The Saturday Sermon: Eider Chase and Winter Derby Saturday

Good evening all from a Worcestershire whose cool climes are enclosed under a uniform blank sky, a landscape with no memory.

Tonight, I cooked for the family, a modest meatball dish but it went down well.  Then to drop our sons’ friend William back to the farmers house, inevitably he (the farmer not 8 yr old William) cracked open a bottle and we sat and talked about the number of acres of peas he lost in the recent rains.

The thick clouded sky is disappointing.  I have been enjoying using a basic telescope with my boys (7-9 yrs old) to examine the universe, what wonders our eyes see on a clear night.  It has given me great pleasure to see them awestruck by the computations involved.

Every body we can see in the night sky is a star in the Milky Way with a small number of exceptions;  the sun, the moon, our fellow planets, an occasional comet or satellite.  The furthest dot of light we can see with the naked eye is our closest neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda.

The Andromeda galaxy is coming towards us, it is due to collide with our own Milky Way, that which we might call ‘home’; in around 4 billion years (maybe my mothership will have landed by then, who knows).  As a light show, it’ll certainly be worth knocking the TV off and heading outside for.

That faint dot, Andromeda, so innocuous you might just think it any old faint star….  It just so happens to contain one trillion suns.  About twice as many as our own galaxy.  One trillion suns create a lot of light so the reason Andromeda appears so faintly is simply a reflection of physical laws.  Namely, the distance from Earth, 2,500 light years.  Frankly it has to be astonishingly bright to be the ‘faint dot’ we see.

Me and number two son got a calculator and worked out that if the sun and earth are placed at either ends of a standard ruler, even at that small scale, the Andromeda galaxy would lie 450,000 miles away, about twice as far as the moon.  Someone might correct my maths.

That is our closest galaxy.  Some years ago, the Hubble telescope, unimpeded by human clumsiness or our hazy atmosphere opened its aperture on a spot of inky blackness and recorded light from tens of thousands of galaxies, some of which were over 13 billion light years away.  That’s 5.2 million times further than Andromeda.  All these galaxies were recorded in a spot of sky that is the size of a 5p piece, held 30 metres away.

I find observing the local in better detail more rewarding that trying to find the distant.  My son owns the most basic telescope, we shall move on in time.  Yet, just turning the lens towards the moon reveals a dusty surface, peppered with craters and the profile of mountains.

It is starting to become a good time to look at Jupiter.  It is getting higher in the sky which is important, I shall do my simple best to explain.  Consider our orbit of the Sun, Earth being so much closer.  We whip around 12 times for each time Jupiter completes a solar orbit.  Several times a year, we are in line with the Sun and Jupiter, sometimes with the Sun between us, sometimes with Earth in the middle.

I shall simplify to remove the issue of our elliptical orbits but… If we are the opposite side of the sun from Jupiter then by adding our distance (c150,000,000 km) to Jupiters distance (c775,000,000 km) from the Sun, we can work out that Jupiter is 925,000,000 away.  When we get in the middle of the line, we are just 600,000,000 km away.  A great time to train your cheap telescope (or binoculars on this beauty.

I did so a few weeks ago and for the first time in my life saw another planets’ moon.  In fact, I saw three, very clearly, exactly where they should be.  Io, Europa and Ganymede. They were just dots too but there was something intensely moving in peering at them.

Jupiter itself, I am struggling to get better definition of.  I get a decent disc size in my scope but it is just too blurred a blob of white.  I get none of the red hue, I cannot see the angry red spot or the weather systems.  I shall keep adjusting the equipment.

Anyway, Jupiter will be damn close to the moon by Cheltenham.  If we get a clear night, look up at that monstrous mini sun and remember that is our next door neighbour.  Great galactic gaps spanning unmentionable distances, containing quantities of heavenly bodies unbound in number, so varied in type.

If there is a God, then we are his atoms.  Playthings so small we are forgotten.  We have only just slipped anchor on our celestial home, how far might we go.

How foolish the petty argument.  In context of what we can see with our own eyes at night.  What wondrous sights and yet, they cannot calm the murderous rages of our fellow-man, what beasts we are – Unaccountable cruelties.

We came down from our trees, stood upright, made tools and began a journey of wondrous curiosity, we left our forest home.  Yet we could not slip our base self.  I wonder, were we wise to leave at all?

You may wonder why I wrote a sermon tonight.  I do pray that you do not think my abstinence dramatic is self-absorbed.  I have missed this…..  and also I have not.

I must thank all those good folk who have written a guest blog.  Good men one and all and you kept it ticking over.  I hope you got something from it too.  To you all I say this.. What ever the readers pleasure was, I cannot say.  Mine though, was great.  I was concerned little about the quality, far more moved that you felt it should carry on.

