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The Sermon for Royal Ascot – Thursday Tips – The Majors good form continues!

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a very humid Worcestershire scene where the gentlest of cool breezes brings welcome relief.  There is a dirty haze itching away at my clammy skin and my other comfort is a cold beer.  Such a delight on the tongue.

Now Wednesday at Ascot came and went and once more the Major was at the payout counter.  We scored another two winners advised at 4s and 8s.  Anthem Alexander and Muteela delivered and both were well backed… I am starting to believe my own hype. 

However, I backed Treve like I had Thursdays Racing Post in hand and advised anyone foolish enough to listen, to do the very same.  Oh dear, drop in trip, good ground? Heavy race against Cirrus Des Aigles…. I don’t want to think about it. 

Look, I want you to come, I want you to win but I cannot pretend that I have any of the magic beans.  No no dear friends, all I have is endeavour, attritional losses and hope – That is all your Churchillian correspondent can offer.

I am tired and I have other work to do so you will excuse me getting down to work.  Forgive me for lacking the usual verbosity, a slice of history or a touch of philosophy would normally be on offer but the guage is dropping and wavering close to the red line. 

I need to do need some sleep.  That is not always straight forward for a mind like my own.  Wandering lost in the loneliness of night, the good lady asleep beside me, I like to drift through ‘Sailing By’ and end up empathising and projecting myself into the lives of fisherman in some vast barren desolate oceanic monotony…. Utsire, Dogger or Trafalgar, the gale and storm force winds the moving systems….. losing their identity.  In that moment, my own thoughts are calmed and the fear that sits beneath, the one we all share, it is at peace in my momentarily serene self… we are all going to die but for a moment, it is OK.

Morbid, maybe.  It is the tragedy of human existence but while there is moonlight, love and romance, we shall blunder on like some thoughtless wounded animal.  To Ascot and to the mothership…. I have no idea whether landing my mothership will bring me satisfaction, pleasure or peace.  I doubt it, it won’t be enough in all likelihood.  Then again, I do not know what trinket or experience can, so I guess I will have to settle for chasing it, how empty we feel when the game is no longer afoot; I fear the morthership as much as I yearn for it.  Perhaps that is where the pleasure lies… The pursuit, the thrill, the game, adventure my friends, adventure.  To Royal Ascot.

Thursday Ascot Tips

The Norfolk opens the card and I would not be anyones friend by suggesting it could go to The Great War.  I expected him to rock up in the Coventry on Tuesday and while the Ballydoyle trooper that did go turned out to be short of the required class, I think they have a contender here.  He has not been under pressure in either of his wins to date.

However, it was 2001 when O’Brien last won a Norfolk Stakes and the price of the Great War is no fun for anyone.  As an alternate, I present the American raider, To Be Determined.  Wesley Ward has done well with his previous raiders and he is 1 from 2 this week, after Hootenanny absolutely scooted up on Tuesday.  Now I found it telling, that in the aftermath of that victory, Ward suggested he greater chances yet to run this week (confidence you see)…. since todays runner, Spanish Pipedream, was not quite as good, I am thinking that his Elusive Quality filly might offer some great value at 8/1 (Coral and a few places, 7/1 generally).  He won the Norfolk last year with a Scat Daddy colt, No Nay Never and despite the poor record for fillies in the race, I am suggesting a turn up.

Then it is the Hampton Court, or whatever they call it these days!  I have been a fan of Cannock Chase who has been performing very well indeed.  I used to cycle and walk on Cannock Chase and having lived close to Litchfield (well Rugeley if I am entirely honest) I would drive late across those darkened woods and see the huge bright eyes of the deer watching me from the forest, haunting, especially with the engine off and glorious silence heightening your senses.

Anyway, let us leave that scene and figure out who wins… Well there is one I like in this, Barley Mow.  It is a Hannon / Hughes combo and I really like the way this horse has progressed.  I think his last run on soft ground at Epsom was not a set of conditions he would handle and as such am happy to draw a thick line through it.  Prior to that he had half this rabble behind him at HQ and is one of the runners here who will enjoy the firm conditions.  13/2, have a slice.

Then the Ribblesdale and I like the look of the filly Bracelet who ran a disappointing race in the Guineas but has been a progressive filly before that.  She is a mighty price for that one stain on her record at 12/1, take your chances.

Leading Light is the hot property for the Gold Cup and the Leger winner has plenty of positives on his ledger including a very good strike rate of 6 from 8.  Yet, borderline evens is not much value given the quality of the opposition and I want to be with something else.  Last years winner Estimate would be a popular repeat for Her Majesty and there are positive yard noises being made. 

Brown Panther has always been a decent sort but this season has really come into his own with two performances of high order at Chester and Sandown.  He has never been out of the first three when the ground is firm and he is a leading contender.  I am also a growing admirer of Richard Kingscote in the saddle too.  Respected, possible.

