Good evening from the Major who writes from Northern France where a deeply comforting set of tones to the dying night sky draw my foreign trip to a fine conclusion.
It has been a fine foray into Europes good weather, fine cuisine and pleasing inhabitants and I shall not linger on the detail for which you have little interest. Of Switzerland I wrote last week, this week I visited Paris for the second time this year. On my last visit I was running a marathon, this time, with family, we saw the more traditional tourist spots.
After the clean well-disciplined Swiss towns, each set against their thunderous mountain ranges, France has struggled to reassert to it’s former pinnacle in the list of places I enjoy passing time. Paris is a town full of mischief, rats, smoke, rogues, history and glorious French women, who I regard with the greatest respect. Cities like this seem to take on a persona all of their own. Paris is sulky but talented and damned dangerous too.
This Parisian visit may well have been on the well trodden visitors paths but still some moments of clarity were evident. None more so than being stood with my back to a red and pink stained sky, marvelling at Notre Dame and wondering if, 850 years ago, they calculated the beautiful tone of pink elicited in such conditions on that façade. For it seems calculated.
Overall I prefer the cleanliness of Switzerland but Paris still has it, particularly if you have mischief in mind.
My travelling adventures meant less interest in UK racing and threatened the annual rhythm of the racing schedule that comforts me in the same way others look to the signs of the seasons changing. My downtime spanned across the York festival, of which, I caught snatches of information, dripped to me where the occasional ‘wi-fi’ signs permitted a quick drawing back of the curtain.
All other day to day racing, I have been entirely absent from and my hunger has grown. There have been other things that have remained unchecked too, news sources I frequent, small but seemingly important daily rituals that have been challenged as their absence has determined no noticeable difference to me. Being out of context, it does make you question how you fill your time.
No greater example can I give of this that in watching my two sons at play. They have had occasion while away to enjoy a series of standard holiday fare, visiting famous attractions, climbing mountains, much fun has been had. Yet, the true gleam of excitement in their eye came when set free on bikes. At age 5 and 6, freedom is a rare commodity, each action you take is observed and calculations and adjustments made on your behalf. Ah, to be free of that, to ride and make choices over where you go… well. Freedom has an incalculable value, it is what drives our desires for wealth as it is so often the key to choice. Savour your own freedoms my friends and exploit them by making the wisest of choices. Most of all, keep rolling those dice.
Yes, this down time has been refreshing and last weeks blog benefited from such renewed spirits. We scored many winners amongst the racing tips, that sweet taste of success on our lips carries us into this weeks action.
Once again, charge that lance and prepare for action at close quarters, we shall meet the enemy one to one with 10 rounds per man and bayonets fixed if necessary.
To the sports.
I am interested in a couple of horses at Chester, starting with one in the opener.
Free Zone would have been my selection but his wide draw has done the fella no help. Some might cry that this race was won last year from a wide draw but it is far more likely to see a low drawn horse win.
For those unfamiliar with Chester and the significance of draw, it is a tight left handed track with a short run in. This means that getting to the front early is essential and the low draws are against the rail.
Now some would argue that draw is of secondary importance to early speed and I have some sympathy with this argument. Essentially as long as you are fast from the stalls you can achieve good position without being drawn there. This is true but patently you burn more energy doing so than a horse who breaks adequately from a low draw. That said, it is a good reason to not back a slow starter drawn well.
Regardless of all of this, I fancy Captain Dunne at 16/2 to provide an upset. If you look at the form, you might struggle to find good reason but the old warrior is still there at 8 and I believe there to be some talent still. It has been three years since he was in the winners enclosure but this is not that strong a race and there have been runs from this campaigner of credit this year. Plus, Graham Gibbons is pretty much the best jockey in the race and since Captain Dunne has shown he handles a tight track and accompanied by a capable pilot, let us hope he has a sudden recollection of his former self.
I am also going to back Es Que Love in the second at Chester. There are few horses I bet that have run as many times as the Mark Johnstone inmate this year and at age 3, it is testament to the horses sturdiness that he is bearing that racing well. You cannot make a strong argument for him being particularly well handicapped as we have surely by now seen what there is to be seen, yet I do feel that Chester is a track that will suit. Plus, what other trainer on the planet is as good as coaxing a bit more out of a horse than Johnstone? I have always felt that they think Es Que Love is an under achiever and let us hope that at 7/1, today is the day.
Newton Abbott Tip
There is a good listed chase at Newton Abbott and many will be on Shoegazer who is bidding to follow up a win last year. I am less concerned by the going (was soft last year after some terrible summer weather) as he has won on good to firm but the near stone increase he shoulders may stop him.
There are plenty of front runners on show so a hold up sort might prevail if they try and cut each others necks at the front. Regardless of tactics, I am opting for Kians Delight at 5/1 who is showing greater form as a novice chaser than a hurdler. Backing such youngsters (5) at such odds requires what the purist gamblers refer to as balls of steel.
The Group action of the day is from Sandown and the Major is going to be brief.
Firstly, all the talk of the racing world is whether Kingman deserves his 5/1 quotes for next years Guineas. I would balance the two sides of the debate and conclude that he does not warrant it, quite yet. He has been, arguably, the most impressive juvenile we have seen with a blistering display at Newmarket, yet a nagging doubt. Firstly, the obvious, we are judging him on a single run, this is wrong. His hype is big too, I have my doubt on that foundation too as I fear that folk are reading Kingman on the card and thinking Frankel in the colours.
To cut to the chase, I see enough talent in Music Theory to have faith in case the banker fails. This Acclamation colt is happy to make it, has more experience and was not extended to put away lesser rivals with consummate ease last time out. He would have a perfect three from three record if not breaking severely left when green on debut. His RPR is as good as Kingmans and 5/1 versus 2/5 makes my selection easier.
In the fillies Group race at 3.15, I am siding with Sir Michael Stoutes, Integral at 6/4. This is exactly the sort of horse that Stoute excels with and she looked like she was going to be involved in the Nassau at Goodwood but found a wall of equine flesh stopping her momentum at the crucial stage. She was not knocked about and I would have a large bet here. I am always a bit wary of ‘unlucky’ sorts, Mars springs to mind but feel she will shed that tag in this contest.
In the football….
I fancy three teams. Firstly, Sunderland have played adequately well and that might be all they need to get a win at Palace so 2/1 is good enough. Wigan and Sheffield United I had selected as unfashionable teams to outperform expectation this year… both have started badly but I am staying with them for now. The former have Forest and the latter the MK Dons, both Wigan and United are 13/10.
May your dinner be excellent and in fine company. Courage and roll those dice.