Monthly Archives: October 2016

Charlie Hall Day is here…. Wetherby Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes, well fed, the fattened pig in the comfort of a pleasant bland landscape in the corners of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Clouds cover my glorious night scape but at least they might offer some  of you the comforts of nocturnal warmth.  For me they bring no comfort.  I prefer my winters biting, pale blue, white and the night black and to feel like an enemy, to be locked out but ever-present.

Tonight, I dined with the retired owner of the business I bought.  Martin and his wife, fine people, own a fine home in a pleasant small village. They have 25 years on me and although I have kept a regular golf game going with Martin, we were still feeling our way through the formalities early on, like strangers but straining to show willing.

The lady of the house was perhaps the most concerned that her meal was well received. With the luxury of retirement they have perfected the skills required to deliver good food well. Fine lengths of curtains covered the church full height doors. The grandfather clock was well polished and the cheese knifes were beautifully ornate. A beautiful table, fine glass.  We took prosecco in front of the roaring fire to start.

The food was excellent, I was not disappointed. A watercress and cream soup was fresh and cleared the palette, washed down with a lovely crisp Sancerre, I’m not modest enough to omit that it was one of the wines I had presented on arrival.

The good lady who had intended to drive was persuaded that a taxi was in order. I do love her. On our way home, she stressed that she should have driven, ah, my corruption of her only enriches her goodness.

The main course was a superb casserole style dish, though that introduction does little justice. Chicken, thigh meat I think and for you puritans, it brings a certain gamey taste that benefits a casserole more than a plain breast might. I could not identify the bean but the accompanying anya potatoes, tasty steamed vegetables and best of all, hearty fine fresh bread.

Home made carrot cake and vanilla ice cream before the cheeses which included a very good Gouda and a sweating superb Lancashire white cheddar. By this time we had moved onto the reds which included a nice Bordeaux decanted by the hosts and followed up by the St. Emilion I had bought.

I always take good wine because you want to be invited again. Also, I like to drink and one way to get your hosts to go at a decent clip is to reward them on the palate.

The proceedings might sound formal but as time went by, facades slipped, the grip was loosened on the earlier social rules. Laughter, insight, soulfulness, companionship. We all die in the end, never forget.

Taxi, home and a keyboard. Bed calling but here is the keyboard and here I am, my cruel mistress binding me to the solitude of the wee hours. She and I are well acquainted.

I spend a limited time content.  I am not even sure what the ingredients are for that any more.  There are some things I derive pleasure from but seemingly less so as time goes on.  Is this the dimming of the spark, spat from the fire?  An evening sky can still stir me from the acquiesce.  Like a jolt to the system, purples and greys of a palette so intense, it is hard to deny the spectacle a certain divinity.

We dance for a short while.

If you had to guess the most important issues for humanity what would they be?  I would think the following are the biggest risks in reverse order.

Nuclear conflict.  The cat is out of the bag.  We need trident.  Pakistan became a nuclear power some time ago, North Korea and Iran will follow.  A true WW3 could have devastating consequences.  There is no rowing back from where we are.

Climate Change.  You cannot deny that the planet is warming.  Not on a trajectory to trouble us in a way we cannot manage but we are leaving major problems for the next generations, your children and their children.  Once methane starts escaping from the frozen northern Russian tundra, the atmosphere will be more greenhouse than ever and surface ice on Earth non-existent.  We might find a way to combat this technologically, we will need to.

Overpopulation.  Compared to the others, this is the mothership.  Can technology catch up and cope with the burgeoning population?  Agriculture, advancement and the conversion of the carbon reserves locked in the Earth into useful energy have given us mastery of our humble rock.  Yet, a number of deadly trajectories need addressing.

Water is running out, food is becoming more scarce, we use most available remaining land for agriculture but less land is available.

I don’t worry that we will run out of fossil fuels, technology means we can extract enough for an amount of time that will allow us to adapt a new supply.  My concern would be the wider impact they have on the environment, the consequences of which, technology cannot yet cope with.

At some point, we have to face it, the Chinese were right, population control is desirable.  That is flagrant abuse of a liberty, a human right we take for granted.  Some things though cannot be left to the markets to resolve.

