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The Saturday Sermon – Derby Day Epsom and Kentucky Tips… Oaks notes… and a 66/1 shot!

Good morning and a belated start from the Major who writes from the bed having slept a solid 9 hours, a highly unusual but welcome occurrence.  Worcestershire looks hazy and bright as I gaze out across the Avon basin towards Bredon Hill and the Victorian Folly which just 2 miles off is barely visible through the shimmering fuzz.  It is set to thicken, an unshakeable suppressing sky.

The Major returned from Epsom last night, a weary man after a six hour round car trip.  I was entertained regally at the course and in turn was also entertaining and so on good behaviour.  The returns from the Sermon covering the Oaks card were entirely acceptable.  Taghrooda was on my side, more of her in a moment, Thistle Bird repeated her 2013 exploits and the favourite That is the Spirit held on from a flashing Parbold.

Taghrooda was exceptional and I have made no little haste in adding an Arc ante post ticket against her name.  Those late season 3yo filly allowances are heaven-sent.  Her win also signalled the growing prowess of Sea the Stars at stud – Good work old bean.  Let’s see if the daughter can emulate the father at Longchamp.  He may now benefit from even better broadmares as a consequence of having a classic winner in his first crop and with Frankels progeny coming to the scene in the coming years and Galileo, hopefully with a decent 5-10 years of production left, there could be some tremendous ding dongs from the bloodstock world in the coming seasons.

I shall now file for your benefit, my own review of the Oaks day experience.  Epsom I found predictable.  The day itself was glorious and I was hoisted aloft in the Duchess Stand in a box half a furlong from the finish line.  The company was excellent, the colleague I entertained was only at her second ever race meeting and was dressed immaculately in a plain but classy mustard dress and black fascinator, one of these fashionable sorts you see and very easy to pass time with.  Between the second and third on the card, after the wood-pigeon salad starter and medallion of beef were dispatched, we meandered down to the front of house to experience the Epsom crowd.

This was an experience we could have done without and one that I doubt will endear racing to her reserved sensibilities.  The packed stand was awash with shiny suits and short hem lines, cigarettes,  stray plastic cups of lager, some spilt over the light concrete viewing steps which provided inappropriate bedding for those emotional sorts who sprawled their limbs across it uncontrollably, ‘trendy’ facial hair, oh god the horrors.

Some of the female attire was eye-popping.  More than once, a fine dress from the rear, revealed itself to be anything but as the wearer turned to face me.  What may be a fine silken length with a look of class, can swiftly become a monstrosity, missing several important patches of fabric through which great bulges of flesh protrude.  I am no prude, oh no.  Let them party – Yet, the dress that leaves appetising curves unflaunted leaves them for dead.

As soon as French Navy had reduced the value of my ticket of Graphic from £100 to nothing, we promptly left.  I resisted the urge to rush back through the several layers of security and into the sanctuary of the box and instead we retreated to the rear of the stand to examine the horses saddling up for the fourth.  Suprisingly, even though the first horses were already parading, we were able to gain a seat at the ringside of the parade ring.

For some time it was like being at Chepstow on a pleasant Wednesday evening.  The parade ring was much quieter, the resplendent blue of the race-makers huddled together and in much more relaxed mind, I gave my companion a description of the goings on.  More folk did cluster up as Abseil, Henry the Aviator and Tigers Tale (who I report was running his race in the parade) were saddled up.  Epsom is a course of two sides… Stay away from the one where civilisation is breaking down in front of you and a perfectly good day can be had.

Back upstairs where a full afternoon tea was being laid out for our delectation, I could see from the balcony, the folk who we had stood next to were engaged in some Queensbury Rules, although their interpretation seemed a little off to my naked eye.  A more mature sort was at the centre of this,  perhaps 50, he had lost his jacket and possibly his discretion and was exchanging shoves with the group of twenty something Essex sorts.  The spectacle.

