Tag Archives: verrazano

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 – Newbury Lockinge Day, Scoop 6 and an FA Cup

Good morning all from the Major who resides in temporary accommodation deep towards the Welsh borders beyond Worcester.  The sky is clear blue, the air breezy and a barbecue is preparing the morning vittels.

Yes my friends, the Major has condescended to a little camping, just the night and I can report that it is dreadful.  Not the company you understand, that is marvellous but the experience of evenings under canvas is, in my humble estimation, severely over rated.  Since I have been able to afford it, a decent hotel with a wicked looking piece serving the reception and a chef that can prepare an Eggs Benedict; that is for me.

Yet, it is not without compensations.  Last night, we stoked a roaring fire and sat late into the night talking.  I slept well enough too, open air you see.

The week was broken by business in Manchester.  A fine time was had too, including an early evening dinner served in an excellent Italian restaurant.  The company was excellent with the exception of one of the party who arrived, in a state fit for the witching hour.  He continued to drink, at pace and was generally causing a stir with his language which would have had sailors blushing.  What I can tell you about this mans girlfriend is information I should not have in my mind.

I might have been minded to have a word with him but you know, I liked the chap!  The more outrageous he got, the more acceptable he became.  Once the taboos fell away from the rest of the guests we were left to admire his unique outlook on life.  You meet them, unique people.

This morning, I am gazing over a lake where a whole gaggle of hardened tri-athletes are bobbing up and down in the distance, red and white hats, lazy flaling arms like some dumb wounded lumbering beast.  Last night, as the moon rose, whitening from it’s dust induced bloody orange low on the horizon; I walked and took the shore of the lake.  Out on the cold glinting mirror surface, two white ghostly swans glided silently, majestic bold necks rigid – Quite some contrast.  I wonder about the swimmers.  Do they really enjoy the sensation, cold water on skin, open air swimming, the camaraderie, the healthiness both physical and mental.

Ah yes, I can construct the case in my mind that they do.  Yet, I wonder as I will, whether actually the joy is in telling their colleagues on Monday morning that this is what they enjoy.  Do they like it or do they want to like it, so badly, yearning and striving?  Such time is wasted, for me, I will have the Eggs Benedict please and show the Ham the Hollandaise.

To the sports, a mothership of a Scoop 6 and a damn decent card of racing at Newbury.

Saturday Racing Tips

The Scoop 6 rolled over once again and a ten million pound pot is up for grabs.  Once again the Majors selections fell at the first hurdle but perhaps this is what we have been waiting for…. These are not my recommended tips but they are my genuine Scoop 6 picks.  You might wonder, quite rightly, while given a tote based system, I am sharing them with you – Well, I would be happy with a far smaller cut, say a 50th – You see, finding the mothership might present as much as a problem to me as searching for it.  Better 50 of us be rewarded gently, than one monstrously.  As such, usual ruls apply – Want a share of my Scoop 6?  Drop your name in the comments before Leg 1 or retweet my blog.

Leg 1 – Staffhoss – That should kill a few of the competition off – Fanning on, up in trip, leave those last runs behind.

Leg 2 – Burano – Needs a bit of luck but Jimmy can help him get it – NON RUNNER – Bronze Angel it is

Leg 3 – Aeolus – Obvious form with the Guineas winner

Leg 4 – As much as I would love Tax Free, the grand warrior, I go with Keep it Dark

Leg 5 – Charlton has Buick on Stars Above Me 

Leg 6 – Mysterial 

The Proper Saturday Advices

Following our whistle stop tour of the Scoop 6, allow me to proffer for your delectation some of the finest cuts of the bookmakers meats.  Let’s not revisit that euphemism, it didn’t feel right did it.

The Lockinge – This does not look an above average Lockinge to me, although the presence of Olympic Glory and an American Ballydoyle sort at least raise an intrigue.  The firming ground is likely against the Hannon favourite but the yard have made a very good start to their 2014 campaign and that is more than can be said for some of the other runners.

