Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Saturday Sermon: The Golden Horn question. #Ascot et al

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire ‘coming to’ from a god fearing session.  Yesterday, heavy grey skies swirled and eddied over the land, continual precipitation flung from the North Atlantic, so dense it seemed it might never end

Falling asleep the gentle pitter patter was pleasant, waking to a blue sky and cloud broken sun, more so.

The Major has found sleeping at the weekend is coming much more readily since I started working again.  Partly the travel to Sheffield, carrying the requisite accoutrement for clothing, bathing et al.  This existence is tiring.  Having to remember, needing to improvise when you do not.  Some folk are well organised, I do not count myself in their ranks.

What a mess the Labour party have found themselves in.  My 50/1 stakes on Corbyn (it is not after timing if you urged people to get on board) is now tradeable at 3/1.

The reaction from the Labour party has been to launch the great and good of the party out to demean his candidacy.  Sadly, Blair, Kendall and many others are missing the point.  The supporters of Corbyn are more interested in having a leader that represents their views rather than someone who will win an election.  They are foolish to do so in my view but that in itself would only alienate them further.  Supporting Corbyn is like buying a branded expensive watch, you do so not for the utility but for how it makes you look to others and subsequently how it makes you feel.

I say this not to judge, it is something we all do, yet we do not like to admit it.  I once created a complex spreadsheet to inform me which company car was the most utilitarian to acquire.  When my algorithm spat out an answer, I had to revisit the calculation to ensure it gave me a Mercedes.

I see Corbyn largely as a failure of a weak Conservative argument for many years.  Some commentators think that their line on Labour profligacy prior to 2010 was effective, I do not think it was.  The issue dates back to 2010 when the Conservatives were elected in coalition.  At the time they did not stand on that ticket.  They were obsessed with trying to shed their own cloak of being ‘nasty’ and thus an argument that we were overspending, that the state was too large was simply not going to play to their tune.

As a result, subsequent austerity policy was argued on the hoof.  Remember them saying that it was not until they were in power that they could see how bad things were.  What rot.  They knew, Labour knew and what was needed was some pre-election honesty.  The Conservatives did not trust the electorate with that honesty and what we face today, I believe grew from that bad seed.

The economic argument that larger states spending more will grow the private sector, is nonsense.  This is a personal belief but a strong one.  Yes, there are people wishing to persuade that this is true who will highlight correlations in history.  The same correlations exist the other way too though.

If this is duplicitous, the Labour reaction to history has been equally so.  None could blame Labour for the worldwide economic downturn on 2007.  That they were running an unnecessary deficit at the time was an error but the magnitude of difference it would have made to the decisions we had to subsequently make, well it is marginal.

Yet, this simple truth froze them.  With Conservatives egging on their case that our predicament, the need to cut spending, was all connected to a perceived profligacy, Labour dithered over an effective response.  Asked outright at the Leaders debate, Miliband clearly stated that no, he did not think Labour had spent too much; the crowd booed.  This denial hit a bad note, it looked like he cold not admit a fault, no matter how small.  I think folk saw it as either deliberately untruthful or badly naive.  He let himself be boxed into that position over a deficit that at the time was not the most significant part.  I would be more concerned with the hundreds of billions of pounds that government committed to spending on PFI for a measly £65bn of assets, now that was criminal.  If you wish to pin a tag to the Labour party of believing in a money tree, then PFI not the deficit is the smoking gun.

Corbyn has no problem denying the case of over-spending.  Unlike me, he believes that it was not the case.  A man of principle, I will give him his due.  Yet, he is also the most unelectable leader of the opposition I have ever seen.  This might not matter to his legions of supporters.  I understand why they are so fed up at the mealy-mouthed weak offering served up on all political fronts.  If you do not trust the electorate to deal with a dose of reality, this is the natural end position.  Politicians desperate not to do anything that might offend the masses.  This is Corbyns chief benefit.  He speaks clearly and honestly.

Anyway, he bags me a sizeable sum should he become elected, so go on Jez, give it to them.  I could never vote for him, for a start, while casual dress has pervaded most parts of civic life, I am not prepared to accept his sports jacket and open shirt in colours that would shame a nursing home, no Sir.

