Tag Archives: queen catrine

The Saturday Sermon – The Majors Lucky 15…. All aboard Sandown, Haydock and Belmont

Good Evening from the Major who writes after a substantial unashamed early evening nap.  A hectic week conducted at pace with the Major ricocheting around the country from the refined bars of the city to a party in the wee hours in glorious Cheltenham to pounding the raw streets of the northern ancient textile town of Bolton, the Major has seen it all.

It is pleasing to returning to Worcestershire, visiting my turf accountant on the way to home.  Parking in the Georgian market town of Pershore, a child of around 12 crossed in front of the car sporting a cap with a cannabis logo emblazoned in a lurid fluorescent green.  Towing a family that might think this an appropriate attire for a child, I catch on the air a line from mother to father as my car door opened, it remarked, in the finest English, on how she might break his expletive neck, direct don’t you think, she sounded like she surely would too.

To stop and look around once a while is an enlightening experience.  Propping the bar in the latest fine addition to Cheltenham’s finer establishments, the 131, I overheard a couple of the young vibrant staff, clearing down the last remnants of the party discussing the details of being young and having fun.  There a line nearly had me choking on my Mint Julep, well thinks I, you won’t hear that on the 7.48 to Paddington.

Shortly afterwards, striding to my hotel across the town centre, my wooden heels, proudly naked of a leather muffling are snapping sharply against grey paving slabs which were still releasing some ambient warmth absorbed from the day.  The harsh cracking  sound, rebounding off the imposing walls of the architecturally exceptional building that houses the council municipal offices.  The late night neon plays wonderfully onto the light regency walls, the ionic pilasters providing a depth in the facade.  On the floor in front of me, a lonely old-fashioned wooden chip fork, cast alone on the sea of concrete.  A sole taxi driver mans the rank, there is a peace and an understanding between the people of the night, a quiet begrudging respect that we are all here, in this never-world, this non-existence, it is about as peaceful and calming a moment as I can recall.

Almost no one shares this scene with me and sometimes these moments I encounter stay with me, as they will.  Somehow this all really makes me think about death.  A connection I have yet to rationalise, rare are the comforts in our uncertain world.

The Saturday Sermon takes a new form today.  I am going to supply you with a lucky 15.  My goal, you ask…. To win…. all four legs, quiet simple.  The Major has been in good form so load your cannons my dear friends, four of the Saturday best tips coming right up.

The Saturday Sermon Lucky 15 Tips

Leg 1: The Lancashire Oaks – Haydock, 2.55pm

Group Two action for the girls up north and the apple of my eye turns up, Talent.  Regular readers will know of love affair with this girl.  In my heart I chalked her up as the Arc winner after watching her fight vigorously, burning early energy in her Oaks, before Hughsie got her settled and straightening off Tattenham to use her gigantic stride to powerful effect down the outside in the straight.

A highly unlucky second in the Leger denied her a second classic – although I am probably tinted in my view, as even if she had enjoyed clear passage, at the key time, she may never have gotten to subsequent Gold Cup winner Leading Light, although you must confess, that form looks good now doesn’t it.  Yet, after her latest flop, I promised not to do this again…. Here I am.  Conflicted.

See, I can draw you in to my dark world.  The vortex swirling around, the madness of it all.  Is this tipping, or is it affection stirred by emotion… rational analysis or wishful, heartfelt urging.  I maintain Bog Warrior has been the most ill-used best staying hurdler of his generation, head in chest, bowling along all ungainly gangly action and perpetual momentum building.

Loyalty is not necessarily a quality I admire.  It leads to blind poor quality judgement.  Yet my loyalty is based in affection and in what my eyes have seen.  She was one of the better horses of last years crop.

Haydock is due to see rain as I type but the sun shall be out at 1pm, according the accurate short-term forecasts of our meteorological friends. I am guessing that the ground will be genuine good ground benefiting from just a tiny bit of give.

Hmmmmmm.  The Italian import, Charity Line, is hard to get a read on.  Italian Group Ones are not a reliable form line but she is consistent and has to be respected now racing for the excellent Botti yard.

