Monthly Archives: August 2016

Saturday Sermon – Gimcrack

Good evening from the Major who started this Sermon late, tired and wine flown.  I have been bawling at the TV, thundering my support for the Ladies Hockey team who were second best but dug in and ended triumphant in a dramatic penalty shootout.  Bravo!

How they sang the anthem too, belting it out in unison as though they were upstairs on the late bus home and someone tuned up to Bohemian Rhapsody.  Raucous, full of fun, joy and soaking up every moment.  All strength to them.

What an Olympics for Team GB.  We have every chance of finishing second in the medals table.  I know that result is the mix of one part talent, on apart passion and four parts, serious injections of cash but all the same.  Gad, makes you proud to be a Britain.

I had a conversation with my brother over a curry and we were debating which athlete you’d most like to win if you could wave a magic wand.  His choice was Mo, my brother was a competent runner himself, achieving a bronze at England schools in Stoke at 14.  He knows how much it hurts.  My own pain threshold is high but I prefer my punishment to be a test of endurance rather than short acute bursts, I am not that brave.

My own choice was our nations sweetheart, Jess.  Ah, that girl has the winning smile and now we all gaze on her as a contented mother, she seems so perfect.  No, such a thing does not exist, I can only imagine that the tag is a burden for her too.  Still, like many, I have fallen in love with her, that wide eye, those cat like movements oozing in grace.  Yet, Jess should not take too much pride basking in my own attention.  After all, regular readers will know, I fall in love quickly and often; each new one holds my eye and lingers in my mind burning brightly but always eclipsed by the next in line.

One controversy I wish to throw my oar in.  Caster.  She is expected to win on Sunday night and may well threaten the world record.

I do feel for her.  It took some time for me to come to this view.  At first, I wrestled with the issue, she has hyperandrogenism, a condition that has led to her producing naturally high levels of testosterone.  Of this, there is no doubt.  She produces more than three times as much testosterone as do 99% of female athletes.  This is hardly her fault though.

There is also no doubt (in my mind), that in her case, the testosterone makes a huge difference too.  When the orders came to manage the level of testosterone with drugs, her form tailed off.  Now challenged by an Indian sprinter, she is free to come off the drugs and her times have improved as a consequence.

Having dwelt on the matter, I will be cheering her on come Sunday.  I cannot but feel that there is a touch of squeamish about some folks objection to her advantage.  There are hundreds of other rare genetic conditions that give other athletes significant advantages and we celebrate their achievements – What is the difference here?

What is more, she is an athlete and never deserved her condition becoming an issue of global debate.

This sense in me is something I feel as somewhat of a sea change.  I was sat on the London bound train this week and a young boisterous sort in the seta behind me spent most of the journey kneeing my seat, engaging in a loud conversation with friends on his phone and generally carrying an ‘all that matters is me’ attitude.

As we approached Kings Cross, the inspector came through and she asked for tickets.  Having presented mine, I was left to earwig on his feigned ignorance as he tried to wriggle out of his situation.  Yes, one part of me was happy that this ruffian had his just deserts.  I imagined myself defending the ticket inspector in case of a row, looking him in the eye and stating the case that no-one else in the carriage assumed they could travel for free.

I am not sure whether this is sanctimony, or some sort of conditioning from childhood from a suburban and Christian home.  Either way, I feel it slipping as an anchor in my life.

The inspector said she would shortly return.  As soon as she left the carriage, my neighbour hot footed it across the carriage and through the far door.  He had 10 minutes to find the safety of a toilet or put enough distance between himself and his huntress that Kings Cross would save him.

Do you know what, as he slipped from view I found myself rooting for him.  He didn’t mean any harm.  My old stuck up rigid feeling are still there but I just don’t feel they are as structurally sound as before.

Live and let live.  To the sports.

Racing – York Gimcrack Card

I think there is some value in the Gimcrack this year.  Blue Point is not a winner for me.  For a start, York is a bit of a specialist course and I am just not sold visually on his second here last time.  Other than that, Charlie Appleby is a trainer I’d trust with a Wolverhampton Class 4 handicapper dropping in grade, awful praise indeed.

Kevin Ryan has a good record in the race which attracted me towards Dream of dreams but my issue is that the trainer has only won with 1 of his last 50 runners, 14/1 is fair but I’m minded against.