After the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina disaster, items like tents and torches were sold at eye watering prices in the locality leading to moral outrage.  An outrage I did not share.  Some things, markets can be relied on to resolve.  If a tent, available for $50 in San Fransisco, New York or Mexico City can be sold for $400 in New Orleans, then supply will flood to that area, attracted to those profits.  The extra supply will in the end, reduce prices more quickly.  Think of the alternative, ban higher ‘gouging’ prices and what benefit is there for wholesalers of those products to make the extra effort to shift product there?

Not all things though are as easy to solve.  I share the concern that energy and fish and agriculture and water will not, no matter what profit, be universally available on an infinite demand line.  Some thought.

I’m drunk.  I might regret all of this reading it in the morning.

Still, to the sports.  A drunk tipster, that is what you need.  It always was.

Charlie Hall Chase Day… We are off….

Here we are, Charlie Hall day.  The day we wait for that signifies the return of our favourite racing calendar.  The rhythm of which we know well.

The Major is in fine form.  We had a few winners last week, including my Villa all in bet (I know).  My 66/1 for them to win the league will look more sensible at Christmas, I hope they can draw 3 points from their tricky Midlands derby on Sunday but Blues will have been waiting for this one!

Anyway, I have a plump balance on account of some recent winners and let’s see how it might be wasted.

The Wetherby opener is the sort of tricky puzzle the Major loves because in the small number of runners, there are lines crossing, seductive puzzles and a certainty, one of them will win.  I should charge for that insight.

Double W’s is set to go off at evens or worse favourite for the Jefferson team.  Probably 7lbs for the Carlisle win is fair but I’d struggle to describe it as a house built on rock at those prices.

Solstice Star fared reasonably on his Uttoxeter run on Friday, 25l down but it seems a fair ask to dip in the well again so quickly, even if he runs.

Apterix is exactly the sort that might take to fences but Ellison is an enigma locked in a vortex of noise and I will never fathom or sense plans and favoured horses in that yard, if the money comes, I’ll be scared.

I am going to take a risk on Fou et Sage at 13/2 Bet Bright and 6/1 in several places.  There are lots of facets to this.  The French horse is hard to assess but the last two runs look OK and at least we know that a) he jumps fences and that b)he is fit.  The fact he left Skelton is a concern and it hardly looks a conventional build up to a British NH season but early on, there might be some fun to be had with this one.

In the second, Miss Crick looks progressive and the Alan King string are in OK form.  Mulholland is also scoring and Pass the Time is a serious concern.  While both seem pretty progressive and either could win, I am minded to go with Miss Crick who won at Worcester like it was a routine.  9/4, lovely.  Stephanie Frances could be a fly in the ointment if running to the form of last years shake up of The New One, but those were different circumstances… Miss Crick.

In the 2.45, I am backing another favourite in Ballyoptic at 2/1.  This looks like a very high potential sort to me and thankfully there are enough proven runners to keep the price honest, I am lumpy.

Finally for me, as I do need to get to bed.  The Charlie Hall.

The presence of Cue Card makes things tricky for me.  Despite all, irrefutable evidence in my face, I remain stubbornly, perhaps obstinately welded to the fact that I have never been his fan.  I regret it, a bit like Hurricane Fly, it was way too late until I saw what others had he privilege of foreseeing.  At 8/11, surely I can find an opponent?

This is tricky.  Dynaste of the Pipe yard has some class but Pipe runners are, like Ellison, a mystery to me.

Blacklion will be seen in best effect in heavy ground and a slog (in my view) and so is ruled out of this for the Major.

Menorah is not getting any younger but I fear ruling that one out because the ground matches and the horse is the sort to have a successful veteran career as a classy sort who takes fences well.

I am left with Virak and let us be honest.  Not exactly the finest of opponents for Cue Card and if I cannot see past the favourite then I should not try to.  Therefore, I back a third favourite in a row.  Sue me.

