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The Saturday Sermon – The Majors Lucky 15…. All aboard Sandown, Haydock and Belmont

Good Evening from the Major who writes after a substantial unashamed early evening nap.  A hectic week conducted at pace with the Major ricocheting around the country from the refined bars of the city to a party in the wee hours in glorious Cheltenham to pounding the raw streets of the northern ancient textile town of Bolton, the Major has seen it all.

It is pleasing to returning to Worcestershire, visiting my turf accountant on the way to home.  Parking in the Georgian market town of Pershore, a child of around 12 crossed in front of the car sporting a cap with a cannabis logo emblazoned in a lurid fluorescent green.  Towing a family that might think this an appropriate attire for a child, I catch on the air a line from mother to father as my car door opened, it remarked, in the finest English, on how she might break his expletive neck, direct don’t you think, she sounded like she surely would too.

To stop and look around once a while is an enlightening experience.  Propping the bar in the latest fine addition to Cheltenham’s finer establishments, the 131, I overheard a couple of the young vibrant staff, clearing down the last remnants of the party discussing the details of being young and having fun.  There a line nearly had me choking on my Mint Julep, well thinks I, you won’t hear that on the 7.48 to Paddington.

Shortly afterwards, striding to my hotel across the town centre, my wooden heels, proudly naked of a leather muffling are snapping sharply against grey paving slabs which were still releasing some ambient warmth absorbed from the day.  The harsh cracking  sound, rebounding off the imposing walls of the architecturally exceptional building that houses the council municipal offices.  The late night neon plays wonderfully onto the light regency walls, the ionic pilasters providing a depth in the facade.  On the floor in front of me, a lonely old-fashioned wooden chip fork, cast alone on the sea of concrete.  A sole taxi driver mans the rank, there is a peace and an understanding between the people of the night, a quiet begrudging respect that we are all here, in this never-world, this non-existence, it is about as peaceful and calming a moment as I can recall.

Almost no one shares this scene with me and sometimes these moments I encounter stay with me, as they will.  Somehow this all really makes me think about death.  A connection I have yet to rationalise, rare are the comforts in our uncertain world.

The Saturday Sermon takes a new form today.  I am going to supply you with a lucky 15.  My goal, you ask…. To win…. all four legs, quiet simple.  The Major has been in good form so load your cannons my dear friends, four of the Saturday best tips coming right up.

The Saturday Sermon Lucky 15 Tips

Leg 1: The Lancashire Oaks – Haydock, 2.55pm

Group Two action for the girls up north and the apple of my eye turns up, Talent.  Regular readers will know of love affair with this girl.  In my heart I chalked her up as the Arc winner after watching her fight vigorously, burning early energy in her Oaks, before Hughsie got her settled and straightening off Tattenham to use her gigantic stride to powerful effect down the outside in the straight.

A highly unlucky second in the Leger denied her a second classic – although I am probably tinted in my view, as even if she had enjoyed clear passage, at the key time, she may never have gotten to subsequent Gold Cup winner Leading Light, although you must confess, that form looks good now doesn’t it.  Yet, after her latest flop, I promised not to do this again…. Here I am.  Conflicted.

See, I can draw you in to my dark world.  The vortex swirling around, the madness of it all.  Is this tipping, or is it affection stirred by emotion… rational analysis or wishful, heartfelt urging.  I maintain Bog Warrior has been the most ill-used best staying hurdler of his generation, head in chest, bowling along all ungainly gangly action and perpetual momentum building.

Loyalty is not necessarily a quality I admire.  It leads to blind poor quality judgement.  Yet my loyalty is based in affection and in what my eyes have seen.  She was one of the better horses of last years crop.

Haydock is due to see rain as I type but the sun shall be out at 1pm, according the accurate short-term forecasts of our meteorological friends. I am guessing that the ground will be genuine good ground benefiting from just a tiny bit of give.

Hmmmmmm.  The Italian import, Charity Line, is hard to get a read on.  Italian Group Ones are not a reliable form line but she is consistent and has to be respected now racing for the excellent Botti yard.

Lustrous could be considered.  Her listed win looks OK and she confirmed promise when a closing runner-up in G2 company at the Royal meeting.  Three year olds get a very handy pull and their record is patchy so she would have to be a bit better I think.

Gosden, who has won two of the last three renewals, has two unexposed runners in Pomology and Sultanina – Both lightly raced, both hard to assess.  Narrowly I like Pomology of the two but Sultanina has the benefit of recent race experience.  I prefer Lee to Havlin in the saddle as well and so a narrow nod of the two to Pomology at 8/1 with BetVictor.

