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The Saturday Sermon – The Ascot Shergar Cup Card, Newmarket and Haydock – Telescope and Simple Good Fun

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene of early morning beauty.  The sky is a fine profusion of god’s elegant palette.  The palest blue melts gently into formless agreeable white clouds made peachy by the pale weak lemon sun yet to impress it’s forceful splendour upon us.

The Major is up early as in need of a productive day to fulfil numerous and important obligations.  The mind is whirring away with a thousand matters at hand to be seen to.  For reasons I am unable to fathom, I can feel the force of intent, my body galvanised behind the task, seeping out a chemical balance that had me up with the sun, eyes narrow and full of intent.

To be able to control one’s own mind wholly – What power.  How much are we slaves to our own emotion?  The Major is of the camp that believes the answer to be ‘as much as you want to be’ but it would be rude to get started on that puritanical tract now, you do not need such preaching at this hour on a Saturday.  Relax in this company stranger.

Instead consider the question of happiness?  Are you in control of that at least?  What makes you content?  Is it important to be happy?  I shall summarise for your delectable taste, some of the findings of the studies on happiness….

Modern wisdom seeks happiness at the heart of everything but what is it that truly makes you happy?  Science suggests a number of factors.  You would guess the first, I am at pains to write it, for fear of sounding mawkish, but it is seeking deep loving relationships.  That makes some sense but for the Major, I have always felt comfortable in my own skin and not felt the deep need of company.  I must admit to wishing I had more friends, or more time with friends but have come to accept with contentment that I alone am OK.

Some studies suggest more important that relationships is having a clear picture of life’s meaning.  Well make your own because whatever you fabricate is your invention and only has personal value.  The Major has a simple understanding of life’s meaning.  Have fun, we float by the once – This is well trodden land for the Major – Regulars know that I believe of all wastage on earth, the greatest is of the joys of today that pass you by while you were busy.

For true happiness you also need to think you are good-looking, yet it is less important that it be true.   So spend some time with beautiful people, that will perk you up, so to speak.  In this, I suggest you exert vigorous discipline.  The good lady often accuses me of only liking her best looking friends…  I, for one, do not defend the position, after all, why would that not be true?

Eat out more – The Major has been urging you to do this every Saturday for these many years.  People who eat out are happier souls and this I heartily agree with, if combined with the latter point regarding beautiful company, it is a heady mix.

The most powerful stimulant of a happy life I have yet to mention though.  It is activity.  Yes, the happiest people are the most active.  This, I can understand.  If you take pleasure from a roll of the dice, roll them more often.  Is this not in tune once more with the Major’s weekly urgings.  Do I not ask of you to roll those dice each week?

In this, I have started to understand my own meaning.  I am here as one small ingredient in your happiness recipe.  I am here on each Saturday urging you all to do those things to make you happy.  Roll the dice, eat well in fine company and seek pleasure in the small.

Today, we go to the well again in search of the mothership.  Our search thus far has not been fruitless but we know out there is the ‘life-changer’.  The Saturday where the stars align and the momentous result lifts us up.  What I fear is the aftermath of that day, for searching for it has meaning n’est pas? Losing that meaning is as equal as the spoils we gain from finding it.

Yet, we shall not tackle that fear until the mothership has landed.  So daub thy war paint once more young lancer, straighten that fine blue tunic with gold braid and raise that lance so it’s point glitters in the morning light.  We shall go forwards with great victory in mind.  Think of Hannibal who with fewer men, enveloped the deep Roman lines at Cannae, defeating their flanking cavalry and circling in behind the heavy infantry to complete the rout.

To battle friends.

The Ascot Shergar Cup Card.

For many horseracing purists,  know that the Shergar Cup is a bit of a tasteless distraction.  Competing teams of jockeys change the emphasis from horse to rider, the razzamatazz seems shallower and cheap.

Well bah humbug to you, it is good fun, simple.  While the card is compromised of a variety of handicaps and jockeys whose skills may be untested at Ascot on horses that are unfamiliar to them, we shall regardless have a pop at the key races.

The opener is a race that revolves around Nine Realms.  Last year, he won a decent looking Leicester maiden that has produced subsequent winners, some of whom are rated in the 90’s.  Clearly he was fancied on seasonal debut where he was backed before being help up and then making no impression when asked for his effort.  That was his first attempt at racing at York and I would be comfortable putting a line through that form and giving another chance to this one.  Of serious interest at 4/1.

The Major though is suggesting Roserrow as a 15/2 shot – This selection looked entirely trustworthy and progressive until his last run too where he was used up too quickly in an effort to get prominent.  You could argue he faces the same problem here today but I am backing his jockey to play his hand well and put us in the race neatly.  Andrew Balding has won this race several times before which is a plus and the jockey is a skilled and experienced as you like.  Gary Stevens is an American who came out of retirement this year to ride again, if you are worried about whether he still has it… He won the Preakness on 16/1 shock Orb  – Think ‘American’ Johnny Murtagh.

