Good evening from the Major who writes from the comfort of the drawing-room gazing out over a dull hazy Worcestershire. The day has been unseasonably close and the Major has been out running in the busy lanes that fall from Defford to the old Eckington Bridge. The backdrop to my endeavours was serene with the fields flowing towards Bredon Hill to the South East and Malvern far to the West. Indulge me with a brief essay on my locale, we all live in richness if we were to lift our eyes from the floor. We shall weave and meander through, not staying for long, just like the Avon which winds through this land peacefully still, the brown waters calming and banks teaming with life.
Eckington Bridge, a gorgeous stone multiple arch construction, has crossed the Lower Avon at this point since the early fifteenth century, although the present version is three centuries old. It is of red sandstone and has a turreted design, very pretty and gloriously impractical for modern traffic. The elegance of this scene inspired a poem by Quiller-Couch, a Cornishman who was writing in the early 19th century;
Of green days telling with a quiet beat
O wave into the sunset flowing calm
O tired lark descending on the wheat
The bridge always echos to me Parsons Folly, a small tower that sits atop of the aforementioned Bredons Hill just a few miles off. The two structures are of entirely different material and style but the quaintness of them, the smallness, they sit almost lost in this sweeping English rural scene. Yet these small man-made structures have disproportionate impact. From my bedroom as the summer sun sets against pale blue cool skies, I can see the sun glinting pink off the stone walls of that tower. It is always there, watching over us. There was a real Mr Parson that built the tower, he had purpose too, it stands at 39 feet tall and brings the hill height, including the tower to a round 1,000 feet. The folly had an incumbent hermit before the second world war but now stands alone and locked.
Our ancient fathers were a literal lot. Bre is ancient English for hill, as is Don, so Bredon is hill hill. Later in our language, Bredon also became a word for hill, confused, you should be. Avon comes from the Welsh, Afon meaning river, England has several Avons, this one, joins the Severn at Tewkesbury having been born in the Midland springs.
I once climbed Bredon Hill and met a fellow walker on the long broad ridge that leads to the summit. He was a local historian and told me that the manor house, half way up the Western face of the hill, served as a magistrate in centuries past. Capital punishment was served there and the method would chill you. They would stake criminals onto the hillside and leave them there to starve and be taken by the wolves. I have never been able to verify those claims, which to me seem improbable. Certainly though, boar, wolf and even bear would have roamed here in centuries past.
It is a nice walk to the top of the hill and it has inspired several other poets. Housman, a nineteenth century writer penned verse and I have added it to the post for your delectation. I felt one poem snippet was enough to subject for your mandatory Sermon read and so have left it for you as a present at the bottom. It speaks of death.
Mandatory reading you cry! Well, yes, skipping to the tips is ungentlemanly given I expect you to read the outpourings of my dark soul and share with me the riches and worthless thoughts contained in my spirit. In any event, you are a damn lot poorer for cheating your way to the sports as you certainly cannot be coming here for the punting profits. God alone knows that.
My entire locale has ancient secrets, the English Civil War came through with major battles at both Evesham and Tewkesbury with a warm skirmish over the destroyed Pershore Bridge. That war bought Englishman upon Englishman, musketry, cannon, mortar and for the close warm work, the Pike. What stories these old fields and trees could tell us. What lessons we might learn.
What stories, perhaps one day, one might tell of a stubbornly brave or foolish Englishman who against all teaching pursued his dream and landed his morthership in the Ladbrooks at Pershore, thus driving the enemy foot and hand into the river mercilessly. Daub thy warpaint friends and join me, we will meet them man to man with bayonets fixed, they shall see our intent, see in our eyes, our deep resolve and tremor shall infect their hand.
To the Sports
Haydock Tips – Including the Betfred Sprint.
The evergreen Martin Hill called me this week. For those who did not catch my news a few weeks hence, I am leaving my employer for pastures new. That the pastures are unidentified yet is both exciting and terrifying. Mr Hill is a business contact who in short time, became a friend. I could tell early in our acquaintance, from the glint in his eye, that his mind ran to skullduggery. He became a regular reader and would always ask me to post him a multiple. To this day he backs them all religiously. We have had some good results too but in recent weeks, the negative ledger has seen plenty of entries and so I promised him today that I would find him gold. Stand on me, today’s Martin Hill bet will land.
The Group 3 Superior Mile, 2.40pm, is a race in which I am going to advise a bet. Ocean Tempest landed a 14/1 win at Chester last Saturday and what an incredible performance that was. He carried the burden of a welterweight around that tight little track and was brave in the home straight to come between horses and get up, incredible stuff, what we all love to see. Can he repeat it here, no. That is my verdict! For one, that win was the only piece of worthwhile form his yard have recorded in the last few weeks and it must have taken some toll, he is brave but not super-equine.
