Tag Archives: war command

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 – MOTHERSHIP SCOOP 6 – The Curragh for the 2,000 Guineas, Haydock and Goodwood

Good evening from the Major who writes weary from a breezy Worcestershire where torrents of unrestrained and ungovernable precipitation from the heavens pool in still cold accumulations until the high winds and dry air, vanquish them, leaving a desolate earth and an unsettled Major.

I could never hope to describe what ails me.  Restless mind, palpitating heart; I think my state is the natural product of many years of debauchery.  I know nice people, lots of them.  The sorts whose essence is virtuous, an integrity they were born with.  I think I spot these traits so well in others because I know myself to be neither nice or normal.

As I lie in the dark hours, doubts aggregating, skin tingling, mind racing, heart speeding; I can fathom not the cause.  Many thoughts trouble me, some rooted in reality, many fantasies.  Fixating on each new thought as the greatest trouble, I know, at last, that the fear and anxiety is wasted, yet in the moment, it is indiscernible.

Feel no sorrow for me, I am sure I deserve some burdens to bear, I know plenty of those nice and normal people undeservedly encumbered.

I like where I live.  I am a few miles into country from Pershore and there is plenty of interest.  I am close to a huge dish pointing at the skies – part of the Jodrell Bank array.  Pershore and Upton are ancient towns steeped in history, particularly the former with an abbey of the finest order dating back over a millennia.  The civil war was active in these parts, most notably Tewkesbury but we saw some local action, indeed, the matter was settled in Worcester and we reap the benefits today, such as those enshrined to the people to freely vote UKIP, god help us.

King Charles was on the retreat in 1644 from Oxford, his rearguard harassed and skirmishing, the enemy with the taste of blood, mercilessly raking forays against the isolated; the Royalists sought safe camp to regroup.  Crossing the Avon at Pershore, Charles saw the opportunity and ordered the destruction of the bridge.  The job was botched and with the enemy closing, the close warm work saw the deaths of 40 men, mostly drowned under the cool oaks in the dark brown still waters of the summer Avon.  The same that I gaze upon.

The retreat continued and in finality, the first stage of the war ended with small pockets or Royalists holed up in North Wales and Cornwall.

Charles himself may have exuded poor judgement at Pershore Bridge, but you might conclude, that time served him for his deeds, well enough.  He was executed after the second phase of the war, beheaded.

I have no idea of what I live in fear of.  The irrationality beguiles me, paddle folks, keep your head above the waterline and seize the moments of ecstasy as they present.  Courage, roll the dice.

To the sports, Saturday racing….. Haydock is a challenge, am I meant to work on the forecast firm ground or interpret the weather?  I am playing good to soft.

Scoop 6

At 7/1 the field, I can see a lot of our dreams being made extinct in leg one.  Alas.  For a free share of this stake, make a comment, or retweet the blog before the first race starts and on good faith, I shall cut you in.  I long for the mothership and perhaps, just maybe.

2.05 – Bear Behind – In highly competent new hands and watch out!

2.50 – Henry The Aviator – Will kill some tickets! May yet have more to come.

2.55 – Penny Drops – The penny has dropped

3.10 – Perfect Blessings – Pray for rain

3.25 – Khelman – At least is in form, a vulnerable pick

3.45 – What About Carlo – Going to revel in the rain, improving

Haydock

Now to the real picks, the ones I choose, rather than the contests thrust upon me.

Ah, the pressure is greater.

The Temple feels like a solvable race this year.  I am banking on good to soft, which is a subjective view based on the forecast.  Such a thought brings Pearl Secret and Jack Dexter right into it.  That precipitation will also end the chances of Sole Power who is a proven top class athlete in these muscle sprint events.

There is a worry that Jack Dexter has done his racing and so I side with progressive soft ground loving Hot Streak – 5/2.

The 2,000 Guineas (Irish)

Kingman is all the rage and there is every reason to be a fan.  In the English version, I felt he was lonely and unlucky in the dying stages and his lofty reputation equals odds-on.  Yet I feel, there is value afoot….

and the pick for the Major is War Command – The Coventry, not always the greatest guide but this one remains in my mind.  My selection had such an incredible turn of foot, yet flopped in the Guineas.  Put off? No, why? Well, I am reminded of that juvenile performance and I would put Roderic O Connor forwards as a Ballydoyle Epsom to Curragh improver, in which template, War Command might follow.

