Monthly Archives: May 2015

The FA Cup Final Saturday Sermon: Tips from York, Chester, Haydock and Newmarket

Good evening from the Major who writes from a glorious Worcestershire with a sky as wide as your imagination all pale blue and pink, solid distant clouds stately and resolute.  The air is refreshing and cool and as I draw the door closed, it feels good to close out the chill.

I do feel awash on the great ocean again this week.  Thoughts swell inside bulging with intensity, the face feels flush like it does during the onset of a cold.

I watched an hour-long program dedicated to infinity and large numbers (apparently the two are not the same).  A google turns out to be an actual number, it is one followed by a hundred zeros.  Let’s look at it for a moment, we can express it easily (it almost fits on the page).

10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000.

I do not like the beach.  My ancestors were foolish to leave their Northern forests, the sun has an aversion towards me, it makes me ill.  The sea has some redeeming features, the sound is particularly pleasing, though it contains jellyfish, whose design was clearly crafted during one of Gods blinding absinthe hangovers.  The sand though always amazed me as such simple things will at times, become lodged in my mind.  Allow sand to sift through your fingers and fall to the ground, thousands and thousands of granules.

It is a feeling of wonderment, descending into bewilderment to begin to calculate grains of sand.  Just start by looking at the huge number left stuck to your palm.  Then to graduate to considering a handful, or ponder how deep the sand goes and just how many grains might there be on the whole beach.  I might lie there thinking about this on that long stretching French Atlantic coast, rollers crashing in, the breeze high.  I cannot see either end of the beach, it goes on for miles, endless handfuls of incalculable numbers of grains.

Yet this is a single beach. A single beach in a single country in a single continent.  All of those grains, individual; 1,2,3,4……

Each grain of sand is made of silicon and oxygen atoms.  Approximately 7000000000000000000 atoms, per grain.

There are more stars than grains of sand on all Earths beaches.  Billions of stars per galaxy, billions of galaxies.  In the universe we have observed from frail telescopes outside of the pollution hugging our planet, we have seen deeply into space, observing light emitted 13 billion years ago.  Our best current guess, is in the light we have seen, we estimate there are 200000000000000000000000 stars.

In the large and the small, numbers get big, powerfully big.  The zeros look manageable when written down, our decimal system allows them to be conveyed in a small space.  Yet our minds cannot cope with the meaning.  You might be fooled that something with a hundred zeros is somewhere close to the size of a number with fifty zeros.  Maybe it is twice the size?  The mind plays tricks, we forget that each zero is a multiplying factor of 10.

The numbers are incomprehensible both in the small and in the wide universe.

The popular adage of monkeys trying to type the works of Shakespeare.  Being kind, let’s arm the monkeys with typewriters with just the 30 odd keys they need.  Lets assume each key stroke also acts as a fresh start on their work, another great kindness in the calculation.  To get the first letter correctly typed therefore  is 30/1. The chances of getting the first two though, 900/1; quite some forecast if you can land it.  By ten letters it is 590490000000000/1.  That is ten letters.  It would get you to ‘Who’s there’ in the opening of Hamlet.  Two words.

The whole works of Shakespeare?  Nearly a million words.  That would produce a probability so small, it would take up too much room on this blog to express as a number and I would fear we would lose the space dedicated to poor racing tips.  That would be a scandal, if I can do nothing more, I wish to lose you money.  I shall try another way.

The odds of that monkey writing the works of Shakespeare.  It is the equivalent of you winning the lottery.  Not just this week, but next week.  Oh, the week after too, plus another years worth.  Imagine that, a year where you win the lottery every week.  To equate the odds of a monkey randomly typing all Shakespearean works, you would have to win the lottery consecutively for 28,000 years.  That is not as low a calculation as you might think.  The odds of winning the lottery are 1 in 14 million.  Thus winning this week and next is 196000000000000/1.  That is the scale of multiple from one week to two.  Imagine the scale of that multiple over 28,000 years.  That number, is still nothing, lost as a tiny atom in the universe of infinity.

All of this though, atoms in the grain of sand, grains on the beach, the atoms in the earth, the celestial bodies of heaven.  Monkeys typing Shakespeare.  All of these brutish giants, bullying us with their dizzying greatness.  They are all slaves of infinity, insignificant, no matter how big you can go.

Googles to the power of googles to the power of googles, they get you nowhere close.  It is always moving away from you, no matter how many atoms, in however many grains of sand, on however many beaches, on planets innumerable in galaxies of billions of stars, then billions of galaxies.   Perhaps billions of universes for we do not know if there is a finite space.  It is all meaningless.

Even those monkeys, not just one would write Shakespeare, in an infinite space, an infinite number of monkeys would type out Shakespeare.  Every number, no matter how vast lies in the dark cold shadow of infinity.

Such enormity is terrifying.  The personal consequence is clear.  Yet the antidote, in my view is beauty.  Matters of the mind, art and poetry, it is only an antidote not a solution.

Despite what you think, the mothership landing has a much better chance.  My tips today, all of them winning?  About 383 million to one.  We don’t have enough Saturdays.

Tips for Newmarket, Chepstow, Haydock and York.

I am starting with a wide open event at Chester, the 3pm.  It is easier to find reasons that horses will not win than it is to find the lively contenders.  A formula that lends itself to an outsider.

Wilde Inspiration is the obvious candidate.  Well drawn and clearly a progressive sort, what is not to like?  Well he has a bad habit of missing the break and at 7f at Chester that leaves you a lot of work to do.  We might know the beasts chances within seconds.

