Tag Archives: Jack Dexter

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.

Dinner

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.

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The Saturday Sermon – July Cup Tips, York and anything else that takes the eye

Good evening from the Major who writes from a stifling Worcestershire scene where the warm and heavy evening feels dirty against a clammy skin.  There is a peach moon hanging at twenty degrees above the horizon, some cool white clouds crossing its face, like thin brittle fingers suspended in the soupy air.

The Major has had an exhausting week and as I arrive at the weekend, sleep beckons, the warm embrace of oblivion with the promise of a fresh mental state at the other end.  Not that I can claim to take many fulsome nights of slumber, no, in the small hours, the night world there exists whirring sounds, strange creaks and dark feelings haunting the corners, these do not ooze into consciousness slowly, no they race through my mind constantly changing, heart beating, adrenaline chemically enhancing and amplifying my already alert self.  I would give you tens that I cannot rest the full night.

I have tried drugs, they are good at getting me to sleep just not very good at keeping me there.  No, exercise is the real key and the Major is running again.  Thank you to those kind readers, none of whom I have met in the flesh, who kindly supported my charitable run on Sunday in the British 10k.  It is to raise

Izzy would like to thank all you lovely punters who spared a couple of quid from your warchest for Footsteps!

Izzy would like to thank all you lovely punters who spared a couple of quid from your war chest for Footsteps!

funds for Footsteps Foundation, a marvellous charity that help children with severe physical and developmental needs, just like my gorgeous niece, Izzy, who at the age of 4 has a serious undiagnosed condition.  Bless her gorgeous soul.

Anyway, if you have a couple of shekels to spare, then I promise that my not inconsiderate frame, lungs screeching in pain, jelly legs staggering forwards like some awfully wounded animal flailing my way around our great capital; will earn every penny and it is a smashing cause.  You can donate on this link and the Major will remember you when you are at the gates of hell, for that is where I shall be, there is to be no deliverance from purgatory for the Major, no forgiveness for my sins, yet I can at least put a good word in for you.   Thank you to @sar6ie, @onedeswalker, @ruthmuckle, @jimknight88 Keith and Simon and possibly more who all have been so very generous.

There is so much racing to talk about that this might be my longest ever post.  There are 6 daytime meetings including some excellent cards at York (100 runners), Newmarket (93), Chester (66) and Ascot (83).  There are a further two day time meetings in Ireland and so the day will be stretched – This pile up has been criticised but not from my corner – It looks like a tremendous typhoon of a Saturday and I am looking for those interesting moves.  Which jockeys have gone where? and why? Can we find a thin line of evidence to lead us to paradise? Is there a thread on the satchel which our enemy carries into battle that we might just get our finger nails on, then cling on as the stitching unravels?  Let us see my friends.  Before that I have no strong lecture but a small personal tale to tell so sit back and take in that pungent fresh coffee aroma.

In rush hour, the main arteries of A-road asphalt propel the tin cans and their tiny inhabitants to their cottage homes.  They are tiring to drive along, the monotony suffocates the mind and your reflexes are dulled.  Suffice to say, last night, I was shaken from my stuporous torpor by an animal darting across the carriageway.  This is not uncommon in these parts but normally the larger animals that might leap from the verges, with a maniacal suicidal lunge, come at night, foxes, badgers and deer.

This was a dog and I like dogs.  Stopping, I got out of the car warily.  I am not afraid of dogs, quite the contrary, I grew up with them.  At risk of losing half of my readers, they are far superior company than cats.  They are at times selfless, caring, loyal and fierce defenders of their family.  Admirable traits in a servant.  No, my caginess was simply the situation.  As a child, my mother stopped to tend to a German Shepherd late at night in Walsall town centre, he had been hit by a car and was looking sorry for himself.  Through terror he acted, you know what is coming and my mother should have been wiser, no serious harm was done but I was too young to recall his fate so that part of our journal shall remain incomplete.  Suffice to say that it imprinted a caution around wounded beasts.