Pomology, Seal of Approval or Talent? You do what you want, but I will never forgive myself if Talent wins and does not carry my ticket.  Go on girl, flash that tail all you like just give us a bit of that long action in full stretch, expertly bringing the blade to take a cut on the forte before running your enemy through the torso.

Leg 2: The Coral Distaff – Sandown, 3.15pm

Preceding the Eclipse, the listed fillies race is a small runner field that has an interesting clash.

Essentially, the obvious candidate is Queen Catrine who was desperately unlucky not to record a win at Royal Ascot in the Sandringham, just failing to get up after being badly hampered.  A reproduction of that and she is the obvious candidate.  However, The Major is concerned that she may well not reproduce her best as she has proven inconsistent to date.  What is more, this race is likely to be an entirely different proposition, her sort is best served by a true gallop and who is to say she will get it here.  That said, I respect the fact that Moore takes over and he is the best jockey we have.

The Major though is going to add Belle D’or for the Gosden yard.  Hugely unexposed, my tip has done far less than the market favourite but is in fine hands.  Her breeding might not look so familiar being out of Medaglia D’Oro who might have not yet scored a British Group winner but has produced such fine athletes as Rachel Alexandra and Marketing Mix, true stars over the pond.  7/2 and being backed, join the queue quickly.

Leg 3: The Coral Eclipse – Sandown, 3.50pm

This is one of my favourite races of the flat season.  The first serious opportunity for the new upstarts, fresh from their classic exertions, to be measured against those classy more experienced elders.  Always a debate about the quality of the generation we have just witnessed, perceptions; not just of these participants but by nature, by connectivity of form lines, the current classic crop will either be endorsed or tarnished.  Make no mistake, this is a judgement on Kingman, on Australia, it is a team game today.

In the blue corner today we have the Derby runner-up Kingston Hill and the Guineas winner Night of Thunder.  In the red corner, super-mare The Fugue spots them 8lbs, good girl.  Trading Leather is a big price for an Irish Derby winner but then he has not seemingly found that form again yet.

If a classic horse wins, it is normally a damn good horse.  The three that have made the achievement in the last dozen years have been Sea the Stars, Hawk Wing and perhaps the exception, Oratorio.  Can we suppose that quality exists here?

I think it is fair to expect Kingston Hill to come out unless a sudden shower eases conditions.  Now the forecast shows plenty of rain to fall so as I write in the wee hours, it is a hard judgement to make, I am going to assume that we have him as a live contender on good to soft.

Night of Thunder ran a cracker in the Guineas when straying across the track but still holding Kingman and Australia, form stamped by god since.  The strict authenticity of the superiority it showed over those two blue bloods has been dismantled.  What we are left with is a clearly highly talented horse that is not quite as good as either Australia or Kingman as the St James Palace showed us.  This is not just a step up in trip but also a searching test.  He looks the sort to me that might show better yet in these middle distances.

The Major needs an angle of attack and this is it.  I love the Fugue, she is a remarkable and lovable horse but I cannot pretend that giving weight to this good-looking crop of classic juniors will be easy.  With the threat of rain easing conditions, I am going to take now a price on that she might get beat.  This is a hard call because her last run was superb putting Arc winner Treve away and showing us that exhilarating burst of athleticism we know she has.  The thing is, fillies tend not to do so well in this.  The younger ones are not as forward as the colts and the older ones may not be getting enough weight advantage.  All in all… and this pains me, we could get her beat on anything remotely tacky.

It is a tough track, knowing that I am risking my hand on the weather forecast, I am opting for Kingston Hill.  The risks I am taking are priced into his 9/2, clipped in by the ‘shrewdies’ who gobbled up the 5/1 back at the respectable hours.  I do like the way he chased Australia home and given that one, in my view, could be a real star and a live Arc contender, maybe a length and a quarter defeat will prove to be plenty good enough in this.  Put your bet down and speak to whichever deity you regularly commune with for as much rain as he can spare over Surrey.

Leg 4:Belmont Derby – Belmont Park, USA 9.34pm

Get yourself ready for a twitter storm as British raider for the magnificent Jamie Osbourne yard, the superbly and knowingly named Toast of New York attempts to follow his Meydan exploits with another globetrotting success.

What factors are in play.  Well, the horse is going to run on Lasix for the first time and that could be a significant issue.  Not all British horses have been known to adjust to the drug which is banned in the UK racing industry.  His UAE victory on tapeta was an unbelievable achievement and he has captured the hearts of racing fans. Perhaps it is his modest $60k cost, perhaps his white socks and streaky white blaze face, something about him is exciting and captivating.

