Tag Archives: gregorian

The Oaks Sermon…. Epsom Friday and etched memories of Talent…

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a cooling Worcestershire scene where extremist changeable weather has delivered sudden violent sheets of water before sharply turning on a penny piece and gifting strong electromagnetic radiation strengthened by the summer season and subsequent position of the Earth on is elliptical dance.

The Major is tired after a week of excesses.  A day at the cricket turned into an all you can drink real ale saga.  An evening fine dining, rich food, to bed in the witching hour and today, a day around a golf course in great company but with an aching sorry back and blistered hands.

Last year, the Oaks gave me a tremendous thrill with me being a single winner away from £30k.  I still managed a tidy sum from my £25 stake and the centrepiece was a tremendous performance from Talent of whom I remain convinced is a first-rate filly who was a touch unlucky in the St Leger and would not have been out-of-place in the Arc.  OK, I may accept that this last thought is a little optimistic or perhaps romantic but I stand true to my assertion in the general if not the detail.

Talent was superb in the Oaks, the lesser fancied stable runner, she had won well on the all-weather, was bred for it and had Hughsie booked, I had also seen a piece where Beckett explained that he was struggling to split her from the much more fancied Secret Gesture who had been the pick of Crowley – Talent raced the first two furlongs like a fresh precocious juvenile.  She bit hard and rocked her head from side to side as Hughes fought with her to settle her – She wanted to let rip and he knew it was a mile and a half. 

Still, I thought the race was gone already, it is not often a horse fights that strongly and goes on to win, let alone as readily as she did.  Coming down the hill, she had calmed down and switched wide she came smoothly into the mid pack at Tattenham Corner.  Hughsie feeling her come to him, man and filly fused in athletic poise, the spring coiled, shouted in boyish enthusiasm ‘can you believe how well I’m going!’ I think his remark was intended at Moore but memory fails on the detail.

With just under four furlongs to home, Hughes had the audacity to take a further pull.  What was his thinking, at the time, I silently cursed, why break the momentum?  Perhaps though, Hughes intended to be the last play actor to the stage.  He may have been minded of her energy spent early in the race and felt that if he were to win it would be on the line.  However, this moment became inconsequential as he slipped the girl her reign and she simply sliced her way down the outside, eating up the ground in spite of the camber she was experiencing for the first time. 

She flashed past the line with The Lark and Secret Gesture in powerless pursuit.  Glorious – I recite this all from memory not because I care little about the accuracy, no no no my friends – I care greatly that as a voice in our wonderful sport you come to me.  I wish to give you slices of fine cuts to remind, enhance or simply share the richness of this magnificent sport.  God, those classy two-tone grey stripes, that cherry red hat…. If you won money on a lucky dip lottery ticket, these things would not remain with you. 

Tomorrow, I am being entertained.  I shall be calculating carefully the balance between polite guest and wanting to have a proper look around Epsom.  I am driving too and shall be in fine company.  Here are my thoughts though, do with them as you see fit.

Epsom Friday – Oaks Card Tips

In the opener, Thistle Bird returns to the race she won on the card last year, bless her, since none of the other runners have won at Epsom, this win brings her right into consideration.  Yet, against her, you can argue that this is a stronger renewal and she has looked a bit ‘found out’ at times. 

Now when I say you can argue that the renewal is stronger, I have mixed feelings.  For example, Just the Judge, an Irish Classic winner has hardly looked reliable since but is trading at 9/2.  This is a challenge in the race… No horse running has been placed in their last two races, the volatility is concerning.  Arguably Mango Diva is the most reliable but although it is a hard race to call, I am drawn all the way back to Thistle Bird.  Epsom form you see…. 11/4. 

Air Pilot is a very interesting runner in the second race.  My best friend Beckett runs a handicap debutante against highly experienced and highly competent company.  Very interesting but on the bare face of the form, work to be done – Of course rapid improvement might come but I prefer my dishes in this race to be served hot.  As such, Sennockian Star the Johnstone runner gets my nod.  He has course form and clearly more was expected last time when a well beaten favourite… 12/1 in a place… 10/1 generally.

Just like Thistle Bird, Gregorian returns to try to retain his Diomed Group 3 crown and he does seem to go well on his seasonal debuts – Definitely considered.  Highland Knight is a talented sort of old but his legs are probably weary although the course is none  Graphic is improving and has Moore to help from the saddle – I have that feeling.

