Monthly Archives: February 2012

Saturday Sermon – Tips for Kempton and Fairyhouse, an apology and some dreams

Good morning from a blistering bright Worcestershire where the blazing star at the centre of our solar system blasts waves of balmy goodness upon the ground that seep into our souls.  The Major was up late, took a late constitutional and that explains the tawdry hour for publishing the Saturday Sermon.

Minsk, point, shoot and collect?

Apologies and Dreams

A brace of apologies are required this morning. 

Many years ago, a man I worked for rather went over the top with criticism in a work meeting.  Afterwards, when the blood was back down, he apologised to me in person.  To my surprise, a few weeks later, when the same attendees were gathered round the table, he repeated the apology openly. 

Later, I asked him why he felt the need to apologise again, after all, the matter was done with in my mind.  He explained something that has stayed with me since, a public mistake , deserves a public apology; whereas, a private mistake may be settled in private.  Damned good and damned right.

Therefore, my apology to Mr Graham Sharpe of the good ship William Hill. 

Last week Mr Martin Hill (@martinhill4) on Twitter was in the process of some gloriously horrendous after-timing following the late Leeds United goal which secured his 4fold accumulator.  I intended berating him fully for it but did not realise that I was replying to the wrong tweet in my timeline.  Mr Sharpe received the accusations and was a little perplexed but gentlemanly.  Public human error deserves a public human apology. 

You can follow Mr Sharpe, @sharpeangle – Recommended for the trivia and insight, he makes the Majors top ten horseracing twitter accounts to follow.

Further apologies are required to all those who follow the Majors racing selections.  The last few weeks have been appalling.  Bad luck part, mainly poor judgement; time to turn the tide and build a Cheltenham war chest.  It says something about how bad the form has been that there is a need to apologise.  Yet, I receive little grief from an army of followers who understand that I, the Corinthian tipster is trying in honour.

For those who are newer or feel aggrieved, well the Major never feels the need to apologise if a tip runs badly.  You see, I also do not accept your thanks for when one runs well… It is free opinion I offer, genuine honest views.  Whereas, it is your money you bet; equally genuinely (in some cases) earned.  You owe me no beer for the 33/1 winner and I offer no recompense for the 8/11 loser.  Terms and conditions of use, simple.  Yet, you are welcome to come and bathe in the unhinged mind of a barely profitable lunatic; dreaming of glory…..

Last night the Major watched Inception.  My sort of film; packed with intrigue and twists.  It probably is easier watched without a bottle of fine Malbec swashing down but regardless; it was good.

It reminded me of Confucius who once said that he awoke from a dream of being a butterfly and now didn’t know if he was a man who dreamed of being a butterfly or a butterfly now dreaming of being a man.

Dreaming has great resonance with us hardcore gamblers.  The vision of what might be; the hope and the renewal; being able to dust oneself down and dream again.

I dream of the festival… The juveniles and novices; the greats; the returning champions; Kauto; Ruby; AP; Henderson v Nicholls v Mullins; the journeyman jockey who gets the shot at the big one; the roar; the guiness; the Irish; the buzz; the morning paper; the walk to and from the course; the lucky heather; the victory; the view of Cleeve Hill; the thundering hooves; the sweating heaving athletic beasts; from the uninitiated wide-eyed newcomer to the seasoned tweed clad member with badges dangling from binoculars; the horses with sheer will; the horses that fail on the hill; the owners and trainers… the dizzying highs and bottomless lows.

How all these elements and many more; all seemingly compliment each other, one strand weaving perfectly into the next, a glorious story.  Should I awake and find that my mind created every fine intricacy in an elaborate dream; then I shall have just two options. 

The first would be to kill myself because I can no longer hear that roar as the first tapes go up.  The second would be to kill the rest of you because your lives would be rendered worthless without being able to comprehend the sheer beauty of the festival.  Praise God for his ultimate artistry…. then enjoy; lap up the goodness people and ask few questions.

To the sports……

There is a distinct lack of depth and class in the two main chase races of the day, the Eider and the Racing Plus Chase.  This is compensated for with bundles of quality novice action and the debut over obstacles over the Triumph Hurdle joint favourite in Ireland….

1.55 Fairyhouse – Juvenile Hurdle

Minsk has not seen a hurdle in competition yet but is joint favourite for the Triumph hurdle in festival week.

Yet…. the talk of his hurdling ability and the quality of his flat performances show that this is a serious horse.  Most taking for the Major was his Cesarewitch (Irish) win which was very taking and in soft conditions. 