I do not know what prompted me to reach for the laptop.  My circumstances are unchanged.  I am eight months in to my business, a charity insurance broker.  My team are good.  In time I shall write about them.  You know me, I fall in love easily and this is no exception.  Curt lips, sharp eyes, wholesome good people.  I hope I do well by them and I hope they want the same for me.

Close to my office, which is based in a pleasant but unglamorous former pit town in South Yorkshire, is a set of intimidating wind turbines.  You might see them if you venture on the M1 past Sheffield.  They are huge and I find them captivating.  They swoop metronomically,the tips flying at deceptive speed.  Against a good dusk, they look like great beasts, ploughing a distant land.

I have so much to tell you and I have whittled on for so long.  I am not sure what the point was.

To the sports.  The mothership awaits.

Newcastle Eider | Winter Derby Tips

The Eider is such a harsh race.  Newcastle might not be the most demanding of tracks but it can be so deep that this marathon race can sometimes be an unedifying display of legless horses playing ‘last one standing’.  That is not the sort of national hunt racing I can take pleasure from.

Soft going and a dry outlook should give us close to perfect ground and so a quality staying contest should ensue.

I would take one of two profiles, a younger horse near the bottom of the handicap or a proven stayer at the top.  I would prefer not to guess at the staying credentials and northern yards have often retained this race.

Millborough, Wyck Hill, Portrait King and Woodford County are the only horses to win at 4m or more.  They at least have shown they can stay.  Three of them are former winners of the race, which spices things up!

There is not really a stand out contender on ground and trip.  At the head of the market, Ballyculla has been nicely laid out for this after being put aside since Bangor.  Warren Greatrex sounds positive and he rarely has a runner at Newcastle… Highly interesting.

Russe Blanc would interest me, Kerry Lee is a rising star and having a tremendous season, I just worry that this fella will have enough on his pate with a near stone more on his back than his Bangor win.  If she gets him to win off a 127 new career high mark…. then my proposal shall be posted on Monday morning.

I am going to suggest a surprise winner.  It seems odd to say but last years winner Millborough is my idea of the first dual winner since 1957.  Last years win was just a couple of lengths over Summery Justice who reopposses off a better relative mark.  However the runner-up is now 12 and while older horses do well in this race, I feel last years winner has a generous opportunity to recapture the crown.

16/1 in plenty of places… Shabash!

Danny Cook rides well for Sue Smith and I would pick Vendor out as a winner in the previous race, the 2.20 handicap hurdle.  There is an informative handicap hurdle at Musselburgh which gives a good visual clue to the form of Vendor and Zaidiyn and I say the former has the measure.

Tip for Lingfield – The Winter Derby

I cannot confess to much love for the Winter Derby.  Tullius, a perfectly respectable 113 rated 8-year-old.

In the betting, I cannot see beyond the first two.   Festive Fare and Grendisar.  Festive Fare was a hot fancy for the trial but disappointed and now carries new headgear.  Odd profile for a favourite, yet he has his compensations.  He comes from the Appleby yard, synonymous with all-weather success and particularly fluent at Lingfield.

In the elder statesmen corner, Grendisar, two years older has shown his full hand to he handicapper, particularly a strong second in this last year.  Adam Kirby is in the saddle, a man who two years ago was king of the all-weather, that star has dulled a little.

I am going to side with Grendisar at 3/1 because while Festive Fare might wipe the floor, he has to change form and that is not simple, even when expected.  If, unlike me, you like your beats nuclear… try Complicit.  Maybe Luke Morris is aboard because of some nostalgia or stable loyalty.  Maybe though his performance in the trials last year were less flukey than is now suggested.

At Chepstow, Kings Palace reverts from the big obstacles to hurdles which seems an odd choice.  I say this as someone who admired his chances but opposed them for the RSA last season, one of my better choices.  However, there is plenty of class there.  The exploits of Sausalito Sunrise last weekend shows that the former form of Kings Palace bears remembering.

I am not sure where to go.  Kings Palace has some class but I dislike revisions from chase to fences.  OK Mr Nicholls won a World Hurdle that way but in general, I think it smacks of something wrong in the original plan.  Tell truth, I think I’d rather be on Batavir, the Pipe second choice…. The third Gevrey Chambertin carries many memories; remember how good he looked one upon a time.

This race is awash with revisions from former chasers.  I shall look beyond them all.  The jury (my jury) is out on Bridget Andrews but Apricot de l’Oasis shall carry her home, 8/1.

I shall leave the football and rugby to you.

May your dinner be a feast with friends.  Let manners go to hell;eat, be merry and let the mask of conformity slip.  I shall speak more of some observations I have of this in future.

I don’t know (doubt) we shall meet again until Cheltenham.  Until then.

Courage, roll the dice.



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