Lustrous could be considered.  Her listed win looks OK and she confirmed promise when a closing runner-up in G2 company at the Royal meeting.  Three year olds get a very handy pull and their record is patchy so she would have to be a bit better I think.

Gosden, who has won two of the last three renewals, has two unexposed runners in Pomology and Sultanina – Both lightly raced, both hard to assess.  Narrowly I like Pomology of the two but Sultanina has the benefit of recent race experience.  I prefer Lee to Havlin in the saddle as well and so a narrow nod of the two to Pomology at 8/1 with BetVictor.

Pomology, Seal of Approval or Talent? You do what you want, but I will never forgive myself if Talent wins and does not carry my ticket.  Go on girl, flash that tail all you like just give us a bit of that long action in full stretch, expertly bringing the blade to take a cut on the forte before running your enemy through the torso.

Leg 2: The Coral Distaff – Sandown, 3.15pm

Preceding the Eclipse, the listed fillies race is a small runner field that has an interesting clash.

Essentially, the obvious candidate is Queen Catrine who was desperately unlucky not to record a win at Royal Ascot in the Sandringham, just failing to get up after being badly hampered.  A reproduction of that and she is the obvious candidate.  However, The Major is concerned that she may well not reproduce her best as she has proven inconsistent to date.  What is more, this race is likely to be an entirely different proposition, her sort is best served by a true gallop and who is to say she will get it here.  That said, I respect the fact that Moore takes over and he is the best jockey we have.

The Major though is going to add Belle D’or for the Gosden yard.  Hugely unexposed, my tip has done far less than the market favourite but is in fine hands.  Her breeding might not look so familiar being out of Medaglia D’Oro who might have not yet scored a British Group winner but has produced such fine athletes as Rachel Alexandra and Marketing Mix, true stars over the pond.  7/2 and being backed, join the queue quickly.

Leg 3: The Coral Eclipse – Sandown, 3.50pm

This is one of my favourite races of the flat season.  The first serious opportunity for the new upstarts, fresh from their classic exertions, to be measured against those classy more experienced elders.  Always a debate about the quality of the generation we have just witnessed, perceptions; not just of these participants but by nature, by connectivity of form lines, the current classic crop will either be endorsed or tarnished.  Make no mistake, this is a judgement on Kingman, on Australia, it is a team game today.

In the blue corner today we have the Derby runner-up Kingston Hill and the Guineas winner Night of Thunder.  In the red corner, super-mare The Fugue spots them 8lbs, good girl.  Trading Leather is a big price for an Irish Derby winner but then he has not seemingly found that form again yet.

If a classic horse wins, it is normally a damn good horse.  The three that have made the achievement in the last dozen years have been Sea the Stars, Hawk Wing and perhaps the exception, Oratorio.  Can we suppose that quality exists here?

I think it is fair to expect Kingston Hill to come out unless a sudden shower eases conditions.  Now the forecast shows plenty of rain to fall so as I write in the wee hours, it is a hard judgement to make, I am going to assume that we have him as a live contender on good to soft.

Night of Thunder ran a cracker in the Guineas when straying across the track but still holding Kingman and Australia, form stamped by god since.  The strict authenticity of the superiority it showed over those two blue bloods has been dismantled.  What we are left with is a clearly highly talented horse that is not quite as good as either Australia or Kingman as the St James Palace showed us.  This is not just a step up in trip but also a searching test.  He looks the sort to me that might show better yet in these middle distances.

The Major needs an angle of attack and this is it.  I love the Fugue, she is a remarkable and lovable horse but I cannot pretend that giving weight to this good-looking crop of classic juniors will be easy.  With the threat of rain easing conditions, I am going to take now a price on that she might get beat.  This is a hard call because her last run was superb putting Arc winner Treve away and showing us that exhilarating burst of athleticism we know she has.  The thing is, fillies tend not to do so well in this.  The younger ones are not as forward as the colts and the older ones may not be getting enough weight advantage.  All in all… and this pains me, we could get her beat on anything remotely tacky.

