Tag Archives: sole power

The Saturday Sermon – Haydock Sprint Cup Day. Mothership Scoop 6. My Worcestershire landscape.

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.

Ascot Tips

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

The Football

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.

The Saturday Sermon – July Cup Tips, York and anything else that takes the eye

Good evening from the Major who writes from a stifling Worcestershire scene where the warm and heavy evening feels dirty against a clammy skin.  There is a peach moon hanging at twenty degrees above the horizon, some cool white clouds crossing its face, like thin brittle fingers suspended in the soupy air.

The Major has had an exhausting week and as I arrive at the weekend, sleep beckons, the warm embrace of oblivion with the promise of a fresh mental state at the other end.  Not that I can claim to take many fulsome nights of slumber, no, in the small hours, the night world there exists whirring sounds, strange creaks and dark feelings haunting the corners, these do not ooze into consciousness slowly, no they race through my mind constantly changing, heart beating, adrenaline chemically enhancing and amplifying my already alert self.  I would give you tens that I cannot rest the full night.

I have tried drugs, they are good at getting me to sleep just not very good at keeping me there.  No, exercise is the real key and the Major is running again.  Thank you to those kind readers, none of whom I have met in the flesh, who kindly supported my charitable run on Sunday in the British 10k.  It is to raise

Izzy would like to thank all you lovely punters who spared a couple of quid from your warchest for Footsteps!

Izzy would like to thank all you lovely punters who spared a couple of quid from your war chest for Footsteps!

funds for Footsteps Foundation, a marvellous charity that help children with severe physical and developmental needs, just like my gorgeous niece, Izzy, who at the age of 4 has a serious undiagnosed condition.  Bless her gorgeous soul.

Anyway, if you have a couple of shekels to spare, then I promise that my not inconsiderate frame, lungs screeching in pain, jelly legs staggering forwards like some awfully wounded animal flailing my way around our great capital; will earn every penny and it is a smashing cause.  You can donate on this link and the Major will remember you when you are at the gates of hell, for that is where I shall be, there is to be no deliverance from purgatory for the Major, no forgiveness for my sins, yet I can at least put a good word in for you.   Thank you to @sar6ie, @onedeswalker, @ruthmuckle, @jimknight88 Keith and Simon and possibly more who all have been so very generous.

There is so much racing to talk about that this might be my longest ever post.  There are 6 daytime meetings including some excellent cards at York (100 runners), Newmarket (93), Chester (66) and Ascot (83).  There are a further two day time meetings in Ireland and so the day will be stretched – This pile up has been criticised but not from my corner – It looks like a tremendous typhoon of a Saturday and I am looking for those interesting moves.  Which jockeys have gone where? and why? Can we find a thin line of evidence to lead us to paradise? Is there a thread on the satchel which our enemy carries into battle that we might just get our finger nails on, then cling on as the stitching unravels?  Let us see my friends.  Before that I have no strong lecture but a small personal tale to tell so sit back and take in that pungent fresh coffee aroma.

In rush hour, the main arteries of A-road asphalt propel the tin cans and their tiny inhabitants to their cottage homes.  They are tiring to drive along, the monotony suffocates the mind and your reflexes are dulled.  Suffice to say, last night, I was shaken from my stuporous torpor by an animal darting across the carriageway.  This is not uncommon in these parts but normally the larger animals that might leap from the verges, with a maniacal suicidal lunge, come at night, foxes, badgers and deer.

This was a dog and I like dogs.  Stopping, I got out of the car warily.  I am not afraid of dogs, quite the contrary, I grew up with them.  At risk of losing half of my readers, they are far superior company than cats.  They are at times selfless, caring, loyal and fierce defenders of their family.  Admirable traits in a servant.  No, my caginess was simply the situation.  As a child, my mother stopped to tend to a German Shepherd late at night in Walsall town centre, he had been hit by a car and was looking sorry for himself.  Through terror he acted, you know what is coming and my mother should have been wiser, no serious harm was done but I was too young to recall his fate so that part of our journal shall remain incomplete.  Suffice to say that it imprinted a caution around wounded beasts.

Anyhow, my animal, a gorgeous young boxer, a pup I would say, had no road sense whatsoever, but seemed entirely unharmed.  In fact, he struck me as damned pleased with himself, bounding around blissfully unaware of the dangers of the 60mph section of the A38 on which he was intent on scampering.  He was friendly enough to approach but reaching for the silver tag dangling from his collar triggered a game in which he would dart off at a pace thrice that of which I am capable, stop after 20 yards and look pitifully back at me.  It reminded me of playing my father once at squash, he, a more accomplished player than I, had a knowing look as he started the game, he commanded the T, sent me scurrying around the court at his leisure and seemed to score at pleasure, he carried the same look; one part disdain, one part pity; one part mocking.

