Monthly Archives: November 2015

The @EmmaKGts Saturday Guest Sermon… #Newbury #Newcastle #Wolverhampton

Well. First and foremost a thank you to The Major for having me, and an apology for everyone else who has to read my waffle. Though my aunt is a vicar so I should have something resembling a pedigree for writing sermons.

I think I’m meant to introduce myself? I’m Emma-Louise, on twitter as @emmykgts, one time fairly prolific photographer/blogger when at University, one time BHA graduate scheme participant, followed by spells for Tweenhills, Newsells and Weatherbys. Following which I put that early promise to good use, by ducking out through the railings, booking flights and going travelling with 5 days notice (it’s acceptable if you are in your 20s ok…), and then getting a boring job in property.

So I am writing this at my desk trying to make it look like I am sending an email, and not doing the pile of filing on my desk that is so enormous I think it might be single handily responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The longest email in the history of long emails. Aside from trying to look busy my life is mainly taken up by the most compulsive of all boring hobbies, distance running. And we all know runs, especially long ones, don’t count unless you tell everyone about them, sorry to anyone who still follows me on twitter.

Racing wise well, one time massive national hunt fan, then flat convert, and now just slightly out of touch. Which is good when I need to pretend I know what I’m talking about on a huge weekend of NH racing. My usual theory with National Hunt is “is Aidan Coleman riding it?” a surprisingly successful theory.

How I met The Major? I had a go at him for pinching one of my photos. Thankfully first impressions don’t stick and I don’t think he is a ruthless copyright thief but actually an all-round nice human. Though perhaps if I did still think he was a ruthless copyright thief none of you would have to be putting up with all the losers and fallers I will no doubt shortly mention.

I know previous guest posters have written long, witty eloquent observations on various aspects of modern life and its foibles. While I am long winded, I’m not witty or eloquent. As much as I enjoyed reading about all the wonderful food of Portugal last week, I plan on getting a takeaway from a shop near Scunthorpe we have given an obscene nickname. Not really worth discussing.

If I spoke about any other aspect of my life it will involve talking about running, Haruki Murakami wrote a brilliant book called Things I Talk About When I Talk About Running, that is a good read, and far more interesting than anything I have to say on the subject. If you are reading this on Saturday morning I will be plodding round a 13 mile route in the North Lincolnshire countryside.  Is that a dull enough comment? Thought so, I’ll stop there.

Right, racing. Before we get onto the weekends events a brief but sincere farewell to Rock On Ruby who was retired while I was typing this up. I backed him ante post for his Champion Hurdle win when I was still at University, so he kept the tequila and 2am chips fund very healthy for a very long time. Aside from keeping me in alcohol and fried goods he was a remarkable horse, and I think what says more than anything else is that in nearly 30 starts he was unplaced only once. A magnificent horse to help get Harry Fry’s training career off the ground, and I’m sure he will be repaid by being spoilt rotten in what I hope is a very long and happy retirement.

This weekend is of course the Hennessey Gold Cup, at Newbury. One of the highlights in a of the calendar of standing around in fields, unable to feel your feet watching big horses run around and jump stuff, also known as the National Hunt season (if anyone is interested similar things happen at three day events, but there are no men in shiny suits).

I digress. This is a race has been won by some of the greats, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad (both before I was born, I’m assured they are good), One Man, Bobs Worth, Many Clouds, and of course the wonderful battle hardened Denman, who captured hearts and imaginations in a friendly rivalry with the late great Kauto Star. And I was on Radio 5 Live talking about Denman once, so he’s my lame to fame too.

There is also the grade 1 Fighting Fifth and Newcastle and some good racing from Fairyhouse, so losers/fallers/non finishers from that can also be expected, and maybe if you’re really lucky a bit of the action from one of the UKs premier tracks, Wolverhampton.

