more days. Right now I am suffering with ‘racing punter fatigue’ a well-known condition afflicting hundreds of thousands at this time of year.
I just cannot take the drama anymore.
Willie Mullins Tuesday. If Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov and Wilde, collaborated while high to concoct such drama; they could not possibly have come close. I have never experienced anything like it and to be there was something else. Yes, not the glory I aspired to but it will remain with me.
Don Poli and Vautour set up the 2016 Gold Cup daydreams for us all. All of my compatriots were all for Vautour who bullied the lot of them under front running tactics; they could not lay a glove on him and from two out it was a case of how far?
I am less sure they are on the right one though. Don Poli is less flashy, certainly more quirky but in two consecutive tough chases he has bowed his head at the business end and shown he has both an engine and titanium desire.
The Champion Chase was below par certainly. Can’t take anything from the winner, he beat what was there and may go on again but I think the markets for the 2016 renewal already say what we all think. If Un de Sceaux had raced in the Champion Chase, it would have been the same result as his Arkle.
Going back to Mullins Tuesday. I have a dilemma I am mulling over. You would think Douvan is a natural champion hurdler. Yet, I cannot see them running Douvan and Faugheen in the same race. So, does Douvan try his hand at chasing and aim for an Arkle? Does Faugheen step up in trip and consider the World Hurdle? You might think Annie is booked for a World Hurdle but they kept Quevega to the Mare’s when she had claims and I suspect they will do the same here.
Ah, the World Hurdle. Another race some were knocking the form of. I am not so sure. Cole Harden, always an apple of Greater eye showed the impact of his wind op and led them a merry dance. The presence of Saphir de Rheu who likely improved and peaked here over his previous runs, suggests this was a genuine piece of top class form.
Then the Gold Cup. Why I put Silvi up I do not know. I have a confession. When I go to the course, looking at the horses parade, it struck me that surely it was time for a changing of the guard. I went back to my horse from the start of the week Road to Riches.
Just like Saphir de Rheu, I had the pleasure of watching him chase valiantly a superior animal up the hill. Coneygree. Wow. What a performance, off the front, all heart and all class. Don Poli, Vautour, Coneygree – We are going to have a most exciting staying division.
Friday hurt. Financially it was poor but not horrific. Places for several of my runners kept me from sinking low but glory, just like Tuesday…. She shimmered, all well-defined calf and close dark fabric, striking features and eye contact. Floated across to me, mesmerising, tunnel vision and the crowds faded. She brushed my cheek and I was left with her perfume, just the perfume to remember her by. No More Heroes.
The rain had done him all end of favours and while niggly at times, he came to the bottom of the straight chasing the front two. He was making ground, he was! Cooper wanted the inside rail, a fateful call and as he went for a gap that was in his head, the door slammed shut. It cost 3-5 lengths, he had to gather the horse up and ask again, No More Heroes did respond, he drove on and finished just off the front two.
Six months of dreams, gone in the blink of an eye.
No bitterness, no recriminations. In my favourite film, The Sting; Robert Redford, all dashing, casts his new-found fortune onto red on a crooked roulette wheel in a back street bar. Contemplating his loss, he tilts his hat, sucks it up and just gets on with things.
I hope you enjoyed your festival. All of the excess. I guess it is good for you, it seems the only thing. I feel beaten up. I can manage a handful of thoughts for Saturday but will return with a vengeance next week.
I have enjoyed writing the previews, interacting with you, even meeting you on course. The nightly previews, the cut and thrust. All peace now.
I want to thank you all for reading and sharing the Sermon. For many years I have been doing this and while an eminently narcissistic activity, it is cathartic. Thank you and all the best to you and yours.
To the Sports
Uttoxeter National Day
The Midlands National. Young and featherweight and won by Pipe in the last 4 years.
The AP factor adds something but Catching On is bang on profile. 7 years old, a recent facile winner and in the race on 10-9. 9/4 though.
I am going to back Catching On because it will smart when he wins but am going to have a go at Woodford County, 16/1.
My tip is proven at staying distances and loves the mud. A more likely completer and also carrying a featherweight with the advantage of a 7lb claimer aboard.
One from my tracker. Primrose Valley gets on very well with Freddie Tylicki and reunited at Wolverhampton (6.45), I am expecting a win. 6/4.
At Kempton, I am putting some hope in Buck Magic with Geraghty up top can put his best foot forward in an open race, 6/1. He is quirky and can race two ways but has been freshened up and is another that gets on well with the pilot.
In the football. Palace (17/20), Arsenal (4/11), Brentford (4/5), Bristol City -1 (13/10) and Norwich (11/10).
Stick all five in an accumulator. the Martin Hill bet…. Primrose Valley, Crystal Palace and Bristol City -1. Treble.
May your dinner be relaxing and in known company, family or friends. Italian food, the finest in Europe. They taught the French to cook as my father in law would say.
Courage, roll the dice.