Tag Archives: battle of marengo

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.

The Saturday Sermon on Derby Day

Good evening from the Major who writes from the dulling Worcestershire evening.  The air is chilling beautifully, the crackling ball of plasma has dipped beneath the horizon and dusk brings a calm to the soul.

The Major has been immobile this week, regular readers will have noticed the abbreviated Sermon last Saturday.  The Major suffered a sudden sporting injury and the finest medical opinions in my local surgery suggest I have torn ligaments.

Don’t rush to sympathise with me, for today I struck a minor mothership and am undeserving of your thoughts.

I cannot say I scrutinised the Oaks card with great thoughtfulness, it was just one of those days where a lack of contemplation boded well.

I had Thistle Bird in Epsoms opener, only because I have a soft spot for anything in Nathaniels colours.  Resurge was my winning selection in race two on account of Neil Callan being one of the more under rated jockeys.  Gregorian had the best Group form in the book and was my selection in the third before the fourth in which I chose Mister Music (the only leg that let me down) on account of wanting some Hughsie in my mix.  Then the Oaks, I almost took The Lark but settled on 20/1 winner Talent.  Why? Well it’s damn hard to read what these fillies are up to and I felt her listed race was open to be interpreted as better as she had fought hard for her head in it and won despite that wasted energy.  My how she repeated that tomfoolery today.

Coming down the hill towards Tattenham corner, she was on the verge of rearing, fighting viciously with Hughes.  Once he had her on the straight, he asked her to go between two tiring sorts, which seemed the wrong course to me when a simpler option lay wide.  She went through though and put the race to bed in glorious style.  It was not Hughes’ finest ride in my consideration but for a quality hard-working jockey, no other deserves to break a classic duck with two in one season more than he.  Bravo.

The Majors spoils?  Well I had each way doubles and trebles on the five selections.  The swag was enough for a holiday, not the Caribbean perhaps but maybe a weekend in a fine hotel with enough loot to satisfy some of my lascivious vices.  As I say, feel no pity for I.

The strangest part is that despite considering myself fairly level minded, after three legs, special thoughts were brewing in my mind, the opportunity of great gains lay before me.  Mister Music put pay to those.  I was lost a bit, to the point where even when Talent galloped home,  I still felt rather flat, more than I should have.  That troubled me and stayed with me, as these things will.

If it were not for the back, I would take these illicit gains and romp to Epsom tomorrow for some fun on the downs.  As it is, I shall leave those shenanigans to my good friend Mr Hadden and his merry band.  For them, I shall try to reproduce the trick but the Major is circumspect.  I am the blind squirrel and occasionally I find the odd nut.  I am the broken clock, correct twice in a day.  Past performance is not a guide to future performance.

To the sports…

Epsom Derby Day Tips

I am going to go across the Epsom card.  My principles are as follows.  You need a good jockey, for this I am going to use subjective views, my own.  You ideally also need a horse that has gone well at Epsom before where there is a significant camber.  If no Epsom form is available, I would allow Brighton, Goodwood or Bath form to correlate.  To business.

1.35 Epsom

In the opener, High Troja is current favourite.  Starting last time at 25/1 at Newbury, the horse was visually impressive but that was off an awful crawl and I am not entirely buying the form.  Plus Ed Dunlop has saddled 4 winners from 33 runners in the last two weeks, not a huge problem but not convincing either.  Plus the Newbury ground was much better than this… plenty of doubts.

Space Ship carries those Nathaniel colours as well but also has a lot of questions.  He clearly is progressing and the Chester win was fine.  He has good form tied with Telescope from last season but his win was on good to firm and Chester is a completely different proposition to Epsom.

Neil Callan is my favourite jockey in the race, I have never seen him given anything other than his best and he keeps things simple.  That said, I am struggling to find a line of form that puts St Paul de Vence in it, he would have to improve a lot from his reappearance, which is only a minor possibility in my view.

The opener is a tricky affair and I am going to chance my arm on King Muro.  Andrew Balding is a top trainer and I am sure he has not bought the horse to Epsom for a day trip.  It is in on a bottom weight of 8-2 and has the assistance of Hayley Turner for the first time in the horses career.  His only win came at Kempton in a class 6, hardly enthralling I know but last time out at Chester was interesting.  The horse was prominent and travelled well but threw an anchor out two furlongs out and the jockey was kind from there to the line.  Who knows?  The price builds in the doubts, 20/1.

2.05 Woodcote Stakes

These big early season contests for two year olds offer less evidence but we can still apply reason.

This is the type of race where you would expect to see the plethora of riches from the Hannon juvenile camp dominate but he has only won it once in fifteen years.  That said, Thunder Strike comes with obvious credentials having won two sprints very nicely, a step up of a furlong should not be a problem either.

Two reasons make me opt for Riverboat Springs though at 11/2.  Firstly, Thunder Strike only has form at Doncaster and Newbury – Two flat straight easy courses, this is a different world.  Riverboat Springs won at Bath, a swerving dipping and cambered course – That win was also on good to soft.  I also like the fact that Channon has targeted this race in recent years winning it twice in the last ten years, including the last running with Chilworth Icon.