Seeking greater value is a job that becomes easier.  We need something in the low stalls which narrows the field considerably.

Marco Botti runs Patentar who has to lump the weight but on balance has the quality to do so.  I would be interested but the yard is on the cold list having not sent out a winner in the last 30 days from 35 entries, of which just 6 found themselves placed.

All this leaves me with Baddilini a 20/1 shot who I have some hope in.  It was a competitive Newmarket handicap he ran in last time out, from a mark of 100.  He was dropped 5 pounds for finishing 13th at 50/1.  Doesn’t sound too encouraging?  Well there is hope, the race was decent, he came from the wrong side (first four home drawn 6, 3 ,14 ,2) and he finished just 5 lengths off them.

I accept it requires me imagination but 20/1 shots generally do.

While I am in the land of the hopeless souls.  Kashgar should not be 22/1 (Corals) in the 4.10.  He has placed on 3 of his 4 Chester starts, winning twice and it would not surprise me to see a return to his favourite track inspire a change in fortunes.

Tips for York

It is a big wide open card at York, a track, that like Chester, I consider to be a bit of a specialist dish.  I am not sure why it is so.  The big open long straight reminds me of Newbury, it is not often you get a hard luck story unless you have a jockey who thinks it is stylish to stack up a powerful travelling sort behind a couple of tiring nags on the rail, a sin which they should surely bring back corporal punishment for.

I have two 12/1 shots in the opener I am interested in.  Blaine was not suited by Newmarket running a shocker in the same race that Baddilini in early May.  However, his run next time out at York was credible, eighth but less than three lengths away and staying on.  Up an extra furlong, I have to think he has a chance at 12/1.

I also want the outsider of the O’Meara two on my side.  Alejandro is a 12/1 shot that needs to jump well and get on with it but is feasibly in with a shout.  He loves York too and will carry a small saver at 12/1.

Arguably Clever Cookie has gone best on soft ground (winning a Group 3 at Chester beating Tac de Boistron no less) but his good ground form shows some versatility and at 4/1 with Skybet, it is well factored in.  He dead heated in this race last year, he really should have won, but has moved on (and up) since then and 4/1 is a steal.  Bet like a man possessed.

Newmarket 

The tips came in two by two….

The opening two year old race has an interesting look now that Recorder has come out.

At 9/1 (Stan James standout), I am minded to back Shalaa in the opening race.  There is little evidence to go on but market vibes were very positive about this horse on debut at Newbury where it started life in a very hot event.  Absolutely nothing went right for Shalaa who broke slovenly and lurched right.  The horse then took a fierce grip and Frankie could do little to preserve any energy.  He was handled kindly once the chance was blown to finish last.  An awful lot needs to have been learned and it is possible.  At 9/1 I cannot ignore it, particularly as it can fit into multiples with all of the other hopeless nags I am throwing in today.

My other interest was Hannons’ entry, Nisser, who can be backed at 10/3 (also Stan James – Remember, no ads, no links, entirely free).  Hannon has a good record in this (he does in pretty much every juvenile race mind!) and it is the lack of any experience that puts me off, even though I might well rue the call later today.

Peacock has to be a confident selection in the second having form nicely tied in with the derby favourite, Golden Horn.  There is everything to like about that and there is some odds against lying around, 11/10.

Finally, Tips from Haydock

The opening race is a competitive affair and I am taking a chance that the ground is sticky and causes a few problems for the fashionable sorts.  Jumeirah Glory might well relish it on what we have seen so far and a place is certainly possible and better might be attainable, making 14/1 with William Hill a ready price.

Lucy Wadham has been quiet but sends out Lady Tiana in the Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes and I am thinking she might outrun 9/1.  Her return in France was acceptable and with the rain in the ground, she has an excellent chance.  Luca Cumani and Kleo might be the danger.

Backing the theme of gluey ground, I am also adding Breton Rock in the 2.35 to my portfolio.  He is better the softer it gets and my main horse against him on form (Aljamaheer) will definitely not like my forecast conditions.  In multiples with the other two, we have an angle of total success or utter failure!

Limato is one to set your watch by in the 3.45pm.  11/10 is still about, a little shorter than the price you could have had last night if I had the energy to finish this in good time.  My apologies.  Anyway, you won’t even think twice about it when it wins easily enough.

FA Cup Final

The general school of thought goes like this.  Arsenal are the better team, they might show up (played well last week) and give Villa a good drubbing.  It doesn’t sound convincing though does it?  Arsenal have a track record of not showing up in games like this and I think we have an excellent case for backing Villa.

I consider it as follows.  For Arsenal, they would like to be challenging for the championship.  Realistically though, they feel mission is accomplished by qualifying for the Champions League and perhaps making the knockout stages without being disgraced.  For some of their players, the stardom they seek is on a bigger stage.

With no offence intended, it is possible that this is the biggest game for a lot of the Aston Villa players.  They know what this means to their club, the fans have made it clear.  Simply put, if you are an Arsenal fan, losing today or winning today will make less difference than it will for Villa.  I believe this will be reflected on the pitch.

That simple fact has me on the following:

Villa to win and Benteke to score: 12/1 and Villa 1-0 (20/1), 2-1 (18/1) and 3-1 (50/1).

To all Villa fans, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.  Yes, I wanted you relegated, for reasons I explained at length.  None of it was a hatred, you cannot hold onto such feelings in life, we float by just the once.  Have a great day if you get to Wembley.

