Tag Archives: hillstar

The Saturday Sermon – Ayr Gold Cup, Newbury and HQ… plus the football.

Good evening from the Major who writes from an uncomfortable Worcestershire where an aggressive wind furls the flags furiously, trees pushed and shoved with a vicious indiscriminate violence.  The week has been long and the Major has a weariness of muscle and mind.

When in such mood, the darker thoughts that normally are confined to their night-time jail seep through into the day world.  They roam at their own will, spilling into the forefront of my mind, running in enthusiastic abundance.

The Major traveled to London this week.  Several meetings and a day of richness, the sort that rewards the keen eye and the open patient mind.  A session with my personal coach first, now that sounds posh.  I meet with her twice a year and she gives all sorts of hell.  A Persian sort with a soft face but a dark piercing eye that seems to delve right in and rummage in your thoughts with no invitation.  I like her though and while she comes across as having walls as thick as the Krak des Chevaliers, sometimes, when I am my wicked worst, I probe those defences with the best charm I can muster and do you know, she has a frisky laugh and a wicked curl of the lip.  They are all the same in the end.

Being in London is one of the perks of my job that I shall miss.  I left her and made my way to St James Square, glorious space, beautiful buildings and only spoilt by some temporary scaffolding and a relentless throbbing shrill of the alarm at the Cypriot embassy.  I am sure all was well enough.  I had business in one of the grander looking buildings and through a serious door, a Tardis like wonderland.  What was a Georgian building, became modern and spectacular, opening into a courtyard with the three sides reaching upwards five to six floors, a height not evident from the frontage.  The fourth had a simple sounding piece of art, the wall was all white but cut from it and protruding slightly was a section that had been polished further and was undulating and the gap to the smooth wall was greater where the peaks and troughs of the elevated section were steeper.  The impact as intended was as though this piece had been stripped from the wall itself.

That stayed with me for some time.  As I say, when tired, my mind taps into the nether regions readily and it was not long until the riches of our Capital washed those thoughts away and new flotsam arrived on the tide.  Alighting the tube at St Pauls, a vision appeared, one sporting an elegant piece of black fabric that covered curves so delightful that they spoke to me at once, god is alive and he is good.  She was glorious, long and very deliberate delicate flaxen hair fell to a shoulder length layered cut, my heart rose high in my chest and for all of 2o seconds, walking up those stairs, well sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines…..  Such rapture happens frequently to me and I speak to other women about it, they refute my claim of love.

Early evening drinks, cold beers served on long benches in Smiths of Smithfields, the old meat market evident in the furniture and setting.  Ah, it is good to be alive.  Then to dinner with a friend at a place named Lobster and Burger.  The entire philosophy of the place was simplicity and the only dishes they served were advertised in the name.  With the window flung open onto a thriving street of young vibrant souls, all was well in the world.  As Oscar Wilde said, youth is wasted on the young.

The late train back to Birmingham, while waiting for my taxi, I strayed into the casino but an ill wind blew.  You might think that I was well served for my malignant and vexatious thoughts, I retort that fate is a poor mans belief.

To the sports and let us be at the devil of an Ayr Gold Cup.  Shabash, call up the heavy charger and have that sheepskin a dazzling white, we shall charge full on and pick them with our razor-sharp lance points, handling all 12 feet of it at full gallop.

Ayr Saturday Tips

First of all, the Major is in terrible form.  I have not had a good week in three and my own personal returns have run concurrently.  This is not a good advert for what follows but none the less, it is only right that you are well-informed.

I do not normally like Group races for developing 2yo fillies but might make an exception for the 2.05 at Ayr.

I have no doubt that Ainippe is decent.  She was beaten just a week ago in arguably a better race, the Flying Childers and with improvement for the extra stamina test looking to suit, she is a player.  In fact, that form is blatantly the best on offer.  However, I always lose my taste for these young girls once beaten.  Mind you that Flying Childers form is looking damn solid, winners aplenty, while my next paragraph might suggest a winner, have a saver on this favourite and supplement the following in a forecast.  Confused?  I am too.

My pick is Spirit of Xian a Hannon horse that has Fran Berry in the saddle, there is a lot to like about that combination.  This will be the first Richard Hannon Jnr ride at Ayr and while the statistics are more fortuitous than revealing, Berry has had 1 ride for Hannon and won.  Is that why I like the horse? Well no.  It is an admirable campaigner and that experience is a useful attribute in an affair like this.  Highly tried from these quarters also suggests that some talent lies within.  The trips overseas have not been too bad, G3 4l defeat… a subsequent soft ground trouncing, I don’t know, I just feel there is a big race in her and all the stars are aligned.  10/1, tasty.