Anyhow, my animal, a gorgeous young boxer, a pup I would say, had no road sense whatsoever, but seemed entirely unharmed.  In fact, he struck me as damned pleased with himself, bounding around blissfully unaware of the dangers of the 60mph section of the A38 on which he was intent on scampering.  He was friendly enough to approach but reaching for the silver tag dangling from his collar triggered a game in which he would dart off at a pace thrice that of which I am capable, stop after 20 yards and look pitifully back at me.  It reminded me of playing my father once at squash, he, a more accomplished player than I, had a knowing look as he started the game, he commanded the T, sent me scurrying around the court at his leisure and seemed to score at pleasure, he carried the same look; one part disdain, one part pity; one part mocking.

There were some cottages set back from the road down a dirt track, a mere 50 yards aft and thinking that my renegade might be a defector from those parts, I made my way swiftly along the verge with ‘Bertie Bounder’ following.  From time to time I waved a clenched fist at him indicating some sort of treat may well be within and the brainless exuberant free spirit fell for it readily enough.  Oh, I can lead the gullible when I have to.

At the last in the line of small terraced cottages, I could detect movement in the garden and hollering a welcome drew around a man who looked startled to have a caller.  These are quiet parts you see.  The dog was his as it turned out and he was at pains to thank me for stopping and rescuing him before some terrible misadventure occurred.  There was something very odd about this chap.  He was a biker I would guess, a dark beard, dark clothing and wayward look that told of a life lived.  It was not his appearance though, no, he seemed distracted and I was about to find out why.

In the awkwardness that fell between our sentences, our polite and civil exchanges, something was simply not right.  I asked matter of fact if the dog had escaped through an open gate and he did not answer, rather he seemed puzzled.  He was looking through me now, rather than at me and then he simply stuttered… No, the wife was out walking him.  The realisation of the words and the the thoughts which moments before had been hanging in the air, settled now suddenly.

The cold fell over us like a blanket.  We both started back up the track at a vigorous pace but being British, not running you see, even feeling that someone might be hurt, we wish to keep some dignity, god help her.  I was asking whether she always took the same route and as a plan, we decided to cross the road, split down the path that ran parallel opposite and see if we could see her.  To allay his worry, I suggested that most likely, she was wandering in the woods or across some hay-field, looking for our chum but this mans peace was only going to come once that was fact and not conjecture.

We crossed, we split and a mere 50 yards up my path, with my search partner well out of sight, I thought I caught voices drifting back from the direction he had set off in.  Standing breathless straining at the wind, I heard them again and decided that coming back to him was the judgement.  I did not need to get far.  Returning to the gate, I could hear very well the two of them, a loud female voice booming I CAN’T FIND THE BLOODY DOG! It did not sound happy but in consideration of the feelings pouring from her husbands face mere moments earlier, it made me smile to think of him now under the whip.

I slinked away, through the gate, back across the road, slipping into the seat and driving off without stopping to acknowledge.  Why you wonder?  Well, a favour is an odd thing sometimes, do it and the recipient can feel at odds, unsure how to show their generosity.  From the timbre of her pitch too, it seemed to me that my retired Hells Angel had enough on his plate.

Is there a moral to this tale.  Well, it would be this.  Terrible things lurk in our future, we do not know the time of their coming but they punctuate the normality that exists between.  So my friends, take a keen hold of that normality, we drift by the once on the river, grab on to whatever floats by.  Ask few questions, let banal troubles wash away on the river.

To the sports and daub thy war paint, the maul is thick with limbs thrashing violently, confusion reigns, we shall take on the enemy at close quarters with a mere ten rounds per man and bayonets fixed.

The July Cup

I am going to start with the big one.  My favourite July Cup moment was Hayley Turner winning her first Group One aboard Dream Ahead, how she scythed through the melee that day, poise perfect, power packed finish and gloriously triumphant afterwards.  What a shame she has been so dogged with injury, this season is not progressing well either, she is at half the strike rate she was in 2011 when she picked up her only two G1 winners.

This July Cup is a tremendous renewal.  A top quality field, I hope that the ground ends up good to soft and we keep them all in.  The forecast is for no more rain but it remains soft and showers threaten.