I’d go for Liz.  Best of a bad bunch.  Andy sways in the wind and Cooper looks like a female Ed Balls and the public does not deserve that.  Corbyn fans, I am sure you are spitting right now about her being another Tory, just like me right?  I get it, don’t shout, it is early, relax, we can all have our views.  She is a little easier on the eye at least and if the political fare we are to be served in forthcoming years is to remain sloppy and lukewarm, well, at least let it be done by better looking people.

As for my own politics?  I’d be a liberal democrat if they were liberal.  I have voted both blue and red before.  I find it hard to associate with any particular party, so there.  I don’t have one, though my tendency towards liberalism in its truest sense leans me more towards a small c conservatism.  Anyway, you don’t have to support a team to find the game interesting.

Don’t be offended if you disagree, I know I could be wrong, as long as do not consider yourself an authority on the truth either, then we can be content in each others company.  Put the politics away and let’s get to the sports.

Ascot King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes: Golden Horn.

What to make of Ascot.  The King George and QE Stakes is a fine old race but an odd one on the calendar.  The supporting cast for this Group one is pretty shallow, a Group 3 being the best the rest of the card has to offer.  Three year olds still get 10lbs which at this stage of the season is generous and in Golden Horn we have a potential star of his generation.  Will he run?  Will he get the ground?

Connections were concerned about his stamina prior to the Derby.  I must confess, I did not share that concern and he counts as one of my successful Derby tips.  Now on soft Ascot ground, with that stiff finish, they must be in a proper quandary.  Connections have been associated with the sponsorship of the race for three decades, to have a potential winner must be hard to walk away from, yet if they think he won’t act on the ground, on a stiff track, well, surely they had better scratch him and start thinking about the tactics required to master Treve instead?

Will he go on the ground?  Hard to be sure.  Being out of Cape Cross, you would think better ground is his forte, his action to the eye would suggest that to me too but you don’t know until they try.

A further interesting question is, will the ground actually be soft?  Yes, it rained constantly yesterday and the reports on track were pretty poor.  Remember though, Ascot is to my mind, the fastest draining piece of earth in this land.  The raining is done and the sun is due to bake the turf all morning.  I would not be surprised if it is not verging on good to soft by the off.

Some enterprising bookmaker will go evens at the off.  Take it.  Golden Horn is the class act.  I think that the soft ground will have evaporated much by the time the gates open and I predict an SP of 2/5.

If the questions about Golden Horn leave us scratching our heads, the same must apply to the 2.05, juvenile fillies race.  There is not a proven soft ground runner in the field which makes the market highly intriguing.

The Haggas horse looks a shoe-in on form but I am not at all sure that cut in the ground is desired.  The one I think might benefit is Great Page at 8/1 with Hills and Ladbrokes.  Being out of Roderick O Connor who won a Criterium in the French mud in his juvenile career, well, we have a chance.

Both Speculative Bid and Heavens Guest make lots of appeal in the 3.15.  Their prices both reflect this but they both looked booked for big runs.  Speculative Bid and Jamie Spender is a great match and they are proving a formidable team, it is perfectly possible that the winning and improving is not yet done.  Heavens Guest (like Speculative Bid) is very happy with a bit of give underfoot and will be primed for the day.  On jockey bookings, I prefer Speculative Bid who can be backed at 8/1 but suggest a saver on Heavens Guest.

Tips from York

The Sky Bet York Stakes goes off at 2.55 and Custom Cut will carry the cash of his army of fans.  This looks very winnable too.  Tha’ir rates a danger and if he can eek out a bit more improvement, he might be a player.  I am tempted with Bragging though who certainly needs to bounce back, yet this is a Stoute horse and he knows how.  9/1 and drifting is not much of an advert and I fear I might regret abandoning Custom Cut.

I struggled to get a horse in the Dash.  Shore Step made the thinking frame as did old boy Tangerine Trees.  God alone knows I’ve lost enough money on Hoof It during his barren spell and leaving him be today will almost certainly spark a monstrously unexpected revival.  No, Shore Step it is.  16/1 with Stan James with four places paid.

Outside of racing, I would back Quintana at 11/10 (if you can stomach a Betway account) or evens (Skybet) to win the stage of the Tour de France.  I am no expert but this is the last chance in the alps to take time out of Froome and Sky looked tired yesterday while Quintana looked a machine.