I cannot recall my Silver Cup and Gold Cup tips with great joy and these handicaps are an enigma anyway.  I may have already warned you that I am on the cold list and it would seem that these races are unlikely the ones that pull me thorough.  Alas, such poor news, it is my duty to impart. However, even the blind squirrel finds the odd nut and the broken Clock is correct twice in the day.

So… Where to look, which Rock to peek under. Christ, a man can get lost in draw analysis and speed.  The Silver Cup has one obvious angle for me.  It often goes to a northern trainer.  That sounds unusual, and thin, granted, but it does.  Maybe this is a race that the Fahey, Dods, Barron, Easterby et al clan target; they have been responsible for 4 of the last 5 winners.  Maybe it is a race which is less important in Newmarket and Lambourn. Maybe.

Three year olds and Nine year olds have taken this race, top weights and bottom weights.  I am struggling to find another angle, this is best guess.

Colin Keane is a fine Irish jockey and Mezzotint is one of many horses that might come good.  Some of the early form reads well, I cannot claim too much credit should it triumph so tread lightly.

The Ayr Gold Cup 

I must declare an interest that Jack Dexter is a warrior I have long followed.  Remember that glorious season where many of the good sprint handicaps were run on soft ground – I saw him at Ascot late in that season, I took my father, who turned 70 recently, grand.

There has not been a single price winner of the race in the last 15 years but then, there have not been many single price runners!

Surely my boy Jack will be undone by the good conditions, to the point where you wonder if he will turn up.  This is such a tasty sprint handicap, again, the mind wonders and wanders, how might we find the winner.  Well, on form, Fahey is a good start but Nicholls that bull necked monster has sought a harvest here too.

Being a test of the better handicappers, the weight range is tighter. I have the winner.

Watchable showed much better form last time and being lightly raced but campaigned well, you have to think that more is possible.  Some would treat the yards reluctance to declare as worries over his readiness, I treat it as a straight concern for whether they are going in too quickly and burying a handicap mark that might yet allow them a shot at a big prize.  We are at the stage of the season where you cannot wait, 12/1 BetVictor.

Newbury Tips

The 1.50 Arc Trial will be the weakest Arc trial in Europe, in fact, it has nothing to do with the Arc and the name should be changed.

Hillstar has the talent but hmmmmmm…. Not exactly the most reliable.  If you are to find an opponent to an unreliable sort then you need to be certain of one of two things, either your unreliable sort will reliably misfires or you found an alternate.  My starting point here is that I think Hillstar is a rule unto himself.

Tasaday is getting some good weight considering her York exploits she was in good company that day and acquitted herself well.  Yorkshire Oaks form is bankable but it worries me that she is an ‘almost’ horse.  Whilst in France she looked top class, finishing 5l down in third to Treve in a G1 before the Arc winner either won the Arc or subsequently lost her form… Fabre is nobodys fool and the idea that this horse is now better than when he sold her, I cannot take it – Conflicted.

I end up by the default position Sherlock preached to bet Glorious Protector at 4/1 with Paddy Power – Improving, friends, have a slice.

Newmarket Tips

I have one bet and it is a Johnson and Fanning assisted shot in the 3.40 Tatts £100k race.  Secret Brief will not let us down.

The Football

Arsenal are not yet good enough to beat Villa at home.  The Villains have started with intent and a draw at 11/4 is decent.  0-0.

I have a feeling that this might be the last day for Pardew and so Hull at 11/4 are to be backed.

Man United will go on from their slaughter of awful QPR and 7/10 is a price.

Derby is a 4/5 gift to beat Cardiff as are Wolves to beat Bolton (11/8)

The Martin Hill bet is …. Derby, Man United and Glorious Protector in a confident treble.


I say somewhere noisy. brick walls lit by careful lighting, a deliberate place but plesant enough.  I hope your company is as beautiful as your spirit.  Tip well friends.

Courage, roll the dice.

Newmarket Thursday – July Meeting Day One Tips

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a warm Worcestershire where crazy midges dart in a whirling swarm, interchanging constantly but never travelling, with the dark comes cool relief from the closeness and the most dreadful game of football man has witnessed.

I cannot stand on parade, it is a school night.  I am offering my July Newmarket day one tips… I would quite like to go through the evening Epsom card too, not that it is high quality – It is amazing that the course that holds the most famous (arguably) race in the world, manages not to raise another quality card throughout the year.

Anyway, to the July course, to the wide open Newmarket grasslands and to some top quality racing.

