Tag Archives: flaxen flare

The Saturday Sermon – A top draw Greenham, Ayr Champion Hurdle (I hate calling it that) and Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes from a virile Worcestershire scene where an abundance of colour is framed by a pleasant mid evening light; golden crops of rape, deep green grasses and dark brown earth, festering with pungent manures which gloop onto the roads trailing behind the great field workhorses coughing out their fumes and building a small tail of traffic.

The Major writes tired and failing, beer in hand and the abyss of sleep calling.  Yet, the Sermon, my weekly mistress, or perhaps more accurately master, calls me to her once more.  Penance comes once we are written and I click the blue button just inches away… publish.

The Masters is playing out in the background.  The Major posted a guest piece mid-week and the three runners are not currently dominating the leaderboard… Alas.  Nevermind, The Major also asked twitter for their fancied bets and twitter responded, my Masters stable now includes virtually half the field and since I do not think I have a golfer in the top ten, I am thinking of contacting the Guinness Book of Records.  Incredible performance, if only I had been pressing pink, not blue.

Augusta looks sensational, it always does.  I am no golfing fan but I enjoy tuning in to see the glorious grounds, stunning flora and those white bunkers glaring at you in the brightness.  The birdsong and the shade of the trees dancing across perfect greens with dark curves of water.  Although these things have been arranged by man, they are seemingly close to heaven in their composition.  It is how they wrote of the Old Summer Palace, man-made elements arranged in such a way that the beauty is breath-taking, an undeniable set of complimentary factors, it is almost impossible to fathom why one texture or colour plays so nicely against the next, it just works, some genius beyond my capability compiled it and I, your mere correspondent can only admire it.

From such perfection we slide, I watched Panorama regarding Marine A who has been convicted of murder.  I was amazed at the number of people who were willing to defend his actions.  Yes he was under extreme duress and I have every empathy for that but we cannot let the barbarism of our ancestors guide our moral judgements.  I know many of you may disagree, seemingly there is widespread support, we are partisan, he is one of ours, shooting in cold blood is never right.

I do dislike preaching, so I apologise.  Perhaps it is better if we take in the sports.  Whatever our views of the world, we are united in facing our filthy enemy whose mind so devious works to deceive and disorient.  See clearly my friends, hold a steady lance, close up ranks and despite being outnumbered, stick that chin out and let them see the straightness of our backs and certainty of posture, a certainty that speaks of victory.  Courage, roll the dice.

Newbury

With no patience before the gorging commences, I jump straight to the main dish of the Newbury card.  The Greenham has been, at times, a disappointing Guineas trial.  I am not sure why we do not get some better sorts competing most years, perhaps it is the more modern trend of taking your blue blood straight to Newmarket? Notwithstanding Frankel won the race, there are few true global stars that have emerged from the winners enclosure.  Hence it remains a Group 3.  Maybe the tide is turning though because Olympic Glory, last years winner was certainly no slouch.

Moreover, this year is a very decent looking renewal, Kingman has every chance of being a top class animal, he certainly looked so in the Solario.  He is not the only classy sort lining up as we also have the Chesham and Royal Lodge winner, Berkshire; the Gimcrack and Middle Park winner, Astaire and a host of other decent sorts.

While Kingham may prove the best of these eventually, I am taking Night of Thunder against him at 7/2 (Hills or Paddy Power) – Hannon chooses this one to follow up last seasons win with Olympic Glory (a different Hannon admittedly!) and he was a ready winner of a listed contest when last seen.  I particularly like his breeding being our of that very rich vein of Dubawi and Galileo crosses…

In the 1.50, the other Group 3 on the cards, Frankels full brother Noble Mission is joint favourite and a horse that will not carry the Majors money.  He will be able to cope if there is more cut than expected underfoot but looks vulnerable for a win and it is a winner we want… all repeat after me.. WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS… alright, on my own.

Cubanita gave a good beating to Noble Mission and that was useful course form.  I like that at Newbury for its sweeping wide straight suits a real galloping sort.  Of interest.  Astonishing has something to prove on form for me and so by process of thorough and absolute analysis, I give you Mutashaded.  He was only a few lengths down to Hillstar at Ascot and this looks a mighty easier race.

Ayr – The Scottish Champion Hurdle

The renewal of the Greenham is above par and the same can be said of the Scots Champion Hurdle at Ayr.  Being a limited handicap, it is littered with decent winners down the years but again, few that you would argue reached the top of the tree.

This year, at one stage, the entries looked as good as the proper Champion Hurdle… Don’t be offended you Ayr lovers, proper means level weights, a fight between the best!  Anyway, the race had attracted entries from Hurricane Fly, My Tent or Yours, The New One and Pegasus, ridden by Jesus.  Sadly, Flaxen Flare and My Tent or Yours stand their ground but we have to make do with that.

The last five winners of the race won with marks of 141, 143, 144, 130 and 139 and so it is some achievement for Ayr to get the classy My Tent or Yours who runs off 168.  His presence and lofty mark have meant that only Flaxen Flare and Court Minstrel get to race at their proper weights.  Look I am surprised that My Tent or Yours is evens so lump on – I think it is a cunning plan from our new Canadian bank master to allot some extra QE amongst us ordinary folk (you not I my friends).  Flaxen Flares form in the County is the next best on offer but this is a classy classy horse and he deserves this day with the sun on his back.  Bet with conviction and courage, we do not think it, we know it.

Now for the Scottish Grand National.  10/1 the field says is all…. Last year Godsmejudge was the first horse in over a decade to lump round a weight of over eleven stone.  It is also a race that unlike the British equivalent, is won more often by seven and eight year old chasers, most likely on account of the less gruelling contest.

Again though, Tidal Bay is doing to this race what My Tent or Yours has done to the other showpiece.  18 of his 29 opponents are racing off an artificially high weight because of him taking his place.

I am going out on a limb and suggesting 33/1 shot Nuts and Bolts who is ridden by Lucy Alexander and fits the profile I like.  The horse has proven most effective on this sort of ground and may outrun the price, as could possibly so many others.  Merry King will win a race like this one day and I will kick the dog at having left it unbacked.  Before you get mad, I do not have a dog, OK; it will have to be a child.  Lie Forrit would be incredibly popular as a winner and the other horse that may just outrun a massive price is McMurrough.  God alone knows… stick a pin in, or find a proper tipster, you’ll be richer in pocket but less so in spirit.

At Navan, Answered can give us a 9/4 winner… match fitness persuades me over the eye-catching Ebasani.

and the football…

I am worried that Everton will run out of steam and so am hesitant about the 4/5 even though they are playing out of their skin… What the hell, put it in.  Derby to beat Huddersfield 8/11… glorious.  Wolves at Crewe 6/4, Luton at home to Braintree 11/20… They are the bankers.  The spice is Swansea who might outplay 4/1 against a weary legged Chelsea.

The Martin Hill bet is Answered, My Tent or Yours, Mutashaded in a power trixie.

I trust that you can take care of your own dinner plans but wish for you, the most delightful of company over a fine medallion of excellent beef, perhaps a cut from Highland Cattle reared with love in the Welsh hills.  Good wine, good company, a freedom, relaxation, restfulness; a healthy tip to reflect your contentment with proceedings and a knowing glint in your partners eye that tells you as to where her mind runs.  All these things, I wish for you.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.