Tag Archives: Harris tweed

The Wednesday Punchestown Gold Cup Sermon and the Ascot Sagaro Stakes

Good Evening from the Major who writes from an extremely pleasant Worcestershire scene where spring light lasts deep into an evening of Gods creation blending deep greens, pale blue sky and clean cool air.

The Major had a flying visit to London today and with the tube strike in full militant action (there were real trade unionists with colourful ancient RMT banners), chaos was the order of the day.  Great snaking queues led to tables with volunteers handing maps of bus routes, the taxi rank was a seething mass of impatience and all of the time, outside, unknown to the panicking masses, a highly gratifying temperate climate awaited the walkers.

My destination was Kings Cross, two and a half miles, taking in some of the fine architecture and seeing the full spectrum of the denizens of this great city, very good indeed.

The return train, late in the afternoon was thick with homeward bound weary travellers.  The pressure released once we had despatched the Oxford crowd, then the remaining West Country folk collectively stretched into the new-found comfort and space and admired the North Oxfordshire countryside whirring past the window.

One of the memories I have from the Lambourn open weekend was of the drive home.  The landscape was spectacular, monstrous fields that stretched as far as the eye could see without interruption by hedge, thicket or even an old oak.  Industrial scale farming but the conformity and the scale, these things stayed with me as they sometimes do. In contrast, Worcestershire has a rural scene that is a patchwork of irregular design, variance, colour; what it lacks in grandeur, it makes up for in variety.  I am boring myself.

The blog had a decent opening day at Punchestown.  We had seven selections, one went non runner (Djakadam).  Three did not feature.  Diplomatic rattled the top of two down the back straight and lost interest.  Module fell and Disputed in the last led the field into it before demonstrating a lack of ability at the business end.

On the positive side, Be Positive was the only game in town as indicated and I advised a significant investment on Faugheen and you could have joined the queue for payout half way through the race, he simply loved leading them off the front, tremendous.  The turn up was our Mullins bumper selection that drifted to 12/1 (adv 7/1) but held on all the same, as they say, the horse knows not the price.

Faugheen may rightly feel a bit overshadowed this evening.  While his performance had us racing fans purring, it was not as stirring as the spectacle of Sizing Europe, admiral old servant, pinging away off the front like he was rolling back the years.  A tremendous win, a wonderful story but for the Major – I do not like my G1s won by a 12 year old.  Yes, I can hear the names you are calling me.

Wednesday Punchestown, Cheltenham Hunter Chase and Ascot Tips

I may not cover every race, certainly the opening race for conditional jockeys looks a minefield and an unappetising one for me to unpick.

The second is much more interesting and Cheltenian is an excellent starting point now that this former Champion Bumper horse has commenced a belated hurdling career.  He is proving a decent handicapper and his mark of 141 is marginally superior to anything else we have seen here, with Le Vent D’Antan a pound behind.  I prefer the British raider and 11/4 is available this evening.  The big danger must come from Carraig Mor who looked to the world a champion at Uttoxeter but has disappointed since, King is nobody’s fool and he brings him across, moderation, as my mother would say.

The third race, a Grade 1 novice hurdle is much more of Championship ilk and seemingly, two of the three key protagonists are Gigginstown.  I have an easy decision here because I think the Albert Bartlett form is superior and thus Very Wood gets a strong recommendation at 9/2 with Paddy Power.

This is not the strongest Gold Cup I have seen.  Do not be upset, it still is an interesting race but Boston Bob has never really translated from an accomplished hurdler to a top class chaser.  This might seem harsh given he just won a Grade 1 at Aintree but that Melling Chase was much poorer than this, even if Ballynagour ran respectably today (without beating the admirable pensioner).  Boston gets the benefit of a Ruby ride and there is enough to like.

Three of the last five winners returned at long prices, 14s and two at 20s.  I do not see something from left field but do suggest Lyreen Legend might go well off the front.  This has not been one of my favourite horses but is exceptionally capable and this track is sure to suit more than Cheltenham where the horse travelled but did not stay.

On balance, I think Boston Bob is the bet.  It was not his fault he beat lesser beasts well in the Melling.  He at least has a strike rate over fences that suggests more might be to come if he gets his jumping together.  The flatter track will suit I guess…. I feel dirty, 3/1.