Simenon is a horse I have followed on his global adventures but to the detriment of my wealth, he could come good and I would be most displeased, Mullins has his runners well tuned…  Tac de Boistron is a fine animal but everything points to him  needing to get his toe in and he will not get that here.

At some point, you have to push your chips in and I have to think the market has things about right.  Leading Light is unexposed and a Leger winner and Brown Panther looks in the form of his life.  Both are unbeaten on the ground.  On price and on slightly superior trainer form and with a jockey I have signalled my liking for… Brown Panther – 8/1 in a place.

The schedule of Royal Ascot leaves us with two conundrums to solve at the end of the card.  If you have not made your money yet, you are in trouble!

The Brittania is a real enigma, wrapped in a puzzle and then rammed down your throat!  Idea looks one of the real unexposed sorts and after his easy win at Kempton it is hard to assess the merit of the form versus the near stone rise he has to shoulder.  Not for me, I am never sure about transferring the Kempton form, I shall leave that where it is!

Ger Lyons does not bring that many over to Ascot and so I have to think that Third Dimension is good value for his last win at Limerick.  16/1 is generally available about the gelding and drawn 31, I hope he can break, get prominent and get us another big price winner.

Then the lucky last, which helped us enormously today.  Many are of interest… Fire Fighting who would not have liked the Doncaster conditions he got bogged down in.  I do like Windshear a lot but given I have overlooked Cannock Chase earlier, I would be reneging on my line of thought to switch formlines now.  Clearly earlier results might dictate a change of position…

No, I am going to signal a great day for Team Dascombe and suggest Art of War can go well at a tasty 18/1 – He was dogged in victory rather than spectacular over 9f previously and it suggests two things.  One, his attitude is not in question and secondly, this step up is likely a good move.  Good luck to Manor House.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot Champions Day Tips | Cheltenham and a bit of football… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes, weary and happy, settling into the weekend, like a well worn glove.  It is late, very late, the Worcestershire scene tonight is dank, driving home, orange streetlights in the distance flickered, seemingly to fizzing and humming in the wet like a live wire gently caressing the damp earth.

I have been out with colleagues and friends this evening eating a thoroughly average meal but in such damn fine raucous company that the cuisine was merely a distraction.  Laughs so deep and primal, deep within, they are fine for the soul and in the company of good people, well… Ah, All is well in the world.

I remain on the cusp of exhaustion, as I write I hear the patter of rain against window glass and it sounds like tiny fingers tapping a rhythm.  I know I am warm and I know out there in the darkness, there are things moving.

I love the winter and it is coming to us now.   Even recently, while  deep into Autumn, the late days of summer held on dearly but now, things are changing.  The rain that kisses you now is cold and taking a morning walk, toes feel numb, fingers tingle.  Summer has had its time at the front, running freely, wild times of chaos.  Now is nearly the time for winter, climbing the hill relentlessly, coming home on a tight rein and the Major is pleased.

I have enjoyed the flat season immensely this summer.  While the classic crop was an average bunch, there were some great memories of which my favourites were Dawn Approach and Toranado going to battle, Talent fighting for her head and still finishing like a train in the Oaks and… momentarily the triumphant victory of War Command in the Coventry, to name but a few.

Yet, todays racing at Cheltenham has reminded me that the flat season is always the poorer cousin to the Majors real passion, National Hunt.  I think the reason I prefer it is the longevity of the horses.  It allows for much greater stories to develop.  Horses that start in bumpers, transcend to hurdling and become novice chasers before joining the staying chaser ranks and those glorious old servants that win ten years after their bumper dreams.  They become like old friends.

Today’s cards offer the perfect handover from flat to the jumps season.  Yes, we still have a few big days to come, particularly the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster but the Ascot Champions Day is a perfect climax to the summer contests and the first days of the Cheltenham season whet the appetite for the narrative untold.  Be still my friends, it is our season.  To the sports..

Ascot – Champions Day Card

There has been a real fuss over Champions Day and the prospect of moving key Newmarket races next year to create Future Champions Day.  In all honestly, it strikes me that a lot of the antipathy is simple resistance to change.  After all, why not try it and if it does not work, we can go back!  This is a superb card, FIVE group ones, we are spoilt.

One criticism of the timing of the card is that it is likely to have high-profile defections due to winterish ground.  That is true of tomorrow but you either have an end of season finale of you do not.  We definitely need some soft ground horses tomorrow…

In the opener, the horses that I think will go well on the going are Estimate, Harris Tweed, Biographer, Aiken, Pale Mimosa and Eye of the Storm.