The course views are excellent.  The fun fair I think is tacky but the lines of open top buses add a certain something.  The place does not look big enough to house the big crowds but that Hill can hold a lot.  The course itself is also more undulating than it looks on TV.  I did not realise that 1m 4f was the full extend of the course and it is indeed a unique test.

In summary, I would not put you off, just know what you are getting yourself into.

Now today, it is Derby Day and we share it with the Kentucky version too…  How do we shape up… Drinks – At Kentucky, it is the Mint Julep – Bourbon, mint and sugar, iced… At Epsom, lager and champagne.  Infield / the Hill – At Kentuck, drunkenness and debauchery, at Epsom, snap. I’d call it a score draw but their 6 Group One races compares to our two and despite our greater history, they have the edge, particularly as they have a potential star story emerging.

Will California Chrome complete the Triple Crown, well my view on that will follow but make no doubt about it, it is a tough challenge.  Plenty have gone before and failed to complete after their first two successes.  Big Brown springs to mind.

To the sports.

Epsom and Kentucky Derby Tips.

I am going to look through the Epsom card.  I am glad I am late to post today because the weather has certainly come to play a lead acting role.  The heavens have opened over Epsom and a deluge is currently working the going from Good to who knows what.

I am treating it as soft.  If I am right, then coupled with the course form that is a big aide, we have two distinct angles into the runners to follow.  This might bode well, very well indeed.  Sharpen your lancepoint and have the groom bring up your heavy charger.

The racing kicks off at 1.35 with a decent handicap.  There is going to be plenty of pace about as many of these like to get on with it.   I want a closer, a soft ground sort and ideally one that handles Epsom (or Goodwood, Brighton or Bath as proxy courses) .  I have three of clear interest for my criteria all of whom have won on the Sussex downs… Black Shadow rather grinded out his last win and needs to progress but it is possible and the rain will be fine… considered.  Double Bluff has to bounce back a bit from an all-weather Derby trial but could resume last years promise –  The tip though is What About Carlo, we have to forgive his last run at Haydock but a mark of 94 is well within reach and I fancy it.  You would also share more in the joy of a Jimmy Fortune victory and who would begrudge the man that?

Baitha Alga won a good-looking Chester maiden recently and is being backed consistently here which is an advert in itself.  Yet, the Major is taken by the only soft ground winner in the field, Ballymore Castle, another Chester winner whose form has been firmly franked.  Easy to back 11/4 out to 4/1 but with Moore riding for Fahey (24%), it could happen.  Red Icon has to be reckoned with too on the same formline.  Yet, Hannon had riches galore to throw at this and Baitha Alga is their sole bullet.  His Chester win did look good…. 5/2 in a single place (Stan James), 9/4 a few more, 2/1 generally.

The Coronation Cup – What a fantastic renewal with Cirrus Des Aigles, fresh from lowering the colours of upstart Treve in Paris, journeys across the channel to give us a look at his talents.  He loves the soft ground so no problem there.  He is also admirably tough and entirely classy.  Good luck to connections – Who knows if his progeny would have excelled, since he had his virtues removed to concentrate his mind on the racing, we shall never know.

Warning – The Major is about to make a case born from the heart more than the head.

Yet, today, CDA will be beaten, by my girl, Talent.  Read yesterdays post to get a feel for how I love this girl.  I wish she had run in the Arc last year herself but instead she was confined to a spot of bad luck and a place in the Leger.  She too likes the ground, she also knows the place.  8/1 is a steal and I will be lumped in.

Back to the sprints.  The 3.15 is a trappy looking race to figure out.  the sprinters are so damn precocious, it is hard to know which way to go.  10/1 the field sums it up.

Caspian Prince is a likely player as his win over course and distance looked good.  This is tougher but he has laid a market and has won on good to soft and being from Dylan Thomas, I would not be alarmed by the likely softer conditions.  Even Stevens is likely to blast from his stall and call the tune, I think he will be caught though.  Elusivity I like but has a wider draw than ideal and I settle with Caspian Prince at 11/1 in a place (Sportingbet) and 10/1 generally.

Then the big one (if CDA and Talent have not already put on the real show), the Derby.