This is turning into an obvious blog but why can anyone see any of the Champion Hurdle horses reversing form with Silver Concorde? I cannot, Carberry gave the horse a great ride and is replaced here by McNamara who had the Dermot Weld winner today (ps looked like an Ascot Gold Cup sort to me!).

To Ascot…..  I once took a group to the Sagaro Stakes day for charity – We had a spring buffet in the car park and a tremendous day of racing ensued.  Someone remind me of the horse (First Something?) definitely two words, that raced and won in the Mill reef colours – Very useful sort has had a good career – Well it won that day…. Interesting? Not really is it.

This is an excellent renewal and worthy of greater than a Group 3.  Simenon returns from his adventures including an excellent fourth in the Melbourne Cup, he will not mind the soft ground and is in good company because neither will Harris Tweed or Tac de Boistron, the latter boasts superb form from Longchamp after closing the season with a tremendous win.

When it comes down to it, I want trainer form at this stage and while Botti is only getting started, Mullins and Haggas are providing plenty of evidence that their string are in top order.  I am backing Simenon who is available at 5/1.

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 Newmarket Tips – July Cup Meeting, including 10/1 shot

Good evening from the Major who writes with tips for the opening of the July Cup meeting at Newmarket on Thursday. I am going to be brief and cover the group races.

I have been posting a few tips to Twitter this week and from four selections have delivered a 20/1 short head second, a 9/2 winner, a non runner and a dog! Fair form for the Major so let’s hope we can pick some winning tips for Thursdays Newmarket card. If you have a twitter account I am @tdl123 – you can abuse me for money lost or celebrate with me if we have a winner or two….

1.20 Bahrain Trophy

Newmarkets July meeting kicks off with a lovely group 3 race for the boys of the classic generation.

Connections have taken their time with Valiant who is sure to improve further on the two wins we have seen. Patience could pay with this one and 9/4 seems fair. The horse will be fine with any cut too.

The Major though (and please don’t be put off) is opting for the favourite Shantaram. 13/8 gives a great price (boylesports) for the horse with far the best form in the race. His second to subsequent derby runner up Main Sequence is by far the best on offer. More than that, this race has proven a great guide to the Leger in past years, when Gosden puts one in here (trainer won it last year) we should pay attention. Add stable form and it’s an irresistible mix…. Sometimes 13/8 is a cracking price!

1.50 July Stakes

The second race is a tasty group two and the Major is steering you towards the O’Brien inmate Gale Force Ten who is best price 10/3 with Ladbrokes.

There is always the talk of the connectivity between Ballydoyle and Ladbrokes but the Major does not hesitate in offering a tip for Gale Force Ten despite Ladbrokes view.

The thing is that O’Brien rarely uses this race but has won it before. Plus the Ascot form of GFT is strong, he won the race on his side (Ahern in behind). More rain no problem, extra furlong an advantage….

My only beef is the name of the horse. I thought when weather got that bad it was referred to as Storm Force Ten? I am a regular at the allotted 12.45 witching hour to listen to the chop of the ocean in such places as German Bight and South East Iceland.

3.00 Prince of Wales

The last group race at Newmarket on the opening of their July festival is the Prince of Wales Stakes.

Red Cadeaux is going to appreciate conditions and has shown that all the talent remains. Harris Tweed is also to be feared but the Major finds one at a double figure price…

Modun is an interesting 10/1 shot for Godolphin. Frankie is in the saddle and he rode a treble tonight (last night depending on when you read this) at Kempton. This horse has looked ill placed to me. He has not travelled brilliantly overseas although his fourth in Meydan was reasonable behind Bronze Cannon. Clearly he didn’t give his race in the Melbourne Cup but he has shown very solid past form in the UK and I think a return to that form will put him in with a chance.

The main danger in a race where I think a big price horse might go in is the Stoute trained Fiorente who finished a distance behind Sea Moon latest but could be better than that – the 14/1 shot earns consideration on the grounds of trainer trend in the race.

Overall though I am going to stick with 10/1 shot Modun for the tip in the Prince of Wales…

Courage and roll those dice.