Good morning, I hail to thee, young band of merry warriors. Defford is a paragon of virtuous sunshine this fair morning, cacophony of spring birds, a brightness so loud it is deafening.
Ah the Major pangs for the short dark days of winter, the peaceful still and cool air, clear sound made on fresh canvas; just fading memories now like the distant pulses of a fast-moving train, but we know it will return. Let us enjoy our excursion into summers embrace but know it for what it is, we shall await and embrace the coming of winter and restoration of natural order.
The Saturday Service is here and we have a great Easter weekend of sport, a delectable spread of refined temptations to pick from, gorge not, but enjoy the feast – Select well, as the enemy will try to dazzle us with baubles of deception, gaudy and dizzying, remain clear-headed and progress like the river with your mind able to bend round stubborn stone, relentlessly rolling on.
The Majors midweek foray was unsuccessful with three horses selected returning one non runner and two losses. The Majors April is still very profitable, apologies for not updating the figures in the menu bar, the tardiness will be corrected. Suffice to say I think we are about 55% up.
Balance is required. As Kipling wrote, treat both triumph and disaster as equal imposters. The Major knows this and so vigilance is required today. Let our success be deliberate and calculated. Glory comes from perfect practice, not hot-headed folly.
Custer is our cautionary tale. His exploits for the Union army were legendary being promoted at Gettysburg. He felt bullet proof and confidence was always sky-high with this dangerous man. This instinct gave him his greatest moments and cost him his life and that of those he commanded.
The Americans were continually breaking treaty promises with Indian camps over land rights. Finding gold in the Black Hills caused inevitable further conflict and an oppressed tribal community rose up. The Indian tribes of Arapaho, Cheyenne and Lakota (as well as the fighting Brule) united under the leadership of Sitting Bull were prepared to fight. Their huge camp of 4,000 ugly faced braves, intent on mischief, settled at Little Bighorn. Custer, the civil war hero was sent to quash the uprising with his 7th Calvary.
Tactically, Custer gave little thought to the job in hand. His confidence in his men was unimpeachable but foolish. He split his force into three. The initial foray lead by Reno was to the South of the Indian encampment, it was bloodily repulsed and it was clear that the force they were fighting was well armed, well-ordered and thirsty for the engagement.
All could have been recovered after Reno’s failed attack from the South, his retreat to the bluffs standing high to the East of the Little Bighorn river gave them all a chance of digging in.
Custer though was indignant and unaware of the dangers. He had his forces try to traverse the river to the North East of the camp. They were easily repelled and then pursued up the bluff by a succesful and swift Indian counter charge led by Crazy Horse.
A desperate last stand was made in the hill overlooking the sprawling Indian camp. Indian Calvary made light work of the 7th Calvalry who were trying to form a line, once they smashed through that, all order was lost and it was every man for himself. The Indian braves used hatchet and lance in close quarters to devastating effect. After the battle, they scalped the defeated in order to let the soul of their enemy depart, savage yet cathartic.
Why did Custer judge Little Bighorn so badly? Why lead a force into full frontal assault against a three factor stronger enemy? Why split your force? Why when the first skirmish goes horribly wrong would you risk an attack? Why decline to take more troops in the first place? Custer wanted the fame, he was drunk on his self-image.
A man compelled to further his career in the spotlight. A man buoyed by early success. Over-confidence in your trained troop. The sense of glory. No coolness of mind. Calculate your bravery. The Major urges you to distance yourself from victory and defeat. Custer’s lesson.
To the sports young warriors, let us hope to add red dots each symbolising a defeated and fallen member of the turf accountant community to our head-dress. Daub paint and prepare your hatchet, ready thyself, it is Saturday and there is mischief to be had.
Sandown Bet 365 day is a superb moment in the sporting gentleman’s calendar. The gauntlet is passed from the jumps to the flat boys and both are on show in a wonderful eight race card. Next year, this might make the Majors social cycle.
A glorious day for them too today. Drenched in sunshine.
The ground will be edging towards the firm, this is a significant factor in assessing todays runners, it will be frenetic stuff. We are also looking for jumps horses that are not ‘over the top’, ideally ones that have demonstrated they are spring horses. Thus, Baby Run makes little appeal.
For the flat sorts, prep runs and ones that go fresh is the model of the likely winners in the Majors view.
2.05 Sandown – Bet 365 Handicap
As I write it appears that Kazzene has been backed off the boards down to 4/1. This price does not reflect his recent form. Though if something were amiss and it has been rectified, the Pipe yard can land a gamble with this completely unexposed sort racing off a featherweight.
