Good morning from the Major who sits typing on this cold frosty morning – A whiteness has descended, the plants look brittle at the edges, like they might shatter.
Let’s hope racing goes ahead.
The Saturday Service was unprofitable. While Grumeti was controversially awarded the race in the stewards room, the other mortars the Major aimed fell adrift. Reload followers and trust in the greatest force of all, your own independent mind.
Of those other mortars, Charminster ran a race into fourth, Diamond Harry looked scruffy at the fences and surely is not suited to Cheltenham, having never raced comfortably, I would take that one straight to Aintree.
Not the best Saturday. The Majors January profit has plunged to 13%…
To Sunday and redemption….
I have resolved to stop giving out footballing bets looking at the charts, they simply never pay for me! Either that or I am going to have someone who is better at it provide them. Mr Dipper, Mr Hill or Mr Redmond spring to mind.
I am going to concentrate more on my core subject, the sport of Kings. Leopardstown hold a sumptuous banquet of a card today, how I wish I was there.
Let’s tackle the Grade 1 races first…
Leopardstown 1.25 Arkle Chase
The market is hugely focussed on the leading three chances, Flemenstar, Notus de la Tour and Blackstairmountain; 14/1 bar.
The Major also thinks the winner is in there and with just seven runners, I feel opposed to finding each way value, even though Gift of Dgab and Baily Green both look overpriced to me.
I also find some merit in the claims of Lucky William whose second in a Grade 2 at Punchestown is not disgraceful.
The truth is that Bog Warrior seems to have held all of these Irish novices and looks the far better horse.
The closest I can get to that in here is Flemenstar. He chased Bog Warrior to within 7 lengths earlier in the season and seems to have improved over fences since. The trainer / jockey strike rate is impressive and I think it is a reliable choice.
I will admit that Mullins is in tremendous form and it is hard not to get on Blackstairmountain but overall, my tip Flemenstar at 2/1, feels better value.
2.30 Leopardstown – Irish Champion Hurdle
I love racing because I love stories. Hurricane Fly is a tremendous example of a racing story that makes the sport great.
This horse has suffered a few setbacks and it was not until last March that we finally got him to Cheltenham. His hurdling record ahead of that was sensational. In total, Hurricane Fly has started thirteen races and has lost just two.
The first was a summer hurdle in France, probably not his season, where he finished second by two lengths without his usual sparkle. The last loss, seven races ago, to Solwhit was in bottomless ground and the Fly simply did not show up.
Yet this horse has had many doubters. Five of those wins since 2009 have been against Solwhit, the critics argue this is not strong. He is also a fragile horse, he has suffered several setbacks over the years, including this campaign, where the Major believes this is the Fly’s third intended start.
There is no doubt the horse is a mercurial talent but is he fit?
If he is, is there credible opposition?
Well, yes is the answer to the second question. Last years Triumph form has worked out very well. The mare that finished second that day, lines up this afternoon and is in receipt of a handy 9lbs mares allowance.
Unaccompanied is surely the one if any, to give Hurricane Fly a scare. In receipt of 10lbs, she beat Thousand Stars relatively comfortably last time out and is entitled to be better yet. She is still 5 and so improvement is expected.
Strictly that form is probably not good enough to get to the Fly but then there is the first question, the really tricky one, is Hurricane Fly at 100%?
A further complication in the Majors mind is that there is no obvious front runner in a field of five. I am pretty sure the versatile Thousand Stars out of the same stable as Hurricane Fly will take the job but we are not assured of a strong pace. This could be very tactical. This is also more solid ground than the Fly is used to, that should not be a problem but the combination of those two factors does make me wonder if the Fly’s usual turn of foot, so devastating, will be seen to the same effect.
This promises to be a cracker so where should you put your money?
The Major believes the Fly is the best horse. The Major also thinks that 1/2 is plenty skinny enough. There is no doubt that Mullins would not race him unless he was ready, they think too much of him and have held him back plenty of times, even when the trainer knew it would be an unpopular decision.
I still think that making a seasonal debut in this hot race against an unexposed potential wonder-mare in receipt of a sack full of weight….
Maybe I will look stupid later but Unaccompanied 4/1.
I was going to look at the novice hurdle that follows the Irish Champion Hurdle but thought I would throw a slightly different arrow at another that caught the eye.
Ffos Las – 2.55 Handicap Hurdle
The Welsh ground is heavy and for the Major, I always appreciate an extreme of condition, it helps create value.
The selection is a horse I think may go off a gamble…. Tarateeno 5/1.
It is only the third horse that Pat Murphy has sent all the way from Berkshire to Wales and he makes the long trip for a £3k contest with just this one horse in the box.
Tarateeno is racing off a mark of 90, yet just at the start of 2010, he had a mark of 124 over hurdles. He probably did not deserve that but to tumble so far, it has taken a long consistent run of shocking performances.
Many of those performances have also been over fences rather than hurdles and his recent two spins over the smaller obstacles have been marginally better, even if they have not halted his slide.
His form on heavy ground is decent. Three miles in this is probably just right.
Courage, roll those dice!