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Saturday Sermon – 16/1 Royal Ascot Tips, Black Caviar – ‘The Wonder from Down Under!’ – The rights and wrongs of racing and Ascot reflections….

Good morning from a bright and cheery Worcestershire where the Major types happy in the knowledge that the world of this age is perfectly organised for an Englishman with a few spare pounds in his pocket and a cheery outlook on life.

Aahhhh – A day the Major has waited for – Black Caviar racing on British soil

I make no apology for being content.  If you are not, then please do not begrudge those of us that are.Royal Ascot has been a triumph.  The spectacle, the racing and the Majors form have been the ingredients of a tasty week.  I shall write something of it here, if you feel the need to skip it and go to the tips, please leave my site – Your sort is not welcome here, when you go to church, you listen diligently to the sermon.

Firstly the spectacle of racing.  Last year I compiled my top ten racing moments of 2011.  Apologies if many of the video feeds might not be working!  I am sure when I compile this years come the close of the year, many Royal Ascot moments will be contenders.

I loved Frankel demolishing the field, it made my heart sing.  I know Excelebration took him on which may have flattered the final distance but seriously, people might knock the field but there were plenty of decent Group 1 animals in behind.  Let us just accept that we live in an age of the machine and enjoy – Thanks again to connections who kept him racing at the age of four instead of fulfilling a potentially lucrative stud career.

Frankie winning on Colour Vision was probably my moment of the week though.  I was on Fame and Glory and thought the O’Brien horse was a shoe in.  Frankie though showed his superb handling of the track and sheer will to boot home the Godolphin inmate. Frankie has had a tough time of it.  Godolphin are short of a star or two and the winners have dried up.  Rumours of retirement were put down by Dettori but it left a waft in the air… was the great man done?

The way he bought Colour Vision home told you what you needed to know, the fire burns brightly.  How sweet for Frankie that Barzalona (a friendly rivalry), the 20 year old Derby winning emerging star was unable to pass when seemingly coming with a winning run on Opinion Poll.

The stories racing throws up, no other sport competes.

The Major has had a great week with tips for Royal Ascot.  Eleven tips (13 with 2 non runners) yielded 4 winners.  Most Improved 8/1, So You Think 6/4, Princess Highway 13/2 and Estimate 4/1 (all advised prices).  Following to £1 level stakes,  make that a £24 return for £11 invested.  More than double your money…. lovely jubbly!

Sadly Fame and Glory let down my brother in laws treble, sorry Dave.

The week also got me thinking about the morality of horse racing.  It is something the Major is confronted with from time to time.  The Majors dear lady is an avid animal lover (not in the biblical sense you understand) and opposes the sport deeply.  We do not talk much about it as you can imagine!

The Major is also confronted from time to time with anti-racing campaigners at Aintree or Cheltenham.

This week, hundreds of thousands of people who are not racing fans filed through the gates at Ascot in their finery to take part in the racing festival.  Many will not have a strong view on racing but it got me thinking about the morality of the sport.

My good lady has the objection that the horses are put to racing purely for our enjoyment and this is morally wrong.  It is based on a view that a horse has a right not to be forced to do something it does not want to do, a classic libertarian stance.  I sympathise with it but do not agree.

I think the overall benefit of the sport outweighs a horses individual right.  I would ask you to consider the benefit, there is the employment offered by the racing tracks, hospitality services, trainers and media; not even considering the considerable contribution from the gambling industry to the economy and therefore society.  There is the joy that enthusiasts like I take from the sport; readers know how passionate I am – Enough to continue getting up early on a Saturday to deliver this drivel each week!

Finally, some horses do enjoy racing so it is not every horse that is coerced into the sport.  Indeed, Racing could be argued to have a net positive impact on horses lives.

Overall the benefit of our great sport far outweighs the violation of a horses right, if indeed they have one.  As a race we use animals for enjoyment and sustenance.  Race horses are well looked after in their lives, no intention of harm exists in the sport, though we have to accept the risk of horse death is a certainty.

