Good evening from the Major who writes from a well-appointed hotel room in the leafy and gentle rolling Cotswold Hills. The evening air is warm and musty, no stars hang in the sky, stifling.
Day two of Ascot came and went and with the exception of a single winner (Al Khazeem), it was another brutal bloodbath. The enemy was among us at close quarters and while we met him with a steeled eye, our efforts were repelled and we fell back, weary with the exertion, confused. We still have the colours but the ebb of the battle is slipping from our grasp. We need redemption.
The depth of detail is missing but since it has not been of help to date, I assume you understand. Stay the path O pilgrims.
Thursday Ascot Tips
I have one avid reader that often requests I add a bit of napalm to my selections. I have always taken this to mean that he likes it when the prices get juicy… he will be in his element today, the Major has decided that at this stage of the week, being in such dire straights, it is time to play a riskier hand.
The Norfolk Stakes is the opener and it is a race that has often been fertile for the Northern trainers. This year, it may be heading across the Irish Sea as clearly Coach House boasts the most positive chance in the race having won a listed race in Ireland. Clear interest.
It is eleven years since Hannon took the race but it pays to follow his juveniles and Coulsty is the pick of the yard for Hughes who was not on his maiden win at Leicester (Moore) when looking impressive.
A bit of spice is thrown in with American raider No Nay Never. It is a big ask for these juveniles to win on a different continent and while his form makes him hard to dismiss, I feel the Animal Kingdom error was supposing too many new factors would not have an influence – This one is tackling turf for the first time too.
The Major has plumped though for another trip north for the prize and I think it could be destined for the Fahey yard. They run Eccleston who when getting the idea quickened nicely on debut at Doncaster. Plenty of winners have come from the race and this one looked a cut above them and so is well worth chancing at 9/1, especially as any rain will hindrance the opponents.
The Ribblesdale is a good-looking race and Swettenham winner Winsili is of some interest, John Gosden will have her on top form and she is of interest. The Lark needs softer ground which she would be lucky to get. No… The Major feels this has every chance of being a one-two for Ireland who are enjoying a terrific week.
Alive Alive Oh was hugely impressive in winning with a magnificent burst of pace and if stays, then holds the ace hand. However, 13/2 shot Just Pretending gives great value as she steps up to what should be a good distance for her.
The Queen has a decent chance of taking the Gold Cup with Estimate. Colour Vision is big at 14/1 for a previous winner. Rite of Passage has clearly had troubles as having only raced twice since winning this in 2010 – passed over with a little reluctance, largely as, even though the horse is lightly raced, it would be record-breaking to win this as a nine-year old.
The Major is opting for 14/1 shot Last Train who is a French raider from the Fabre team. They don’t waste shots at Royal Ascot and I am hopeful for a terrific run for our money from this Rail Link 4-year-old.
The Britannia is the usual minefield, not ignoring the recent shorter priced winners. Wentworth is the 4/1 favourite after some terrible luck in running at Goodwood – I don’t like unlucky horses though and prefer to look elsewhere.
The one that stands out to me is Haafaguinea who I am surprised is available this evening at 22/1. The Clive Cox / Adam Kirby combination is a bonus and ina race that is a stamina test, I think this boy will be well equipped to be working away when others have cried enough.
The Hampton Court (or whatever they are calling it!) is at 5pm and casual glances at Shirkapour reveal a French Derby fifth (run over this distance) who is a big danger. John Gosdens Dansili colt, Remote, is a worthy favourite though having beaten Baltic Knight well latest with the runner-up scoring subsequently in a hot listed race at York.
The King George V is about picking the right Mark Johnstone horse. He has four darts to throw at this and the one the Major likes is Greeleys Love. Available at 20/1, it is a highly tried sort who might find improvement stepped up to 12f for the first time. An experienced sort who might be a surprise package.
Courage and roll those dice.