I saw Toast at the excellent open day at Lambourn – A popular attraction, we all swarmed around him and the stable glowed with the outpouring of love.  What chances?

The Belmont Derby Invitational is a big deal, it has a $1.25m purse and perhaps the biggest challenge for Toast in his career to date as he is going to be on Lasix and is also returning to turf for the first time since his racing debut at Leicester when he flopped in a class 4.  If you follow his career, he went down in grade to Kempton and hit second spot before starting his winning runs.  At Wolverhampton in a class 5, he quickened away as he liked and then returning there he repeated the dose in another class 5.

Excellent performances but some way from a Meydan Derby horse you might think.  The market was unsure how to treat the form and his win was returned at 11/1, a tidy price for the niche army of fans the horse was building up.  There is no doubt now, that the Belmont race offers Toast and Osbourne and Spencer (aboard for three of his five wins) a chance to consolidate that success, a chance to change any lingering perception that he has been lucky.

Dance with Fate is no slouch having won the Blue Grass which is a synthetic surface Group 1.  I think that is a good 10/1 alternative.

Once again we are in the position of assessing value versus desired outcome.  Dance with Fate would be my pick but I cannot imagine how I would feel if Toast of New York went in and was unbacked as the glorious last leg of our Lucky 15.

I trust your dinner arrangements are taken late as you wanted to see the mothership land.  Perhaps a straight forward curry in boisterous company, racy conversations at high volume accompanying full throttled frivolity. That’s the medicine.

The Lucky 15 tips also represent the components of the Martin Hill bet.  We are all in this together.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon on Northumberland Plate Day – Tips for Newcastle, Chester, The Curragh

Good evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire scene where high cloud spirals with great panache reaching with ambition for the striking blue sky.  The air is cooler and the ground still kissed with the evidence of earlier precipitation.  Most pleasant.

The Major has been pounding the lanes.  You may recall that a year ago, I ran the Paris Marathon for Meningitis Trust, well a year of loose living and I am 15kg heavier, do not recoil in horror dear readers, I am merely a man of extremes.  Having shocked myself into action, I took my first tentative jog for a long time running a mile and a half last week.  The legs felt weak, the lungs ached and my head turned an angry sweating puce… I was lucky to survive and it was 4/6 that is was the last run I was prepared to make.

A two miler on Wednesday felt no better but tonight, a three-miler through the pretty village of Burlingham where the cricket club quietly rumbled in the background and the old church stood guard… it rekindled old memories.  Tingling sensations in the legs, rounding a corner to be surprised by a new view across the magnificent green rolling summer Worcestershire countryside.  Running is a magnificent pastime, it quiets the mind and expends energy converting the negative to positive, health and vitality.

I have been forced to kickstart training again because in a fortnight, I am to run in the British 10k in London for Footsteps Foundation.  An Oxfordshire based charity that is close to my heart.  You see, I have this wonderful niece, a proper ray of sunshine, who turns four a couple of days before the run.  From birth she has had developmental issues, she was a late crawler, a late walker and as yet has very limited communication skills.  Footsteps have been a fantastic support to Izzy and her family, my sister, Jenny, her husband Pete and their other children, Charlotte and Thomas.

I know you probably have charitable commitments, myself I try to support as many as I can too.  If you have a couple of shekels to spare, I would appreciate any support you can muster on my justgiving page.  As my company (part of Zurich) are doubling contributions, even a £2.50 nudge is worth a fiver.

Outside of half killing myself to shape up in two weeks, it has been a busy week.  Today I gave a leaving speech to a colleague who has been a tremendous support in the last few years.   The man has such class, I admire it and since I fear I am devoid of many of his qualities, I feel well placed to judge them in others.  I had quite the lump in my throat as I considered his wise counsel to me over the last few years.  Still, I can still swing the clubs with him from time to time.  Fare well DC.

It must be the exercise but my mind is cleaner than usual, the dark thoughts that creep under the door in the dark hours are held at bay.  So we go to the sports… Recent form is strong, Ascot played out well enough and while the Major will not be going in with guns blazing today, we shall have enough invested to at least pay for a good dinner.

The Northumberland Plate

This is not a race I have traditionally done so well with but the statistical basis of that is thin, I’ll give it another ten years before deciding this is a bogey race.  Last years winner Tominator was a bit unusual as top weights have a poor record in the race, he was also the first horse to win the Plate twice, bravo.  Typically you want a horse shouldering less than a nine stone burden.  Plots are thick in this handicap and before the off I am sure some of these will be plunge sorts.

