Tag Archives: maarek

The Saturday Sermon – A cut of York Ebor Saturday and a dash of Newmarket and the Curragh.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene where Autumn peaks at you around the door and in comes the fresh cool draft.  Unruffled white clouds dust the sky with peninsular like fingers reaching stretching across the horizon.  Winter rattles its drums and blow its horns, as specs on the distance, we hear it as a tinkling, yet it comes, inexorably and resolutely and with it, the jumpers, both woolen sort and equine.  Glorious.

The Major is rested.  This week, both Major jnrs (aged 6 and 7) fell to a 24 hour bug.  Violent sickness, uncontrollable expulsions, ah the horrors.  Wednesday night was a write off as far as rest was concerned and with continued disorder in the barracks, I cancelled my Thursday evening in raucous company to provide the moral and sanitation support required.  The two poor wretches were rested on Thursday night and never looked like wakening until the morning and I must say that I slept well.  This might not be news for most but for I, it is a welcome thought and one on which, even as I type, I feel contented.  As youngsters will, their recovery was almost immediate.

We have not had a good week for several moons, one might argue that the dice are due to roll our way, who knows.  Expectancy of victory is something I dismissed as a folly in the distant past.  Positivism is a marvelous thing but it must be matched by ones own obstinacy.  I shall stride into this weeks cards with my usual purposefulness because you cannot dull my saber at the first cut of battle.

Virgil, the great Roman poet had a great preachers trick with his short astute musings.  Love conquers all…. trust not appearances…,  Fate will find a way.  I think his sentience towards time is quite apt for us gamblers and if I had not already commandeered the wicked eyed Lola Montez mantra and corrupted it from Courage, Shuffle the cards to Courage, roll the dice; then perhaps Virgils line would have concluded my sermons for these past five years.  He wrote, all bad fortune will be conquered by patience.

As Lincoln was sworn in as President in April 1861, it was the commencement of Americas grievous civil war.  As lines were drawn, small skirmishes were fought over the assets which emerged behind the enemy lines, such as the fort in Charleston harbour.  It was not until July that the action turned to the entrenched grisly battles, each side trading bloody abhorrent exchanges which were to become the incessant pattern to which the armies of the Union and Confederacy would commit.

That first action was on the green fertile lands to the north of the great Potomac river squeezed between Maryland and Virginia, just 35 miles from Washington DC.  The Union forces had been itching for a fight, convinced that the war would be brief and victory assured.  Troop numbers trumped experience and technology and the first battle, Bull Run as the North named it or Mannasas as coined by the South, was characterised by poor communication, indecision and chaos.  

McDowell commanded the Union force which was being urged on by an expectant band of political cheerleaders.  Christ, Washington society followed the march South bringing picnics, expectant of a swift bloody advantage.  As far as they were concerned, there would be a few warm meetings at which the Unions superiority would be clear and it would be double time to Richmond and to force surrender.

The South though knew what was coming  The had worked a good network of informers and knew McDowells field movements before they were executed.  McDowell was coming with 35,000 regulars, artillery and horse.  He planned a frontal assault on the confederates dug in at Bull Run while a column would swing to the West then South to cut off the railroad retreat to Virginia.  All of his actions, judged with the unfair advantage of history , were rushed and based on his faith, not belief you see, in victory; as well as the pressure of expectation from Washington.  

Once he split his force, communications started to fail and the great beasts fists flailed without synchronisation.  The Confederates had been outnumbered 3 to 2 but the heat of the march and subsequent required (and sensible) rest of the Union army, coupled with the good spies, they had embedded, allowed Johnstone, commanding the South, to run reinforcements up the railway.

The Confederates also employed semaphore in battle as a new communication technique and this enabled a more dynamic response to the Union advance across Stone Bridge.  The ebb and flow that ensued owed much to each sides inability to press any advantages won.  Artillery pieces were taken and the recaptured.  At one point, the guns did not fire on the blue tunics of the approaching Virginian 33rd because they confused them for Union troops.  All day advances halted and faltered but when the two bristling bears touched, it was in venomous exchanges.  

One man earned his name that day.  General Jackson, commanding the 4th Virginian at the base of the hill and outnumbered two to one, told his troops that they must hold ground, not fire from afar but to let the enemy see your eyes and when we charge, we shall scream and yell like furies.  He urged them to fight knowing that defeat meant death and this stubborn unbending resolve would bring triumph.  A fellow officer gave him the moniker Stonewall.