It is a tough track, knowing that I am risking my hand on the weather forecast, I am opting for Kingston Hill.  The risks I am taking are priced into his 9/2, clipped in by the ‘shrewdies’ who gobbled up the 5/1 back at the respectable hours.  I do like the way he chased Australia home and given that one, in my view, could be a real star and a live Arc contender, maybe a length and a quarter defeat will prove to be plenty good enough in this.  Put your bet down and speak to whichever deity you regularly commune with for as much rain as he can spare over Surrey.

Leg 4:Belmont Derby – Belmont Park, USA 9.34pm

Get yourself ready for a twitter storm as British raider for the magnificent Jamie Osbourne yard, the superbly and knowingly named Toast of New York attempts to follow his Meydan exploits with another globetrotting success.

What factors are in play.  Well, the horse is going to run on Lasix for the first time and that could be a significant issue.  Not all British horses have been known to adjust to the drug which is banned in the UK racing industry.  His UAE victory on tapeta was an unbelievable achievement and he has captured the hearts of racing fans. Perhaps it is his modest $60k cost, perhaps his white socks and streaky white blaze face, something about him is exciting and captivating.

I saw Toast at the excellent open day at Lambourn – A popular attraction, we all swarmed around him and the stable glowed with the outpouring of love.  What chances?

The Belmont Derby Invitational is a big deal, it has a $1.25m purse and perhaps the biggest challenge for Toast in his career to date as he is going to be on Lasix and is also returning to turf for the first time since his racing debut at Leicester when he flopped in a class 4.  If you follow his career, he went down in grade to Kempton and hit second spot before starting his winning runs.  At Wolverhampton in a class 5, he quickened away as he liked and then returning there he repeated the dose in another class 5.

Excellent performances but some way from a Meydan Derby horse you might think.  The market was unsure how to treat the form and his win was returned at 11/1, a tidy price for the niche army of fans the horse was building up.  There is no doubt now, that the Belmont race offers Toast and Osbourne and Spencer (aboard for three of his five wins) a chance to consolidate that success, a chance to change any lingering perception that he has been lucky.

Dance with Fate is no slouch having won the Blue Grass which is a synthetic surface Group 1.  I think that is a good 10/1 alternative.

Once again we are in the position of assessing value versus desired outcome.  Dance with Fate would be my pick but I cannot imagine how I would feel if Toast of New York went in and was unbacked as the glorious last leg of our Lucky 15.

I trust your dinner arrangements are taken late as you wanted to see the mothership land.  Perhaps a straight forward curry in boisterous company, racy conversations at high volume accompanying full throttled frivolity. That’s the medicine.

The Lucky 15 tips also represent the components of the Martin Hill bet.  We are all in this together.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – King George Day plus #crowdsourcingmultiple

Good evening from the Major who wrote this introduction, dead tired, slumped in the kitchen in a Worcestershire air brewing with trouble.  Clammy and suffocating, in it I cannot rest, my eyes are alert and dart to each sudden noise.  In old houses such as this, the bones creak and groan, each new sound aggravates the heart, palpitating with vigour.  Perturbed, the mood, something dark hangs over me.

In these moments deep in the night, when the thoughts deep down bubble to the surface, fears emerge untethered by their daytime confinement.  I am scared that when dawn breaks, this feeling will last, that somewhere in the system, it went wrong.  Things that should be leashed at the midnight hour are somehow free to plague me.

My emotions stir thinking of Daniel Pelka a tragic loss of life.  Just 4 years old, starved and beaten at home, he received further punishments for stealing food from other children at school.  His mother warning teachers not to feed him and herself bribing the child with sweets to maintain his silence.

What confusion in that poor childs mind.  What darkness seeps through the whole thing.  The fragility of a child, the innocence.  The intent, powerful emotions stir.  Still and deep.

What troubles me most is whether the thoughts that run through my mind in the small hours could escape, somehow seep into the day world where everything carries with it, a sense that all will be well.

Morning breaks, a close cloud covered morning.  The Major has risen and arrived at the office, fresh and revived, the words above appear now to be written by a stranger, let us move on.