He has been put away ever since but there is no secret that this is Ireland’s big Triumph hope.

His ability to jump a hurdle and the experience of a race day is all that stands between Minsk and victory.  The rest of the field look like good handicappers to the Major and Hughes has taken this Grade 2 twice in the last six years.

4/7 William Hill should not stop you adding this to a few accumulators and getting lumpy if you so feel.

Tip for The Eider at Newcastle

What a shocking renewal of the Eider Chase.  a race ideally suited to those, winding up for a tilt at the National.  Comply or Die took the race three years ago, on the way to glorious Aintree but this field looks a bit bare on that sort of quality; at first glance. 

The last two renewals have been on heavy ground.  With whip rules being changed again, the Major is pleased that we do not get the same today.  The image of only two or three finishers crossing the line on their last legs while being whipped would not do the sport any favours.  I, for one, wonder if the Eider should ever be run on heavy ground.  Today though, it is good to soft.

This race has a strong trend towards a horse who has already won at a marathon distance.  I also want a quality jockey on the team and a horse that is OK with good to soft.  This for me is more important than potential mark in these conditions.

Eyre Square ticks a lot of boxes and the previous Kelso form over this marathon distance is OK, even if a bit workmanlike. 

Portrait King is an obvious candidate, seemingly on the improve and who knows if the handicapper has caught up yet.  What bothers me about the favourite though is his youth and inexperience.  He would be the youngest Eider winner since 1998…. on the watch list but no surprise to see a bold show.  He would be an obvious Eider tip but I just cannot get past his gae and lack of runs over fences.

Mister Marker looks held and although 16/1 Douglas Julian looks like he will appreciate the step up in distance, this might be quite an ask to take this.  That said, I think he will adapt well and for those who like a bigger price, if you can look beyond his lack of marathon experience, this rates a decent outsider.

Plenty of older sorts have taken this race and Negus de Beaumont; aged 11; at 7/1 is a contender.  Lucy Alexander, record-breaking female jumps jockey, is a superb jockey in a race like this, taking 5lbs off with her claim.  Only 1 place or win though from 7 runs on good to soft, tells a story.

It seems there is no horse that meets all of the Major’s criteria and so a compromise must be made.  Eyre Square is the tip, his ground and distance credentials are intact; he may have had to battle for his Kelso win and now is up in weight but he should be involved and 7/1 Betfred or Bet365 gives you a shot.

Kempton – Racing Plus Chase

Punchestown Grade 1 winner, Planet of Sound will really appreciate the good ground on offer at Kempton but so will many of these.

The Major though notes the success of 7/8 year olds in this race and is looking in this age bracket for the tip. 

Hectors Choice comes right into it on my reckoning with improvement seen in each handicap run and clearly the horse likes top of the ground conditions.  Stable form and the step up in grade are negatives.

Michel Le Bon is included in the assessment as although 9, he has been lightly raced.  He also seems the choice of the Nicholls yard on jockey booking.  Going all the way back to a Grade 2 chase debut at Newbury, the horse has very smart form.  Also he is in great hands to be nursed back to winning ways and any suggestion that the Ditcheat team had a problem with coughing in the stable was squashed by yesterdays treble. Of clear interest at 5/1 and the Majors Racing Plus Chase tip.

2.00 Kempton – Juvenile Hurdle

I fancy getting the favourite Sadlers Risk beaten in this as I thought he raced very keenly on debut and I am uncertain if that will suit today.  What is for sure is that some bubbles from Une Artiste, Sadlers Risk, Baby Mix and Dildar will be burst.

Nicholls and Henderson are settling down to an almighty battle this season and it is worth noting that they take this trial very seriously with the pair of them being represented by the last 5 winners.

The two I am most interested in therefore are Dildar (4/1) and Une Artiste (7/1) both prices with William Hill who are best price on the top four in the market.

If it were not for the better ground, I would have no hesitation in putting up 7/1 Une Artiste but it is a fine balance.  Dildar has flat form with Pour Moi which is widely touted.

A fine balance indeed but I still come down on the side of tipping Une Artiste who as I type is on the drift.  There is no reason to suggest she will not get on with the good conditions, the stallion record is two raced and both placed with one winner…. She may not have encountered it but 7/1 builds in plenty of scope to allow for the question of whether she handles it.

