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The Saturday Sermon – Newbury and some other bits!

Good evening from the Major writing enveloped in the cool evening air of Worcestershire where high clouds pass over at speed and closer to the earth, the air scurries around, droplets of dirty water thrown in the gusts.

The Major writes from a peaceful home, the endeavours of Dundalk and Wolverhampton playing out jovially in the background, a cool beer is at my side, it is good to be alive.

The week was another in which the Major slept in snatches, stop-start nights, with consciousness existing in short fraudulent periods.  When drifting from the real, into the darkness, there comes sharply focussed dreams, involving vast cavernous places, dimly lit and full of danger.  I have no idea what these portend, in many of them I am climbing, sometimes with other people, often in silence.  The vividness fools me into thinking it is authentic life, as Zhuangzi, I dreamed I was a butterfly and now I am uncertain whether I have awoken or am a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

I know of folk who seem entirely normal, thoroughly so, every move precise, each action measured.  You know the sort, living lives that exist in childs books, Ikea or Channel 4 property documentaries.  I am never sure whether it is a veneer covering a seething ocean underneath, or indeed whether such a state of utter normality is abnormal in itself, it is hard to tell.

I prefer the former thought, I think such folk are terrified of letting it slip and slide, lest the mask fall further.  Yet I would say this, as Freud pointed out, the ego, our survival tool fashions what we see, it fashions it in our own image – We perceive everything as we wish and what terrifies me is that an uneven keel might be so unusual.  We are not masters in our own house, please let it be so.

Oscar Wilde described the condition well during his time spent in Reading Jail.  He was serving time for indecency, unkind and unfair times you would agree.  While a resident, Wilde penned some of his darkest works and they are well worth your time.  In describing the abuses he caused to himself which ended with his spell incarcerated, he used the line, I ceased to be lord over myself,  I was no longer the captain of my soul.

This was a line he borrowed and inverted from the oft quoted poem Invictus by Henley, of which the final stanza…

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

To be in charge of our future or to be washed about on the tide.  I might want us all to be touched by madness but in the case of ascertaining destiny?  Well, I am for the former, read Frankl Mans Search for Meaning – He more than most men knows how to find purpose in the deepest recesses of existence.

I embrace my beating heart when I awake from my active sleep, I can’t describe the dreams themselves as pleasurable, they do serve to remind me though that I am alive.  In the night, I may not be master of the house, come the day, I retain captaincy of my soul, for now.  The night world and the day world remain separate.

To the sports.

Newbury

It is not the best day of racing we are going to witness.  While I might throw a few thoughts in regarding the Lingfield listed races, I am going to have a closer examination of affairs at Newbury.

The card is to be run on good ground and we must seek out the fair spring horses that prance across the surface!

In the opener, it looks a penalty kick for Signs of a Victory who think will go off at 8/13.  I quite liked the chance of Shes Late who will go well on the ground but oddly, jockey booking (McCoy on Matripajo) suggests the other Jonjo horse .  All this is irrelevant – Henderson had three bullets at Newbury on Friday and hit the bullseye each time.

I like two at bigger prices in the 2.20.  Grandads Horse ran respectably at Cheltenham until belting a fence and letting his chances slip.  He has a good strike rate on the ground and in general – 11/1 is OK.  The other I like is Pepite Rose – She is unusual in the Venetia yard, being a horse that favours decent surfaces.  Her last two runs may not be sparkling but she gets her surface here and with plenty of others not guaranteed to act, she is worth a squeak at 12s.

The third race is a wide open listed mares limited hurdle.  As such, we have some decent sorts turning up.  There are a lot of progressive sorts in the field – Fairytale Theatre looks one that will come in for support, being a Nicholls horse and showing great improvement – Her last two wins coming on heavy temper my enthusiasm.  Down Ace will like the ground and a line through her effort in the Mares hurdle at Cheltenham which was a huge step up in class and you can see her chances.

Free Thinking goes in the Long Run colours and given my advertisement for Hendersons form, she has to be considered.  To amplify that, his record in this specific race is impressive too having won it with Polly Peachum, Line Freedom, Ryde Back and Karello Bay in the last ten years.  Considered.

Yet the Major settles on an unfashionable runner up in Joanne One who is going to love the ground and since I don’t trust the form of jumpers bumpers in relation to proper hurdling, I see her as a danger.  Yet, I cannot help but be taken by Massannie at 16/1 (14s generally) for the Pipe team.  She has not been the same since a heavy fall but Pipe persists and a return to form puts her right back in this.  She won thrice from three on good to firm, so let the sun shine.