What a load of nonsense the Royal Baby saga turned out to be.  Journalists, standing outside a hospital with nothing to report on, straining to make something, anything newsworthy.  Have you noticed the stock question a journalist asks any passer-by in such circumstances… ‘Can we have your reaction to…’  Then gushes forth the incontinent thoughts of the masses.  I have no strong view on our monarchy itself, in fact, since the Queen is of a racing mind, I feel a kinship, tough old bitch.

In the coming weeks, I would like to pen a piece on my favourite jockeys and why I like them.  I have commented often that I find, next to horse ability, the jockey ability to be a crucial part of my race reading.  Although I gave up keeping records some time ago (when they were mildly profitable, I would point out!), my feeling is that this is a profitable field to plough, particularly in amateur races where the gulf in jockey quality is greatest.

The article will come, although maybe not as I have the habit of promising things I don’t get round to.  Yet, I shall share with you now, some of the riches of my thinking so that you might judge me.

The top five flat jockeys, based on class and season form, that spring to the top of my mind are… Ryan Moore, of course, Neil Callan, the best damn independent there is, Jimmy Fortune, simple and strong, Silvestre de Sousa, what a season and Adam Kirby, not so much style as brute strength – A man I like to follow in the class 6 races at Lingfield that you know you should never be betting on.  Clearly this needs some thought because Murtagh and Manning are missing, it might turn out to be a top ten – Don’t be upset, I am making this up as I go along, in case you failed to notice.

As for the jumps boys… McCoy, once again, a little obvious, forgive me, Slippers Madden, Jason Maguire, always presents his horses so well to a fence, Ruby, is like watching poetry and then take your pick from some under-rated sorts in Tom O’Brien, Doyle, Maurice Linehan….

Let us get to the sports… Sharpen that lance point young man, bring yourself up to attention for god is on parade and he wishes to see the cleanliness of your tunic.  The deep red colours of our gallant Victorian splendour, looking so dapper in the full light of day, ready to fight the hoards of Satan himself….. Courage and Shabash.

King George Day Tips

Ascot is a hard card to read today, as a big uncertainty remains over the ground they will race upon.

Regardless, it is nothing short of a tragedy that St Nicholas Abbey, the splendid Ballydoyle warrior is fighting for his very life on King George day.  This year the toll of casualty has been high in our sport both on the track and off it, both human and horse.  Good luck old boy, just imagine it is 2009, you are back at Doncaster and Johnny Murtagh is just giving you that little squeeze, digging in his heels just a little and you know it is business time, quickening clear to be one of the most impressive winners of the Racing Post trophy I have seen.  A touch of that spirit and the team of vets will soon be brushing you down and preparing you for your new kept life.

It has left the King George a poorer race.  While Cirrus des Aigles is a fine horse, I am not with him.  Don’t get me wrong, I like him – How can you not?  Gelded, so lacking the illustrious connection to future progeny – That probably helped connections with their decision to come and take on the mighty Frankel when others cried enough and looked for cover.  He gave Pegasus a damn good race too and on his preferred soft ground.

Today, I am not sure the rain will be there in time and as these top horses get older, they get less reliable.

The problem today is that we do not have much in our armoury to get him beat.  Many are allotting credit to the Ascot form of Hillstar that I am not sure it is due.  He is a handicapper who has clearly improved significantly but this is the top table now and we shall see how his form holds, shan’t we.

Trading Leather is interesting.  The Irish Derby winner seems to me to be a horse that has kept below the radar.  The son of Teofilo is one that wants those storms to keep clear until after the race.  Here is the rub though, to win the King George as a three year old you have to be elite.  Galileo, Nathaniel etc etc… Trading Leather? Really?

Novellist is interesting… He has beaten Cirrus des Aigles this season and looks a certain improver – Of the main protagonists, this would be my call

So, the Major is going off piste… In a race I think could fall apart, I am going to advise you to back the outsider of the field Red Cadeuax at a freely available 40/1.

What is my case?  Well OK, the first thing is that we need to ignore two poor runs this season, easily done – Both races were over 2f shorter than this and I think the old boy needs further these days.  His Singapore form was not brilliant and he never got going at Ascot.  Yet, let us not forget he was runner-up in the Dubai World Cup in March.  Ed Dunlop knows the time of day, he is not in this to make up the numbers, they think they can get in the prize money.

