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.
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.
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.