The Martin Hill: Limato, Clever Cookie, Breton Rock and Peacock – Yankee of glory.

I trust your dinner will be in good style but at home, with the family.

Courage, roll the dice.

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The Saturday Sermon: Irish 2,000 Guineas Day, Haydock Temple Stakes Day

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire enjoying the first taste of summer.  The sun has risen in full song behind Bredon Hill, the air is fizzing with tiny insects, yet to feast and grow, the whole vista of flora and fauna shimmers with energy and following a good night of rest, my own mind has cracked into action like souls awakening.

I watched a BBC4 documentary on black holes.  See what I did there, see how clever and sophisticated I am.  The subject matter might sound dry at first but I assure you, if you are the type to lie awake at night occupied and wondered, then it makes for compulsive viewing.

Black Holes are currently the edge of theoretical science.  Einstein took us some way, predicting their existence and predicting some elements of their behaviour but they are so alien to our senses, that they seem abstract and fanciful.

Black Holes are so massive, that nothing can escape their draw, this includes light.  Thus should we ever lay eyes on one with a telescope (we have not yet), we might expect to see an inky blackness with a halo of light representing the light that was not quite drawn in past the point of no return (event horizon).

As matter is drawn in, theory states that it begins to accelerate beyond the speed of light.  At the heart of the Black Hole this matter is compressed under forces that are as beyond comprehension.  The ‘singularity’ is only known to us in calculation and even then it breaks all conventional rules of physics, including Einstein and his ‘Theory of Relativity’.

The singularity is infinitesimally small but contains huge mass, gravity and space-time.  It is a place where a different science rules apply, quantum physics, a science at odds with relativity, they cannot exist together, a clash of ideologies within the rules that govern how things should operate.  It appears the universe has at least two ‘user guides’.

While we are still yet to have visual evidence of a black hole, we have found evidence that they are there.  By monitoring the trajectory of stars within our own galaxy, we can see that a huge mass of something invisible sits at the heart of our own galaxy.  We can even estimate the mass, a quarter of the total mass of everything int he milky way.

We have observed similar traits in other galaxies, modelling the orbits of stars and seeing that they are gravitationally influenced by something that we cannot see.  In most cases, the missing mass proves to be about a quarter of that of the galaxy.

To those who think that there is little mystery left to your life, I say this.  You are conned by technology, turn off the lights, turn off the buzzing devices, step outside and look at the heavens.

When working in the garden, I enjoy two things above all other jobs.  Using the back-pack sprayer to kill weeds (think Ghostbusters) and having a huge fire.  The weed job is satisfying, when the little seedlings emerge in places where they should not, I dose them with a heavy blast and a week later, see their withered remains.  It always feels so right, restoring the purity of the environment, keeping it clean for the chosen plants, to play god.  Call me cruel if you like, I accept, there is a barbarism at play.

Our universe is so massive, the elements are pure and somehow balanced.  It is we that are the weeds, the ugly outliers, a rarity yes but almost certainly a deformity.

A day too far off to comprehend, the universe will stop expanding and start contracting.  The great pendulum swing.  In time, the contraction will expand in force and speed, eventually, all matter will collapse in on itself and a huge singularity will occur effecting all matter.  Then, another bright explosion, and out it all flings again, renewal.  This story repeats again and again,  in omne tempus.

In the face of such wonders on a cosmic scale of time and space, I can only offer such little meaningless morsels.  The hunt for our elusive mothership.  It is all I have for you.  We might be weeds but there is some time to kill before the sprayer dooms us to the dirt.  Let us spend this time well, let the sun shine, God, let me find some winners.

The Curragh, Goodwood and Various…

Irish 2,000 Guineas Day.

I must start with fair warning.  Following a good year so far, particularly Lincoln Day (which surprised me too), the form has fallen away more sharply than Liverpool and their bid to reclaim a premier European club slot.  That particularly harsh analogy was for @frankelslowbro who I shall come back to in a moment.

Last week, I could not pick my nose.  Theoretical scientists, the Hadron collider, all would be well advised to review my last weeks blog as I was able to stop good horses from even trying, if I had written it, I am sure I would have stopped trains, tides and time itself.

Still, the pendulum has to swing, doesn’t it?  I am not offering you much hope here am I?  I rely on the mercy of the court.  the goodness of the readership amassed over many years.  We accept no riff-raff.  No flash in the pan glory hunters, none with rude manner.  No, we hardy bunch suck in the breath, tilt our hat and move on (see The Sting, loss at the roulette wheel).

Let us start with the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the feature race of the day.

Gleneagles proved himself king of the crop at Newmarket with a pretty robust performance.  He easily came clear when asked and I might be purring more for the performance if I were not so much in doubt about the overall quality of this particular classic crop.  At 2/5, there is not much fun in backing him but he should win as there is no obvious challenger.

Yet, with three places to be paid, it might be more fun to consider who chases him home.  Horse like Gleneagles have such good cruising temperaments that those of lesser ability that compete can finish much worse than their own ability dictates.  Burning themselves out, they finish down the field, broken-hearted.

This scenario allows horses ridden for places to pick them off late on.  It is my working theory for offering you Tombelaine as a rare each way gambit at 16/1 and quarter odds with Bet365.  (never any links, never any affiliate deals; the Major is free and unhinged for your punting delectation).

Weld is in good spirit with a 30% strike rate, we get Smullen on top and Ivawood is the challenger who could well fall away.  Below the top two on the card, Tombelaine is the clear form pick for me and could well come on for his defeat of Endless Drama last time out, which was a seasonal debut.