3.40 Kempton

I thought Grumeti was awarded the race a little unfairly at Cheltenham last time out when Pearl Swan was adjudged to have interfered.  That said, I thought Grumeti was brave and only caught for toe, in a rematch, I would stick with the Henderson hurdler who was left up front on the hill and struggled to switch gears again. 

There is nothing in this race to scare me and so 1/2 is another session of buying money in the Majors eyes.

To the sports with balls….

Tottenham look tremendous value at 19/10 (Hills again) to see off Arsenal at the Emirates.  You would expect Arsenal to come out fighting since their dreadful sojourn in Italy but rather than fight back, the Major feels capitulation is on the cards.  Something is wrong in the camp….

I also like the Hills price on QPR to beat Fulham at 7/4.  As much as I am not a Hughes fan, home advantage against poor travellers Fulham gives us opportunity.

Victor goes 16/5 on Bristol Rovers chances at Rotherham and I am happy to have that in.

Finally 8/13 (general) about Blues to beat Forest at home seems generous too, given the formers run of form.

May your dinner be a mexican feast where you will use your hands to eat.  Allow yourself the company of one of those common sorts who will get stuck in right beside you.  As the juices run from the Fajita, no great importance on manners will be imparted, then relax, drink and remember… have fun, we only go by the once.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon.. Ascot Tips, Haydock Tips, Black Caviar

Good morning from a dark mild Defford where the Major and his Coffee have been up watching the mighty mare Black Caviar win her 19th race on the bounce.

Black Caviar... For the first time, the Major accepts that she might be better than Frankel

Congratulations to all connections, today’s victory is another astonishing chapter in her career.

Firstly consider she was dropped to 5f, a trip well short of ideal.  then consider she was meeting the only horse to have previously give her a race, Hay List, over his ideal distance.  Then consider she had to come off the bridle (pretty rare!) to get the better of him by under two lengths, coming within a whisker of beating the course record.  Great cricket all round.  As an achievement, it ranks with all of her races for the Major.

It reminded me somewhat of Prince Nazeem who as a young boxer seemed capable of anything.  Stepping up two weight divisions to beat Steve Robinson on his home turf of Cardiff.  Let’s hope Black Caviar doesn’t have a penchant for drugs and booze!

What a prospect awaits if connections get Black Caviar to Royal Ascot where she might meet Frankel in the Queen Anne.  What a curtain raiser that would be!  Black Caviar would be probably at the top end of her distance and given a handy mare’s allowance, it would be an unbelievable race.  Please, Jesus, please.

What a day of sport we have on this fine mid February morning.  FA Cup, Ascot, Haydock, Wincanton and a good card in Ireland.  The riches are laid before us, delicacies that remind us how good it is to be alive.  Savour moments like these.

The Major hopes to be posting ante-post round ups for Cheltenham and the National in the coming week, watch this space.  Let’s build the war chest with some winners today.

1.50 Ascot Reynoldstown Novice Chase

This looks a hot rematch between Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti who look to have the race between them.

The positives for Conti include his Ascot course win (hurdling) and his second to Grand Crus in the Feltham where he had Bobs Worth in behind.  Clearly high quality, sure to run a big race.

However, Bobs Worth however has positives of his own, Henderson cannot do wrong at the moment with a terrific strike rate.  Interestingly, Bobs Worth had a breathing operation after the Feltham suggesting more is expected.  The Major thinks this is telling.

Thus, on balance, I think Bobs Worth is well worth a healthy punt at 6/4 and that is the Rendlesham tip.  As a footnote, surely backing both is a shot to nothing?

2.10 Haydock – Prestige Novice Hurdle

This graded hurdle race looks wide open at 7/2 the field and a number of leading contenders.

Thehillsofuisneach has looked an improver in each of his handicap runs but has to concede weight here.  4/1 is a reasonable reflection of his chances.

Ruben Cotter is a Nicholls horse who has not shown enough yet to warrant much more than his 14/1 pricing.  His Chepstow run in heavy ground was reasonable and while better than 14/1, perhaps it is telling that this one holds no entries for the festival.

Brinsdini Breeze looked very impressive winning in difficult conditions over this distance at Newcastle where he made all.  I do worry that this style may not suit in this company and as such is overlooked.  He would have to be top quality to lead this lot a merry dance.

On balance, I am all for Stan James and Ladbrokes pricing of Real Milan at 9/2.  This horse represents last years winning trainer and although the bare form does not quite hold up, I think the scope for improvement is there. 

