Tag Archives: talent

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 on ‘Talents’ St Leger Day

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a heavy grey Worcestershire where a hissing and thudding signals the rains violent persistence.

The Major carries a heavy head full of cold, dulling the senses and slowing the reactions.  Fear not, for some this might result in sluggish thought but for me, deep down here between the moments, a clarity emerges.

Last week was a catastrophe of misfortune.  Each and every piece of advice faltered.  The sort of day where beyond financial ruin, not even a solitary winner can lift the soul, taking the edge away, I prayed but was not answered for just a small token.  Nothing, darkness, the empty void.

I was at Doncaster this week on business.  I had not been before and shall file a brief report for your examination.  I was in the Lincoln restaurant and the atmosphere was lively.  The hosts were generous and my immediate company a mixture of sorts embellishing all facets of life’s rich tapestry.  The sights were part glorious, part terrifying.  There were police dogs sniffing for drugs, barrel chested men drinking furiously, throaty voices shouting and smiling northern faces.

The course is not my favourite, a significant part is shrouded from view but the straight is long and fair.  The racing was wallet emptying, I should have been with The Lark who won like you would want an Oaks placed horse to canter away but bet foolishly.  I watched the Park Hill from an old stand that looked so empty, I assumed it was owners and trainers, it was not, the denizens of Doncaster, concern themselves greatly with their frivolity and those of us cut from the racing cloth are free to access the parade ring where plentiful prime seats tell of the crowds other intentions.

The Lark was impressive but I was on Seal of Approval who crashed to the floor in an horrendous moment leaving Hayley Turner momentarily and terrifyingly lifeless.  As the winner thundered past the post, my eyes were two furlongs back up the course waiting for Hayley to move.  The screens went up and it was not until twenty minutes later that the racecourse kindly informed patrons that Hayley was conscious and on her way to Hospital.  Get well soon.

Doncaster would not be my choice of course in the north.  York is finer, better views, more pleasant and slightly less like a stag do.  I hold no quibble with the fayre on offer at Donnie.  Leaving though, amidst the heavy police presence, amidst the tatoo’d heroes seeking more pleasure while their cups already overfloweth, amidst the stumbling happy, the doleful few, I saw the sight that shall stick with me.

Envision three ladies, two props holding up a dazed hooker who can barely support her own weight.  The three of them swaying and stumbling, as though competing in a slow motion three-legged race.  Not an unusual sight and but for the medical atrocity that had befallen the inebriated middle stump of our trio.

Some images shock the sense so that you might recoil again when they revisit you later.  Horror that peels away the calm surface we portray, the shield defences are momentarily lowered, scenes that awaken the senses.

I think the technical term is sharted.  I was informed of this term by a colleague I was escorting.  She is a fine soul, impeccable in turn out and manner.  I don’t imagine it is a word she uses often.

To the sports…

Doncaster – St Leger Card

Let us start with the St Leger and my appeal for you all to join me in a major investment in Talent.  You may remember that I was with Talent in the Oaks when she recorded a shock 20/1 win.  How she won that day still baffles me a bit, despite me tipping her up on the morning.  Coming down the hill, she was headstrong and spent plenty of energy fighting for her head.  Turning at Tattenham corner though, she came back to herself, I still thought her goose was cooked but as she went through the gears, she absolutely left the field for dead.  The Oaks form has been dragged through the mud but with the Lark winning so well in the Park Hill on Thursday, it removes much doubt from my mind.

Her last run in Ireland was too bad to be true and connections think the lively ground may have had a role to play.  No such problems exist on Leger day, plenty of rain has fallen.  My girl will love the softened ground and Doncaster suits a horse coming last from the back on the stands side, which is exactly where I envisage her run.

Since Galileo Rock is likely to run in Ireland on Sunday, the spirited opposition is going to come from Excess Knowledge who runs for Gosden.  On breeding, I think the ground will be against his runner but the yard has an excellent Leger record and so the lack of book form is no concern.

Foundry is unexposed but his second to Telescope looks a little more ordinary now we see the extent of the limitations for that hype horse.  Stablemate Leading Light is my main concern.  He has been laid out for this race and has already demonstrated a stamina appetite.

The Champagne Stakes opens the card at 2.05.  Hannon and Bin Suroor have shared the spoils in the last 4 years and Hannon took the last two.  He bids for a hat trick with 7/2 Anjaal, who was a very tasty winner at Newmarket last time out.