On the undercard, the 2.45 is a cracking Group 2 sprint.  Sole Power has his army of supporters and is fresh from his Meydan exploits where he picked up a Group 1 thus now carries more weight than his rivals.  It might not stop him, like his stablemate, Slade Power, he looks a sprinter of the highest order.

It is an odd thing to say, but there is going to be plenty of pace on with many who like to break and blaze.  It might suit Gordon Lord Byron but I suspect he needs the rain to come and I am on the side of the ground staying decent.  If right, I can use the same argument to dismiss Maarek.

I hate betting against Dermot Weld but while I can see the quality of Mustajeeb, I am concerned that out-and-out sprinting might not be his game.  Sometimes when a horse is just short of quality at the top mile to mile and a half races, connections try something new.  It is hard to tell with some whether it is an afterthought or the long term plan.  Either way the new scenery is inevitably a drop in class (see the St Leger as a prime example) and that is how I feel about Mustajeeb.

These hardened sprinters will muscle him out.

That leaves me, full circle, where I started.  Sole Power, 4/1, ominously, considering the ownership, with Paddy Power.

For the indignity of having a two-bit racing fan dismiss his sprinting favourite, I shall restore some balance in favour of Mr Weld by suggesting you put a decent wedge down on Brooch.  She has been winning readily and looks a top class filly in the making.  She has a Pretty Polly entry and I am sure she will take this well before moving onto less calm waters.

Haydock Tips

Temple Stakes Day, a little bit of give in the ground, the sun shining, it will be fun to be at Haydock.

Let’s get the big race nailed first.

Hot Streak did well to win this last year as a three year old.  In this, he was the first of his age group since Fleeting Spirit in 2008.  He faded as the season went on and a dry warm day at Haydock is unlikely to be to his suiting.

I am sticking with an old friend, G Force.  Early last season, he looked like a top flight sprinter in the making.  I was very surprised it took him until the back-end of the season to collect his first G1 prize and remain convinced that more top prizes are awaiting.

The top sprinters do seem to share the spoils of the season well.  The strike is rotated from one top race to the next, a consequence of their nature.  Watching these hulking muscular brutes, you can see a difference between them and the sleeker more refined milers.  Too close and a bite or kick is inevitable, they are the 100m sprinters on the circuit.  G Force for me.

Now, set your faces to stunned, I have a 50/1 unconsidered outsider for you.

It runs in the 2pm at Haydock, Il de Re.  Winning the Chester Cup in 2012 seems an eternity away and his career path currently shows that point as the zenith (having won the Northumberland Plate in the same season).

He was running for Donald McCain back then and was tilted at the Champions Day long distance cup.  His mark was 105.  Since then, the fall from grace has been consistent.  No place has been achieved in ten runs since his Northumberland Plate.

Il de Re started this season with another substandard effort at Nottingham, fading when asked for an effort, he was 50/1 that day.

I am not providing much evidence for a revival am I?  Nor can I.  It interests me that they keep persisting, especially at a decent level.  His mark has fallen to 87 now and as a nine-year old, vast improvement is unlikely.  Keep it sensible but 50/1?  I am a sucker for the long-lost hopes.

As a saver, also near the bottom of the weight, I suggest an interest in Seamour who can be backed at 8/1.  He was tuned up with a run at York where he stayed on really nicely over what might be an inadequate trip.  I never get Ellison right but stable ignored, I would really fancy this.

Goodwood Tips

I always look for a bit of course form at Goodwood if you can get it.  Failing that, performances at similar tracks (winding, weaving, undulating and full of camber).  You need a well-balanced athlete with a good mind and so those that have won at Epsom, Bath or Brighton are to be considered.

The 1.45 opening contest gives us exactly the sort of field I think there is value in.  Remote has been missing for two years.  He was winning at Royal Ascot in a stellar season that had him marked as an exiting one.

This listed contest would be well within his reach if he retained that ability but will Master Gosden have the beast fully tuned up?  Entries suggest not.  He has a Prince of Wales entry and you must think that this is the main target.  Throw in the huge break and that he has never faced conditions like these… (Raced at Pontefract, Newbury, Ascot and Doncaster) and I have to find an opponent.

It is not a hard search.  Grandeur positively loves Goodwood.  He has won four of his five starts here and comes assured of match fitness, this being his third run of the campaign.  Fifth in a Group 3 last time might not mark that recent form as exceptional but there were caveats.  He finished just two lengths down from French Navy and did not enjoy clean passage.  Load up the large cannon.  3/1 available.

The market is not speaking favourably of King to Be in the 2.55, having drifted now to a bankable 6/1.  I like the horse, he lost his maiden here in nice style and although he hardly looks thrown in on his mark, his course form and young, highly capable claimer are both a big help.

Eurovision

I said I would return to @frankelslowbro.  My god I wish I did not have to but I feel compelled.

I know the man well and can speak favourably of his character.  One part worrier, one part mischief but thoroughly decent.  He is still feeling his way through his gambling habits, trying to find that heady mix of profits (or at least minimised losses) and enjoyment.

To this end, he sent me a 50/1 tip for the ‘who killed Lucy Beale’ market a week before the reveal, he had some inside knowledge and was quite excited.  It was Charlie Cotton.  I don’t watch Eastenders anymore, have not for years, breaking the bad habit but tuned in as I must confess I had followed someone on twitter a whole year earlier with another wildly wrong estimation of events.  Anyway, Charlie broke badly, laboured early on, was easily outpaced and pulled up lame.

