Good evening from a muggy suffocating Worcester scene where a sliding grey sky in the distance and the sheer heat of the moment speak quietly of the violence to come.
Tonight I have entertained at dinner my second son, Matthew, 6. The boy loves his racing, always pointing at JPs colours and saying ‘Dad, that’s Tony McCoy’ no matter who the pilot. We ate at one of those buffet style places, you know the sort of joint, generous on choice, sparse on quality. Still, he entertained me with tales of his exploits, young shaver that one.
The Major has had another of his high-octane weeks, travel, pressure, heat and many a night spent late into the evening with the soothing aid of sleep inducing wine – I am not sure it helps but I enjoy it. The pressure in the evenings in the latent heat builds in my head, in the morning, the head dulled by the previous nights chemicals, the pressure has condensed and feels like a yoke that rolls around in my skull as I turn restlessly from side to side aching for peace which never comes. I do wonder whether my preference for National Hunt is purely based on it being at the civil end of our annual climate.
The Major had been in scintillating form. I had forgotten what losses felt like, then came along last weekend and the pendulum swung again, not in my favour. Luck does seem to come in runs, yet I am conscious as I type it that my regular readers will be thinking that this is most un-major-like. Quite right, luck is irrelevant and the idea that runs exist as some sort of fatalism is as you well know, nonsense.
Yet I do believe in runs. Stick with me. You see, I have noticed in my own pattern of staking that there are times when I am following an angle of profitability. You might spot a draw advantage, a ground condition or some trainer form that has not been widely advertised to date. By pursuing a consistent line of logic, you build your own confidence and the cycle works.
On the counter, losses building up without an understanding of why your judgement is awry is a good time to stop. Typically that form can continue as you don’t know what is wrong to fix it. As frustration over performance builds, your ability to analyse the issue or to make rational bets dissipates. When on a losing run, the last 30% of my bank is typically wasted in an emotionally driven speed betting session. You sober up, the balance reads zero and if you are like me, you learned little.
Some of my pet hates… Folk who place an accumulator and then look to lay it off when the early legs land. What is wrong with you? Laying a position costs money, why bet an accumulator if you would not be prepared to stake your winnings from those early legs as a straight win bet on the latter legs?
Folk who see the world in black and white. I hate the partisan the most. Twitter politics is possibly the blindest commentary you might ever witness.
Rude folk. No need at all. Manners cost nothing – Should you lack them, please leave now, your sort is not welcome here. The Majors followers hold the door, give up the seat, offer compassion and generosity and always make her tea in the morning.
Those late nights have had me watching some good drama. I feel a certain middle class pride in extolling the virtues of The Honourable Woman, slightly less in promoting Utopia. The latter appeals to my dark nature, the uber violence and detachment resonate in our age.
Both programmes have characters with whom I have fallen in love. I must confess that this is a regular occurrence for the Major. I would say at least three times a week, my heart is stolen and each new one is the best. If I were to line up these beautiful souls, you might struggle to find a pattern. No, there is no formula for me, perhaps the curl of a lip, the slender angle of a shoulder, the gentle shape of a calf or the harmonious sing song quality of an uncouth accent – I cannot explain how such things work, I am merely the victim of an unstable heart which will flutter, seemingly at any combination of striking features. A female friend once said to me, it really is not love, je ne suis pas d’accord.
Enough of my rakishness, if the good lady strays this way, she will spit out her coffee and confiscate the key to the Tantalus. If you do not own one of these, I suggest you invest todays winnings in one.
Our road, like that for Wellington is long. The odds are overwhelming. Do you know he had just 25,000 British troops, complemented with 50,000 foreigners to fight a Napoleonic force of a third of a million. When it was all done, after the horrors of Waterloo where 50,000 lost their lives, Wellington prayed that he had seen his last action. He had bought down an empire – This is our aim too. We shall bring our enemy down, like his expeditionary force, we shall fight many long indecisive days, our losses shall pile up but our resolve will see us through. The mothership awaits at the end of the journey. Courage friends, roll the dice.
To the sports.
Saturday Racing – The Lucky 15.
I have reverted to a format of picking my favourite 4 tips for a lucky 15. This is also therefore the Martin Hill bet – we are in this together.
2.05pm Ascot – Fillies Group 3
Two classy looking fillies go head to head here and it is easy to concentrate on just Muraaqaba and Osaila who are available either side of 2/1.