I know who I want in the July Cup but feel I am about to be thwarted by the conditions.  I was mightily taken with Due Diligence in the Diamond Jubilee.  He is entitled to be improving anyway but that was a damned good run having been drawn on the wrong side for all of the pace.  He made his way over and only failed to get to Slade Power by a length and was snatched in the final strides anyway.  O’Brien has said that he is a fast ground horse, despite him winning on yielding to soft in Ireland – On those grounds, I do not think he will appear.  Sole Power is less likely to run on account of the ground too and one of the other Ballydoyle string, Fountain of Youth is also a probable scratch.

There are a host of others who are unlikely to want to feel their toe sinking, they include the American raider from the Wesley Ward team, Undrafted (quite a nice story behind that name, the owner is a famous American Footballer but was undrafted himself) and Aljamaaheer

Slade Power is well worth considering.  He will stand at stud next year with Darley and may well turn out to be a strong producer of precocious sorts.  For now, he remains right at the top of the tree for European sprinters and he has a darn fine chance here.

The thing is, the sprinting divisions can be odd affairs, you think you have the form nailed down and then the key actors decide to switch roles.  In the last ten runnings of the July Cup, there have been five double figure returns, including a 20/1 and 22/1 shot so we should not rule too many out.

So here is where I am.  Slade Power has an excellent chance and I would not put you off at 5/2.  Yet, I am playing the upset card and thinking that Jack Dexter and Cougar Mountain might have bigger roles to play.

They are very different profiles – Jack Dexter has shown his best form in soft ground and so some more rain would be excellent.  He finished midfield at Ascot but the ground was against him there and he will relish this.  If the ground and the race cuts up, I would expect a much better run and 20/1 with Laddies and Hills will soon go if the heavens open.

Cougar Mountain could be anything.  He has had very favourable reports and the reason he is on the list is that he is likely to be the main Ballydoyle contender now.  Inexperienced, thrown in but out of Fastnet Rock and in the best of hands.

I am opting for Jack Dexter and I hear those form students scoffing at me for having the effrontery to suggest he is up to winning a Group One.  Yet three year olds have a questionable July Cup record and I will go with experience and conditions above the vague promise of potential.

 Newmarket – Tip for Bunbury Cup

This race is likely to be cutting up as well as the runners are protected from getting their legs muddy, wimps.  There are two things I am primarily looking for to create the shortlist.  A good draw as I think the pace is going to be on the low side with Best of Order likely to tow them all along and Moss Glen and Horsted Keynes being willing followers – Yet the bias often favours the high draw, a quandary.  Soft ground form as I am planning on another shower or two to keep it this way.

The swing in the weights that Horsted Keynes receives after what I considered to be pilot error (Spencer hold up job) at Ascot is a damn handy pull and if I had more confidence of the horse acting on the ground, he might be my winner (never raced on anything worse than good).

That race was a key piece of form and the winner was Louis the Pious who is now accompanied by one of my favourite jockeys Neil Callan returning from injury.  I am also very interested in this ones stablemate, the second O’Meara horse is Best of Order who is now ridden by Jamie Spencer (was on Louis at Ascot for his win), that is intriguing n’est pas?

One that draws me in is the Luca Cumani runner, Ayaar at 9/1 with Bet Bright but 8s with proper firms!  I am not sure they want to race him on soft and so it is with thin reasoning that I leave him and focus my firepower on Absolutely So who is being smashed up again, just like he was in the Wokingham where he finished out the back, possibly unsuited by the rattling Ascot ground.  Of significant interest at 7/1 and the Majors tip.

Newmarket – The Superlative 2.40pm

Hannon has won this (well of course he has it is a top class juvenile!) twice in recent years with King Torus and then the ‘destined for better things’ Olympic Glory.  He runs Estidhkaar a winner at Newbury in mid June.  That race is starting to look quite hot since the 4th, another Hannon inmate, St Brelades Bay went to Windsor (again Hannon, standard) and won.  The second, Mustadeem also won his next race at Sandown.

Gleneagles will have obvious claims being bred from the top stuff and winning impressively at the Curragh.