Donald McCain has won two of the last five runnings both times with established hurdlers turning their hand at the flat.  Overturn being the first, what a fine horse he has been, keep it simple, get to front and gallop the life out of them!

The McCain runner Mawakeet does not have a promising profile although is a change of accessories sparks him to life, who knows.

There is not a lot of draw advantage in the Plate but being high is a problem for a front-runner as you have to use a lot of energy to get prominent at the first turn.  Not a problem if the plan is to drop in behind.

This race looked easy to me last week when Pique Sous was an Ascot winner for the Major in some style – If turned out again, I was ready to load a large cannon.  Therefore it is interesting that the trainer Mullins has withdrawn a couple and relied solely on Lucky Bridle one of his Graham Wylie horses.  We all know the colours, we have our memories, most recently Boston Bob, On His Own, Shaneshill and of course the one we all love, Tidal Bay.  Graham is from the North East, he made his considerable estate from the Sage Group, the accountancy software which he created himself.  He is from the North East and as a local lad, you must think that he would like to have a winner here.  His string used to be entirely held by Howard Johnson until he had a 4 year ban for all sorts of misdemeanours…. If Lucky Bridle stays, which in this trainers hands is extremely likely, then he is a contender.

The thing that gives me hope of an angle is the ground.  Very often this race is run on soft ground, only twice in the last ten years has firm appeared in the going description.  As a consequence, trainers often have good to soft sorts in the race and not many of the runners are true top of the ground specialists.  It might be a tenuous thread but it is the one I have decided to play.  As such a few horses come under the microscope… Sir Ector, Boite, Noble Silk, Big Thunder, Van Percy, Totalize and Suegioo.

I am going to put the line through Big Thunder (weight and a watching brief on the yard), as well as Sir Ector and Suegioo on the grounds of weight.  Boite has a very very interesting piece of form in the Queens Vase when third to subsequent Gold Cup and Leger hero Leading Light which taken literally means he wins.  It is a bit concerning we have not seen the son of Authorized since last July and so we are relying on the skills of Chapple-Hyam to get the boy ready, 40/1 is wrong.

Noble Silk is unexposed as although has won over the distance on the all-weather, he may have improvement back on grass.  Not sure.

The three on the shortlist are Totalize 14/1, Van Percy 10/1 and Boite 40/1.  Totalize is running for Ellison under the guidance of the strong Robert Winston.  Off the low-end of the weights, I am definitely interested in a horse who may well love these conditions and could be a plot.  Van Percy I like a lot.  Oisin is down to a 3lb claim but it is still a superb 3lbs.  The horse looks like he is going to revel in these firm conditions and finally Boite whose case I have made.  For once, I am going to suggest you back them all as singles and have a cheeky reverse forecast on the three and even a reverse tricast, just in case! Three darts to turn my plate form around.

The Irish Derby, The Curragh 5.30 – Australia meets a group of opponents he conquered at Epsom plus one outsider. I can make absolutely no argument for why the form of this brilliant colt should be reversed. I accept it is only a price for multiples and only put it in because I did not want to stay silent on the best Group One Irish Classic.

In the Railway (4.50), After the Qataris stepped in with an eye watering £1.3m for Capello Sansevero, it will be hoped he can start to pay off some of that investment here.  I do not see any reason why his Coventry form cannot be upheld unless War Front responds to a new array of headgear. (They’ll try a top hat soon) and proves better than currently shown.  In these cases, I find it best to stick to the proven case and that means a chunky investment on Capello, 5/4.

Chester 2.45 – I like the work of Richard Kingscote in the saddle.  He is having a first ride here for Hills on B Fifty Two.  The horse is fine on the ground and is adaptable in running style, 5/1.

Chester 5.05 – I am back in on a Dascombe horse, this time he is riding for Manor House and in a race where the old Holmes adage prevails:

Eliminate the impossible dear friends and whatever remains…..!

There are lots of these I cannot see winning and while Cherowee does not bowl me over, I am left with him as the logical choice.  11/2 looks a very decent price where the other market principles are inappropriately drawn.

The Martin Hill Trixie is Cherowee, B Fifty Two and Van Percy.

I trust your dinner is taken in fine company, fine fish, steamed fresh vegetables adding colour and a crisp white wine.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Derby Day Epsom and Kentucky Tips… Oaks notes… and a 66/1 shot!

Good morning and a belated start from the Major who writes from the bed having slept a solid 9 hours, a highly unusual but welcome occurrence.  Worcestershire looks hazy and bright as I gaze out across the Avon basin towards Bredon Hill and the Victorian Folly which just 2 miles off is barely visible through the shimmering fuzz.  It is set to thicken, an unshakeable suppressing sky.

