Good morning from the Major who writes as an ‘owl like’ guest of a good friend in his Cheltenham home. The weather nondescript, I cannot muster more than that. The early morning light is grey and consistent.
What fine form I have been returning of late. I do not gloat, the outrageous arrows of fortune are flying my way right now. Yet, caution on the first day of the flat festival is imperative. It is a dangerous time to take entrenched or confident positions, we need to warm up to the new rhythms of life. As such, we shall merely pro the forward lines, skirmishing in an open formation and ready to retreat.
The hospitality here at ‘Chez Day’ is first-rate, the home clean and all trendy and colourful, the bed comfortable and a glass of something cold to welcome the small hours with. Truly it is an old friend, a good friend, a good man. He once said something to me, that he always thought a person of sharp wit to be showing great intelligence. Although he is too polite to have meant it as such, I interpreted it as a self appraisal.
What a week. A co-pilot drives a plane into a mountain killing all on board. With terrible monotonous regularity, the media trotted out their positions. Firstly, before anything was known we had high excitement and speculation. As facts emerged, various extrapolations, many ill-informed and changing with the wind were trotting out, all in the name of ‘breaking news’ It is a master that demands freshness and titillating sensationalism.
As the picture emerged that the desperate young man had mental health issues. The spectrum I dislike reared an ugly head. Firstly a set of terrible newspaper headlines, entirely insensitive to the millions who suffer with silent invisible mental health issues, Then a shift, social media moved to condemn such things, quite rightly but equally wrong in moving to a whole assumption that no guilt can be attributed to his actions.
Neither position correct. Facts unknown leave the truth distant and untouchable, the debate of it is largely without utility and frankly we all need to learn to just leave some things alone.
I have been awake for most of the last 48 hours for various reasons. My eyes are falling now. I am five pints in to the weekend and reclining in peace on the most comfortable bed with the window cracked and cool air washing over me. You will forgive a direct post, to business, the sports.
Doncaster – The Flat Season Starts
Bill Turner always has one ready for the Brocklesby and in Just That Lord he has a strong candidate. 9/4 might seem skinny in a race of the nature but Turner has won the race umpteen times and this looks just the type. One negative aspect is the late foaling (April) which might suggest the horse has more to find physically but the breeding is a family of forward sorts, have a small slice.
In the listed Betway Cambridge, Jack Dexter has a seasonal debut. He desperately needs the forecast rain to get into the ground as he is an absolute soft ground horse. He has new ownership and a new rider and I wish the old boy the best for the year.
I am interested in two. Fahey has got away to a reasonable start and Heavens Guest is one I would give a squeak to at an outside 14/1. My main interest though will be with Aetna, who will also welcome the forecast softer ground and is well worth a 5/1 stab.
Of the three so far, I like Aetna, the other two are much lighter selections.
The Spring Mile often goes to a classy one and I am taking a gamble that the rain is in the ground and has slowed up to at least good to soft. All of this points me towards Chatez. The Alan King horse cost me money as I had opposed him on hurdles debut thinking him an unlikely stayer. He won two in that sphere before losing significant form. His record on soft ground is good and he has gone well fresh, there are certainly some issues to overlook and he has only won on a mark of 91 (off 98 today) previously but at 16/1, that is, to an extent, already priced in.
I cannot remember having the winner of the Lincoln before so consider that a fair warning. It shall not stop me enthusiastically picking a winner.
GM Hopkins is favourite at 6/1 and having been gelded may return to his previous winning ways, he did looks very progressive in the early part of last season. He is drawn 21 and there have been winners from that side but a lower number is slightly preferred. On the draw, it is interesting that all 5 runnings on soft, (in the last twenty years) have been won by a horse in the single number stalls.
My pick is one of the few that could be a handicap blot. Mondialiste may not have been hugely respected in France but did produce some notable form. He is out of Galileo and has never finished out of the places when soft is in the description. At 16/1, I would have a slice. As a saver, I think Fahey’s Koukash runner Gabrial is worth a shot out of the middle stalls. Still on a favourable mark on old form, soft ground (I am keeping this assumption up!) would be fine and Fahey lays them out well for the big handicaps.
@roge1409 is a kind chap, always sending me racing thoughts and today, the good man is off to Kempton for a gentle enjoyable days racing.
I have one selection I would play at the track and that is a runner for the hottest trainer going right now. Charlie Appleby has fired in plenty of winners since taking up the reigns at this Godolphin yard. I am constantly amazed, given the investments made, just how poorly they are doing at the top table but come down to this level and their expensive assembled assault team are hovering up the all-weather scene. The three tracks the Appleby yard use most, by some margin are Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.
I cannot imagine the sheikhs had celebrating at Dunstable Park in the plan when they opened the cheque book.
New Years Night offers me some value at 7/2 in the 2.50. Looks awkward but on cosily at Lingfield last time and can go on again.
Meydan World Cup Card Tips
In the 1.15, I am giving Dubday a chance. He has been prolific at a lower grade in Qatar but may well take the step up to this company well and was tilted at the Sheema Classic previously. 10/1 and a bit better available.
The World Cup itself, the richest race on the planet, well. The money has attracted American fans favourite, California Chrome to get on the plane and it has a favourites chance. I always felt it odd when he has been described as a ‘rags to riches’ type horse, in actual fact his breeding is excellent. It is fair to say he was picked up for a Kings bargain but it was not that surprising reading his bloodlines that he turned out to be rather good.
I like California Chrome but will oppose on this surface with Lea who has shown an awful lot too and will be very comfortable on dirt. 3/1 is readily up for grabs.
Navan – Webster Cup Chase
Flemenstar is in my book, the worst campaigned horse of recent years. I know I am not ‘in the game’, my money is not at risk and my experience, purely as an enthusiastic observer, yet this is how I feel.
I am glad he has changed yards because if he has a chance in his elder years, it is with a trainer that can plot out a proper route.
My issue was always that Flemenstar looked a superbly fluent horse over 2m 4f and thus an obvious Ryanair candidate. Yet, connections with a snobbish view were always trying to get the horse to perform over the minimum trip or a staying trip because they wanted tilts at championship races. I think the confused approach was not helpful.
Kauto won a Tingle Creek and a Gold Cup in the same year. That might not ever be repeated and is an astonishing achievement. Flemenstar is not Kauto.
Off a break, what to expect? Well he has gone well fresh but I would prefer to avoid it.
Felix Yonger is favourite and the Willie Mullins unstoppable form carries on. 4 from 10 of his Navan runners in recent years win and this enough sees him as favourite, not for me.
I am playing Argocat at 6/1 who has been running lifelessly over hurdles after a long break. I would suggest that a shift back to fences in a grade 2, is a signal that a good run is expected and I will have a slice at 6/1.
In the football. Nothing. I cannot muster the energy for European qualifiers.
The Martin Hill bet, on a tricky day of racing is an each way double on Argocat and Aetna.
May your dinner be in raucous company with the wine flowing and gaudy humour turning heads at other tables.
Courage, roll the dice.