Goodwood

With rain, I trust Totalize to give us a run at 6/1.  Over timber, performances have been perfectly fine overall and I think this might turn into a gamble…. I get Ellison wrong a lot, just a warning.

Football

The Championship final can often go to the disciplined over the moral winner, yet I still feel compelled to back the youth of Derby over the well-drilled QPR.  Just on principle, never a good betting calculation factor.   I also will be backing more goals that anticipated in the Champions League final.  I know how well Atletico press, high up the pitch, I know how that will kill creativity, I know that no team will want to lose…… yet +3.5 goals is a siren call to me, 3/1.

The Martin Hill bet is a Hot Streak, Totalize and War Command trixie.

I trust your dinner is taken while you are in good spirit.  The lady on your arm presses gently against you, the mild skin contact racing the pulse and the softened warmness maddening your senses.  Order well, shellfish, in spite of the bible.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newmarket and Chepstow

Good morning from the Major who writes wearily but contented.  It has been a long week and I shall not trouble you, my good friends, with the travails that sapped at the energy, suffice to say that there are many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Yet here we are at Saturday, the moment of the week I long for, before the sport has gotten underway, all of our hopes and dreams remain intact, untouched by the real world and the hazardous existence we live spinning on this fragile globe.  We can believe, just for a moment that today, we land the mothership.

In one sense I dread that day.  I think you know why.  I have such well tuned readers, the sorts of folk that risk it all in one turn of pitch and toss and lose and start again at their beginnings but never breathe a word of their loss.  You know why I fear catching the thing I chase, purpose.

For 200 odd Saturdays I have galvanised myself, come rain or shine, sickness and health, from green Worcestershire scenes to foreign fields; to collect and record my views of the weekend sport, maintaining the view that one day an amazing combination would land.  The pursuit gives me something to hold on to, a steady post in the maelstrom of existence, a commitment and a piece of unfinished business. Purpose.

To land the mothership, to remove that purpose, what then dear friends.  We do not know.  Things would change immeasurably, beyond the wild celebrations, accepting the accolades, a darkness exists, that I could fall between those cracks is certain..

So why pursue it then.  Why keep writing and sharing racing tips? Well for one, (and I shudder at the realisation) I must love the sound if my own voice. A fool uttereth all his mind but the wise man keep it in till afterward, Proverbs.

Is that it? Well no, consider this dear friends, imagine not pursuing glory, just think about that, 200 less moments of hope, of virgin dreams.  That is not to slip to the chasm, it is to lose your grip and plunge hurtling down permanently, twisting through the darkness, losing any sense of direction – The spark leaps from the fire and dims until extinguishing itself, so stay close to the fire, stay bright.  It is good to be alive.

To the sports.

I love Cesarewitch day, ever the heady days of 2007 when Sir Clement Freuds column which was worth the Racing post cover price alone tipped up Legspinner at 14/1.  I was at Cheltenham races that day and me and a couple of good friends were having a decent day, I seem to remember Joe Lively being our big course winner and topped up with Legspinner well, we had a royal time and steak for dinner.

Newmarket Future Champions Day

The ground at both Newmarket and Chepstow where the Major concentrates his energy could be a significant determinant factor in the outcome of the races and the Major has to take a view.  The decision I have made based on reports and forecasts is that both courses will play slow and soft and I want to be on horses where those conditions play to strengths.

The Dubai Challenge is the opener on the cards at Newmarket and one could do worse than focussing on three year olds who have a good record in the race.  Highland Colori showed last time that he has plenty of ability and a reproduction of that run might put him close.  My issue is though that with these sorts of runners, a reproduction of anything is a big question mark and so with a little caution I am opting for Amarillo the German raider who is certain to like soft conditions (should they arrive).

The Middle Park is the first of two Group 1 races where we get to see two of the big guns from the O’Brien yard unleashed and ready to do some damage.  Great White Eagle was about as visually impressive a winner as you can get on debut and I think may be very good.  He is out of Elusive Quality who is bred out of the Darley US operation and so you might be forgiven for thinking, what not a Galileo, not a Montjeu?  Elusive Quality has a progeny record of excellent juveniles (4 times has produced the US juvenile champion) and we would probably know his son Ravens Pass best.  Look, I know you are probably thinking, why did I come here to read that Great White Eagle might be brilliant, but what can I do?  He might be.  Get on.  2/1.