My utilitarian argument, of the greatest benefit, I believe stands up and I hope that we have more converts to our magnificent sport today when the ‘wonder from down under’ graces our turf.

What a shame it is her only European race.  I made the argument last week that it seems an endeavour only based in principle, not financial or career defining that she win today.  Then to Hong Kong and greater riches.  I hope she gives us a show.

I have often debated the Frankel v Black Caviar question and it is an understandable shame they will never race.  Why ask either of them to race at an un-ideal distance.  I thought the fair answer was 7f but it would endanger Frankels attitude as lighting him up over shorter distances might bring back some of those free running tendencies from his youth, something that his training team worked hard to eradicate allowing him to take shots at prizes over 10f.

As it is, I always thought she was the better horse but now I am unsure again.  I shall go to the grave not knowing but I take pleasure from it.  As I have made the point in previous posts, instead of racing them, let us breed them and call their foal Pegasus Devil, a horse with fire red eyes that roars fire from the nostrils.

To the sports…

Chesham Stakes – 2.30 Ascot Tip

This is a nice line up and the Major is looking forward to the Chesham.

On trends, only two winners in the last 15 years have gone off at bigger than 10/1 prices and I am looking for something near the top of the market.

On a bloodstock note, five runners in the race are out of Sixties Icon!  Thanks to @emmakgts on twitter for that observation.  The Major makes a further note on breeding – New Approach has Thair in the race, Godolphins 6/1 hope – The sire is having a terrific time with his progeny currently heading the markets for several of next years classics….

However, Thair is not the way I am going.  Key trainers in the Chesham have been Hannon and Johnstone and the Majors tip comes from the first.

Jalaa at 4/1 could be anything, won well at Leicester, not inconvenienced by the ground. Have a taste.

3.05 Hardwicke Stakes

The Hardwicke is another cracker this year.  I truly confused myself last night while figuring out which side I want to be on.

Sea Moon should run better than he did in the St Leger and has the benefit of a decent warm up race at Goodwood.

There is a lot to like about Memphis Tennessee with that derby form looking rock solid, the Major fears on this course though that his front running style might be setting this up for a closer.

The horse I am tipping in the Hardwicke is Aiken.  William Buick abandoned Masked Marvel (non runner) for Aiken who has some superb form to his name.  The formline that takes the eye is the beating of Dunaden who is a Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Vase winner.  With soft ground no problem, Aiken looks to me a top class prospect and I suggest a very healthy investment at 4/1.

3.45 Ascot – Diamond Jubilee Tips

The Major will not be betting in what should be a procession for Black Caviar.  I wonder what our Australian racing friends think we make of Black Caviar.  I sense that down under their is a feeling of ‘go show them Black Caviar, go beat those English doubters’.

Just for the record, the Major is praying for her to destroy the field – She is amazing and this is a part of her story I want to go well.  Go on girl.

She is also a monster having topped 600kg – That is almost a third more horse than some of our finest!

Although the form is hard to translate, there is a line through Group one winning Star Witness that suggests she is 13lbs or so ahead of Prohibit, one of our finest.

If you were looking for each way value, I would be wary of Moonlight Cloud, the Major thinks that the horse will love the cut but might sacrifice a place by having a pop at BC.

You are as well looking for a horse that is racing for a place and might be staying on at the death passing beaten, tired horses that took the Black Caviar machine on and failed.  That horse for the Major would be The Checka who is a new propsect since being dropped in trip this year.

One word of warning to Black Caviar, there have been upsets in this race in the past…. best of luck girl.

4.25 Ascot – The Wokingham

The Wokingham is the usual puzzle at 9/1 the field.  The Major was happy last night to get a touch of 25/1 on Waffle.  I could see the money piling up and figured it was the Pricewise horse.  14/1 is still available.

