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.
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).
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!