By the way, if Supplicant outruns his 8/1 price in this race, have your trigger finger on the bet button for the 3.55 at York where Rufford is 7/2 at the moment – The tied Mill Reef form would get a tremendous boost from Supplicant.

It gets worse.  I think War Command will also trounce the Dewhurst opposition.  A lot was made of the form of the Coventry with most speakers detracting from its value but again, the visual prowess of the win for War Command spoke volumes of the class he has.  He is out of another American Sire, War Front who has also sired Declaration of War (following all this?) – The Sire works out of Clairborne Farm and in the last few seasons seems to be producing much better crops (6th crop in all).  Dont shoot the messenger, I just think a tasty O’Brien double is in order.

In the big handicap, the Cesarewitch, I haven’t a clue.  I am guessing as much as the next man and so will opt for the well drawn, Murtagh assisted, Oriental Fox at 11/1.

Chepstow Tips

Chepstow has a decent day of racing for National Hunt fans and one stand out on the cards for me is Double Ross at 3/1.  This horse had to work hard to win over the chase fences at Perth but that was decent form and since he is proven over the big timber, I would take him against the obviously progressive looking Balder Success (Champion Hurdle runner) and Nicholls’ Chase debutante, Easter Day.

he 4.45 has a great value bet in my view in Swynmor at 15/2.  The Rebecca Curtis trained hurdler came down when arriving with a winning chance in the Grade 1 Future Champions race here in January and I think subsequent lacklustre performances were as a consequence of that fall.  If that proves right then this could prove a tremendous price.

The Martin Hill bet is a double on Swnymor and Amarillo.

May your dinner be of the finest quality and in the finest company.  courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon (despatched from foreign lands) The Ebor, York, Goodwood, The Curragh, Premier League

Good morning from the Major who writes from a glorious landscape of looming rocky outcrops whose towering edges are burned crimson with the rising sun and whose flanks are dressed with heavy deep green foliage.  Frankly I have little idea of the Worcestershire weather, for I am in Gods chosen country, Switzerland, the Bernese Alps to be more precise and it has been damn glorious here for the last 5 days.

While I shall try to be brief, for travellers tales bore me like no other and I imagine you the same, I feel I must file my report for your examination.  The place is magnificent.  I am writing from the Valais, a spectacular corner of the world where rocky monstrosities rise suddenly and in gangs to intimidate the senses and leave you aghast at the damn splendour of it all.  There are the snow-capped peaks, mountain forests, gulleys running fast with thundering torrid streams, neat disciplined vineyards clinging to the steep lower slopes and as much good air as your lungs can take.

For some scale, from my balcony I can take in 6 good peaks and each is in excess of 3,200 metres, perfectly ordinary for an Alpine mountain.  Snowdon just breaks 1,000m, a mere trifle.  What the Alpine folk must make of our national parks I do not know, although I defy any of them to not find our finest terrain, the lake district as at least of merit, mixing as it will such a varied palette of greens and blues.  Committed atheist as I am, my faith in science is challenged by the glory of such creation, for creation is what it can feel like because surely some planning was required in such masterpieces.

There are other compensations to my locale, the scenery is matched by the people.  Of Switzerland’s good denizens, I shall say this.  I have found them to be modest, decent and impeccably well-mannered.  Cars stop at crossings, truly a sign of a great civilisation.  The food too is excellent, I breakfast on cured meats and eggs, leave lunch for the wimps and dine on any number of the Italian or French dishes.

Yet more, the attractions run to more than polite society and good cuisine, you shall think me indelicate to raise it but I care not.  There is a certain style of Swiss woman, youthful with short dark hair, dark eyes, slender of figure and tall, smooth skinned and confident in her every move, sporting and fun.  You know me, I fall in love with each and every new one.

Oh, I could imagine a life here if it were not for a few major flaws.  Firstly, the sport, there is lots of it but I would miss too much the comforting seasonal rhythm of our racing schedule to which I am fatefully well tuned.  Mainly though, it is the costs.  The bills will bankrupt me long before I had finished the fun.

Anyway, while I have been away, York has been ploughing on regardless.  Before now, I have only seen the results and read a few brief reports, as well as catching the drift of proceedings on twitter.  So, I may be a little out of touch.