At sundown, the Unions were in disorderly retreat but the Confederate unable to press any advantage through their own wounds and chaotic lines of command and communication.  Both sides had learned one thing.  The war was not to be settled lightly.  Maybe 1,000 souls had been lost, Lincoln called up 500,000 men.  

Conflicts continue to rage in Syria (200,000 dead) as well as Iraq, Israel and Gaza.  That men are stupid comes with historic proof but I cannot quite understand why the deaths of children fail to sober up even the most bloodthirsty lunatics.  Perhaps our ancestors were all fools to stray from our caves and forests.

To the sports and let us not shy from the persistence required to land our mothership.  

York Ebor Day Tips

Some rain is forecast for York at Midday on Saturday lending some uncertainty to the description of good.  A brief heavy shower may scupper the best made plans and make things most unpleasant for those attending the Knavesmire.

Still, the Major is preparing for good ground, with the potential for good to soft.  

The Johns Smiths winner Farraaj had decent horses like Educate in behind and his former win at Epsom reads well too but he has been raised to a mark of 116, a full 8lbs higher than he has won off before and while he is clearly in good nick, I am looking for some value.  Godolphin have won 6 of the last 10 runnings of this race but, as a sign of their current prominence perhaps, they have no competitor.  

I can pick holes in the all of the front four and so I am going to have a tentative play down the card with Flying the Flag who can be backed at 16/1 with Stan James if you are quick.  His time at Ballydoyle was not spectacular but he did sign off in decent style in a Group 3 and even though he has been off the track for a bit, Mick de Kock can prepare them and with holes in Graphic (ground), Trade Storm (recent form) and the favourite, I will have a tickle.

Jump to the Gimcrack.  This is one of the juvenile races that Hannon does not tend to dominate but he has a live contender in Baitha Alga at 11/4.  Like a lot of Hannon sorts, he is getting a lot of racing in a short space of time but has been rested up after a busy early summer culminating in a Norfolk win.  Beacon also runs for Hannon and his last placed effort in the Molecomb (less than a length defeat) was a decent effort and he looks to have achieved as much as the favourite and gets Moore on board.

On the subject of Ryan, he broke my heart beating Taghrooda earlier in the week and did you see his sensational double at Arlington last weekend?  Simply the best.

Anyway, you need my vote for the Gimcrack.  I do like Accepted, for Stack to bring him over, he must think he has the chance.  I am not sure you can rate the Tipperary listed affair as highly as a Woodcote, Molecomb or Norfolk and the breeding is more national hunt than blue blooded flat royalty but I do like a trier.  We all do don’t we.  I really want to back three… Baitha Alga, Beacon and Fendale.  Fendale has won twice, beating a decent Mussleburgh field last time and of the northern jockeys, Mulrennan is up there with Gibbons and McDonald as far as the Major is concerned.  

Let’s keep it simple; back Hannons two in a reverse forecast and since I need to get off the fence, Baitha Alga at a general 11/4.

The Ebor.  Pallastor is receiving all sorts of support and I am sure Spencer and Qatar would love to win this ahead of him moving upstairs in the operation at the end of the season.  Not for the Major though.  I am looking for a trends horse, sub 9st 4lbs for a start.  I have an obvious candidate and friend from Cheltenham in Ted Veale at 16/1 generally. My tip has an excellent flat record and I take the trip across the Irish Sea as a big vote of confidence in his ability to compete at 1m 6f on the flat still.  I think he will have plenty of pace to aim at and that will help bring his stamina to the table as a pair of aces.

We saw a super sprinter filly in Tiggy Wiggy this week and it has reignited my liking for those small perfectly formed speedsters.  Showing Character goes for a yard and jockey I respect greatly.  The Manor House operation under Dascombe, looks professional and Richard Kingscote is improving.  Whether they have a top one here, we shall see.  The Major thought has voted for Moonraking who is having her third start.  She did not act on the Goodwood camber last time and faded badly but so many horses struggle with that and as a juvenile filly, it is entirely forgivable.  Given this straight dash and the assistance of Ryan Moore, we have a player at 9/2.

That will do me at York.

Newmarket Saturday Tips

I am only visiting HQ for a single sniper shot with Tropics who is my pick in the listed race.  He won this last year and while most of his runs in this campaign have been off peak, he ran arguably his best ever race when second in the July Cup.  