3pm Ascot – Betfair Chase

An absolute belter of a lineup with Riverside Theatre (last years winner), Kauto Stone and Medermit.

The Major is siding with Kauto Stone who I am hoping gets Paul Nicholls back into a better line of form. 

Kauto Stone has come with a very solid reputation and although he failed to add to that in the Tingle Creek, he was running over an inadequate distance and up against the reigning Champion Chaser, Sizing Europe. 

While Riverside Theatre should offer a solid round (with well-being taken for granted), Kauto Stone would not have to improve too much to threaten that form and is probably entitled to be better than previous, particularly now stepped up in trip.

The tip is Kauto Stone, 5/2, Paddy Power or William Hill.

3.20 Haydock Grand National Trial

Now the national weights are out, I am sure we will start to see better runs from a number of GN entries, guaranteed of a racing weight in April.

The inclusion of Neptune Colonges has left many of todays runners out of the handicap proper.  The top weight is the class act of the field and should certainly be involved.  That said, although recent efforts have shown some spark, is Neptune Collonges the force of old?

Le Beau Bai and Giles Cross recently slugged it out in the Chepstow mud and both could go well here but the Major looks beyond them.

Two of note, Always Right has obvious chances with a great strike rate (when completing).  Some Target stepped back up in trip will also be a threat.

The tip though is Mohayer at 10/1.  I think the improvement seen this season may not be out of place or, yet complete.  The further this one goes, the better it seems and I am willing to back it at the prices.

To the football….

My big tips in the footy are Norwich to beat Leicester in the FA Cup, 10/11 is like someone knocking on your door and delivering a thick wedge of sterling.

Bristol Rovers can beat Oxford at home, being a form team, so 19/10 is a bit big.

That’s it from the Major today.  May your dinner tonight be illustrious and bountiful, take many friends and enjoy. 

Courage and roll those dice.

Flash Sunday Leopardstown Tips… includes 64/1!!

What a superb card to feast your Sunday eyes upon……. The Major has gone through the card and includes tips at 22/1 and 64/1 for your punting pleasure!!

1.05 – A cracking opener and ut de sivola has a chance to further enhance an already noteworthy reputation. 5/2 may look a laughable price later for this French import that has adapted to Irish obstacles well. That said, the Major is surprised to see 12/1 about the selection USAID whose Huntingdon maiden hurdle win looked originally average but now looks quite hot with four subsequent winners coming out of the race. Entitled to improve, double digit pricing makes it a very backable horse.

1.35 – Quite a haystack to work through. At prices, Born to benefit at 25s is interesting now switched handicapping, money might suggest a better run is now expected. If Dazzling Suzie settles then place prospects at least at 14s. I also think sugar bullet has much better than 25/1 chances too. On balance though the chances of Catleen and A COUNTRY GIRL are more obvious and the latter up a chunk in weight for the latest run, still has buckets of improvement left – 9/2 bet365 is the tip.

2.10 – So far I have rejected two of the uber in form Mullins horses and its now three i avoid tipping. Sous Les Cieux is a great prospect and entitled to be better than when losing to Cash and Go (didn’t settle) latest. The Major though was really taken by Tolworth winner Captain Conan who caught the idling Colour Squadron and is surely entitled to improve again after jumping most hurdles big. I reckon CAPTAIN CONAN is good enough to raid this and what an exciting chase prospect that makes him next year.

2.40 – Bog Warrior had an easy time of it yesterday and in choosing that engagement avoided clashing with Lambro and Last Instalment. I think Bog Warrior is the best of the lot given his form line on Flemenstar. This race should go to Last Instalment or LAMBRO. At the prices, evens and 5/2 I am minded to tip the latter who mastered his rival over hurdles in the spring and has already shown he is a Grade 1 horse in the making – he can jump a fence and I think he has a great chance of getting the better of G1 winner Last Instalment today.

3.10 This handicap is as open as the Majors wallet on Gold Cup night. The sponsors Paddy Power are offering five places which is good work. Many are in with a shout and the Major was only able to rule the red line through 7. Rather than offer several tips, the Major throws one hopeful dart. The tip is 22/1 Bet365 shot BARACAS who with the assistance of Geraghty could give us an exciting run for the price.

3.40 Opposing Mullins (with the exception of Lambro) has been the theme and the Major continues to look beyond the Irish Champion trainer here. Quel Espirit looked a dodgy jumper and reputation supports his loft 11/8 status. BOSTONS ANGEL did not look himself last time out but is surely due to return to form at the business end of the season. 7/2 Boylesports says it happens today.