Lieutenant Kaffee is a highly interesting runner for Fahey.  He does not throw many darts at these sorts of races and he tends to hit his doubles so that alone is a signpost.  The races the horse has competed in are hard to assess but that is true of the whole field, not to be underestimated.  Archie for the Manor House team is a similar profile, shrewd trainer…

In the end, the Superlative often goes to a fancied runner and it is either the Hannon hottie or the Ballydoyle runner for me.  I have settled on Gleneagles, his win was taking, out of Galileo and You’resothrilling I think he is a very worthy favourite at 2/1.

I’d put nobody off a forecast with the Hannon horse though, even a reverse one if you don’t have the kahunas to see your convictions through.

York Tips

Now a man of commerce I know well, who resides in the beautiful rolling Yorkshire landscape has put in a request for some of the action at York to be covered.  Firstly, Matt, have a wonderful day, York is in my view, one of the very finest courses we have and I hope the sun shines, the cold crisp wine flows and the company shines.  As I always respond to requests, here is the full card for your delectation and possibly later, derision.

Completely different conditions will prevail up north where we are seeking the speedster types, those smooth operators that float over the turf in delicate, rhythmic and efficient style.

I mentioned at the outset that jockey movements were of clear interest on a day like today and the fact that Ryan Moore, the best in the world has gone to York is telling.  Yes York has a quality card but surely Moore would have been a shoe in on a ride in the July Cup, certainly he might have gotten himself a Ballydoyle fancy there.  So what is he at York for?

Well in the opener I hope he can get us underway with well backed Dusky Queen at 6/1.  You might argue the horse should have won last time out at York and this track form, even in defeat gives me confidence.  I consider York to be a bit of a specialist track, to the eye it looks straight forward with a long sweeping left hand turn into a generous flat to downhill straight but many horses do not seem to give best and so course form is a positive mark.

Moore could easily be on a double by the time the second race has finished as Waila looks the sort to click and win going away.  The truth is it is hard to know what to expect and the master Stoute has reached for headgear on recent runs to try to focus the mind and get a consistent performance from the horse.  The money is coming but 7/4 is short enough for a horse that might make its own mind up.  I prefer the Godolphin runner Al Saham who has been improving and whilst another that needs the headgear, looks a little but more solid with it on.  Plus if this comes down to a punch up, I’d prefer my tip to respond well enough to a robust Fallon drive.  4/1 – Take that.

Then the John Smiths Cup.  Haggas has won two of the last three runnings both times with similar types.  Four year olds, weighted below nine stones and he has another one here in Queensbury Rules who does not have a massive amount of obvious positives save these mentioned – He is being stepped up in distance after the Hunt Cup exploits and I just have a feeling he will come good in a race like this soon.  In fact the last 8 runnings have gone to horses with a burden of less than nine stone and I think this might be a 14/1 turn up.

Then the sprint at 3.30 and I simply have to follow up on G Force.  You might remember me giving this a big mention some weeks ago when he disappointed a bit at Sandown.  that day he was caught out a bit in mid division and I think his third can be upgraded.  He is lightly raced in this company and the way he won his handicap debut suggested that the later summer sprint group races would be on the agenda.  If that is to be the case then 3/1 is a price we can make a mockery about.  I am always hesitant with this big powerful strutting sprinters who like men on steroids can act like head-cases but even considering that, this remains a tremendous bet, pile in (10/3 BetVictor) – Load the large cannon is the message.

The 4.05 – Given that this race was won by none other than the Grey Gatsby last year who went on to French Derby glory for the Ryan yard, you have to be fully respectful of their runner here, Flaming Spear.  He holds tickets for all the right races and cost a quarter of a mill so enough is expected.  Polarisation is the one with the experience that appeals but given he made a debut at Southwell, it seems unlikely he is one of the fancied Johnstone beasts. No, no, no…. The Major is going to suggest a potentially bigger priced newcomer in Moonlightnavigator at a likely SP of 12/1.  This son of HenrytheNavigator was also an expensive purchase for a yard where he would be a key player in the stable.  The dam was a useful US sort and I would be really hopeful of a big run.