Never deterred, Dave as he is better known has returned with a cracking text this morning… ‘I’ve sent you some Eurovision tips feel free to add to the blog. Long night…..’

Intrigued, I opened my email.  I reproduce verbatim for your appraisal.

For 3 hours last night I spent sometime assessing angles…

1. Contrary to popular belief as popular as block voting is the running order of songs. The songs at the later end have won more times than those that come early voter forgot fullness being the likely cause.No one has ever won occupying the number 2 role (occupied by France this year). More concerning is current favs , Sweden, are at 10 of 27 songs. It makes the 6/4 being offered slightly vulnerable. Second favs Russia are 25th and highly fancied Italy are last. 7/1 for these two to make up the top 2 feels value.

2) Nordic countries have a strong history in this competition and looking at the forums people clearly like the Swedish entry. A large bet at 6/4 wouldn’t be a bad punt but given those odds I think there is more value to be had in an each way punt. Azerbaijan have been consistently strong over the last 4/5 years. They have won once and have placed well as a rule of thumb. 50/1 why not. 

3) Best Balkan country. Serbia at 2/1 is a standout bet. Competition is not fierce from behind the old iron curtain and Serbia have past performances on their side.

4) to finish last. UK are priced at 5/2 which given the apathy towards us from our euro cousins is understandable. However this is a bookies bet designed to take those shekels from a casual punter. Germany/France are good candidates but again odds are not in our favour. A case can be made for Poland however let’s go long odds. Cyprus at 16/1 stand out to me. Unlikely to have any allies and not being mentioned at all in the forums. I also wonder how much voting habits will play a part? Could we see a back lash against Australia’s entry?!! 66/1 on them finishing last feels like value…

Do with this as you please.

The Martin Hill is a straight trixie on Grandeur, Sole Power and Brooch.

May your dinner be in good company.  Just the two of you, her dark hair falling in carefully crafted curls.  Blazing dark small eyes, the singularities of the soul from which the gravitational pull is irresistible.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon: Lockinge Day at Newbury

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire under bombardment from icy streaks of fat rain, hitting your tired face and jolting the senses.  It is black, dark like the great deep, car lights barely cutting through the murk.  After an evening out with the family, I am glad to be home, to cross the threshold, slip the bar home and light a late spring fire.

Tonight, we have been to the Avoncroft museum in Bromsgrove.  With two infant school boys in tow, we were entertained by their playing of a ‘Night at the Museum’ film in one of their grand old halls before being able to tour the grounds at dusk.

The museum reconstructs old buildings that require restoring. Some of the projects have been painstaking and date from the middle ages, it ranges to more modern exhibits such as the collection of telephone boxes.

The good lady took her father a few weeks prior and he was astonished to find a prefab home of the type widely used in the Midlands after 1945.  What astonished him was that the address of the building which the museum had saved was 5 doors down from the prefab he had lived in as a child.

The building that caught my imagination was an old chain factory.  Salvaged from Cradley in the black country, just standing in the scorched brick building, wide windows unglazed in the hope of ventilation, you got a real sense of the fierce condition under which one inch chain was produced and the rugged men who made it.

The failing light enhances the experience.  In old Tudor homes, volunteers in period dress read stories, to children pacified by the hour and enchanted by the candlelight, while small smokeless hardwood fires crackled.  The whole grounds were dimly lit, it was easy to become disoriented on winding paths, great hulks of black ominous buildings partly masked by trees proved to be poor waypoints.

At nights, lost in my thoughts, I have been haunted by the images of the wretched souls adrift on the high seas fleeing Myanmar.  The Unwanted, communities of the damned bobbing along in a tin coffin.  The desperation.  I yearn to be able to help just one small family, the scale of the grander problem is incomprehensible for me to reconcile but a single family, surely if I could help just one.

Perhaps age is making me more maudlin, compassion has never been a strong point.  I admit this not because I am proud of it, more that I am interested in telling you the truth.  Over the years, we will peel back this onion and unearth much darker truths.  Perhaps, or maybe this whole madness will conclude when the mothership lands.  If I was pushed, I would say that it is most likely on Cesarewitch day, I imagine myself picking the winner out and landing it in multiples of glory with horses across that Cheltenham October card.

Anyway, what I do know is that the Mothership will not land itself…. so to business.  Sharpen the lance points, they shall glisten as we raise them in the morning light, coming onto parade.  We shall meet the enemy at the trot, like an almighty fist, our heavy horse shall puncture through their slothenly lines, cry Shabash!

Newbury Racing Tips: Lockinge Day

Frankie Dettori set off into the new season like a man on fire.  Riding like he was possessed with the passion of the gods, he was hurling horses down the last furlong and looking mighty pleased with himself.

At York this week, he has looked a little more jaded and he now boasts the worst 14 day strike rate from these riders by some margin.  Ah, the outrageous slings and arrows.

Shalaa in the opener was going to be of considerable interest but I feel his pilot has strayed off the hot list.  I liked Riflescope who showed some toughness when pinning back those ears to get back up at Lingfield last time out, a good attitude is assured, talent in the 100s is not.  Seemingly the Mark Johnstone second string as well which has to attract you to Sixth Sense who lost when faced with Harvard Man but seemed to step forward last time.  Maybe.

The solid option is the favourite, Harvard Man is in the market at 10/3, 3/1 generally and I shall burden him with my own wager.

