Tag Archives: declaration of war

The Saturday Sermon – Irish Champion Stakes Tip – A dash of serendipity… Leopardstown and Haydock etc

Good morning from the Major who writes from a glorious Worcestershire scene with stunning early morning light splashed across the deep green lawns.  A faint sharpness to the temperature betrays that we are at the edge of the seasons.  The jumps are coming my friends.

A few nights back, I was driving late at night across the Warwickshire countryside, the last flickering of a blood red sunset was extinguished and the peaceful nature of the empty road was in harmony with the dark sky, peace.  It was still warm enough to travel with the window open which is a ready preference to air conditioning to me.  If not for the freshness of the air then for, the rush of it over skin at high speeds, testing the resistance, very pleasant, very childlike.

While the road was fast, my mind wandered, as it will, I was able to tune into the radio in the background from time to time and what I heard, I found interesting.  The programme was concerned with Serendipity and the presenter seemed to be examining how it is created, it struck a chord.

For what it is worth, I consider your chances of enjoying your life almost entirely dependent on you and bearing no correlation to the random nature of your environment.  There are those that believe themselves governed by luck, dark forces or benevolent powerful religious deities.  Crackpots aside, I would accept that to a point, fortune is an influential factor in your happiness but not necessarily in the way you might expect.

I believe you create your own luck in one crucial aspect, by seeking it with a healthy outgoing attitude.  Finding luck in my view is one part state of mind and one part fortune.

Consider coincidence for one moment.  When something seemingly, incredibly unlikely occurs, we could consider this to be an act of a hidden hand.  Yet, I would say that it is massively unusual that incredibly unlikely things do not happen all of the time.  This is just a statistical view, after all we are involved in hundreds of thousands of interactions each day.  Some are personal, others with objects, others with technology.  Is it not reasonable that if we are engaged in a thousand activities a day, then once in every three years, a one in a million event will occur?  Since you know 500 people, it is likely that you here of a one in a billion occurrence, twice in a decade.  In other words, incredibly strange things are surprisingly common.

We don’t believe this to be the case when a coincidence occurs because we only consider the coincidence in the context of that event.  If for example, you bought a second hand car and in the boot found an old possession of yours that you had left on a train some years ago, you would consider it a fateful act.  Considering the odds of an occurence such as this in isolation it is understandable that you might seek a solution that involves some hidden hand of fate.  Yet the solution is more boring in one sense.  While you found a possession in the boot, you did not perhaps crash into an old school friend on the way home, or find that the car dealer shared the same name and date of birth with you.  In other words, coincidence happens because of the massive number of opportunities it has to occur.

More vital as to whether coincidences will occur in your life is not whether it will happen but your ability to spot them.  Your ability to live a life enabling happiness to occur in the twists and turns of lifes path.

I think there are two facets to your ability to spot the swing of fate and fortune around you.  Firstly, it is about routine, if you live a clockwork existence, you will not be exposed to as many new experiences and will not have the framework for the serendipitous events that may occur.  Secondly, I believe attitude has a role to play.  My opinion is that you need to give good fortune your permission.

Last night, returning from a long week of study, I visited my local bookmaker and found him surprisingly busy for a Friday.  Not busy enough that he would not offer me a coffee, good man.  I got chatting to a very knowledgeable chap next to me about the chances of the Godolphin good thing in the 8.20 at Kempton.  The conversation was good and as it went on, I was taken by the good mans deep knowledge and strong views.  Turns out he has a string of horses across major trainers both sides of the Irish Sea.  He gave me one to follow.  Luck finds you my friends it is intrinsic in the materials and events around us.  It is happening now, relax and turn yourself in to that beautiful music.  I do not know where it might take you as there are billions of outcomes but I urge you to dismiss bad feelings as good events are upon you, if you let them be.

It might not be the best example I can give you but if you live your life in a generous and sharing manner and are open to the possibilities that may present themselves, such things will happen.  In each generation of human existence, our lives improve.