Having had entries for the race in the name of his stable, Alan King has withdrawn them all… odd.  It is darn hard to find a winner in this, Bucks Bond makes up his own mind but is a threat if going for it.  It is dangerous opting for a front runner in such a big field but despite having an instinct that he might set the race up, I am going to back Highland Retreat with a small fun stake as I have always admired him and on a going galloping day, he is good.  Newbury from the front just might suit him and he may have a number of these at it turning to home.

I love Newbury.. Its straight is as fair as they come, long, flat, tough jumps – The best horse wins.

Aldopicgros looks the best choice in the 4.05 – He won’t mind the ground and up half a stone for the defeat of a very progressive rival should be fine.

That is it for Newbury.

The Lingfield races are not my area of specialism – In the big one, the Winter Derby, Vodkata looks interesting making the trip from France.  Rebellious Guest loves the all weather, Grandeur boasts solid claims but has a hell of a draw – I am going to throw a dart at the popular former Johnstone horse Windhoek (13/2) – He has some tapeta form and there is no reason to think the surface will be an inconvenience.  De Sousa is a jockey I like and 13/2 is available with Hills – Have a slice.

Vicky De L’Oasis is a penalty kick 4/5 shot at Gowran.  Her form is easily the best and I see no obvious reason to oppose.

In the football Newcastle are 17/20 to beat Crystal Palace and that should go in.  Man City -2 at evens is in too – I think they are coming back to the boil.  I’d have Derby to beat Forest at 23/20.  The add a dash of Wigan at just the right side of evens…

The Martin Hill bet is Windhoek, Aldopicgros, Vicky De L’Oasis and Wigan in a Yankee, straight.

May your dinner be excellent, with a fine accomplice, her raven hair flowing down onto bare shoulder – Tip well, it is good to be alive.

Courage, roll the dice.

Racing Tips from Warwick, Punchestown and Kempton… Shoreditch and ageing… It is the Saturday Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a rural Worcestershire scene where the rain comes in waves, relentlessly driving against my windows.  The sense of things coming to a close is palpable.

Before we get started, a new year deserves a new banner.  I would like your ideas please – Leave a comment, greatly appreciated.

I have been in London these last two days, spending a night in a Limehouse apartment that only the Major could have found. I have a talent for unearthing unusual digs, mostly it happens by accident but I never complain.  These were particularly spacious, in fact cavernous, clean and cheap as chips.  When I say cheap, I infer both the frugal nature of the furnishings as well as the bill. All in all, different.

This morning as I walked down Commercial Road to the DLR heading to Bank to start the business of the day, Canary Wharf was draped in cloud.  St Paul’s Cathedral by contrast was brilliant, a true architectural brute, clean white walls, dominant imposition.

On Thursday night, myself and a colleague entertained at dinner in Shoreditch. Decent restaurant, very nice lamb.  Shoreditch carries that reputation of being ‘trendy’ and ‘edgy’. It is successful too if you take the eye watering property prices as a guide.  The area made the Major feel old.

I shall try to explain.  There is more than a dash of excitement immersing yourself in an area with such energy…. Open doors on ambiguous frontages with bouncers are they clubs, art installations or brothels. Who knows, dare try it? The people walking alongside you lack convention in their clothes, hair, tattoos, limps, accessories – each striving to impose their stamp of individuality.

It draws mixed emotions from the Major.  I must be getting old because historically I only have a love for such environs but now I feel a creeping sense of unease.  It is for younger men to tread these streets warily, searching for adventure. I wish to plough for my enjoyment in more serene and stable settings.

There you have it, the words of someone recognising their formerly voracious appetites are in part receding like their hairline.  Each man becomes his father in time but none like to acknowledge it. Well I recognise and embrace ageing, I welcome it as a friend, wondering what gifts it might bestow – As long as it allows me to retain an eye for mischief, then I do not mind.

So what has changed?  Why feel a difference?

Shoreditch, in fact trendiness, tries too hard for its own good.  Everything has to be quirky, laid back, informal, unorthodox…. Every business has to have an angle, everyone and everything desperately trying to distinguish themselves as out of the main stream… It’s tiring.  ‘I don’t care it’s different’ loses appeal when the irony motivation is omnipresent, the new abnormal here is normal.  Gimmicks.

Live Music is compulsory for any establishment in Shoreditch that could conceivably be a venue.  I knew none of the bands advertised and think they were only of local acclaim.   If you feel the urge to set up a four piece bassoon ensemble in the neighbourhood, then allow me to furnish you with a few suggestions of my own…. Slippery Monkfish, Smells from the Cheeseboard, Underworld Botanicals, Mongrel Palace III, Swans of Justice or Prisoner of Slippers. You can have those for free, let me know how you get on.

I must offer a nod to the writer of this article about Dorothy Paget.  A ferocious woman whose appetites for life ran to extremes that we can only admire.  She bet in eye watering sums and took no fools.  Have a little read and if you like, follow the author on twitter @srumblings.