Australia was being backed like defeat was out of the question after the 2,000 Guineas and I could see why.  He was my tip in that race and I was very impressed with his run, arguably having the toughest passage leading down the near side and finishing in a pile with the winner and second.  Kingman has done the Guineas form wonders and on breeding this is always likely to be a better trip for Australia.  Yet, the yard have sent up the distress flares over the softening ground and given it is raining cats and dogs, you will understand the drift to 2/1.  Plus, there is this nagging doubt that O’Brien is having a duller year (by his own extraordinary standards)

Kingston Hill is the answer for people who seek a soft ground alternate and I am surprised his 8/1 has not contracted further this morning… He is not for me though.  No, I am taking the value about Western Hymn who is well proven on soft ground and would provide John Gosden with an Oaks Derby double.  I am impressed enough with the listed races to my tips name and that they came on soft is a bonus.  Buick is a fine young pilot (Sheema Classic, Arlington Million, St Leger, Prix Morny and a Middle Park to his name) – A Derby will happen one day and I think he has a great chance here.  On the negative side of the ledger, this horse has a bad tendency to carry a poor head.  This concerns me a little as Epsom is hardly the place for that with thousands of drunkards egging you on and an uneven underfoot home straight, yet this is surely factored in to 16/1?  I am in.  Pace off a slow surface, Derby winners have a turn of foot… Yes my friends, I am feeling good about this.

Dangers lurk in every corner including Fascinating Rock and Ebanoran as well as the Godolphin owned True Story… No, Western Hymn… has a chance.

Now I have a 66/1 sniff (Bet365 80s with Betway) which I think we should tickle up.  Rossetti goes in the second last and has the ground and course form which is important.  Yes 5lbs out of the handicap is a problem, as is the hanging ( a trait that may scupper us with Western Hymn too) but I just think this price is entirely wrong.  If you are opposed to throwing money at a 66/1 rag then Passaka Boy would be my 9/1 alternate.

In the lucky last Bondesire is a very tentative selection.

The Kentucky Derby

It is well worth staying up to see whether California Chrome can be the first horse since Affirmed to win a triple crown.  The roster he would join is a splendid who’s who of American racing including War Admiral, Seattle Slew and my personal favourite, Secretariat.  If you want to see equine brilliance personified, watch Secretariat in the Belmont and just listen to the crowd and the commentary.  ‘Secretariat is moving like some tremendous machine‘ ‘Secretariat is all alone, Secretariat is all alone on the straight!’.

The thing is that winning a Triple Crown is an incredible feat.  Many have come to this stage looking string and then failed to cling it, Big Brown being the most recent and memorable example that springs to mind.  That has been one of eleven horses that have taken their Preakness and Derby victories and fell at the Belmont hurdle.

Can CC do it?  Well yes!  He has done everything asked of him and not being found wanting.  You need some luck though… He has been touted as a real rags to riches story but I struggle to buy that entirely.  His grand-sire was Seattle Slew himself and there is not that much amiss in his breeding!  Yes, he is not the bluest of bloods but he has hardly from the common stock either.

Do you know, the entire card is a dream of G1s spilling out gloriously.  I wish I had the time to share the riches of my mind with you on all of it but the day beckons, it has gone midday and I am later than planned to post.

Alas, a view has to be proffered on the big one.   I thought Ride on Curlin a bit unlucky and with a clear run he might get closer to the protagonist but instead I opt for a real upset.  Samraat is 28/1 and has finished prominently in  several big races and with a bit of luck can be up there again.  He is not a fashionable sort wither but is a bloody hard worker in the stretch and 28/1 with Bet365 is overpriced.

The Martin Hill bet last week returned two wins and a place in our each way trixie at 10/1, 5/1 and 9/2.  The 9/2 placed so it was a good win and almost a tremendous one.  This week the bet is the same and the selections are Talent, Baitha Alga and Western Hymn.

I trust your dinner is to your delight and I would suggest you take it at home, delivered, hot and steamy like the company.

Courage, 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.