Yet, I arrive for this weeks battle, freshened and relaxed, I plan on a few short and sharp incursions into the enemies positions.  No full frontal assault, no sweeping flanking manoeuvre, rather we shall skirmish in open formation, raiding the odd baggage train here, stealing the odd gun there.  To the sports.

Saturday York Tips

I used to think that York was a pretty fair course with its wide open straight opening some distance from the finish.  Whether there is much camber I do not know, whether the crowds that are attracted to the Knavesmire’s obvious charms intimidate the horses, I do not know but without obvious reason, it seems to me that it has become a specialist track and I often seek course form when appraising runners.

The York going could be the most significant factor though and this is the angle I attack with.  Early in the week, runners were being withdrawn from the Ebor with the likely fast conditions cited.  Now, after a sudden storm and further rain, we need a mudlark and since several are non runner already, you would think it gives us a chance to solve the puzzle.

Ebor day is a terrific bit of fun, the race can be a dark swirling mass of possibilities, the last 8 runnings have returned three 25/1 shots and a stunning 100/1 shocker from Mudawin in 2006.  In honesty, it is rarely a race that lasts in the memory, if I were to recall to you the recent winners of Willing Foe or Sessenta, it is unlikely that your heart springs youthfully at the recollection.  The latter was a winner for Willie Mullins in 2009 and in the subsequent year, Dirar was a winner for me, keeping the trophy Irish bound.

Recent years have seen a dominance of older horses winning as a result of the changing weight allowances for three year olds.  We shall stick to that rule and seek an older horse who likes to get a toe in.  Yet, before we arrive at the Ebor, there are other delights for us to review.

The listed City of York Stakes get the card off at 2.05 and Christoforo Colombo takes is favourite on his second start this season after finishing 5th in the 2,000 Guineas.  The Guineas form stacks up, as it should being a G! classic, and this is a significant drop in class back in listed company, he also placed n soft to heavy as a juvenile and his sire had no problem with softer conditions.  Yet, it concerns me that this is a race that O’Brien has never won and the break given to Christoforo Colombo may indicate that he has not been entirely straightforward.  Given the price, if you disagree and think the drop from the Guineas to this is the key, then I would highlight the fact that Glory Awaits finished ahead of him in that race too.

The Major is going to tip up Sirius Prospect who under normal conditions I think would not be good enough for this.  Yet he has won twice at York (important) and been placed in every run on soft ground (more important) and his trainer has an exemplary record from his select few runners at York.

The Melrose, 2.40pm, looks a tough race to call with none of the runners holding any York experience bar Dashing Star and Hawk Hill (both unplaced) but it will take some winning in these conditions.

Mister Impatience (won twice on soft) is the sort of Johnstone runner that you have to fear in this field – Is there a better trainer for peaking a handicap runner, couple that with the legendary toughness of his horses and he is a threat.  Argent Knight is a proven stayer but was withdrawn from soft ground earlier this year and I assume the same fate lies in store.  Hawk Hill probably has the measure of Ambleside on these terms.  The latter is a horse I love, he looks a talented sort that makes his own mind up as to when he puts his effort in! Hawk Hill is one I do like and is exactly the sort of quiet horse that you get more favourable prices about.

I am also fearful that Dark Crusader is not merely company in the horsebox for Ted Veale who runs in the Ebor (more of that later).  The pointer though falls favourably in the direction of Havana Cooler who represents the Cumani yard, who last won the Melrose six times back with Speed Gifted.  The yard is in tremendous nick and he looks a ready stayer, this race should suit his style of being held up, switched off and coming late… we shall see.

The Gimcrack, 3.15pm, has only attracted seven runners, yet it is a wide open 4/1 field.  Astaire has the advantage of a Callan ride, a significant benefit in my opinion, yet a 4 runner conditions event at HQ is a departure from this company.  Saayerr was a good winner of the Richmond but might find this harder and I am always wary of juveniles who are burdened with extra weight through penalty.

I find it easy to be attracted to the attributes of Parbold, a general 4/1 shot.  He has won on soft and while some of his Group form has made him look a little flat-footed, with this distance and the conditions, I think he might be just the type for the job.

The Ebor, 3.50pm has seen plenty of non runners since the conditions turned.  Tiger Cliff and Opinion are heading the market and receiving the morning support.  Their compliments are that they are both progressive as an Ebor winner is likely to be.