There were some cottages set back from the road down a dirt track, a mere 50 yards aft and thinking that my renegade might be a defector from those parts, I made my way swiftly along the verge with ‘Bertie Bounder’ following.  From time to time I waved a clenched fist at him indicating some sort of treat may well be within and the brainless exuberant free spirit fell for it readily enough.  Oh, I can lead the gullible when I have to.

At the last in the line of small terraced cottages, I could detect movement in the garden and hollering a welcome drew around a man who looked startled to have a caller.  These are quiet parts you see.  The dog was his as it turned out and he was at pains to thank me for stopping and rescuing him before some terrible misadventure occurred.  There was something very odd about this chap.  He was a biker I would guess, a dark beard, dark clothing and wayward look that told of a life lived.  It was not his appearance though, no, he seemed distracted and I was about to find out why.

In the awkwardness that fell between our sentences, our polite and civil exchanges, something was simply not right.  I asked matter of fact if the dog had escaped through an open gate and he did not answer, rather he seemed puzzled.  He was looking through me now, rather than at me and then he simply stuttered… No, the wife was out walking him.  The realisation of the words and the the thoughts which moments before had been hanging in the air, settled now suddenly.

The cold fell over us like a blanket.  We both started back up the track at a vigorous pace but being British, not running you see, even feeling that someone might be hurt, we wish to keep some dignity, god help her.  I was asking whether she always took the same route and as a plan, we decided to cross the road, split down the path that ran parallel opposite and see if we could see her.  To allay his worry, I suggested that most likely, she was wandering in the woods or across some hay-field, looking for our chum but this mans peace was only going to come once that was fact and not conjecture.

We crossed, we split and a mere 50 yards up my path, with my search partner well out of sight, I thought I caught voices drifting back from the direction he had set off in.  Standing breathless straining at the wind, I heard them again and decided that coming back to him was the judgement.  I did not need to get far.  Returning to the gate, I could hear very well the two of them, a loud female voice booming I CAN’T FIND THE BLOODY DOG! It did not sound happy but in consideration of the feelings pouring from her husbands face mere moments earlier, it made me smile to think of him now under the whip.

I slinked away, through the gate, back across the road, slipping into the seat and driving off without stopping to acknowledge.  Why you wonder?  Well, a favour is an odd thing sometimes, do it and the recipient can feel at odds, unsure how to show their generosity.  From the timbre of her pitch too, it seemed to me that my retired Hells Angel had enough on his plate.

Is there a moral to this tale.  Well, it would be this.  Terrible things lurk in our future, we do not know the time of their coming but they punctuate the normality that exists between.  So my friends, take a keen hold of that normality, we drift by the once on the river, grab on to whatever floats by.  Ask few questions, let banal troubles wash away on the river.

To the sports and daub thy war paint, the maul is thick with limbs thrashing violently, confusion reigns, we shall take on the enemy at close quarters with a mere ten rounds per man and bayonets fixed.

The July Cup

I am going to start with the big one.  My favourite July Cup moment was Hayley Turner winning her first Group One aboard Dream Ahead, how she scythed through the melee that day, poise perfect, power packed finish and gloriously triumphant afterwards.  What a shame she has been so dogged with injury, this season is not progressing well either, she is at half the strike rate she was in 2011 when she picked up her only two G1 winners.

This July Cup is a tremendous renewal.  A top quality field, I hope that the ground ends up good to soft and we keep them all in.  The forecast is for no more rain but it remains soft and showers threaten.

I know who I want in the July Cup but feel I am about to be thwarted by the conditions.  I was mightily taken with Due Diligence in the Diamond Jubilee.  He is entitled to be improving anyway but that was a damned good run having been drawn on the wrong side for all of the pace.  He made his way over and only failed to get to Slade Power by a length and was snatched in the final strides anyway.  O’Brien has said that he is a fast ground horse, despite him winning on yielding to soft in Ireland – On those grounds, I do not think he will appear.  Sole Power is less likely to run on account of the ground too and one of the other Ballydoyle string, Fountain of Youth is also a probable scratch.

There are a host of others who are unlikely to want to feel their toe sinking, they include the American raider from the Wesley Ward team, Undrafted (quite a nice story behind that name, the owner is a famous American Footballer but was undrafted himself) and Aljamaaheer

Slade Power is well worth considering.  He will stand at stud next year with Darley and may well turn out to be a strong producer of precocious sorts.  For now, he remains right at the top of the tree for European sprinters and he has a darn fine chance here.

The thing is, the sprinting divisions can be odd affairs, you think you have the form nailed down and then the key actors decide to switch roles.  In the last ten runnings of the July Cup, there have been five double figure returns, including a 20/1 and 22/1 shot so we should not rule too many out.

So here is where I am.  Slade Power has an excellent chance and I would not put you off at 5/2.  Yet, I am playing the upset card and thinking that Jack Dexter and Cougar Mountain might have bigger roles to play.

They are very different profiles – Jack Dexter has shown his best form in soft ground and so some more rain would be excellent.  He finished midfield at Ascot but the ground was against him there and he will relish this.  If the ground and the race cuts up, I would expect a much better run and 20/1 with Laddies and Hills will soon go if the heavens open.

