Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene that has stirred dramatically like souls awakening.
Last week I wrote on Friday night, dead tired like, in a dark melancholic mood and a few folk tweeted to check I was not too effected. A few others spoke to me in person and I can assure one and all, as I did them, that I was merely wallowing in my own dark soul. Thanks for asking, it is nice to know that someone will attend your funeral, even if just for the brandy.
I slept last night deeply and soundly for the first time this week. Gazing out now across the Worcestershire rural rolling fields which have a deep healthy ruddy look towards Bredon Hill topped by its folly. I once stood there in winter and met another walker who gave me a history lesson. The manor house on the hill used to be a magistrate and a regular punishment would be to stake convicted souls to the ground and leave them to the will of the wolf packs that lived in the long disappeared forests. Sobering stuff.
There is an old Chinese proverb that I have often found serves me well. Do not begrudge another mans fair fortune. For that reason, I hold no ill feeling to those that, as I type, are hurtling towards Paris for Arc weekend.
Consider their luck. They are combining several of life’s finest facets. Train travel can stir the childish soul in each of us with a tickle of excitement in our chest, St Pancras drips in opportunity, to stand and see the multitude of people and trains, each following a unique path, curving away, it is the essence of life itself. Liberty and Opportunity. To be travelling to Paris as well. One of the worlds finest cities, a place where a man can be immersed in his own mischief. The Eiffel Tower is the second most beautiful thing I have seen created by our own hands.
I say second because I consider it only bettered only by the Sagrada Familia which baffles the mind, a building which towers, soars and then melts and drips in front of your eyes, great tree trunks of columns, facades of such devilish detail and so well combined, I cannot describe well enough to you, dear readers, how each vista of that building compliments the next, I can not do that justice so you must go for yourself. To be baffled by our own creation, wonderment immeasurable.
Regardless, those heading to Paris must surely feel so alive at this moment and to them I say this. Soak it up, savour the Parisian air, take your time to absorb the environment as you, for you are the lucky few. Arc weekend is one of my favourite moments in the racing calendar. I normally draw a profit from it and may well write up a Sunday blog to cover the main card.
I used to hesitate when I told new acquaintances that my main hobby was horse racing. It can have ‘low rent’ connotations, for some (and certainly not I) it is a step removed from Babs Windsor advertising bingo in horrendously tacky style, a parody of itself. Aye, we can be tarred alongside a bad lot.
These days I feel a growing self assuredness to share my hobby which reflects my burgeoning confidence that we, the steady readership of this blog, our small community of hardy, intelligent, courteous and humble souls, sticking with me to land the ultimate mothership, willing to take on Kiplings impostors of triumph and disaster, together my friends, we hold values and understand philosophies that are worth sharing. Consider.
This week, in the UK, the partisan nature of our politics has been at the forefront of national events. Now I shall not bore you with my own judgements largely because I am not sanctimonious enough to believe you are incapable of forming your own.
I shall share an observation though that whatever you think, the system is designed to club you into one team or another. Partisan views rule and like flys to light, once people associate with one, there is a sense of obligation to remain loyal to a philosophy, restricting your reasoned ability. It makes people more stupid than they need be.
You either think that Ralph Miliband was a militant Marxist bent on the destruction of Britain, or he was a polite academic who fought bravely for the country. Either the BBC is promoting a left wing agenda and determined to do damage to its commercial competitors or it is a fine British institution bathed in its independent values. It strikes me that you have to belong to either side, the uncomfortable place to be is in the middle, with a complexity of views that would suit neither side.
Yet that is the more natural position for most people. We see this in the politics of any major party, internally factions disagree on major themes but unity is seen as an overriding value. To be a supporter, you have to sign up to the whole agenda. You commission your critical analysis to a third party.
Yet in racing, we learn to examine each aspect, independent of others. Our greatest profits often come when we swim against the tide. We are used to dissecting the components of an argument and reconstructing them to our own view. We are familiar with being wrong, for some of us it is a most regular event! We deal with this by examine our calculations and are willing to change our future patterns accordingly, to learn. Even when we are right (and there are considerable lessons here) we should conduct the same.
My biggest ever win was when, god bless the little toughie, Punjabi battled on up the hill to win the Champion Hurdle. It was the last time I backed the horse. Why? Well I was wrong to back it, yes Punjabi was worth a place but was a tad fortunate to win (a nose) and others should have reeled in the winner on the hill. A useful question we ask (following win or lose) is would I follow the same staking plan. We should ask the same in our wider lives. To be right and to question whether you made the right… It is a gambling lesson.
While we are spreading the enlightenment, let us get to the sports….
