Good morning from the Major who still writes (but not for long) from a Worcestershire scene that this morning is bathed in pollen, grey brightness and muffled sound, a deadened world.
Forgive me, I did not advertise this. Two friends are heading to Royal Ascot, both asked me for tips, fools that they are. Joe, a fine-looking fellow, used to play Rugby for Malta, he has turned many an eye with that strong lilting Welsh tone. Ian too, fireman in my village, fine eye for fun, generous spirit. Best of luck to you both.
Since I am going to read the cards, I thought I might pen them down and see if anyone out there would still come and read a sermon. I feel like my writing has gone to the wilderness, I am wandering the Kazhak Steppe in deep winter, hard snow compacted the ground, terrifying silence and wolves lurking.
My updates. Yes, I am still writing from Worcestershire but, God Willing, this will change in a couple of weeks and the distance between my business and my home will be greatly reduced. I have not followed the seasons racing very closely. The business (Ladbrook) has had me busy. Nothing to do with the bookmakers my good followers, no no, we are a charity insurance brokers.
There are many times I feel like I might reach for the keyboard. Mornings where the night has not fully ebbed away and unknowns lurk in the corners. Things I see, the numerous times per day I have fallen in love since I last wrote, politics, though I always felt bad writing about the latter.
So many things I would like to say.
We are used to ageing celebrities being unveiled as hideous paedophiles, their public mask having been kept intact, some not making justice. I have become quite impervious to it. Yet, punching through the emotional numbness, breaking the detachment and apathy, came the news that my former hero Sir Clement Freud has joined that list of shame. I revile him the most because unlike Saville, Harris, Clifford, Glitter or Travis; I liked him.
Rot in hell, the lot of them, Clement, your place is reserved too.
What an outrage the shooting of the gorilla in the States caused. I must say I did not follow the case that closely but was struck by the antagonism towards the parents. They might not win Guardians of the Year but anyone who has had to look after a young child will testify to those times where one moment of your guard dropping slightly is enough. Parenting is an exhausting never-ending business. A zoo that is not equipped to keep a child from a Gorilla, that is where the fault lies in my view but I am only a person.
It is the indignation, the emotional outpouring I find most interesting. Why rage against these parents? They have been through a terrible ordeal themselves. Watching your child thrown around like a rag doll, what thoughts must have run through your mind.
Yet the onslaught about how they could let it happen begins. For my money, the righteous shouters are fearful. There but for the grace of God go we. I think this prevailing sentiment which hovers just below our conscious thought, that we could have done that, drives a defensive reaction to condemn the play actors in the drama. Just a theory. Spend a bit of time on twitter trying to discuss something topical rationally and see what you think.
Anyway. To the tips. Draw your sabres men, let the tips glint menacingly in the sunlight. Those Russians are charging down on us, thundering down but we shall hold the thin line.
“In the long run, we all die. What would be the point of living? Why do anything when it all ends the same way?” Know who said that? Winnie the Pooh.
Royal Ascot Saturday Tips
The rain the has turned Ascot gluey all week seems to have relented and the forecast remains dry. Good to soft is the official going, although dead yesterday, Ascot drains quickly and it could be spot on ground later. I am playing the card by class, trainer form and jockey bookings.
2.30pm The Jersey – What a joy to see Frankel producing superb racing stock. Who said only National Hunt produces legacy stories? It is a Frankel offspring I want on my side and of the choices, I go with Cunco who won his maiden going away. 9/2 is the best you can get at the time of writing. Palussierre surely thinks he has a hand to play bringing Aiming for Rio to Ascot and 14/1, well I wouldn’t put you off, after all his Deauville exploits were enough for Godolphin to get the cheque book out. Cuzco for me though, just watch his jockey try to pull him up at Newbury, he wanted to go again, beastly.
3.05pm Wolverton Handicap – John Gosden has won three of the last five runners which draws my eye to 28/1 shot Maverick Wave, not much form to shout about, a Chester run hinted at some form but that doesn’t always transfer well to Ascot. He is also giving weight to all comers and typically the winner is an improver from down the card. If I have my hats right, Maverick Wave is 4th choice for Godolphin and my pick Oceanographer is second pick. He can be backed at 10/1 and I like his chances. He looked a very good horse last year winning from behind in style and if we assume he needed to blow the dust off on reappearance, I see no reason why he cannot put a better hoof forward here.
3.40pm The Hardwicke – I cannot write about this race without sparing a thought for Harbinger, the poor ill-fated devil. Remember his Hardwicke? I do, I was there and it was one of those wow moments that my beloved sports can deliver. Have a look yourself. Anyway, I thought Exosphere looked the business when beating the superb Simple Verse and I am happy to roll with the chances of the favourite at 9/4 (Totesport, 2/1 generally).
4.20pm Diamond Jubilee – I love this global sprint races, a devil to pick a winner from but always a good show. I am torn between Magical Memory and Undrafted. The former has been in the form of his life this year and Dettori has decided he cannot get off him. Not even for the US raider who won the race last year, Undrafted, who is my pick at 8/1. Bless Mr Ward for bringing such a strong team to Royal Ascot, I hope he is rewarded again today.
5.00pm Wokingham – If you have not had a winner by 5pm, Ascot is a terrible place to play catch up. It is 8/1 the field in the Wokingham, we need a touch of fortune. My tentative selection is Absolutely So who has clearly been a fancied horse at times. He has had his set backs and now is available at 28/1 but if things click again, he might well outrun that.
5.35pm Queen Alexandra – A clash between flat and national hunt yards is always interesting and Mr Mullins has won twice in recent years with his Irish raiders. Clondaw Warrior therefore makes a lot of appeal on this basis alone. Mark Johnstone, we know, trains them tough and so Oriental Fox, seeking to retain his crown, will put up the resistance. My money in the lucky last will be on Amour de Nuit, 9/1 in a few places, who is progressive and may have more to give.
May your dinner be splendid, bathed in riches from the days exploits. The company top-notch, all roaring drunk and full of gaudy behaviour.
Courage, roll the dice.