Cougar Mountain could be anything.  He has had very favourable reports and the reason he is on the list is that he is likely to be the main Ballydoyle contender now.  Inexperienced, thrown in but out of Fastnet Rock and in the best of hands.

I am opting for Jack Dexter and I hear those form students scoffing at me for having the effrontery to suggest he is up to winning a Group One.  Yet three year olds have a questionable July Cup record and I will go with experience and conditions above the vague promise of potential.

 Newmarket – Tip for Bunbury Cup

This race is likely to be cutting up as well as the runners are protected from getting their legs muddy, wimps.  There are two things I am primarily looking for to create the shortlist.  A good draw as I think the pace is going to be on the low side with Best of Order likely to tow them all along and Moss Glen and Horsted Keynes being willing followers – Yet the bias often favours the high draw, a quandary.  Soft ground form as I am planning on another shower or two to keep it this way.

The swing in the weights that Horsted Keynes receives after what I considered to be pilot error (Spencer hold up job) at Ascot is a damn handy pull and if I had more confidence of the horse acting on the ground, he might be my winner (never raced on anything worse than good).

That race was a key piece of form and the winner was Louis the Pious who is now accompanied by one of my favourite jockeys Neil Callan returning from injury.  I am also very interested in this ones stablemate, the second O’Meara horse is Best of Order who is now ridden by Jamie Spencer (was on Louis at Ascot for his win), that is intriguing n’est pas?

One that draws me in is the Luca Cumani runner, Ayaar at 9/1 with Bet Bright but 8s with proper firms!  I am not sure they want to race him on soft and so it is with thin reasoning that I leave him and focus my firepower on Absolutely So who is being smashed up again, just like he was in the Wokingham where he finished out the back, possibly unsuited by the rattling Ascot ground.  Of significant interest at 7/1 and the Majors tip.

Newmarket – The Superlative 2.40pm

Hannon has won this (well of course he has it is a top class juvenile!) twice in recent years with King Torus and then the ‘destined for better things’ Olympic Glory.  He runs Estidhkaar a winner at Newbury in mid June.  That race is starting to look quite hot since the 4th, another Hannon inmate, St Brelades Bay went to Windsor (again Hannon, standard) and won.  The second, Mustadeem also won his next race at Sandown.

Gleneagles will have obvious claims being bred from the top stuff and winning impressively at the Curragh.

Lieutenant Kaffee is a highly interesting runner for Fahey.  He does not throw many darts at these sorts of races and he tends to hit his doubles so that alone is a signpost.  The races the horse has competed in are hard to assess but that is true of the whole field, not to be underestimated.  Archie for the Manor House team is a similar profile, shrewd trainer…

In the end, the Superlative often goes to a fancied runner and it is either the Hannon hottie or the Ballydoyle runner for me.  I have settled on Gleneagles, his win was taking, out of Galileo and You’resothrilling I think he is a very worthy favourite at 2/1.

I’d put nobody off a forecast with the Hannon horse though, even a reverse one if you don’t have the kahunas to see your convictions through.

York Tips

Now a man of commerce I know well, who resides in the beautiful rolling Yorkshire landscape has put in a request for some of the action at York to be covered.  Firstly, Matt, have a wonderful day, York is in my view, one of the very finest courses we have and I hope the sun shines, the cold crisp wine flows and the company shines.  As I always respond to requests, here is the full card for your delectation and possibly later, derision.

Completely different conditions will prevail up north where we are seeking the speedster types, those smooth operators that float over the turf in delicate, rhythmic and efficient style.

I mentioned at the outset that jockey movements were of clear interest on a day like today and the fact that Ryan Moore, the best in the world has gone to York is telling.  Yes York has a quality card but surely Moore would have been a shoe in on a ride in the July Cup, certainly he might have gotten himself a Ballydoyle fancy there.  So what is he at York for?

Well in the opener I hope he can get us underway with well backed Dusky Queen at 6/1.  You might argue the horse should have won last time out at York and this track form, even in defeat gives me confidence.  I consider York to be a bit of a specialist track, to the eye it looks straight forward with a long sweeping left hand turn into a generous flat to downhill straight but many horses do not seem to give best and so course form is a positive mark.

Moore could easily be on a double by the time the second race has finished as Waila looks the sort to click and win going away.  The truth is it is hard to know what to expect and the master Stoute has reached for headgear on recent runs to try to focus the mind and get a consistent performance from the horse.  The money is coming but 7/4 is short enough for a horse that might make its own mind up.  I prefer the Godolphin runner Al Saham who has been improving and whilst another that needs the headgear, looks a little but more solid with it on.  Plus if this comes down to a punch up, I’d prefer my tip to respond well enough to a robust Fallon drive.  4/1 – Take that.