Newmarket – Thursday Tips

Windshear and Hartnell aim to repeat their form from Ascot where the latter took the Queens Vase and the former the King George V.  Of the two I prefer Windshear on account of the wide draw he had at the Royal meeting which would have taken a toll.  Odeon ran a fine race behind subsequent French hero the Grey Gatsby but you would hardly have thought a step up in trip would be the next logical step having emptied quickly enough there.

However my strong fancy in the first has to be Forever Now at 10/3 (Paddies) and a general 3/1.  John Gosden has won the last three runnings, once with a full brother of this tip and the first time with Masked Marvel, the subsequent St Leger winner – Forever Now is a son of Galileo and is clearly highly thought of.  Gosden has the best recent form of the yards with runners and has the best strike-rate at Newmarket.  This game is easy.

The the July Stakes, a Group 2 6f race for the juveniles.  Richard Hannon has won three of the last four and you would always treat his runners with maximum respect in a race of this type.  Yet it is worth noting that he normally saves his best for other contests.  His best here on jockey bookings is Ivawood who is the choice of Hughes and you can understand why – Ivawood has only raced once but made mincemeat of the opposition – Of clear interest.

I don’t know what to make of the Great War.  A bit like War Command he is hard to read… He has shown tremendous promise and cost a fortune but then ran a shocker in the Norfolk when highly fancied.  I am also highly tempted by Jungle Cat who ran behind The Wow Signal in what I consider to be a high-grade Coventry this year.  At a massive price of 20/1, I think Ustinov has a better chance than many will give him.

Ivawood and Jungle Cat top the list.   Of the two, I am going with Ivawood who did create an impression at Sandown against runners that have gold stamped the form.

Then the feature race, the Princess of Wales.  there looks a really obvious pick here in the favourite Arab Spring.  Of course he needs to step up from what was a decent enough win at Royal Ascot in handicap company but the fact that Moore has opted for him over stablemate, Hillstar.  Keep it simple.

In a day where I am ending up with those at the heads of their markets, I am backing Mount Logan in the 3.15pm.  I do like these New Approach sorts and this one, although being campaigned in handicaps currently is surely a wolf in sheeps clothing…. 7/2.

On what could be a good day for Gosden, I am going to back his filly Exceedingly in the 3.50 maiden.  She showed plenty enough on debut and like so many of his will be about her business now with that under the belt.  Forecast SP 6/1.

The penultimate race named after Sir Henry Cecil, the great man, looks solvable.  I would have thought that Lady Cecil would have placed an entry but alas, it was not to be.  Gosden has the one I want to be on, Pretzel whose sole defeat was at the hands of a subsequent Royal Ascot winner.  2/1, I know big price value seekers are not going to appreciate my views.

There is a touch of 9/1 about National Service in the last and I am suggesting an investment.  His last run was a bit unfortunate as he had plenty made of him to get in a position to challenge.  He was still a respectable 4th, 3l down on War Spirit who went in again with ease at Haydock since.  8/1 generally.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – #RoyalAscot Saturday… Across the card tips from the whole week

Good morning from the Major who writes from a breezy Worcestershire where taking the early morning air has been most pleasant.  The freshness is deceiving as the day is merely breaking and there is an inevitability to the raw heat that is to come.

This week I made the effort to blog each night and cover every Royal Ascot race.  Very profitable it turned out too – Well reasonably so, ‘very’ might have been accurate if the ‘Bank of Treve’ had not failed with no government intervention, I add.  From 30 pieces of advice, we scored 5 winners priced at (advised) Hartnell 4/1, Bracelet 12/1, Anthem Alexander 4/1, Muteela 8/1, The Wow Signal 7/1 and Hootenanny 11/2.  Not a bad haul, especially as we had plenty of places from the other 25 runners – Not bad, not bad but no mothership.

Perseverance.  What a shame for Channel 4 that their viewing figures were down.  By contrast, good weather and an improving product saw Ascot gate numbers swell.  So what is wrong with our TV Coverage then?  Last year, the first that they covered Royal Ascot, the numbers fell off a cliff.  This was to be expected, after all Auntie had an established proposition and being the BBC was able to advertise their product to kingdom come (as a liberal, I would be for abolishing it).  Therefore first time around, you could forgive Channel 4.

To see a further marked reduction in viewer numbers is a little perplexing and quite worrying.  I quite like the overall product.  I think the coverage is excellent, the Morning Line, followed by coverage of every race plus an evening highlights package – Bravo.  You can leave Gok Wan out for me, I am not a fashion sort you see… but even if I would not tune in for him, his segments did not dominate really, they did not distract too badly from the racing.  Plus C4 have offered innovation, the new camera angles, breadth of coverage and I particularly like getting insight into the stewards enquiries, that is excellent.