It looks like Abseil versus the field in the Investec Mile Handicap at 3.20 and his main competition in my eyes is Dance and Dance as well as Vainglory.  I probably would prefer the former of those two as he did very well at Newmarket and knows his business around Epsom.  These are all good reasons to back any of the above but the Major is drawn to a horse I fear will be something of a profit drain for me…. Henry the Aviator.  He was my selection in a monster Scoop6 race and did let me down but I still feel there is more to come and you can back the tip at 28/1 if you are selective.

Then the big one.  I am not going to stand on parade, I am just going to unleash my considered view.  I do not trust the market in the Oaks very much, the Derby has an issue too and it relates to the track bias which I have already alluded to.  Now with the colts, their talent often overcomes it but it strikes me that on the feminine side of the ledger, they are more vulnerable to trappy undulating tracks that imbalance and change the rhythm regularly.   None of this field have run at Epsom.

The race has been less dominated by O’Brien as some of the other classics.  It has also been claimed by 20/1 winners in the last three years…..

It is worth considering the horses whose connections have shelled out £30k to run.  Anipa – £30k means nothing to that owner but the horse has merit, a damn fine turn of foot and a stable speaking highly.  Marsh Daisy – This one is more interesting indeed, has won at Goodwood and in good style – That course has similarities.  Lily Rules is a strange addition to the race as I see little to suggest she might place despite her improvement.  Finally , for the latecomers, Honour Bound who has been a madam for the handlers runs at 20/1.  She is in the hands of my Beckett Oaks Training hero and won the same trial at Lingfield that Secret gesture won last year.

Sea the Stars has a building sire reputation and it would be wonderful for him to claim a first Group 1 and with Taghrooda.  This one is bred from the blue stuff as is a cross with the Sadlers Well line…. Unbeaten too…. Shortlist.

In summary, I would not put you off Taghrooda at 9/2 (only in a place), that is value.  I feel compelled to have a small saver at 28s on Honour Bound too.  Yet, I am drawn to Marsh Daisy who can be backed at 12s with Skybet.  The Major is an old romantic and if Jimmy Fortune were to win the Oaks given his recent personal tragedy, there will not be a dry eye in the house.  Go on Jimmy.

Parbold disappointed me last week and so in the penultimate, I side with That is the Spirit at evens.  Then for the lucky last….. and God alone knows we need it… Art Official 14/1 – Hannon Buick…. something to do with the ground and … I am so tired.

Good night.

Courage and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon on ‘Talents’ St Leger Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a heavy grey Worcestershire where a hissing and thudding signals the rains violent persistence.

The Major carries a heavy head full of cold, dulling the senses and slowing the reactions.  Fear not, for some this might result in sluggish thought but for me, deep down here between the moments, a clarity emerges.

Last week was a catastrophe of misfortune.  Each and every piece of advice faltered.  The sort of day where beyond financial ruin, not even a solitary winner can lift the soul, taking the edge away, I prayed but was not answered for just a small token.  Nothing, darkness, the empty void.

I was at Doncaster this week on business.  I had not been before and shall file a brief report for your examination.  I was in the Lincoln restaurant and the atmosphere was lively.  The hosts were generous and my immediate company a mixture of sorts embellishing all facets of life’s rich tapestry.  The sights were part glorious, part terrifying.  There were police dogs sniffing for drugs, barrel chested men drinking furiously, throaty voices shouting and smiling northern faces.

The course is not my favourite, a significant part is shrouded from view but the straight is long and fair.  The racing was wallet emptying, I should have been with The Lark who won like you would want an Oaks placed horse to canter away but bet foolishly.  I watched the Park Hill from an old stand that looked so empty, I assumed it was owners and trainers, it was not, the denizens of Doncaster, concern themselves greatly with their frivolity and those of us cut from the racing cloth are free to access the parade ring where plentiful prime seats tell of the crowds other intentions.

The Lark was impressive but I was on Seal of Approval who crashed to the floor in an horrendous moment leaving Hayley Turner momentarily and terrifyingly lifeless.  As the winner thundered past the post, my eyes were two furlongs back up the course waiting for Hayley to move.  The screens went up and it was not until twenty minutes later that the racecourse kindly informed patrons that Hayley was conscious and on her way to Hospital.  Get well soon.

