Good evening from the Major who writes from the closing stages of a blistering Worcestershire day, the light slowly fading, enriching the depth of colour within the gloriously virile Bluebells which dust the forest floor. Deer, on the verge, ready to bolt yet remaining alert, limbs locked tight, it is good to be alive. Despite the brightness, the air is cool and with no cloud visible, a chill is coming on the night air.
The week has been tiring but not without recompense.
Thursday, London, in the sun, a stupendous dose of good medicine administered directly to the heart, I would recommend all of you to partake in our magnificent Capital on a glorious Easter Thursday… After finishing my afternoon of work, I met with a friend to imbibe of our environ and be thankful for existence.
It starts in a traditional busy boozer within a stones throw of London Underwriting Centre, drinking at pace, the throng spilling onto the streets. Then we migrate to a more youthful urging crowd of Leadenhall Market, a full throttle drinking festival – long curvaceous chambers of ancient trade, magnificent carvings, the contrast of cavern with antique ironworks that blend perfectly with the classical red and gold livery above the retailers premises, many of the inhabitants still hard at their craft.
A dropped glass shatters, amongst the packed crowd, onto hard blue black cobble, it only punctuates the moment, nobody fear cessation, the feminine curve of calf in black stocking, a rush of blood and your shoulders stretch back and your chin struts out, just instinctive reactions.
This all surmounts to a wondrous summation of the parts… God is present, the sheer endeavour of spirit in all men to partake, to hold gratitude, that is blissful and all are welcome… While criticism runs amok for financiers; the Major, a visitor on their shores suggest that in amongst them, you will find good souls who possess the most beautiful of characteristics, humbleness, perhaps weaved with a wicked charm and a glint in their eye. Good luck to them, for without it, we are paupers.
On the late train home which seemed to sway in rhythm with my mind, I sent a text to ‘the taxi driver in our village’, lovely Lorraine, a woman who probably knows more about my general vices of drinking and gambling than most, yet she wears a straight face that gives confidence, she is discreet as the cat. She certainly would not judge the scene just an hour earlier as an already wine-flown Major scampers down the first class carriages to be the lucky last recipient of First Westerns hospitality, when they are about to close the bar, I can move like Usain… shame is an alien emotion for me.
Then to Good Friday. A day with the family at the open day at Lambourn and what a triumph that was. The sun shone, we had a walk around Harry Dunlops and Matthew, 6, declared Cadmium his favourite inmate, while Daniel, 7, went for Le Grand Cheval.
The Good Friday racing from Lingfield has to be declared a triumph. They had to lock the doors…. this is Lingfield right? A fabulous new card that offered more prize money than any single day at Royal Ascot. If there was a valid argument against, it is not a religious one. Good Friday is a public Bank Holiday and while the roots of it are based in Christian heritage, it is not obligatory. Those with faith can choose not to partake (or sod it, join in, be merry and pray for forgiveness, God loves a sinner), those without can celebrate the addition to our bank holiday of an excellent initiative.
The other critique comes from some folk in the racing industry who valued the day off. This holds a little more weight. It is probably not a bad thing to have some occasional days off but why choose one of them to be a day in which you could engage and entertain a greater audience? Sack some of those Mondays where an utterly dreadful Southwell and Beverley concoction tables less prize money cumulatively than the average single race from Lingfield today.
Some improvements are needed. Channel 4 need to pull their finger out and provide domestic TV coverage. It also needs better promotion too, to capture the imagination. It is not the Breeders Cup but it could attract overseas runners with some of the money on offer, let’s hope it builds enough prestige to do so. Finally, it needs some better quality horses, I have no idea why some of the bigger guns did not roll up to have a crack at these excellent pots of gold… Still an excellent start and who could wish for more than that.
While we are on a high, let us break cover and move forward with aggression, skirmishing in open formation; to the sports:
I have to be honest, this might be the focus of Channel 4 tomorrow but it looks horribly like a bookies benefit to me. I shall pick my way through with caution.
The opener is a five runner affair and I suggest a punt on the outsider of the field, 7/1, Un Bon Ptit Gars. Why the optimism? The ground is less of a concern with him than some others, at 6, there is still some potential to come too and Nick Williams although only running a few in recent weeks has scored with a couple… I won’t be loading the large cannon but it shall not pass without some loving attention.
Two horses catch my eye in the second. Harry Fry has never had a winner at Haydock but to be fair he has only ever had two runners there. He relies on one bullet for Saturdays card and that is Bold Chief, a general 4/1 shot who will be very comfortable with the rattling ground and was damn impressive last time out at Uttoxeter, lengthening away from Knock a Hand in a manner that suggested the 8lb rise was entirely reasonable. The other I like is Beforeall an Oliver Sherwood horse, also a Haydock irregular, who is ground versatile and I thought showed tremendous spirit last time at Ffos Las. That race was in heavy ground and at Ffos LAs, that is gruelling gluey stuff and it only took place twelve days ago so it causes me to side with young Fry and Bold Chief.
In the third Generous Ransom, No No Mac and Hold Court all look interesting but I shall leave my bank safe and move on…
In the 3.15, I like Bincombe who has being winning well but also suggesting a step up in trip would benefit the horse. He also likes good ground having won twice upon it. Midnight Sail looks to be in remarkable form and could play a role but generally I do not like the older horses. I would enjoy watching Lost Legend win and am a fan of his 5lb claimer Linehan. I shall stick with first instinct and Bincombe.
In the 4.20, I am back to making a case for the outsider of the field in Wake Your Dreams. Clearly there was an issue with the horse after he overcame blunders to win at Market Rasen last August. That was a second win on the bounce and in the former, he put away The Cockney Mackem, OK no superstar but still a decent 129 rated hurdler. Could be more to come and if fit, 8/1 is a nice price.
At Nottingham, the form trainer of the moment, Mr Gosden sends two of his string and a double feels like an essential part of the Saturday investment portfolio. At this stage of the flat season, trainer form is incredibly useful as some yards are more forward than others and irrespective of ability, if they are not ready, they do not win.
6.45 Gilbeys Mate and7.15 Court Room
I cannot get motivated by the rest of the cards, don’t let my curmudgeonly view infect you, if you find the requisite enthusiasm, knock yourself out. I shall sign off with the football as usual. Someone told me that they came to the blog only for the football tips, they were expressing their thanks. I told them to piss off, how rude, this is a racing blog with some football thoughts tagged on; his sort not welcome to our exclusive club of refined gentleman.
If you wanted a manager to dig you out of relegation troubles then Holloway would be on your list. Millwall are now unbeaten in four games including trips to Forest and Wigan and while Boro might be in decent form themselves, I will partake the 3/1 on the Lions. My second bet is much nearer the bottom of your coupon. 4/6 Annan. That’s it, I’m still smarting from the idea that someone was only interested in this bit…
The Martin Hill bet is an each way trixie on Bincombe, Bold Chief and Un Bon Ptit Gars.
I trust your dinner is in a fine Italian restaurant with marble everywhere. Have you ever noticed how good Italian restaurants only have waiters, not waitresses? Well I hope your company is enchanting and you are ordering the finest Barolo they can muster from the cellar. Eat well, you can trust the Italians for that.
Courage and roll the dice.