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.