Good evening from the Major who writes from a grey Worcestershire where the pooled light drains slowly from the heavens and a calmness comes to the land. It is eerily normal, as though the normalcy hides a malevolence, I hope it remains out there, in the night world.
The fire is lit, coal and hard woods quietly strain with their great heat, desperate and thirsty for the air that would burn them quickly,how they might rejoice if I opened the vents. A cool Indian beer in a tumbler, gentle light, pressure releasing from the system, breathe. I hope I sleep.
For several weeks now, as Friday evening came, a poor pang has replaced the old rush I would feel at the prospect of writing the sermon. The emotions I used to feel as thoughts poured often incoherently onto the screen have dried up.
I am to retire from writing the sermon. I am not sure if the intention is permanent or temporary, I shall slink away and consider this.
I started writing the Saturday Sermon 6 years ago. My intention at the start was to record all of my bets and seek improvement and understanding. I dropped recording the bets because it was too onerous. I had another spell of recording them and across both, a moderate profit ensued.
It became an anchor in my week. I loved writing it and I loved the people reading it. All good folk. It became an institution, a modest one admittedly, but yes, my own institution.
I never failed to do what it took to write it. I remember once lying in a shocking French motel, the back end of awful, gypsies camped around my car, the room so hot and myself drinking the only poor bottle of wine the French have ever made. We were on our way to camping in the Loire. I remember that night, I tipped Margot Did with Hayley Turner aboard. It was a very short post. The next day we moved on to the campsite and I remember my phone constantly buzzing as we were checking in. At one point, the good lady said, what is going on? I hadn’t looked at it or considered it, I just replied pat… Well, I think the sermon had a 33/1 winner!
Bless her, she stopped complaining about my religious attitude to publishing about four years ago. She never reads it, thank God. She doesn’t even like racing. What terrible injustice of the heavens lumbered her with me I do not know.
We have our moments of glory. Like diamonds in the rock, they are less frequent and more valuable as a result. They are my treasures. Margot Did, The 100/1 winner (Arabian Queen) this year, the two 16/1s in a day…
This last few weeks particularly, the pace at which I have been able to type has slowed. Things that were lucid in my mind, that I had the luxury of time to ponder are now clogged and caked in the mire of life. It is my business and the changes my family are going through.
My list of things to do is long. Each of them represents commercial opportunity. I enjoy it, the entrepreneurial flair but the stakes are high and anxiety flows in my blood. It seems that the sermon is to be sacrificed on the altar of commerce. I am sorry for this. It seems a poor rationale. For a long time, writing has served as a good distraction.
Thank you for reading. It has been at times nonsense. At times, a military sermon, at times the poor state of my mental health, always the Worcestershire weather report and reminders of the common lessons. That life is fleeting, that you should believe in no god and that you should enjoy food, good company and the reckless abandon of a gamble. Shabash, courage, roll the dice and seek thy mothership.
I have met many friends writing this blog. So many of you. We have exchanged notes on twitter. You have mocked me, laughed with me, celebrated and commiserated. I have enjoyed the journey all the more for meeting such interesting fellow travellers on the road.
I have always written for free. Any adverts on the site benefit WordPress, not me. No adverts, no affiliations. My advice was unhinged but impartial. I never sought thanks for anything that went well. My argument was simple, I shall not accept the criticism for what you choose to do with your bank, neither can I take the credit. Read, digest, act or do not act. We all have our own agency.
Yet, when I ran two marathons for charity and advertised for donations on the blog or when charities which support my niece, who suffers with life long care needs, needed support, many of you dipped your hands into your wallets. People I have never met. Some gave modestly, some with a ferocious generousity, more than I could have reasonably expected. Do you know, it stuck with me, as these things will. The faceless readership filled with such decency. Well, we have always ejected the riff raff and I knew you were a classy lot but still…. I think of it still.
Some of you I did meet. Strange encounters on racecourses we both happened to be frequenting. Awkward introductions, people taking my measure, utter strangers bar a love for racing and recklessness.
I can no longer afford the recklessness. Something has to give. Even though my season, the national hunt season here, the tingling in the loins for this mischief has dissipated. So, what now?
I am not sure it is goodbye to the sermon at all. It might be. I am inviting guest bloggers to write pieces for the next few weeks. Fancy a go, help yourself. You have entire editorial control, let me know. I already have a volunteer for next week; @frankelslowbro.
One last time. To the sports, don thy armour and daub thy face with war paint. Our enemy shall see the determination in our eyes and shall shake.
Summon the mothership friends. To the sports, raise your lances and cry Shabash!
Tips from Newmarket and York.
Newmarket first. The Autumn Stakes at 2.35pm feels like my sort of race.
Hugo Palmer is in sizzling form and Gifted Master sauntered up in a sales race last time up, showing some engine. This is big boys league though.
I do like Beacon Rock, he might have won the Beresford but had a hard run, certainly he wasn’t disgraced and this is probably a drop in class which oddly doesn’t sit well with me. The other I like is Clear Cut, an Acclamation colt by a Galileo mare running for Jim Bolger at 10/1.
I have to pick one and I go for Clear Cut. I have to confess it is hard to overlook Beacon Rock who has the form but I like the breeding of mine and Bolger doesn’t bring them over for the air, he can compete, he will compete and tens is tidy.
Then the Dewhurst. Emotionless and Air Force Blue go head to head in what is a very exciting renewal. It looks like a shoot out and while Emotionless has been marginally more visually impressive to me (and carries valuable course form), Air Force Blue though is a top class O’Brien inmate who’s getting the ground he wants and has the experience, the blood and the improvement to take this.
I also want a go at the Zetland. I think Taskeen has a shot at a tasty 14/1. I am not sure soft ground at Sandown was ideal and he seems to win in spite of it rather than because of it. However, you cannot keep Gosden and Dettori down at the moment and Cartago a son of Dansili is on a hat trick. He has earned a pop at listed company winning two handicaps in good style and 6/1.
At York, I want the winner of the Rockingham.
Gracious John has been a revelation now allowed to run as he wants and his course win is also a significant factor in me jumping aboard at 3/1. If the ground remains soft, he won’t be inconvenienced and that is a plus too.
I want the ground to remain with some cut for my 3.25pm tip, Aetna. Available at 14/1 I really like this horse and have followed it for some time. The horse has had a break since three summer runs on unsuitably good ground and now arrives here after a break. He loves to run after freshening up in the field and despite being rated 102, I think he can cope. Get stuck right in and thank me later. Aetna travels like a dream too so a win will look visually glorious and in the end, who needs more than that?
May your dinner be splendid. If I were on death row, I think my last meal would be a fine fillet steak. Very little to accompany it, perhaps a good pinot noir, maybe a dash of good french mustard. Dine in the finest company. I cannot describe her, or do her justice. You know me well enough after all these years, I fall in love readily and each new one is the best.
The Martin Hill: Aetna, Clear Cut, Cartago – Powerful trixie.
I hope to write again but for now, family and commerce shall confine. When and if I return, I hope to be refreshed. I’m not going anywhere either, I’m still @tdl123. One last time?
Courage friends, roll the dice.