Telescope looks a worthy favourite in the second race, he is dropping in class and although a short price, didn’t disgrace himself on reappearance.  He surged clear, arguably being sent on a bit early and was worn down in the end.  Perhaps that has stepped his fitness on and if you read the race strictly on form ratings, he is the winner.

However, at 8/11, it is not a working mans price and given there are two interpretations of that seasonal debut, with the other being less forgiving, I think I want to be against.

The one that attracts me is Gatewood at 10/1.  His form is not as good but he has shown a winning attitude and crucially, if the rain gets into the Berkshire soil, it might suit him more than some of his foes.

I know I am going to sound a little contradictory but I am backing a Dettori mount in the 2.35 and I cannot promise I won’t do it again.  The thing is Baitha Alga was a very good early season juvenile, picking up a Norfolk Stakes no less.  If his form had finished there, he would be 5/1 for this but he threw in inexplicably awful runs at the close of the season and suddenly, he is done.  Yet, Hannon Jnr can return one to former glories and maybe a rest was what was required, a leap of faith is mandatory if you are to join me at 22/1 with Corals.

The 3.10 is a right mess.  I looked at it for a long time.  I cannot be sure it did any good and perhaps picking a random number would have been as effective.  Still, you came for insight, no matter how vague, unreliable and ugly and that is what I shall give you.

With the last paragraph as your best guide, I warn you that I am inexplicably attracted to Yeenaan at 14/1.  You need imagination but I am gambling that the ground goes a bit slow and this Botti inmate might return to something like a former self.  As you can tell from my candour though, I am struggling to convince myself.

My first reaction to looking at the Lockinge card was… ‘Christ! How many runners!!’.  This is quite a line up.  When I think of the Lockinge, I think of Hannon…. Paco Boy, Canford Cliffs and last year, Olympic Glory.  Once again, he saddles the favourite, Night of Thunder.

What could you possibly have against a 2,000 Guineas winner who beat horses that went on to land multiple group ones.  A horse that went on to run with huge respect in further top class races, notably at Royal Ascot in the QEII.  I don’t know but I am not sure.  I just have that feeling that something pips it.

Newbury is a fair course, it is not often you find an unlucky loser in that long wide straight.  Yet, it just feels like Night of Thunder will find a way to finish second.

One I fancy against him is Custom Cut, the O’Meara horse that has been admirably reliable and not short on class at all.  Plenty of experience, plenty of gutsy wins, OK if the rain comes and if this is a punch up, from these quarters, one that will fight for you.  Plenty of 8/1 but watch the terms if you are an each way backer, half of markets are fifth odds.  Notably Totesport and Bettered.  Please remember, the Major remains entirely free, no advertising (of mine, maybe some from WordPress!) and completely unhinged.

My bet of the day requires your patience until after afternoon tea.  Martlet has entries in all the right races, has shown good progressive form and although the breeding is not Montjeu or Galileo, it has a touch of the old school class.  She is a Dansili filly out of a Selkirk mare.  5/1, go large and have a small slice on the Oaks in case it a sluicing up event.

If it has all gone wrong, then the lucky last might prove interesting.  I almost never get the Ellison horses right but I am drawn to 16/1 Dream Walker who will relish a bit of rain and I think his stable mate Spark Plug won’t.  Speculative.

In the football…. Just one bet… Against the odds, Ipswich to win 1-0 in an entertaining, tough and rearguard action sort of game.

The Martin Hill is a Harvard Man, Gatewood and Martlet trixie.

May your dinner be served in a fine dining room, delicate service and wines, finely blended flavours.  Do not shirk the bill and tip well.  Life is good and we go round the circuit just the once.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Haydock, Ascot and Lingfield

Good morning from the Major who again scribes from the bed, heavy thick cloud sits fluidly over the land, streaking past the horizon slickly, blown by Caribbean winds.  The edge of the sky is light, it might be breezy but pleasant.

The Major is sloppy again, I am sorry if you are used to the sermon being prepared for your morning constitutional and coffee.  The Major has been suffering, I am on the better end of it now but some sort of viral infection has had me laid a little low.  Another good nights sleep last night, I am on the way.

The election is signed, delivered, receipted and filed.  Ouch.  All polls had me convinced that a Labour minority was the impending result and I bet like a champion on that outcome.  Alas.

The polls were wrong.  Either something horrendously biased in the methodology or more people vote Tory than say they will.

I have seen folks on the left seize on this as a duplicitous act.  Why do people vote for this vile scum but won’t admit it?  There is a clue in which they phrase the question.

Twitter is generally a lefty communication channel.  Mostly folk on my timeline are able to converse with decorum.  After all, our beliefs are never that far apart, as much as some might like to get you to think the counter.  I used the example of Bedroom Tax previously.  Do you think people in need of housing support should be able in law to have the state and taxpayer pay for any house they deem fit to live in, no matter how extravagant?  Well, No, no sane person does.  Thus, we all believe in ‘Bedroom Tax’ as it has been dubbed, it is just the nuance we debate.  There is important detail in there and I would like to see some of the criteria relaxed, for example, I do not think it is fair to reduce someones benefit if it is the only accommodation available.

In raising this, I am not seeking to explore the argument of this specific policy point, rather to consider the effect on people.  Pre election, to support the conservative party was to support Bedroom Tax, you evil vile scum.  Yet, these people are no different from the folk who vote Labour, it is in the nuance you win their vote, not the flaming rhetoric.

I shall declare for the court so that you might judge me fairly that I am not particularly a party man.  My natural allegiance might be an old school conservatism that you don’t see too much of these days.  It is compassionate (I should know, I like most people, do care and regular followers would know this). I have voted for Labour many times though, when they came to a centre left position with an agenda of ambition.