Then the John Smiths Cup.  Haggas has won two of the last three runnings both times with similar types.  Four year olds, weighted below nine stones and he has another one here in Queensbury Rules who does not have a massive amount of obvious positives save these mentioned – He is being stepped up in distance after the Hunt Cup exploits and I just have a feeling he will come good in a race like this soon.  In fact the last 8 runnings have gone to horses with a burden of less than nine stone and I think this might be a 14/1 turn up.

Then the sprint at 3.30 and I simply have to follow up on G Force.  You might remember me giving this a big mention some weeks ago when he disappointed a bit at Sandown.  that day he was caught out a bit in mid division and I think his third can be upgraded.  He is lightly raced in this company and the way he won his handicap debut suggested that the later summer sprint group races would be on the agenda.  If that is to be the case then 3/1 is a price we can make a mockery about.  I am always hesitant with this big powerful strutting sprinters who like men on steroids can act like head-cases but even considering that, this remains a tremendous bet, pile in (10/3 BetVictor) – Load the large cannon is the message.

The 4.05 – Given that this race was won by none other than the Grey Gatsby last year who went on to French Derby glory for the Ryan yard, you have to be fully respectful of their runner here, Flaming Spear.  He holds tickets for all the right races and cost a quarter of a mill so enough is expected.  Polarisation is the one with the experience that appeals but given he made a debut at Southwell, it seems unlikely he is one of the fancied Johnstone beasts. No, no, no…. The Major is going to suggest a potentially bigger priced newcomer in Moonlightnavigator at a likely SP of 12/1.  This son of HenrytheNavigator was also an expensive purchase for a yard where he would be a key player in the stable.  The dam was a useful US sort and I would be really hopeful of a big run.

In the penultimate race at 4.40, I was planning a  bit of a turn up.  I am not sure that a lot of the horses near the head of the market are going to enjoy the forecast conditions and so I am considering Gabrials King at an unfashionable 18/1 shot with BetVictor to my slip.  He won’t mind the rattling ground and there is every chance he has targeted at this race, a contest in which he placed last year.  There have been some smatterings of form since and to his credit, he has been running at reasonable levels, to the extent that he is competing this year on 11lbs more.  However, the main advice is to back Great Fighter for Godolphin at 7/1.  He is less exposed than many of these and this track and this extra test might be the making of him.

In the lucky last, I am pinning my hopes on Billyoakes a general 6/1 shot who I think has an excellent chance.  He beat Denzille Lane with ease when they met and that horse went on not to be disgraced in the Windsor Stakes at Ascot.  Well worth an investment.

Best bets of the rest?

The riches are legion, the time so limited….

Pushkin Musuem is 3/1 in the 2.50 at Chester and being honest, if he jumps he wins.  This one has the almost plum (I prefer box 2/3/4 to box 1) draw and a terrifying cruising speed, if the others want to beat him, they will have to come round the outside, incredibly tough at Chester…. Lump in 3/1.  This horse has shown how capable he is on fast ground, no fears.

A similar story for Confessional in the 4pm at Chester who looks on a nice mark and has conditions and draw to suit.  8/1, going in!

I have not had time to go through the Ascot card, it is a tough life as a tipster on a night like tonight.  My sole bet there will be 9/2 Kinshasa  in the 4.15.

Had enough? I certainly have.

I trust you will be dining on the evening in the finest restaurant.  The owner joining you at the table to thank you for the custom and to serve the good brandy.  Your company lightly toasted by this stage and all well in the world.

The Martin Hill bet is G Force, Moonlightnavigator, Dusky Queen and Pushkin Museum in an each way yankee.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Royal Ascot Sermon – Day One

Good Evening from the Major who writes tired following a long weekend and a long first day in the office putting my shoulder to the wheel.

It is cooler tonight in Worcestershire and I suspect deep sleep will come easily.  I am going to keep this brief.  Yet, be warned, the Major is in fine form.  Another Saturday Sermon and another batch of winners…. If I had managed to keep my discipline and not fire in some ill-judged, slightly large, borderline moronic machine gun style bets then I’d have a terrific Ascot  war chest.  Alas.

Still, let us take the form into the finest day of flat racing in the year, the Tuesday of Royal Ascot.  Today, a Frankel foal and his mare, again in foal to Frankel sold for a combined £1.15m – Quite apt on the eve of one of favourite runs of his.  Who can forget the blistering pace of Frankel in the last two furlongs of the Queen Anne.  Go watch it again, at half way, ask yourself how Frankel can possibly win by fifteen lengths over this field of G1 winners he is buried amongst…. then watch the miracle happen.  Splendid – Only surpassed by his Royal Lodge and perhaps his defeat of Canford Cliffs just after the Hannon superstar had lowered Goldikovas colours. 

To Ascot…. 

The Queen Anne normally goes to a real class act, Paco Boy, the aforementioned Frankel, Goldikova and Canford Cliffs…. This does not quite look the same. 