The rain in York is due to start at daybreak and continue through breakfast until brunch.  Whether this in addition to tonight’s precipitation is enough to make inroads into the ground, well, it is a question.

I am going to suppose, perhaps a little against the tide, that indeed, the ground gets a bit of give.  On that basis, I am wanting to put Ardad up at 14/1 (Hills) for a small win bet because I think it could win.  A line through the last race and we have the profile of a horse, with a trainer and jockey that warrant far greater respect than those lofty odds.

However, I am not that convinced there will be enough rain.  Even if there is, it was an alarmingly bad display from Ardad last time and I am going to opt with a classy, hugely exciting sort in Mubtasim at 9/2 with Paddypower.  Haggas has a decent record in the race and the way in which the beast won his Haydock race last time up, showing equal measures of potential and inexperience, well.  Load up.

In the 2.15pm at York (Strensall Stakes), I am going to back Scottish who has the traditional hit and miss Godolphin feel about him.  Yet, other rivals have serious doubts too.  If the ground stays harder, then Tulles and Custom Cut will struggle.  I am not sure about the favourite, the Queens horse, Diploma, who has won a listed race from Fireglow (went on to frank the form) – My concern would be the sharper trip and a sure-fire decent pace.  In the end, Scottish, for me, has the form in the book and if hitting the right note, 4/1 could be a gift,

My last horse to catch the eye is at Chester in the 2.40.  Rosabelle looks incredibly unfashionable.  At 14s and possibly on the drift, I doubt there will be many populist tipsters adding this to their list!  Yet, Rosabelle is the only runner in the field to have a course win, at Chester, that is significant.  I want her on side in some multiples but my winner will be Partitia at 2/1 – This looks like a Stoute sort, rolled out quickly for another win.  All aboard!

I fancy Leicester to beat Arsenal at a smidgen shy of 2/1 – A lot of personal statements to be made in that match.

I wouldn’t trust any of this much – I am barely in form.

May your dinner though be cloaked in the satisfaction of a humongous unholy wedge of purple notes which prevent you from closing your wallet.  May your company be glorious, bathe in it for we are not for this place for very long.

Courage, roll the dice.


Saturday Sermon: Hungerford Stakes

Good evening from the Major from a magnificent Bassetlaw evening where fingers of blood-red cloud stretch across the palest blue sky which falls away into such dark deep peacefulness.  A cacophony of pastels, dark enough that Saturn’s bright light pops from just beyond the moon, a sky so huge I feel lost, as if bobbing on the ocean and only able to gaze longingly down into the shimmering surface reflection, the dancing blue shallows; like a man could be content in such confines until you consider the darkness and depth beneath.  Endless falling

I am most content in the new home, several weeks have passed, the Majors family bought together under a new roof.  Our new shores are comfortable, the safety of a converted barn which used to serve as the village bakery, a spacious kitchen, entirely incompatible with my abilities to create fine cuisine, a quiet village dating back 1,000 years, a very neat pub, an ancient church and an elevation on a great plain, allowing the eye to wander to distant coal power stations strung together by pylons racing across the land.

Aye, I like it here.  The comforts are tinged with an unfamiliarity, bread cakes are cobs and a pot is both general pans and cups to be washed up, as it is a cast on a broken leg.  It is not like being a stranger, more like an alien edge to your normal life.

I have been reading The Grand Design by S. Hawking and for the most part I have followed it.  As the science got into eleven dimensions which can break down into four mathematically and how quantum science has made astonishing predictions which have proven true; well no amount of re-reading of those paragraphs is going to further my understanding of the words beyond a mere repetition of the central themes.

The world of the quantum though is certainly alien to our sensibilities.  We were able to grasp Newtonian physics, we understood our ball spinning around our own nuclear reactor.  We understood our own sun as one of billions on an arm turning every quarter billion years around a black hole at the heart of our ‘milky way’.  We understood that being one of billions of galaxies and our minds, while not able to make the computation, could at least appreciate our insignificance.

Einstein took Newton and straightened him out on a few things.  Matter didn’t simply attract other matter, rather, any matter, bent space and time causing things to fall towards each other

The quantum small though asks us to confront God.  Things that don’t exist until we observe them, things that are in existence in two places at once and infinite paths of particles that are as likely to behave as we might expect or as likely to loop twice around Pluto and pop around a distant galaxy before forming part of your morning coffee.