Osaila ran well in a Group 3, the Albany, on her second start and took that form into a Doncaster Novice Stakes race and won convincingly going away when asked the question.
In the blue corner, we have Muraaqaba who won her debut maiden very well indeed at HQ. The form in behind has been mediocre but with improvement almost guaranteed, she could not have started her career any better.
My decision is to play Osaila at 9/4. She has more experience, the Hannon yard is in better form than the Johnstone team and her last win looked better than the Muraaqaba race as she beat previous winners.
2.55pm York – The York Stakes
A nice day of racing at York, one of our finest courses. The York Stakes is a Group 2 middle distance contest and there are a few interesting runners to focus on.
Windhoek caught my eye when winning on last years Guineas undercard at Newmarket. He has not exactly gone on from there but has always had a touch of class and his last run was arguably his best when moving clear at his leisure in a listed middle distance race at Sandown.
Secret Gesture was second in the Oaks behind Talent, that form looked very good at the time but Talent has been my cliff horse and I have finally accepted defeat, she is not pegasus. A bit like Windhoek, Secret Gesture has run a little bit mixed but dropped to a listed race for the girls, she came good last time. Her allowances here as a 4yo are not that generous mind but if she is back to improving then, she is a player.
Long John is a fascinating runner starting a new career in Britain. I am not sure he is a stayer but… hmmm….. Danadana will love the ground but lacks the class in my view. Sharestan would be much shorter with a decent downpour but 12/1 seems generous.
In the end, Windhoek and Secret Gesture have played their hands in the top grade and been found wanting. I am looking for something and Long John gives me that option, he has G1 winning form in the Southern hemisphere and has picked up a UAE 1,000 Guineas. I thought his first run in Britain was perfectly acceptable in the Summer Mile. He stayed on to place and this extra 500 yards might be just the ticket.
3.50pm Ascot – The King George
Only three classic generation beasts have won this race in the last twenty years and none of them were fillies. Alamshar was a bit of a fly in the ointment, Nathaniel was a well deserved winner after being the bridesmaid to Frankel so many times and Galileo, well that was Galileo.
My point in raising this is that it is mighty mighty bold for connections to thrust Taghrooda into this race when a much easier option was the Irish Oaks a week previous. This result will tell them if they have an Arc contender and for the sake of my 20/1 antepost tickets placed in the moments after the Oaks, I hope they are proven right.
Yet, winning the Arc as a three year old filly is easier than a King George. Sound like an odd piece of thinking? Well I just think at the height of summer with the fillies still developing, the weight allowances are far less generous. Yet, the best 3yo fillies, like Treve last year have a great record when receiving lumps of weight in October in Paris.
The race is further complicated by the fact that the ground has been a bit changeable. Stormy showers over Ascot on Friday caused the ground to go good to soft. I assure you dear readers that unless more rain comes, it will go off as good at worst. Ascot is one of the best draining tracks I know.
Telescope won the Hardwicke in some style. As he blasted clear, I was reminded of the fine animal Harbinger who gave me a jaw dropping moment in the same race. A definite contender.
Regulars know my feelings for Taghrooda, the time of the Oaks compares fairly well to the Derby, she would have been better with more to aim at and she could be the very best but I am making a leap to say she is. What I saw at Epsom was enough for me to place my Arc bet. This is a big ask.
Telescope and Taghrooda seem to be the two obvious candidates but of the rest, one must pause on Magician. His Irish Guineas win last year was then followed up by a Breeders Turf win and chasing The Fugue home in her ideal conditions last time was nothing to be ashamed of.
This race is typically won by a colt near the head of the market and four years old. Telescope it looks obvious and it might well be. Yet, my heart tells me that Taghrooda is special. Corals have 3/1, get invested and get used to the name.
When a Luca Cumani horse starts to show improvement, it is best to keep it on your side. Such is the case with Lawman who won a Windsor handicap very well last time and that form is looking stronger now. Ogbourne Downs who was fifth at Windsor, although fairly close up, went on to score in the week in another class 4.
2/1 is available right now but I suspect it won’t be anything like it nearer the time. Get stuck right in.
May your dinner be taken in good spirits having landed the lucky 15 and asked the good lady where she would like to dine.
Courage, roll the dice.