Tag Archives: highland knight

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 – Doncaster and Kempton Tips plus Football, plus Keeneland for the US Blue Grass

Good morning from the Major who writes from his bed, comfortable but busy as is the home of a young family.

A very short post as family duties call so, as disappointed as you loyal few will be, I declare no great rambling thoughts shall spill from my mind today, no Sir, a more direct to sports version.

I was contemplating some commentary on the reaction of ordinary folk to the death of Margaret Thatcher this week.   I wanted to make observations over the polarisation of views and the lack of moderate voices.  No time.  I wanted to question whether conviction over compromise in leadership (and gambling) was indeed a virtue, as has been attributed to the late Baroness, no time.

Instead, I leave it to a labour MP from my hometown, Gisela Stuart: When you get to my age, there are no enemies any more; there are just people who are still alive with you…

Beyond that, the Major must confess to being fashionably classless myself.  There is no membership here, my sporting advice remains free, barely profitable and certainly unhinged but we do encourage and discourage followers on their behaviours.  Please act with decorum at all times.

Doncaster Tips

The opening two year old maiden is a typical event for this time of year.  It offers us precious little evidence to work on and we have to base our judgement on breeding and hype.  We shall avoid it.

The 2.20 is the listed Doncaster Mile and there are some interesting runners in a  smallish field.  Highland Knight and Sovereign Doubt have tied form that looks solid, I prefer the former but his prominent racing style might be setting this up.  I have a line through Don’t Call Me as Nicholls tends not to be at his best at Doncaster.

Instead I am having a reasonably lumpy bet on Chandlery.  Richard Hannon is a master of nursing horses back to their best and this is a Group 2 winner who has an entry in the G1 Lockinge.  That is an advert in itself and the season out bears no ill concern for the Major in these capable hands.

In the 3.30 I am sticking with Jack Dexter, 6/1, whose rise through handicapping ranks last season has been admirable.  I was taken by him when he won at Ascot and was delighted to see him go in at Doncaster on seasonal debut.  I think he is a group sprinter ultimately and the way he keeps dealing with these big fields is magnificent.  How he handles the better ground is clearly some concern as is the Majors admission that there is some heart in the selection of this tip.

In the 4.40 maiden, Lewisham is going to be a hot bet as has posted efforts in much better contests than this.  I am always nervous though about horses that are gallant in defeat, even when stepping back in class.  As such, I am suggesting a small speculative slice of Flirtinaskirt at 6/1 who ran with enough credit on the only racecourse appearance and is not here for the air.

Kempton Tips

Just one tip, I think the 3.50 may go the obvious way of Solar Deity at 7/4.  He has won four of his last five races, the last in listed company.  Martin Harley has a decent ride.

Keeneland – The Blue Grass

Having watched Black Caviar strut her stuff again this morning (please come to Ascot!), the Major makes another foray on the global racing scene to up the quality of the fare we are offered.

Keeneland host the Blue Grass a race that is an excellent prep for the Kentucky Derby.  Ladbrokes have a market open and I suggest the following are of interest.

Palace Malice had a horrific trip last time out in the Louisiana Derby – This Todd Pletcher horse is likely to be involved.

Tesseron is no 33/1 shot having come from a prep race that has thrown up plenty of winners.

Java Man is also one that had a horrible trip last time out but still closed to a second behind Verrazano who is the current favourite for the Kentucky Derby.  Java Man has an excellent chance to show that the form of his Tampa derby run is enough to make him a serious player and come and have a pop again at Verrazano in the big one.

My advice is to take a win bet on Java Man, 7/2, and an each way saver on Tesseron, 33/1.

The Football

I am surprised that Villa are 13/10 – With such a wind in their sales, I suspect they will secure the three points that moves them much closer to Premier League safety.  Equally surprising is the price on Southampton who are home to West Ham.  Southampton are a team not getting enough credit for how dangerous they can be and just the wrong size of evens is a decent price.

I like Hull to win away at Ipswich (13/8) and urge all to remain aboard the Watford money train which admittedly has been momentarily derailed but shall be stopping at Peterborough at 6/4 on its way to Profitown.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Chandlery, Solar Deity, Watford and Southampton. (No napalm)

May your dinner be glorious and the company divine.  Courage, roll those dice.

Horseracing Tips from Sandown, Football Tips – The Majors Saturday Service

Indian Braves - Expert horseman, brutal warriors. Love a bet, probably.

Good morning, I hail to thee, young band of merry warriors.  Defford is a paragon of virtuous sunshine this fair morning, cacophony of spring birds, a brightness so loud it is deafening.