It’s an early start at Newbury with a listed event kicking off proceedings at 12:15. With Tea In Transvaal maybe a touch disappointing at Cheltenham, I’m going for the lightly raced Fortunata Fashions, who ran a huge race to finish third in a race of 14 at Exeter when going off unfancied at 33/1. The services of the rising star of the weighing room in Gavin Sheehan only serves to strengthen her case.

Sticking at Newbury there is the imaginatively named Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle. An interesting contest looks to be in place between Nicky Henderson’s Whisper and last year’s World Hurdle victor, Cole Harden. Whisper is a real class act, and Newbury won’t be quite such a test as Cheltenham, as any distance runner will tell you, hills can finish even the best of us off. However Cole Harden won on his reappearance last year, and Whisper was turned over at odds on. So we will go for Greatrex in this contest.

Finally at Newbury we have the main event, the Hennessey Gold Cup. This year looks a stellar field, with the likes of Bobs Worth, of Gold Cup winning fame lining up to take his chance after looking like he might be back to something resembling his old form when unexpectedly winning last time out.

At bigger prices The Druids Nephew can land a big prize, the mercurial Theatre Guide who is incredibly talented on his day however never quite seemed the same horse after a shattering fall at Kempton a couple of years ago. However if he’s on song he’s got a good mark and could run a big race. There is also, Splash Of Ginge who pulled a big race out of the bag here once at a massive price, admittedly over hurdles, but 50/1 could be big.

There is one winner for me though, and I’m sure all who used to read my blog in the olden days, when I actually had time to write regularly will have already guessed, and that’s Houblon Des Obeaux. Never underestimate the Venetia Williams yards in these big Saturday staying chases, with services of Aidan Coleman pinched back from Bloomfields for the afternoon. He was a 50/1 second in this last year, and while he hasn’t won since December 2015, and does tend to save his best for Ascot, if any horse deserves to land a big prize it’s this one so sod it. With a bit of head but mainly heart, Houblon Des Obeaux for the Hennessey.

There is good offering at other tracks too. Newcastle is hosting the Fighting Fifth hurdle, and admittedly it is hard to see this going away from the first three in the market, Wicklow Brave hops across the Irish sea to have a go, but I’m more interested in the rematch between Irving and Top Notch. While I may make myself look silly here, Top Notch I think has a chance to reverse the form with a run under his belt. Winning three good races on the bounce could be a big ask for Irving, and Top Notch may strip slightly fitter for his efforts last time out. 11/2 looks a good price.

My final one from the day comes from what must be ‘someone out there’s’ favourite track, Wolverhampton.  Those who used to read my blog will know I’m a big fan of changing my arm with unraced 2 year olds in maidens however late in the year we are. Well, surprise surprise, in the two races at Wolverhampton I managed to find one I liked the sound of…. Hutton may already be gelded, but proper pedigree, top yard, weak race. Done.

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The Guest Saturday Sermon @roge1409

Good evening one and all, welcome to my attempt at The Sermon. I feel somewhat humbled and honoured to have been chosen by The Major to guest as this weeks service provider.

By way of introduction I am Roger currently of Langley, Slough who some of you may know as @Roge1409 or Roger from Ascot – among a number of racecourses at which I have worked I include on my CV 38 years at Her Majesty’s Racecourse – or Zippy (Long story!)

I met The Major via the social media medium of Twitter following his excellent Sermon and feel we are firm friends even though we have never met face to face or “pressed the flesh” as they say in the States. The modern World means that the majority of us now regularly correspond with persons around the globe via these methods.

I am sure we all wish Tim well not least from his recent bout of tonsillitis – Fishermans Friends taste grotty but do help ! Or a brandy or two!

It has been a mighty week in the terms of news with respect to events in France, Mali and Kenya I will not dwell on those here – suffice to say my heart goes out to any victims of atrocities around the World. May those with the power to influence such happenings act swiftly and with courage and considerable thought to ease the pains of those who are suffering.