So, England are out of the World Cup.  In a way I am glad, I can stop pretending to be too bothered.  It was a shame we did not step up against Uruguay but I hope one and all treat Hodgson respectfully, the man is a gentleman – As a cad myself, I spot the real thing easily enough.

Now for a new team to follow.  I think it is going to be wine, cheese, Magret de Canard au miel et aux poires and ‘Vive La France!’ all the way. 

Step gently through the darkened brush, our prey unaware of our presence, the danger carrying on the cold air, we can land this mothership….

Do you know I have written 525 posts – My first was over five years ago, I started not long after Punjabi gave me the biggest win of my life at the time, taking the Champion Hurdle at 22/1 – The following day after that first post, I posted my first tip, Classic Contours running at Beverley.  The step up in trip of three furlongs caught my eye – It came fifth (perhaps I missed this opportunity to stop this foolish endeavour) but then CC went on to win in his next two races after stepping up a further quarter of a mile….. It finished a 46 rated beast after 29 runs with those two wins being the only to he tasted, hardly inspiring stuff but, do you know, I have a soft spot for the beast, I know how he feels you see.    525 times since I have tried for this elusive mothership and 525 failures have been recorded.  Each Saturday, rest assured, I am betting what I propose to you my friends.  I always have a small stake on being entirely right with my thinking, just a few Shekels that would pay off the mortgage.   

Have I made money over this time overall?  Well I do not know.  In two separate spells I tried recording on a register all bets and a marginal profit was the result.  (10-15%) – This is good enough considering the over-round but I haven’t made anyone rich.  I get the occasional thank you, a few drinks and bottles have been offered.  I never accept any praise though beyond a polite thank you.  You see, my philosophy is simple, I offer you my genuine thoughts, what you decide to do is your wanton right.  Your liberty is hard-fought for by our ancestors and I am unable to take it from you.  Therefore whether you bet or not based on the foolish dribble that spills from my mind is entirely your own judicious determination.  Thus I cannot accept the hurrahs and homage and neither can I the slings and arrows – As Buddha imparted his wisdom of being criticised, if you are to offer me a gift and I do not accept it, then to who does the gift now belong?

You might feel that my spirit is dented after so many written words, so many late nights finding an angle, looking for the horse that has favoured conditions, the plot, the class, the breeding… well no dear friends, yes I might feel a little jaded but just to leaf through the Racing Post brings that same childish thrill, the rising passion in my chest, a chemical injection coursing through the veins.  Yes the flame still flickers dear friends, melancholy banished…. to the sports and sharpen those lancepoints, get on parade and look the part, maybe number 526 will be our turn.

To the sports and before we do, spare a thought for @limerickjfk, a regular reader and decent fella too (worth a follow), right now he is indisposed in some foreign far-flung corner of the Earth – well, lying by the pool in Thailand actually preparing his Ascot investments no doubt, choak dee na ka.

Royal Ascot Saturday – Tips Across the Card

If you have jumped to this bit, then stop cheating and head back to the top.  We only accept folk of polite virtue in these parts. 

The Chesham has only gone overseas once in the last ten years (to Ballydoyle with Maybe) but it looks likely to go again.  It could cap an excellent week again for the Irish raiders or it might be making a bigger trip across the water to the States.

We have seen the advantage a higher draw gives you on the straight course at Ascot.  Mainly the winning is done on the stands side of the track.  With inexperienced two year olds, it can be more significant in my opinion as to drop behind from the gates and track across and then take your chances in the traffic is a tricky manoeuver requiring a skillful pilot and a willing and smart accomplice, hard to achieve with a juvenile.

Kool Kompany ran without spark behind The Wow Signal earlier in the week and thus did little to boost the form of Toscanini but ignoring that and the Halford runner has a chance.  Dick Whittington has more experience in the bag and his form was given a lift when his conqueror at Naas, Capella Sansevero came second in what looks a good Coventry to me.  Yet, O’Brien, there is nothing wrong with his wins this year but it just feels a shade below their usual terrifying brilliance.

Wesley Ward has had one winner and one place from his four Ascot runners but you have to respect whatever juveniles he brings over and for me Cordero and Crown the Kitten are the ones to focus on.  Both are beautiful American breeds and they are berthed next to each other.  It is a bit alarming that my tip has the headgear on for debut but that might help and it is a more common call in the States – I like Crown the Kittens jockey, Espinoza but let’s face it, Moore is the best.  11/2 is available with Bet365 and a couple of others.  Load a cannon, this is winnable.