In the staying race, I want a proven stayer and non stands out more than Broxbourne whose record at 2m+ is 4 runs, 3 wins and 1 place.  If they go quick, this girl will be doing her best work in the last two furlongs.

Yet, the Major is sticking with red-hot trainer Sir Mark Prescott and his Ffos Las winner Mutual Regard who is available at 11/2 with Coral and 9/2 generally.  The appeal here is in both the trainer form and the nature of the last win.  A small field at Ffos Las might not be the most reliable of yardsticks to count on a  horses worth but there seems merit in the run.  The second Estyaaq went back to Ffos Las to simply destroy the field in his next race.  I would accept that it represented a drop in grade but it was still eye-catching and considering that Mutual Regard has a 5 from 11 strike rate, I am willing to bet, there could be more to come.  Mark Johnstone has an obvious danger in Broxbourne.

We jump from staying into sprint company for the class 2 dash.  With these sort of highly strung racehorses, it is difficult to judge which are to be at the peak of their game and for me, this is the hardest race to take a firm view in.  As such, I like the chance to 20/1 shot, first reserve Swan Song who is in the race after the defections of Prohit and Stone of Folca.  You need improvement from this girl who was behind Steps and Ahtoug but she does keep getting better.  Yet the key form to me is the 4th of Racy in the Stewards Cup.  This is not a horse that has shown superstar tendencies but that form is very solid and he has only been in the hands of Brian Ellison for this stage of his career – 7/2 is available.

The 2.40 is a middle distance contest that Mark Johnston seems to own having sent half of the field down on a northern raid.  Yet the favourite is Charlie Applebys Chesterfield – The yard is in tremendous form and there is a lot to like in the progressive sort.    There is still some 3/1 available and I would gobble it down like the glutton you are.

Mark Johnston is well represented in the following race too and if Star Lahib continues recent form, then I would expect to see it involved at the business end.  She ran very well over 12f when getting up late to win the Old Newton Cup and had some solid handicapping sorts in behind.  Dropped two furlongs next time out, it looked too sharp – She ran with credit and was running on when many had cried enough but it simply looks like 10f was too quick.  Thus today’s 12f with a stiff finish should be ideal.  I may well regret not backing Star Lahib but I am tempted away by Beaufort Twelve who is available at 13/2 in a few places and was a very capable looking younger horse that seems not to have quite fulfilled the promise.  He ran earlier in the week at Pontefract with credit and runs off the same mark, I hold a candle.

Finally the 3.50 – In the lucky last I am with Tom Dascombe and Barracuda Boy at 8/1 (Ladbrokes / Betfred).  We need to find form but when we do, the line with Body and Soul shows it is meaningful.  Have a large slice, I think this is the day.

Haydock and Newmarket.

I know purist racing fans will be analysing these cards with much more vigour than the shallow fun being had at Ascot – Well, I do not blame you.

Patrons of Haydock are rewarded today at 2.55 with the second appearance of the highly fascinating Telescope who is 4/6 to win.  Let us remember a few points about this one… He was the most expensive yearling, he was favourite for the derby, he was injured and missed the lot and then hacked up in a Leicester maiden by as far as you like.  There is no reason to think he is anything other than a class above this lot and more interesting is the 16/1 about him for the Arc.

Haydock also host a listed fillies contest and I am interested in Expressly and Zurigha.  I settle on the latter at 7/1 for the value of Levey in the saddle who I readily prefer to Barzalona.

At Newmarket, I am going to take my chances with 4/1 Conduct who runs in the 3pm contest.  She is the most lightly raced 6 year old you might find having run only three times in her injury beset career. Yet she is in good hands in the Haggas camp and was well fancied for the Ebor last year before being withdrawn.  Anything like decent fitness and I think she is a danger to all.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 is Conduct, Zurigha, Chesterfield and Mutual Regard… Load a cannon young man.

That is it from the Major – May your dinner be taken out with fine beautiful company, may the tip swell the waiters pocket, a mere slice of the days excess.

Courage, roll those dice.

Wednesday Ascot Tips – Bookies 1 Major 0

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire country scene where the heavy air settles uncertainly around me.

Tuesday was not a good day.  Losses are one thing but the way I decided against 20/1 winner War Command on the mere whim of Coventry winners being generally a lot shorter in the market… it sounds as daft as it looks now typing it.  Still, below I have prepared the Wednesday card and absolutely, one hundred percent, without question or hesitation, guarantee you nothing, nothing at all, other than the inner most thoughts of the swirling dark vortex of my mind.

War Command was the most exhilarating display of Tuesday simply blasting clear from the field, SHABASH! and coming home in glorious isolation – He is 10/1 for next years Guineas with Ladbrokes.  Yet for me, as eye-poppingly sexy as that performance was, it plays second fiddle to the return to the top of Dawn Approach.