The Major returned from Epsom last night, a weary man after a six hour round car trip.  I was entertained regally at the course and in turn was also entertaining and so on good behaviour.  The returns from the Sermon covering the Oaks card were entirely acceptable.  Taghrooda was on my side, more of her in a moment, Thistle Bird repeated her 2013 exploits and the favourite That is the Spirit held on from a flashing Parbold.

Taghrooda was exceptional and I have made no little haste in adding an Arc ante post ticket against her name.  Those late season 3yo filly allowances are heaven-sent.  Her win also signalled the growing prowess of Sea the Stars at stud – Good work old bean.  Let’s see if the daughter can emulate the father at Longchamp.  He may now benefit from even better broadmares as a consequence of having a classic winner in his first crop and with Frankels progeny coming to the scene in the coming years and Galileo, hopefully with a decent 5-10 years of production left, there could be some tremendous ding dongs from the bloodstock world in the coming seasons.

I shall now file for your benefit, my own review of the Oaks day experience.  Epsom I found predictable.  The day itself was glorious and I was hoisted aloft in the Duchess Stand in a box half a furlong from the finish line.  The company was excellent, the colleague I entertained was only at her second ever race meeting and was dressed immaculately in a plain but classy mustard dress and black fascinator, one of these fashionable sorts you see and very easy to pass time with.  Between the second and third on the card, after the wood-pigeon salad starter and medallion of beef were dispatched, we meandered down to the front of house to experience the Epsom crowd.

This was an experience we could have done without and one that I doubt will endear racing to her reserved sensibilities.  The packed stand was awash with shiny suits and short hem lines, cigarettes,  stray plastic cups of lager, some spilt over the light concrete viewing steps which provided inappropriate bedding for those emotional sorts who sprawled their limbs across it uncontrollably, ‘trendy’ facial hair, oh god the horrors.

Some of the female attire was eye-popping.  More than once, a fine dress from the rear, revealed itself to be anything but as the wearer turned to face me.  What may be a fine silken length with a look of class, can swiftly become a monstrosity, missing several important patches of fabric through which great bulges of flesh protrude.  I am no prude, oh no.  Let them party – Yet, the dress that leaves appetising curves unflaunted leaves them for dead.

As soon as French Navy had reduced the value of my ticket of Graphic from £100 to nothing, we promptly left.  I resisted the urge to rush back through the several layers of security and into the sanctuary of the box and instead we retreated to the rear of the stand to examine the horses saddling up for the fourth.  Suprisingly, even though the first horses were already parading, we were able to gain a seat at the ringside of the parade ring.

For some time it was like being at Chepstow on a pleasant Wednesday evening.  The parade ring was much quieter, the resplendent blue of the race-makers huddled together and in much more relaxed mind, I gave my companion a description of the goings on.  More folk did cluster up as Abseil, Henry the Aviator and Tigers Tale (who I report was running his race in the parade) were saddled up.  Epsom is a course of two sides… Stay away from the one where civilisation is breaking down in front of you and a perfectly good day can be had.

Back upstairs where a full afternoon tea was being laid out for our delectation, I could see from the balcony, the folk who we had stood next to were engaged in some Queensbury Rules, although their interpretation seemed a little off to my naked eye.  A more mature sort was at the centre of this,  perhaps 50, he had lost his jacket and possibly his discretion and was exchanging shoves with the group of twenty something Essex sorts.  The spectacle.

The course views are excellent.  The fun fair I think is tacky but the lines of open top buses add a certain something.  The place does not look big enough to house the big crowds but that Hill can hold a lot.  The course itself is also more undulating than it looks on TV.  I did not realise that 1m 4f was the full extend of the course and it is indeed a unique test.

In summary, I would not put you off, just know what you are getting yourself into.

Now today, it is Derby Day and we share it with the Kentucky version too…  How do we shape up… Drinks – At Kentucky, it is the Mint Julep – Bourbon, mint and sugar, iced… At Epsom, lager and champagne.  Infield / the Hill – At Kentuck, drunkenness and debauchery, at Epsom, snap. I’d call it a score draw but their 6 Group One races compares to our two and despite our greater history, they have the edge, particularly as they have a potential star story emerging.

Will California Chrome complete the Triple Crown, well my view on that will follow but make no doubt about it, it is a tough challenge.  Plenty have gone before and failed to complete after their first two successes.  Big Brown springs to mind.

To the sports.