In the penultimate race at 4.40, I was planning a  bit of a turn up.  I am not sure that a lot of the horses near the head of the market are going to enjoy the forecast conditions and so I am considering Gabrials King at an unfashionable 18/1 shot with BetVictor to my slip.  He won’t mind the rattling ground and there is every chance he has targeted at this race, a contest in which he placed last year.  There have been some smatterings of form since and to his credit, he has been running at reasonable levels, to the extent that he is competing this year on 11lbs more.  However, the main advice is to back Great Fighter for Godolphin at 7/1.  He is less exposed than many of these and this track and this extra test might be the making of him.

In the lucky last, I am pinning my hopes on Billyoakes a general 6/1 shot who I think has an excellent chance.  He beat Denzille Lane with ease when they met and that horse went on not to be disgraced in the Windsor Stakes at Ascot.  Well worth an investment.

Best bets of the rest?

The riches are legion, the time so limited….

Pushkin Musuem is 3/1 in the 2.50 at Chester and being honest, if he jumps he wins.  This one has the almost plum (I prefer box 2/3/4 to box 1) draw and a terrifying cruising speed, if the others want to beat him, they will have to come round the outside, incredibly tough at Chester…. Lump in 3/1.  This horse has shown how capable he is on fast ground, no fears.

A similar story for Confessional in the 4pm at Chester who looks on a nice mark and has conditions and draw to suit.  8/1, going in!

I have not had time to go through the Ascot card, it is a tough life as a tipster on a night like tonight.  My sole bet there will be 9/2 Kinshasa  in the 4.15.

Had enough? I certainly have.

I trust you will be dining on the evening in the finest restaurant.  The owner joining you at the table to thank you for the custom and to serve the good brandy.  Your company lightly toasted by this stage and all well in the world.

The Martin Hill bet is G Force, Moonlightnavigator, Dusky Queen and Pushkin Museum in an each way yankee.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Doncaster, Navan and Kempton – 25/1+ tips in the Spring Mile and Lincoln

Good evening from the Major who writes from a warm friendly lounge at my in-laws in the Birmingham suburbs.

I have flown in and out of Edinburgh this week for my employer, yet I must confess that there was some pleasure to be had alongside the business.  As with all of the Majors travels, I file for your appraisal my report of the Scottish capital – I intend to keep it to the important facets.

The suburbs of Edinburgh are largely low angular, regular bungalow houses in cold and quiet neighbourhoods, most uninspiring, distant feeling, no.  This contrasts markedly to the City Centre where pomp and splendour is the order of the day.  The horizon is dominated by sheer faces of granite rising from the Earth in chest thumping confidence.  The properties amplify the feeling, hulking stone imposing structures, neo-classical and elegant and a little intimidating but pleasing to the eye.  Around the city walls, they grow in proportions telling of times when the only way to find space was up.

I undertook a whisky tasting session.  I tried to embrace enthusiastically the work at hand but must conclude that the drink is an abomination.  The textures and layers of a good brandy achieve the same without making you feel like you are swallowing bad medicine.

As for the folk.  The men are upright and have angular noses, speak directly and deal straight.  Perfectly acceptable.  The women folk are small, black bobs of hair, small dark eyes set into pale white faces.  They dress smartly, consistently and with warm sensible black tights and sensible shoes.  I always delight in a well turned out sort and compliment their sharp neat style with a wonderful accent of drawling soft burr and excitable inflections and the Major has found a blueprint to fall in love perpetually.

As these sorts age, their stature stiffens slightly and the lips purse but still curl at the edges, I am sure that their mind runs to fun if you can get beyond the conservative defence.  I did not have the time to test that supposition.

I stayed at the Balmoral – A friend later told me it is his favourite hotel, I do not rate it quite the same.  The views are excellent, the building is impressive, the cocktail barman an expert; yet the rooms lacked something and I felt it just short of some of the other luxury establishments I have had the good fortune to frequent.  I am not criticising it, merely applying the high levels of judgement required when someone purports something to be the best.

