Tag Archives: leading light

The Sermon for Royal Ascot – Thursday Tips – The Majors good form continues!

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a very humid Worcestershire scene where the gentlest of cool breezes brings welcome relief.  There is a dirty haze itching away at my clammy skin and my other comfort is a cold beer.  Such a delight on the tongue.

Now Wednesday at Ascot came and went and once more the Major was at the payout counter.  We scored another two winners advised at 4s and 8s.  Anthem Alexander and Muteela delivered and both were well backed… I am starting to believe my own hype. 

However, I backed Treve like I had Thursdays Racing Post in hand and advised anyone foolish enough to listen, to do the very same.  Oh dear, drop in trip, good ground? Heavy race against Cirrus Des Aigles…. I don’t want to think about it. 

Look, I want you to come, I want you to win but I cannot pretend that I have any of the magic beans.  No no dear friends, all I have is endeavour, attritional losses and hope – That is all your Churchillian correspondent can offer.

I am tired and I have other work to do so you will excuse me getting down to work.  Forgive me for lacking the usual verbosity, a slice of history or a touch of philosophy would normally be on offer but the guage is dropping and wavering close to the red line. 

I need to do need some sleep.  That is not always straight forward for a mind like my own.  Wandering lost in the loneliness of night, the good lady asleep beside me, I like to drift through ‘Sailing By’ and end up empathising and projecting myself into the lives of fisherman in some vast barren desolate oceanic monotony…. Utsire, Dogger or Trafalgar, the gale and storm force winds the moving systems….. losing their identity.  In that moment, my own thoughts are calmed and the fear that sits beneath, the one we all share, it is at peace in my momentarily serene self… we are all going to die but for a moment, it is OK.

Morbid, maybe.  It is the tragedy of human existence but while there is moonlight, love and romance, we shall blunder on like some thoughtless wounded animal.  To Ascot and to the mothership…. I have no idea whether landing my mothership will bring me satisfaction, pleasure or peace.  I doubt it, it won’t be enough in all likelihood.  Then again, I do not know what trinket or experience can, so I guess I will have to settle for chasing it, how empty we feel when the game is no longer afoot; I fear the morthership as much as I yearn for it.  Perhaps that is where the pleasure lies… The pursuit, the thrill, the game, adventure my friends, adventure.  To Royal Ascot.

Thursday Ascot Tips

The Norfolk opens the card and I would not be anyones friend by suggesting it could go to The Great War.  I expected him to rock up in the Coventry on Tuesday and while the Ballydoyle trooper that did go turned out to be short of the required class, I think they have a contender here.  He has not been under pressure in either of his wins to date.

However, it was 2001 when O’Brien last won a Norfolk Stakes and the price of the Great War is no fun for anyone.  As an alternate, I present the American raider, To Be Determined.  Wesley Ward has done well with his previous raiders and he is 1 from 2 this week, after Hootenanny absolutely scooted up on Tuesday.  Now I found it telling, that in the aftermath of that victory, Ward suggested he greater chances yet to run this week (confidence you see)…. since todays runner, Spanish Pipedream, was not quite as good, I am thinking that his Elusive Quality filly might offer some great value at 8/1 (Coral and a few places, 7/1 generally).  He won the Norfolk last year with a Scat Daddy colt, No Nay Never and despite the poor record for fillies in the race, I am suggesting a turn up.

Then it is the Hampton Court, or whatever they call it these days!  I have been a fan of Cannock Chase who has been performing very well indeed.  I used to cycle and walk on Cannock Chase and having lived close to Litchfield (well Rugeley if I am entirely honest) I would drive late across those darkened woods and see the huge bright eyes of the deer watching me from the forest, haunting, especially with the engine off and glorious silence heightening your senses.

Anyway, let us leave that scene and figure out who wins… Well there is one I like in this, Barley Mow.  It is a Hannon / Hughes combo and I really like the way this horse has progressed.  I think his last run on soft ground at Epsom was not a set of conditions he would handle and as such am happy to draw a thick line through it.  Prior to that he had half this rabble behind him at HQ and is one of the runners here who will enjoy the firm conditions.  13/2, have a slice.

