Good evening from the Major who picks up a laptop to write from the delightfully warm blue skies of the lost North Nottinghamshire flat lands.
Surprise! A sermon. I would reckon that you were not expecting that.
It has been some time friends and then today, I received a text from a friend attending Epsom on Friday seeking tips, misguided fool. You can judge a man by those from whom he seeks counsel, I think my friend is found wanting. Still, he is the old sort of old acquaintance who knew me with long hair and acne, the sort that you like to oblige, to relight a synapse, an old connection but a conduit that has permanence to survive the examination of time.
Time has passed so for the fast updates on the Major. I have taken up cycling, no lycra yet involved, furthest distance achieved: 31 miles. The family are well. The business is successful in a moderate way, this year I will survive without spending my own capital which, I suppose, is an early desirable tick box on all entrepreneurial adventures.
Earlier in the year, I sporadically released a few sermons and was starting to enjoy the swing of it again. The pulse quickened with the idea of writing. That soon dissipated and we are at the end of two months of radio silence. Two months in which astronomy, military history and any other thoughts that cross my mind in the dark hours of night have not spilled onto these pages for your appraisal.
Here we are friends.
I was tempted by Oaks day because it was the scene of an almost monumental win for me in 2013, Talents year.
What a day it was, I had £20 spread in little multiples across Thistle Bird (WON), Resurge (WON), Gregorian (WON), Talent (WON 20/1) and Mister Music (LOST). It returned £1500ish, slightly less, I can’t recall exactly. However, my bookmaker kindly told me that had the other selection not run a dog of a race, the win would have been £48,000. That would have taken me upstairs on the trip to the Caribbean.
Mister Music finished plum last of the 12 at 17/2 that day. It was not to be seen again until August where it ran another bad race finishing last of 5 before winning at Bath by two lengths at 25/1. Not a penny was carried in the Majors name at Bath and in the countless races that it ran afterwards, including winning off a mark of 99, I only had ill wishes for that one. You see, I am not very nice really, I’ll call it what it was, a grudge.
You can read about it in my after-timing special on Derby Day 2013. I don’t care, why should I, I was there and I know the length of perseverance required, the depth of long term losses and the simple bad luck one must endure before turning a single banknote into a holiday with extremely little calculation.
So yes, Epsom Oaks day has a fond place in my heart. I thought Talent was very good, I wanted her in the Arc. That looked more foolish as time went by. I had exactly the same thoughts of Taghrooda. I am sucker for fancying an Oaks winner for glory in the cool Parisian autumnal days. It is those generous three year old filly allowances.
Anyway, this is 2017. Former glory duly advertised our minds must turn to this renewal. Solutions to puzzles must be found. Kennedy described the Mariner probe sent to Venus as requiring engineering finer than that to go into the finest watches to produce the capability of the accuracy required. He described the challenge of putting a probe into orbit around Venus was akin to landing a rocket across half a continent and landing it between the 40 yard lines on one of those American Football fields. I suggest the Oaks card is more difficult but I am afraid he is not about to debate the difference. That conversation will have to wait.
Still for anyone who longs for some aspirational politics, I recommend his Rice University speech which stirs something in the soul. Listening to it, you cannot but feel galvanised into his mission, to put man on the moon in the name of peace, of technological advancement and of national pride. Oh, how I long for such a politician now.
The challenges are there. We are yet to conquer global warming. To harness the tides, wind and sun for all of our energy needs – That would be something we could make a national mission.
I would not describe the current bun fight as boring mind. In summary, we have a marginal wing of the Labour party entrenched in a history of Marxism, anti British sentiment and not a jot of meaningful front bench leadership between them, putting across a strong coherent message of investment. They have warmed to the task, buoyed by a groundswell of supporters even if they are not perhaps convincing from a competency viewpoint.
Their incompetence incredibly it seems has almost been eclipsed by that of the conservative campaign. Basically, the main message there is that they want to sell your Nans house when she gets ill. Now I know the policy intention is different, I know Granny has to sell her house under todays conditions and that these proposals are actually a bit fairer and at least are an attempt to tackle a great challenge. We are all getting older. Yet, the manifesto and campaign has been so badly managed that the message has been lost and the positivity of Team Labour has come up on the rails to join the odds on favourite in the final furlong.
Speaking politics is a bore, forgive me. Also I beg forgiveness if your views differ from mine somewhat. I promise you that if we sat down, you’d find me as reasonable as yourself. I must confess to an irritation I have with how the debate is conducted these days. Polarisation and partisan support is the only order of the day.
Let me give you an example, bedroom tax. It is my conjecture, as controversial as it sounds, that everyone believes in it.
Think about it like this. Take two ends of the spectrum. Do you think that the most needy in society should be provided with housing? Yes, I hear you collectively shrug, where is this going Major? Do you think that those in need of social housing should be able to demand any criteria of property from the state such as a three bedroom Mayfair pad on Berkeley Square (which would be mine by the way)? Well of course not.
Then I reiterate my point, everyone believes in bedroom tax. The only question is where the lines are drawn. Most people are reasonable.
On my Facebook timeline, yes, I am there occasionally, to read which folk I barely remember are now married, divorced or having kids; there are folk espousing political views. I ask you for a third time to forgive me doing the same here. I am not peddling a side, though my small state politics and reluctance to get too public about my wider views, probably show my hand for any discerning reader… and you all are. Should your allegiances and sensibilities lie in other directions, be assured, I have probably voted for your team too at some stage – I tend to back the side I think will do best in charge, irrespective.
I often think that those advertising a certain side, do so in such a partisan way, it must put more people off than it persuades. Still, thrice I asked for your forgiveness. I hope it was forthcoming. Since I have acted the terrible bore, I shall furnish you with a joke before we head to the Epsom Oaks day tips.
