Good evening from the Major who writes from the warm, clearing and fresh North Nottinghamshire flatlands. Sirius twinkles brilliantly low in the sky and Venus, now in opposition and unnaturally bright gives us Mars, a feint red dot relative to the jewel.
Driving through morning mists that swim and swirl, I see things that are not there. Patterns suggest shapes as the damp eddies and I am glad for the peace as I come through to blue sky.
Another week has passed, the siren call of Cheltenham crescendos. At this stage, we often suffer high profile defections and we feel obligated to roll out our shock in the customary fashion.
This year we seem to have suffered this drill on too many occasions although the fitness of Annie & Faugheen and their subsequent participation in March were perhaps fodder for even the more amateur of soothsayer. Be sure mind, there are still one or two more to come, you can never sleep easily on an antepost ticket.
Unusually, I have built just a modest financial portfolio this year. I am not sure why, perhaps I had a lull in my mid season interest. It has been an essentially tempest of a last 8 months, moving house, a business to run and new lives for a family to settle into. Grooves to be forged, schools, clubs (for the children), pubs (less so), the regular rhythms of a new life to be cast. I am getting there.
It makes a change from last year where I would have benefitted from NASA mathematicians to decipher the best outcomes for me.
Anyhow. What would I like to be on? The dogs were barking about Death Duty early on. Gordon trains a staying novice hurdler well, I wish I had those fancy prices but shall continue to support him should the weekend winnings allow.
I dialled up On the Fringe into my meagre multiples when it was 3/1 and am happy with that pick, there is only one plan for that horse, whose ability is too good for the Foxhunter division really. I think JP will win the Cross Country too with Cantlow who on the day, with conditions, should prove the best.
Thistlecrack remains a worthy Gold Cup favourite despite a brave, losing and tragic battle with Many Clouds. I repeat my call from last year to throw Vroum Vroum Mag at the Gold Cup. She is a beautiful mover, a lovely jumper and I really do think she could be the mare that does it. That won’t happen though, so Thistlecrack it is, with reckless abandon. Think too, whose heart won’t be lifted, on behalf of Many Clouds, if he should prevail?
Anyway, what do I know. I could do with a new war chest, my ammunition is short. Like Malta, during the second world war siege, I am awaiting the convoys to break through. Plus, aside from the above advice, I feel ill-equipped for many of the races. Dandridge looks like a Grand Annual player, another campaigned with a race in mind. There is an afterthought for you!
Anyway. I am looking forward to spring. Snowdrops have crept through in a tiny, thick grass like patch, on my drive, weeping their blooms, such prettiness. Soon the bluebells will grace the dank forest floor. They will strike optimistically upwards, in amongst the crawling insects which themselves call for the birds of summer. The arc of our rock around our sun, daily exposes our northern hemisphere to slightly less of deep space and slightly more of our nuclear source of heat and light. It is coming my friends.
I do not often seek comments on my posts but today I ask – Leave your Cheltenham bets. I ask you to consider a £10 stake and give me three horses. One on which the vicar might stake the money of the plate, one that might buy me a steak dinner and a third that might buy a new tweed coat for the good lady.
There is your challenge. Go on, nobody will bite. The Major only allows for the decent sort to frequent these calm shores.
I fell in love again this week past. At my sons football game (under 9s) last weekend, while the bitter rain bit at the spectators faces while toes were iced and scarves drawn closer, well my pulse revved.
It was cold to the bone, to the soul. Of a sudden, I noticed a huddle of parents, the other team, they were caressing closely warm coffee mugs, sugary steam rising. Thank God, I almost exclaimed aloud and set my back to the football, unapologetic to my son, and marched towards the clubhouse.
There I found a lone slightly unkempt kitchen, the smell of damp did little to put me off the warm nectar I sought. And, there she was, all tight jeans, sharp dark bob of hair, wide mouth, dark eyes flashing, maybe 40. There was a certain vitality in her colour, that despite the cold and despite the pallor of a grey kitchenette, bore through the cheeks to give pale pink dots amongst the paleness. Hello Major, careful now… Oh, I know, I will rot in hell.