His win lacked the spike of adrenaline one feels from a horse, clearly superior, surging clear of a defeated field… no, it was for rather different reasons that I thought it was a rather famous Royal Ascot performance.  Like the derby, Dawn approach pulled hard and I feared the worst but unlike the derby, he did finally settle.  There was some interference that effected Toranado slightly more than Dawn Approach but the two of the settled down to a traditional eye to eye, nostril searing, lung bursting battle to the post.  Dawn Approach prevailed.

Was he the better horse? Yes.  Wait, I hear Toranado fans cry, Major, we must object, you have already ceded that Dawn approach suffered less bumping and won by a nose, surely there is a moral victory for Toranado?

Well no.  You see, when it gets to fight time, when the bell rings, talent and running fast is one thing but I have no doubt that Dawn Approach worried Toranado out of it.  Well done, Dawn Approach, you gave us a race that shows off the magic of our sport, the backstory, the talent, the raw athleticism and, in the end, the heart.  To quote Kipling;

And so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says to them ‘Hold on’!

Wednesday… the Major needs to tip some winners, I know.  I rely on your good will.  All I can promise are a few simple truths that hopefully you can carry with you during our barren runs.  I always follow what I write up.  I have no deals with bookmakers, there are never any affiliate links, or adverts – I get offers from time to time but this blog is just for us.  What I ask from you is that you act like gentleman, if you cannot manage that, please leave.

To Wednesday and the tips of glory.

Wednesday Ascot Tips

The Jersey Stakes

The Jersey Stakes is a bit of a consolation prize in many ways.  Not that anyone would bemoan or underestimate the value of a Group 3 prize but these horses are the ones that are not quite top draw.

Tawhid has been travelling already with the Godolphin horse contesting in Germany – of some interest.  Gale Force Ten competed in the French 2,000 guineas and I am a bit surprised he is being dropped in trip, I won’t be on the favourite.

Garswood was the great northern hope in our guineas but disappointed a bit after being supported.  The trainers comments suggest he was still a baby and might be seen better here.

My eye settles on two.  At a massive 20/1 price, Ajraam looks a real likely sort having won the Wood Ditton and then beating a very useful looking sort in Henry the Aviator.  My second selection is the French raider Mutin – Surely to goodness, this horse has made the trip with victoire in mind and I want to be on at 15/2.  If you want one, go with our Gaelic friend.

The Duke of Cambridge Stakes

Duntle is very unlucky not to have a Group one to her name after losing the Matron Stakes to a stewards decision.  She looks likely to go off favourite here.  She did win the Sandringham last year and has clearly been upgrading since, of serious interest.

I think we can get her beat though and I am looking at Thistle Bird, Dank and Chigun.  This lot have raced each other twice already and it is a score to Dank, a score to Chigun and a blank to date for Thistle Bird.

I like Thistle Bird but think the other two edge it.  The problem then is I cannot split Queally and Moore easily… I mean if push come to shove, I prefer Moore but they are both class pilots.

The fine balance though falls in favour of Dank on grounds that when beating Chigun, she was giving 3lbs.

Prince of Wales Stakes

Then the one we have been waiting for.  Al Kazeem versus Camelot.  I have to admit that I was caught out by Al Kazeem giving a good beating to Camelot last time out.  There were no obvious extenuating circumstances, in fact, Al Kazeem was the one with something in hand so it is surprising to see them again jostling for position at the head of the market.

To be honest, that is where my search starts and finish for the winner of the Prince of Wales.  I mean, you can make a case for the French one, Maxios who has looked good at Longchamp this term.  I think the main threat is The Fugue, the Nassau was amazing

I was very taken with Al Kazeem and he is reportedly Arc bound, all being well – His trainer has always thought the most of him and I think 9/4 is a tremendous price.

Royal Hunt Cup

If you get to the Royal Hunt Cup and are in need of a winner, you know you are in trouble.

Stirring Ballad will be the first port of call for many ships in the Ascot maelstrom.  Trainer Balding declared him his best chance of the week and given that man knows how to win a handicap like this, many have taken a keen interest.

I am going to take a risk on there being a story in it’s own right.  I am backing Burke’s Rock at 16/1 with Frankie Dettori, to rise like a phoenix and remind us of some of his former Ascot exploits.  This filly has a good draw and while you cannot be too confident in the Royal Hunt, I shall have a slice.

Queen Mary

Reroute is both the Pricewise horse and my own selection after recording an eye-catching time on racecourse debut last Friday at York.  Much of the early evening value has gone but 8/1, you want to be involved, you know it!

The Sandringham

The Sandringham is another head twisting puzzle, a mass of horses coming down the straight course,

You would do better than simply to back Bracing Breeze who is sent over y the Weld team.  His Ascot runners are small in number but high on success and Pricewise has already suggested this as a likely winner.

Zurigha would have been high on my list but has to contend with draw 8.  The middle stalls are OK but lower middle is definitely a hindrance, Bracing Breeze is next door so both have some work to do.

The Major is opting for Mango Diva, 6/1 who is the best drawn of the horses I fancy.  Ryan Moore does the steering and like many of those lining up, has plenty of potential improvement.

Courage, luck and I hope we have a better day two.