If you follow me on twitter (@tdl123) you would have benefitted from that tweet last night.  I am chuffed that I got it right and feel very happy sticking with my selection.

The trainer readied it for last year where it ran superbly only beaten by the unbelievably handicapped Deacon Blues.

Have a cannon loaded!

I am going to be double handed in this race though because of the draw.  My first tip, Waffle is coming out of 23 so I want something in the other pack too and I am looking at Desert Law at 16/1 – Going back to 6f is certainly a plus for this animal and he will represent the Major on that side of the track.

5pm Ascot Tip – The Duke of Edinburgh

The Major wanted to be on a horse finishing well in this handicap and the one that carries my penalty is Cill Rialig, 16/1. 

Cill Rialig competed in the same warm up Goodwood affair as Sea Moon and I think this has been the long term target for this previous listed winner, even if the last win was a couple of years ago in this race off a mark of 7lbs lower.

Being in foal and the ground are both concerns but the Major is going to stick with her.

5.35 Ascot – Tips for the Queen Alexandra

Anyone who watched Simenon smash the opposition on Tuesday would have been taken with the manner of victory.  This step up in trip again should be a further advantage and the likelier risk to getting as good run is merely whether the exertions of racing have taken a toll.

The Major though is going to side with Zuider Zee whose form got a good boost by Opinion Polls running earlier this week.  Flat trainers have a better record in the Queen Alexandra and I think my stead can do the business at a tasty 5/1.

Enjoy today and be happy.  Tonight eat well and with good company, see a film, relax, observe, pass no judgement.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – St Leger at Doncaster (14/1 tip) and Premier League Tips

Good morning from the Major who has been at the good coffee early to study the card and bring you the winner of the St Leger.

Sea Moon with beautiful white blaze first, noone but fresh air second

The last classic of the season is a true stayers test and unlike any other classic is open to both colts and fillies. This gives us the interesting task of assessing Blue Buntings ability against the boys, more of that in a moment.

The Major would like to land a catastrophic blow on the enemy today, let us land the perfect left right pincer movement.

We shall be decisive like Sir Robert Napiers expeditionary force of Irish, British and Indian troops in Abysinnia or Sir Hope Grants mixed British, Indian and French force which went to Peking to force the emporer to sign our trade treaty in the second Opium war. Well disciplined, well executed. Sir Hope Grant took the forts at the river head with a perfect pincer movement, infantry skirmishing ahead of his position and as the enemy approaches, the flags go up and the lights will come out like a mighty fist to run the enemy down, the heavies follow to finish the job. Swift and decisive against a far numerically superior force.

Sir Hope got to Peking and got the treaty signed but had to fight his way there. There was also subsequent outrage as the Chinese tortured to death many of the small numbers of prisoners of war they held. British and Indian troops of the Queen as well as Parkes and Loch, two envoys, were given horrendous treatment in the ‘Board of Punishment’. Their bodies were returned after peace had been negotiated which seemed a deliberate act of subterfuge.

Lord Elgin who travelled as the lead political on the embassy decided that retribution would take the form of the sacking of the Summer Palace.

It took thousands of troops to destroy the greatest collection or architecture and art ever amassed. While he was merely a descendent of the Elgin who lifted marbles from Greece, the family certainly had their vandal moments!

Lets start our own rout with the St Leger.

3.10 Doncaster St Leger

The St Leger has lost some of its lustre in recent years. Gone are the horses who want triple crown glory. Now bloodstock demand is for mile to mile and a half horses. The super rich owners want Derby horses and Arc horses, not Yorkshire Cup types.

It would have been a thing of great beauty if Sea the Stars had opted to take in the Triple Crown in his classic year…. alas, Guinea and Derby horses tend not to think St Leger any more. Perhaps we will never have another triple crown winner. If we were to, I would suggest it would be a filly.

In fact, recent St Legers have been pretty poor affairs (relatively speaking for a Group 1 and a classic!) – This year looks different though. What makes the contest an intriguing one is the ground which has hardened up and with no more rain expected until ten past three, it is changing the shape of the market.