Villa are my go to team at the minute and are not letting me down.  Maybe that 66/1 will look sweeter with another couple of wins.  However, I cannot back them to win a Midlands derby, a high-octane game that blues will have been waiting for and St Andrews salivating over.

Instead, Cardiff get the lump vote.  New manager there too and the bounce factor is not to be knocked.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Season Away

Good evening from the Major who writes again from a magnificent Nottinghamshire where skies stretch westward darkening to a purple bruise and the air tightens cold against your face.

The seasons fall into each other, Mars sinks slowly into the Southern horizon, a reddish ‘stand out’ if you are lucky to have no significant obstructions and can get some elevation above the ground around you.  Venus, the hottest planet of all on account of its tremendous greenhouse effect which gives is a surface where lead is liquid, will grace our skies for the winter.  It is white disc like object, brighter than all-stars bar our sun, with an inexpensive set of binoculars or a cheap scope, you can define Venus through crescent and gibbous phases.  To do so, is to glimpse our neighbour, do so and use your own mind to imagine the shape of the solar system and it’s objects flying round our nuclear heater.

I am here at the cusp of the weekend and arrive in need of a rest.  Physical and mental exhaustion, a diet fit for a gluttonous rat and a mind swerving to ill thought.  I am need of sanctuary, sanctity  and perhaps a little abstinence, some good air, eggs on fresh bread, a good cup of tea and the company of good people, gentle, unassuming, kind and peaceful.  I won’t get it and neither do I deserve it.

Thank you so much to the kind folk who donated to Shelley’s three peaks.  She was touched by the kindness of strangers and your money helped motivate her to finish.  Of the 7 moms taking on the course, 4 did complete (including Shelley) and the 3 retired after incredible efforts.  Bravo.

I enjoyed writing a renaissance piece last week and thought I’d roll the dice on another.  The greatest fear sitting and typing a word is that there is nothing left to say.  You all know me so well after all these years.  Stopping the weekly sermon after not missing one for 332 weeks, yes, 332 sermons… come bad weather, international odyssey or illness… well, after such a prolonged stint it was hard to stop.  Yet, after a few weeks without it, I felt some relief, that of a sportsmen substituted and sitting on the bench after a bad performance, one part guilty but overwhelmingly relieved to be in the safety of a place where the gaping holes in your confidence, the chasm in your belief is no longer on public show.  You can convincingly cheer others on from such a position and you can mean it earnestly.  In the end though, you have to ask, is the matter settled or do you want another go on the pitch.

Cheltenham kicked off again today and I had a healthier account following the Nicholls form and blending it with the Henderson runner Thomas Campbell.  I used to attend the first Saturday of Cheltenham and always had a good day.  It’s a day that offers contrast to the hurly burly nature of the festival.  You can get round the course, attend the finest bars, have your head turned by the glorious people, see friends, enjoy the views and all is so much more sedate than the carnage that comes later.

I remember Joe Lively, that was 2007 when he won at this meeting.  My goodness, was that really nine years ago.  It all flies in the seeming blink of an eye.  How he led them a dance and what fun I had following him for a few seasons including his deserved (for effort perhaps more than sheer ability) Grade One in the Feltham.

Our sport comes in two distinguishable and delightful flavours.  I love them both.  Following the blood lines of great sires as their progeny try to evoke repeat emotions.  The flat has this and jaw dropping speed to offer.  Yet, if I were pushed, I’d have to say the drama of National Hunt is my preferred sphere.  The scope for drama is that much greater, the attachment to those battling never say die horses and jockeys, the steam, the cold, the tweed, the heady mix of all of this.  I know the racing pattern better too, I feel the form more instinctively, I feel more confident cutting through all of the background interference and getting to the original signal.

Winter is my favourite season for other reasons too.  Put away those crisp white wines and reach for the proper ordinance.  A good Barolo to accompany a simple steak.  Crisp mornings where the frost makes brittle white skeletons of the trees and you turn your collar up to protect yourself from the northerlies.  Less insects.  No sunburn, a summer hazard for us who foolishly left our northern forests.  Deep slumber (a rare blessing for me)  made possible from the cooling earth.  It is not a dying star, it is the madness silenced for a while.

