Good evening from the Major who writes from a biting Worcestershire with a wind that pierces through your outer layers and seeks out your very soul. The fire is crackling away, pouring goodness out that thickly covers the room, stifling and comforting all at once.
I won’t pretend that last week was anything other than a bloodbath. The Major lurched from one loss to another like some great wounded blind animal lumbering onwards, lurching hopelessly and violently.
Christmas needs paying for. Thus today we shall adorn our spears with the enemies precious trinkets and muster our weary souls into order once more. Shall it be like the 44th forming a last thin square on the hills above Gandamak Village, after weeks of deathly marching, the last fighting men, having been sniped at by Afghan hill-men, men, women and children falling in the snow in the Khyber Pass, murderous raids on our supply train, pack animals lost, defiantly gathering to protect the colours we shall gather our last vestige of purpose and stand together to a bitter end.
Or, like the thin red line at Balaclava, shall our meagre resources, against all odds and fighting in unconventional fashion, two men deep to take on the Russian Calvary, insanity odds, yet, hold fast boys… No retreat from here men, we shall die where we stand. That Colin Campbell was as hard as nails, he never hesitated, always spoiled for the fight.
To Ascot, load the grape-shot into the cannon.
Full Ascot Card
There is lots of form on lots of different tracks coming into this race so 9/2 the field is a fair assessment of the openness of it. Watching the Friday Ascot action, I thought it was riding OK.
If further rain fell, it would only aid the chances of present favourite Brave Buck, he is two from two on heavy ground and comes from an in form Daly stable. His Welsh double recently reads quite well and more may be to come but he is a stone higher in the weights as a result.
Boss in Boots looks a capable sort but I would prefer a more experienced pilot. Josies Orders is an interesting sort having had to be rousted along by McCoy to win at Ascot, next time out was a bit disappointing. McCoy is reunited here and there may be a better performance but I am not sure it looks a bullet-proof proposition.
Instead, the Major opts for 5/1 shot Forever Present who goes for the Henderson yard. At Ludlow, I thought the performance was OK but a little flat-footed, that was over 2m 5f, I think this extra distance and the ground will suit and if the jumping is a little neater and the replacement of David Bass with Barry Geraghty sparks some improvement, then the handicap mark may look very lean.
Another Saturday and another David Johnson memorial race. Quite right too – Every track wants to pay homage to the great supporter of our sport. Only four runners make it to the line for this particular event and Join the Navy needs half a track head start if he is to play a role. O Faolains Boy looks a very exciting prospect to me, fourth in the Albert Bartlett and stays forever, I think a potential National horse in years to come. Baby Mix surely needs a rattling surface and that leaves me with the 11/8 shot Easter Day. My selection has some excellent form over hurdles and he left his chase form well behind on second start over the tougher obstacles at Newbury. Looks like a Nicholls chaser on the improve to me.
I was quite surprised by the shortness of Pendra’s price for the 1.50. His winning form is in more minor events and this is an entirely different shape of race for which his inexperience may tell. That said, you know I like the Longsden yard. Ulck du Lin is back for another pop at the race he won a year ago off a fistful of pounds higher, not to be discounted at all.
I’d give Consigliere a chance back on his favoured surface but even if the ground remains quite soft, I am not sure this is the test he needs these days. Is Rebecca Curtis finally going to get a tune out of 10/1 shot Gus Macrae. He will like the soft ground but needs to reverse a run of poor form.
My pen rests on Elenika who surely is going to give us a great run at some pint. The Venetia Williams stable have had some winners in this race and the form at Cheltenham last month when just finishing behind a useful looking front four (Eastlake 3rd went on to win again) does not look so bad.
The Long Walk Hurdle is at 2.25 and I cannot see any way that At Fishers Cross gets beat. Celestial Halo gave him a thrashing last time out but something was not right that day and overall, despite his admirable hardy record, I remain unconvinced by CH. Anyway, he has already defected from this race and that leaves the chief competition being Reve de Sivola who I think At Fishers Cross had the better of before smacking his hurdle last time out. Lets keep it simple… Load the money printer, George has ordered up some more quantitative easing.
In the Silver Cup, we have the surprise Hennessy winner, Triolo D’Alene out again with a further 11bs on his back. He has run three times on soft and has never placed which is a slight concern. It is enough for the Major to be looking elsewhere and I have long felt that Cedre Bleu could make up into a decent staying chaser even if he has failed to impress over longer distances previously. 11/2 is available as I type with Coral. As a footnote, What a Warrior should not be 12s, if 8 go to post, it is a fantastic each way bet for a horse with no weight on his back and decent form claims.
Last but certainly not least… The Ladbroke. A headache of a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma and rammed down your throat with the bestial force of insanity. 8/1 the field… Take your pick.
For the Major, I am mostly staking my money on the record of Pipe in the race. In a field of 21 runners, he fields almost a third of the runners. Firstly a nod to the runners that Messrs Henderson and Nicholls have entered. Chatterbox and Rolling Star will have plenty of fans. I prefer Ptit Zig mind, even off top weight. Yet, my Pipe plot means I am going to invest in Dell Arca 10/1 who must have been targetted at this for some time. I am also oing to have a saver on 25/1 shot Irish Saint who has some very tasty form as a juvenile – Once beaten by Rolling Star by a handful of lengths at Cheltenham, if recovered from a fall at Newbury, I think he could play a part.
In the football… QPR have the right formula so 6/5 for a home win versus Leicester is a price. Walsall have had some issues but 4/5 at home to Carlisle is also a bet.
The Martin Hill bet is simple… A Dell Arca, Cedre Bleu and Forever Present trixie….. Money Printer…. Loaded.
I trust your dinner is prepared with great care and charged as such. I wish the finest wines for you and the finest company. Tip well, tis Christmas.
Courage and roll the dice.