Irish Champion Stakes Tip

Without doubt, the sporting highlight of the weekend for me is the Irish Champion Stakes.  Being run as a twilight card, it is not until ten to seven this evening but I quite like that format.  It has the look of a cracking race.  I really hope that the rain has not been too heavy to persuade John Gosden to remove The Fugue who is a key actress on the stage.

Current Irish rain radar

Current Irish rain radar

That weather looks key to picking a camp to be in.  As you can see from the radar, there are some violently bright colours which look to me to be just to the north of Leopardstown.

If the track goes good to soft or worse is the key question .  So the Irish Champion tip is based firstly on how much water they are going to get and then on which horse will cope best with a downpour or the good to firm they advertised overnight.

I am gambling on a good dousing of rain.  I think the horse most unlikely to be involved if the ground goes soft is The Fugue.  She has only placed once on anything with soft in it and has more often than not, been withdrawn in such conditions.

O’Brien is claiming that Declaration of War is a better horse on good going but the stats seem to suggest he is less bothered by soft than his trainer thinks.  He has won in heavy and soft and in fact has never put a bad run in under those conditions.  There are times where I wonder if such statements are based on the trainers preference than the horses.  If you have a top horse, you might be reluctant to want to consider it versatile.  Like a utility footballer, the suggestion is jack of all trades, master of none.  For one, I am convinced that Declaration of War will love the conditions.

Kingsbarns did his winning in the slop too and while O’Brien has stuck with Declaration of War, the belated return of Kingsbarns could be quite a story.  Off the track for so long, it is hard to interpret the signal of him being bought back in at this level.  I do have a view though.

Coolmore may have an embarrassment of riches but they like to tell good stories with their top horses.  If they felt that Kingsbarns was not ready, I am sure they would have found him an easier entry point.  As such, that does not concern me.  His inexperience does, he has only raced twice, even if one of those victories was a very good Racing Post Trophy in which Trading Leather could not lay a glove on him.

Joseph O’Brien has voted for Declaration of War.  What does he know.

Then we have Al Kazeem, one of the heroes of the flat season.  When this horse retires, I am sure my enduring memory will be of the day he truly popped Camelots bubble.  He has been brilliant this season.  I do not think that it was the ground that got the better of him at York (when defeated by Declaration of War and Trading Leather), I think it was York itself.  York is definitely a specialist track.

I could dance and dance in this race but this is my confirmed position.  Forget reason.  I want the excitement of a Kingsbarns bet in my life.  I really like Seamie Heffernan and this horse was favourite for classics before his setbacks.  He will love the ground.  My view is cemented by the opinion that both the main protagonists to my tip, Al Kazeem and Declaration of War are highly tried this season (13 runs between them).  My boy might well lack experience but he gets a generous weight allowance and is fresh.  At this stage of the season, that might be the key factor.

Lots of horses get turned over at this end of the year and post race, the trainer will be telling us that they are to be put away.  I can imagine that being the case with at least one from Al Kazeem and Declaration of War.  The Fugue, if she runs, will hate conditions and Trading Leather, needs further.  Kingsbarns may well lack experience but I want that edge in my life and at 7/1 with Stan James makes a great bet.  Watch your each way selections because without the Fugue we are reduced to 7 runners.  Pray for rain.

The rest of Leopardstown…

Free Eagle may be 1/2 but is a reliable bet for multiples in the juvenile race.  Already favourite for the Derby, this looks an exciting sort.

The Matron Stakes is the poorest Group 1 race I have seen in some time and this is underlined by the market who go 4/1 the field.  Kenhope probably has the best form in the book but I am never a fan of horses with good placings hoping to translate that well to a win at the top-level.  This race might not take much winning at all and I am interested in three.  Caponata, will not mind forecast softer conditions, while not electric, she has ability.  Lily’s Angel could easily run into a place although even I am wary of advertising her win potential, it just strikes me that 20/1 is wrong.

However, my tip for the Matron is the only truly progressive horse in the line up, Fiesolana.  She has improved massively on some OK French form and is being aimed at a race on Arc weekend.  She has placed on heavy in the past so bad weather might be OK and at 8/1 with Ladbrokes, I am a buyer.

Haydock Saturday Tips

Haydock boasts an excellent card starring the Sprint Cup.  There has been a fair amount of weather related change here too.