Then the Ribblesdale and I like the look of the filly Bracelet who ran a disappointing race in the Guineas but has been a progressive filly before that.  She is a mighty price for that one stain on her record at 12/1, take your chances.

Leading Light is the hot property for the Gold Cup and the Leger winner has plenty of positives on his ledger including a very good strike rate of 6 from 8.  Yet, borderline evens is not much value given the quality of the opposition and I want to be with something else.  Last years winner Estimate would be a popular repeat for Her Majesty and there are positive yard noises being made. 

Brown Panther has always been a decent sort but this season has really come into his own with two performances of high order at Chester and Sandown.  He has never been out of the first three when the ground is firm and he is a leading contender.  I am also a growing admirer of Richard Kingscote in the saddle too.  Respected, possible.

Simenon is a horse I have followed on his global adventures but to the detriment of my wealth, he could come good and I would be most displeased, Mullins has his runners well tuned…  Tac de Boistron is a fine animal but everything points to him  needing to get his toe in and he will not get that here.

At some point, you have to push your chips in and I have to think the market has things about right.  Leading Light is unexposed and a Leger winner and Brown Panther looks in the form of his life.  Both are unbeaten on the ground.  On price and on slightly superior trainer form and with a jockey I have signalled my liking for… Brown Panther – 8/1 in a place.

The schedule of Royal Ascot leaves us with two conundrums to solve at the end of the card.  If you have not made your money yet, you are in trouble!

The Brittania is a real enigma, wrapped in a puzzle and then rammed down your throat!  Idea looks one of the real unexposed sorts and after his easy win at Kempton it is hard to assess the merit of the form versus the near stone rise he has to shoulder.  Not for me, I am never sure about transferring the Kempton form, I shall leave that where it is!

Ger Lyons does not bring that many over to Ascot and so I have to think that Third Dimension is good value for his last win at Limerick.  16/1 is generally available about the gelding and drawn 31, I hope he can break, get prominent and get us another big price winner.

Then the lucky last, which helped us enormously today.  Many are of interest… Fire Fighting who would not have liked the Doncaster conditions he got bogged down in.  I do like Windshear a lot but given I have overlooked Cannock Chase earlier, I would be reneging on my line of thought to switch formlines now.  Clearly earlier results might dictate a change of position…

No, I am going to signal a great day for Team Dascombe and suggest Art of War can go well at a tasty 18/1 – He was dogged in victory rather than spectacular over 9f previously and it suggests two things.  One, his attitude is not in question and secondly, this step up is likely a good move.  Good luck to Manor House.

Courage, roll the dice.

Longchamp Arc Day Thoughts

Good day from the Major who writes from the office in glorious Cheltenham where the fine conditions betray the mind into thinking it is late August.

Yesterday was a mixed bag and probably edged by the enemy if being fair.  Today though, in conjunction with the skies bright dawning, I shall share the riches of my mind for Longchamp Arc day.  Let’s get stuck in to the big one.

Longchamp – The Arc

Any racing fan and punter who has any notion of improving their staking strategies focus their energies on value.  The most likely winner is less important than the biggest disparity between price and chance.  Thus, our aim always is assess chance as remotely and impartially as we can.  I would concur that good advice is often to do this before seeing the market, then you can back your own view independent of others.

That said, the market itself is often a great indicator and can reveal useful information in its own right.  In the instance of the Arc, the market is an opportunity in itself.  The Japanese have such a fixation on winning the Arc that they flood the PMU with bets for their own runners, thus Orfevre and Kizuna will be the subject of sustained betting, making the pot imbalanced.  If you want a value punt, then baking anything other than these two on the PMU represents value. Secondly, if you have the time and the energy, it would not be too difficult to use this market disparity to put yourself into a no-lose situation.  Backing Orfevre and Kizuna in the UK and the remaining lively hopes on PMU should be a strategy to which you could return a profitable book regardless of outcome.

Regardless of this nuance to the day, I am sure you are more interested in the race itself so here are some thoughts.

Ruler of the World

I was not that impressed with the Derby this year, I felt at the time that the classic crop was poor (Dawn Approach and Talent being the exceptions) and that thought remains.  Yet Ruler of the World performed with some credit in his trial where he was pipped by Kizuna.  In fact, he was doing more work at the death… Interesting.