Yet, the Major is smelling the mood in the camp and opting for Ted Veale at 9/1 with Stan James.  To win a poor Bellewstown race and then step up to the Ebor is an unlikely achievement but exactly the sort of thing that Tony Martin would pull off.  Ted Veale will love the conditions, will stay for ever and having got in from a penalty in the Irish race, looks well handicapped to do the business.  Fran Berry has made the effort to come over and I am all aboard.

The Roses Stakes, 4.25pm is the last interest I have in York and there are a number of very interesting youngsters.  Hot Streak won on debut and beat winners too but that was on fast ground and I am not sure the Ilfraaj colt will excel in this ground.  Outer Space looked a good prospect when turning over the Haggas odds on shot Jacobs Pillow but Hannon has not won this race and you would suspect he has much better in the camp.

Instead, the Major focuses on the much more highly used runner, Excel’s Beauty.  For a start, we are blessed with Callan, of whom I have extolled enough virtue.  The horse though has much merit, he was runner-up in a Newbury listed event having looked the winner only to idle slightly in front.  The horse that beat him (Wind Fire) has since placed in the Lowther and my selection has also strong form from beating Lilbourne Lass.  Experience can tell.

Goodwood – Celebration Mile

A cracking contest in order on the downs as Afsare, Premier Loco, Thistle Bird and Trade Storm come together to contest this Group 2 race.

Premier Loco won the race a year ago but it was not a clean running and there is doubt over that form.  Thistle Bird was amongst the defeated foe in that race but has improved significantly since and almost won a Group 1 last time out but could not match the turn of foot that Winsili produced (had first run).

Educate has his fans, myself included but surely is a handicapper at best.

All of them could be put away by the Major’s fancy, favourite Afsare at 9/4.  The Cumani runner was pretty dominant in G3 company last time out at Salisbury and I think the main risk is that the gelded son of Dubawi does not handle the Goodwood camber (never raced here before).

I also will be backing Mount Athos at Goodwood who is a horse of considerable talent.

The Curragh

There is a most pleasing card to be had at the Curragh and I would advise a bet on Dutch Masterpiece in the 3.10pm.  Moore has made the effort to go overseas and I suspect he was after the softer ground.  Had he known, he may have stayed home.  Yet, this boy has a live chance, he is hugely progressive and has O’Brien in the saddle.

It is the 4.20pm though that I want to tune in to, if I can find a way from these shores.  In it, War Command, returns swiftly to the action after disappointing me so bitterly in the Phoenix.  There was not an obvious reason for the flop and the Coventry form is now looking more suspect but I cannot deny the evidence that my eyes tell me from that race… This might be my cliff horse but I am all in even at evens.

To the football.

I fear for my West Brom team this year as we are significantly weakened.  8/13 that Everton beat us is a gift.  Villa should not be 7/2 to beat Liverpool either.  I also think that 4/5 Stoke to beat Palace is a bet.  I think Wigan have bought well and 5/6 that they win at home to Middlesborough is a bet and despite their poor start, I still feel Sheffield United are a team who could do well this year in League One – They are 2/1 to beat Bradford away and I would want to be involved.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Sheff Utd, Afsare, Parbold and Havana Cooler.

May your dinner be delectable and in the finest of company.  Courage and roll those dice.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips…. the madness begins, what to trust? which stories to unfold?

Good evening from the Major who writes to you on Royal Ascot eve from a dusky Worcestershire whose cool air belies the season.

The Major must confess to not mustering quite the Cheltenham heights of fervour on Ascot eve.  Yet, we gaze down as Generals on the scene below with the battle about to be joined.  Our artillery are firing Armstrong shells which are bursting brightly above the enemies damn business like looking lines.  Our forward infantry is skirmishing in open formation and the heavy cavalry with lance drawn are bristling to get involved.

What orders shall we send?  What combination of factors does our reason, experience and instinct favour?  Are they right?

Shall we dig in grimly like the Warwickshire’s at Rorke’s Drift, firing our Martini Henry rounds until the enemy is upon us and we entertain them with bayonets drawn and twenty rounds per man?