The favourite has been a star of the season, Lethal Force surprised a fair few at Ascot but upheld that form well and looks the real deal.  However, clearly the trainer feels he likes better ground and the slight toe in conditions surely give others a squeak here.  I am slightly cautious of this view as like Declaration of War, Lethal Force has a good record on good to soft and I have seen nothing to suggest he might suffer if it is truly deep.

More than most race types, sprints I find rotate form more frequently.  These highly strung racehorses can have off days more easily than their relaxed middle distance counterparts and I am always reluctant to be on at a short price.

I am less keen on Gordon Lord Byron but you cannot rule out any sprint horse with Johnny Murtagh up.

You know what, I am sticking with Lethal Force.… That drift might be the making of us.

It seems the Haydock card has me backing favourites…. In the 2.40, Monitridge at evens looks a fine bet as Tawhid needs more than a 4lb swing to get back at him and these conditions will suit my tip.  Sir Mark Prescott delayed the start to his season but has been sensational and Pallastor at 10/3 is all the rage in the Old Borough Cup, I am in.  I also find it hard to doubt that Musical Talent 5/4 is a bad bet on handicap debut for the Queen and Hannon.

My only football tip is to give Sheffield United their opportunity in the last chance saloon.  2/1 away to Rotherham.  They might have recorded some poor results but I remain convinced there is a good team there who play nicely and will come good.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Montiridge, Lethal Force, Fiesolona, Kingsbarns

I trust your dinner to be taken in the finest company.  Eat heartily, drink well and remember… Courage, roll those dice.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips…. the madness begins, what to trust? which stories to unfold?

Good evening from the Major who writes to you on Royal Ascot eve from a dusky Worcestershire whose cool air belies the season.

The Major must confess to not mustering quite the Cheltenham heights of fervour on Ascot eve.  Yet, we gaze down as Generals on the scene below with the battle about to be joined.  Our artillery are firing Armstrong shells which are bursting brightly above the enemies damn business like looking lines.  Our forward infantry is skirmishing in open formation and the heavy cavalry with lance drawn are bristling to get involved.

What orders shall we send?  What combination of factors does our reason, experience and instinct favour?  Are they right?

Shall we dig in grimly like the Warwickshire’s at Rorke’s Drift, firing our Martini Henry rounds until the enemy is upon us and we entertain them with bayonets drawn and twenty rounds per man?

Shall calamity strike us, like Lord Cardigan, with Raglans orders, charging his Lancers, Dragoons and Hussars into, to quote Tennyson, into that valley of death, sluicing through Russian positions at awful cost; shall we be done the same way? Discharging our bets, each greater than the last seeking glory to shadow past loss but finding none.  Shall our utter defeat be glorious and draw awe from our friends.  As the French General Bosquet famously said; c’est magnifique mais c’est ne pas guerre.

or.. dare we dream, shall our Ascot be akin to Sir James Hope gloriously marching to Beijing, sweeping far numerically superior foe before him, punching his great fist of heavy horse through those ranks of elite Mongol warriors and bringing the Qing forces to heel in glorious style.

At this moment, we can savour the uncertainty, our preparations are made, our strategy of bets laid out.  I wish you luck in the field, my friends.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips

The opening day of Royal Ascot is my favourite.  The St James Palace, The Kings Stand and the Queen Anne; not to mention the Coventry, the delights are laid before us, we must eat slowly as not to gorge.

The Queen Anne

The Queen Anne gets us off to an absolute flyer with a single question race… Will Animal Kingdom run to form on his first British start.  If you could answer that with a solid yes then you surely have the winner of the race.  After a number of high-profile defections, the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup winner is the star of the show.

He has not raced in Britain, he has not raced over a straight mile.  He has not encountered an uphill finish… cause for concern?

None of these factors seem to bother Graham Motion, UK born trainer of Animal Kingdom.  He has been housing the horse in Lambourn since his travel from Dubai.  Animal Kingdom has had plenty of time to acclimatise and has spent some time at Ascot too as part of his induction.  Having handled the heat and pressure of his former exploits, surely the opening crowd of Ascot won’t effect him…

Motion states his main fear is the ground.  Currently good but with rain forecast, the horse does not want it too soft.

