Good morning from the Major who writes from a grey close Worcestershire where the suns filtered light gloops down, slowly pooling between the pale white walls, amongst the garages, over the fields and upon the cool dark water.
The Major is pleasantly tired after a busy week of exertions, the coffee has been bubbling up though and it fills the nostrils with the promise of alertness.
Amongst the heavy travails of the week, the Major has once again sought pleasure. A business trip to the capital bought me to Lords for the opening test game. Sat with full exposure to a forceful sun, the straw hat inconveniently still under my stairs, England wobbled, then steadied. Bell looked fluent but Root took the score away and looked so pleased with his hundred, as he should be with his position under threat from the upstart Buttler. Lunch had been an Italian, vittels so pleasant that we missed half of the afternoon session.
Late in the afternoon, the sun had barely cooled but I would find it hard pressed to name a better time and place than Lords for the first test. The classical sounds, the well attired, the surrounding splendid dusky red apartment blocks, should I ever ‘make it’, you will find me living in St Johns Wood with the good as did my hero, Sir Clement Freud.
Last night was pleasant but in a different manner. Bristol Zoo on a Friday night. I can feel that you pause as I type the words but I kid you not, it was the finest of evenings. A live jazz band on their splendid lawn, so picturesque as the sun sets, the Pimms bar in full flow. Of all animals, Gorillas have a unique ability to strike me dumb. The features are so human it leaves me a little stupefied. At dusk, lions prowled in their enclosure, their gaping jaws opening like hells awakening. Beautiful jewelled wasps, so pretty up close, flamingos, their plump little bodies held aloft on spindle legs.
This has been a pleasant week. Perhaps all preempted by the Sermon from last Saturday. We struck with three winners at 9/1, 11/1 and 3/1 of seven advised selections and so it must remain as a highly succesful week. We are in form.
This is the lull before Royal Ascot. I have not yet examined many of the cards and must confess I hold absolutely no antepost positions at all. Thinking of my build to Cheltenham, it settles the question of whether I prefer the flat or the NH. I know it is a crass pointless question and so I shall dwell little on the why, it is personal preference that is all, not a competition. We are not children here, we left childish things behind. Should you want a more partisan correspondence, row on to other shores my friend.
The only view I have is that the unfashionable Night of Thunder may represent value in the St James Palace. When a hot favourite is turned over by a horse that drifted so badly as did Kingman in the Guineas, people feel a bit aggrieved. Then seemingly redemption came in Ireland with a commanding performance on heavy ground and now they meet again, people feel that he is rightful one, ready for his ordination and then we may treat the Guineas as a simple aberration.
The Major is less convinced. The Irish Guineas was in tough ground and it must have taken something from the horse. Plus, Night of Thunder, drifting badly across the wide Newmarket expanse and this may have disguised a further bit of talent. Yes, Hughes takes over from Fallon but I see little reason that the less fashionable horse cannot put it up to his seemingly anointed superior.
We will get to that on Tuesday. For now, we have a mothership to search for. So my friends, clean those sheepskin saddle cloths and mount your heavy chargers, with lancepoints glinting blindingly, our enemy shall see us coming in tight formation across the plain, the bugles carrying over the air – Regular British and Indian lancers, the imposing Daffadars with bristling proud beards at the head of their men, crying Shabash! So few are our number that the enemy may at first mock from their well invested positions but those confident features begin to doubt, oh how they doubt, a furtive glance amongst them as they witness the good order with which we come on, relentlessly, at a pace that tells them what they need to know, we do not think we shall be victorious, we know it. For as long as we can remember, our military virtue has been the finest in the world. What was drilled into us at horseguards shall be played out now on some foreign dusty field. Run, you fools, run.
‘Act according to your conscience and defy the consequences’ Sir Hope Grant
To the sports.
Saturday Racing Tips
Of racecourses you could visit for a pleasant day, I find it hard to trump York, it is right up there. Vigorous Northern air, splendid scenes, a nice course and less riff raff than Doncaster. Yet I also find it more and more a bit of a specialist track. A galloping straight that oddly seems to take some getting,
The opening race might be an odd place to start as an amateur ladies race but I like these contests purely through the lens of investment. Jockey skill is a facet of a race calculation that I believe more important than most. Never more is this true than in the amateur events where the disparity of ability is at its greatest.
In this race, Brotherton and Walsh have the skill and experience (2 year stats):
Brotherton and Walsh combined: 314 runs, 13.1% wins, 32.5% placed
The Rest Combined: 273 runs, 7.7% wins, 30.4% placed.
Tiger Lily is unexposed and as the youngest in the field could be a fly in the ointment, especially as I think her jockey may prove to be quite decent. Warlu Way hit the bar in this race last year and has run terribly since but as a consequence goes off 2lbs lower today, interesting. Yet my chosen pilots are aboard Saptapadi and Pearl Castle. Of those Saptapadi has been winless for some time but was a bit unlucky at the Derby meeting under Silvestre de Sousa, it could be.