I am not that enamoured by either current party, neither had quite won my heart.  A few nights before the election, I decided to vote for my local Tory.  Not because of party politics but because she has done a good job.  She has been a highly vocal campaigner for improving train services and broadband in the area. I have seen her actively campaign with local charities and businesses.

I responded to a twitter post which was an urgent call online to read the policies and vote because you have to etc.  It did not carry a party allegiance, had been retweeted on to my timeline, masking the intent.  I replied that actually, in addition to policy and values, the local MP was a factor.  I immediately got both barrels, was accused of being a tory, as though this is an evil act (which you might think it is) and it was polished off with ‘we have nothing to say to each other’.  I did politely reply to explain that I was simply trying to say that for some people (of all political persuasion), the candidates local hard work might be a consideration.

If you think that people who voted for conservatism are evil, you need a word with yourself.  The world is not as binary as is painted in a twitter echo chamber. An election is not a 6th form debating chamber.

I was shocked the pre-election polls were so wrong, it cost me my investments and my Plaid > UKIP match seats bet courtesy of @pieaytollah27 was the only respite.

I repeat that I am not a fan of the current Tory front bench and hope Cameron makes some significant changes to bring in a more grounded bunch.  Even so, the NHS will to be sold, the poor will not be branded, the rich will continue to pay more tax and the wheels will continue to turn.  In five years, we will be back at it and the most sensible suggestions for running the country will get my vote.

Being called evil might enhance the virtuous feeling of those encouraging each other within the echo chamber; it doesn’t sway millions of others who aren’t participating on twitter.  Cameron is not back on the votes of the rich, there simply are not enough of them.  He is back because of the votes of ordinary folk.  Not by a landslide, but enough.  Vilify them if you want but they are aware and they do care; Labour lost the argument.  People did not back them to be the best party for the things they care about.

Now I fear I have bored you terribly in weeks gone by.  I promise to return to Victoria military conquests soonest.  Forgive me.

To the sports…

Ascot Tips

The first one I like is Winter Thunder who runs in the 2.35.  I think the horse deserves this step up in class, the Newmarket handicap it won in October is working out fine and with Ascot good to firm, I want one that is proven on a rattling surface and the form of Winter Thunder suggests it needs this.  9/4, I feel quite good about that.

The Victoria Cup is 12/1 the field and so, by nature, you tread carefully and keep the stakes sensible.

Generally speaking, I want a 4/5 year old from the bottom half of the handicap and maybe a shrewd Northern trainer.  The draw looks pretty irrelevant.

Speculative Bid caught the eye having been an eye-catching improver.  However a lot of that has been on soft or the polytrack and I am not sure this horse will go as well when his hooves are playing the drums.  Spencer is a decent jockey booking.

No, my pin has stopped on Dream Spirit at 16/1 with Ladbrooks who pay five places.  William Haggas is bound to have a hose set aside for the race and this one fits my profile perfectly.  Race fitness is taken a bit on trust, as is the necessary improvement, yet while some might see the lightly raced profile as a challenge in this big field, I see it as an unexposed advert when coming from these quarters.

While at Ascot, Paddy Power is 6/4 in the 4.20, fill your boots.

Haydock Tip – Swinton Hurdle

Evan Williams has won the race in the last two years, quite an achievement given the open nature of the race.  He returns with last years hero, Ballyglasheen, and I think it s worth following in again.  16/1 is available and the horse is back to last years winning mark, on ground he will enjoy again and in the headgear he last ran well in… There are another ten horses with profiles that lead you to think an improvement could come; good luck.

While at Haydock, Aetna, is one you might remember I have been hot on before.  I backed the girl at Cork and she let me down although was desperately unlucky, loads more to come and 11/4 is a dream, load the large cannon.

Lingfield – Derby Trial

Christophermarlowe did what was expected last time and now has another warm up race prior to a tilt at Epsom.  I can’t see anything other than him arriving for the classic unbeaten, 4/7.

In the football.  Sadly, Villa will put any sense of relegation fear behind today with a win at home to West Ham, 5/4.  I also think Albion will roll over and give Newcastle the three points they need, 8/5.

The Martin Hill: Aetna and Paddy Power in a simple double.

May your dinner be taken in good company, a fine sort with a wicked glint in her eye.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon: Newmarket 2,000 Guineas Day, Punchestown, The Big Fight… What a weekend of sport

Good morning from the Major who writes from the bed with an unsteady hand.  Wispy bands of cloud stretch along the horizon in shades of blue and grey pastels, the light is filtered, all soft and peaceful.

I must explain why this is a rather sloppy Saturday Sermon, delivered at mid morning.

On Thursday, we buried John who I mentioned some weeks hence.  I am going to write to Ladbrokes separately but Barry, the manager at Stone Cross, led their delegation in attendance and led the collection (Birmingham Dogs Home).  It reminded me that a good bookmakers is a social benefit, a meeting point.

John almost lost his life a few years back when his home burned down and the fireman who got him out, laid him on the lawn, for all the world dead.

Yet, the flame of life still flickered and after a few weeks in the world-class QE hospital in Birmingham with their class leading burns treatment wards (heavily in use from wounded servicemen from the Afghanistan campaign), John made a recovery, overcoming double pneumonia and horrendous burns.

I spent some time with him in hospital at the time, being a big racing fan it gave us time to meander through memories.  His favourite jockey was Fallon, he preferred the flat to the jumps after a horse he backed died on course; we have all been there.