On balance, the other factors bother me less too.  Animal Kingdom is an impressive looking specimen and has a world-class jockey on board.  I would expect those facets to more than cover the unusual course and finish.  The ground is a concern… maybe worth waiting for…

The contenders include Sovereign Debt who was runner-up at a massive price to Farrh in the Lockinge.  That form holds up and he loves Ascot, Sovereign Debt won’t mind the rain either, in fact I dare say that Michael Bell is currently praying for the heavens to open.

Of the John Gosden pair, clearly Elusive Kate is the favoured sort.  I think this is a big ask against the big boys on seasonal debut and I would be more interested in Gregorian who look very pleasing when hitting the front last time out at Epsom on Oaks day.

O’Brien saddles Declaration of War who has something to prove but is in the finest of hands to do it.

On balance, the balance of this race is going to come down to the ground.  I am hoping it stays fairly sound and plan on taking every available bookie offer to supplement the current evens price of Animal Kingdom in the morning.  Coral are going 2/1 for £25 and I am sure there will be more.  The thing that convinces me most is class….. the recent history of the Queen Anne reads like a who’s who of Group 1 racing… Goldikova, Frankel, Canford Cliffs….. Animal Kingdom, feels right n’est pas?

Kings Stand Stakes

Another Group 1, another international star, this time it is South Africa and Shea Shea, as well as Aussie representative Shamexpress.  Prohibit, Sole Power, Kinsgate Native, Swiss Spirit and Reckless Abandon make this an absolute mouth-watering renewal.

Prohibit won the Kings Stand two years ago and can be backed at 40/1, I seriously would not put you off, even if it does not appear, at first glance, to be best in his yard yet alone best in the race.  His stablemate Kingsgate Native, a sterling warrior, back to form last time out is from the same yard and while he will have his fans, if he ever wins again, he won’t be carrying my money.  Kingsgate Native has misbehaved at Ascot before so caveat emptor.

Shea Shea is clearly a leading talent and had Sole Power well beaten twice so must be the form pick  Again we are dealing with an international star traveller who we must take on trust has settled into British life.  Given his globe trotting success, it makes sense to assume he is OK with it.  He is sometimes a bit lit up though and will be ponied to the start.

The other raider, Shamexpress, troubles me as connections have clearly stated that firm going is preferable.

I like Reckless Abandon and three years olds have a great record in this sprint.  He has every chance of reversing form with Swiss Spirit and winner Kingsgate Native as he raced on the wrong side and did not have a lot go his way.  He also gets a shift in the weights to his advantage.

Something tells me to get after Shea Shea.  With the top sprint horses often getting turned over as the season develops, I would never want to be on something that short in the Kings Stand.  That is my strategy.

On balance, I think Reckless Abandon is the most solid option.

The St James Palace

What a beautiful renewal of the St James Palace – For me, this is worth the entrance fee alone, if only I were lucky enough to be present.

First of all, you have to assess Dawn Approach.  When winning the 2,000 guineas, he looked like Pegasus, powering away from the bushes.  His derby run is best described as unexplained.  He broke fine but after half a furlong, something went click and he lit up like a wild bear.  Kevin Manning fought for control, no doubt with his shoulder sockets burning but half way down the hill, no matter who was to win the Herculean struggle for supremacy between man and horse, the race was gone.

Much was made of whether Ballydoyle got the horse beaten with a muddling pace while Bolger had no pacemaker… That is remedied tomorrow with Lettir Mor surely in there to ensure his stablemate has a hare to aim at.

My concern is the mental effect of the Derby on the horse, the whole affair must have at least confused the horse and for me, he is a watch animal for now.  I am a bit surprised they have not sought distance with Dawn Approach to recuperate.  I cannot have been the only punter watching the whole affair unfold to consider the wonder and fortune with which the late Sir Henry Cecil drew the best from Frankel.  Such a comparison is unfair, I draw it not to criticise Bolger – After all Sir Henry will have made his own mistakes at times… Rather it highlights the fine judgements and simple luck needed in managing this top quality precocious youngsters.