Here is a thought though – I think the trials which are held just a few weeks before Arc weekend give a false sense of certainty.  We tend to place too much value in them.  consider this, just four of the Arc winners from this century have won an official trial on the way, plenty of Arc winners were not tuned up for their trial and plenty more did not bother with one.


If you like Ruler of the World then surely you must like Kizuna.  I think this horse brings some of the best form into the race and has a profile that would befit an Arc winner.  According to the trainer, there was plenty left to work on when he won his trial.

The Prix Niel though asked more questions than it gave answers.  Yes Kizuna beat Ruler of the World but the latter was doing more at the finish.  However, Kizuna probably had more to give and I do not think was fully extended, in fact I would argue the horse had a fairly gentle race.

Leading Light

You pay serious money to be supplemented for the big race, couple that with the profile of Leading Light, a certain stayer and many will be hoping that this horse can get to the front and stay there.  That in itself is an interesting conundrum.

Longchamp is an interesting course, the wide bend they take can catapult a well timed runner from the back into the momentum needed to win and generally, those coming from the middle of back of the pack fare better than those in front.  Thus to win the Arc from the front you have to be special or lucky.  I think Leading Light would have to be in the second group.

Should he get to the front, I would be relying on better horses not getting their run combined with bad timing from other challengers to see him as the winner.

That said, it has happened plenty of times before and since I believe Talent to be very good, I would be disingenuous to suggest that Leading Light is a forlorn hope.  I thought Talent might have got to him with a clear run in the St Leger and having tweeted Mr Beckett to suggest she be supplemented if Leading Light was, I got a two word reply…. ‘next year’


What of the favourite then.  He is going to popular and unpopular depending on the partisan camp you find yourself in.  I have already observed the near fanatical home support he will receive.  Suggesting he will be beat to a true Orfevre fan is to place your life in danger!  There is also a significant camp that believes he would have won the race last year if it had panned out slightly differently, reminding myself of the race, it seems impossible with 300m to go that any other result than an Orfevre win was possible.  Yet the leader tied up after showing us that explosive burst of speed…

In the ‘agin’ camp, you have the trends argument.  Five year olds do not do very well, no Japanese horse etc etc – I always have an issue with trends and the people who use them – They need to be grounded in something!  It is clear that with Japanese racing amongst the best quality in the world, it is a matter of time before we have a winner of the Arc from their quarters, thus as a trend it is of no use to me.  The five year old trend also needs some context – There are not that many highly fancied five year olds that compete in the race so pound for pound you would expect them to have a sparse record.

I am not put off by the trends, I am slightly concerned for him in the ground and against a better Arc field than last year.  In fact the 2012 Arc has a very shaky look to it, won by a long shot, with Masterstroke third(anyone?).  In fact, St Nicholas Abbey finished down the field but it was not his day and overall, I am against Orfevre not because of his age but because I doubt the form.  His Arc was weak and his trial the weakest of them.  I think that weakness also provides succour for those that support him and point to last years wide draw… My argument is that in a very weak Arc, draw is less important (as it is if you are a natural hold up sort)

Clearly he is very talented and he has a blistering turn of foot but I am going elsewhere.


She is good and is yet to be beaten and there was a time where the three year old filly allowance would have given her a significant advantage.  Yet that gap has been narrowed and I think it is a big ask for her.  It is easy to be swayed by her unbeaten record and she is in fine fine hands, I just think this might be too much for her.

The most unsettling part of her profile is the year she has had – If she were top class why not be campaigned as such?


Will Intello stay?  that is the key question about this runner.  Fabre / Pelier are a formidable pair and seeking their third Arc win (although first this century!).

On the subject of stamina, my view is that Intello should be fine.  He was a ready winner of the French Derby and that was in good to soft ground – He stayed on fine that day and although this is an extra 300m, it is a trip into the unknown and in the breeding there are mixed messages.

It is also an odd course he has charted to the race and last time must have been set up as a confidence booster.  He is a hard horse to assess because we have not seem him in the top races recently and we have not seen him extended in distance, a definite question.