Epsom and Kentucky Derby Tips.

I am going to look through the Epsom card.  I am glad I am late to post today because the weather has certainly come to play a lead acting role.  The heavens have opened over Epsom and a deluge is currently working the going from Good to who knows what.

I am treating it as soft.  If I am right, then coupled with the course form that is a big aide, we have two distinct angles into the runners to follow.  This might bode well, very well indeed.  Sharpen your lancepoint and have the groom bring up your heavy charger.

The racing kicks off at 1.35 with a decent handicap.  There is going to be plenty of pace about as many of these like to get on with it.   I want a closer, a soft ground sort and ideally one that handles Epsom (or Goodwood, Brighton or Bath as proxy courses) .  I have three of clear interest for my criteria all of whom have won on the Sussex downs… Black Shadow rather grinded out his last win and needs to progress but it is possible and the rain will be fine… considered.  Double Bluff has to bounce back a bit from an all-weather Derby trial but could resume last years promise –  The tip though is What About Carlo, we have to forgive his last run at Haydock but a mark of 94 is well within reach and I fancy it.  You would also share more in the joy of a Jimmy Fortune victory and who would begrudge the man that?

Baitha Alga won a good-looking Chester maiden recently and is being backed consistently here which is an advert in itself.  Yet, the Major is taken by the only soft ground winner in the field, Ballymore Castle, another Chester winner whose form has been firmly franked.  Easy to back 11/4 out to 4/1 but with Moore riding for Fahey (24%), it could happen.  Red Icon has to be reckoned with too on the same formline.  Yet, Hannon had riches galore to throw at this and Baitha Alga is their sole bullet.  His Chester win did look good…. 5/2 in a single place (Stan James), 9/4 a few more, 2/1 generally.

The Coronation Cup – What a fantastic renewal with Cirrus Des Aigles, fresh from lowering the colours of upstart Treve in Paris, journeys across the channel to give us a look at his talents.  He loves the soft ground so no problem there.  He is also admirably tough and entirely classy.  Good luck to connections – Who knows if his progeny would have excelled, since he had his virtues removed to concentrate his mind on the racing, we shall never know.

Warning – The Major is about to make a case born from the heart more than the head.

Yet, today, CDA will be beaten, by my girl, Talent.  Read yesterdays post to get a feel for how I love this girl.  I wish she had run in the Arc last year herself but instead she was confined to a spot of bad luck and a place in the Leger.  She too likes the ground, she also knows the place.  8/1 is a steal and I will be lumped in.

Back to the sprints.  The 3.15 is a trappy looking race to figure out.  the sprinters are so damn precocious, it is hard to know which way to go.  10/1 the field sums it up.

Caspian Prince is a likely player as his win over course and distance looked good.  This is tougher but he has laid a market and has won on good to soft and being from Dylan Thomas, I would not be alarmed by the likely softer conditions.  Even Stevens is likely to blast from his stall and call the tune, I think he will be caught though.  Elusivity I like but has a wider draw than ideal and I settle with Caspian Prince at 11/1 in a place (Sportingbet) and 10/1 generally.

Then the big one (if CDA and Talent have not already put on the real show), the Derby.

Australia was being backed like defeat was out of the question after the 2,000 Guineas and I could see why.  He was my tip in that race and I was very impressed with his run, arguably having the toughest passage leading down the near side and finishing in a pile with the winner and second.  Kingman has done the Guineas form wonders and on breeding this is always likely to be a better trip for Australia.  Yet, the yard have sent up the distress flares over the softening ground and given it is raining cats and dogs, you will understand the drift to 2/1.  Plus, there is this nagging doubt that O’Brien is having a duller year (by his own extraordinary standards)

Kingston Hill is the answer for people who seek a soft ground alternate and I am surprised his 8/1 has not contracted further this morning… He is not for me though.  No, I am taking the value about Western Hymn who is well proven on soft ground and would provide John Gosden with an Oaks Derby double.  I am impressed enough with the listed races to my tips name and that they came on soft is a bonus.  Buick is a fine young pilot (Sheema Classic, Arlington Million, St Leger, Prix Morny and a Middle Park to his name) – A Derby will happen one day and I think he has a great chance here.  On the negative side of the ledger, this horse has a bad tendency to carry a poor head.  This concerns me a little as Epsom is hardly the place for that with thousands of drunkards egging you on and an uneven underfoot home straight, yet this is surely factored in to 16/1?  I am in.  Pace off a slow surface, Derby winners have a turn of foot… Yes my friends, I am feeling good about this.