The Martin Hill: Shore Step and Speculative Bid double.  A quiet week.

May your dinner be fresh pasta, coupled with some of those delicious Italian flavours, fine white wines and glorious company, all full raven hair and wild dark eyes.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – #Newbury, #Newmarket, #MarketRasen and of course…. #Cartmel! #Shabash

Good morning from Worcestershire where the Major has stirred from such magnificent slumber that I feel as though I have awoken to a different existence.  I have such fleeting memories of last night, drinking a single cold beer and eating a glorious chicken and potato curry, wishing Hull KR might win in the handicap and falling asleep just as that game was slipping from their grasp.

Flinging open the windows to welcome the day, the land is alive.  Dazzling light blazes from an orb elevated above the horizon, telling me in advance that I have slept beyond my usual boundary.  The distant land is cloaked in a greying hazy shadow, it erases the colour, screeching birds are busy at work, collecting grubs and eyeing the sky with great wariness for ominous shadows.

This weeks report from Sheffield notes that Steve and I, were joined by his German associate, Malta and two other friends for the Wednesday night quiz. We came joint top with Steve blazing away again in grand style.  Dead heating, unlike in racing, does not cause a sharing of the spoils of war.  No, there must be a winner in this despotic contest and the quiz-master, an awful man, has a preferred modus operandi of an eating contest.  Quite.

At this stage, I am always happy to withdraw gracefully.  Should someone be content to cram their mouths full of peanuts and race to eat them, well; good luck to them I say, enjoy your beer and good night.

I had observed throughout the evening that one of our companions, Rob, bore a wild-eyed slightly maniacal look as though he were constantly suppressing some raging impulse and my spirits were raised when he volunteered to represent us.  His foe was a swarthy student girl, part of a gaggling set and I would have wagered 2/9 that we had the boss hand.

Sadly, while Rob laboured into a large pork pie as best he might, his demonic competitor devoured hers in uncommon style, to a point where I thought she may be dislocating her jaw, unsportsmanlike you’d agree.  What folk will do for eight pints of good ale and some recognition.  The result was a turn up, none was more surprised than I.  Still, I should have known better; the mighty Seabiscuit looked like a London Pony compared to the finely composed War Admiral and we all know how that ended.   Looks can be deceiving.

On Tuesday night, to give Steve a break from my late night boozy company which will not be doing him any favours; I made a break for the leafy suburbs and to Olly in Dore, South West of the city, touching the peak district.  Olly is a good friend, a jet setting sort, compact round face, always adorned in the latest tech accessories but full of fun and generous in spirit.  If I paint Olly well, then I wish to have saved the finer colours for his wife Sally who combines fine hospitality with an excellent sense of humour and that rare quality one finds in wonderful people, the power to make you feel good about yourself.

The pair keep a fine house and I slept well on a soft bed with the window flung open to the air and the stars.

Pluto, ice mountains.  What great words, what wondrous images flung four and a half hours across space to reach us on our small blue marble.  The machine was gunning along at 14km per second having made Pluto by means of slingshot around Mars many years previous.  The calculations, technology, invention and sheer genius involved in such a scheme lead me to think it more artistic than scientific.  Bravo to all concerned, vos pervenio astrum.

To the sports.

Carmel, Newbury, Newmarket and Market Rasen Tips.

Last week was not bad.  4 tips, a winner at 11/4, a place at 11/4 and a place at 16/1.  It won’t excite the bank manager but it halted a poor run which I am glad to see broken.

Cartmel…. 5pm.  an odd place to start Major?  Well, maybe.  Yet, my bet of the day is Kilfinichen Bay who can be backed at a healthy 5/1.  Longsden and Johnson are proving a valuable partnership (29 runners, 12 winners).  The horse is in splendid form and the seemingly wide open nature of the contest provides some honesty to the price.  I say ‘seemingly’ because if you, like I, remain convinced that Kilfinchen will win, it is not wide open at all.

24 juveniles line up for the super sprint at Newbury, a race in which it is hard to be overly committal on anything.  Consider, 24 horses thundering down the Newbury straight, all inexperienced on an oddly tough course, interference expected.  You need a touch of clairvoyance in addition to form and bloodline reading to crack this.

