Tag Archives: captain dunne

The Saturday Sermon, from foreign shores – Chester, Sandown and Newton Abbott

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.

Chester Tips

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.

Sandown Tips

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.

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.