Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling damp Worcestershire scene. The Major is tired and uneasy. There is nothing like a good night of rest to resolve that but since the night lies between me and a refreshed state, then you have to take me as you find me… Slipping into the night state, in that phase where the day and night merge with thoughts dancing on the edge of reason and fears you can almost touch.
We are used to the news being a repeating loop of misery but earlier today, a BBC report from Mali breached my usual bullet-proof emotionally barren defences. The image is stark, the setting desperate and the mental conditions achieved to cut a man’s arm off… it is so unfathomably distant, it is hard to belief that it exists in the world we inhabit.
There were other items of news this week which scored direct hits on my usually high levels of mischief and boisterousness, anniversaries of tragedies, fresh tragedies, meteors missing the earth (a 6 mile one wiped out the Dinosaurs you know), food, trouble, more trouble, scandal, disgrace, death, disease, lying, filth.
Tiredness, stress, these things lower ones defences.
There are so many slices of pain which are upsetting to dwell upon, endless reams of stories, regenerating each day, the man from Mali made the limelight, many others are merely minor parts, in such a world, stab after stab, remorseless, brutal, without reason. The reality of aging is coming to terms with the meaning of life… inevitable relentless decay, sometimes sudden and collapsing, sometimes protracted. It comes for us all, if not at first, then at last.
You may be wondering whether I intend to remain in this sombre mood for the rest of the sermon. The answer is no. Having removed myself of the burden (thank you for listening), I feel lightened and able to move on. I shall lament in these disconsolate streets no more.
You see, we are here, we are alive and we owe it as a duty to enjoy ourselves. To open our eyes to the glory of possibility. So today, observe, relax, laugh and enjoy, feel no guilt for that which the fickle hand of fate has given you. For we are here, we are alive. Enjoy it, consider it dutiful.
To the sports…
Cheltenham is coming. In four weeks, all of our questions will be answered. Is the Major right about Long Run being under-rated? Will Sprinter Sacre dominate the Champion Chase? Will he be the shortest priced winner ever? Is Hurricane Fly the best two mile hurdler there is? Are Dynaste, Quevega and Simonsig good things? Can Oscar Whisky reverse form with Reve de Sivola? but will Bog Warrior provide a surprise and come over the top of both of them?
Ah… the anticipation. Right now all of our dreams are intact. Well, that is unless your antepost bubbles have started to pop with the tragic death of Darlan or the withdrawal of Tidal Bay and Flemenstar. I am afraid it is that time where we hold our breath, hoping they get the key players arrive in one piece, anxiously watching Betfair and twitching at the slightest move in the markets.
On that point, what a class act the Ditcheat yard are. With a prominent position in the national and World Hurdle market, there was not a tremor before the news broke concerning Tidal Bay… fair play.
We don’t know what the festival holds but I am willing to be the answers to my questions are Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Probably not but I’m backing him anyway out of unadulterated love.
I hope your antepost portfolio is bulging like a drunk mans belly, fattening up nicely for the feast. Today we shall try to add to your war chest. We shall raise the capital required for war with a few tactical raids on the enemy supply lines. I see a few opportunities, a few wagon carts of ammunition on the road guarded by merely a few dozen of their light lancers, we shall take them at the double, engage at close quarters and withdraw sharply with the Maria Theresa coins spilling from our saddle packs. Shabash!
Anyone joining me at 5.30am to see Black Caviar? The wonder mare is set to rock Flemington again and it is worth getting up for. 1/20 for Nelly to win in the morning, she is under rated in the UK by some after almost getting chinned at Royal Ascot. She was legless in the conditions that day and was carrying injuries as well as being lighter after the exertions of travel. Her terms, her turf tomorrow – Watch the monster devour the prey.
Jim Knight – Have a terrific day at Ascot, I would say be lucky, but you are… being there, the cold air on your face, the heaving hulks of sweating beasts after their exertions for your pleasure, drink beer, gamble with intent and have a ready eye for mischief.
I am focussing on Ascot, Haydock is left for someone else.
Saturday Ascot Tips
Conditions are soft and with Ascot being such a fast drying course and a dry forecast, I am edging towards good to soft horses.
The opening novice hurdle contains some decent sorts but looks short of a top class star.
Aaim to Prosper has not done an awful lot wrong – A late converter to hurdling, he was the only ever horse to win two Cesarewitch’s. I am not convinced.
It is Up and Go that I think could be the pick of the bunch and probably offers the most scope. He beat Many Clouds last time out at Wetherby and that horse went on to an Exeter success next time out. Up and Go has fallen twice in the last year but was much more fluent last time. I would get lumpy but the front running tactics concern me slightly.