Still, being the feature race, I feel obliged to throw a dart.

The Fahey yard have gone a little quiet of late, just 8 winners from their last 108 runners (fortnightly stats) but they have 1 in 3 of the field today,

Excessable is a likeable favourite with the last defeat looking a much more handsome formalise since the victor went on to score again.  Great Page showed quality form in the penultimate run which simply repeated gives the horse a chance.

My bet though has to be at an each way price and I think Hawatif gives us an fighting chance at 8/1.  De Sousa is now 2/5 for the jockeys title and must be riding every race with excellent confidence and a laser like focus.  Johnstone is back to business with his juveniles and the win at Carlisle while lacking depth in obvious class, looked very good.  I feel more confident than I should and should remember my earlier caution, looks can be deceiving.

My other tip at Newbury is both late and lazy.  Sealife at 6/4 is no value compared to the 9/4 about recently.  This tells of confidence and why not.  the Windsor debut win was bloodless and spoke of plenty more to come.  Could be a good prospect.

At Newmarket, I am only going to attempt the Aphrodite at 2.15.

I thought Dream Child looked good at Deauville last month, looking far the best at the line and that was a listed contest beating Ed Walkers, Persona Grata, a previous winner, now rated 100.  Dream Child is burdened with a touch of extra weight for that win which tempers enthusiasm a little.

Arabian Comet is closely matched on the books with Dream Child and given their meeting at Goodwood was a seasonal debut for the Comet, there is plenty that will feel confident that positions will be revised under these terms and with Arabian Comet now being fitter.  I am never one to be so sure about those arguments.  They are there if you look for them, but you can often look too hard. I would not be too quick to abandon Dream Child.

No, I am looking for value here and I find it in Desert Snow.  The horse did nothing but improve last year and if still on an upward curve, might make a mockery of the 12/1 being touted about.  I grant you, that improvement was made in handicaps but what can you do but improve in such circumstances.  Bin Suroor remains in good form and I want this one on side today.

Then to Market Rasen and the ‘summer jumps’ scene.

The Summer Hurdle has been taken by John Fergusons distinctive black colours in both previous two runnings.  Thus, punters are flocking to Buckwheat and Commissioned who are two of the top three in the betting.  The trainer loves it here (6 from 13 runners in the last two years) and I fear I might be looking too hard to get his beat.

If you are a Ferguson sort of player, I would suggest, Commissioned to beat Buckwheat as a straight forecast would make for a pleasing dinner tonight.

However, I am strictly reporting the workings of my mind, which has despatched a message from deep within the mad swirling vortex.  I calculate that the Ferguson craze is overheating.  He had not won the race prior and who is to say that the flash in the pan will not end today?  Two swallows do not make a summer, although in Birmingham, it is the happy conclusion for many a reveller on a Broad Street night out.

Ferguson does not boast the best recent strike rate at Market Rasen in spite of his seeming dominance.  No, by a single meaningless percentage point, that honour goes to Nicky Henderson whose yard have been quiet of late although he did send out a nice maiden hurdle winner at Worcester this week.

I backed a horse early in the season at Cheltenham last year and was gutted to see it just outgunned on the hill, the pair coming well clear.  For me, it felt like vindication of my thinking of it being half decent and I made an expensive mental note.  Subsequent runs were either seemingly unlucky or just downright disappointing.  Yet, the memory remains and like a immovable stain I present it to you now, once again.

We have been here before haven’t we.  Talent.  God, Talent – She was my Arc winner.  Taquin du Seuil (to be fair a multiple winner) has also received far more of my attention than he perhaps deserved.

So, temper your action accordingly when I say that I am still expecting Hammersly Lake to repay me for my continual, unwavering, persistent, uncompromising and probably downright unwise support.  12/1 is available, don’t bother with the each way, bet like you mean it, fortune favours the brave.

Then the Summer Plate.  Pumped Up Kicks is all the rage being an improver and seemingly unexposed.  Cannot deny it looks a bet.