In the Duke of Edinburgh we have a proper race.  This is a difficult handicap to solve asyou suspect there are some very good horses in here that have yet shown their full hand.  To keep it simple, Mick Channon, who has a poor Ascot record by the way, has described Elidor as in great form and my  best chance of the week.  Elidor is on the right side of the track and has won a King George so knows his way home, every sign is that he is coming back to the boil and you suspect he has been targeted at this.  More fashionable picks like Arab Spring will keep the price honest and I suggest loading the small bore for this at a general 12/1.

I love the Hardwicke Stakes because it brings back memories of Harbinger  in 2010.  He went on to win a King George and Queen Elizabeth stakes in the July in utterly devastating style and I was securing my antepost position for the Arc when we got the bad news of his health.  Ah, the memories though, he was impervious that day and we lost him too early.  Stoute has a superb record in this race and it is surely going to be one of his two today.

Telescope is presented as favourite in the same famous Highclere garb, which by the way is probably as nice a racing silk as you can get, you will forgive if reason alone does not dictate the selection.  He was once a hot pick for the Derby but did not appear on track last year until July.  Winning a three runner conditions event easily, then failing behind David Livingstone dented the form as he looked a bit standard.  However, his final 3yo appearance was to take the Great Voltigeur at York, though it hardly looks bullet proof for a G2. 

This year he has been beaten twice by Noble Mission in softer ground.  You might argue that Frankels brother has finally shown some overdue class but I am dubious about all of this form.  Heart fluttering two-tone blue or not, I shall overlook him.

There are plenty of horses with Ascot form here and my tip and a strong one at that is Hillstar.  Pound for pound, he has more in my form book than Telescope and he won in identical conditions in the King Edward VII.  He has two excuses this season; Tapeta in Dubai and a soft ground at an unsuitably tight Chester – It is disconcerting that Ryan Moore, the aforementioned best jockey in the world, does not agree with me but seriously, what does he know?  9/2 – I think I am right.

Diamond Jubilee time and Slade Power is the warm order of the day in a field of high-class runners.  We were all hoping to see Sole Power reappear after the exploits on Tuesday but Lynam reported that he had to be lifted to bed!  I am not surprised!

So many intriguing angles… What do I really want? Draw and Ground feel like the right angles to focus on.

As this is the case, I have a line through Slade Power as he is on the wrong side.  So is Gordon Lord Byron who won a Haydock Sprint in splendid style, hard to say it but has to be overlooked.  Christ this is tough.

I am settling on Due Diligence.  Three year olds have been doing OK in this race of late and this American import looks very nice at Naas – New star sprinter?  Who knows but 8/1 is big enough with Ryan Moore again steering (could be a belting day for him).

The Wokingham…. want the winner? Take a pin, close your eyes, drop the pin, see where it lands, then tear up the paper, burn it and eat the charred remains.

It is a renewal that is dripping in class.  Like many, I was hoping Intrinsic would make the race as it looked like a right plot underway but in the end, no joy.  My pick is drifting like a barge but I am not put off Alben Star who I fully expect to pick up a big prize at some point.  He is well drawn, will be fine on the ground and has Paul Hanagan in the saddle.  22/1 with Bet365 (I have no affiliation by the way!)

Finally, the lucky last… I want to close Royal Ascot out with a winning tip and my choice is…. Pique Sous – Mullins is as dangerous here as he is in a bumper at Punchestown and 4/1 that he gets the better of Tiger Cliff is value.  Of the rest, I like Royal Irish Hussar if a return to the flat helps spark the revival.

Newmarket Sniper Shot

A horse I like the look of (and franked by the thoughts of @lukeelder) is in the 5.50, Dutch Art Dealer.  Gelding is always a wincing thought for us all but often has the desired effect and there are plenty of signs that this year, he might have more to offer.  8/1 with Sportingbet, 7/1 generally.  Load a cannon.

The Martin Hill Trixie is Dutch Art Dealer, Hillstar and Cordero.

I trust your dinner is Pad Thai and in the finest of company.  Allow the cold beer to sink down that gullet with the satisfaction that only a huge bulging inner pocket can bring.  The company both glamorous and sensational, the ambience perfect.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – King George Day plus #crowdsourcingmultiple

Good evening from the Major who wrote this introduction, dead tired, slumped in the kitchen in a Worcestershire air brewing with trouble.  Clammy and suffocating, in it I cannot rest, my eyes are alert and dart to each sudden noise.  In old houses such as this, the bones creak and groan, each new sound aggravates the heart, palpitating with vigour.  Perturbed, the mood, something dark hangs over me.

In these moments deep in the night, when the thoughts deep down bubble to the surface, fears emerge untethered by their daytime confinement.  I am scared that when dawn breaks, this feeling will last, that somewhere in the system, it went wrong.  Things that should be leashed at the midnight hour are somehow free to plague me.

