Good Evening from the Major who writes from a cooling Worcestershire scene where extremist changeable weather has delivered sudden violent sheets of water before sharply turning on a penny piece and gifting strong electromagnetic radiation strengthened by the summer season and subsequent position of the Earth on is elliptical dance.
The Major is tired after a week of excesses. A day at the cricket turned into an all you can drink real ale saga. An evening fine dining, rich food, to bed in the witching hour and today, a day around a golf course in great company but with an aching sorry back and blistered hands.
Last year, the Oaks gave me a tremendous thrill with me being a single winner away from £30k. I still managed a tidy sum from my £25 stake and the centrepiece was a tremendous performance from Talent of whom I remain convinced is a first-rate filly who was a touch unlucky in the St Leger and would not have been out-of-place in the Arc. OK, I may accept that this last thought is a little optimistic or perhaps romantic but I stand true to my assertion in the general if not the detail.
Talent was superb in the Oaks, the lesser fancied stable runner, she had won well on the all-weather, was bred for it and had Hughsie booked, I had also seen a piece where Beckett explained that he was struggling to split her from the much more fancied Secret Gesture who had been the pick of Crowley – Talent raced the first two furlongs like a fresh precocious juvenile. She bit hard and rocked her head from side to side as Hughes fought with her to settle her – She wanted to let rip and he knew it was a mile and a half.
Still, I thought the race was gone already, it is not often a horse fights that strongly and goes on to win, let alone as readily as she did. Coming down the hill, she had calmed down and switched wide she came smoothly into the mid pack at Tattenham Corner. Hughsie feeling her come to him, man and filly fused in athletic poise, the spring coiled, shouted in boyish enthusiasm ‘can you believe how well I’m going!’ I think his remark was intended at Moore but memory fails on the detail.
With just under four furlongs to home, Hughes had the audacity to take a further pull. What was his thinking, at the time, I silently cursed, why break the momentum? Perhaps though, Hughes intended to be the last play actor to the stage. He may have been minded of her energy spent early in the race and felt that if he were to win it would be on the line. However, this moment became inconsequential as he slipped the girl her reign and she simply sliced her way down the outside, eating up the ground in spite of the camber she was experiencing for the first time.
She flashed past the line with The Lark and Secret Gesture in powerless pursuit. Glorious – I recite this all from memory not because I care little about the accuracy, no no no my friends – I care greatly that as a voice in our wonderful sport you come to me. I wish to give you slices of fine cuts to remind, enhance or simply share the richness of this magnificent sport. God, those classy two-tone grey stripes, that cherry red hat…. If you won money on a lucky dip lottery ticket, these things would not remain with you.
Tomorrow, I am being entertained. I shall be calculating carefully the balance between polite guest and wanting to have a proper look around Epsom. I am driving too and shall be in fine company. Here are my thoughts though, do with them as you see fit.
Epsom Friday – Oaks Card Tips
In the opener, Thistle Bird returns to the race she won on the card last year, bless her, since none of the other runners have won at Epsom, this win brings her right into consideration. Yet, against her, you can argue that this is a stronger renewal and she has looked a bit ‘found out’ at times.
Now when I say you can argue that the renewal is stronger, I have mixed feelings. For example, Just the Judge, an Irish Classic winner has hardly looked reliable since but is trading at 9/2. This is a challenge in the race… No horse running has been placed in their last two races, the volatility is concerning. Arguably Mango Diva is the most reliable but although it is a hard race to call, I am drawn all the way back to Thistle Bird. Epsom form you see…. 11/4.
Air Pilot is a very interesting runner in the second race. My best friend Beckett runs a handicap debutante against highly experienced and highly competent company. Very interesting but on the bare face of the form, work to be done – Of course rapid improvement might come but I prefer my dishes in this race to be served hot. As such, Sennockian Star the Johnstone runner gets my nod. He has course form and clearly more was expected last time when a well beaten favourite… 12/1 in a place… 10/1 generally.
Just like Thistle Bird, Gregorian returns to try to retain his Diomed Group 3 crown and he does seem to go well on his seasonal debuts – Definitely considered. Highland Knight is a talented sort of old but his legs are probably weary although the course is none Graphic is improving and has Moore to help from the saddle – I have that feeling.
It looks like Abseil versus the field in the Investec Mile Handicap at 3.20 and his main competition in my eyes is Dance and Dance as well as Vainglory. I probably would prefer the former of those two as he did very well at Newmarket and knows his business around Epsom. These are all good reasons to back any of the above but the Major is drawn to a horse I fear will be something of a profit drain for me…. Henry the Aviator. He was my selection in a monster Scoop6 race and did let me down but I still feel there is more to come and you can back the tip at 28/1 if you are selective.
Then the big one. I am not going to stand on parade, I am just going to unleash my considered view. I do not trust the market in the Oaks very much, the Derby has an issue too and it relates to the track bias which I have already alluded to. Now with the colts, their talent often overcomes it but it strikes me that on the feminine side of the ledger, they are more vulnerable to trappy undulating tracks that imbalance and change the rhythm regularly. None of this field have run at Epsom.
The race has been less dominated by O’Brien as some of the other classics. It has also been claimed by 20/1 winners in the last three years…..
It is worth considering the horses whose connections have shelled out £30k to run. Anipa – £30k means nothing to that owner but the horse has merit, a damn fine turn of foot and a stable speaking highly. Marsh Daisy – This one is more interesting indeed, has won at Goodwood and in good style – That course has similarities. Lily Rules is a strange addition to the race as I see little to suggest she might place despite her improvement. Finally , for the latecomers, Honour Bound who has been a madam for the handlers runs at 20/1. She is in the hands of my Beckett Oaks Training hero and won the same trial at Lingfield that Secret gesture won last year.
Sea the Stars has a building sire reputation and it would be wonderful for him to claim a first Group 1 and with Taghrooda. This one is bred from the blue stuff as is a cross with the Sadlers Well line…. Unbeaten too…. Shortlist.
In summary, I would not put you off Taghrooda at 9/2 (only in a place), that is value. I feel compelled to have a small saver at 28s on Honour Bound too. Yet, I am drawn to Marsh Daisy who can be backed at 12s with Skybet. The Major is an old romantic and if Jimmy Fortune were to win the Oaks given his recent personal tragedy, there will not be a dry eye in the house. Go on Jimmy.
Parbold disappointed me last week and so in the penultimate, I side with That is the Spirit at evens. Then for the lucky last….. and God alone knows we need it… Art Official 14/1 – Hannon Buick…. something to do with the ground and … I am so tired.
Courage and roll the dice.