I turn 40 this year.  My sister and her family are looking to move far further north than we have managed.  My brother-in-law is one of those awkwardly intelligent people and runs a lab working at the cutting edge, his specialism is plasma.  My own parents might follow them up there and last night my father, in his early seventies asked me what he should do.  Many years ago, we used to holiday in France, in the generous Vendee with good food and wine and a tongue that I could not master but would have some fun bludgeoning my way around in.  Each trip, my parents would stand and look at the goodies within the window of the immobilier, marvelling at the space and beauty of property they could afford.  Over wine in the evening they would resolve that yes, they would, they could and they will.

Like a spark from the fire that urgency would fade, as the ferry bound for Dover put the town of Calais to stern the enthusiasm would be there but with caveats.  By the time the bags were unpacked, thoughts were drifting and once work was back underway and the demons of regular routine served their great smokescreen, well, the plans were dead and never spoken of again.  Several times this routine was repeated and each time, I wanted the feeling they had when they said it to be followed through.  Do it, just do it and who cares if it fails.

So now, being asked the question by my father of what I think he should do, well.  My instinct is to follow my motto, roll the dice.  Yet, he is in his early seventies and their roots run deep in their social circles.  How easy is this to replace and how much desire can you have to do so?  As one ages, one meets the darkening evenings surely wanting comforts and knowns.  The taste of adventure receding.

If there is something to take from this and I am not at all sure there is.  Perhaps, my motto serves us youngsters (under 55s) well.  Do the things you cannot attempt later, now.

To the sports.

Cheltenham Saturday Tips

I am focussed on Cheltenham.  I have to be.

I have a balance swelled by the exploits of the Nicholls horses today and why not?  Sometimes the game is simple, Ditcheat now have 16 winners in the last fortnight, they have opened up the season with a strong barrage.  As has Twiston-Davies and Rebecca Curtis (be still my beating heart).

The Nicholls runner Keltus feels like a veteran but he is still a youngster, just one who has more experience than most.  Should give you a run for your money but not my idea of the winner.

Cogry is a sort I think could go well but I’m not sure he won’t be aimed at a real stayers slog later in the year and this might not be the wise time to catch him.

As much as I like the runners for the trainers in form, I am adding Coologue (9/1 Ladbrokes) to my Mothership coupon for tomorrow.  Could be primed to go and Johnson steers.  There is plenty of money to support my view.  He will be in my multiples but my single will be modest.  I have a residual concern that Cheltenham is unchartered territory.  In fact, Coologue has almost raced exclusively on flat tracks.  What to make of this I do not know but maybe the fellow will like a hill, we shall find out.

Then the novice hurdle.  Put a lump down on Wholestone who has put some wins down and his last staying novice hurdle showed he had a quality engine which helped him overcome some poor footwork at the obstacles.  The dogs are barking about this one and 7/4 might be a steal if the horse has progressed and learned from his experience.

The Materson hurdle has a solid Nicholls favourite who may well win if nothing steps up and out.  I say ‘may’ because I’m not blown away by Adrien Du Pont.  Thing is I am less convinced with Gibralfaro.  In fact, I am going to play wild with Wolf of Windlesham at 10/1 who does not come from fashionable quarters but was improving last term and not disgraced.

The handicap chase is trappy but I think Boondooma (8/1 in a place) is a sound play.  He won this last year and the smart yard may well have been planning a return trip all along.  Yep, he is carrying a few more pounds but I’m a fan of a known tryer in this sort of race.

I’m not playing the Pertemps Hurdle.  No thank you.

The novice chase.  An odds on favourite.  Am I losing it?  Thing is Shantou Village looks to me to be a hugely high potential chaser.  Given he has not only had a seasonal blow but one over fences where he both won (beat nothing) and looked fluent (mostly), well.  I hate myself for writing it but you see there is another angle for me.  I want the horse to win and wanting it makes me want to bet it.  I know how this sounds, hardly a ringing endorsement for your investment.

Woodfort wins the bumper (6/1).

By the way, Villa odds against is like finding it in the street.  I’m telling you my 66/1 looks good!