I think the two that have achieved the most are Soft Falling Rain and Toronado.  The latter is of clear interest on his Sussex Stakes form but has not always run to his ability and on his first run back is an uncomfortable odds on shot for the Major.  Instead I side with Soft Falling Rain who has a globe-trotting profile and superb pieces of form including a highly decent runner-up berth behind Variety Club last time.

In one of the finest days of racing, the Queen Anne is followed up by the Coventry, one of my favourite juvenile races. 

You cannot ignore the record of Ballydoyle in this race and the fact that from their abundant riches of youth, they rely on a single runner, it is a great advert for War Envoy.  He is another likely prospect out of American standing sire War Front who gave us last years winner War Command and the highly capable Declaration of War.

Hannon is another with plenty of Coventry credentials and I was very taken with Kool Kompany but my selection is from a less fashionable yard, The Wow Signal who absolutely smashed an Ayr field of five ast time out.  Now that form may not be a hill of beans, or however the saying goes, but second out (beaten 9l) went on to win by 6l next time out and third place, a whopping 20l down to my tip, went on to win his next race too. 

Then it is time for the muscular pumped up sprinters to strut their stuff for Her Majesty.   While I respect Shea Shea and Sole Power greatly, I feel it is time for a new injection of class into the sprinting scene and Hot Streak is near the top of my list having won the Cornwalis in very taking style last year, a subsequent loss to Sole Power was very respectable given it was a seasonal debut and I would expect that form to reverse here. 

That said, near the top of the list, is not top of the list.  That spot belongs to Guerre.  For those of you with a dabbling of French, should my selection lose, I can roll out my favourite Victoria Military French quote attributed to Marshal Bosquet on the hills above the Valley of Death, Balaclava, Crimea, shortly after our light brigade had charged under incorrect orders under battery fire from every side into heavily defended Russian positions at the head of the valley; c’est magnifique mais c’est pas la guerre.  He saw what the rest of the world would come to understand… receiving an incomprehensibly suicidal command, Lord Cardigan (loved a drink) rode his troops from the front directly into the face of danger, such was the good order of our military.  Magnificent, but it is not war.  The Kaiser had an account posted to every barracks in Germany to extol the inspiration of these brave warriors, fearless.

From this, you might have guessed correctly that Guerre is another from War Front, well named you see.  The appeal goes beyond the sentiment I clearly hold.  While it is unusual for a three year old to win this race, it is not unheard of.  His Naas run when beating Maarek was very nice indeed, load a cannon at 11/1 with BetVictor (10s generally).

In case you have not had enough Group 1s, then The St James Palace is next.  What a terrific little contest with Kingman and Night of Thunder reopposing after what now looks like a tremendous Guineas.  All week I have been thinking this market is a bit wrong.  Night of Thunder was a less fashionable sort and for many, his drift across the track, the fact that Kingman did not have him to aim at; thee are facts that denigrate his classic victory. 

When Kingman subsequently turned up and rampaged in Ireland, their minds were made up.  The Guineas was an aberration and it will all be put right in the St James.  Well I think this is a classic case of snobbery.  Night of Thunder did nothing wrong when having the Irish Guineas winner and the Derby winner back in the places at Newmarket, if anything he would have been better in a straight line!  Get stuck in!

Generally speaking if you have the first four races wrong at Ascot on Tuesday, you should head to the bar and forget the last two!  The two handicaps that close the card are very difficult to solve.

In the 5pm, I am siding with Villa Royale who at 16/1 is a great price having won a nice race at York last time, her improvement has not stopped it seems.

In the lucky last, I have to go with Hootenanny Ward has bought him over the pond for this and I wish connections all the best for their endeavour.

Courage, roll the dice.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips…. the madness begins, what to trust? which stories to unfold?

Good evening from the Major who writes to you on Royal Ascot eve from a dusky Worcestershire whose cool air belies the season.

The Major must confess to not mustering quite the Cheltenham heights of fervour on Ascot eve.  Yet, we gaze down as Generals on the scene below with the battle about to be joined.  Our artillery are firing Armstrong shells which are bursting brightly above the enemies damn business like looking lines.  Our forward infantry is skirmishing in open formation and the heavy cavalry with lance drawn are bristling to get involved.

What orders shall we send?  What combination of factors does our reason, experience and instinct favour?  Are they right?

Shall we dig in grimly like the Warwickshire’s at Rorke’s Drift, firing our Martini Henry rounds until the enemy is upon us and we entertain them with bayonets drawn and twenty rounds per man?

Shall calamity strike us, like Lord Cardigan, with Raglans orders, charging his Lancers, Dragoons and Hussars into, to quote Tennyson, into that valley of death, sluicing through Russian positions at awful cost; shall we be done the same way? Discharging our bets, each greater than the last seeking glory to shadow past loss but finding none.  Shall our utter defeat be glorious and draw awe from our friends.  As the French General Bosquet famously said; c’est magnifique mais c’est ne pas guerre.

or.. dare we dream, shall our Ascot be akin to Sir James Hope gloriously marching to Beijing, sweeping far numerically superior foe before him, punching his great fist of heavy horse through those ranks of elite Mongol warriors and bringing the Qing forces to heel in glorious style.