Aged as I am now 56 years I am old enough to remember when talent show voting involved sending a post card or sealed envelope via the Royal Mail in order to register a vote for Bernie Flint, Tom O’Connor or whoever – these days of course votes can be telephoned in at an expensive premium rate per minute or texted to a similarly high priced cost. Depending on your preferred channel it is either X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing – my Partner Caz has a preference for Strictly – that fills our screens on a Saturday evening. Following this we are treated to various F and G list celebrities eating various and every part imaginable parts of marsupials! That’s the way we roll now in 2015!!

One definite plus of our changing World is that we can now watch on our HD TV’s every major football, rugby, golf, grand priz or horse race from around the World. The days of getting up in the middle of the night to listen to Cassius Clay as he was then boxing on the radio are distant and gone. Having worked voluntarily in radio for 22 years I still love this medium as I do an actual book and newspaper rather than the electronic alternatives.

I do try to go with advances in technology – the mobile phone and tablet I own probably contain far more capabilities to do thing rather than the few functions I have managed to master! I can text, tweet and make a telephone call – that is sufficient for me. I am also sure that I speak for the majority of those reading these ramblings that a feeling almost akin to public nudity overcomes you if you happen to step outside the house without your mobile – something I quite happily did for thirty years of my life!

November is quite probably my least favourite month – the darkness of the weather and the ever earlier Christmas advertising campaigns I find a little tiresome. In each of these adverts we see perfect families having a perfect time with money no object and all the trimmings! Many people have a far from perfect time at Christmas – spare a thought for them when we get nearer the Festive season.

November also is the month that many of us discover that our radiators need bleeding, anti- freeze needs to be topped up and the boiler needs repairing. On the plus side we rediscover the pleasure of soup! A crusty roll and a warm bowl of tomato soup – definitely one of my favourites to warm up a cold Roge! For those of us slightly more rotund it is also a time when we can once again hide our lack of conditioning under big sweaters and overcoats with another promise that we will do something to get fitter and leaner in the new year and spring!

One thing November does bring for any horse racing enthusiast is the reappearance of several old favourite horses and they often return greeted like long lost loved ones when spotted. Sprinter Sacre was one such example the emotion associated with his reappearance was magical to those of us who love racing.

One thing that does irk me regarding the Winter game is the often last minute abandonment of jump racing meetings – the study having been done the 12-1 secured and a perfect opportunity for your selection gets scuppered by 2 degrees of frost!! This happens all too regularly and with all the money that bookmakers make from the sport one wonders why more is not done to cover courses etc. Hopefully for this weekend the mercury will stay sufficiently high that there will be no such problems at Haydock, Huntingdon and my beloved Ascot.

To The Sport……………….

For my first selection I will make a start at Lingfield on the all weather with the William Haggis trained OLYMPIC RUNNER in the 12.15. Pat Cosgrave has been booked to do the steering and although it will be favourite (first early prices indicate 9/4 – 5/2 range) this should go well and hopefully start us off in good style.

Jump racing is all too frequently blighted by races with just 3,4 or 5 runners – largely due to the presence of a “superstar” – Saturdays 2:05 contest the Stella Artois Chase is one such event. Vautour one of Willie Mullins many many stars is in as 4/11 favourite – as with many of these shorties they either hose up and win by half the track or just need their first run with bigger spoils later in the season to aim at. My hunch is PTIT ZIG who has had a run and is for the Saturday Specialist trainer Paul Nicholls yard might give him a race – despite being twelve pounds at least behind on the ratings. 9/2 means we are almost having a bet to nothing if each way playing is your bag.

The Handicap Chase at Ascot at 3:15 sees two I fancy – Henry Oliver (Dresden) is a less fashionable trainer and Venettia Williams (Cold March) handicap chasers in November always merit a second look. It is a very open race – on this occasion given the projected 8/1 I will side with DRESDEN.

Haydock offers a good card but having watched the Friday racing winners there really will earn their corn.

The 1.50 race has just six runners and the enigmatic IRVING represents Paul Nicholls – currently forecast at 6/4 if he remains odds against a fair sized bet would seem in order.