May your dinner be pleasant and paid for with a wad of cash bulging from your pocket.

Courage, roll the dice.


Saturday Sermon – Tips for Champions Day and the Welsh Champion Hurdle

Good evening from the Major who writes tired and comfortable from the family home in the flatlands at the conjuncture of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.  My new landscape, where the wide Trent bends slowly and lazily north to the Humber and the lack of serious vertical topography allows the Major to enjoy my star-gazing with vigour.

Sadly tonight, the evil cloud spirits have swept in and spoilt a glorious view of a near full moon at perigree (closest it gets to Earth) and a nearby Uranus (stop sniggering at the back) which would have required the scope.  I am a little wine flown, as I hope you are.  It is the right place to be, nearer the edge where things blur and you contemplate the important things.

This week has been hectic.  I feel like I have been hurled through a washing machine, not sure which way is up, gasping and constantly in motion.  If there is one thing I value it is moments of privacy and peacefulness.  Children and business have merits but they take a pound of flesh, especially out of us daydreamer sorts.

Early mornings, hurtling along the black rain slickened roads, the tyres kissing the tarmac and the radio loud but somehow distant.  Heater and chair warmer on, the window open, aching for cold air on my face.  I think I want that cold rush to feel alive but maybe it’s just how I shake the slovenly starts that red wine drinkers are slaves to.

I have been asked to be a best man which was quite moving (@frankelslowbro).  I was surprised, not ungrateful, quite the opposite.  Thankfully, my master in this affair has similar ideas as I.  A separate friend is marrying in the spring and I fear his stag do will require a passport and a stiff appetite for the debaucheries for which others in the party might partake.  I am no prig and I have had my moments but my sins are restricted to those which my mother might tut at but would still leave open my invitation to the Christmas dinner table.

No no, my groom fancies a day at the races and frankly he has come to the right man.  I am currently reviewing my race day options for a Saturday in the early spring (pre Cheltenham I think).  Why not the festival you might wonder, surely that would make it?  Well yes.  Therein lies the problem though.  Who of us wants to spends Cheltenham hosting tourists to our great game?  No, no.  The finest company is required at the top table.  Call me a snob but you know I am right.

Another child mauled to death by a dog.  Aleppo reduced to rubble, humans to dust from where we came.  These things stay with me, late in the evening when the mind strays as it will and the breath comes shorter fuelling a quickening pace to circulation.

I have something to ask.  The business I acquired is going well.  We look like posting 15% growth this year which is not to be sniffed at.  I wish for you some success.  I am lucky.  I have a fine team, yes there are blemishes but we all carry those.

I want to ask a favour on behalf of one of them, Shelley.  If you met her, you would, so please allow me to do my poor best to persuade the merits of my case.  Shelley is that mix of hardened northern mother dealing with the realities of getting by and a darn fine soul who is generous enough to want good things for other people too.  You wouldn’t pick a fight with her but she’s the first you’d want on your team in a dust-up.  It’s fair to say I liked her when we first met.

This weekend, she is embarking on a  serious challenge, the Yorkshire Three Peaks.  In June her friends lost their baby at 39 weeks of their pregnancy.  If you stop and consider that for an awful moment it leaves you somewhat desperate and humble.  I would not know what to say to someone in that position and I am not convinced I’d have the stomach or courage for eye contact.  Aye, I’ve a taste for the prose from the safety of a keyboard.

24 miles, over 5,000 feet of ascent, starting and finishing in the autumnal dark (probably rain tomorrow too) all to raise monies for the charities that do help those families, including Shelley’s friend Carla.

I know I have not produced many sermons in the last year and that doesn’t place me well to ask on your favour.  Yet, if you have a few shekels free in your rich kitty (and before I offer you advice on how to do some serious balance damage), please visit their fundraising page – They are only a few hundred off their target.  Just a few pounds help, as much for the fundraising and equally for these ladies ascending three mountains tomorrow.

On the Major’s site, we have always dealt with the riff raff swiftly.  I know we have a readership of quality sorts and I invite you to consider Shelley as an extended member of our family.  Merci.