Dangers lurk in every corner including Fascinating Rock and Ebanoran as well as the Godolphin owned True Story… No, Western Hymn… has a chance.

Now I have a 66/1 sniff (Bet365 80s with Betway) which I think we should tickle up.  Rossetti goes in the second last and has the ground and course form which is important.  Yes 5lbs out of the handicap is a problem, as is the hanging ( a trait that may scupper us with Western Hymn too) but I just think this price is entirely wrong.  If you are opposed to throwing money at a 66/1 rag then Passaka Boy would be my 9/1 alternate.

In the lucky last Bondesire is a very tentative selection.

The Kentucky Derby

It is well worth staying up to see whether California Chrome can be the first horse since Affirmed to win a triple crown.  The roster he would join is a splendid who’s who of American racing including War Admiral, Seattle Slew and my personal favourite, Secretariat.  If you want to see equine brilliance personified, watch Secretariat in the Belmont and just listen to the crowd and the commentary.  ‘Secretariat is moving like some tremendous machine‘ ‘Secretariat is all alone, Secretariat is all alone on the straight!’.

The thing is that winning a Triple Crown is an incredible feat.  Many have come to this stage looking string and then failed to cling it, Big Brown being the most recent and memorable example that springs to mind.  That has been one of eleven horses that have taken their Preakness and Derby victories and fell at the Belmont hurdle.

Can CC do it?  Well yes!  He has done everything asked of him and not being found wanting.  You need some luck though… He has been touted as a real rags to riches story but I struggle to buy that entirely.  His grand-sire was Seattle Slew himself and there is not that much amiss in his breeding!  Yes, he is not the bluest of bloods but he has hardly from the common stock either.

Do you know, the entire card is a dream of G1s spilling out gloriously.  I wish I had the time to share the riches of my mind with you on all of it but the day beckons, it has gone midday and I am later than planned to post.

Alas, a view has to be proffered on the big one.   I thought Ride on Curlin a bit unlucky and with a clear run he might get closer to the protagonist but instead I opt for a real upset.  Samraat is 28/1 and has finished prominently in  several big races and with a bit of luck can be up there again.  He is not a fashionable sort wither but is a bloody hard worker in the stretch and 28/1 with Bet365 is overpriced.

The Martin Hill bet last week returned two wins and a place in our each way trixie at 10/1, 5/1 and 9/2.  The 9/2 placed so it was a good win and almost a tremendous one.  This week the bet is the same and the selections are Talent, Baitha Alga and Western Hymn.

I trust your dinner is to your delight and I would suggest you take it at home, delivered, hot and steamy like the company.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday 2,000 Guineas Sermon… Courage and roll the dice

Good morning from a glorious Worcestershire scene where the near unblemished sky carries a sole vapour-trail scar.  It zigzags across the higher strata as though the plane that left it led an effected path across the heaven.  First light was cool, as it is at this time of year but soon the brightness came and now the horizon glints and dazzles aggressively and my dislike of it alludes to a few glasses too many.

The Major has little time to hold court this morning but thank goodness I stopped Punchestown when I did.  We were in clover on day one with a good strike rate and a 12/1 winner.  Day two was ugly with a sole 3/1 winner and plenty of shorties getting turned over.  I did not blog for Thursday and Friday and it was divine intervention as my own thoughts turned out to be poisoned feral errors that would only have weakened your bank and put your fine weekend dining in some doubt.  Courage to those who roll the dice today.

The Guineas day has often served me well, I feel good that we will be back to form today.  We also have a monster Scoop 6 to go at – Ah, it is good to be alive.

We shall not dwell in the pulpit this week, No – Let us get straight into the sports.  Suffice to say, I wish on us the fortune of the light brigade, we shall ride hard into the gunners positions, taking fire from all sides in our foolish endeavours but the glory is ours.  C’est magnifique, mais c’est ne pas guerre.

As a final thought – The Major must promote a fine endeavour undertaken by Simon Dawkins who is encouraging us gentleman gamblers to share the wealth of our winnings, or indeed to not bet and make a donation instead all for the good cause of Macmillan.  We all know someone touched by cancer and we all feel better in our hearts and souls for giving some of our own resources to provide better care for those effected by it.

Make a donation, or just give a share of your winnings, quantum is less important than participation.  Click here.

2000 Guineas Tips

What an absolutely cracking Guineas.  We have the main protagonists lining up to settle a fascinating dispute.  The stalls being central, I trust that the jockeys will chart a single course which would be good for all.

