Well it is Saturday, the coffee is gurgling away and we have yet another superb weekend of sport to consider.
Following a heavy, but marvelously enjoyable, day at Cheltenham in dampness, financial losses and booze, the Major shall solve some of the puzzles from the track, pitch and ring for your delectable consideration.
Lets start as usual with the football. Hearts make a super bet north of the border as they travel to St Johnstone. The latter have significant injury problems and although Hearts are inconsistent, 6/4 is a price that more than makes allowances. Have some.
What will happen when West Ham entertain Blackpool is anyones guess. There is value in the 3 goals or more market at 8/11 and I would recommend a small stake on that. West Ham are not a good team and whatever quality issues they have, Blackpool do play an honest attacking game. My main concern with recommending the sea-siders at a tasty 3/1 is the sense I get that Holloway has his finger hovering over the self destruct button. Clearly he is a talented manager and fantastically entertaining too. He plays up his West Country bumpkin image. I just wonder whether at times his insatiable appetite for the limelight would be better curbed against focussing on getting the best from his players.
Norwich look a good bet with Victor Chandler to get maximum points from their trip to Reading. Like many championship teams, Norwich are capable of promotion if they are able to mount a sustained run. 16/5 is a great price and is lengthened by Norwich’s failure to win in three. Bear in mind that they are 5th, admittedly in a tight table, just 2 points clear of todays opponents who are 10th. Take a slice.
I think Stoke could beat Liverpool. I must admit to being shocked that Liverpool overturned Chelsea on Sunday and there is definitely something amiss at Stamford Bridge. When their coach and club legend, Ray Wilkins left earlier this week it suggest to me something behind the scenes is going wrong. Therefore I am going to maintain my view that Liverpool are pretty poor with the exception of Gerrard and a back to form Torres. Liverpool have not won at Stoke in the last few seasons, it is a tough place to go to. I think the reds will be happy to sit back as is their style and Stoke may make them pay.
Despite Sky trying their damnedest, I cannot accept that Harrison is anything other than Haye Fodder tonight. This is not a fair fight, it is a joke. Harrison was contesting TV circuit boxing contests last year and if we are basing a new-found ability on that then we should examine our minds. Haye is a serious heavyweight and has beaten serious heavyweights, 22 from 25 times by stoppage. He will have no problem winning by stoppage tonight. 3rd and 4th rounds are both 9/1, have a taste of that and then pile in at 1/3 that Haye will win before they count the scores.
On track we have the Paddy Power Gold Cup – Normally an annual pilgrimage for the Major and a close friend, this year, due to a house move, I shall be relying on Channel 4 racing. As for a bet, well I have a strong fancy. while you need to be wary of Great Endeavour representing Pipe, whose fathers name adorned the trophy an incredible nine times, I have to say that 7/2 Long Run is incredible. At the festival last year, Long Run disappointed by running third. At that very moment I was metres from Nicky Henderson who was watching the race with a group of associates many of whom recognisable. The mood when he finished third told its own story. A little bit like my pre Arc Workforce 13/2 tip, Long Run was not expected to lose at last years festival and it looked a clear shock to connections. This was Frances top novice and the stable (who are first-rate) really think this is a star. They have been working hard to eliminate jumping errors. The only reason you can see 7/2 is that there are other good horses running and Long Run is prone to a mistake. I think he will win coming away with minimal urgings from Sam Waley-Cohen. Poquelin helps by taking top weight. Catch Me as an Irish Raider could go well for last years winning trainer.
Grade 1 entrant Berties Dream can fight out the finish of the 1.20 with Chicago Grey (9/2 and 11/2). At the prices, I like Berties Dream at 9/2 the most – Win bet advised.
The 3 and a half mile handicap (1.55 Cheltenham) is a real puzzle and I have lines through many but cannot separate my leading contenders easily. The one I like the most is Ogee, just. There is a chance Ogee (9/1 generally) will have developed more from 6 to 7, particularly in the jumping stakes. Ogee is an out and out stayer and I expect a decent run – The third in the William Hill last year looks like good form to me. One day Zacharova will run a good race but it won’t be carrying my wager.
I know one of the owners of Two Kisses who runs in the Cheltenham 12.50 Triumph Hurdle trial. This is the best company the horse has run in but 40/1 is a touch generous. My idea of the winner is Sam Winner at 9/2 for Nicholls. Good luck to Two Kisses though, hope she comes home safely and successfully.
For those needing a late night wager, Serious Drinking in the 9.20 at Wolverhampton is the best 10/3 shot you will find. This horse has run in snatches previously and got going at Kempton late last time out. I have had it on my watch list and advise an early bet, if The Major is right it will be 9/4 at the off and will find improvement for the step up in trip.
May your punts be blessed and proven virtuous and wise. Consider the Major your guide, but your shall pull the trigger.
I think the best bets about are Long Run, Hearts, Berties Dream and Haye by Stoppage. The NAP is Hearts who have been priced at 6/4 by a madman on the verge of reality.
I hope your dinner is accompanied by more than the water I am consoling my aching head with. I just hope that my hangover has not effected my judgement. If you are betting today, stake more than you planned. This may sound irresponsible but trust me, its more fun.