At this moment, we can savour the uncertainty, our preparations are made, our strategy of bets laid out.  I wish you luck in the field, my friends.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips

The opening day of Royal Ascot is my favourite.  The St James Palace, The Kings Stand and the Queen Anne; not to mention the Coventry, the delights are laid before us, we must eat slowly as not to gorge.

The Queen Anne

The Queen Anne gets us off to an absolute flyer with a single question race… Will Animal Kingdom run to form on his first British start.  If you could answer that with a solid yes then you surely have the winner of the race.  After a number of high-profile defections, the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup winner is the star of the show.

He has not raced in Britain, he has not raced over a straight mile.  He has not encountered an uphill finish… cause for concern?

None of these factors seem to bother Graham Motion, UK born trainer of Animal Kingdom.  He has been housing the horse in Lambourn since his travel from Dubai.  Animal Kingdom has had plenty of time to acclimatise and has spent some time at Ascot too as part of his induction.  Having handled the heat and pressure of his former exploits, surely the opening crowd of Ascot won’t effect him…

Motion states his main fear is the ground.  Currently good but with rain forecast, the horse does not want it too soft.

On balance, the other factors bother me less too.  Animal Kingdom is an impressive looking specimen and has a world-class jockey on board.  I would expect those facets to more than cover the unusual course and finish.  The ground is a concern… maybe worth waiting for…

The contenders include Sovereign Debt who was runner-up at a massive price to Farrh in the Lockinge.  That form holds up and he loves Ascot, Sovereign Debt won’t mind the rain either, in fact I dare say that Michael Bell is currently praying for the heavens to open.

Of the John Gosden pair, clearly Elusive Kate is the favoured sort.  I think this is a big ask against the big boys on seasonal debut and I would be more interested in Gregorian who look very pleasing when hitting the front last time out at Epsom on Oaks day.

O’Brien saddles Declaration of War who has something to prove but is in the finest of hands to do it.

On balance, the balance of this race is going to come down to the ground.  I am hoping it stays fairly sound and plan on taking every available bookie offer to supplement the current evens price of Animal Kingdom in the morning.  Coral are going 2/1 for £25 and I am sure there will be more.  The thing that convinces me most is class….. the recent history of the Queen Anne reads like a who’s who of Group 1 racing… Goldikova, Frankel, Canford Cliffs….. Animal Kingdom, feels right n’est pas?

Kings Stand Stakes

Another Group 1, another international star, this time it is South Africa and Shea Shea, as well as Aussie representative Shamexpress.  Prohibit, Sole Power, Kinsgate Native, Swiss Spirit and Reckless Abandon make this an absolute mouth-watering renewal.

Prohibit won the Kings Stand two years ago and can be backed at 40/1, I seriously would not put you off, even if it does not appear, at first glance, to be best in his yard yet alone best in the race.  His stablemate Kingsgate Native, a sterling warrior, back to form last time out is from the same yard and while he will have his fans, if he ever wins again, he won’t be carrying my money.  Kingsgate Native has misbehaved at Ascot before so caveat emptor.

Shea Shea is clearly a leading talent and had Sole Power well beaten twice so must be the form pick  Again we are dealing with an international star traveller who we must take on trust has settled into British life.  Given his globe trotting success, it makes sense to assume he is OK with it.  He is sometimes a bit lit up though and will be ponied to the start.

The other raider, Shamexpress, troubles me as connections have clearly stated that firm going is preferable.

I like Reckless Abandon and three years olds have a great record in this sprint.  He has every chance of reversing form with Swiss Spirit and winner Kingsgate Native as he raced on the wrong side and did not have a lot go his way.  He also gets a shift in the weights to his advantage.

Something tells me to get after Shea Shea.  With the top sprint horses often getting turned over as the season develops, I would never want to be on something that short in the Kings Stand.  That is my strategy.

On balance, I think Reckless Abandon is the most solid option.

The St James Palace

What a beautiful renewal of the St James Palace – For me, this is worth the entrance fee alone, if only I were lucky enough to be present.

First of all, you have to assess Dawn Approach.  When winning the 2,000 guineas, he looked like Pegasus, powering away from the bushes.  His derby run is best described as unexplained.  He broke fine but after half a furlong, something went click and he lit up like a wild bear.  Kevin Manning fought for control, no doubt with his shoulder sockets burning but half way down the hill, no matter who was to win the Herculean struggle for supremacy between man and horse, the race was gone.

Much was made of whether Ballydoyle got the horse beaten with a muddling pace while Bolger had no pacemaker… That is remedied tomorrow with Lettir Mor surely in there to ensure his stablemate has a hare to aim at.