Saturdays sporting delights are laid before us and before we dine, we must acknowledge our gratitude. Fine football, delightful racing….. Let us go into battle with a clear mind and meet the enemy with 5 rounds a man…. Charge thy musket, sharpen thy sword. Fill your heart with vigour, tonight we shall be thankful for the clarity of thought that helped us land the mothership.

We are here, at the cusp.  All of our dreams are intact, no thought unproven… It is a beautiful moment, feel that tension.

To the sports….

 Racing Tips from Warwick

Warwick have a terrific day of racing.  It is a tight little course and experience of something similar can be valuable.  As well as chase fences, these novices have to handle the tight turns, lot’s of momentum can be lost so an easy-going sort is useful.  Let us see if we can find some winners.

The opening race is not a place to look, I like novice races but this handicap hurdle looks a very open contest.  Keep your powder dry.

The second is the Edward Courage cup and is a decent affair.  George Nympton is interesting having won over course and distance last time.  Maybe the shorter distance helped, maybe the assistance of Noel Fehily (the Majors favourite), of interest kept to the minimum trip.  Nick Williams does not send many to Warwick and it has a likely chance.

Eastlake has also been prolific over the minimum distance having won 3 of 4 starts over two miles.  I don’t quite trust the animal but clearly there is some ability.

The Majors tip though is the highly progressive Rody at 9/2, Bet365.  The Tome George yard are in fine nick and my selection won over Christmas with plenty in hand.

The 1.50 is a staying event.  The field is small but select.

Two outstanding bits of form stand out.  The Major and my betting slip on Our Father were slammed by Highland Lodge who provided a turn up at Cheltenham.  Rocky Creek overcame a decent Henderson yardstick in Molotof last time out.  Those lines are good and I look forward to the two clashing tomorrow.

Tour Des Champs appeals most of the others although it is hard to know what to make of his Ludlow form.

Of the principles, while it is a tough call, I am siding with the Cheltenham form of Highland Lodge and suggest a slice at 6/4.

The Pertemps qualifier is full of chasing big guns reverting to light hurdle marks.  You can make cases for too many for me to have a strong bet.  I will take a small slab of Sunnyhillboy at 25/1 (Bet365) to have an interest – The national runner up gets in off 140 only.

I am eagerly awaiting the 3pm race in which exciting hurdler The New One finally gets on track.  If he is to take a leading role in one of the championship novice affairs then he needs to take this.  Evens is a kind price.

The 3.35 sees another cracker because Pete The Feat, seemingly the Hunt Ball of the season gets to try out his new mark.  He has gone up three stone since his first run but deservedly so and the way in which he pulled clear at Newbury last time suggests more is coming.  On soft ground trying to lead around this tight track could be tough.

Restless Harry is another that likes to race prominently and if the two are taking each other on, it might fall into the hands of Rigadin de Beachene.  The tip gets a very handy pull in the weights and I think 6/1 is fair enough.  I will be having an each way saver on 11/1 shot Quentin Collonges too who looks unexposed.

Punchestown Tip – 2.10 Juvenile Hurdle

The two Mullins horses seem to be good starting points.  The yard took this race last year with 1/4 shot Ut de Sivola and field two French imports in the shape of Diakala and Dogora.

The former in the market and in the betting looks the yards idea of the winner and also carries a Triumph entry.

While I might kick myself later, I am going to back the grey Diakala as a result of that, overriding the fact that I was slightly more taken with Dogoras appearance.  Evens is a decent price for my Punchestown tip and it shall be in my multiples.

Kempton – The Lanzarote.

Before we tackle the Lanzarote, consider following Lunique in the opener (likely evens) – With Hendersons French import a non runner I take my tip to smash them up!

In the 1.30 novice affair, I am a supporter of Bucks Bond at 9/2.  The market vibes were all wrong at Taunton but he won anyway.  This is a strapping chaser of the future but is a decent price to get his was again here.

In the Lanzarote, the two Henderson horses top the market.  Clearly Bears Affair has some obvious credentials but I am not sure of why Geraghty would be on Oscara Dara.

Charlie Longsden runs Loose Chips who looks progressive but Noel Fehily went to Warwick which might suggest something.

I am going with Henderson and Geraghty is the persuader – Have a slice of 5/1 Oscara Dara, the Lanzarote is often won by a horse near the head of affairs…

To the football…

All aboard the football money train stopping at Hull (4/6), Charlton (19/10), Cardiff (7/10), Leicester (3/4) and Tranmere (11/8) – Trebles on this lot please.

The Martin Hill Yankee is The New One, Highland Lodge, Rody and Charlton

May your dinner be wholesome and in good spirit.  Allow yourself to imbibe a little too much, we float by the once.

Courage and roll those dice.