Best race for a bet appears to be 2.25 Handicap Hurdle. TEA FOR TWO under Lizzie Kelly fairly slushed up in heavy ground in the Lanzorote Hurdle at Sandown. The horse has not hit those heights since but Saturday represents a real chance to get back on track 6/1 looks tasty with a small saver on Nicholls ALCALA 16/1 especially if all 16 did miraculously stand their ground.

CUE CARD takes on Silvianco Conti in what could well be the race of the day. Cue Card was tremendously impressive with conditions and weights in his favour last time but Conti on his day is a beast. A small exacta or forecast may be the option – if I flip the coin I will just go Cue Card at 11/4. Dynaste of David Pipe’s waits in the wings to further complicate this puzzle. A race to watch and savour.

Finally one each at Huntingdon and one at Gowran Park, Ireland. At Huntingdon I’ll takethe in form Gary Moore to provide a winner Flute Bowl for Hayley Moore in the ladies Handicap Hurdle and 1.35 Gowran have an interest in SUPERSUNDAE from the Henry De BRomhead yard.

NAP – TEA FOR TWO

SHORT ONE – OLYMPIC RUNNER

BEST E/W – DRESDEN

HAVE A PATENT ON OLYMPIC RUNNER – DERSDEN AND TEA FOR TWO.

In the FOOTBALL my club Chelsea are still searching for last seasons Champion winning form – much to the delight of Caz who supports Liverpool – it has not been unnoticed by her that my team are struggling!!

Betting wise the five teams I would back this week are CRYSTAL PALACE who will surely have too much for Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland, SOUTHAMPTON who can play Stoke City off the park at St Mary’s. In the Championship both BIRMINGHAM CITYat home to Charlton Athletic and READING should overcome Bolton. Finally in Scotland AYR UNITED are likely to have too much for Airdrie. BACK THOSE FIVES IN TREBLES AND A 5 FOLD.

The Saturday Sermon: Guest Blog @pieayatollah27

Hello one and all from Sheffield!

First of all, I think it is only right to thank The Major for giving me the platform to provide his loyal followers a few minutes of escapism.

In writing this sermon, I feel slightly on the defensive as the blog’s host has practically deified my ability to string a sentence together on social media. Well all I can say in reply is ‘vive l’etat’. I have no doubt this statement this riles The Major as much as a corked bottle of his favoured Claret. I have heard his parents still regret splashing out the cash on his grammar school education; despite his protestations, you only have to converse with the man to see it was not one of their wisest investments. On a recent Sunday outing they sobbed inconsolably into their Eton Mess when I raised the subject of their son’s disappointing school reports. The Major picked up their tab that afternoon in a feeble act of contrition.

On a more serious note, those who know The Major through this medium will know that things have not gone exactly to plan for the family (wife Ursa and his boys Minor Major I and II) over recent months. Whilst I have no doubt that the acquisition of their Sheffield-based business will be successful, the frustration of not being together in South Yorkshire as a family unit is ongoing.

It’s not been all gloom and doom, however; it has given The Major and I the chance to build up a solid rapport and friendship over the past few months whilst he uses the facilities at Pieayatollah Towers. That said, we all hope this decade’s revival of Men Behaving Badly can be soon decommissioned and the Major family find a northern base imminently.

It has been good to talk through and, at times, laugh at The Major’s outlandish views on a number of societal issues. I just hope, for the sake of our respective futures, that GCHQ were not listening into our chatter one balmy evening in September – Major-lookalike Ian Duncan-Smith did not come out of these discussions favourably or with much dignity (not much change there some would say). We are seriously considering serialising these musings (well those that can be repeated) in a Sunday broadsheet. It would leave the audience with prolonged moments of awkwardness; think Andrew Neill’s recent wedding photos or Keith Chegwin’s hosting of Naked Jungle.