The early universe occupied a space so minuscule that it barely existed, time exploded as did space and all matter, after that, rules that Newton could interpret at some point came into place, Einsteins revisions got us closer to the start and now CERN and eminent quantum theorists are getting us the closest to God yet.

I am not religious but I do believe in God.  Why this set of rules rather than another?  Maybe this mindset we occupy is just as small-minded.  We once thought the Earth was flat and then, in great turmoil, Galileo (later) and the ancient Greeks (first) flew in the face of our faith our showed us our place, our meaningless space.

Maybe another such revelation is to come, maybe what we think is simple, common sense (such a dubious concept) or linear is actually so mis-fired, so vast and so incomprehensible, it is as though we were the ant encountering the computer for the first time.

Whether we can ever understand this great complexity.  Are there infinite universes?

We have to leave that to the future generations.  Sadly, they do not have long left, even on the long-span of time we have, we are likely to remain predisposed to internal argument and conflict to recognise that we could do more.  The boundaries of our very countries tell us all we need to know. The subjectivity of opinion split between ‘cultures’ like we don’t have a greater responsibility.

As far as we know, we are the only beings, capable of searching for God.  We will forgive this honour and replace it with our own competitiveness and inward nature.  We made devices enough to wipe us out.

Either that, or an ice age or asteroid strike.  Our life might seem long enough but in the eons of time, it is but a blink.  The Earth has already turned over enough species, one more will not matter, we will still spin, we will still orbit our celestial master.

Every bit of us was made in another star so far away in space and time.  Flung across space to coalesce once more, first as loose bits of rock around a young sun and we went from there.

In the end, we are left as we started just the most complex dust in a dead cold and dark space. Before we get there, make sure you take your due back from God.  Whoever made these rules did not value us.

Our right is to live, breathe and enjoy whatever we see.  We have no other rule than that.  Yes, the rule of man, if fair, is reasonable.  Yet, such laws interfere so little with our needs.  To breathe, to absorb, to contemplate… the order of our own minds is the only God we have.

Until then, there is the sport.

Sporting Advice 

The Hungerford: It is firm going tomorrow for the G2 race at Newbury and in a race that has had many three-year old winners, none compete tomorrow.  In fact, I am not that enamoured by the quality of the race.  OK, it is not a highlight of the season but Paco Boy and Excelebration have won this before and I don’t see that quality here.

Honestly, the line up is much of a muchness.  I am struggling to find a clear path through. The yards have no form issues, the horses are proven on rattling ground.  In such circumstances, form and jockey must be prevalent.

With this slightly flimsy pretext, I choose Convey who can be backed at 5/2 widely and has the advantage of Smullen in the saddle. That man knows his beans.

I am throwing a longer ball in the Geoffrey Freer (1.55 Newbury) where I am a big admirer of King’s Fete but feel we can get him beat.  The one I like is as unfashionable as mussels being served at 11 in the pub.  You can get some 9/1 about Red Cardinal  who has the habit of getting his head in front and seemingly is effective on firmer ground.

Yes Red Cardinal is behind them on form produced but he is improving and well-bred for these distance tests.  Unfashionable he might be, it has no influence on his talent.

In the 3.10 at Doncaster, Thankyou Stars will win, 2/1.  Streaked clear with a subsequent winner last time and there is a false favourite (I reckon, cheap words to write) in the race. Load up.

There is also football.

I am not a fan of betting on the opening days of the football season.  Temperatures are high, mistakes are made, players are trying to knit together. A surprise is available.

I would rather go with the sense of optimism in a club rather than transfer dealings or pre season form, though the former is attached to my preference, I grant you.

Sheffield Wednesday played well last year with little reward, they started this year with a win over Villa although the latter were the better team for much of the game.  I’d be happy to be aboard the Wednesday train though for the trip to Norwich, 3/1.

I also want Everton at 21/10 to beat Tottenham who left last season like an ugly rag whose stains you recognise but can’t remember how they were received.

5 bets.

Fingers crossed.

May your Saturday night be blessed.  Good company, fine food, a nice drink.  Your confidence in the wheels spinning on, either unshakable or forgotten, either will do, paradise lies there.

Courage friends, roll the dice.