I am still licking my wounds on one of the most painful punting Gold Cup days in living memory – Each of my selections falling by the wayside, a relentless slaughter with no mercy shown.  Given my time again, I would have left the Gold Cup and celebrated instead National Pi day which happened to fall on the same day as the Gold Cup in this year – It would have aided my wallet and saved my emotions and energy.  Pi day is always 14th March work it out and is a worthwhile acknowledgement of one of the most beautiful aspects of mathematics.

The answer to the question, ‘What is a Circle?’,  Pi is an irrational number, it cannot be expressed completely.  Modern computational ability has calculated Pi to over a trillion places.  In the sequence, any patterns that emerge in the decimal places are purely accidental.  For example, the first five characters are 14159 and that sequence is first repeated when you get to 6954-6959 digits in.  The number 9 is repeated 6 times in a row just over 760 characters in, yet this is the only time a ‘6 in a row’ occurs in the first million decimal places.  Eventually, any pattern you wish for will emerge, if you looked deep enough into the decimal points, waves and waves of randomness but the scale of it throwing up anomalies.  The number is infinite, thus the permutations too.  That frightens me or at least unsettles me.  Eventually everything will happen – Hold on to that thought as we once again go back to the field of battle and continue our quest, concerned with landing the mothership.

To the sports.

Doncaster Tips

Now last week, the Major fared well, scoring some nice hits of which the highlight was 12/1 Pepite Rose.  I am only lightly boasting.

As the Lincoln meeting is the start of the flat season, it can be difficult to assess the form of the various strings flexing their muscles.  The Doncaster ground has come up soft and that gives us an angle to work on.  These flat horses, by and large, do not like it so and if we can find a few mudlovers, we will fare well.

I am not betting on the Brocklesby – I have enough of my faculties intact to see that as folly.

The listed mile race however….. well.  Guest of Honour, Fencing and Emell I suspect all want decent ground and so have the lines through them.  Andrew Balding is starting the season in scintillating form with 8 winners from his 17 runners in the last fortnight.  He saddles the outsider of the field in Butterfly McQueen who gets a handy fillies allowance and has arguably given her best in her two runs (resulted in a win and a place) on heavy ground.  Let it rain.  16/1 in a place, 14/1 generally.

In the 2.40 listed 6f race, I only have eyes for the favourite Jack Dexter who has looked a group horse at 6f on his favoured soft ground.  Heavens Guest might be the main danger but I am loading a cannon for the fans favourite.

In the spring mile, I am looking for a soft ground horse that has been drawn in the low numbers.  I want a four year old and the ground is key.  I have settled therefore on Freewheel at 28/1 with the assistance of the experienced and capable Fortune doing the steering.

Then the big one, the Lincoln.  I cannot find an ideal profile horse at all so it is with a little trepidation that I place a small stake on Unsinkable at 25/1 with Skybet (I have no affiliation – The Major is advert free, affiliate free…. always just mildly profitable and slightly unhinged).

Navan

One sniper shot tip for Navan and it is to take the 5/2 about Bog Warrior with all your available capital!  My favourite horse in training needed his last run and I promise he will put Baily Green to the sword.  He gallops for fun and while he is prone to incredible error, he will win!  Even if he does not, you will get the pleasure of backing a horse who runs without a care in the world, head in his chest!

Kempton Tips

The second and third races are the ones I am interested in.  In the second race, I like Trumpet Major as a competitor, he has proven class.  Yet, I am going with the gal, Modernstone who boasts excellent all-weather form including a second to Grandeur and I am backing her at 7/2.

In the 2.55, I like Rebellious Guest and Uramazin.  I have settled on the former.  No explanation, 13/2.

In the football, I shall try to deliver a hat trick of winners as per last week… Leicester have checked out a bit and Burnley pack enough punch that 9/5 is a bet.  Chelsea are a bet at 4/9 to beat Palace… they will not slip up.  Wolves are taking a small army to MK Dons and the fans will be rewarded 11/10…

The Martin Hill bet is Jack Dexter, Rebellious Guest and Unsinkable in an each way trixie.  I would also recommend a coverage on Bog Warrior doubled with Burnley.