This week has been a good one in the Pieayatollah household. After a year of toil, I received the news that I am the proud owner of an MA in Journalism from the University of Sheffield. Many scholars of journalism would tell you that there is no room for censorship in the dissemination of information. I tend to think that there are some instances where censorship is much needed to ensure a balanced view and an avoidance of background noise. To this extent, I must thank a 21 year-old marketing student James Shamsi for introducing an app which endeavours to eradicate the word ‘Kardashian’ from the internet.

Despite numerous complaints of its ineffectiveness, it is good to hear that someone is trying to reclaim the net for sensible discussion rather than stenography of the vacuous read by the vacuous. If only entertainment channel E!, in all its guises, could also be subject to such suppression…and the word ‘Jenner’. It turns my stomach to see the sisters, mother and step-dad (or is it step-mom now) court the limelight and drone on about nothing in particular – if only their country’s high-tech drones could be used on home soil, well their homes to be frank. To be fair, if today’s news is true then US military drones have been quite busy doing their day job.

As I reach my mid-40s it has become increasingly noticeable that I am turning into an intolerant and grumpy middle-aged man. Grumpiness is particular helpful when you want to filter your brain of all inconsequential facts or people.

With this in mind, I have often wished for the development of a Phantom Zone – the rectangular device used in Superman II to send General Zod and his cohorts away from Krypton – so that my wishes in terms of sending notables, including celebrities, into oblivion could play out in reality. They would die naturally within this zone (I am no killer) but without the interaction of the public at large. Furthermore, they could not by chance appear in some parallel universe and be the public nuisance they became on Earth – as happened with Zod in the aforementioned movie.

The first three who would be led into the Phantom Zone on my watch would be as follows: –

  • Jon Bon Jovi – he just needs to leave humanity alone;
  • Kim Kardashian – another publicist’s dream without bringing anything to the table;
  • Alain Rolland – very few may know that this Irishman referred the Wales v France 2011 Rugby World Cup Semi Final. In that match, Mr Rolland (rightly) sent off Wales captain Sam Warburton and despite a valiant effort from the boys in red, France ended up victors by one point. To deprive me of possibly Wales’ only visit to a major sporting final is something that will haunt me forever. I had flights to Auckland and final tickets on standby! To confirm, Mr Rolland did nothing wrong but there has to be a scapegoat – he fits the bill perfectly!

With guest readers now being lined up in the wings to fill the blog I wonder if we could keep this particular section going. I am forever intrigued with the thoughts of Joe Public and which three persons of (un)interest they would place in the Phantom Zone – the challenge has been laid.

Before I sign off and leave you with some pointers for the weekend’s sporting adventures, I’m sure like me you were all saddened to hear of the demise of one of flat racing’s greats, Pat Eddery. I was only a teenager embarking on my A-levels when Pat rode Dancing Brave to the 86 Arc. On my inaugural visit to Ascot ten years later, I cut a frustrated figure having just seen Northern Fleet fail to hunt down Fujiyama Crest. I actually thought, at one point, the way Pat came down the outside it was Longchamp 1986 all over again; but Northern Fleet was no Dancing Brave. Despite being nil for seven on 28 September 1996, witnessing Pat’s craft at close quarters was pure enjoyment…oh, and yes, there was the small matter of Frankie’s seven.

If you have three minutes to spare may I suggest you head to YouTube and listen to Brough Scott’s tribute to the great man – this genuine heartfelt appraisal of Eddery is incredibly poignant. We all have our own memories of the County Kildare man although none match the kind of insight Scott could muster.

Racing Tips – Saturday

This Saturday there is only one place to start, Prestbury Park. To think 122 days from now The Major and I (and our respective carers) will be amongst the masses roaring the start of 2016 Festival. Our respective ante-posts are building up fast and I am in no doubt that over the weeks to come some feats will catch our eye further.

The big race at this meeting is at 2.25, the Paddy Power Gold Cup. The Major has left me a stinker of a preview as cases could be made for the top dozen or so in the betting.