At 7/2 I think Gregorian is also a bet in the Park Stakes at 3.15.  The softened conditions can help him reverse form with Aljamaheer.  Gregorian was a winner on the Oaks car so it could bear a good omen if he were to take this.

The Curragh – The Blandford

On Thursday, Hot Snap was due to race at Doncaster but was removed from the race and now pops up at the Curragh in the Group 2 Blandford.  I liked the chances at Doncaster and I like the chances here too, especially as the Cecil yard have made the effort to cross the Irish Sea.

I hope their efforts are rewarded and 7/4 is the best you can get.

Chester Listed Race – 2.55

The patchy form of Allied Power might be a little off-putting but I see enough merit in the horse to not give out all hope.  Yet, my ready preference is for Tac de Boistron who has won in much better company – 7/2 is a must bet.  This is a little unusual for me as I am flouting one of my golden rules which is to only back horses at Chester with course form.  Still, the usual rules have served me little use in the last few weeks!

The Football

I would always treat the return from an international break as an opportunity for teams to reverse their form, whether they entered the break on a high or low, the loss of momentum gives an opportunity for confidence to ebb or flow.

As such, a bet I fancy that will not be too popular is for Newcastle to win at Aston Villa.  Now I quite like the Villa who look a threat this year and they have started the campaign looking a half decent unit.  Yet, the team is workmanlike and at 14/5, I am following an instinct.

More obvious is the claim of Chelsea at Everton.  This is a banker surely!  11/8 seems massive for an accomplished team against an Everton side that might struggle even with young players like Berkley breaking through.

Sheffield United travel to Carlisle and will take to the pitch without the burden of my money on them for the first time this season.  You know what will happen.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Talent, Tac de Boistron, Gregorian and Hot Snap.

May your dinner be a sensational onslaught of the senses taken in good company and as you settle the bill from a wallet bulging with the days excesses, remember just how good it is to be alive.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Irish Oaks ‘Talent’ Day…. My recollection of the British Oaks

Good evening from the Major who writes from a dry dusty Worcestershire whose arid landscape is burned to a gentle straw colour.

The Major has cold Northern skin and this heat is not my ideal.  Yet, I do enjoy the world coming to life for a spell of good weather.  Generally, as long as you keep good company, less clothing is more fun.

The splendour of the weekend sport is laid before us.  We have cycling, cricket and of course the Irish Oaks and the reappearance of British Oaks winner, Talent.

I was immensely impressed by her win at Epsom.  A significant wager (she was a 20/1 winner of which I had a nother 3 from 5 selections, doubles and trebles) did act as catalyst to the joy of watching such a magnificent performance, I must admit. Regardless of personal financial rewards, this was a performance with a majestic touch.  It reminded me that life is good and that racing is the sport of those with a liking for the rich turf stories which resonate the intense emotions of our own impending deaths . Indulge me though as I tell you the running of the 2013 Oaks.   

The story of Talent and the Epsom Oaks

Talent was the second string of the Beckett yard, the 20/1 outsider.  Her juvenile debut gave no hint of her real ability and even her maiden win on Kemptons polytrack was gritty rather than flashing, it was also to be her only other two year old start.

It was her Newmarket 2013 reappearance that had caught my eye and hinted she could be better.  She clearly was not fully tuned for the listed  contest but I liked the girls attitude as she settled down to serve it up to Lady Nouf and grind out a seasonal debut win.

Granted there was much more glamorous form in some of her fellow competitors books.  Becket top stable jockey Jim Crowley had also overlooked Talent in favour of Secret Gesture, the yards more fancied runner and favourite for the race.  Yet Beckett was still very complimentary about Talent, he certainly gave the impression that the gulf in price between them was artificial and that he also held her in good esteem.  The scene was set.

The stalls rattled open and Talent is sluggish into stride, with Richard Hughes erect in the stirrups, the suspicion to my eye was that the tardiness was deliberate.  Held up, she exuded comfort climbing the Epsom hill, lobbing along in the rear.  Talent in the early cut and thrust was enjoying her day out at the races.  

This all changed shortly after she passed the high point on the course.  Here the track bends left and the ground drops away.  With the changing ground, Talent started to chomp at the bit, at first just jostling, almost playful but not settling as you want your runner to do.  As the race tempo builds, her agitation escalates, she is now fighting for her head with some gusto…  As she approaches Tattenham Corner she is becoming keener and keener… Is she hating every stride?  Is she outclassed?  Still green?