Shall calamity strike us, like Lord Cardigan, with Raglans orders, charging his Lancers, Dragoons and Hussars into, to quote Tennyson, into that valley of death, sluicing through Russian positions at awful cost; shall we be done the same way? Discharging our bets, each greater than the last seeking glory to shadow past loss but finding none.  Shall our utter defeat be glorious and draw awe from our friends.  As the French General Bosquet famously said; c’est magnifique mais c’est ne pas guerre.

or.. dare we dream, shall our Ascot be akin to Sir James Hope gloriously marching to Beijing, sweeping far numerically superior foe before him, punching his great fist of heavy horse through those ranks of elite Mongol warriors and bringing the Qing forces to heel in glorious style.

At this moment, we can savour the uncertainty, our preparations are made, our strategy of bets laid out.  I wish you luck in the field, my friends.

Royal Ascot Tuesday Tips

The opening day of Royal Ascot is my favourite.  The St James Palace, The Kings Stand and the Queen Anne; not to mention the Coventry, the delights are laid before us, we must eat slowly as not to gorge.

The Queen Anne

The Queen Anne gets us off to an absolute flyer with a single question race… Will Animal Kingdom run to form on his first British start.  If you could answer that with a solid yes then you surely have the winner of the race.  After a number of high-profile defections, the 2011 Kentucky Derby and 2013 Dubai World Cup winner is the star of the show.

He has not raced in Britain, he has not raced over a straight mile.  He has not encountered an uphill finish… cause for concern?

None of these factors seem to bother Graham Motion, UK born trainer of Animal Kingdom.  He has been housing the horse in Lambourn since his travel from Dubai.  Animal Kingdom has had plenty of time to acclimatise and has spent some time at Ascot too as part of his induction.  Having handled the heat and pressure of his former exploits, surely the opening crowd of Ascot won’t effect him…

Motion states his main fear is the ground.  Currently good but with rain forecast, the horse does not want it too soft.

On balance, the other factors bother me less too.  Animal Kingdom is an impressive looking specimen and has a world-class jockey on board.  I would expect those facets to more than cover the unusual course and finish.  The ground is a concern… maybe worth waiting for…

The contenders include Sovereign Debt who was runner-up at a massive price to Farrh in the Lockinge.  That form holds up and he loves Ascot, Sovereign Debt won’t mind the rain either, in fact I dare say that Michael Bell is currently praying for the heavens to open.

Of the John Gosden pair, clearly Elusive Kate is the favoured sort.  I think this is a big ask against the big boys on seasonal debut and I would be more interested in Gregorian who look very pleasing when hitting the front last time out at Epsom on Oaks day.

O’Brien saddles Declaration of War who has something to prove but is in the finest of hands to do it.

On balance, the balance of this race is going to come down to the ground.  I am hoping it stays fairly sound and plan on taking every available bookie offer to supplement the current evens price of Animal Kingdom in the morning.  Coral are going 2/1 for £25 and I am sure there will be more.  The thing that convinces me most is class….. the recent history of the Queen Anne reads like a who’s who of Group 1 racing… Goldikova, Frankel, Canford Cliffs….. Animal Kingdom, feels right n’est pas?

Kings Stand Stakes

Another Group 1, another international star, this time it is South Africa and Shea Shea, as well as Aussie representative Shamexpress.  Prohibit, Sole Power, Kinsgate Native, Swiss Spirit and Reckless Abandon make this an absolute mouth-watering renewal.

Prohibit won the Kings Stand two years ago and can be backed at 40/1, I seriously would not put you off, even if it does not appear, at first glance, to be best in his yard yet alone best in the race.  His stablemate Kingsgate Native, a sterling warrior, back to form last time out is from the same yard and while he will have his fans, if he ever wins again, he won’t be carrying my money.  Kingsgate Native has misbehaved at Ascot before so caveat emptor.

Shea Shea is clearly a leading talent and had Sole Power well beaten twice so must be the form pick  Again we are dealing with an international star traveller who we must take on trust has settled into British life.  Given his globe trotting success, it makes sense to assume he is OK with it.  He is sometimes a bit lit up though and will be ponied to the start.

The other raider, Shamexpress, troubles me as connections have clearly stated that firm going is preferable.

I like Reckless Abandon and three years olds have a great record in this sprint.  He has every chance of reversing form with Swiss Spirit and winner Kingsgate Native as he raced on the wrong side and did not have a lot go his way.  He also gets a shift in the weights to his advantage.

Something tells me to get after Shea Shea.  With the top sprint horses often getting turned over as the season develops, I would never want to be on something that short in the Kings Stand.  That is my strategy.

On balance, I think Reckless Abandon is the most solid option.