With nine successes in this race already within the Pipe family, David returns heavy handed with current favourite, Kings Palace and Monetaire. Whilst I have closely followed the latter horse over his career and will no doubt have some each-way on the Allan Stennett owned nine-year-old I really do like the look of Art Mauresque from the Nicholls yard. In a race where relative youngsters seem to thrive, I believe his run here last month over a similar distance showed there was more to come and the market seems to substantiate this train of thought. I am in no way deterred by Sam Twiston-Davies opting for Sound Investment or the fact that my pick has not run in large fields as he will face tomorrow.

I love a good bumper – no, that’s not a euphemism. It is very interesting to note that Willie Mullins has sent over two raiders to Gloucestershire. Snag List is a tentative suggestion against strong hands from both Philip Hobbs and Nicky Henderson.

Finally, David Pipe introduces Un Temps Pour Tout to the course he faired reasonably well here last March. This horse will be hot favourite for the 1.15 Novice Chase, however, I am going to oppose him because I think he is not suited to the course. Despite being rated around a stone worse on ratings I am going to take a chance on the Kim Bailey-trained Twelve Roses.

Racing Tips – Sunday

It would be silly of me to tip Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle but I am excited to see how well Nichols Canyon runs from the same yard.

The Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is another race I am looking forward to at 2.40. Recent Cesarewitch runner Renneti is put out by Willie Mullins to challenge likely favourite Nabucco. However, I think there are some eyebrows being raised in the reintroduction of Totalize back over hurdles by Brian Ellison.

Another bumper (3.50) ends the meeting and I am intrigued to see how John Ferguson’s trained Waterlord staves off the challenge of Coole Charmer and Aurillac amongst others.

Football

Being a season ticket holder at the Cardiff City Stadium means the international break provides me respite from 400-mile round trips watching a Russell Slade managed master class in lateral passing that Ray Wilkins would have admired in his heyday. We are on the verge of holding up placards directing our team towards the opposition goal. If you have never endured such drudgery (or even if you have) then pay a visit to my blog : pieayatollah.com

There is not much more to say about the footy apart from here are some suggestions for your coupons : Ukraine (home), Sweden draw at home to Denmark, Wigan (away at Rochdale), Bradford (home to Crewe) and Coventry (away at Colchester).

NFL

With the NFL season at the halfway point, there are still a number of unbeaten teams (New England, Cincinnati and Carolina). Regrettably, for New England haters like myself, the Patriots look the best team in the AFC. I was fortunate enough to be at Foxboro (yes I sports mad) to see the opening game of this season and even at that stage of the season their efficiency on both sides of the ball was impressive. The Bengals are a very good team but I can only see the Broncos giving New England any trouble in any winner-takes-all match up.

I still believe Green Bay are the team to beat in the NFC but there are some value bets outside of Lambeau Field.

Looking at the NFC West, Arizona (6-2) are arguably the best all-round team in the NFC and 11/2 with bet365 to win the conference and 14/1 to win the Superbowl. Conversely, Seattle are no value at 9/1 to win their second Superbowl in three consecutive appearances – I appreciate there is a long way to go but those odds are not justified based on a 4-4 record. The Rams are much better value at 60/1 to win it all and 28/1 to win the NFC! They are only 4-4 but 3-0 in divisional play and that could crucial come week 17 in such a difficult division. It may be a year to early for Jeff Fisher’s young squad but they are layered with talent and possibly have the best front 7 defensively in football.

My fivefold for this weekend would be St Louis, Pittsburgh, New England, Green Bay and Denver. If you are looking for an upset then Tennessee may test Carolina’s unbeaten record behind exciting rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Finally, bet Todd Gurley to become offensive rookie of the year. It’s an obvious bet (around Evens) but the nearest thing to a certainty at the halfway point that there is – and those who follow the game will know he missed the first three games of the season recovering from an ACL injury picked up in college. If he stays fit Gurley will win it and be rightly considered as the best back since Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene.

Thanks for reading and hope I can do this again at some point in the near future.

Courage one and all, roll the dice!