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.


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