The principle victim of the top of the ground turf seems to be Sea Moon. A long term favourite for the race after demolishing a Great Voltigeur field by nearly ten lengths, this lightly raced sort is clearly happier with cut. His form could suggest so and so does the reaction of connections to the dry weather forecast.

The Great Voltigeur also featured Seville who was third, vanquished by Sea Moon that day. Seville was second in an Irish Derby and so a serious O’Brien horse but was likely unsuited by York – This makes me question the form of the Great Voltigeur and seek a different form line for the winner. That said, O’Briens horses look like they are coming to their own of late.

We have Blue Bunting, a 2,000 guineas winner, Irish Oaks winner and Yorkshire Oaks winner – Probably filly of the season. She gets a 3lb pull on account of her being of the fairer sex and must be reckoned with at a best priced 7/2. Good to firm would be no inconvenience. Two of the last five runnings have gone to Godolphin, significantly interesting.

A regular poster Michael put up Masked Marvel last week and you can see the good points. Beating Census was great form although watching that race, I would question whether he is the better horse. 9/1 is fair but not for the Major – Good luck Michael.

Brown Panthers form is tied into Census and Masked Marvel and at 14s is arguably the best value of that trio. Yard form is also a slight concern here with just the one winner from the last twenty five runners. While Census may have taken Brown Panther on their latest run, it was notable that the Panther had a lot of picking up to do. The previous German raid did not go brilliantly but the travel may have been a factor. With Fallon booked, this is a serious contender in my view.

I really think the winner will come from Sea Moon, Brown Panther and Blue Bunting. Splitting them is tough. Sea Moon on the drift is a concern but how sure can we be he will not act on firmer ground? The Sire, Beat Hollow, has had 355 of his progeny run in Britain on good to firm and 50 won. This is not out of line with his form with more cut and so the evidence is conjecture on behalf of connections. Now, connections know their stuff but….. could we go where others dare tread?

Sea Moon is a horse that looked a true star. What he did to the Great Voltigeur field was highly impressive, not just the beaten foe but the turn of foot. He was eased down at the finish that day and the Major has a simple belief, if he shows the Great Voltigeur form today, he will win. It is hard to leave him but those ground worries are ominous.

I have settled on Brown Panther. 14/1 is a good price for one whose form is mixing it up with the best here. We have the services of Fallon doing the steering – Come on the Panther.

3.15 The Curragh – Goffs National Stakes Group 1

The Curragh hosts the Irish St Leger card and although it is a fine race, I fancied a crack at the Goffs Stakes for juveniles.

Soft conditions in Ireland make it interesting working through this card and the Majors choice is Dragon Pulse a 11/4 joint favourite.

Dragon Pulse on breeding is fancied to handle the soft and did win a maiden in conditions too. While Power, is the main rival, I suspect he will not like the cut in the ground at all.

Have a chunky slice of the Dragon.

There are other great races at Doncaster, the Curragh, Goodwood and Chester. The Major does think Berling is the most reliable in Chesters listed race but overall I am going to stick with Brown Panther and Dragon Pulse to bring home the weekend beans.

In other sports…. Villa are a massive 3/1 to win at Everton, given the Toffees current woes, it could well effect the team on the pitch who are now without Arteta. Villa are organised if not spectacular and 3/1 (Victor Chandler) is a price to take on them stealing the goodies from Goodison. Everton have protesting fans as well as a shortage of options in the final third with Yakubu and Beckford joining Arteta on the outward transfer pile. The new boys may take time to settle in and I am willing to take a chunky slice of the Villa pie at a lovely 3/1.

May your dining this evening be punctuated by a fine string quartet and a magnificent lady of grace who steals the attention of any dining room. For all of her well-heeled manner, her thoughts will run the same way as the rest of them when good lobster and Sancerre have been devoured.

Courage and shuffle those cards….