Anyway, Charlton has a great record at Haydock and has won this race twice in the last 5 years… Thus Captain Cat is an excellent bet at a general 7/4. Yes he swings his head high but does not look ungenuine and both his G3 win at Salisbury and his effort in the Celebration Mile give him excellent chances here. Particularly the last run which if you had been one of his many backers (went off 9/4), you might have validly vented your spleen as jockey error gave the horse (cruising a few furlongs out), way too much to do. To be fair to Mr Doyle, he was quick to apologise, fair enough, public error, public apology. Anyway, lump on.
In the 3.15, I can smell a Prescott gamble developing and am advising an early investment on Big Thunder. My case is such m’lord. This time last year, the horse looked highly progressive and won off a mark of 93 here in a campaign that saw him lower the colours of Salutation and Glenard. This campaign has been poor and the handicapper has not yet released his icy grip, the bastard. MAJOR! Where did that outburst come from! I do hope my mother is not reading. Anyway, Prescott is in form and that yard is one that are well worth following when in good spirits so the last remnants of 12s should be gobbled up before they are mere memories, because those prices are not long for this world.
The the big Saturday race, the G1 Betfred Sprint. This race was won by Gordon Lord Byron last year and prior to that Society Rock, Dream Ahead; names to earn that top draw status. This line up is worthy. Gordon Lord Byron is back, Sole Power one half of a powerful sprint duo et al.
First of all, Es Que Love. No chance. Yet how much racing has this horse seen? When with Johnson, he seemed to be declared every other day! A worthy yardstick but not a G1 sprinter surely. Sole Power troubles me. This is going to be an all out pace assault and the horse has never seen out 6f having had 5 attempts at it. I am going to look for something else.
I like G Force although he has yet to fulfill on some of his potential. He looked a G1 sprinter in the making to my eye early in the season but maybe next year is the time to return to this project. He only gets 2lbs from some serious top draw sprinters here.
I am left with wanting some value and I am going to opt for two. Tropics is available at an astonishing 11/1 with Paddy Power and if you can get it take some. His July Cup form is not to be sniffed at. The other I think is worthy of a tickle at a big price is Pearl Secret at 28s with Corals and 25s generally. The horse has a good Temple Stakes piece of form and came back to form with a listed win last time.
Finally at Haydock, I can smell a talented Godolphin runner with Latharnack in the 5pm. The competition seems to be the Prescott horse and I have extolled the stable form there already but I have a feeling that this boy in blue might give them a well needed quality boost a genuine contender for the G1 juvenile Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Have a few shekels on Highland Acclaim in the Ascot opener. Course form is important here as it is deceptively tough. The O’Meara yard is in OK touch and the Shergar Cup win last time was decent enough. A small rise was justifiable and at a 14/1 stand out BetVicotr price, well worth a punt.
I am jumping to the 4.40 at Ascot and the Ryan Moore assisted Fray. I thought the horse deserved to be whacked for a very smart Newmarket handicap debut win and the rise of 7lbs did not stop a good effort behind Water Hole, last time out. That her conqueror went on to place in a G3 gives me some hope, that she is lightly raced and progressing helps me more, go for it at 3/1 with Paddy Power.
Scoop 6 Mothership
It is another Scoop6 mothership. Here is my full single sniper shot at the massive prize.
Race 1 : 1:55 Ascot – Highland Acclaim
Race 2 : 2:05 Haydock – Barnet Fair
Race 3 : 2:55 Kempton – Tenor
Race 4 : 3:15 Haydock – Big Thunder
Race 5 : 3:30 Ascot – Montaly
Race 6 : 3:50 Haydock – Tropics
One bet this weekend and it is Sunday. Portsmouth are 21/10 to win at (admittedly top of the league) Burton on Sunday and I would urge a lumpy lumpy bet on the visitors.
The Martin Hill Winning Bet
Mr Hill. Take a sprinkling of Captain Cat, add to a base layer of Latharnack and then Fray at Ascot. Mix in a trixie 1pt (to be 4pts) and add a further 1pt treble.
I trust that all of you dear readers are bedecked in your finery at dinner with cash to spare. Good wine, delectable dining and the finest company. A raven haired sort with lilting mesmeric voice and dark watery eyes that you can swim right into.
Courage friends and roll the dice.
Bredon Hill by Housman
In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.
Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.
The bells would ring to call her
In valleys miles away;
“Come all to church, good people;
Good people come and pray.”
But here my love would stay.
And I would turn and answer
Among the springing thyme,
“Oh, peal upon our wedding,
And we will hear the chime,
And come to church in time.”
But when the snows at Christmas
On Bredon top were strown,
My love rose up so early
And stole out unbeknown
And went to church alone.
They tolled the one bell only,
Groom there was none to see,
The mourners followed after,
And so to church went she,
And would not wait for me.
The bells they sound on Bredon,
And still the steeples hum,
“Come all to church, good people.”
O noisy bells, be dumb;
I hear you, I will come.