Ah the Major pangs for the short dark days of winter, the peaceful still and cool air, clear sound made on fresh canvas; just fading memories now like the distant pulses of a fast-moving train, but we know it will return.  Let us enjoy our excursion into summers embrace but know it for what it is, we shall await and embrace the coming of winter and restoration of natural order.

The Saturday Service is here and we have a great Easter weekend of sport, a delectable spread of refined temptations to pick from, gorge not, but enjoy the feast – Select well, as the enemy will try to dazzle us with baubles of deception, gaudy and dizzying, remain clear-headed and progress like the river with your mind able to bend round stubborn stone, relentlessly rolling on.

The Majors midweek foray was unsuccessful with three horses selected returning one non runner and two losses.  The Majors April is still very profitable, apologies for not updating the figures in the menu bar, the tardiness will be corrected.  Suffice to say I think we are about 55% up.

Balance is required.  As Kipling wrote, treat both triumph and disaster as equal imposters.  The Major knows this and so vigilance is required today.  Let our success be deliberate and calculated.  Glory comes from perfect practice, not hot-headed folly.

Custer is our cautionary tale.  His exploits for the Union army were legendary being promoted at Gettysburg.  He felt bullet proof and confidence was always sky-high with this dangerous man.  This instinct gave him his greatest moments and cost him his life and that of those he commanded. 

The Americans were continually breaking treaty promises with Indian camps over land rights.  Finding gold in the Black Hills caused inevitable further conflict and an oppressed tribal community rose up.  The Indian tribes of Arapaho, Cheyenne and Lakota (as well as the fighting Brule) united under the leadership of Sitting Bull were prepared to fight.  Their huge camp of 4,000 ugly faced braves, intent on mischief, settled at Little Bighorn.  Custer, the civil war hero was sent to quash the uprising with his 7th Calvary.

Tactically, Custer gave little thought to the job in hand.  His confidence in his men was unimpeachable but foolish.  He split his force into three.  The initial foray lead by Reno was to the South of the Indian encampment, it was bloodily repulsed and it was clear that the force they were fighting was well armed, well-ordered and thirsty for the engagement. 

All could have been recovered after Reno’s failed attack from the South, his retreat to the bluffs standing high to the East of the Little Bighorn river gave them all a chance of digging in.

Custer though was indignant and unaware of the dangers.  He had his forces try to traverse the river to the North East of the camp.  They were easily repelled and then pursued up the bluff by a succesful and swift Indian counter charge led by Crazy Horse. 

A desperate last stand was made in the hill overlooking the sprawling Indian camp.  Indian Calvary made light work of the 7th Calvalry who were trying to form a line, once they smashed through that, all order was lost and it was every man for himself.  The Indian braves used hatchet and lance in close quarters to devastating effect.  After the battle, they scalped the defeated in order to let the soul of their enemy depart, savage yet cathartic.

Why did Custer judge Little Bighorn so badly?  Why lead a force into full frontal assault against a three factor stronger enemy?  Why split your force?  Why when the first skirmish goes horribly wrong would you risk an attack?  Why decline to take more troops in the first place?  Custer wanted the fame, he was drunk on his self-image.

A man compelled to further his career in the spotlight.  A man buoyed by early success.  Over-confidence in your trained troop.  The sense of glory.  No coolness of mind.  Calculate your bravery.  The Major urges you to distance yourself from victory and defeat.  Custer’s lesson.

To the sports young warriors, let us hope to add red dots each symbolising a defeated and fallen member of the turf accountant community to our head-dress.  Daub paint and prepare your hatchet, ready thyself, it is Saturday and there is mischief to be had.

Sandown Bet 365 day is a superb moment in the sporting gentleman’s calendar.  The gauntlet is passed from the jumps to the flat boys and both are on show in a wonderful eight race card.  Next year, this might make the Majors social cycle. 

A glorious day for them too today.  Drenched in sunshine.

The ground will be edging towards the firm, this is a significant factor in assessing todays runners, it will be frenetic stuff.  We are also looking for jumps horses that are not ‘over the top’, ideally ones that have demonstrated they are spring horses.  Thus, Baby Run makes little appeal.

For the flat sorts, prep runs and ones that go fresh is the model of the likely winners in the Majors view.

2.05 Sandown – Bet 365 Handicap

As I write it appears that Kazzene has been backed off the boards down to 4/1.  This price does not reflect his recent form.  Though if something were amiss and it has been rectified, the Pipe yard can land a gamble with this completely unexposed sort racing off a featherweight.

I’ll leave the gamble alone.  Kazzene may be the handicap snip of the century but not for the Major.

