The Saturday Sermon: Betfair Hurdle Day

Good evening from the Major, who graces your presence from a cold grey dampened North Nottinghamshire, distressed melting slush has lost it’s innocence, but haven’t we all.  I walked in a working town today, meandering from my office,  a dusting of fresh snow crinkling underfoot with a satisfying gentle crack, it fell in flurries, scurrying between cracks and settling lightly, like castor sugar sprinkled over a toy town.

It is amazing how snow muffles all sound, deadens the air.  With my collar turned up, I dropped my shoulder, the snow clung to my three quarter length coat and I felt the prickle of cold on my cheek, God it is good to be alive, we are the lucky ones.

This week, I have been sober.  Five nights of sobriety is enough for me to lose the evening habit, dismissing the usual urge post dinner.  I am an enthusiastic and persistent drinker.  I enjoy drinking alone and will contently chuckle at my own mischief reaching for the brandy when I know that the tantalus has no right to be opened.  In the wee hours, I seldom care, with works unwelcome embrace awaiting in the morning, so far away.

For two nights, I felt the tug, a gnawing inclination.  That has passed.  I spent a year dry once, to see that I could.  I am no alcoholic, not in the truly possessed sense, I just enjoy drinking, my abstinence is to reassure me that I don’t enjoy it too much.

What triggered such piety, this time round, was my weight.  I have slipped back up the scale, blossoming to sizes I would rather not be.  Suits were tight, some trousers did not fit, others felt inappropriately tight.  I felt bloated and uncomfortable and had little energy.  Time for some weight to come off.

Each day this week, I have kept myself under 1,000 calories and tried to walk a mile or so at a brisk pace.  This weekend, I will get on the bike and become one of those middle aged tragedies you sail past in your car.

Having run marathons in the last 5 years, it is a tad shameful and humbling to be back at fitness square one but you play from the place you are don’t you.  I know running is off the cards, my back will not countenance the violence of it.  Cycling is far more civilised and I have a 90 mile summer trip in mind, cycling across to Staffordshire to see friends.  That is the sort of goal that shall keep the tantalus closed for business.  The fine brandy within shall wait, it can await the day that BMI indexes no longer declare me overweight.

Some people are just me, me, me.  I apologise for this self absorbed outpouring, I am sure you are entirely uninterested and quite right too.

Another week, more childish politic.  Our speaker declared that Mr Trump was not welcome.  Team blue declared him unfit for office, Team Red applauded him standing up for decency.  It is getting so tiring.  Partisanship is at a peak, nuance seems dead to all but a few of us willing still to believe in the duality all around us, in spectrums not answers and in respect for those who think differently to ourselves.  My respect is not born out of some snooty goodness, rather I know that none of this matters.

Those who like to spout and get on their high horse might decry differently and good luck to them.  In the end, these concerns pale into the insignificance that we are.  More planets exist in our universe than grains of sand on Earth.  More atoms are present in a drop of water, than there are planets.  13.7 billion years ago, what we know started.  We will live for just 80 odd years.

What can any of it mean then?  To do good?  To try to seek some happiness?  Maybe contentment?  To achieve something? What?

I think I would settle for going across the Champion Hurdle card.  I am sure that God would notice that.  Being all powerful, the bastard would probably have had a tenner down and still wouldn’t get the round in.

I am not religious but who can be sure about God.  Why these laws of physics and not some others?  Perhaps it is the curse of each generation to think that we know enough that we might consider ourselves masterful.  The wonder is not in what we know but it is in what we do not yet understand.  Quantum physics, the physics of the small is as baffling as once the movement of the planets dancing across the sky was to the Greek and Islamic scholars.

When we can change the behaviour of electrons just by observing them (or not), we must concede that there is a mystery in the cosmos that is beyond our comprehension.  Some things are not yet for calculation, the quantum sits alongside the Pertemps Final in the unfathomable column.

We need a Cheltenham war chest, Betfair Hurdle day has to provide it.  To the sports.

Tips for Newbury Betfair Hurdle Day

A most acceptable day of racing between Newbury and Warwick and I shall try to pull out some winners for us.

While we are thinking of Cheltenham, I must say that I have very little antepost down so far.  If not for injury I would be be far more enthusiastic about my Yanworth tickets.  My bankers would start with Death Duty who has been campaigned well and has done everything well.  I was only encouraged by Thistlecrack at Cheltenham last time out and just hope he has not left his race there.

The Foxhunters may not excite you much but I’d wager that On the Fringe still retains enough ability to win it.

Anyway, these thoughts need to be tested and they cannot be suitably tested without a bank.  That bank needs to be built and we have the Warwick Kingmaker and Newbury Betfair Hurdle cards to do it in.

The Betfair Hurdle is always a tricky affair and this year, I have struggled with the card.  Several Champion Hurdle contenders have won this race including My Tent or Yours and Get Me Out of Here.  This is the lead for my selection.  It might not be a contender yet but the JP owned Movewiththetimes is my pick at 11/2. There is some 6/1 but it is with firms I would not play with.  My money says he wins this to throw himself into the Supreme frame.

Altior definitely wins the 3pm Chase on the card.  What a star that horse looks like.  He beat Min fair and square last year and there is nothing but stardom awaiting his chasing career.  8/15, I don’t care.

Working in the traditional ‘backwards through the card’ direction, we come to the enticing Bristol de Mai and Native River clash.  BDM really stepped up last time out at Haydock and the visual impression was impressive.  Otago Trail who he beat that day has won since and there is an awful lot to like about this slightly unfashionable grey.

Native River has been a sensation this year winning a Hennessy and then more impressively (as an achievement), the Welsh National, a gruelling race, under the top weight burden, bravo.  At the tender age of 7 for a  staying chaser, you have to admire the potential but also be a little concerned about the mileage on the clock at this stage.

On balance I am going to side with neither and place no bet.  On the side of Native River, is the seeming class of winning his two big handicap prizes this year, thought the Hennessy was hardly the best renewal.  BDM won well in the Peter Marsh and if I were to play him, it would be the trip that would sell it too me.  Native River looks like a thorough stayer and I would feel that BDM might have too much toe in favoured conditions over a trip probably just short of his opponents ideal.  Three runners will help that cause, none of the three are natural pace setters and so tactics will count.  I cannot split them – Good luck if you can.

4.45pm is the bumper and I fancy a little tickle on Kayf Mariner at 11/2.  Of course, it is hard to compare form lines in such a race where several unexposed, potentially high class bumper runners converge, yet the Bangor run looked good and I have doubts about a few key others and so it gets on the list.

The 2.40pm Kingmaker doesn’t always give us a king but it is a race that has been won by some good sorts.  Long Run, what a horse, among my leggy favourites.  Do we have his ilk here?

Knockgraffan is a good place to start, he was conceding lumps when beaten last time but that performance was pretty good.  I am not a Gino Trail sort, he is old enough not to be improving and I think his position behind Buveur D’Air probably was a little flattering.  No, I am a little lumpy about Overtown Express who gets the benefit of Noel Fehily in the saddle.  He is 9, so pretty experienced for a novice.  You might think it hypocritical that I count that in his favour but against Gino Trail but I don’t have to explain myself.  11/4, fill up while you can.

I am putting Listen Dear in who runs in the 3.20 at Naas.

May your dinner be taken in great state, fine lobster and steak, cheese, wine and allow yourself to gorge.  One of us has to.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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