Clearly leaving Dawn Approach out of calculations is a big call because his previous form as an unbeaten star is impeccable….. yet it is decided.

I am not keen on horses sub 5/1 with excuses last time.  Toranado may well have had good reason but solving it does not make him value.  What I specifically mean is that to think that it represents value, you have to think Toranado had a great chance of beating Dawn approach anyway.  I did not.

So Magician then… surely.  Well…. there is a horse with a disturbed preparation and that bothers me too.  This horse otherwise would be my pick.  He has won a  2,000 guineas and that is the route that Henrythenavigator, Rock of Gibraltar and Mastercraftsmen all took on the way to their successful St James Palace stints.

So, we have one horse with potential mental issue, one who needs to get over a palate / breathing issue and one that needs to overcome a setback from kicking out in his box.

Of the shorter horses, I fancy Magician.  I trust O’Brien to have him OK after his knock and I think he has a solid winning chance.

Then there is Mars.  Like many, I was very surprised to see Mars stepped back to a mile after doing his best work at the finish in the derby.  I think the course will suit him much better, he got going late at Epsom on a course that doesn’t suit many horses.  There is  going to be a lot of pace on in the St James Palace so a closer might be a good idea.  12/1 is available, I suggest a win bet.

The Coventry

Two lines strike me in the Coventry.  Firstly there is the tale of Sir John Hawkins, after his Curragh win, Sir John Hawkins was supplemented for this race.  That process cost connections £45k, they are plenty fluid enough to have a pop at any race they fancy but my view is that to do so at a later stage when they have a stable of other live chances… well, connections must think there is a decent chance of winning.

The second line of enquiry is Richard Hannon.  He has won this race with Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit, the latter racing in the colours of Championship.  Interestingly, those horses also took in the Newbury maiden which Championship won too… interesting.

If the Coventry was more open, I would definitely be betting War Command.  It is hard to split that one from Sir John Hawkins.  Yet this race favours those at the head of affairs and I am going to stick with Ryan Moore who I rate the superior of the jockeys on my fancied sorts.

Ascot Stakes

I am minded to have a pop at two in this for win bet purposes as there are two I am struggling to be drawn on.

Tiger Cliff would bring the house down winning for the recently widowed Lady Cecil.  Sir Henry said that he thought this was the winner of the race prior to his sad parting and 11/2, I want to be on – Even if it is just to be a part of the emotion of this horse winning.  There will not be a dry eye in Ascot.

The other I want on my side is the Phillip Hobbs trained Big Easy.  There are so many of these jump horses that transfer well back to the flat and Hobbs is pretty decent at it, I still have memories of Detroit City performing well reverting back to the flat.  12/1 is plenty for me to take an interest.

The Windsor Castle

If the twenty runners in the penultimate race provides a conundrum, the twenty-eight due to post in the finale make life insanely tough.

I want one in a high draw and I am opting for last years winning trainer and jockey combination in Ryan and Makin.  Sleeper King is 16/1 in a few places and that is where my pin landed.

Best of luck to you.  For the Major, after a mammoth post, it is to bed.

The Saturday Sermon – The Lockinge at Newbury | Last Weekend of Premier League | The Preakness

Good morning from the Major who writes from his bed gazing our across the green Worcestershire rural scene towards Bredon Hill with a low but bright cloud hugging the Earth.  Cool air, thoroughly underwhelming conditions leading to a malaise in my mind which I shall share with you to lift the burden somewhat.  Come take a seat.

The Major is planning on spending some time in the garden this weekend.  By tea time, I will be engaged in the gardening activity of men from time immemorial…. burning.  I intent to build a fire so considerable that several military intelligence organisations record it as a global event.

