The Saturday Sermon: Tips from Ascot, Long Walk Hurdle Day

Good evening from the Major who writes from the other worldly Nottinghamshire Lincolnshire borders where the fog rolls off the Trent leaving all ghostly and quieted.

Driving down fog tunnelled roads, the headlights illuminating domed walls of the encasing grey murk, I feel like the car is sliding along, not propelled, more like slipping downwards.  Limbs of trees vaguely appear in the milky mass, like the tunnel has some unfathomable structure.  Wisps of grey brown grass wisp on the banks of the lane, I can taste the dank, I can smell the cold earth.  I swear, I am one slip away from losing consciousness altogether, it is such a thin line.

Tonight, I took my two boys to collect our Christmas tree.  We have it up, furnished with pale white lights, all simple.  The smell of pine is superb, heavy freshness, a sweet pungent reminder of that same cold earth.

I have had a lot to drink this week.  For reasons that are beyond me, an anxiousness lay in wait in the dark, one that was not so easy to shake and was only partly muffled by the application of red wine.  When I spill my next news, some of you good folk might exhale, ah Major, the cause is obvious then, I can only assure you it is not.

Last weekend was my 40th birthday.  You almost got a Saturday Sermon but family and friends gathered in Birmingham to surprise me and time was against me.

As or the surprise, I had smelt the rat.  Suspicious activities in my inner circle, remarks that strained a little bit, wavered in their delivered tone or lingering in the air just that moment too long.  Lies pitched down at my wicket are scuppered when the narrator has tended to oversell.  That bit to keen to see their well signalled prepared line land.

I am a confirmed cad myself, it is hard to fool us, we know the signs.  Bless my good lady and her clean heart.

Anyway, forced smiles aside, it was glorious to see so many good friends.  My wife has often accused me of only liking attractive people.  While not a deliberate choice, I have to say, there seems to be a ring of truth in it.  The guests were from all walks of my former life but so many of them play music in my heart.  Wonderful smiles, turns of lip, glinting eyes… wanton appetites for the fun in life, how I love them all.

It is the stories within too.  People from decades ago, they knew a different me.  Better than my own memories, they bind strands of time together.  After all, what are we in the end, some mish mash of instincts, a bundle of unreliable evidence and failing synapses, burning out over the years, the lights slowing dimming.  Is that us?  It feels like it is inescapable, yet, in a room full of people who know you, each with their own individual image, slightly morphed from the next persons, I reach a different conclusion.

I feel like an amalgam of all of their images.  Like Plato assigned blueprints to animals, we are all lines on tracing paper, one laid on top of the next.  The composite image not like any one of the component layers but not indistinguishable either.  Our strands fling out and in the end, they come back to a singularity.  We all end up there.  Use your time wisely.

I am wallowing melancholic and I don’t think it is what you come for.  Alas, it is what you got this week.  Let us get to the sports and try to land that mothership.

Ascot – Tips for Long Walk Hurdle Saturday

The staying hurdle division has been dominated by a few horses in the last few decades.  Big Bucks was unrivalled in his years, in this race, Reve de Sivola took over and scored a hat-trick of his own, he is back out today, turning 12.  Both trail in the wake of the mighty four-time winner Barracouda.

We have a potential card-carrying new staying player in Unowhatimeanharry who has been enjoying life in the Fry yard, remaining unbeaten and following up his Albert Bartlett victory with an impressive win in the Long Distance Hurdle.

The ground at Ascot is likely to ride quite good.  No forecast rain and Ascot drains and dries well.  Good to soft is the best it will be.  We are looking for the speedsters who skip not thump in their footwork.

The only conceivable risk in my view is Alex de Larredya.  This fella is only 6 and has an impressive french record.  That can be hard to interpret but it seems to stack up when you consider that he has slapped down a few of these.

The trainer has only bought one horse over the channel in the last few years and it didn’t go to plan.  Yet, this is a serious horse making a serious effort to win a decent British prize.  You have to wonder about the travel when it is the first time.

In the end I have to settle on Unowhatimeanharry at 11/8.  The french raider is a danger but the favourite is a solid enough prospect.  Boring.  Come on Major, raise the stakes.

The Silver Cup Handicap is a race that I would normally not feel I have much of a chance in.  My head initially was turned to the Henderson inmate Triolo D’Alene, 22/1 (in a place, 20s and 16s common).

I put him up for the Hennessy not thinking he was done and I still hold a candle.  My issue is that he has only fallen 8lbs from his pinnacle and I would think his lacklustre efforts would cause the handicapper to give more room, alas.

Go Conquer threatens to do well over further, has the champion booked and at 5/1 is a safe option.  Not for me.

Minella Daddy is one that will relish the rattling ground and is on the improve.  I like Sean Bowen, even if he has not yet leapt up from the promising young rider category yet.  The horse is on the improve and Paddy Power should be punished for their 10/1.

TWO HORSES!!! That is all you offer?

Yes, I am tired.  I am sorry if this has been off-key.  I don’t feel I am quite there, unable to offer you the elegance you deserve.

West Ham to beat Hull.  Lincoln to beat Tranmere.  Two more in the football.

My dinner tomorrow will be entertaining my team and their companions.  I have picked a fine Italian and will wave the booze over like it is the last days of Rome.

Courage, roll the dice.

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