I hope your dinner is excellent and in the finest of company, a goddess and a sage.  Allow yourself to be wineflown for the spring is here and that is cause to celebrate.  Tip well.

Courage friends and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Wincanton, Doncaster and Sandown Tips plus the football

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire that once again is smothered in a cold, thick, grey, severely uninviting blanket of grey dampness.

Each object in my horizon looks indistinct and each thing cold as though it might infect you with chills and dampness too, if you touch it.  Thus the Major writes with the fire crackling away, the gentle sound of the air being drawn and the occasional breaking of the rhythm by a sudden crackle or violent spit.

Racing today seems to fall between the cracks,  neither top class nor is it entirely unappetising.  We know better is to come, next week we see the Cheltenham Open fixture with the likely reappearance of some genuine Championship horses, coming together to ascertain their place in the early pecking order, but today, we enjoy a more gentile existence.

This is also a likely shorter post as the Major is troubled with other matters.  I shall not bore you with the gremlins that trouble my mind but suffice to say that add up to little compared with real hardship and so would be an embarrassment to air.  I suspect most of yours are the same.  Anyway, the moralists among you, who have been here often and know my mind well might suspect I was well served for my thoughts.

Confidence in your position underpins the fabric on which you build your self-esteem.  Socrates was  drinking his deadly hemlock in utter serenity, entirely confident that is was the logical conclusion and therefore should be accepted with grace.  I am also minded of the Italian security contractor captured in Iraq, forced to dig his own grave and then defiantly as he knelt alongside it waiting to be shot, he tried to remove his hood and declare Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!…. I will show you how an Italian dies.

These things stay with me, whirling around, in amongst the mundane daily noise, these signals break through.  Accepting of your own fate, the inevitability of it all, we are all due the same settlement in the finish.

I could not write this weeks blog without a gentle nod in the direction of the champion jump jockey AP McCoy – You all know about his magnificent achievements and I shall not try to do what others are far better capable of.  Yet I proffer that Drill Sergeant who stopped to a walk mid race but was got going again and galvanised to victory plus the incredible ride on Wichita Lineman who got there in the nick of time, at a Cheltenham Festival too… These two rides for I, symbolise best what McCoy is about.  All from a man who does not drink and works so diligently.  He deserves every plaudit.

I once met McCoy at the Sports Personality Awards.  He was in good company and he took the time to have his picture taken with me.  I troubled him for a horse to follow and he gave me Taquin Du Seuil – This was mid December last year and Taquin won his next two before letting down my significant antepost investment for Cheltenham.  What did I get from that encounter?  Good hair, smart shoes, polite….. Class act all the way!

I encourage one and all to embrace gambling.  So many of the simple lessons of life are contained within the complex construction.  In gambling you can seek solace and company, hubris, happenstance and distress…. So, to the racing, we shall try to land our mothership and in good grace too.

Wincanton Tips

Let’s start with the Grade 2 limited handicap that is the Elite Hurdle.  Since Nicholls has won six of the last dozen runnings of the race with horses such as Zarkander, Celestial Halo and Azertyuiop, then his entries are a good place to start.

The Nicholls team has had a mixed start to the season, some of the runners have looked like they needed a run, which is not too unusual for the yard.  The reality is that 5 of his last 34 runners have won, a strike rate of 15% which is not a complete disgrace but 7% lower than the same stat for the last twelve months.  The Ditcheat operation is one of the most consistently excellent racing yards of our age, that 22-23% strike rate has been consistent in all of the last ten years with two exceptions, 2008, a fine vintage of 27% and 2004 a poor crop of 19%.

There does feel though some malaise over the yard.  Perhaps it is the embarrassment of riches that UK rival Henderson has at his disposal, perhaps it is the Mullins yard opening a UK base, perhaps it is Ruby and his decision to only ride the key UK meetings, stripping Nicholls of his most able rider mid week.

In such times, renewal is required.  Mahon and Jacob need to step up and prove they are good enough to ride for a potential champion trainer.  Nicholls himself needs to work that magic and turn those useful novices into accomplished second season chasers.  He needs to do what he has been best at, in spite of the rising competition, he needs to work his magic eye over the Auteil runners and bring home some new stars.