I was minded this week of the ancient Greek astronomers.  On Monday as the sun set, the moon was a pretty good half-moon.  It was this that Aristarchus used to measure the relative distance of the moon and the sun, in what I consider one of the greatest moments of inspired thinking.

Imagine – Over 2,000 years ago, just after Aristotle had proposed that the Earth was not flat, you might have looked at the moon and the sun and wondered about these celestial objects.  They are both about the same size in the sky, something you could estimate with your thumb.  If you were around at the time of a full eclipse you would also know that the sun is further away from the moon but how much further and thus, how much bigger?  How could you know?  It was understandable that so many civilisations considered them gods.

Aristarchus calculated that the sun was much further using just his mind and an insatiable curiosity.  Ah…  he gazed upon the half-moon and using the beautiful Euclidian maths of a right-angled triangle, put together by Pythagoras a few hundred years hence, he worked out the relative lengths of the triangle connecting these three objects.  It is something you can do too, next time you see a half-moon above you.

Aristarchus figured that the sun was lighting the moon, just like it lit the Earth.  Therefore when there is a half-moon, the Sun – Moon – Earth angle must be a right angle.  He could measure the angle from him to the sun at this point too (easy if you can see the moon in the daytime, early evening or morning and know where your sun is).  He got it at 87 degrees.  That is not far off two parallel lines… 90 degrees at the moon and 87 degrees on the earth to the sun.  He did the maths and worked out the sun was 19 times further away and therefore 19 times larger than the moon.

He was way off of course.  Well, that is a tad unfair.  He was 2 degrees off.  It was 89 degrees 51 minutes.  That might not sound a lot on the angle but it makes those lines a lot more parallel.  As they come together so much slower, they finally meet at the sun a distance 400 times that of Earth to the moon.  Still, his work was not bad for someone with no accurate instruments.  Whatever the accuracy, the thinking is so graceful, n’est pas?

We like to think of ourselves as considerably more advanced now but I guess that is the crime of every generation.  Another great ancient Greek, Socrates taught us to know that we know little.

In my lifetime (child of ’76), I guess the day the twin towers came down was the one that shook up history the most.  For my parents, perhaps the moon landings or JFK, the great wars for their forebears.

All of this will pale before something I believe will happen in my children’s lifetime.  I believe we will first find evidence of previous or current microscopic life on other planets.   I also believe, either in their lifetime, or as a privilege of the next generation, we will discover intelligent life in our galaxy.

It is a big conundrum as to why we have not already.  We know life starts quickly given the right conditions.  It also appears that the right conditions while rare will occur commonly in our solar system.  Therefore, why aren’t there more intelligent lifeforms travelling and broadcasting their existence?  One theory is that competition in intelligent life means that those civilisations self destruct, if that sounds crazy, we have already created the means to do so and holding back nuclear capability from nations is like the boy with the finger in the dam.  Maybe it is a time thing.  The dinosaurs were destroyed by an object striking earth and creating temporary conditions that destroyed them.  Maybe that is the fate due to us before we can reach out and find others and maybe the others are hard to find because like matches, they burn such a short lifespan.

More sinister, maybe the dominant intelligent species in our galaxy of billions and billions of stars, wipes out species as they develop technologies and before they become too sophisticated to represent a threat.

Well let’s hope the green men hold off so I can enjoy the card at Ascot tomorrow.  To the sports my friends.  Sharpen those lance points, raise them to the skies and have them glint in the light.

Ascot Champions Day

Before I start on Champions day, I suspect the Directors, colleagues, customers and suppliers of Spire Brewing Company are set for a fine day at Market Rasen.  They are sponsoring the whole card after all!  It is not so far from me and if I did not have plans, I’d take my boys across.

Still we can enjoy the marvels of the Ascot end of season monster card.  Four group ones.

We open with the Group 2 staying race.  Order of St George is a hot favourite but I cannot help but think that the Arc may have taken some toll on him just a fortnight ago.  A this end of the season, horses with plans for specific dates beat best recent form and entered as an afterthought, for me anyway.

Forgotten Rules is a former winner of the race and a generous 9/1 is available there this evening which is an each way thieves price.

