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The Saturday Sermon – Ayr Gold Cup, Newbury Tips, splash of football

Good morning from the Major who rises a little later than usual to find Worcestershire blanketed in a consuming blue grey cloud.  We have fallen between the cracks in the season and all is calm for now.

Whether it be my heavy cold (which persists) I can not tell but I am feeling the chill air a little more than I should and so have lit a fire.  Now you might be thinking that it is September and the temperature really does not warrant it and I would find it hard to resist that argument, save this.  I am a pyromaniac and I enjoy it, I require little encouragement to reach for the flammables.

There is something enchanting about the dance and lick of flame, the warmth emanating from the violence, I find it irresistible.  No work in my garden goes without an incendiary event and my usual aim is to have something so fierce burning that the American military register as a suspicious launch type event.

The sparks that leap from the flame, I think it was Descartes who likened them to our lives.  When we are young and at the heart of the fire, things are so pure to us.  We are exquisite because we have not polluted our minds with knowledge, we can imagine the impossible because we have not yet blinkered ourselves with common sense.  This dulls as we grow, as the spark leaves the fire and spirals away in the air.  We might add knowledge but it weighs rather than frees, burdens us, until we fall to the floor, all light extinguished.

This may sound like an urge not to seek learning.  Quite the opposite.  I advocate a life of learning for you, it is tremendous fun.  When you are younger though, you absorb information in a different way, you thirst for it, as you age and weary, we are reluctant, losing the burning intense heat we once had.  Hold on to it.  Stay close to the fire my friends.  Allow wonderment.

Last week was much better, we may not have been sensational but we hit the bar several times.  I thought Talent was mighty unlucky in the St Leger, still, she once again stole my heart when barging between colts with just three hundred metres remaining, brave girl.

To the sports… Get on parade soldier, for it is a day of treachery, the enemy has conceived cards so deceitful, that only our best will see us through to a profit.  Tread warily and have your bayonet fixed for we will meet them hand to hand if we must.

Ayr Gold Cup Day

Now I must confess that these big sprint handicaps are not really my idea of finding a good bet.  Naturally, I understand the attraction of looking at a 28 runner field that is 8/1 but find the calculations too obtuse – Too many obvious candidates is my usual problem.

Therefore today, I shall give you my notes but know this, the Gold Cup is not a betting race for me.  You make your choice, this is your divine position and while taking my position is my business, I shall presume how to tell you yours.

One trend really stands out for me.  Ten of the last thirteen races have gone to Nicholls, Fahey or Ryan.  That is telling and where I would start my appraisals.  Such a stance is indeed quite a rough treatment of the data we have available but in this sort of contest, you have to make a stand somewhere.  On draw, my preference would be 6-16 but I would not make it a red line either.  This in spite that the high numbers seemed advantageous, seems illogical but watching the replay of those races, I am not sure too much bias exists and track record and pace has influenced my target stalls.

Of their runners, Baccarat would be highly interesting but the popular concern is the ground for which he is untested.  Being out of Dutch Art, I have no such fears as his sire tend to produce sprinters who like traction.  Highly considered with the capable Hanagan up top and drawn 14.  Definite candidate.

I would love Hoof It to win but he needs the ground to dry out.  From the trainers I discarded, the stand our horse is Red Dubawi who has been bought over from Ireland.  Conor King has been riding with such distinction for a teenager and is already able to go toe to toe with the best, his 5lb claim is simply a bonus.  Jack Dexter is also going to be popular, looking a group horse in his exploits over the last two summers.

Having meandered through the lot, my single dart is going to be a win bet on the Keith Dagleish trained Lover Man at 33/1 with Coral.  He does not fit lots of the trends for a winner in the race but is drawn well (for me) in ten and comes as an unexposed sort, this being his first run in Britain.

A horse I think is a must bet is the 9/2 shot Light Weight.  The Danehill Dancer filly looked a good horse winning at Newcastle in tremendous style and only has Braidley to be concerned about in my view.  That colt showed well last time too but has a ten pound raise as a consequence and my girl in good to soft (family have good record in it) with a stone in hand looks a must bet.  High Confidence.

I am not touching the Silver Cup but am prepared to stick with connections and back Valonia at 5/1 in the 3.15.  A lot of money has been invested in this good looking chestnut and she holds plenty of top class entries.  Qatar Racing have seen enough to think she is a worthy addition and the trainer has been able to keep her in the yard.  I suspect 5/1 might look big.

Newbury Tips

My bet of the Newbury card is for Meteroid in the nursery who is trading as 2/1 favourite.  He won a Warwick maiden with plenty of style and although that form might look nothing more than average, I think there is plenty to come.  While the ground may be unproven, the sire, Dynaformer, has a good record of his offspring so it is not off-putting to me.

Sticking with favourites chances, surely Kassiano is a good bet at 6/4 in the 1.50.  He has run with high distinction in Dubai (2nd in a G1) and has transferred Tapeta form to turf where he went readily away in a conditions event at HQ, last time out.  This is an Arc trial race although you won’t find any of these names prominent in the Longchamp betting!

At Newmarket, I will be having a small interest in Amnesia at 2.30 with Murtagh booked.  His raids are so productive now he is more selective.  His strike rate in the last 90 days outstrips Buick, Moore, Barzalona et al by 5%.  The horse looks OK too!

Jallota on paper ratings looks a shoe in at 6/4 but horses being dropped massively in class after failing further up are not my bet.

Equally there will be no bet but I shall be watching the Cesarewitch trial closely where I would expect Broxbourne to run with credit.  This race could throw up all sorts though.