If you follow the Majors thinking, then you have a favourite who might be beyond his best before date (as is my own selection to be fair), some three year olds that I don’t think are Galileo-esque and then this campaigner who is the most experienced of the lot of them.  Have a slice and thank me later.

The Rest of Ascot

In the last 15 years, just one horse has won the Princess Margaret at odds larger than 6/1 and that was 25/1 shocker Mixed Blessing in 2005.  It seems sensible thus, to focus upon Wind Fire, Queen Catrine, Along Again and Wee Jean.

My guess is Chroussa will lead them along like she did at the Curragh and again will play second fiddle to one of those four.  Queen Catrine is the least appealing of them, I think the Newmarket form is good but needs to be better.  Hannon is keen on Fig Roll and the master of juvenile horses is hard to ignore but I shall – She is too small (exactly what they said about Messi by the way)

Windfire came close in the Norfolk against the colts and that is very solid.  She started that race at 16/1 and I am not convinced yet that is was our strongest renewal.  It is dangerous to ignore Wind Fire because stepping up a furlong from the Norfolk looks exactly what this girl needs… but I am.

I am sticking to my ‘jockey angle’ and opting for Along Again to make the necessary improvement, take the 7/1.

The next race I am interested in is the 4.25 Lady Amateurs race – Let us test my amateur jockey record.  We want experience and a good strike rate and completely ignore the horse!

Four of the jockeys have a 10%+ strike rate in the last two years, Jane Mangan, Miss Walton, King and Brotherton.  Miss King has only had three winners from 18 rides in that time so slips off my considered list through inexperience.

Now I have to consider the horses and of them, Jane Mangan’s appeals the most, 7/1 shot, the most aptly names… See the Storm.  Some good form preceded the third at Chester which was a dampener, I will admit.  Yet, Chester is not to every horses liking with its tight turns and back on a more suitable track with what I consider the best jockey aboard… well.

Incidentally, do you remember poor Jane Mangan being thrown from her mount, Oscar Delta, as she was coming up the Cheltenham hill on a tight reign to victory?  I have never felt so sorry for a jockey, about to claim her most famous moment on the famous Prestbury Park, in front of a huge throng and Oscar Delta decides that 4m is not enough and he is off for another circuit.  Dumped on the floor, having to stand and tramp back past the crowd, many of whom were on the favourite Salsify, who was gifted the race, ouch.  Not that I feel too bad for her, she has had plenty of days in the sun since then and good luck to her…..

Finally, Emirates Flyer looks a shoe in in the last and 15/8 should be taken with gusto.

Meanwhile at York

It is the Sky Bet York Stakes, group two action and Mukhadram is the obvious choice even at 8/13.  He was desperately unlucky not to be second Ascot behind Al Kazeem after being snatched up on the rails.  Before you get all angry at me for putting up the obvious, go and read the Red Cadeaux bit again… it’s about the balance, yin and yang… calm.

The #crowdsourcingmultiple

The contributions from twitter are as follows:

@TheParadeRing  5.00 Ascot Emirates Flyer

@Lukeyboy1325 boring, but Cirrus Des Aigles

@TheGolfBandit ES QUE LOVE 1515 ASCOT – The Major loves this horse!

@IamNotLuke Contemplating 2:05 Wild Fire but going for a bit better odds with Y 2:20 Smarty Socks

@mattjcollins165m Henry the aviator 2.40 ascot ew around the 12/1 mark – and this one too!!

@LegalWiggy 8s Lilo Lil 1720 Lingfield and Expert  1410 Newmarket

@h103efa captain royale 4.50

May your dinner be opulent in the company of ravishing beauties with the wanton look in their eye that tells you where their mind runs to.  Eat lustily at a bloody steak, ah yes, allow the blood to rise a little, we are on the ride just the once you know.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Red Cadeaux, Along Again, See the Storm and Emirates Flyer.

Courage, roll those dice.