David Pipe is in the Brian Ellison pigeon-hole for me.  Can never bring myself to back him, his horses seem to run to an unprectictable rhythm, one than my ear cannot decipher.  Thus, Dell Arca also gets a cagey cautious line through it.  It’s a Gimme returns and with Geraghty up on a JP horse in Britain on a Saturday big race handicap, well, that is enough for many.  He is also last years winner but bearing an extra stone (give or take a few lbs) I am holding off.

Nobody could have not been moved by seeing Champion Court return to form.  Never quite top class, this horse has never given his fans anything other than his best.  He has been a magnificent sight leading fields out and ensuring great tempos in his races, I would not begrudge him the win and am delighted to see him back.

I am backing though a less fancied sort in Perfect Timing (14/1 Stan James).  My case is this.  He won on seasonal debut rather well, then missing a beat next time up.  He resumed winning ways last time and represents a yard in form.  He is piloted by Noel Fehily, as regulars know, one of my favourites.  His weight is more where I want it to be, Dell Arca and Champion Court have class and classy types have taken this race before but… more often than not, they lag behind a less exposed up and comer.

Anyway, can anyone hear that?  A strange whirring of engines and bleeps, clicks and whistles.  Through the distant haze, strain your ear, it is coming on the breeze, slowly but building to a great crescendo.  Yes, my friends, the mothership cometh and not a day too soon.

May your dinner be upstairs and to the left on a flight to Barbados, see you there, mine will be a Mojito.

The Martin Hill?  Easy.  An each way Kilfinichen Bay and Perfect Timing Double.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – July Cup Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes from an ugly Worcestershire, obnoxious grey brown warm air, eyes stinging, lips dry.  Change is needed and is coming.

The family traipsed to Bristol Zoo.  An evening to meander amongst the animals and picnic on the fine lawns in amongst the old buildings.  It is a lovely part of Bristol and should the weather have been a clear summers night, then the chilled Chablis, chorizo, potato salad, tiger bread, salami, gammon and quiche would have made a fine spread.  The breeze lifted, the air turned cool and we knew that the latest wave of precipitation flung from the Atlantic was arriving.

I am glad to be home.  You might wonder how my first week in a new business (Ladbrook, an Insurance broker for charities) 100 miles from my Worcestershire pile worked out.  Splendidly well is the reply.  Apart from my fellow director chastising me for taking too much on, I would say we are making progress on a number of fronts.

It is only possible through the generous roof over my head that @pieayatollah27 has provided.  Steve has the hottest flat known to man, I swear he could cook an egg on his kitchen table.  Yet with the windows flung open to the Sheffield air, it is a very homely place.

I found that he dislikes beer bottles on bare wood, I am a poor guest.  He kindly took the time to show me around Sheffield and kept his fridge full of cold Spanish beer.  He cooked a fine bolognese and even provided tutelage on how it should be done.  We won the pub quiz, rather Steve did, he was gracious not to play on it, though I had his measure at chess.  Being a rogue, I know a good man when I see one.  He is available ladies, form an orderly queue.

To give the man his space, I took a stroll one night in his area, Nether Edge.  It is a liberal place where the convention is the unconventional.  I cannot say I am a comfortable fit, more a happy tourist.

I must get back to the Majors traditional literary territory, some sort of victoriana.  I did read some interesting things about the deepest hole ever drilled.  12km, Russian.  They wanted to get to 15km where the upper crust merges but the temperature at 12k was already 180c and it made the rock more plastic and it infilled the bore behind the drill head.  It was only a nine inch hole and even when they refrigerated the mud they used to force the drill to turn, they could not keep it cool enough.  Well I found it interesting.

To the sports.

Darley July Cup Day, Newmarket

When I think of this race, I think of Hayley weaving through on Dream Ahead to bag that G1 she deserved (at the time).  She has never been the same since that bad injury.

Anyway, let’s find this years winner.

Brazen Beau has to be considered.  The July Cup would be due compensation for his effort on the Diamond Jubilee.  There he was beaten by Undrafted who was excellent and fully deserving but Beau had the misfortune to be the sole serious competitor on his side and he came clear but never got to eyeball the winner across the track who had the benefit of pace on his side.

I’m not sure if the plan was always to stay on for Brazen and that worries me a little.  Muhaarar looks an absolute star but this is a mighty ask for a three year old.  It happens, they do win July Cups, Dream Ahead being a case in point.