In a fantastic warm up to Arc day, the highlight is an interesting Prix Dollar. If Cirrus Des Aigles is anywhere near his best form, then he surely should teach this lot a lesson. I would love to see the boy back to his best and lead them a merry dance but you have to be concerned with his form. His last win at Maison Lafitte was OK but represents far lesser form than he has previously shown but it could have boosted his confidence. One major plus is that Cirrus is certain to go in the ground which looks like riding quite soft. He has form on heavy. A return to top form (far from certain) is the key issue…. As I love the horse following his gallant pop at Frankel, I will be a backer but I want a saver and that horse which I offer as a tip to you is Willie the Whipper.
The claims are not as obvious at first but I am sure Duffield is not tilting at windmills. The Great Voltigeur form is pretty strong and that was run on ground that was much better than this horse needs. These conditions will suit and in a race where plenty could set aggressive fractions, I fancy being on one switched off at the back and arriving at the business end like a hot knife slicing through butter. 14/1, have a slice of what’s good for you!
The Prix Chaudenay looks a very good race and I like both of the Aga Khans runners but since I think the Fabre trained Montjeu colt, Montclair, could improve and the ground adds an uncertain dimension to these progressive sorts, it is a contest I am going to enjoy watching with no financial interest. On the subject of Montjeu, did you see that his colt to Finsceal Beo (what a cracker she was) sold for nearly €3m in the week. With Montjeu sadly no longer with us, it is true to say that they don’t make them like this anymore…. Good luck to the young blade. If he were mine I’d enjoy naming him.
Good luck too to Neil Callan on Fire Ship – it would be great to see the best freelance jockey from the UK get a deserved international high profile win although I must confess that I shall be keeping my powder dry!
The 2.20 is the half a million pounds sales race and one in which there is an expected significant array of progressive angles to take.
I might not be popular if you cam here for an alternate view but Toofi looks the part for me. He has the experience, has shown the form, has positive trainer vibes and crucially has Mr Murtagh, the man we all trust over from Ireland for his usual Saturday raid. 3/1 as I type.
I do like these sales races and in the opener, I have a strong strong feeling about Night Song at 3/1 – this Oasis Dream filly has definitely been targeted at this and Gosden has issued positive statements. She holds all the right entries and I suspect this will be her arrival on the big stage.
My other Newmarket bet goes in the last where Ajman Bridge looks for all the world a weekend NAP. 13/8 is a steal. I like these profiles when in the capable hands of Cumani, the Pontefract win was highly impressive on seasonal debut and 8lbs higher is nothing really.
Meanwhile at Ascot….
Just two bets for me and again they are reasonably easy to find. Umneyati deserves a tremendous amount of respect in the 2.05. James Tate has a decent one here as she looks progressive but has enough experience (4 wins) and some decent soft ground form. Ascot can be a killer when the ground is described as soft, no other track in my view drains as quickly as the Berkshire turf and what starts soft can finish anything but.
Still, it will not put me off a big bet on Ascription who should love conditions. I know I am joining the world and his dog but who could not be impressed with the last time out performance. The Doncaster performance was emphatic and 11lbs will do nothing to stop this one. Let’s be honest, the moniker ‘group horse in a handicap’ is going to be used plenty about this one. Right now though, I’d rather be on the train. 8/1 last night, a kew withdrawal drew the price in but the money is flooding on, Pricewise has given it up – your cousins granny is on as is your Doctor and your Mistress and 4/1 is starting come under pressure. If you can’t beat em.
Gowran – Jumps Grade 2 Action!!
Fantastic, the jumps season is back. Sizing Europe is running at Gowran and at age 11 is seeking the hat trick in this race. At some point these horses have to give way to age. It comes to us all, the sensing of the competent by the inexorable whim of time, creaking and continuos the introduction of decrepitness until the end and dust, we float about the cosmos.
As much as I would love to see Sizing Europe win, I am going to opt for Quito de la Roque with Davy ‘Iron Man’ Russell in the saddle. I think Davy has another cracking chance in the follow up race where he is in Minella for Value’s saddle. Davy at the Double?
In the 2.25 at Gowran, I am going to be on Guitar Pete too.
There is some terrific action at Belmont and Keeneland tonight and I shall be tuned in to At the Races for all of it. Worth the time alone though is Wise Dan who will go off at short prices for the 10.21 at Keeneland. What a horse, well worth watching.
For betting purposes, I suggest Day at the Spa in the 9.17 at Keeneland (where incidentally Say makes her American debut), Artemis Agrotera in the 10.14 at Belmont and Havana in the 10.46 at the same venue.
In the football, I do fancy two. Walsall, a club I supported as a boy and watched at the LS Fellows Park are going well and I trust them to beat Brentford. I also fancy Leyton Orient to beat Oldham purely based on the views of @tjheezy.
May your dinner be fine and Italian, possibly the greatest cuisine on earth. I wish that the only discomfort for you is the size of your bankroll digging into your ribs. As the bill comes and your over fattened wallet drops to the table, remember how good it is to be alive. Next year my friends, I shall be typing this from Paris, no questions.
The Martin Hill sponsored bet is Ascription, Quito de la Roque and Ajman Bridge in a Trixie.
Courage and roll those dice.