We live in a world in which we are now terrified to live a little, all seems sanitised, all mischief erased. Terrified we might offend, that another grown adult might not be able to handle our flirtatious bedevilment. What rot. One politician leaned in to give another a peck on the cheek. She told him, with fantastic use of profanity, to move along. Bravo, neither did much wrong in my view and those who preach the sensibilities of the permanently offended either way have little truck with me.
You wish to know what happened. Well, I didn’t lean in for a kiss. Manners, after all. Instead, fabulous coffee was prepared and I offered payment, which was refused. We talked a little. She had a marvellous lilting Geordie accent and a wicked smile which spread like fire across her face. we were getting along famously until she told me her vocation. Think raiki, healing stones, that sort of nonsense… I almost choked on the brew. Coquetry cut short, I returned to the bitter winds and watched my boy complete a famous 2-1 victory, Shabash!
To the sports.
Saturday Racing Tips – Gowran, Ascot, Haydock
Let’s start with the race of the day, the Betfair Chase. Cue Card really should win this. The regulars amongst you know that I am a huge Taquin du Seuil fan but even I cannot bring myself to suggest he might best Cue Card.
The thing is that although Cue Card has looked pretty evergreen this season, we all know there will come a time where his age will tell. This is the thing that makes a 4/9 investment hard and so I will probably leave this well alone.
If I had to oppose, I think I would go with the potential of Traffic Fluide or the mercurial Irish Cavalier, both available at attractive prices.
I shall content myself to watch, engrossed without significant financial involvement. No bet recommended.
In the 1.50pm at Ascot, the novice chase, I fancy the chances of Fletchers Flyer at 9/2. He probably needed the blow out in December where he disappointed but I remain unperturbed and have been impressed with him several times over. I do not need too much more encouragement but Noel Fehily in the saddle does more than tip any remaining balance.
I like Sausalito Sunrise but I have to concede that spotting everyone weight in the 2.25pm Swinley Chase is going to be tough. Especially when a potential fly in the ointment like Chef D’oeuvre is sporting just 10-4. OK, this is still 5lbs above his true handicap but in this ground and with that potential, I doubt it will make a blind bit of difference. 7/2 is available and I intend to fill my boots.
In fact, it is rare I really pull one out of the selections for special credit but this bet looks a fantastic chance for some pre Cheltenham account filler. Do as you see fit but I shall be enthusiastically following my instinct here.
At Gowran, it is Red Mills Chase day. Balleycasey is 2/5 in a 4 runner race and I respect Clarcam too much to make a bet. If I had to, I would sway towards the latter but these staying races in small fields produce strange tactical results. No thank you.
The 2.05 is an interesting affair and I am putting 2/1 Agrapart into my slips. I love backing Lizzie Kelly in the saddle, she rides a fine race and this horse looks a solid sort. Zarkander is wayward and crocked and the other Nicholls runner Aux Ptits Soins is error prone. Worth a tickle but not a race to get the big guns out for.
The 3.50pm is a puzzle with a case to be made for most. The strongest prosecution though is in the name of At Worlds End who I really liked the look of last time up. Tom George runners rarely go backwards when stepping up in trip and I will be investing in the general 11/4.
Two short priced football tips. Burnley are a fine team at home and one that are ideally suited to tackle non league opposition. 2/7 is on my multiples. Chelsea will enjoy playing at Wolves with a full team, why not, they have no other commitments and why disturb a winning run?
May your dinner be fine, a good steak cooked delicately. A nice Barolo exposed to the oxygen for a few hours to further richen the already deep flavour. Most of all, may the company be grand. You know me, I fall in love at least twice a week. I’m thankful that the good lord saw fit to make a good lady take me in.
Courage friends, roll the dice.