In the football, Liverpool looks a bet at 8/13.  I also like Cardiff at Tottenham who are 19/20.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is going under some reconstructive surgery.  I think Martin himself might be finally losing heart.  Yet, I ask him to hold on for one week further as: Light Weight, Valonia, Meteroid, Kassiano is one to set your watch by!

Good luck to all of you today, I hope your dinner is in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.

Friday Royal Ascot Tips – The strands of our sport – Bookies 3 Major 0 – This is threatening to be a Royal Ascot whitewash

Good evening from the Major who writes from a dull and deadened Worcestershire scene where I survey the battlefield below and witness a darkened smoking wasteland strewn with the fallen, victims of my strategy, heavy wears the crown.  The Major has been squarely beaten each day of Ascot, but I am not defeated, not yet, still the glimmer remains, I shall regather.

Allow me to tell you something of why I love racing.  Stories.  The trainers, jockeys, owners and of course the horses themselves.  Each represent their own story, each story splinters like wild strands they spurn onwards swinging out wide and wild, at times intertwined violently, sometimes losing pace and direction, to nothing, to something.

Some of my favourite stories I am able to get on this blog, sometimes they are magnificent sometimes so subtle, I feel privileged as the nuance of the occurrence tingles at the edge of my senses – privileged not because it is a clique, it is not, anyone can love this sport, though there is an investment in time required but that is simply acclimitisation, not exclusivity.  We are diverse. It is a wonderful sport, to be able to see and feel those strands around you.  The conspiracy is an open one.

The stories that come readily to my mind as I sit here lazily typing are Kauto Star and his last King George, JT McNamara being airlifted off the Cheltenham course, Millman winning on his last ride, Hayley’s ice cool ride on Incendo at Kempton, the young Barzalona, astride, arm aloft, a short head victory aboard Pour Moi and the vitality of life surging through his veins and pouring from his being.  I could open my mind and spew forth hundreds of these examples…. The owners, horses, trainers, jockeys, gamblers, bookmakers et al… the stories ebb and flow, the strands weave in and out and at our great festivals sometimes those elements align powerfully, they come together, converging so completely as to be awesomely breath-taking and such is the staggering magnitude of the history that underpin events, you can be lost in the intoxication of it all.

I won’t dwell and repeat the words of others who have explored the superb nature of the Queen winning the Gold Cup.  I won’t dwell either on the racing exploits of Riposte either but that winner for the widow of Sir Henry reminds you of why it is good to be alive.  If you want a good write up of the great man, read this, it is an excellent piece from my kindred blogger Strange Rumblings, it is a nice template by which to live a life – Sir Henry more than deserves the race named in his honour on Friday.  I consider myself something of a rogue and I know another scoundrel when I see one.

The themes and strands that weave and turn, twisting and occasionally coming together, then spinning out almost uncontrollably, arcing outwards faster and faster until in the end, at the very end, they all come back together again, finality…. for all of us, we are served the same.  I love this sport, no other better encapsulates what it is to be alive, spend your time wisely my dear friends.  RIP Sir Henry Cecil.

Ascot Tips for Friday

Now it is clearly three nil to the enemy and the Major is in desperate need to pull something out of the fire.

In the Albany, I am rooting for Joyeuse, who would be another to raise huge bonhomie with victory in the morning.  She is a half-sister to Frankel out of Oasis Dream rather than Galileo and come on, who is not on her side in spirit, even if not in wallet?

She won her Lingfield maiden well in the end, having started a little stutteringly.  I thought it was a little worrying to see her in headgear first time up but it got her concentrated and she finished very well, putting distance between her and the hoi polloi… the headgear, may raise a frown but it stays on here, function over fashion.  4/1 is available, have a slice.

In the King Edward, Battle of Marengo is a popular odds on favourite on account of some extremely classy looking form from Ireland and a 4th in the Derby that puts him close to the forefront of his generation, particularly impressive having been done on the sharp end.

Yet I am minded that Greatwood was put away for Ascot after a disappointing Dante.  Clearly that was not his running but with eight runners taking the field, I would prefer to be on this 8/1 shot that I think might yet be capable of playing a big hand this year.

The Coronation Stakes looks a damn good race and my first port of call was Sky Lantern.  It might have been my last but for two things.  One, Hughsie has been caught in behind horses a bit this week and I wonder if he feels things are running against him, contrast that with Moore who is just riding sublimely at the moment.  My second cause for concern is the draw which leaves Sky Lantern with some serious extra work.

Thus, Pavlosk is my 8/1 pick, I was quite taken with her listed win at York and while has only a marginally kinder draw, I am backing Moore to get us in position.

John Gosden is seeking a hat trick of wins in the Wolferton Handicap and so you have to think Dick Doughtywylie has been prepared for this and will know the job, this is technically a drop in grade and Chester may not have been his sort of place.

I am taking a bit of a risk on Ocean War at 20/1.  Barzalona takes the ride for Saeed bin Suroor.  Now this horse has been missing for two years but the trainer is well qualified to have him ready and the last time we saw him he was running badly in the 2011 derby won by Pour Moi, referenced in our introduction.  Now he may have been down the field but forget not that he went off 12/1 for that.  He has never looked an easy ride, often jinking, stumbling and edging.  20/1 though, this could yet be a quality horse.

In the race in Sir Henry’s honour, I am on Disclaimer.  The horse has an excellent chance but I won’t allow a moment of history to pass and not to have staked my money in such a glorious ledger of it.

In the last, the Buckingham Palace, I considered staking my chances on rank outsider Dubawi Sound.  40/1 with Coral, I think the Meydan run was no disgrace and the gelding may be suited by this.  Sadly stall 29 is no help.

Instead I chance 14/1 shot Baccarat who is well drawn, entirely unexposed and ridden by reliable Paul Hanagan.

Courage, roll those dice.