The Saturday Sermon – Scottish Grand National and Champion Hurdle – Newbury Greenham Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes weary and beaten after a week of work renovating the expanse of decking, summer-house and children’s’ playhouse.  The day has been bright, breezy and cool, agreeable work conditions for hauling half a tonne of sand 60 metres up paddock.

I was freestyling and decided to replace some rotten decking at the base of a slide and playhouse with a sand pit.  I think the gamble has worked which is a miracle as I am not at all skilled in the manual trades, merely an enthusiastic amateur.

The work has afforded me time alone.  I find time to ponder quietly the most cherished commodity in life, hence, irrespective of the labour I have felt thoroughly satisfied by the lonely ocean on which my thoughts have been allowed to bob along.  Selfish, almost certainly.

The political game is afoot.  There are two prices which seem absolute stand outs to me.  A Labour minority government is freely available at 7/4 (Bet365) and you can back 43 seats or more for the SNP Party at 5/6.

Polls have the Conservative and Labour parties viewing for a marginal lead, barring significant change, neither will be in a position to form a majority government and while the Tories are closer, probably only 30 seats away, it is unlikely, it seems to me, that their position will change much.

Labour are also locked into this position.  Their main cards have been played and voters have largely chosen allegiance; they are also likely to be short, perhaps to the tune of 40 seats.

Even if the Tories do win more seats than Labour which is marginally likely, Cameron is unlikely to be able to form a coalition.  The credible influence of his potential ally, Nick Clegg, has been savaged.  He is not going to muster the number of seats the Tories would need to be supported.  Cameron will need them to come up with 40-50, they are likely to only produce 15-20.  After the Lib Dems, with the exception of UKIP (likely only a few at best) and possibly some Northern Irish seats, Cameron has no friends.  It will not be enough, there is a coalition of parties wishing to see an end to austerity and won’t countenance a deal with Cameron.

The SNP are likely to bring in 50+ seats, enough to prop up a Labour minority government.  Nicola Sturgeon has been very strong in her presentation skills and the campaign has fallen into her lap.  She is brimming with confidence whereas, the Labour leader in Scotland is only evens to keep his seat.  Add the Greens and Plaid and it is easy to see how Miliband will get there.  Yet, the SNP have firmly said, no coalition.  They mean it too.

Their goal is to get back to a referendum on independence and to do this; they need an enemy.  In a way, I think they would prefer a Conservative majority just so that they have their boogeyman.

Backing a Labour minority at almost 7/4 looks like finding money in the street to me.

As for my personal politics, I was always told it was rude to discuss; lest you be seen to be lecturing.  I think this shows my hand a little bit but I shall venture there.  I guess I have natural Conservative tendencies, though I feel these are poorly represented by the present party.

Being right of centre is a treacherous place to be.  Research has shown that left leaning voters are more likely to dislike those from the opposite side of the divide than vice versa.  I believe that boils down to a broth of facets of history.  Policies that were hurtful to the poor in society, it is a hard thing to forgive.

I would clarify my conservatism.  In doing so, I feel unnecessarily defensive.

I am broadly speaking towards the libertarian end of the spectrum.  I like grammar schools, though I must declare I went to one.  I think immigration is a good thing.  I question the economic scaremongering of leaving a political European arrangement but I am not particularly keen on us doing so.  I think generally adults should be empowered to do what they would like.  I have no problem with zero hours contracts for example and we should not ban wearing burkhas.  I think there is an important role of the state to ensure individuals are not exploited.

Most importantly, I think the state should be smaller.  A few years ago, my local authority issues an online survey seeking ideas for saving £3million.  I read the list of possible savings and ticked that I would be happy for most of them to go forward, it totalled twice the required saving.  When I submitted the online form, it was rejected with the error message being that I had gone over the savings target they were after!  When institutions do not have to concern themselves with raising money, thus providing a top service; they can lose sight of being progressive.

I think NHS buyers should be free to use as many private providers as they see fit.  It will improve quality, innovation and bring down costs.  The idea of capping profits of private providers to me is counter-productive.  It appeals to that sense we have that during our greatest need, ill heath and ultimately death, commercial interests are a travesty, slightly disgusting.

Consider that for a moment though.  Imagine you or a relative needs an operation.  Your GP knows that there is a specialist private provider in this sector and would like to refer you to them believing it is the best chance of a good outcome for you.  The cost to the state is similar to the cost of the NHS doing the operation themselves.  Yet, the Doctors’ hands are tied, because we don’t want profits in our NHS?  Surely not.  Surely this is not the best thing.  Like the parents of the child who took him from an NHS hospital and went to Europe to get the health service they wanted; in the end; we just want the best possible care and frankly who provides it should be up to your doctor.  We should trust them to decide on what is best for you and not tie them up.  That is my view.

