The Saturday Sermon: A favour… Derby Day; Epsom tips, American Pharaoh, Champions League Final and Musselburgh on the undercard and who knows what.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene from gods own easel.  Pale blue brilliant skies are crisscrossed with wide lazy vapour trails, tell-tale signatures of the hundreds of tin-can adventurers; destination unknown.

School sports day, primary school children skipping, carrying water, hurdling, relay races and the obligatory parents race at which the Major melted into the background.  The sun shone generously and gazebos were erected by smiling folk deliriously happy, or so it seemed to me.

I have so much to think about at the minute that my mind has become stuck.  Thoughts have solidified and I am unable to file correctly away the meaningless from the meaningful.

Last weekend, after a Saturday of successful sport, myself and the good lady dined out with friends.  Our sextet pretty much had he pub to ourselves which was odd since it was very good.  We feel to good merriment and soon were crafting drinks for each other at the ample bar.  Excellent company.

The nightcap was taken at one couples home and some hours later, the wrong end of another bottle of bubbles, I could barely concentrate on the white ball and was aware of figures dancing.  The good lady told me that we walked home in the road, singing no less.

Sunday, I was on the easy list.

I lack the energy to recount any deeper thoughts.  Politics, science and history; riches of material to saunter through on the way to the sport but my tank is running low.  Next week.

My Big Favour

I have a favour to ask.  I am trying to buy a decent quality edition of the 2012 Grand National programme.

It is not for me.  It is for a good friend.  More specifically, it is for his girl.  He loves his girl and so he should for she is smart, knows science, is excited by the stars, has a flashing smile and has born unto this world a glorious daughter of their own.

She loves racing and enjoys riding her own horse.  Her particular favourites are Frankel and Neptune Colognes.

He is desperate to make a complete gift and for it, he is reaching out for a 2012 Grand National programme.  Come on readers, help me out.  Leave a comment or twitter me @tdl123.

To the sports.

Derby Day Tips at Epsom

The Derby, perhaps the most historically prestigious race in the world.  History, bloodstock and sentiment.

This year is a fascinating renewal.  Jack Hobbs laid down a stunning turn of foot at Sandown and was subsequently bought by the Godolphin machine.  Golden Horn, stablemate, lowered his colours in the Dante but the defeated Hobbs was not disgraced.

My take on it?  Jack Hobbs was eye-catching at Sandown and it is hard to remove that impression from my mind.  Yet, they were average sorts that day and the Dante was a big step up.

One concern I have always held over Jack Hobbs is his physical style.  He is a beast of a horse to look at and a true galloper.  I have no doubt of his stamina but his huge stride might not be that well suited to the Epsom camber.  That and he looks like he needs some cut in the ground, the way he slaps those front hooves down.

So, of the two, Golden Horn easily gets my vote.

So then what of the rest of the field?  Ballydoyle showed their classic pedigree again with a 1-2 in the Oaks, however unlikely.  It has bought a wave of support under the assumption that O’Brien has been building a head of steam towards the main event and now we will see the true calibre of his refined bloodstock.

I am not so sure.  O’Brien had several sorts he was aiming at the Derby and many fell by the wayside.  Giovanni Canaletto has looked awkward but may improve with headgear.  He is of the fine lines you would expect, being a Galileo colt out of a Kingmambo mare.  Not for me.

Kilimanjaro left some pretty ordinary juvenile form behind to win the Lingfield Derby Trial but that race is not generally a good indicator.  Christophermarlowe was the hopeful defeated that day and with it, a form line seemed to evaporate.

In the end, I have to play Golden Horn.  7/4 is still available.  Come the morning, some brave bookmaker might stand some special price for £20.  Either way, I am in.

In the opener at Epsom, I want to chance 14/1 shot Cymro who goes for Tom Dascombe.  The horse was reliable until leaving his staid former impressions behind when beating Sir Isaac Newton.  Of course the headlines from that race focussed on the disappointing Ballydoyle star who was beaten at 1/6.  Thing is, the two were well clear and I’m not sure that Cymro wasn’t taking a mighty step forward.     I will keep the investment at 18/1 with BetVictor to a respectable each way bet.  I like the form but I do not like the breeding, being a Dark Angel sort, the trip is a sobering factor.