Kingman leads the market and, as with most of these, a lot of hype surrounds this horse.  We certainly did not get to see him in the bigger autumn juvenile challenges as he was recovering from ankle surgery.  Thus his key form line to supplement the stable noises is a very impressive victory in the Greenham on reappearance where he fairly demolished a decent field.  His breeding is not as blue-blooded as some of his rivals, he is match fit…

In the UK and Ireland, we have gotten used to Galileo and Montjeu being the stallions of our choicest colts but now there are new players on the scene.  New Approach had a tremendous season and is sure to be bred to better mares as a result.  Plus, Coolmore are importing to race War Front colts and War Command looks an excellent type.

I was really taken with his win in the Coventry and some of his subsequent loss of lustre is explainable.  He gets conditions and the worlds best flat jockey in Ryan Moore and so is not easy to dismiss.

Last season, Toranado stepped up to be a major player for Team Hannon and this year, that flag is flown by Toormore.  He has a lot of support, quite rightly as juvenile champion and has done little wrong.  Breeding does not support him as being the best of the best but we should not be dictated solely by the qualities of the blood.

Shocks in the race do occur, see Mafki.  Normally, they are under-rated European raiders and Noozhoh Canarias is going to have a popular support.  The Major however would give a token chance to Bookrunner at a massive 66/1 (BetVictor) – He was not disgraced in the Prix Djebel and the yard would not be over here for nothing.

The Major though opts for Australia at 4/1 with Coral.  Ballydoyle have been outspoken about this son of Galileo who has clearly being doing his best work off the course.  His form is little to crow about but being the pick of Joseph O’Brien from a yard that has won this classic in four of the last ten runnings, you have to take notice.  He is clearly a derby prospect, probably more than a miler but I am less concerned about that as I think he will have a tremendous lung bursting pace to aim at.

I do not think this will be the popular pick as the ‘thinkers’ will be angling into the other horses with a snazzy line about the ground or a line of form.  Let us not be afraid to be simple though.  Best yard, only Galileo in the race, highly talked of.  Shabash, load the large cannon.

The Monster Scoop6

I ma not going to dwell for long in these waters but thought I would share the single ticket I am entering:

Leg 1 – 2.05 Newmarket – Big Baz

Leg 2 – 2.40 Newmarket – Pearl Secret

Leg 3 – 3.oo Thirsk – Music in the Rain

Leg 4 – 3.30 Goodwood – Pal of the Cat

Leg 5 – 3.40 Thirsk – Off Art

Leg 6 – 3.50 Newmarket – Australia

Our chances of winning are nil if we have not entered.

Saturday Racing

I am looking forward to seeing Annie Power at Punchestown, I thought she was desperately unlucky not to be a winner of the World Hurdle although you can take little away from the winner.  She will slaughter this lot even if she were carrying an extra stone.  Her style of hurdling is a delight to watch, so fast and accurate over the obstacles, a joy to behold and one to look forward to chasing.  1/5 clearly shows that I have simply stated the obvious.

A horse that I would give a chance to at Punchestown is Adriana Des Mottes who fell early at Cheltenham but subsequently won a mares event.  12/1 might be a bit dismissive there.  Guitar Pete is a danger too, especially reunited with Carberry who delivered a peach of a ride at Aintree, yet Tiger Roll looked very good in the Triumph and remains lightly raced and full of top class potential.  3/1 Ladbrokes, get stuck right in!

Goodwood is very much a ‘horses for courses’ track.  In the 2.55 we have a runner that has won three times from three attempts here and it is a strong facet for the Major to punt Magic City at 7/2 with BetVictor.  The reason the course form is so important is that, like Epsom, Goodwood carries a significant camber and you need a runner that has experienced it and enjoys it.

On a Saturday where the Major seeks certainty, Trading Leather at Newmarket goes in at 5/4 (drifting).  The thing is, the horse has proven Group credentials with an Irish Derby win on his CV.  Nothing in this field boasts anything similar and it would be disappointing if we did not get a comfy win here.

The Major brings you the classics and the snippets… Hexham, 6.30; I bet you did not think you would read those words… Mohawk Ridge – I think this is an excellent handicapping mark and am able to draw a line through some of his rivals…. 3/1, get on.

To the football…. Just two selections.

Sunderland at 7/1 are a bet – Their resurgence gives them a squeak at United.  Millwall are 5/4 at home to Bournemouth and the great motivator will have the home team fully wound up.

The Martin Hill bet is Mohawk Ridge, Tiger Roll, Australia and Magic City – Yankee.

I trust that your dinner will be silver service and the finest of cuisine.  A choice wine and choicer company with her flaxen hair curled to the shoulder in a lazy effect.

Courage and roll the dice.