One horse, I think could be the catalyst for a lot of this is Silvianaco Conti.  He is a slim fella but was desperately coming down when looking a threat descending the hill in the Gold Cup.  With a sound campaign, Nicholls might just have a real live contender for Bobs Worth to face.

Anyway, all of this is background to the decision to be made for Far West, his entry in the Elite Hurdle.  s you can see, I am a buyer at 9/4.  Cotton Mill is OK and the Melodic Rendevouz yard of Scott is woefully out of sorts.  Far west was defeated by Our Conor in the Triumph but come on, that is top class form.  I suspect, Our Conor is a horse we will relish this season.  The Triumph form has been boosted with the work of Diakali in France and I think Far West can pay the Dessie Hughes horse another compliment today.  I feel confident about this one.  Talk of the demise of Nicholls may be incredibly unsound.

Backing a Nicholls double requires some faith.  I have that faith.  His record at this Wincanton meeting is impressive and so it is with some ease that I tip doubling Far West with Wonderful Charm who goes in the novice chase.  The Fakenham exploits were impressive and this one looks a natural.

To Doncaster

First of all, I think Jack Dexter in the 2.25 is a tremendous bet.  He will enjoy conditions (5 from 6 in soft) and while he flopped in this race last year, he had a more demanding schedule.  He takes his racing well and I think is still capable of group class form.  He has to concede weight here but deserves to on what he has achieved.  He knows what racing is about and I back him to come home at 5/1.

I know you are after a November Handicap tip… lunatics.  I have strayed in to have a look at it but my head hurts and so it is more of a dart than anything in suggesting three runners in Shrewd, Swnymor and Twelve Strings.  The first is a Michael Bell horse who loves some cut and has not had such conditions all season, big improvement could come as a result.  Swynmor is an interesting runner who will also relish the ground and races for the Rebecca Curtis yard.  The final calculation is for Twelve Bells who is an Ellison runner (a yard I struggle to get right) a horse that will love deep ground too and arrives in good form over what I think is a more suitable trip.

Of them, I opt for Swynmor who could pose a big risk on the flat off this sort of mark and 25/1 is a big price.

Sandown

Jumps at Sandown!!  Fantastic.. I do like this course, it is tough and examines proper National Hunt horses.  This makes it hard to back a novice with massive confidence as the fences are tough enough.  You want to see some experience of fences certainly as this course rewards accuracy.

The beginners chase is a fine example of this.  Grandouet is a 4/9 favourite for this race but has not jumped a fence in his life.  Risky proposition if you ask me when there is a proven chaser in Hinterland in opposition.  Yes the form behind Captain Conan does not add up to the same as what Grandouet achieved over hurdles but my selection is not a million miles behind.  I accept that Grandouet on paper is a worthy favourite.  He will have been well schooled and prepared, this is also a god race for him with a quiet small field and I like the horse but in these positions it seems crazy not to back a potentially improving chaser in Hinterland, from a top yard who has experience at these bigger obstacles.  If this was Ffos Las, I would back Grandouet no problem but this is Sandown and he needs to treat it with respect.

I backed Grandads Horse in the listed race at Market Rasen and was disappointed.  Fehily is replaced with Geraghty which is like for like in my view but signals that this horse is still on the up.  This is a better race but soft ground suits and clearly with the high-profile jockey selection, Longsden thinks he is on a winner.

In the football, I think Everton should make light work of Palace 4/6, West Ham could take advantage of Norwich at 9/4 that is a bet and finally, Liverpool 2/7 to beat Fulham is a gift, that is a 28.6% return in one day, unless you are holding an entire families allocation of Royal Mail shares than there is no better investment!

The Martin Hill bet is a series of doubles and trebles each way on Grandads Horse, Jack Dexter, Far West, Wonderful Charm and Hinterlnd.

May your dinner be magnificent and free from cares or concerns.  I wish things for you that I may never have.  Your benefit is not my cost, do not begrudge a man his good fortune and I dearly hope you find yours my good friends…. Courage and roll those 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.