My concern is the mental effect of the Derby on the horse, the whole affair must have at least confused the horse and for me, he is a watch animal for now.  I am a bit surprised they have not sought distance with Dawn Approach to recuperate.  I cannot have been the only punter watching the whole affair unfold to consider the wonder and fortune with which the late Sir Henry Cecil drew the best from Frankel.  Such a comparison is unfair, I draw it not to criticise Bolger – After all Sir Henry will have made his own mistakes at times… Rather it highlights the fine judgements and simple luck needed in managing this top quality precocious youngsters.

Clearly leaving Dawn Approach out of calculations is a big call because his previous form as an unbeaten star is impeccable….. yet it is decided.

I am not keen on horses sub 5/1 with excuses last time.  Toranado may well have had good reason but solving it does not make him value.  What I specifically mean is that to think that it represents value, you have to think Toranado had a great chance of beating Dawn approach anyway.  I did not.

So Magician then… surely.  Well…. there is a horse with a disturbed preparation and that bothers me too.  This horse otherwise would be my pick.  He has won a  2,000 guineas and that is the route that Henrythenavigator, Rock of Gibraltar and Mastercraftsmen all took on the way to their successful St James Palace stints.

So, we have one horse with potential mental issue, one who needs to get over a palate / breathing issue and one that needs to overcome a setback from kicking out in his box.

Of the shorter horses, I fancy Magician.  I trust O’Brien to have him OK after his knock and I think he has a solid winning chance.

Then there is Mars.  Like many, I was very surprised to see Mars stepped back to a mile after doing his best work at the finish in the derby.  I think the course will suit him much better, he got going late at Epsom on a course that doesn’t suit many horses.  There is  going to be a lot of pace on in the St James Palace so a closer might be a good idea.  12/1 is available, I suggest a win bet.

The Coventry

Two lines strike me in the Coventry.  Firstly there is the tale of Sir John Hawkins, after his Curragh win, Sir John Hawkins was supplemented for this race.  That process cost connections £45k, they are plenty fluid enough to have a pop at any race they fancy but my view is that to do so at a later stage when they have a stable of other live chances… well, connections must think there is a decent chance of winning.

The second line of enquiry is Richard Hannon.  He has won this race with Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit, the latter racing in the colours of Championship.  Interestingly, those horses also took in the Newbury maiden which Championship won too… interesting.

If the Coventry was more open, I would definitely be betting War Command.  It is hard to split that one from Sir John Hawkins.  Yet this race favours those at the head of affairs and I am going to stick with Ryan Moore who I rate the superior of the jockeys on my fancied sorts.

Ascot Stakes

I am minded to have a pop at two in this for win bet purposes as there are two I am struggling to be drawn on.

Tiger Cliff would bring the house down winning for the recently widowed Lady Cecil.  Sir Henry said that he thought this was the winner of the race prior to his sad parting and 11/2, I want to be on – Even if it is just to be a part of the emotion of this horse winning.  There will not be a dry eye in Ascot.

The other I want on my side is the Phillip Hobbs trained Big Easy.  There are so many of these jump horses that transfer well back to the flat and Hobbs is pretty decent at it, I still have memories of Detroit City performing well reverting back to the flat.  12/1 is plenty for me to take an interest.

The Windsor Castle

If the twenty runners in the penultimate race provides a conundrum, the twenty-eight due to post in the finale make life insanely tough.

I want one in a high draw and I am opting for last years winning trainer and jockey combination in Ryan and Makin.  Sleeper King is 16/1 in a few places and that is where my pin landed.

Best of luck to you.  For the Major, after a mammoth post, it is to bed.

First Day of Ascot – Horseracing Tips

Good Evening from the Major on the eve of the flat racing spectacular, Royal Ascot.

Canford Cliffs and Italo make a nice 40/1 Double!

Admist the top hats, finery and plum accents, we are about to embark on 5 days of the finest racing in the world, full stop.  There may be richer races in Dubai and Hong Kong but no-one can match the history and worthiness of our very own Berkshire track.

The Major visited Ascot earlier this year for Sagoro Stakes day, it was only the second time I have been, having previously been during last years Royal Ascot week.  The new stand is immense and a credit to British racing.

To all those attending Ascot tomorrow, I wish you good luck, envy your good fortune and hope that the Majors tips strike home.

If you are going just tomorrow, you have arguably picked the best day of the week.  Although there are a plethora of Group One races at Ascot later in the week, tomorrow sees the explosive Frankel reappear after his 1,000 Guineas win as well as Goldikova, the relentless French raider taken on Canford Cliffs, apple of Hannons eye and we may well find out who is the best miler of a strip of Berkshire track.

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes

What a way to kick the racing festival off.  After the pomp and ceremony of watching the Queens carriage roll down the straight, the proper entertainment opens with what is race of the week for the Major.

The ground is a rare good to soft for Ascot, this could be influential.  I think it is already having an impact on the betting.

For me, the best miler full stop is Canford Cliffs.  He has a wonderfully explosive turn of foot and a great cruising speed.  The ground is the only question.

That said the ground is not much more likely to suit Goldikova, the French wonder mare.  Her record is insane, yet she is less likely to be at her best now soft appears in the going.  She has only lost 6 races of 22 and just once has failed to place.  Every none-victory came with good to soft or worse conditions.