In the instant, we might think profits and health are incompatible but in managing a National Health Service, we must be more pragmatic; particularly if we want world-class health.  Consider the capping of profits or abolition of profits in the service.  What motivation is there then for the improvement of service from external innovative sources?  Where is the competition which is required to reduce overall profit in the long run?

During the New Orleans flood aftermath, a regional monopoly occurred.  Companies were vilified for gouging prices, charging eye watering amounts for temporary accommodation and building supplies.  No doubt, they were taking advantage of limited local supply in a time of desperation.  The practice of being exorbitant, because you can, I get why that would be revulsive too but it is for our own good.  Scarcity always pushes prices up, greed on behalf of the supply side will charge what it can.

When exorbitant profits are made, they are short-lived.  Other companies see them and invade.  This has the effect of increasing supply and reducing pricing, returning the market to normal.  The bigger the profit,the faster competitors will move in.  If you had building supplies in another state, you would see what was happening in New Orleans and it would make sense to move your stuff there.  This would have the effect of increasing supply and reducing costs.

In a normal market, with normal profits, companies have to compete on service, quality and cost.  If the only market in the NHS is internal, then these motivations are reduced as other players; private companies or charities are excluded from offering patients better care.  The NHS buyers (Doctors) are just like any other company, restrict their supply chain options, you will restrict the services on offer to patients.

I think the reason this argument is one I am a lonely advocate of, is image.  It is consistent with a larger public distrust of the system in general.

I can understand this.  You see, despite my leaning, I have a severe problem with the current Tory team.  They look and sound too posh.  People don’t trust that their brand of privatisation is profiteering for friends, not the free and open market that I believe would improve the NHS.

Genuine aspirational Conservatives are hard to find and the accusation that this current lot are essentially hedge fund, Bullingdon Club chaps, well it sticks.  Unlike my conservative aspiration, I fear they do not share a genuine desire to raise up all boats.  The Lib Dem policy of raising income tax exemption to £10,000+ is my favourite coalition policy, it has Conservative stamped all over it but it was a Lid Dem manifesto pledge, not a Tory one.

I think the Lib Dems have had a particularly hard time.  To be fair, they deliberately attracted a student vote through a populist anti-fees policy and were left with egg on their face when it was never going to be implemented.  I actually only hold their crimes of populist appeal (of which all parties are guilty) with a touch of naivety (they didn’t expect power) against them lightly.

All of this leads to an environment crying out for a centre right hero to replace Cameron.  Someone who can change the argument and persuade people of the truth.  Cuts an austerity, the words sound vitriolic.  I see it another way.  We have not lived within our means since 2001.  All that debt, racks up, it is the next generation that pays and this is grossly unfair.  On principle to me, that is not right.  It seemed incredible to me that the last election was not won by the Conservatives outright, this only highlighted the weakness of their offering, the electorate do not trust that they are out to represent the ordinary folk.  That makes it hard to hold your head up and publicly say, I am a Conservative voter.

In saying these things, I understand I will elicit some emotional response.  You might agree, you might be ambivalent, you might disagree with the assertions I presented as though they were fact; you might even feel bitter.  While I have discussed a political leaning, understand that I voted for Blair too and am undecided currently as to where my X will go this time.

What I really want for the country is some ambition.  I want my leader to be JFK-esque – To be driven by something exciting.

In effect, the two lead parties this time are pretty close in policy terms.  This election will result in a nil-nil draw and I am happy to put money on it.  Labour Minority government, fill your boots, 7/4.

Forgive the politics – It is rude to discuss your personal views.  Let’s get to the sports.

The Dermot Weld Hat-trick

In Ireland, there is no doubt which yard has started the new campaign in blistering form.  15 winners from the last 35 runners, Weld is flying and he runs three at Navan today all in with excellent chances.

2.55pm: Rich Jade is 7/2; a filly out of Henrythenavigator, we have little to go on other than stable form.

3.30pm: Summaya is 10/3 in a couple of spots but generally a 10/3 shot.  I would back this one with some gusto.  There was a lot to like about the seasonal debut when Summaya beat Hans Holbein, a 1/2 Ballydoyle sort.  Now that horse won very well mid-week but was beaten by Summaya by 6 lengths.  I know O’Brien often leaves a lot off but it is still an exciting form line.

5.15pm Chinese Light is 5/4 – This horse has had a run this season and lost at odds on to a good one but it was respectable.  There is a potential fly in the ointment here too in that Ballydoyle throw in Fluff, a Galileo filly unarmed as a juvenile.  Still, in for a penny….  We have match fitness.

Newbury Saturday

2.15pm…. Will Tiggy Wiggy stay 7 furlongs?  What a question… She was a highlight of the last flat season for me.  Exploding from the stalls and blasting along, the gorgeous little speedball was a joy to bet on.  She has entries for the Guineas so the plan was always to test these staying distances.