The St James Palace

What a beautiful renewal of the St James Palace – For me, this is worth the entrance fee alone, if only I were lucky enough to be present.

First of all, you have to assess Dawn Approach.  When winning the 2,000 guineas, he looked like Pegasus, powering away from the bushes.  His derby run is best described as unexplained.  He broke fine but after half a furlong, something went click and he lit up like a wild bear.  Kevin Manning fought for control, no doubt with his shoulder sockets burning but half way down the hill, no matter who was to win the Herculean struggle for supremacy between man and horse, the race was gone.

Much was made of whether Ballydoyle got the horse beaten with a muddling pace while Bolger had no pacemaker… That is remedied tomorrow with Lettir Mor surely in there to ensure his stablemate has a hare to aim at.

My concern is the mental effect of the Derby on the horse, the whole affair must have at least confused the horse and for me, he is a watch animal for now.  I am a bit surprised they have not sought distance with Dawn Approach to recuperate.  I cannot have been the only punter watching the whole affair unfold to consider the wonder and fortune with which the late Sir Henry Cecil drew the best from Frankel.  Such a comparison is unfair, I draw it not to criticise Bolger – After all Sir Henry will have made his own mistakes at times… Rather it highlights the fine judgements and simple luck needed in managing this top quality precocious youngsters.

Clearly leaving Dawn Approach out of calculations is a big call because his previous form as an unbeaten star is impeccable….. yet it is decided.

I am not keen on horses sub 5/1 with excuses last time.  Toranado may well have had good reason but solving it does not make him value.  What I specifically mean is that to think that it represents value, you have to think Toranado had a great chance of beating Dawn approach anyway.  I did not.

So Magician then… surely.  Well…. there is a horse with a disturbed preparation and that bothers me too.  This horse otherwise would be my pick.  He has won a  2,000 guineas and that is the route that Henrythenavigator, Rock of Gibraltar and Mastercraftsmen all took on the way to their successful St James Palace stints.

So, we have one horse with potential mental issue, one who needs to get over a palate / breathing issue and one that needs to overcome a setback from kicking out in his box.

Of the shorter horses, I fancy Magician.  I trust O’Brien to have him OK after his knock and I think he has a solid winning chance.

Then there is Mars.  Like many, I was very surprised to see Mars stepped back to a mile after doing his best work at the finish in the derby.  I think the course will suit him much better, he got going late at Epsom on a course that doesn’t suit many horses.  There is  going to be a lot of pace on in the St James Palace so a closer might be a good idea.  12/1 is available, I suggest a win bet.

The Coventry

Two lines strike me in the Coventry.  Firstly there is the tale of Sir John Hawkins, after his Curragh win, Sir John Hawkins was supplemented for this race.  That process cost connections £45k, they are plenty fluid enough to have a pop at any race they fancy but my view is that to do so at a later stage when they have a stable of other live chances… well, connections must think there is a decent chance of winning.

The second line of enquiry is Richard Hannon.  He has won this race with Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit, the latter racing in the colours of Championship.  Interestingly, those horses also took in the Newbury maiden which Championship won too… interesting.

If the Coventry was more open, I would definitely be betting War Command.  It is hard to split that one from Sir John Hawkins.  Yet this race favours those at the head of affairs and I am going to stick with Ryan Moore who I rate the superior of the jockeys on my fancied sorts.

Ascot Stakes

I am minded to have a pop at two in this for win bet purposes as there are two I am struggling to be drawn on.

Tiger Cliff would bring the house down winning for the recently widowed Lady Cecil.  Sir Henry said that he thought this was the winner of the race prior to his sad parting and 11/2, I want to be on – Even if it is just to be a part of the emotion of this horse winning.  There will not be a dry eye in Ascot.

The other I want on my side is the Phillip Hobbs trained Big Easy.  There are so many of these jump horses that transfer well back to the flat and Hobbs is pretty decent at it, I still have memories of Detroit City performing well reverting back to the flat.  12/1 is plenty for me to take an interest.

The Windsor Castle

If the twenty runners in the penultimate race provides a conundrum, the twenty-eight due to post in the finale make life insanely tough.

I want one in a high draw and I am opting for last years winning trainer and jockey combination in Ryan and Makin.  Sleeper King is 16/1 in a few places and that is where my pin landed.

Best of luck to you.  For the Major, after a mammoth post, it is to bed.