Newbury is a good course for a fair race, a long straight, wide enough for all challenges, sweeping and relentless, it rewards class and stamina.  Few hard luck stories here.  I am assured by my American twitter racing friends that Verrazano will enjoy the firm conditions, he has not raced on them and I am less than convinced.  Irrespective of conditions, it is darn hard to relate his Amercian dirt exploits to those Group 1 wins in Europe for Olympic Glory.

I am quite torn between a few facets.  O’Brien only fires this one bullet in Britain today, that says something – Did not even bother to fill the horsebox with a second runner.  Yet, his yard remain for me, slightly behind their usual standards and I cannot bring myself to bet him.  Chopin, some interest.  Montiridge is the one that could pick up the pieces if my lump on Olympic Glory fails.  With the ground drying, bet with a best odds firm, although a touch of 11/10 is available, I think 11/8 might be the SP.

The Aston Park Stakes greats a high class runner in Mount Athos.  Koukash is such a great supporter of British racing and is quite the character, a big supporter of Rugby League and a generous soul in charity and spirit; who might begrudge him a top class performer?  Certainly not I and in Mount Athos he has a horse he has gone to war with in Meydan and has snatched a place in the Melbourne Cup.  This is a lower grade than he has been campaigned at but I am hesitant that he was targeted for Chester and has been diverted here, perhaps, perhaps not.

Returned to these shores also is Forgotten Voice, when last seen was impressing but clearly he did not take to travel as some of us do not.  I like that one and he is certainly a solid dual purpose horse.  The form of Brass Ring behind Gospel Choir last time is looking half decent but he would need to improve.  Another horse that needs to improve and happens to be the Majors selection is Battalion.  Haggas and Moore is a powerful attraction and while the exploits committed to the formbook do not add up to the principals here, Battalion has plenty of potential to improve at 4.  Anyway, his form is not to be sniffed at either, his Ripon win was dominant and placed third was subsequent Chester Cup winner Suegioo.  Load a cannon at 4/1.

Punchestown stokes the dying embers in the National Hunt grate but they drum up a good Beginners Chase which I fully expect, nay demand that Steps to Freedom wins.  I have a soft spot for this Harrington horse after it won a famous victory in the Aintree bumper some years ago on National Day, restoring an ill deserved reputation for the Major as a tipster.  By the way, if you are here for the tips, I do worry for you.  I am barely profitable, as always, entirely free and most certainly unhinged.  Now we have covered that, bet the house on this – He can jump a fence, his form in behind Jezki is perfectly respectable, if not down right outstanding in this company… One for the banker side of your slips, 11/10 indeed, gifts my friends, gifts.

The 4.40 maiden at Newmarket shows Yuften as a warm order but I think plenty of improvement from Kinshasa at 11/2 is entirely reasonable and would urge a bet.  Backing a maiden at 4/6 on third attempt at losing the tag is dangerous territory in my view and Kinshasa comes with solid connections, good blood (Pivotal and Sadlers Wells cross) and while needing certainly longer in future, can cause Yuften some trouble, I am sure.  Great name for a horse that – Quite a troubled city Kinshasa, plagued by crime and war, baked in the central African heat on the shores of the Congo, birthplace of Benteke, Leroy Lita and Yousef Mulumbu – Ha! Bet I taught you that!

Finally the football.  The FA Cup has fallen from a graceful perch of one of the sporting highlights of the year.  Audiences falling, less glamour, less reward.  Frankly, Fourth spot in the league is a far more important outcome.  Still, Hull fans would be in heaven if they won this and Arsenal fans might purge some ill feelings with a first trophy since the invention of colour TV too.  My bet?  Nil nil half time – 9/4.  Put the bet on and do the gardening.

The Martin Hill bet is a yankee on Olympic Glory, Steps to Freedom, Battalion and Kinshasa.

May your dinner be magnificent, the Italian I ate reminded me that it is the finest food in the world.  Their treatment of the humble tomato, garlic and pasta foodstuffs is a manifest statement of the genius of man.  May you be in the company I enjoyed too – Raven thick hair, pleasantness oozing to charm and a swift hearty laugh.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Doncaster and Kempton Tips plus Football, plus Keeneland for the US Blue Grass

Good morning from the Major who writes from his bed, comfortable but busy as is the home of a young family.