The Curragh

The Sunday Curragh card offers up some very tasty morsels but Saturday is not bad at all either.  The race I am interested in of course is the 3.10, the Renaissance Stakes.  

Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek lead the market at 10/3 a piece but I think a look at their records on good ground make interesting reading.  Combined it looks like this:

Good or better: 19 runs, 1 win

Good to soft or worse: 28, 12 wins

Quite.  So, who are the alternates to these proven class horses who do not have their conditions? Unlike York, no rain is forecast and so I go down, deeper down.

My finger rests on Russian Soul who won the race last year, has never been unplaced on good ground and gets the services of Shane Foley.  Now I rate myself as one of the best armchair jockey judges of my age and let me bestow my verdict.  The man has some talent, he is sometimes more agricultural than sophisticated but it is effective, certainly no impediment.

The Football

Last week we scored a 4/1 winner with Villa and my waters are tingling with instinct about the teams on the up.  Swansea are a steal at home to Burnley who offer spirit beyond their ability and it will not be enough, 4/6.  I rarely tip my own team West Brom but at 10/3 I think there is some value in the trip to Southampton.  The south coast teams price is based on last seasons exploits with a different team.  Wolves buoyed from their defeat of Fulham can dispatch Cardiff at home, 5/4.

May your dinner be served in great state, celebrating the day.  Remember that you are a long time in the ground and so even if you cannot afford it, let the creditors worry and not yourself.  I hope your company is as fine as the girl I remembered in my daydreams today.  A bob of dark hair, blazing dark eyes, pools of activity and a wicked curl of the lip, peppery skin and a husky but silken voice that still sends a shiver down my spine.

The Martin Hill bet is a Moonraking, Swansea and Baitha Alga Trixie.
 

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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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.

Saturday Sermon – Racing Tips from Ascot, Cheltenham and Cork, plus Frankel – Time at Ascot…

Good evening from the Major who writes to you from a Defford where the sky hangs heavy with the threat of a downpour, it feels as if it were sagging and clinging to my cheek, cold and damp… my sort of weather.

The Household Cavalry dressed in Sheikh Abdulla’s colours in honour of Frankel, the finest horse of our generation

Tomorrow I ride for Ascot, I am taking my father and meeting a friend there for a beer too. Whatever happens we are in for a terrific day of racing but it would be dishonest to say that if Frankel fails to run, it would not be a touch deflating.The way they have handled this horse has given us every chance to enjoy the champion that he is. On Twitter (@tdl123) I rated my top three Frankel races and decided that my favourite was the Queen Anne. Having had longer to reflect I have changed the order slightly and now have a top four in the following order.

4th – The Guineas

This will be top of most peoples lists – The way he flew from the gates and had them at it from half way. A stunning performance and the way they finished strung out like 3 mile chasers was testament to what the great horse had achieved.

3rd – Royal Lodge

The more I watch the Royal Lodge he won, the more I love it. The move he makes on the bend to put the race to bed was stunning and although Treasure Beach was stopped in his tracks, Frankel would still have won by half a furlong!

2nd – The Queen Anne

What a way to open Royal Ascot – As a performance, this was his highest rated in my view. He did not just win, he destroyed a field of top horses and left everyone gasping for air. Awesome.

1st – His First Sussex Stakes versus Canford Cliffs

Context is important and this race was full of it. Goldikova a winner of more Group One races than seems possible was reaching the end of her career. Canford Cliffs, one of the best Hannon has ever had, lowered her colours and rightfully claimed the best miler in Europe crown. Then Frankel met him at Goodwood. The camber at Goodwood means many horses do not act there. The combination of factors meant that the Major tipped Canford… Then this happened…

Let us hope that Frankel runs – The generosity of connections have given us more than we needed but we are like gluttons and want it all. Treasure the moment. The only possible upside of him not running tomorrow is a possible crack at the States and the breeders cup meeting… Personally I would like him to finish his career at Ascot tomorrow.

To the sports….