2.40 Epsom Coronation Cup

The first of the two Group One races and the Coronation Cup renewal is a disappointment.  Only five runners, one of which looks to be a pace horse.

It is incredible to consider that Ballydoyle have such spoils that they can deploy listed winners to be a hare for their top animals to aim at.  That seems to be the lot of Chamonix.  It may also be the job of Chapter Seven who may be leading Dunaden.  This should make for an interesting early pace duel.

St Nicholas Abbey has won the last two runnings of this race and I have no clue how to oppose him.  Joshua Tree is a Grade One winner in Canada, winning their top race for the globe-trotting Ed Dunlop stable – This is tougher.  Dunlop knows Dunaden well as he was responsible for the defeat of Red Cadeaux by a shadow in the Melbourne Cup in 2011.

Since then, St Nicholas Abbey has given him a good hiding and as far as I can see another dose is due to be served up in the race that St Nick has made his own.  4/11 is not sexy I know.

The Dash

The dash is all about the draw.   It is also a punters graveyard.  In the last three years we have had winners at 33/1 and 50/1.  Kudos throughout the season of sprinting swings from one horse to another so I have less faith in the science of prediction than in other races.

Nothing I just told you is new.  The top four in the betting come from stalls 15 and upwards.   What glimpses may have the winner left though, what can we analyse that might allude to the true signal, the one horse that will cross the line mere fractions of seconds before the next?

Captain Dunne ticks a number of boxes, he is almost a stone lower than when running well in this last year  A reappearance run will have him spot on, he likes the ground and is well drawn.  A contender, no doubt and I expect the money to come flying.

It is merely in search of value that brings me to my more interesting selection.  Ballesteros is available at 22/1 and I think it dismisses his chances.  He was 4th in a Prix de l’Abbaye behind Wizz Kid but in front of Sole Power, that is well franked form, c’est vrai?  In the saddle is William Buick, a pilot who won this just five years ago.  Have a slice.

Derby Tip

I am surprised that this evening the books are out to get Dawn Approach.  At the start of this week, the colt was odds on but has drifted to 11/8 and Ladbrokes are going 7/4 in the morning for 15 minutes from 8.15… I kid you not!

Dawn Approach gave me and a few Business School pals a terrific thrill in the 2,000 Guineas.  Listening to the race on the radio and the commentators excitable description of him powering away at the bushes, well… it was better than watching it.

On what grounds do we see him beaten?  Trip is the one that is being trotted out. He has only raced over a mile and so will he get a distance 50% further.  When we don’t have the evidence to go on we look to the clues…. Breeding and Visual evidence from former races.  On breeding, the favourite is out of New Approach (who himself is a Galileo horse).  New Approach was a derby winner and sire of yesterdays Oaks winner.  The Dam, Hymn of the Dawn, gives us no clues.  She was a poor racer and kept to short distances in Ireland with Jim Bolger.

Visually, Dawn Approach hardly looks the sort to be inconvenienced by a well run mile and a half.  If anything, you could argue he will improve for the step up. His sire did.

Back for the verdict on Dawn Approach in a moment.  Ocavango was of serious interest to the Major but being drawn in stall 1 has a sobering effect as was highlighted in todays stats, it is definitely a penalty.

Battle of Marengo is unbeaten in five and out of the O’Brien camp so has to be taken seriously but it concerns me that the horse is yet to compete at the top-level.  Last years Ballydoyle derby winner Camelot had already taken in the Racing Post Trophy as a juvenile and the 1,000 guineas as a seasonal debut before the derby.  I question the strength of the O’Brien classic crop this year and will swerve this one.  If you wanted a Ballydoyle horse, I would prefer Mars who did compete in the 1,000 guineas and gets Hughsie who knows every roll of these Epsom Downs.

When the answer is right in front of you, do not be afraid.  Dawn Approach is the obvious selection and I find his case entirely compelling.  I would want 6/4 or bigger to account for the risk we are taking that he will handle the track but he is in good hands to do so (as his Sire did).  He delivered the goods in the Guineas and I am getting stuck into a follow up in the second classic he is eligible for.

4.50 Handicap

Moore riding Sirvino for David Barron catches the eye as it is a rare booking.  However, it has not been one that has reaped rewards either (no wins, three runners in last two years).  He did at least serve up a stronger performance last time out when winning at York, staying on well to score at last.

I am prepared to have a pop at another at bigger odds in 11/1 shot Scatter Dice.  My selection might be a typical Johnstone horse and if he gets in front two furlongs out may just prove hard to catch.

The other horse that caught my eye was Sheikhzayedroad who I think will enjoy this new trip.

5.25 Handicap

If you are not ahead by the time of the handicap, you need a bit of luck in this last race because it is a minefield.

I am going for Seeking Magic at 9/1 with the strong Adam Kirby in the saddle, I could tell you why but I won’t.

The each way Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Seeking Magic, Scatter Dice, King Muro, Riverboat Springs.

I hope your dinner is bought with the bountiful catch of the day and the company you keep is elegant and charismatic.

Courage, roll those dice.