Fred and his wife Maureen went to the local air show every year, and every year Fred would say,
‘Maureen, I’d like to ride in that helicopter’. She’d always reply, ‘I know Fred, but that helicopter ride is £50, and £50 is £50’
One year Fred and Maureen went to the air show, and Fred said, ‘Maureen, I’m now 85 years old and if I don’t ride that helicopter, I fear, I might never get another chance’. To this, Maureen replied, ‘I know Fred, but that helicopter ride is £50, and £50 is £50’
The pilot overheard the exchange and interjected, ‘I’ll make you both a deal. I’ll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word I won’t charge you a penny! But if you say one word it’s £50.’ Fred and Maureen agreed and up they went.
The pilot did all kinds of incredible manoeuvres, loop the loop, stalling and free falling before starting again but not a word was heard from the passengers. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word… When they landed, the pilot turned to Fred and said,
‘Christ! I did everything I could to get you to shout and scream, but you didn’t. I’m impressed!’
Fred replied, ‘Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Maureen fell out, but you know, £50 is £50!’
Epsom Oaks Day Tips
Epsom is a tough course. The sweeping fall of the ground, the bawdy crowd and the tight turn into the home straight to encounter a camber that horses then encounter. Many a good horse from an impressive maiden at Leicester, flounder in these strange conditions.
I rate course form as a huge asset but also look for similar track form, Bath, Brighton, Goodwood.
The opener is one of those open affairs with plenty of talented upstarts to chose from. De Bruyne looked first rate at Ripon and since Hannon has taken three of the last four runnings, we know he is keen on putting a good one in this race. Moore is booked, what is not to like. Nothing really.
Cardsharp actually fits my stated profile a little better having won at Brighton before probably running to a better standard when going down at Ascot. Sense probably should lead me this way but I have a feeling that De Bruyne might be a bit better than this lot, at Ripon he beat a debut Godolphin winner by a good 7 lengths, quality can tell. 13/8.
Sixties Groove ticks a lot of boxes in the 2.35pm but given his engagement in the Curragh International Cup suggests this might be the season pipe opener with a mile, perhaps not far enough to get the best from the horse. If they go too quick, maybe.
I am going to chance my money on an unfashionable one, Mutarakez for Brian Meehan. Again, I have gone against my stated frame because this one has never run on a course like this and is hardly the most reliable to deliver a maximum effort. However, signs that the ability remains were there last time out and after he hit the front at Newbury, he played up. Kieran Fox rides again and maybe will get a better tune today. 9/1.
Fresh from completing the Guineas double double, O’Brien sends over the favourite Highland Reel for the Coronation Cup. It is possible he needed the run in Dubai, it is also possible that he was below just par on the surface. A Breeders Cup Turf winner and a runner up in the Arc makes it the stand out star in the race for me.
The embarrassment of Ballydoyle riches is amply shown by the fact that he also saddles the two placed horses from last years Derby, both will know their business and will run well. With the help of triple Coronation Cup star, St Nicholas Abbey, O’Brien has won seven of the last twelve renewals,
The Appleby stable are flying with almost a 50% success rate in the last fortnight. I am not sure Frontiersman is quite up to winning this but as a place bet, his 10/1 odds feel good.
Journey only gets a few pounds from Highland Reel but is not that far off the form having recorded a superb win in the Champion Fillies and Mares race on Champions Day at Ascot last year. She readily cranked up the tempo that day and positively surged clear down the Ascot straight. She could be a real thorn in Highland Reels side and at 4/1, I’ll cheer her on and burden her with my money.
Fidaawy for Stoute in the 3.45pm handicap is the one that looks to be most progressive to me. Stoute is in good form and this is exactly the sort that he could have on an upward curve. Yet, at some point I should remain true to my track bias and given there are plenty with good experience, I shall find something else.
The one I settled on is Imshivalla at 18/1 with Coral (14s elsewhere). Hanagan rides for Fahey and this is the horse trying to win the race for a second year on the bounce. It would be a third win at Epsom for the horse and it is 8lbs lower than last years win. There the positives end, it is 8lbs lower for a reason, a series of dodgy runs, a dozen in fact, since that win have shown that the horse is not a consistent sort. That is priced in and I’ll take a stab that a return to these conditions might light the fuse again.
In the Oaks, Rhododendron is the O’Brien odds on favourite. The Guineas run was decent, seeking room and then running on when Winter had already flown. Certainly, it left the impression that further would be fine. Odds on seems a bit short though and part of that pricing is surely the fact that O’Brien has taken four from four of the British and Irish classics to date. How notable too, that it is the only Galileo filly to line up.
I am going to go against and am looking to the Deauville race for my Epsom hints. Coronet, another Gosden horse has been overlooked by Dettori but was doing some very good late work in France, suggesting this trip might bring out the best. The winner of that race though carries my ticket. Sobetsu is a Dubawi filly and at 9/1, stands a fine chance.
The penultimate race is one in which I fancy a turn up. Mr Scaramanga, finely named, currently carries an outsiders 20/1 price but may well do better. Back in the day, there was a Brighton win suggesting the horse can cope fine with the course. Sutter County will be a good hare to aim at.
Finally. Black Trilby looks the sort to improve from that mark and as long as the preliminaries go well, I would be aboard the money coming tonight at 4/1.
I hope your dinner is taken in fine state. I shall be parked outside the pavilion of a glorious cricket club in Blyth, Nottinghamshire. It has a fine row of lime trees and with blue skies and good beer, I shall watch my boys in training. Ah, life is good, relish each moment.
It could be two weeks or it could be two months. Courage friends, roll the dice.