Good evening from the Major from a cool brooding Worcestershire where a sky of a thousand greys mixes in angry swirls and offers little hope. Having slumbered mid way through the job, I awaken to a fresher more pleasing morning, natures fury subsides.
The Major is tired and so this will be brief, or not, depending on how the writing gremlins get to work on me as I type. A big week, we accepted an offer on the very building I write from. The land I have loved, the shades of the land, the rolling landscape, the glorious greens of a summer morning, crisp clear skies having swept the rain clouds from them, the ground fertile and splendid, stretching away across and to Bredon Hill. I have felt quite intimate with it, getting used to the ebb and flow of the seasons played out on the fields before my window.
Ah, I shall miss Worcestershire and I shall miss this house. In summer it is pleasant and cool. In winter, it is a delight. To slip the bar home, securing the home and then to light the burner leaving its door open, the flagrant inefficiency repaid by the crackle and pop of the wood.
Aye, this is a difficult place to leave. Still, I am sure Yorkshire has its own entries on the positive side of the ledger, some of which I have seen already.
I shall file for your delectation, my early report on Sheffield as a city. I have been staying with Steve, a generous chap of brutish scale. If his face wasn’t so warm, he’d be a terror to look at, ambling and length of limb, carrying weight with a hint of Welsh menace. The man is smart and I have enjoyed discussing politics with him and he knows his food which is a fine quality in someone hosting you. If you suggest a local convenient curry house, he will reply with a firm no, a non-negotiable tone that has you driving across town to an alternate, yet the effort is always rewarded with a fine meal. That sort of knowledge requires effort and attention.
Sheffield is a lovely place. Very green, very undulating and most friendly. The greenness comes from a clearly long-standing municipal tradition to building public spaces which are vast and frequent, well-kept and well used.
The undulation is impressive. Meandering across the city in my car at dusk, I wind along ridges turning suddenly to seeing attractive urban vistas spread before me like a toy town, all twinkling and spectacular. The architecture while not dramatic is diverse and often imaginative.
The friendliness of the folk though is the finest quality. Shopkeepers are delighted to see you, people in low paid employment thank you for your custom, they smile back. The people are all practical and forthright, eye contact. Generally they are a fine lot and I feel quite at ease and welcome. That plus a vibrant student community whose youth feels alien to me as I hurtle towards forty.
New pastures. Remember the Majors words, we float by just the once, take hold of whatever comes on the tide friends.
To the sports.
Newbury and Ripon
Not the finest week of racing and I am keeping this brief as I need rest.
I am going to start with the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, a group two for that awkward 7f sort who is better than sprinting but never a middle distant animal. On soft ground too, I think I can find the winner. Seemingly, we have to concentrate on Breton Rock and Here Comes When who boast great form in their books and both will love the softer ground. Yes, I can see the benefit but I think the market is primed for a bigger priced horse.
I like a big outsider too; That is the Spirit can be backed at 22/1 and is one of 6 horses I would say will get by in conditions, he was considered. Yet, I forsake him for a 25/1 shot (in a single place, Betfair) in Coulsty but 20/1 generally. Hannon had a great day on Friday and seems to be hitting a rhythm. The horse has won in good company on soft ground and was hardly disgraced last time at the top table. I think these conditions are perfect and a place is the least of my hopes.
The listed race at Newbury gives me my bet of the day. Palawan has decent form but being out of Mount Nelson and never been run on soft before, I’d be concerned about conditions. I love it when I can get at the favourite. Mark Johnstone has an excellent record in this race and saddles Dessertoflife who I’d back with all your liquid worth at 4/1 (Betfred – Remember the Major is entirely free, no adverts, no links, no affiliations. I do this for the love and the sick twisted masochistic pain). The horse is bred to win in the mud and has done so already, she can progress further and we have the best jockey in the race, always an advantage in a small field.
Newbury 2.35pm is the Geoffrey Freer. It also has suffered some defections and I want to be on the side of Pallasator at 9/2. No trainer on earth hits winning streaks quite like Sir Mark Prescott and when his string are in form, it pays to be on side. Of his last 20 runners, 10 have won and while Newbury is not a common hunting ground for the yard, it only whets my appetite further. Have another healthy slice, don’t you dare go near the each way button, what are you, timid and weak?
20 horses over 6 furlongs at Ripon, the best rated 104, the worst 91. The Great St Wilfrid, Ripon, 3.30, is a nice race to finish on. I know, only four races again but I am tired enough and if you want more, well, let you wish for it.
A lot is rightly made of O’Mearas recent record in the St Wilfrid, winning three of the last four runnings. He throws one dart, Eccleston and has Tudhope on board, a rider I respect. Lot’s to like at 9/1. He will be breaking alongside the major season improver, Poyle Vinnie and they might have to use a bit of energy to grab that favoured far rail. The top weight might not be done yet, his Stewards Cup run was probably better than the bare result, considered, both of them.
The favourite, Don’t Touch has plenty going for it too. Unbeaten, he arrives in this contest for only his fourth start. He has shown an aptitude for softer ground and being out of Dutch Art, these conditions should be fine. His Dam is out of Falbrav, a horse that always makes me smile when I see it in the bloodline since it was John’s (House fire a few years ago, died earlier this year) favourite.
I am backing both Eccleston and Don’t Touch and let’s hope the race is won over on that rail. Wins and a small reverse forecast for fun.
To the football.
I was impressed with West Ham at 13/10 last weekend and I want them at 13/10 at home to beat Leicester whose goal rush came against a poor Sunderland. Everton don’t look the same team and I would want Southampton at 19/20 and finally, Stoke are the ideal long shot team to win at Spurs, organised, strong and they can worry them out of the contest, 9/2.
The Martin Hill: Double, Dessertoflife and West Ham.
May your dinner be taken at the table of a good friend, a stock of good wines that leave no fear that the place will run dry. Drink, be happy, eat fully and laugh. We go by just the once, choose good company.
Courage and roll the dice.