I’ll leave the gamble alone. Kazzene may be the handicap snip of the century but not for the Major.
I am a keen fan of Extreme Conviction in this 2 and a half mile contest. His record with good ground or better is raced 6, placed 5, won 4. He has not won on ground with the word soft in it.
King of the Night might be one for next season.
Back Extreme Conviction each way 10/1 with SportingBet.
2.35 Sandown Celebration Chase
French Opera is one of those sorts that will not carry the Majors money. Henderson believes conditions are right today, the Major is less sure.
I prefer backing Tataniano who is 6/5 with Hills. This is exactly the sort of horse the Major is looking for. Loves the sun on its back, won over good last year at Aintree, odds against for a horse that could still make the top grade, very tasty.
3.10 Bet365 Gold Cup Chase – Sandown
As I previously hinted, I cannot have Baby Run. OK, it is clearly the best hunter chaser around. Switching to this company is tough, doing it after several hard races all over extended 3 and a half mile distances on the legs of an eleven year old is a lot to ask – Especially as he won’t have it his own way as he normally does, there will be harrassment today. It is this and not his potential lenient handicap mark which gives the Major confidence to draw a line through that one.
There is going to be plenty of pace on with the ground as is and plenty that will like to make it, including Baby Run.
This might help settle Poker de Sivola into a better rhythm, he was the Majors Scottish National selection and if the unseating at Ayr still leaves him in decent touch, I think he might come good for one of these races. I prefer those where this has been the long-term target though.
Triggerman is of interest. Will be suited by this race and the Major would not put you off a 12/1 interest in this one.
The Majors money though will be carried by 10/1 shot Meanus Dandy. Nicholls and Walsh team up and I think this one might do well stepped up in trip. Get involved each way.
3.45 Bet365 Mile
Then the focus is passed to the flat sorts with their fine morning suit attire, keen satirical edge and vintage champagne, good luck to you all.
The Bet365 mile has attracted just 5 runners but it is an intriguing contest.
Dick Turpin has the best form to boast of, just. 4/5 on though is overpriced.
Andrew Balding has sent in pacemaker (Highland Knight) to ensure a gallop which is a smart move given the small field and good ground. The intended beneficiary, Dream Eater is not for the Major though, even with the assistance of Jimmy Fortune, amongst the Majors favourite flat jockeys.
I am not convinced Cityscape will love conditions especially as it is only going to get faster. This leaves me Music Show. Normally held up, I think the presence of a pacemaker will help the only lady in the field and Ryan Moore, master of the timed run can bring home the bacon at 9/2, have a chunky slice and thank me later.
4.50 Sandown 1m Handicap
This is a wide open handicap but there is a candidate that caught the Majors eye. Huygens looks set for a big opener. Holland is booked for the steering and the horse has a good record fresh.
The Major is not the only one to smell a snip. The price has come in from 16s to 9s. I am not putting you off though, dropped back to a mile seems an odd choice but the trainer knows his beans, unleash the light cannon.
The 1m 1f contest is an interesting little affair and the one that catches the Majors imagination is the, bottom of the card, Rastaban. The Major smells a big run….
William Haggas doesn’t make that many big round trips and when he does, he goes with intent. This will be a 600 mile round trip and nothing else is going up in the horsebox.
7/2, pile in boys.
To the sports fields……
Last weeks football bets performed well with Wigan and Villa both winning at greater than 2/1.
This week I see no reason not to back them again.
Wigan are back in touch, Sunderland in free fall. 3/1 with Victor Chandler for the Latics, take a slice.
Villa entertain Stoke, fresh from their demolition of Bolton at Wembley. Tony Pulis men have a poor record away from home and the Houllier illness is not a factor to the Major, well not one that adversely effects Villas chances anyway. 10/11 with Hills, smash that up.
Preston are 4/1 to win at Millwall who are without key players. Preston are not quite done yet and I fancy them at this price to cause a possible upset.
I like the return of Adams at Blackpool and 2/1 is fair but their morale seems suspect and I cannot touch it.
7/2 the draw at Old Trafford also looks appealing but is left alone.
Tonight let dining be an easy pasta ensemble. Fresh tiny ripened tomato, garlic, good bread. Enjoy a light tipple, perhaps a Wye Valley beer or a class of Beaujolais. Eat al fresco, see if that careful sort wants to join you, her with the measured look in her eye and that certain quiver of the lip that suggests something, perhaps.
Bet more than you should. On the anniversary of Jesus resurrection weekend where he rose from the dead after three days (I once had a similar experience after an absynthe party); ensure you take a moment to yourself to simply enjoy being. After all, this happens just the once, make it memorable.