The Major’s penalty though will be carried by 11/2 shot Simple Verse.  This girl has some class and while only just winning last time up, it did seem to signal a return to form.  Ralph Beckett could be in better form but she is a Champions Day winner too from last year.  This is also her first time at the two-mile trip and I’ve a suspicion she might like it.  Win bet, you know me.

I always find sprints hard enough to solve and tend to look for cheap angles.  I don’t have the best results as a consequence.  Twilight Son is right up there on my list especially as he has been rested since a below par July Cup.  Quiet Reflection has G1 wins and a course win in the Coronation and is not the worst favourite but I just don’t want that profile in a sprint.

Shalaa was not good enough on the bare face of the form from his G3 return following injury but this was a highly promising sort who was perfectly entitled to need that.  Thing is, I always worry about these injured types getting back to best and so it is a value pick for me.

I am going to pin my hope on Signs of Blessing at 12/1.  Off the front with the skilled Pasquier setting the fractions, we will get our monies worth.

The Fillies and Mares does not look a great renewal to me but then I’ve been absent-minded this year and failed to follow things with the usual detail.

Here I am going to side with the favourite, 7/4 shot Seventh Heaven who has taken the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks well and seems to do well in a fight too.  I think the ground will stay firm enough to suit her and so she is the one for me.

The QEII is a much finer looking race and I am one not to be swayed by the improving Ribchester of whom I’ve struggled to build up a head of enthusiasm.  Minding is top class for my money and I am only concerned by the drop back to a mile.  When they go up in trip, they often stay there, maybe by design, maybe because it is best for them.

Galileo Gold was so revered after the St James and with Frankie aboard, if on form….

Hmmmm.  No. Minding 2/1. I don’t care what you think.

Finally the Champion Stakes.  It is a pleasure to see Arc winner and previous perennial bridesmaid at the top levels, Found, in this and she is only second favourite to French hot-pot Almanzor.

This horse is a bit of an odd one on the bloodstock front.  On the surface of things Wootton Bassett  is not a tremendously fashionable sire and the Criterium winner of 2010 has only ever produced 7 winners as a stud.  Of those, the highest winnings was £35k dwarfed by Almanzor who has clocked up £1.4m so far and may well add £737k at Ascot.  Even with a weak pound it makes the €6,000 stud fee somewhat good value right now!   The thing I really like is that at least he was laid out with Ascot in mind, as previously advertised, that is important to me.

So, a bridesmaid who came good in the Arc and was not laid out for this.  A French star from the rough side of the tracks.  Beyond that I don’t fancy the B Team list much so I have to decide.

In the end…. Almanzor.  Partly because I think the bay colt will win, partly because I want him too.  13/8 in places, 6/4 general.  Hard to go against an Arc winner but I have.

Welsh Champion Hurdle

I am immediately attracted to Garde La Victoire because I know the ground is right and it seems the class answer in the race.  Off 148, it is spotting 8lbs to the nearest rival but that is some rival in Welsh Shadow.  Dai Walters runners in this race always have to be watched.

Yet… on trainer form alone I would be interested in the 7/2 Nicholls runner Tommy Silver.  Ditcheat are off to a flyer and their entry here has the right profile.  A Scottish Champion Hurdler (also a handicap) and still only four, their must be more to come and with the yard firing in the early season winners, I am all aboard.

In the football.  I bought a ticket on Villa to win the league when they hit 25/1.  When they hit 66/1 I bought another.  They appointed Bruce and now, well, I feel like these are sensible investments.  People laughed at me at the Corbyn 66/1 and practically ignored the 100/1 Arabian Queen and I entirely agree that this view is improbable and as unlikely as those victories.  Yet, those things happened, I know, I was there.  I say this not to be boastful, it wouldn’t do here in our exclusive club.  55/1 is still about (Paddy Power) – just saying.  Villa are evens to beat Wolves tomorrow and I’ve never seen a better bet in my life.  Remind me about this at tea time.

Shelley, this blog is for you.  I doubt you got this far but for you….

Courage, roll the dice.