Due Diligence let me down at Ascot and it is a hard horse to back at the moment.  G Force has always been one I like, he could run a place at a fancy price.

No, the market is right, the lead two are the right horses.  So which?  Easy, Muharaar.  His time at Ascot was quicker than Brazen Beau and I am having a large slice.  Should be a cracker.

I also want another Hamdam horse in the opener.  The very generously priced Mutasayyid at 16/1.  The horse was no great shakes in maidens and had to fight to win a handicap.  Last time at Haydock was poor too.  Yet the Hannon team are in better spirits now than then and it is still entitled to improve.  Both wins came on this ground and I sniff a place.

The Superlative – King Torus, Olympic Glory and Estidhkaar have all won this race for Richard Hannon in the last five years and so you must have a second look at 12/1 outsider of the field, Tony Curtis.  He has had one run, he had to think to organise his legs but got there in the end.  Interesting.

War Department was visually superb at Leicester and was arguably unlucky on the big Ascot stage.  He missed the kick which although disconcerting can happen to a lot and then, after finding trouble in passage, was treated kindly up the straight.

Air Vice Marshall is an expensive US blue blood representing O’Brien.  He did it very well second time up and is full of promise.

Damn hard business.  Air Vice Marshall, 5/2.  I have various doubts on the others, this one is solid as they come.

My final bet of the day (I know a quiet one) is Gramercy at Chester (3.35pm).  He does not mind the track, it much better drawn than some previous runs and is the sort to pop up in a race like this.

Forgive the short sermon.  I am tired.

The Martin Hill.  Since there are only 4 tips this week, a yankee, straight.

May your dinner be spectacular and in the company of a fine darken haired Spanish temptress.  One with fulsome lips and a laughter that spreads from her torso, shaking the air around you.  Tip well.

Courage, roll the dice.


The Saturday Sermon… Eclipse Day at Sandown… The Major has News

Good evening from the most delightful Worcestershire (late note, things got too much, retired to bed).  Warm air, breezing at ground level, streaming in the higher echelons, the clouds momentum flung off the Atlantic at dizzying speeds, a coolness brushing the cheek that speaks not just of the loss of the sun but unsettled fronts, the greying swirly mass, full of menacing shadow.

I was celebrating tonight.  The farmer and the farmer’s wife sauntered around and we barbecued slowly pork, chicken, sausage, beef and ribs.  The children played themselves out, the light went, the soft lamp at the top of the garden lit us in dim pools, quite decadent, underneath the summer house canopy, in damn good company, just us, terribly well in ourselves and the bats flying their tremendous erratic courses.

The celebration?  Ah, yes, the celebration.

Regular readers might know that I have been working in the garden for these past eight months, lacking a proper job to keep me from the inevitable mischief.  While such travails of DIY have been interesting, this week, I completed a deal to buy a business, most exciting times.

I rarely talk about myself, I know it is rude.  Yet, it is pertinent for me to share with you in this significant week.

The business is an insurance broker that deals mainly with charities.  It is an area I know well.  It is small enough that I can buy it and a good enough base that I am excited about it.  This is it, although the website is yet unchanged and scheduled for an overhaul: Ladbrook. It is not much, it will be more.

We need to move to the Peaks / Sheffield.  I am lucky to have an adventurous family that share my own personal motto.  It has been a stressful time but one that I feel no regrets for.

My last job was a full on executive piece… all the trimmings.  I executed my responsibilities well enough but being a glutton, gorged at the rich feast and towards the end felt tired.  The last company was great, the people excellent, plentiful characters, we had success, I reminisce with warm nostalgia.

Now though, I wanted something that only belonged to me and my team and no master.  Is this greedy, I don’t feel like it is, more it is about sharing in something that is yours.  I am sure that business owners reading (and there must be plenty in the Majors fine audience) know the note I am trying to strike.

I also feel an apology is due.  In recent months,the standard of converse here has dropped.  I have not been able to see through the cloud of whirling thoughts to reach into new territory.  I still feel unable now.  At least you understand why… There is a lot going on.

I have no idea how this story ends.  I just know that I don’t want mediocrity, neither the mundane.  I don’t want to tick over, I want to exist.