I have no similar hesitations about recommending the 5/6 on offer about Rocky Creek in the second. He looked to have the beating of Tour Des Champs last time before his rival fell and The Real Milan is not a convincing traveller.
The listed handicap chase is a trickier affair. Vino Griego seemed to benefit from a much more patient ride last time out and looks a tempting prospect, despite a 10lb rise. Instead, the Major is intrigued by the Kim Bailey trained The Rainbow Hunter at 9/1. The horse has a national entry, Kim Bailey has an excellent Ascot record with his rare runners here and with a line through the last run at Chepstow (suspect not suited by the Welsh bog – When heavy there, it means swimming!) he has a live chance. His winning form is over several subsequent winners and has a very solid feel to it… snap it up.
The 3.15 is a very trappy handicap, Bourne looked top draw when running down Dildar at Sandown before finding a lightweight but power packed McCoy way too good on Mr Watson at Cheltenham. Not easily overlooked, but overlooked all the same. Whitby Jack is of more interest having run well on return before picking up a race at Kempton last time out. 7lbs is unlikely to be a big problem. Ruby Walsh is a very eye-catching booking for Queens Grove who looks a reasonable 9/1 shot. On balance, Whitby Jack at 7/1 is the selection, have a slice and thank me later.
The main event is the very tasty morsel that is the Betfair Ascot Chase. The Major is very interested to see Finians Rainbow return to chasing after a lengthy spell off. Following last years thrilling and slightly controversial Champion Chase, Finians flopped and has been the subject of a wind operation. His Champion Chase though was first class. He beat an on form Sizing Europe fair and square in the Majors view, even if the omitted fence caused some issues.
I am not sure this will suit Captain Chris who looks more reliable this season but I am not entirely sure he will run as well today. Hobbs could be in better form too. Connections of Cue card are hoping that a drop back in trip will help the horse improved, the Major is watching this one only.
The real danger could be Somersby who has won at Ascot before and is a consistent sort who deserves a few Grade 1s.
On balance, I am siding with the horse I think could be top class and that is Finians Rainbow, 7/2 with Coral.
River Maigue and Far West will be battling out the penultimate contest and in receipt of a little weight, I gently suggest the latter.
In the bumper, Pipe probably has a good idea of where he stands with Red Sherlock 4/5 against Captain Cutter as the latter beat the formers’ stable companion last time out. It is too hard to read into those form lines and while Red Sherlocks Towcester win was impressive, there was not a lot to beat. He is 12/1 for the Champion Bumper though.
Good luck Jim.
Gowran Park – Zaidpour
The Saturday Gowran, Red Mills trial is a cracking days racing. No bets for me, Zaidpour should do the business in a weak field for a Grade 2 but I just don’t trust him.
Wincanton – Zarkander
Zarkander and Grandouet are my main antepost interests for the Champion Hurdle and it would be a massive surprise to me if the Nicholls star could get beat here. I think the 1/2 will look generous when he serves up a beating to this lot.
In the football – I am going to smash into Watford at 8/5 at Birmingham City. The latter are in a bit of a state with the manager disciplining one of their most effective players (Zigic) over poor training (the worst he has ever seen apparently! The fans are siding with the player and all in, it is brewing for an unhappy camp and a venue that Watfords strong squad should easily garner three points from.
Picking Carlisle to win at Portsmouth 6/5 does not make me feel proud, yu have to feel for the Pompey fans but with their squad being peddled together from a series of short-term loans, there is little Guy Whittingham or his players can do for now.
The Crowdsourcing Multiple
I invited followers on the twitter feed to supply a NAP for the Saturday sport and had a number of responses… here they are:
@chesneywold – Somersby 3.50 Ascot
@charleah – Vino Griego – 2.40 Ascot
@doublehandful – Rocky Creek – 2.05 Ascot
@adamclarke501 – Luton to beat Millwall
@tankard999 – Bournemouth at Preston
@lukeyboy1325 – Swincombe Stone 3.05 Wincanton
My staking plan for this is an Alphabet. That is a patent on Vino, Somersby and Rocky; a further patent on Luton, Bournemouth and Swincome and a yankee across the middle (Somersby, Rocky, Luton and Bournemouth). Interesting!
The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: The Rainbow Hunter, Rocky Creek, Watford and Finians Rainbow
May your dinner be fuelled by the riches your fellow-man has provided. May each help the other feast. Open a bottle of something nice.
Courage, roll those dice.