Al Kazeem

There seems no easier of the main players to back than Al Kazeem following a tailing off of his form in the last two runs and a wide draw.  Seriously, the way people have written him off seems a tad unfair.

I don’t see him as a winner myself either but that is not to discredit his positives.  I think he has a style of running that would suit the Arc, right up until the end.  Watching the race last year, Orfevre drifted right quite badly and Al Kazeem suffers the same.  He has done it on a few of his wins, most notably his last G1 at Sandown and I wonder if his tailing of form is connected to that.

Not for me but give the boy credit.


My antepost book is focussed on Flintshire and I wish it were not the case.  The Dansili colt needs decent ground and I think that will be his undoing.  This seemed apparent in his trial and on similar ground, I think he does not have the racing style to glide to victory.


If you believe Orfevre to win, you have to think any Arc is quality and that he was unlucky last year and that the age and returner stats are less important – I have some sympathy for that view but not at 2/1.

If you think Ruler of the World then you must overcome a slight ground concern but believe he was better than Kizuna for the bare result in the Prix Niel – I can accept that too.

For you to back Kizuna 15/2, you have to think that there was plenty left off for his trial where he was treated lightly and travelled much the best.  this I have significant sympathy for and thus he gets my nod.

As a post script – What a shame Novellist is not there, he would have carried my money.

The Rest of the Card

12.45 – Maarek 8/1 – Likes the cut and needs some luck

1.20 – Veda – 8/1 – Seriously sinister profile – Once raced and thrown into this!

1.55 – Charm Spirit – 7/1 – Can win from the front, looked mighty impressive here latest.

2.30 – Silasol – 7/1 – Time for some revenge over Tasaday over this more suitable trip

4.40 – Moonlight Cloud – Evens (Coral) – Easily the best in this field

5.10 – Tac de Boistron – 6/1 (Ladbrokes) – Unexposed at marathon distances and in good heart

The Saturday Sermon on ‘Talents’ St Leger Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a heavy grey Worcestershire where a hissing and thudding signals the rains violent persistence.

The Major carries a heavy head full of cold, dulling the senses and slowing the reactions.  Fear not, for some this might result in sluggish thought but for me, deep down here between the moments, a clarity emerges.

Last week was a catastrophe of misfortune.  Each and every piece of advice faltered.  The sort of day where beyond financial ruin, not even a solitary winner can lift the soul, taking the edge away, I prayed but was not answered for just a small token.  Nothing, darkness, the empty void.

I was at Doncaster this week on business.  I had not been before and shall file a brief report for your examination.  I was in the Lincoln restaurant and the atmosphere was lively.  The hosts were generous and my immediate company a mixture of sorts embellishing all facets of life’s rich tapestry.  The sights were part glorious, part terrifying.  There were police dogs sniffing for drugs, barrel chested men drinking furiously, throaty voices shouting and smiling northern faces.

The course is not my favourite, a significant part is shrouded from view but the straight is long and fair.  The racing was wallet emptying, I should have been with The Lark who won like you would want an Oaks placed horse to canter away but bet foolishly.  I watched the Park Hill from an old stand that looked so empty, I assumed it was owners and trainers, it was not, the denizens of Doncaster, concern themselves greatly with their frivolity and those of us cut from the racing cloth are free to access the parade ring where plentiful prime seats tell of the crowds other intentions.

The Lark was impressive but I was on Seal of Approval who crashed to the floor in an horrendous moment leaving Hayley Turner momentarily and terrifyingly lifeless.  As the winner thundered past the post, my eyes were two furlongs back up the course waiting for Hayley to move.  The screens went up and it was not until twenty minutes later that the racecourse kindly informed patrons that Hayley was conscious and on her way to Hospital.  Get well soon.

Doncaster would not be my choice of course in the north.  York is finer, better views, more pleasant and slightly less like a stag do.  I hold no quibble with the fayre on offer at Donnie.  Leaving though, amidst the heavy police presence, amidst the tatoo’d heroes seeking more pleasure while their cups already overfloweth, amidst the stumbling happy, the doleful few, I saw the sight that shall stick with me.