I met the new team this week.  One, sharp-eyed sort had done her homework on me (good on her) and unsure how to raise it mentioned that she read something about horse racing.  Ha!  She has my measure.

Never has the Major’s motto been so apt.

Saturday Racing Tips

Not a great week last week.  One good winner and not much else.  I can feel the gods are with me, moving in the air about me, urging us on to the mothership.

It is Eclipse day and the small field is a travesty.  This is the Eclipse the great moment where the leading middle distance classic crop get to take on the elders and settle some arguments amongst racing pundits.

Just one three year old makes the line up, the 2/5 favourite Golden Horn.  What is not to like, it was my tip for the Derby (unfortunately not at the earlier fancier prices) and since Jack Hobbs has since won the Irish Derby, the form is set in stone.

I cannot offer any insight into the race because while the Grey Gatsby is a fine horse, who was a little unlucky in his Ascot race last time out, I am unsure as to whether that exertion took more from him.  See, I cannot even get to backing a good forecast.  No bet, let’s move on.

In the 2pm, I am going to suggest backing Son of Africa at a generous 10/1.  James Doyle has been riding Henry Candy’s good ones and there might be more to come from this one.  He looked like sprinting was the game when winning at 5f at the first time of asking and that trainer / jockey combination has been smoking.  On this last point, I always urge you to consider the connectivity between the fact (7 wins from 13 runs last two years) from the reason.  Is it a normal outlier and therefore of little use or is it indicative of future chance?  Time will tell but I always think that it must give the jockey every confidence and that in itself is a positive mark on the ledger for Son of Africa.  Great name for a horse too.  Out of Equiano that great sprinting beast who was demolishing simple Spanish fields.

I really like Basem in the 2.35 Coral Challenge.  It is a favourite and the race sponsors are standout best price at 9/2.  He is a full brother to Farhh who was a quality beast and he is shaping the same way.  His record of getting his nose in front is fine, his trainer is coming back to some form and critically, he has enjoyed a win on similar rattling ground.

The Coral Distaff at 3.10 is a nice shaped market for us to find a tasty winner.  Jellicle Ball has her fans but I am not one.  She has only ever won her debut on the sand at Kempton and no matter what the form lines, I don’t like the filly sorts that struggle to get their head in front.

Black Cherry looks extremely progressive.  Hannon did not start the season in the best form and she was hardly prominent when an eleven length tenth in a class 4 Newmarket race on seasonal debut.  That form was forgotten in two subsequent runs, the last of which was highly impressive and now rated 99, it was the time to move into listed company.

She is out of Mount Nelson, probably the best value for money sire about.  He stands for under £10k but he was out of champion miler Rock of Gibraltar, won a G1 himself and in his early seasons with less than the cream of the mares to cover, has produced the likes of Berkshire and Volume, decent sorts.

I am a little torn.  I can make a strong case for Black Cherry but I also think 12/1 for Blond Me is a gift.  She looks progressive too, winning readily last time from a John Gosden trained sort.

In the end, Blond Me might be progressive but Black Cherry boasts more on the positive side of the ledger.  5/2 is the price but she is drifting.

The Lancashire Oaks up at Haydock is also a nice market for a bet.  Miss Marjurie is seeking a third win on the bounce but with a bit of storm weather in the ground, I am not sure she will be best suited.  This is also a step up in class to Group 2 level and she has been battling out her wins (admirable in itself I suppose).

That said about the ground, surely with the sun bearing down, it will be good?

I am minded to give Queen of Ice  a go at 6/1.  She does not want it soft but has performed with some cut.  She is nicely bred and hopefully will leave the seasons debut run behind.  She was very green looking that day and hopefully it has tuned her up for a more business-like performance.

The Old Newton Cup is a darn hard puzzle to solve but I shall throw a dart in the mix.

Brian Ellison is a yard I can rarely bring myself to bet on but Apterix has a chance at 10/1.  His amateur rider got him there last time up and maybe this was the idea.  After all, he is bottom weight, just sneaking in.  McDonald is taking over too in the saddle.

May your dinner be splendid and fun.  Top up the claret, tip well.

The Martin Hill: An Asterix and Basem double.

Courage, roll the dice.