A very short post as family duties call so, as disappointed as you loyal few will be, I declare no great rambling thoughts shall spill from my mind today, no Sir, a more direct to sports version.

I was contemplating some commentary on the reaction of ordinary folk to the death of Margaret Thatcher this week.   I wanted to make observations over the polarisation of views and the lack of moderate voices.  No time.  I wanted to question whether conviction over compromise in leadership (and gambling) was indeed a virtue, as has been attributed to the late Baroness, no time.

Instead, I leave it to a labour MP from my hometown, Gisela Stuart: When you get to my age, there are no enemies any more; there are just people who are still alive with you…

Beyond that, the Major must confess to being fashionably classless myself.  There is no membership here, my sporting advice remains free, barely profitable and certainly unhinged but we do encourage and discourage followers on their behaviours.  Please act with decorum at all times.

Doncaster Tips

The opening two year old maiden is a typical event for this time of year.  It offers us precious little evidence to work on and we have to base our judgement on breeding and hype.  We shall avoid it.

The 2.20 is the listed Doncaster Mile and there are some interesting runners in a  smallish field.  Highland Knight and Sovereign Doubt have tied form that looks solid, I prefer the former but his prominent racing style might be setting this up.  I have a line through Don’t Call Me as Nicholls tends not to be at his best at Doncaster.

Instead I am having a reasonably lumpy bet on Chandlery.  Richard Hannon is a master of nursing horses back to their best and this is a Group 2 winner who has an entry in the G1 Lockinge.  That is an advert in itself and the season out bears no ill concern for the Major in these capable hands.

In the 3.30 I am sticking with Jack Dexter, 6/1, whose rise through handicapping ranks last season has been admirable.  I was taken by him when he won at Ascot and was delighted to see him go in at Doncaster on seasonal debut.  I think he is a group sprinter ultimately and the way he keeps dealing with these big fields is magnificent.  How he handles the better ground is clearly some concern as is the Majors admission that there is some heart in the selection of this tip.

In the 4.40 maiden, Lewisham is going to be a hot bet as has posted efforts in much better contests than this.  I am always nervous though about horses that are gallant in defeat, even when stepping back in class.  As such, I am suggesting a small speculative slice of Flirtinaskirt at 6/1 who ran with enough credit on the only racecourse appearance and is not here for the air.

Kempton Tips

Just one tip, I think the 3.50 may go the obvious way of Solar Deity at 7/4.  He has won four of his last five races, the last in listed company.  Martin Harley has a decent ride.

Keeneland – The Blue Grass

Having watched Black Caviar strut her stuff again this morning (please come to Ascot!), the Major makes another foray on the global racing scene to up the quality of the fare we are offered.

Keeneland host the Blue Grass a race that is an excellent prep for the Kentucky Derby.  Ladbrokes have a market open and I suggest the following are of interest.

Palace Malice had a horrific trip last time out in the Louisiana Derby – This Todd Pletcher horse is likely to be involved.

Tesseron is no 33/1 shot having come from a prep race that has thrown up plenty of winners.

Java Man is also one that had a horrible trip last time out but still closed to a second behind Verrazano who is the current favourite for the Kentucky Derby.  Java Man has an excellent chance to show that the form of his Tampa derby run is enough to make him a serious player and come and have a pop again at Verrazano in the big one.

My advice is to take a win bet on Java Man, 7/2, and an each way saver on Tesseron, 33/1.

The Football

I am surprised that Villa are 13/10 – With such a wind in their sales, I suspect they will secure the three points that moves them much closer to Premier League safety.  Equally surprising is the price on Southampton who are home to West Ham.  Southampton are a team not getting enough credit for how dangerous they can be and just the wrong size of evens is a decent price.

I like Hull to win away at Ipswich (13/8) and urge all to remain aboard the Watford money train which admittedly has been momentarily derailed but shall be stopping at Peterborough at 6/4 on its way to Profitown.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Chandlery, Solar Deity, Watford and Southampton. (No napalm)

May your dinner be glorious and the company divine.  Courage, roll those dice.