Cape Blanco is one that will relish true good to soft ground.  Even with softer conditions, the view has to be that he needs further.

Rio de le Plata owes a big race, he is probably in too rich company here but I have always suspected this formerly well-regarded Godolphin horse will eventually come good.

On balance, Canford Cliffs for the Major at 6/4.  Goldikova won this so impressively last year beating Paco Boy.  Richard Hughes knows all about Goldikova having been soundly beaten on Paco more than once.  He knows what it takes to beat her and in Canford Cliffs he believes, and I am minded the same,  he has the ammunition.

Let’s get the week off to a flyer.  With the Queens colours being lowered by Pour Moi in the derby and a french flag flung over the victors neck as he trooped to the Epsom winners enclosure, we are due a slice back.  Let’s send Freddy Head home empty-handed and with just a small note explaining that we are coming in September and bringing Workforce to claim the Arc!!  I love racing, the heritage and story, few other sports offer us such riches.

3.05 Kings Stand Sprint

Well if that was not enough, why not follow-up with the Kings Stand Sprint, the 5 furlong sprint is furious and exhilarating.

The line up is as international as you can get.  Overdose the Budapest Bullet, soundly beaten on his last start in Britain is a tasty 12/1 but too much has to be taken on trust.

Star Witness the Australian raider is favourite at 9/2 and is well fancied.  The Aussies have a tremendous record in the Kings Stand and he has to feature on the short list.

A few weeks ago, the Major nailed Sole Power in the Temple Stakes at Haydock and that win was probably the best British springing form this year.  8/1 make Sole Power a decent each way shout as if he does not hit trouble in running, he will be finishing best of all.  The faster the pace the better.

Kingsgate Native is a high-class entrant for Middleton Park, 9/1 is fair.

This is wide open and so the Major is willing to take a wild stab at Monsieur Chevalier.  As a juvenile, Monsieur Chevalier was hugely impressive but he has clearly had his problems, missing all of last season.

On his return in average company he should beat, he ran into trouble and despite never threatening the leaders, had a satisfactory blow out staying on nicely in the final furlong.  25/1 makes Monsieur a superb bet – Bet365 and Boylesports are the only two bookies offering 4 places at quarter odds at the best price.

3.45 Ascot – St James Palace Stakes

Now it is simply absurd, three top class Group Ones to open the racing and here the superstar of his classic generation, Frankel looks to add to his hyper impressive CV.

If you were reading yesterday when guest blogger The Green Flash, put up his 2011 US Open Tips, you will have read the shocking news that I want to get Frankel beaten, is this possible?

My case is hardly bullet proof and a little based on gut instinct, but here we go.

No doubt, Frankel is a wonderful animal.  As a juvenile he was awesome and making his debut in the 1,000 guineas, he ran a freak of a race, bursting from the stalls to blaze his own pace maker and destroy the field.  It was a bizarre race to watch, he went off so quickly.  Most of his rivals tried to stay close and could not.  In the closing stages, opinion was divided, some believe he idled slightly but was fine, some like me feel he struggled to maintain the pace.

Crucially for the Major, Frankels time was not as phenomenal as the visual impression.  He caught them out.

Frankel should win.  2/5 gives little room.  Maybe I will regret this, maybe tomorrow night I will wonder why I didn’t back the banker that many believe Frankel to be.  I just feel that he may be a bit temperamental and he is against top class opposition.

What do I think will win?  Rerouted is 200/1 – Last time as Frankels pacemaker, he never got a foot in front!  Remember that this horse has one a group 3 in soft ground and 200/1 looks big, if Frankel shoots off again, this one could finish closer than many think.  Michael Hills will aim for a best finishing position if allowed.

The two I fancy are Grand Prix Boss and Wooten Bassett.  Grand Prix Boss at 20/1 is a bit of an unknown quantity.  If he has travelled well (Japan) then he could be better than many in this field and will come with a Far Eastern fan club.  Of interest.

Wooten Bassett was a well used quality juvenile.  While his reappearance run was poor, this is probably been the target and at 16/1 I give him an each way squeak.

Overall, I am going to risk Grand Prix Boss.

4.25 Coventry Stakes

This is the last race the Major is looking at on the opening day of Royal Ascot.  It is a Group Two and worthy of a tip!

The Coventry Stakes is a high-class sprint race for two-year olds where a lot is taken on reputation, trust and breeding which are factors that provide more evidence than form at this stage.

Gatepost 8/1 beat a host of subsequent winners at York but there are so many smart prospects that I want a bigger price.

The ones that interest the Major are Brocklebank 20/1, Campanology 33/1, Italo 16/1 and Trumpet Major 14/1.

Rather than make a case, I suggest Italo at 16/1.  This American raider made light work of a decent Longchamp field and although even more of an unknown quantity than most, will carry the Majors each way money.

Good luck for Royal Ascot