What will Hughsie do?  Will he restrain her in the hope she can conserve some energy?  I am not sure this would work, she strikes me as unmanageable in that respect.  A bit like Frankels guineas, maybe we should just let her go at it.  Taking a pull might be confusing for her.

If there is a time to get her beat, then this might be it.  My problem is that I like her too much and so will be betting her regardless!  I know.  Betting with the heart is the fast way to losing your bank.  Beckett has a good record in the race and 14/1 Redstart is my tentative opposition but forgive me if I am all joyous over Tiggy Wiggy later, do not consider me a traitor as I scream kick kick kick at my screen.

2.50pm: The Guineas market has been falling apart as some of the principles have flopped on debut.  Today it is the turn of Ivawood and I am a considerable investor at 7/4.

The Greenham has been a tried and tested route for Hannon who has saddled victorious Olympic Glory, Dick Turpin, Paco Boy and Major Cadeaux in the race in the last ten years.  Ivawood is clearly an exciting prospect and the Middle Park might be an informative Guineas line in a weak year.  The horse was only stopped in that race by the ground in my view and today, business as usual will return.  Get stuck right in.

Ayr – Scottish Champion Hurdle and Grand National Day

The Scots version of the Champion Hurdle (2.35pm) is a limited handicap.  Understandably, the Northern trainers have a decent record in the race and some of the flashier raiders have returned in their fancy horse boxes without the rosettes.  Sign of a Victory and Irving look like they are in this camp to me, which leaves us some value in the open market.

The one I have settled on is Pearl Castle at 14/1 who represents Quinn who won the race last year with Cockney Sparrow.   The good ground will be no problem to Pearl Castle and Quinn has an unbelievable Ayr record, winning almost half of the races the yard contests there.

The previous race, the 2pm is a nice Grade 2 Novice Chase.  Stan James are 9/2 about Top Gamble and I would have been backing it if not for ground concerns.  On three starts on ground with ‘good’ in it he has yet to place.

I will have a small slice of Oscar Rock at 11/4 who will be fine with the ground and gets the assistance of Brian Hughes in the saddle, a jockey I always see as a big plus.

You want a horse in the Scottish National?

The Gallant Oscar angle with JP buying the horse is interesting and I am sure it will go off shorter than 12/1.

One at a massive 50/1 I like is Baileys Concerto who gets his ground and may well be a better stayer than we have yet seen as he has largely been raced at middle distances.

It is possible that Trustan Times has been laid out for a repeat crack at the race he placed in last year and 16/1 is still available.

However, with all of these possibilities, I am betting on Jonjo getting a bit of late season cheer and winning with Catching On who looks progressive and has won on good ground in the past.  Generally 16/1.

In the football.  I got the Villa game spot on last week and this week, I would be backing Crystal Palace to beat Albion with maximum velocity (sorry Martin) at 19/20.  My brother is less enthusiastic and he follows Albion a little more closely than me.  He warns that Pulis will be getting stuck into the players and we might see a reaction.  I disagree.  Albion are poor.  To rub salt into the Martin Hill wound, I am suggesting backing Wolves to beat Ipswich at home too.  I am sat on a 10/1 ticket that Wolves get promoted.  They concede but they score.  29/20 is available.

The Martin Hill bet is Ivawood and Summaya mixed into a powerful double.

May your dinner be outdoors and barbecued.  Cool beer in hand, early evening warming sun on your face.

Courage, roll the dice.

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One response to “The Saturday Sermon – Scottish Grand National and Champion Hurdle – Newbury Greenham Day

  1. I find myself in almost total agreement with you except for NHS. Consider this. A private hospital in a nearby town was used by NHS as a means of reducing waiting lists. Fine. Until a patient had a standard laparascopic cholecystectomy (removal of gall bladder). An artery was accidentally nicked during the op. The private hospital had no on-site laboratory or blood bank and the patient bled to death assisted by the fact that no-one noticed symptoms of internal bleeding.
    If you consider “going private” ensure the hosptal has all systems in place to deal with emergencies. Many do not. Why? Profit.
    Also check how many operations of the type you are having are carried out by the surgeon each year. A handful is not good enough by far.
    The failure of a private hospital group to run a NHS hospital in Huntingdon should serve as a stark warning.
    Have private hospitals by all means but keep them away from the NHS/ Profit is sole driver.
    Better to use a private “wing” sited within a NHS hospital where profits go to the NHS and all facilities are available.
    Just saying….
    My Scottish National choices are always outsiders for fun. So Cape Tribulation, Carli King, Summery Justice and Harry The Viking are burdened with small stakes.
    Good luck.
    Terry

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