I have borrowed my fathers pressure washer and its usage is a thoroughly addictive activity.  Endlessly cleaning, my mind spirals as I do it, realising the futility, it leaves me hollow. It is why I both love and despise gardening.  It is a pleasant enough activity with a payoff when enjoying the fruits of labour, relaxing in glorious green serenity on a fine day.  Yet it also touches the inevitability of life, death.  Killing weeds, trying to keep plants alive, the steady decay of things.  This weekend I am hoping to treat some wood to prolong its life.  Not to save it, simply to prolong, to keep stumbling on.  We are all on the same cycle, our clocks are ticking, we too are in steady decay as is everything you can see.  Nothing is permanent.

Sport offers me salvation.  I would struggle to do justice to the feeling I get watching a top class equine athlete changing gears after a subtle and simple nudge of the reins, or a jockey well-balanced on a powerfully travelling horse.  The thrill transcends our terminable existence, just for the moment.  Such things surround us in life and your only hope is to absorb them and be temporarily distracted from your own irreparable decline.

To the sports.

Tips for Newbury – The Lockinge 

To me this looks a below average standard for the Lockinge.  The favourite is Declaration of War a Ballydoyle raider who won his Leopardstown reappearance.  O’Brien has a poor record in the Lockinge, having won the race just once in the last fifteen years with the magnificent Hawk Wing ten years ago.  I think yard reputation has carried Declaration of Independence into favouritism and 5/2 is a bit short for me.

One trend I am mindful of is age.  Of the last eighteen winners, seventeen were four or five and just one runner was aged six.  Following this line, I reluctantly put a line through Cityscape.  The global traveller boasts damn fine form and can be ready first time up but at aged seven, does not boast the profile I am after.  I am a little reluctant because Cityscape has chased Frankel home a few times and as Roosevelt said, it is better to have dared even if chequered by failure.

Beauty Parlour is the horse I would like to be selecting.  On French form, I think it is a serious challenger but I am fearful that the firming ground will be against.

The forecast is for dry weather but a small risk of rain around midday.  With the ground good to firm, this is a factor to be reckoned in our calculation.  It leads me to my selection.

My horse comes from the yard that has won the race two times in the last three years.  The horse has a record on good to firm of raced 4, placed in all, won 3 of them.  My horse has had a reappearance run already, and won it.  It represents a yard with a current 19% strike rate.  The jockey has a 22% strike rate in the last two years, the best of all competing jockeys.  I am talking about Trumpet Major.

He has been dismissed by many and I can’t blame them – He is definitely a sort that has two ways of running.  Yet he is in excellent hands.  If anyone can cajole the best from a reluctant sort, it is Mr Hannon.

Not the best Lockinge and I am on the Trumpet Major to bring us some joy.

In the 3.15 I am willing to stick with Hillstar at 5/4.  On reappearance there was plenty of support for the horse who took silver prize – In the context of todays opposition, that was still pretty good form and so I am in again.

At Newmarket, there are a series of impenetrable races which I haven’t the inclination to work through.  Instead, I am having a punt on Dundonnell.  Connections made clear that he needed the reappearance run last month and so third can be forgiven.  Nothing in the field boasts his juvenile credentials and 2/1 is plenty of encouragement for me.  Tha’ir also looks an obvious pick in the following 4.05 contest, again, he might not be perfect but he has an entry in the big one at Epsom so clearly has been well thought of at some point – Plus again, the two year old form is best in field… another 2/1 shot.

The Preakness

The second leg of the US Triple Crown runs tonight at 11.20 but sadly it appears not to be on At The Races.  Hopefully I will find a feed later but I am watching it to see Orb strut his stuff.

This one is potentially a triple crown winner and remains unbeaten in a 5 race career.  The talent was proved in the Kentucky and I don’t think rain will be any hindrance.  Get stuck right in.

The Football

Last day of the season and I have just one bet but it is going to be a sizeable investment.  I really think Villa, 13/5,  are entirely the wrong price to win at Wigan.  OK, they are missing Benteke but they have other dangers and from a preparation point of view, surely Wigan are cooked.  They looked weary at Arsenal and after receiving a tanking and being relegated, I am confident that the upper hand lies with Villa who would want to put a big gap between them and relegation to prove it was never a real risk.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 is Villa, Hillstar, Dundonnell and Orb – Not as much Napalm as you like but confident picks.

I wish you the finest of dinners in the best company.  Courage and roll those dice.