Yet, I am going to go with Pearl Castle who in Serena Brotherton has the most accomplished guide. This Montjeu gelding has been over the hurdles of late with no disgrace, finishing 10l down the field in a Grade 1 race in Ireland. That reads well for a mark of 86 and I suggest a bet with Tiger Lily being feared. Normally the Major prefers potential over experience but this is York and so 4/1 for my boy…. Have a slice.
I am going to take a bit of a chance that in Chester’s 3.40, Lexi’s Hero is back to full song and ready to go after a short break. There is no doubt that the horse has some ability, I like McDonald enough in the saddle and while I can see the attraction of Cruisetothelimit, stall 7 over 6f at Chester is tough enough for that one, my jockey can settle my selection from a plum stall 3 and we can steal it off the bend.
I am not usually a fan of sprints but I shall have a pop at the Sandown listed contest which will be attracting a lot of attention today. The draw is not as essential as Chester but still, it favours lower numbers again. Strategical is highly interesting having won three races here last year, the cause of the belated reappearance is not certain but Hughes is up for Godolphin and Appleby, seeking his first win for the yard after 2 places from 2 efforts to date.
In nine runnings of this sprint contest, we have only had one 10/1 winner, it is clearly a race that favours the favourites. Reroute would fit my profile but I have to confess that as much as I fancy her, Hayley has gone off the boil in my view and I couldn’t back her mounts… for now.
Picking the winner requires me to compromise on either draw or class. If it is the former, then I like the understated chances of One Chance out of stall 5 who was placed in a Queen Mary, though was a few lengths down. At 16/1, I shall have a saver to make sure I have this side of the track covered. Though, my main bet I am staying safe. I think again the favourites prices will be up on the winners board. G Force looked every inch the progressive muscular sprinter at York and if Daniel Tudhope can settle the animal from stall 11. His York win was not a bolt and blast win and so I am hopeful he can. Big bet as 5/2 prices in a poor draw but I am struggling to see the winner in 1-6 anyway.
Mussleburgh for @sar6ie
I am a sucker for a request and since Sar6ie is off to Mussleburgh, I thought we might take in a few races on this fine Scottish card. Firstly, I wish him all the best for the weather, the company, the debauchery, the investments and the vittels – Enjoy it all as we pass by the once and must latch onto to any flotsam we can… Greedily take at the honey my friends.
Firstly, you might want to stay at the bar on the picnic rug for the first race at 1pm, where a 1/2 juvenile heads the field. You are relying on collateral form to back that with confidence and it does not look that bulletproof to me. Some of these youngsters can find extra ways to lose you know. Personally, I would wager a Shekel on Just the Tip who at 10/1 (and a fellow Kodiac charge) seems value to me, Dagleish does well with his juveniles (15% in last two years).
In the 1.30pm, I quite like the chances of Kyllachy Star at 11/1 who has made the trip after a big dissapointment last time. It is easy to ignore that though when you consider the ground was against him. Paul Mulrennan can do the business from the saddle and while the strike rate of this horse is not to write home about, there is enough ability to cause this field problems.
You could set your watch by Lysino in the 2pm race so we shall move swiftly on.
I am going to jump to the key race of the day, the 3.35. The roof will go up if Borderlescott goes in, what a campaigner. However, the Major is attracted to one at a price. Racy gave no show whatsoever in the Epsom dash but plenty of horses do not like that camber and in this company, if running to previous, I think we have a live contender at 16/1. Megan Carberry has been riding well and did well after an horrendous fall earlier in the week to get back on a winner yesterday, that was for Ellison too and I would think this runner gives us a good longer priced chance.
Back at York…..
4/1 about Fencing who often runs to his level without being quite top draw is a decent price in the 3.15 listed contest. In the 3.50, I am willing to back one at a price… Kickboxer at 25s with Betvictor is all wrong. Drawn on the right side, Luke Morris can give us a power-packed thriller! I also do like Royal Meyzan in the same race who can be backed at 12s with the same firm.
In the football. The World Cup is underway and while the teams may be doing their best to bring the highest of quality to this festival, the referees are so far, a disgrace. The Brazilian game was marred by a referee that seemed to have a blueprint for how the game might map out and Mexico will feel highly aggrieved not to have had two legitimate goals and a stand out penalty taken from them. Even though they went on to win, in a small group, goal difference is essential.
A World Cup treble of glory for you: Columbia (10/11), Uruguay (4/9) and HT 0-0, England v Italy (5/4). That can pay for dinner.
The Martin Hill bet is a Pearl Castle, Lexi’s Hero and G Force trixie.
I trust that dinner is taken in good spirits. Maybe the rib digging wedge is tempered by the stakes you placed today, after all, Ascot is upon us and we do not want to go early. Yet, the company you are in is excellent, she the flaxen-haired easy-going sort, good with the bottle, good for a laugh, a curl of the lip and twinkle of the eye, a curve, a freckle; enough for your to drown in the glorious little detail.
Courage, roll the dice.