The Coronation Cup is a gallic affair and all pointers suggest the hot favourite Doiniya has the measure now of Flintshire.  Yet, many a fair horse is caught out around Epsom and Flintshire has experience of coming here, Paddy Power is 2/1, a complete standout.

Musselburgh Under Card

If it were not half the land away, I would gleefully trespass to Musselburgh for a day of interesting racing.

The 2.15pm Class 2 conditions sprint is worth a fair pot and Michael Dods saddles a fair filly in Richter Scale who smashed it at Thirsk and is a deserved favourite.  Furiant rates a danger back on the track where he made his winning debut but it was some display by my pick and she can be backed at 7/4.

The Edinburgh Cup is run at 3.25pm and Mark Johnstone saddles three of the nine runners.  It is not the strongest of renewals and I have to back Yorkridding which is seemingly the Johnstone first string (hard to be sure) after two good wins, particularly the penultimate one at York and I am a buyer again at 5/2.  Thing is, Mark Johnstone can eek out improvement from these sorts even when they look like they are reaching their correct handicap mark.

American Pharaoh – Triple Crown Bid

There is a well advertised list of horses that have ‘hit the bar’ in an attempt to bag an American Triple Crown.  The Belmont is the challenge that many great horses cannot overcome.  Why is it such a hardship?  Three reasons.  Trip, ground and timing.

American Pharaoh has been superb to date and in Espinoza, he has the experienced jockey who knows how to turn him off, conserve the fuel and kick on when required.  Victor has seen defeats though in Triple Crown attempts twice before, perhaps that is a good thing.

It is the first time these horses will have gone a mile and a half.  The ground at Belmont is very different, being more sandy and not to every hoofs liking.  Finally, it is the culmination of stress in a Triple Crown horses season.  The Preakness and the Derby and the Belmont are crammed into a five-week period.

Triple Crown horses have to compete for the lot, other trainers have prepared their beasts for a Belmont specifically, skipping the previous races and that gives a certain advantage.

Todd Pletcher, master trainer holds three cards and all must be taken seriously.  Yet the one, I find intriguing is Mubtaahij, a lovely Dubai colt and being Irish bred, one that is sure to stand the test of stamina.  14/1, have a poke.

All said though.  Everyone loves a champion, good luck American Pharaoh.

Oh… and if someone ever asked me which race in history draws the most sentiment?  Well, Kauto’s 5th King George, or when he regained his Gold Cup, both had me awestruck.  Frankel in the Queen Anne, that was special.  It is in history though, the first time I saw Secretariats Belmont, I struggled to believe it was real.

It was like someone with an infinite knowledge of racing had decided to craft a vision of the perfect, perfect performance.  Exuberance, confidence and beauty.  There are two moments in the beautiful commentary worth absorbing when you read this.

As the camera pans past the American flag which looks slightly tatty, Secretariat suddenly extends away (3f out) from Sham, the two well clear, the commentator, the revered Chic Anderson, feels that rush of adrenaline and exclaims that Secretariat, is blazing along…. Secretariat is moving like some sort of tremendous machine!  As he hits the home straight, the nature of the demolition becomes clear, like a veil lifting from all our eyes, Chic again captures it immaculately, God that man had a feel for it; Secretariat is alone, he is all alone in the straight!

Watch it, let it be my gift to you.

I’m sorry, I’ve said all this before.  Regulars will feel I am preaching.  For this I can only apologise.

Champions League football… Juve 1 Barca 0.  16/1 with Betvictor (mentioned twice today but please recall that I am free of links, free of deals, free of affiliations).  In fact, go bigger, you can get Morata 1-0 for 50/1.

The Martin Hill is a Richter Scale and Golden Horn double.  I feel this one.

May your dinner be spectacular, use your imagination.

Courage, roll the dice.

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