Doncaster would not be my choice of course in the north.  York is finer, better views, more pleasant and slightly less like a stag do.  I hold no quibble with the fayre on offer at Donnie.  Leaving though, amidst the heavy police presence, amidst the tatoo’d heroes seeking more pleasure while their cups already overfloweth, amidst the stumbling happy, the doleful few, I saw the sight that shall stick with me.

Envision three ladies, two props holding up a dazed hooker who can barely support her own weight.  The three of them swaying and stumbling, as though competing in a slow motion three-legged race.  Not an unusual sight and but for the medical atrocity that had befallen the inebriated middle stump of our trio.

Some images shock the sense so that you might recoil again when they revisit you later.  Horror that peels away the calm surface we portray, the shield defences are momentarily lowered, scenes that awaken the senses.

I think the technical term is sharted.  I was informed of this term by a colleague I was escorting.  She is a fine soul, impeccable in turn out and manner.  I don’t imagine it is a word she uses often.

To the sports…

Doncaster – St Leger Card

Let us start with the St Leger and my appeal for you all to join me in a major investment in Talent.  You may remember that I was with Talent in the Oaks when she recorded a shock 20/1 win.  How she won that day still baffles me a bit, despite me tipping her up on the morning.  Coming down the hill, she was headstrong and spent plenty of energy fighting for her head.  Turning at Tattenham corner though, she came back to herself, I still thought her goose was cooked but as she went through the gears, she absolutely left the field for dead.  The Oaks form has been dragged through the mud but with the Lark winning so well in the Park Hill on Thursday, it removes much doubt from my mind.

Her last run in Ireland was too bad to be true and connections think the lively ground may have had a role to play.  No such problems exist on Leger day, plenty of rain has fallen.  My girl will love the softened ground and Doncaster suits a horse coming last from the back on the stands side, which is exactly where I envisage her run.

Since Galileo Rock is likely to run in Ireland on Sunday, the spirited opposition is going to come from Excess Knowledge who runs for Gosden.  On breeding, I think the ground will be against his runner but the yard has an excellent Leger record and so the lack of book form is no concern.

Foundry is unexposed but his second to Telescope looks a little more ordinary now we see the extent of the limitations for that hype horse.  Stablemate Leading Light is my main concern.  He has been laid out for this race and has already demonstrated a stamina appetite.

The Champagne Stakes opens the card at 2.05.  Hannon and Bin Suroor have shared the spoils in the last 4 years and Hannon took the last two.  He bids for a hat trick with 7/2 Anjaal, who was a very tasty winner at Newmarket last time out.

At 7/2 I think Gregorian is also a bet in the Park Stakes at 3.15.  The softened conditions can help him reverse form with Aljamaheer.  Gregorian was a winner on the Oaks car so it could bear a good omen if he were to take this.

The Curragh – The Blandford

On Thursday, Hot Snap was due to race at Doncaster but was removed from the race and now pops up at the Curragh in the Group 2 Blandford.  I liked the chances at Doncaster and I like the chances here too, especially as the Cecil yard have made the effort to cross the Irish Sea.

I hope their efforts are rewarded and 7/4 is the best you can get.

Chester Listed Race – 2.55

The patchy form of Allied Power might be a little off-putting but I see enough merit in the horse to not give out all hope.  Yet, my ready preference is for Tac de Boistron who has won in much better company – 7/2 is a must bet.  This is a little unusual for me as I am flouting one of my golden rules which is to only back horses at Chester with course form.  Still, the usual rules have served me little use in the last few weeks!

The Football

I would always treat the return from an international break as an opportunity for teams to reverse their form, whether they entered the break on a high or low, the loss of momentum gives an opportunity for confidence to ebb or flow.

As such, a bet I fancy that will not be too popular is for Newcastle to win at Aston Villa.  Now I quite like the Villa who look a threat this year and they have started the campaign looking a half decent unit.  Yet, the team is workmanlike and at 14/5, I am following an instinct.

More obvious is the claim of Chelsea at Everton.  This is a banker surely!  11/8 seems massive for an accomplished team against an Everton side that might struggle even with young players like Berkley breaking through.

Sheffield United travel to Carlisle and will take to the pitch without the burden of my money on them for the first time this season.  You know what will happen.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Talent, Tac de Boistron, Gregorian and Hot Snap.

May your dinner be a sensational onslaught of the senses taken in good company and as you settle the bill from a wallet bulging with the days excesses, remember just how good it is to be alive.  Courage and 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.