Envision three ladies, two props holding up a dazed hooker who can barely support her own weight.  The three of them swaying and stumbling, as though competing in a slow motion three-legged race.  Not an unusual sight and but for the medical atrocity that had befallen the inebriated middle stump of our trio.

Some images shock the sense so that you might recoil again when they revisit you later.  Horror that peels away the calm surface we portray, the shield defences are momentarily lowered, scenes that awaken the senses.

I think the technical term is sharted.  I was informed of this term by a colleague I was escorting.  She is a fine soul, impeccable in turn out and manner.  I don’t imagine it is a word she uses often.

To the sports…

Doncaster – St Leger Card

Let us start with the St Leger and my appeal for you all to join me in a major investment in Talent.  You may remember that I was with Talent in the Oaks when she recorded a shock 20/1 win.  How she won that day still baffles me a bit, despite me tipping her up on the morning.  Coming down the hill, she was headstrong and spent plenty of energy fighting for her head.  Turning at Tattenham corner though, she came back to herself, I still thought her goose was cooked but as she went through the gears, she absolutely left the field for dead.  The Oaks form has been dragged through the mud but with the Lark winning so well in the Park Hill on Thursday, it removes much doubt from my mind.

Her last run in Ireland was too bad to be true and connections think the lively ground may have had a role to play.  No such problems exist on Leger day, plenty of rain has fallen.  My girl will love the softened ground and Doncaster suits a horse coming last from the back on the stands side, which is exactly where I envisage her run.

Since Galileo Rock is likely to run in Ireland on Sunday, the spirited opposition is going to come from Excess Knowledge who runs for Gosden.  On breeding, I think the ground will be against his runner but the yard has an excellent Leger record and so the lack of book form is no concern.

Foundry is unexposed but his second to Telescope looks a little more ordinary now we see the extent of the limitations for that hype horse.  Stablemate Leading Light is my main concern.  He has been laid out for this race and has already demonstrated a stamina appetite.

The Champagne Stakes opens the card at 2.05.  Hannon and Bin Suroor have shared the spoils in the last 4 years and Hannon took the last two.  He bids for a hat trick with 7/2 Anjaal, who was a very tasty winner at Newmarket last time out.

At 7/2 I think Gregorian is also a bet in the Park Stakes at 3.15.  The softened conditions can help him reverse form with Aljamaheer.  Gregorian was a winner on the Oaks car so it could bear a good omen if he were to take this.

The Curragh – The Blandford

On Thursday, Hot Snap was due to race at Doncaster but was removed from the race and now pops up at the Curragh in the Group 2 Blandford.  I liked the chances at Doncaster and I like the chances here too, especially as the Cecil yard have made the effort to cross the Irish Sea.

I hope their efforts are rewarded and 7/4 is the best you can get.

Chester Listed Race – 2.55

The patchy form of Allied Power might be a little off-putting but I see enough merit in the horse to not give out all hope.  Yet, my ready preference is for Tac de Boistron who has won in much better company – 7/2 is a must bet.  This is a little unusual for me as I am flouting one of my golden rules which is to only back horses at Chester with course form.  Still, the usual rules have served me little use in the last few weeks!

The Football

I would always treat the return from an international break as an opportunity for teams to reverse their form, whether they entered the break on a high or low, the loss of momentum gives an opportunity for confidence to ebb or flow.

As such, a bet I fancy that will not be too popular is for Newcastle to win at Aston Villa.  Now I quite like the Villa who look a threat this year and they have started the campaign looking a half decent unit.  Yet, the team is workmanlike and at 14/5, I am following an instinct.

More obvious is the claim of Chelsea at Everton.  This is a banker surely!  11/8 seems massive for an accomplished team against an Everton side that might struggle even with young players like Berkley breaking through.

Sheffield United travel to Carlisle and will take to the pitch without the burden of my money on them for the first time this season.  You know what will happen.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Talent, Tac de Boistron, Gregorian and Hot Snap.

May your dinner be a sensational onslaught of the senses taken in good company and as you settle the bill from a wallet bulging with the days excesses, remember just how good it is to be alive.  Courage and roll those dice.