My emotions stir thinking of Daniel Pelka a tragic loss of life.  Just 4 years old, starved and beaten at home, he received further punishments for stealing food from other children at school.  His mother warning teachers not to feed him and herself bribing the child with sweets to maintain his silence.

What confusion in that poor childs mind.  What darkness seeps through the whole thing.  The fragility of a child, the innocence.  The intent, powerful emotions stir.  Still and deep.

What troubles me most is whether the thoughts that run through my mind in the small hours could escape, somehow seep into the day world where everything carries with it, a sense that all will be well.

Morning breaks, a close cloud covered morning.  The Major has risen and arrived at the office, fresh and revived, the words above appear now to be written by a stranger, let us move on.

What a load of nonsense the Royal Baby saga turned out to be.  Journalists, standing outside a hospital with nothing to report on, straining to make something, anything newsworthy.  Have you noticed the stock question a journalist asks any passer-by in such circumstances… ‘Can we have your reaction to…’  Then gushes forth the incontinent thoughts of the masses.  I have no strong view on our monarchy itself, in fact, since the Queen is of a racing mind, I feel a kinship, tough old bitch.

In the coming weeks, I would like to pen a piece on my favourite jockeys and why I like them.  I have commented often that I find, next to horse ability, the jockey ability to be a crucial part of my race reading.  Although I gave up keeping records some time ago (when they were mildly profitable, I would point out!), my feeling is that this is a profitable field to plough, particularly in amateur races where the gulf in jockey quality is greatest.

The article will come, although maybe not as I have the habit of promising things I don’t get round to.  Yet, I shall share with you now, some of the riches of my thinking so that you might judge me.

The top five flat jockeys, based on class and season form, that spring to the top of my mind are… Ryan Moore, of course, Neil Callan, the best damn independent there is, Jimmy Fortune, simple and strong, Silvestre de Sousa, what a season and Adam Kirby, not so much style as brute strength – A man I like to follow in the class 6 races at Lingfield that you know you should never be betting on.  Clearly this needs some thought because Murtagh and Manning are missing, it might turn out to be a top ten – Don’t be upset, I am making this up as I go along, in case you failed to notice.

As for the jumps boys… McCoy, once again, a little obvious, forgive me, Slippers Madden, Jason Maguire, always presents his horses so well to a fence, Ruby, is like watching poetry and then take your pick from some under-rated sorts in Tom O’Brien, Doyle, Maurice Linehan….

Let us get to the sports… Sharpen that lance point young man, bring yourself up to attention for god is on parade and he wishes to see the cleanliness of your tunic.  The deep red colours of our gallant Victorian splendour, looking so dapper in the full light of day, ready to fight the hoards of Satan himself….. Courage and Shabash.

King George Day Tips

Ascot is a hard card to read today, as a big uncertainty remains over the ground they will race upon.

Regardless, it is nothing short of a tragedy that St Nicholas Abbey, the splendid Ballydoyle warrior is fighting for his very life on King George day.  This year the toll of casualty has been high in our sport both on the track and off it, both human and horse.  Good luck old boy, just imagine it is 2009, you are back at Doncaster and Johnny Murtagh is just giving you that little squeeze, digging in his heels just a little and you know it is business time, quickening clear to be one of the most impressive winners of the Racing Post trophy I have seen.  A touch of that spirit and the team of vets will soon be brushing you down and preparing you for your new kept life.

It has left the King George a poorer race.  While Cirrus des Aigles is a fine horse, I am not with him.  Don’t get me wrong, I like him – How can you not?  Gelded, so lacking the illustrious connection to future progeny – That probably helped connections with their decision to come and take on the mighty Frankel when others cried enough and looked for cover.  He gave Pegasus a damn good race too and on his preferred soft ground.

Today, I am not sure the rain will be there in time and as these top horses get older, they get less reliable.

The problem today is that we do not have much in our armoury to get him beat.  Many are allotting credit to the Ascot form of Hillstar that I am not sure it is due.  He is a handicapper who has clearly improved significantly but this is the top table now and we shall see how his form holds, shan’t we.

Trading Leather is interesting.  The Irish Derby winner seems to me to be a horse that has kept below the radar.  The son of Teofilo is one that wants those storms to keep clear until after the race.  Here is the rub though, to win the King George as a three year old you have to be elite.  Galileo, Nathaniel etc etc… Trading Leather? Really?

Novellist is interesting… He has beaten Cirrus des Aigles this season and looks a certain improver – Of the main protagonists, this would be my call

So, the Major is going off piste… In a race I think could fall apart, I am going to advise you to back the outsider of the field Red Cadeuax at a freely available 40/1.