Ascot Tips – 1.50 – The Stayers

At this stage of the season, I am looking for the slightly more lightly raced sorts. The Ascot ground will also be very soft which should rule a few out…

In the opener, most of the animals will be fine with the soft conditions. Gold Cup winner Colour Vision beat a number of these including Fame and Glory back in July. Opinion Poll, the other Godolphin horse was second that day and goes off as 3/1 favourite here. Aiken is a horse I really like but feels like he might just be a bit short of top draw. Ile de Re is an interesting runner but has to make a big step up in class. Rite of Passage is a fascinating runner and could play a part at 8/1 if well tuned up.

After some thought though, the Major is going to offer Fame and Glory at 11/2 – A former winner of the race who has lost some of his lustre – If he wins tomorrow, it will be a fitting end to a sparkling career… words that we may well repeated later in the day!

2.20 Ascot – Tips for the Sprint

The sprint is a fascinating contest and I would love to back Maarek, especially with the booking of Jamie Spencer. I am wondering though whether the horse is feeling the effect of the campaign and I may well give him a miss. The muddier the better for that one so if more rain arrives, it may be a persuading factor.

The Major is siding with a horse packed with potential in Slade Power who looked a horse going places in the summer. After a break to freshen him up, I expect a top draw performance and although there are proven G1 horses in the field, I do not want to back Wizz Kid unless in France and Society Rock is the main danger. Blue Square offer 15/2 and a quarter odds the place, have a slice.

2.55 Ascot – Group 2 Mile and a Half

The two to concentrate on seem to be Great Heavens and Sapphire. The former took an Irish Classic in the slop and loves these conditions. She was my idea of the Arc winner as I am a massive fan. She cruised into the straight at Longchamp looking a likely challenger but faded badly and I just wonder if the season and he travels are catching up.

Thus the tip is Sapphire for the Weld team. She is a horse of immense talent and seems to be much better the further she goes, seemingly tapped for toe over 400m shorter in the Pretty Polly. She is a true mud lark and at 10/3 generally I think a great bet to beat Great Heavens who I would like to see racing agin next year where hopefully connections might give her a light schedule with a hopefully soft ground Arc as the target.

QE II 3.30 Ascot

Excelebration is an absolute bolt on here and I suggest a reasonable investment at just shading odds on. He has been beaten by Frankel so often yet is still a top class horse and now placed to avoid a battle with the inevitable, he is gaining very well deserved Group One successes.

The Queen is in attendance and so Carlton House would be a popular winner but it is Excelebration for the Major.

Ascot Champion Stakes

It is not often that the Major here whispers but I have it on good authority that Frankel might be a decent sort! This race requires no bet, it is a moment of historic racing importance. I hope Frankel serves it up to Cirrus Des Aigles

Enjoy it…

4.45 Amateur Riders Handicap

I find it disappointing that this race exists on the card of what is meant to be the climax of the flat season. It really seems out of place.

Smarty Socks would be the one I would want but I am dubious that these are his conditions. Boring as it may seem, Jack Dexter is the 5/1 selection. The Ayr Bronze Cup winner loves a bit of mud and is surely goi to have a big say. Kingscroft (16/1) and Atlantic Sport (33/1) also make some appeal.

Cheltenham Selections

It is so good to see racing back at Cheltenham. Fridays action saw The New One take a decent Novice hurdle. Given that he hit most of them, he must be some animal to still win, I expect a big season.

Rendl Beach should be a good thing in the opener at 6/4. Curtis horses often need a warm up but this one won smartly on reappearance and a big run is surely on the cards tomorrow.

In the second race, I am going to take a chance on 22/1 shot Quito Du Tresor. I think that there may be more to come from this one. The Henderson horse Nadiya De La Vega at 10/1 is decent value too.

Baby Mix and Dodging Bullets are two rising stars and the latter looks a great evens bet based on the 4th position achieved in the Triumph.

In the 4th race, I like the look of two Qianshan Leader at 22/1 catches the eye as does Darna at 16/1. The latter looks an intriguing sort.

In the 4.20 I am a big fan of Irish raider Defence of Duress and suggest a decent investment.

Third Intention should see the field off in the penultimate race if match fit. 3/1 is a very fair price as he should be much better than this field, many of whom have a readiness advantage.

In the last maybe Southfield Theatre on a strict reading of form with The New One but honestly, stick a pin in!

Cork Tip

I like Rock Critic in the listed contest and at 2/1 am having it in several selections…

May your dinner be fine, in the company of someone nice. Each day we are above ground is an opportunity so do not waste yours. Let us hope that Frankel gives us something to cheer.

Courage, roll the dice.