Good evening from the Major who writes from a dull and deadened Worcestershire scene where I survey the battlefield below and witness a darkened smoking wasteland strewn with the fallen, victims of my strategy, heavy wears the crown. The Major has been squarely beaten each day of Ascot, but I am not defeated, not yet, still the glimmer remains, I shall regather.
Allow me to tell you something of why I love racing. Stories. The trainers, jockeys, owners and of course the horses themselves. Each represent their own story, each story splinters like wild strands they spurn onwards swinging out wide and wild, at times intertwined violently, sometimes losing pace and direction, to nothing, to something.
Some of my favourite stories I am able to get on this blog, sometimes they are magnificent sometimes so subtle, I feel privileged as the nuance of the occurrence tingles at the edge of my senses – privileged not because it is a clique, it is not, anyone can love this sport, though there is an investment in time required but that is simply acclimitisation, not exclusivity. We are diverse. It is a wonderful sport, to be able to see and feel those strands around you. The conspiracy is an open one.
The stories that come readily to my mind as I sit here lazily typing are Kauto Star and his last King George, JT McNamara being airlifted off the Cheltenham course, Millman winning on his last ride, Hayley’s ice cool ride on Incendo at Kempton, the young Barzalona, astride, arm aloft, a short head victory aboard Pour Moi and the vitality of life surging through his veins and pouring from his being. I could open my mind and spew forth hundreds of these examples…. The owners, horses, trainers, jockeys, gamblers, bookmakers et al… the stories ebb and flow, the strands weave in and out and at our great festivals sometimes those elements align powerfully, they come together, converging so completely as to be awesomely breath-taking and such is the staggering magnitude of the history that underpin events, you can be lost in the intoxication of it all.
I won’t dwell and repeat the words of others who have explored the superb nature of the Queen winning the Gold Cup. I won’t dwell either on the racing exploits of Riposte either but that winner for the widow of Sir Henry reminds you of why it is good to be alive. If you want a good write up of the great man, read this, it is an excellent piece from my kindred blogger Strange Rumblings, it is a nice template by which to live a life – Sir Henry more than deserves the race named in his honour on Friday. I consider myself something of a rogue and I know another scoundrel when I see one.
The themes and strands that weave and turn, twisting and occasionally coming together, then spinning out almost uncontrollably, arcing outwards faster and faster until in the end, at the very end, they all come back together again, finality…. for all of us, we are served the same. I love this sport, no other better encapsulates what it is to be alive, spend your time wisely my dear friends. RIP Sir Henry Cecil.
Ascot Tips for Friday
Now it is clearly three nil to the enemy and the Major is in desperate need to pull something out of the fire.
In the Albany, I am rooting for Joyeuse, who would be another to raise huge bonhomie with victory in the morning. She is a half-sister to Frankel out of Oasis Dream rather than Galileo and come on, who is not on her side in spirit, even if not in wallet?
She won her Lingfield maiden well in the end, having started a little stutteringly. I thought it was a little worrying to see her in headgear first time up but it got her concentrated and she finished very well, putting distance between her and the hoi polloi… the headgear, may raise a frown but it stays on here, function over fashion. 4/1 is available, have a slice.
In the King Edward, Battle of Marengo is a popular odds on favourite on account of some extremely classy looking form from Ireland and a 4th in the Derby that puts him close to the forefront of his generation, particularly impressive having been done on the sharp end.
Yet I am minded that Greatwood was put away for Ascot after a disappointing Dante. Clearly that was not his running but with eight runners taking the field, I would prefer to be on this 8/1 shot that I think might yet be capable of playing a big hand this year.
The Coronation Stakes looks a damn good race and my first port of call was Sky Lantern. It might have been my last but for two things. One, Hughsie has been caught in behind horses a bit this week and I wonder if he feels things are running against him, contrast that with Moore who is just riding sublimely at the moment. My second cause for concern is the draw which leaves Sky Lantern with some serious extra work.
Thus, Pavlosk is my 8/1 pick, I was quite taken with her listed win at York and while has only a marginally kinder draw, I am backing Moore to get us in position.
John Gosden is seeking a hat trick of wins in the Wolferton Handicap and so you have to think Dick Doughtywylie has been prepared for this and will know the job, this is technically a drop in grade and Chester may not have been his sort of place.
I am taking a bit of a risk on Ocean War at 20/1. Barzalona takes the ride for Saeed bin Suroor. Now this horse has been missing for two years but the trainer is well qualified to have him ready and the last time we saw him he was running badly in the 2011 derby won by Pour Moi, referenced in our introduction. Now he may have been down the field but forget not that he went off 12/1 for that. He has never looked an easy ride, often jinking, stumbling and edging. 20/1 though, this could yet be a quality horse.
In the race in Sir Henry’s honour, I am on Disclaimer. The horse has an excellent chance but I won’t allow a moment of history to pass and not to have staked my money in such a glorious ledger of it.
In the last, the Buckingham Palace, I considered staking my chances on rank outsider Dubawi Sound. 40/1 with Coral, I think the Meydan run was no disgrace and the gelding may be suited by this. Sadly stall 29 is no help.
Instead I chance 14/1 shot Baccarat who is well drawn, entirely unexposed and ridden by reliable Paul Hanagan.
Courage, roll those dice.