What is my case?  Well OK, the first thing is that we need to ignore two poor runs this season, easily done – Both races were over 2f shorter than this and I think the old boy needs further these days.  His Singapore form was not brilliant and he never got going at Ascot.  Yet, let us not forget he was runner-up in the Dubai World Cup in March.  Ed Dunlop knows the time of day, he is not in this to make up the numbers, they think they can get in the prize money.

If you follow the Majors thinking, then you have a favourite who might be beyond his best before date (as is my own selection to be fair), some three year olds that I don’t think are Galileo-esque and then this campaigner who is the most experienced of the lot of them.  Have a slice and thank me later.

The Rest of Ascot

In the last 15 years, just one horse has won the Princess Margaret at odds larger than 6/1 and that was 25/1 shocker Mixed Blessing in 2005.  It seems sensible thus, to focus upon Wind Fire, Queen Catrine, Along Again and Wee Jean.

My guess is Chroussa will lead them along like she did at the Curragh and again will play second fiddle to one of those four.  Queen Catrine is the least appealing of them, I think the Newmarket form is good but needs to be better.  Hannon is keen on Fig Roll and the master of juvenile horses is hard to ignore but I shall – She is too small (exactly what they said about Messi by the way)

Windfire came close in the Norfolk against the colts and that is very solid.  She started that race at 16/1 and I am not convinced yet that is was our strongest renewal.  It is dangerous to ignore Wind Fire because stepping up a furlong from the Norfolk looks exactly what this girl needs… but I am.

I am sticking to my ‘jockey angle’ and opting for Along Again to make the necessary improvement, take the 7/1.

The next race I am interested in is the 4.25 Lady Amateurs race – Let us test my amateur jockey record.  We want experience and a good strike rate and completely ignore the horse!

Four of the jockeys have a 10%+ strike rate in the last two years, Jane Mangan, Miss Walton, King and Brotherton.  Miss King has only had three winners from 18 rides in that time so slips off my considered list through inexperience.

Now I have to consider the horses and of them, Jane Mangan’s appeals the most, 7/1 shot, the most aptly names… See the Storm.  Some good form preceded the third at Chester which was a dampener, I will admit.  Yet, Chester is not to every horses liking with its tight turns and back on a more suitable track with what I consider the best jockey aboard… well.

Incidentally, do you remember poor Jane Mangan being thrown from her mount, Oscar Delta, as she was coming up the Cheltenham hill on a tight reign to victory?  I have never felt so sorry for a jockey, about to claim her most famous moment on the famous Prestbury Park, in front of a huge throng and Oscar Delta decides that 4m is not enough and he is off for another circuit.  Dumped on the floor, having to stand and tramp back past the crowd, many of whom were on the favourite Salsify, who was gifted the race, ouch.  Not that I feel too bad for her, she has had plenty of days in the sun since then and good luck to her…..

Finally, Emirates Flyer looks a shoe in in the last and 15/8 should be taken with gusto.

Meanwhile at York

It is the Sky Bet York Stakes, group two action and Mukhadram is the obvious choice even at 8/13.  He was desperately unlucky not to be second Ascot behind Al Kazeem after being snatched up on the rails.  Before you get all angry at me for putting up the obvious, go and read the Red Cadeaux bit again… it’s about the balance, yin and yang… calm.

The #crowdsourcingmultiple

The contributions from twitter are as follows:

@TheParadeRing  5.00 Ascot Emirates Flyer

@Lukeyboy1325 boring, but Cirrus Des Aigles

@TheGolfBandit ES QUE LOVE 1515 ASCOT – The Major loves this horse!

@IamNotLuke Contemplating 2:05 Wild Fire but going for a bit better odds with Y 2:20 Smarty Socks

@mattjcollins165m Henry the aviator 2.40 ascot ew around the 12/1 mark – and this one too!!

@LegalWiggy 8s Lilo Lil 1720 Lingfield and Expert  1410 Newmarket

@h103efa captain royale 4.50

May your dinner be opulent in the company of ravishing beauties with the wanton look in their eye that tells you where their mind runs to.  Eat lustily at a bloody steak, ah yes, allow the blood to rise a little, we are on the ride just the once you know.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Red Cadeaux, Along Again, See the Storm and Emirates Flyer.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Lockinge at Newbury | Last Weekend of Premier League | The Preakness

Good morning from the Major who writes from his bed gazing our across the green Worcestershire rural scene towards Bredon Hill with a low but bright cloud hugging the Earth.  Cool air, thoroughly underwhelming conditions leading to a malaise in my mind which I shall share with you to lift the burden somewhat.  Come take a seat.