Aiken ran well in this last year and likes it soft under foot but I am not convinced he is good enough.  The Queens horse Estimate must rate a huge danger to all having won all of her Ascot starts but I just fancy the chances of Eye of the Storm, 7/1, who won a listed contest latest and has a valuable weight-for-age allowance.  He is a smart colt who needs to up his game again but well could do that with plenty progressive profile and the Ballydoyle machine is purring again.  Pale Mimosa is no 14/1 shot either and I also like the favourite a lot so it shall be small stakes.

The Champion Sprint Stake is one of these top class races that could typically go to any of the protagonists.  Maarek was good when winning the Prix Abbaye and loves it soft but the home team has such a candidate too in Jack Dexter who the dogs have been barking for all week down from 12s into 4s overnight.  I have to say that it is hugely attractive, Jack Dexter has won 6 from 6 on soft or worse.  Yet I am loathed to support either at the prices and instead opt for 13/2 shot Viztoria who also has an unblemished record on soft ground (although only 2 races).  It is a concern that man of the moment Johnny Murtagh is not aboard the girl but I think this is his inability to do the weight rather than him feeling he has a better shot with Belmont Mast.

Regular readers will know what is coming next.

At 2.55, in a corner of Berkshire…. TALENT WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONS FILLIES AND MARES STAKES.  Get stuck in at 7/2 and thank me later.  She should have won the Leger (OK a bit stretched) and I would have like to have seen her in the Arc (next year) and she has nothing to fear here, I shall pray that she settles.  The Lark and the German horse Nymphea may be the closest to looking at Talents glorious behind at the finish.

The QEII is a cracking race and while it is a shame Toronado did not make the line up, we have plenty of quality to give Dawn Approach something to consider.  The one I think could completely outrun his price is Kingsbarns at 16/1.    This time last year, he had the world at his feet, was favourite for classics but his day in the sun has yet to come this year, missing most through injury.  His return was very poor but it is perfectly reasonable to think he may have needed that both physically and mentally.  We also get Joseph on board, the comfort that we know he has been in top hands (O’Brien is a master at getting these sorts to fire again) and he won both his juvenile starts on soft.  What is not to like?

In the Champion Stakes, Derby winner Ruler of the World is of key interest but is unproven on the ground, although he is a Galileo so perhaps we should not worry too much, of interest.  Mukhadram and Farhh are both classy sorts but all of them should really be paying homage to Cirrus Des Aigles.  We all remember him giving Frankel a good run last year and you may remember Cirrus winning the race in the previous year, he was 12/1 that day, tomorrow I can only advise you to be on at 5/4.

Cheltenham Tips

Poor old @limerickjfk – He tweeted me on Thursday night for some Friday Cheltenham tips and even promised me the benefit of a big drink should they come in.  I gave him a non runner and one that finished down the field.  I am the sort of friend you do not need.  Still, we shall try again and I shall stick a drink on the ledger the other way regardless, because it was nice to be asked!

There are some lovely sorts in the opener at Cheltenham, it is a tasty opening to proceedings.  Minella Fiveo is an interesting runner being an Irish raider with Noel Fehily up but the form is uncertain and despite a tempting price, I shall steer to more settled waters.  IT is the last time winners which I want to stick with and of them, Kings Palace stands out.  The Pipe trained horse won his last race at Fontwell very nicely indeed and I think may be better for further.  Oscar Magic rates a real danger as the stable has always been positive about him.  Others stand their chance too but I like my selection well enough.

Skipping a race and looking at the 3.10, I cannot get away from Samtegal, 9/4,  who was placed in a Scottish Champion Hurdle (a poorer handicap imitation of the Cheltenham masterpiece) which is good enough but he was also placed in a Triumph.  I am normally a bit hesitant about Paul Nicholls at this stage of the season, knowing he likes to leave a bit to work on but he had two winners here yesterday and I am in.

Finally in the 5.00, Balder Success is going to be a hot ticket after winning a Chepstow race latest, proving jumping and fitness.  I see those benefits but thought it a slightly odd race.  At the finish he appeared either idling or more likely running flat and I am not sure stiff tracks are what this horse needs.  Turned out again quickly, we will find out.  I shall back my argument with a stake on another.  Dark Lover, 2/1, was  a better hurdler than Balder Success and gets 8lbs here.  He also comes with the benefit of winning at Cheltenham before.  If you are feeling brace, Mr Watson could beat the lot if he decides to apply himself, a big if!

In football, one bet.  West Brom (my own team, I do declare an interest!) have a great chance of winning at Stoke – The team are brimming with talent and confidence, it is a good time to be a baggie.

May your dinner be as well as @limerickjfk who shall eat at Queens Hotel, in excellent company and with good wine, having solved several of the large Cheltenham handicaps.

He will be joined by Martin Hill should the Major break a string of bad losing advices to him with this suggested each way trixie: Talent, Kings Palace and Kingsbarns.

Courage, roll those dice.

Thursday Ascot Racing Tips | Bookies 2 – 0 The Major | Sound the bugles

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.