His favourite horse was Falbrav and when he was discharged and returned to a new flat, I purchased a photo of Falbrav from the Racing Post site. This was amongst the items recovered and will now hang on the wall of Ladbrokes at Stone Cross with a small plaque, remembering John, or ‘Joker Joe’ as was his not inconsiderable local fame.

My mother salvaged other family relics from Johns flat and we had various folk around in the morning delving through old photographs, military records and other keepsakes that instantly move you from one place in time to another.

Anyway, once the service was over, we congregated for drinks and sandwiches at a local small hotel.  Old people fingered through the photos identifying the folk in them and linking them to events.  This was the starting whistle of an almighty drinking session with my brother which had me in bed at midnight and unconscious.

Friday was written off.  Weak and aching, I am not at an age anymore where a couple of paracetamol and a decent sleep can see off the worst of a hangover.  It has rolled on into day two, a problem as I am hosting this evening, chaps coming down to watch the fight.

Funerals remind you of many things,  The frailty of life, the bonds of family, the depth of history.  As I oft say, we go by just the once my friends, grasp on to whatever floats by.  Drain every last drop from life, lap it up with an appetite.

To the sports.

Punchestown Saturday

If the Cheltenham festival was criticised for moving to four days, thus diluting quality, Punchestown is twice as guilty.  Personally I don’t mind.

What a week for Enda Bolger, he seems like such a character and a damn nice guy.  My formula for Cross Country races is simply to run my finger down the trainer column, find his entries and pick one.  Wish Ye Didn’t gets my vote here at 4/1.  A winner on the opening day of the festival on Tuesday, he hacked up and didn’t appear to have a particularly heavy race, while Nina is booked for the favourite, I think we will get our monies worth,  9/2 Paddy and Boylesports.

Punchestown is serving us two Grade 1 races and the first is the mares hurdle.  Annie will surely finish the job, she is currently favourite for the World Hurdle, she won’t have a problem with this lot, unless her fall has effected her.  No bet, I am happy to watch.

The second grade 1 is the four year old hurdle.  Petite Parisienne brings the best form from the Triumph Hurdle and that renewal looked a decent one so he has to be respected.

In a trappy race, I am sticking with Qualando who makes the trip for Nicholls.  Not many British horses have come this year, probably due to the timing with Aintree and also the Mullins factor.  If you got beat at Cheltenham, do you want to come and have another dose at Punchestown or instead head to Liverpool and take your chances in a largely Mullins-Free zone?

Anyway, this is the sort of french horse that Nichols works wonders with and clearly there is some talent.  The way Qualando finished the Fred Winter suggested there was no issue with stamina and I want this one on side at 7/2, Stan James or Boylesports.

The 2,000 Guineas

Forgive me if you were passionate about Punchestown and felt I was being critical of the quality, it is not my intention to offend.  If there is a card lacking top class action, it is the first classic of the season, the 2,000 guineas at Newmarket.  It is the only group 1 on the card and considering we are trying to sell the race internationally, we could do with a bit more prestige, n’est pas?

Gleneagles heads the field and you can see the horse has a lot going for it, yet I remain unconvinced by the form.  A drop of rain and I would have been all in on Elm Park but I am not sure that one will see the starting stalls as the Racing Post Trophy it won was testament to the conditions he needs.

Estidhkaar did very well in the Greenham, cutting out all of the early work and all and sundry were quick to jump on his performance, decrying he was the one to take out of the race.  The Major is not so sure, unlucky in defeat never reads well in dispatches.

This is a year where I would consider looking for a bigger priced winner, a Mafki or a Night of Thunder. Yet, being a coward, I shall stick with the main playactors.

The two to focus on are Ivawood and Ol’ Man River.  The former I can readily forgive lesser performance on soft ground and comes into the race having had a satisfactory prep run.  There is no way Ivawood was fully wound up for the Greenham and while he finished a way off the from two, I think it will be a different horse today.

Ol’ Man River was eye-catchingly good in his first two runs and I want it to win for the sake of his parents.  It is two years since Montjeu passed away but his ominous presence on the classics remains.  Ol’ Man River is out of Finsceal Beo who was a tremendous filly and I want it to run well to do justice to the blue blood from which it has come.  8/1, Ladbrokes, Paddy, Boylesports.  Ivawood is my saver at 12s generally.

Mayweather v Pacquiao

Now, I am not an in-depth boxing fan but I am adding an interest to my weekend portfolio.  It looks to me to be a classic fight between Mayweather who has the power and the reach and Manny, who needs to get inside and brawl.

It typically goes to the classier fighter and thus Mayweather makes the sensible option.  He is available at 10/11 but that is not my bet.

I am backing a unanimous points win for Mayweather at 13/8 with Ladbrokes.  As well as the fighting advantage, Floyd has home advantage and while it should mean nothing, unfortunately, this is Vegas, home of the dodgy judge and we have that in Mayweathers camp too.  Manny is chiseled from the rock and so I do not anticipate a knock down.

It is a shame because, like most, I will be supporting Manny with the heart.

The Football

One bet in the football and one that you might mock.  i fancy Sunderland to beat Southampton at 16/5.  They are the weaker team but at this stage of affairs, it does not matter.  They have a lot to play for and the atmosphere will be electric.

The Martin Hill is a Mayweather unanimous 13/8 and Ol Man River 8/1 double with Ladbrokes.

May your dinner be sensible and simple.  Don’t drink too much, you will regret it.

Courage, roll the dice.