Whatever the reason, it all seems as though my goose is cooked, just 24 hours earlier, we watched a replica race.   Dawn Approach expended similar energy fighting Kevin Manning in the Derby, it looks for all the world as though Talent was to be served the same way.  However, appearances can be deceptive.

As they turn for home, Talent calms again back on the level, what is left in the tank?  As the bend completes, she gives Madame Defages a bump, she is still active, still ready to compete, will she break cover now?  Hughsie has other ideas, he holds her together, tight on the reigns… not yet girl, not yet.  Most eyes are focussed on the higher profile Secret Gesture, and The Lark who have started their own runs at the head of affairs…

Talent has yet to break fully clear and for just a moment, she seems to make heavy weather of finding that space, bunching horses block her path, Hughsie takes a pull, ice running through the mans veins and then asks her to squeeze through a gap, he has a willing companion, her head lowered she knuckles down to the business end.  

Then, like souls awakening to the brilliant brightness of summers dawn, she is suddenly free.  Relishing the difficult camber of the Epsom straight, she powers to join the fray, drawing alongside the principals.  Pausing momentarily, as though to take stock, Hughsie taps her with the whip and she surges forward taking an enormous gangly stride, her surge of raw pace is ugly in delivery but decisive in effect.  A second crack from the pilot and she is away, Talent is not for catching.

And that my friends is the battle of the 2013 Oaks filed and receipted for your appraisal.  Disagree? False pace, don’t rate the form? Please recall that the Major is only amateur and my mind is unhinged, I am merely your reluctant correspondent.  Don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself.

Now to the sports and let us deal straight with the malevolent force of our enemy.  See clearly and act with conviction, tonight we dine, silver service, on fine undercooked steak, washed down with burgundy and in the company of those fine sorts who are so sure of their place in life, they act not thinking they are right, but knowing it.

Saturday Racing 

The Irish Oaks is run at 6.15pm, guess who I am on!  Stan James are 3/1 about Talent and I suggest you speak to your international money man to see what liquidity you can achieve by this time.

I would also suggest a double with Darwin who aces in the Minstrel Stakes which is the preceding contest.  The classic generation horses don’t have the strongest overall record in the race but the last three years have seen two winners.  John Oxx has won the race with Takar and Air Chief Marshall went in for team Ballydoyle three years ago.  My selection is 11/8, have a chunky slice.

The Betfred Summer Plate – 3.30 Market Rasen

The Summer Plate normally goes to a proven decent sort, you do get a fair smattering of six year old winners but normally they are already classy sorts and are not usually lurking at the bottom of the handicap.  This year, the race is wide open with the enemy pricing up this conundrum in a vortex at 7/1 the field.

Peter Bowen has had a tremendous recent record in the race and Dineur must be on the shortlist as a result of that form alone.

There are two I will take against Bowen, they are Galaxy Rock and Viva Colonia.   The first is well tried in the top handicaps and may well come to the boil for this.  The second Viva Colonia is the tip and one I would not normally offer.  Why not?  Well, I am not the biggest fan of Brian Ellison but I am of Noel Fehily and I just think this horse has the credentials.  Viva Colonia won the summer hurdle here two seasons ago, if his recent runs have been prepping him for this, he could be a danger to all and 20/1 with Hills might look a mighty price.

Newbury Tips

The opener must surely go to Gold Top.  The Hannon / Hughes entry is up against the boys this time but has looked good so far and Hughsie is having to slim down to his bottom weight for the ride… Load a cannon.

In the 3.15, I like Ocean War at 3/1, this selection is an interesting horse who has suffered injuries that kept him from racing for several years.  However, he was previously a classy looking sort and surely plenty of improvement is available on second start back from those troubles?

Krypton Factor is a shoe in for the 3.15.  The Ascot form is of the highest order having finished in the places behind Society Rock and Lethal Force, surely too good for this lot and 2/1 seems generous.  Normally horses do not suffer badly from breaking from the stalls.  Have a hearty slice.

That is it from the Major for this week.  I trust your dinner is delectable.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 by nature of the four tips on the blog today is Talent, Viva Colonia, Darwin and Krypton Factor.

Courage and roll those dice.