I am a keen fan of Extreme Conviction in this 2 and a half mile contest.  His record with good ground or better is raced 6, placed 5, won 4.  He has not won on ground with the word soft in it.

King of the Night might be one for next season.

Back Extreme Conviction each way 10/1 with SportingBet.

2.35 Sandown Celebration Chase

French Opera is one of those sorts that will not carry the Majors money.  Henderson believes conditions are right today, the Major is less sure.

I prefer backing Tataniano who is 6/5 with Hills.  This is exactly the sort of horse the Major is looking for.  Loves the sun on its back, won over good last year at Aintree, odds against for a horse that could still make the top grade, very tasty.

3.10 Bet365 Gold Cup Chase – Sandown

As I previously hinted, I cannot have Baby Run.  OK, it is clearly the best hunter chaser around.  Switching to this company is tough, doing it after several hard races all over extended 3 and a half mile distances on the legs of an eleven year old is a lot to ask – Especially as he won’t have it his own way as he normally does, there will be harrassment today.  It is this and not his potential lenient handicap mark which gives the Major confidence to draw a line through that one.

There is going to be plenty of pace on with the ground as is and plenty that will like to make it, including Baby Run.

This might help settle Poker de Sivola into a better rhythm, he was the Majors Scottish National selection and if the unseating at Ayr still leaves him in decent touch, I think he might come good for one of these races.  I prefer those where this has been the long-term target though.

Triggerman is of interest.  Will be suited by this race and the Major would not put you off a 12/1 interest in this one.

The Majors money though will be carried by 10/1 shot Meanus Dandy.  Nicholls and Walsh team up and I think this one might do well stepped up in trip.  Get involved each way.

3.45 Bet365 Mile

Then the focus is passed to the flat sorts with their fine morning suit attire, keen satirical edge and vintage champagne, good luck to you all.

The Bet365 mile has attracted just 5 runners but it is an intriguing contest.

Dick Turpin has the best form to boast of, just.  4/5 on though is overpriced.

Andrew Balding has sent in  pacemaker (Highland Knight) to ensure a gallop which is a smart move given the small field and good ground.  The intended beneficiary, Dream Eater is not for the Major though, even with the assistance of Jimmy Fortune, amongst the Majors favourite flat jockeys.

I am not convinced Cityscape will love conditions especially as it is only going to get faster.  This leaves me Music Show.  Normally held up, I think the presence of a pacemaker will help the only lady in the field and Ryan Moore, master of the timed run can bring home the bacon at 9/2, have a chunky slice and thank me later.

4.50 Sandown 1m Handicap

This is a wide open handicap but there is a candidate that caught the Majors eye.  Huygens looks set for a big opener.  Holland is booked for the steering and the horse has a good record fresh. 

The Major is not the only one to smell a snip.  The price has come in from 16s to 9s.  I am not putting you off though, dropped back to a mile seems an odd choice but the trainer knows his beans, unleash the light cannon.

3.05 Mussleburgh

The 1m 1f contest is an interesting little affair and the one that catches the Majors imagination is the, bottom of the card, Rastaban.  The Major smells a big run….

William Haggas doesn’t make that many big round trips and when he does, he goes with intent.  This will be a 600 mile round trip and nothing else is going up in the horsebox.

7/2, pile in boys.

To the sports fields……

Last weeks football bets performed well with Wigan and Villa both winning at greater than 2/1.

This week I see no reason not to back them again.

Wigan are back in touch, Sunderland in free fall.  3/1 with Victor Chandler for the Latics, take a slice.

Villa entertain Stoke, fresh from their demolition of Bolton at Wembley.  Tony Pulis men have a poor record away from home and the Houllier illness is not a factor to the Major, well not one that adversely effects Villas chances anyway.  10/11 with Hills, smash that up.

Preston are 4/1 to win at Millwall who are without key players.  Preston are not quite done yet and I fancy them at this price to cause a possible upset.

I like the return of Adams at Blackpool and 2/1 is fair but their morale seems suspect and I cannot touch it.

7/2 the draw at Old Trafford also looks appealing but is left alone.

Tonight let dining be an easy pasta ensemble.  Fresh tiny ripened tomato, garlic, good bread.  Enjoy a light tipple, perhaps a Wye Valley beer or a class of Beaujolais.  Eat al fresco, see if that careful sort wants to join you, her with the measured look in her eye and that certain quiver of the lip that suggests something, perhaps.

Bet more than you should.  On the anniversary of Jesus resurrection weekend where he rose from the dead after three days (I once had a similar experience after an absynthe party); ensure you take a moment to yourself to simply enjoy being.  After all, this happens just the once, make it memorable.