The Major is planning on spending some time in the garden this weekend.  By tea time, I will be engaged in the gardening activity of men from time immemorial…. burning.  I intent to build a fire so considerable that several military intelligence organisations record it as a global event.

I have borrowed my fathers pressure washer and its usage is a thoroughly addictive activity.  Endlessly cleaning, my mind spirals as I do it, realising the futility, it leaves me hollow. It is why I both love and despise gardening.  It is a pleasant enough activity with a payoff when enjoying the fruits of labour, relaxing in glorious green serenity on a fine day.  Yet it also touches the inevitability of life, death.  Killing weeds, trying to keep plants alive, the steady decay of things.  This weekend I am hoping to treat some wood to prolong its life.  Not to save it, simply to prolong, to keep stumbling on.  We are all on the same cycle, our clocks are ticking, we too are in steady decay as is everything you can see.  Nothing is permanent.

Sport offers me salvation.  I would struggle to do justice to the feeling I get watching a top class equine athlete changing gears after a subtle and simple nudge of the reins, or a jockey well-balanced on a powerfully travelling horse.  The thrill transcends our terminable existence, just for the moment.  Such things surround us in life and your only hope is to absorb them and be temporarily distracted from your own irreparable decline.

To the sports.

Tips for Newbury – The Lockinge 

To me this looks a below average standard for the Lockinge.  The favourite is Declaration of War a Ballydoyle raider who won his Leopardstown reappearance.  O’Brien has a poor record in the Lockinge, having won the race just once in the last fifteen years with the magnificent Hawk Wing ten years ago.  I think yard reputation has carried Declaration of Independence into favouritism and 5/2 is a bit short for me.

One trend I am mindful of is age.  Of the last eighteen winners, seventeen were four or five and just one runner was aged six.  Following this line, I reluctantly put a line through Cityscape.  The global traveller boasts damn fine form and can be ready first time up but at aged seven, does not boast the profile I am after.  I am a little reluctant because Cityscape has chased Frankel home a few times and as Roosevelt said, it is better to have dared even if chequered by failure.

Beauty Parlour is the horse I would like to be selecting.  On French form, I think it is a serious challenger but I am fearful that the firming ground will be against.

The forecast is for dry weather but a small risk of rain around midday.  With the ground good to firm, this is a factor to be reckoned in our calculation.  It leads me to my selection.

My horse comes from the yard that has won the race two times in the last three years.  The horse has a record on good to firm of raced 4, placed in all, won 3 of them.  My horse has had a reappearance run already, and won it.  It represents a yard with a current 19% strike rate.  The jockey has a 22% strike rate in the last two years, the best of all competing jockeys.  I am talking about Trumpet Major.

He has been dismissed by many and I can’t blame them – He is definitely a sort that has two ways of running.  Yet he is in excellent hands.  If anyone can cajole the best from a reluctant sort, it is Mr Hannon.

Not the best Lockinge and I am on the Trumpet Major to bring us some joy.

In the 3.15 I am willing to stick with Hillstar at 5/4.  On reappearance there was plenty of support for the horse who took silver prize – In the context of todays opposition, that was still pretty good form and so I am in again.

At Newmarket, there are a series of impenetrable races which I haven’t the inclination to work through.  Instead, I am having a punt on Dundonnell.  Connections made clear that he needed the reappearance run last month and so third can be forgiven.  Nothing in the field boasts his juvenile credentials and 2/1 is plenty of encouragement for me.  Tha’ir also looks an obvious pick in the following 4.05 contest, again, he might not be perfect but he has an entry in the big one at Epsom so clearly has been well thought of at some point – Plus again, the two year old form is best in field… another 2/1 shot.

The Preakness

The second leg of the US Triple Crown runs tonight at 11.20 but sadly it appears not to be on At The Races.  Hopefully I will find a feed later but I am watching it to see Orb strut his stuff.

This one is potentially a triple crown winner and remains unbeaten in a 5 race career.  The talent was proved in the Kentucky and I don’t think rain will be any hindrance.  Get stuck right in.

The Football

Last day of the season and I have just one bet but it is going to be a sizeable investment.  I really think Villa, 13/5,  are entirely the wrong price to win at Wigan.  OK, they are missing Benteke but they have other dangers and from a preparation point of view, surely Wigan are cooked.  They looked weary at Arsenal and after receiving a tanking and being relegated, I am confident that the upper hand lies with Villa who would want to put a big gap between them and relegation to prove it was never a real risk.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 is Villa, Hillstar, Dundonnell and Orb – Not as much Napalm as you like but confident picks.

I wish you the finest of dinners in the best company.  Courage and roll those dice.