4.20 When things look simple sometimes it is right not to complicate them and so the Major has no hesitation in tipping up Edna’s ON THE FRINGE at 5/2. Festival bound, specialist yard…..

4.50 Sceptre and Crown can be backed at 64s on Betfair and what a price that is. OK it is not an obvious market principle but the family is smart enough and the trainer does ready bumper winners. Pique Sous will likely be 9/4 when the market opens and is the more obvious candidate but the Majors loves to tip a big price when one can and so SCEPTRE AND CROWN it is!!

The Saturday Sermon – Tips for Scottish Champion Hurdle from Musselburgh plus Naas

Good evening from Fuerteventura where despite sunset being two hours ago, a blustery cool violence disrupts a seemingly permanent base layer of glorious warmth. Good for the soul.

The Major has indeed retired to nearer the equator for respite from the satanic ice which has gripped my own Britain. That said, winter is my favourite season, less insects, no sunburn and the best sport.

It is the first time in the Canaries and while many may find the landscape dramatic and impressive, for me it is a little bleak. Much black volcanic rock, cactus and scrubland. Being so close to the Sahara, the dusty arid condition pervades.

It is not a condition that passes to the local demeanour. An economy dependent on tourism is boosted by the locals aptitude to it. They love the children and although not masters of the exquisite service you might expect in a top notch London club, they approach visitors with smiles as warm as the clime and a vigour and appetite to ensuring you enjoy their hospitality.

The Majors February form has not been good, a poor start and we are in catch up mode. Frozen ground has played havoc with the national hunt fixture list.

Let the Major be clear in praising the relevant bodies for getting the terrific Newbury card moved to next Friday. It was already a monster card but then it inherited the Scilly, a grade 1 novice event to give it a further quality boost. It now looks top class and it would have been a shame to lose it.

Most pleasing is the fact that the sponsors (Betfair) and the course are offering free entry and Channel 4 are covering the card too. Well done all round. The Major has a vague possibly vain hope of making it… We shall see what is possible, any King George members fancy it?

While the Majors form is not strong, losing is part of learning and nowhere else but in gambling is that more pronounced. Nowhere else with the exception of nature.

Spiders. One of natures great wonders. The material they produce from simple glands is stronger than steel by a factor of 20 and several times tougher than Kevlar. Imagine the uses. One of natures great materials that we are yet to synthetically reproduce to harness those wondrous qualities.

The Adanson House Jumper is a curious looking arachnid. Four jet black eyes protrude from his head, no doubt sensitive enough to light for the hunter to work in the dark. Hararius adansoni preys by jumping. To do this it has to judge distance expertly and it achieves this in an unusual way. It’s retinas have several light sensitive layers. On the second deepest layer, the image is blurred, as the spider moves towards its victim, the image on this layer blurs further and it is this error and the contrast to the crystal clear image formed on the layer below that allows the spider to judge distance.

Such a lesson in nature for us gamblers….. Error, loss and that sharp intake of breathe, it allows us to judge better the mystical swirling vortex that is the ether in which we hunt. It is the contrast to focus on not the loss.

To the sports…..

1.15 Naas

Betfair is the only open market. I would get stuck into any odds against on Midnight Oil who looks a top prospect. Gigginstown have a fair few rich prospects coming through the ranks.

While Ruby gets the ride on Tony Martins well regarded Wingtips, I just fancy that Mullins who is having the finest of seasons has a hot one here.

Strong advice to back Midnight Oil at the present 13/8.

3.10 Musselburgh – Scottish Champion Hurdle

In name a champion hurdle, in reality a class 3 handicap. Still plenty of quality in the line up and given the drought of national hunt racing of late, it is good that like the thirsty man, the schedule will give us drink a little at a time….

The Ellison runner Ultimate gets the Majors nod at 5/1. Take that price now as I fancy it going off at 3/1 favourite. I think the horse could be better than the rest and the price offers plenty of scope.

The one that catches the eye at a bigger price is De Boitron who earned a mark of 150 after running a place at last years festival. That has tumbled since and now off 137, perhaps Ferdy Murphy can eek a decent run out of the animal. 14/1 is a super price, very close to being the Majors selection but the margins though this suggest it is second best value.

The selection remains Ultimate.

To the football

Fulham at 21/20, Sunderland at 11/4 and Middlesbrough at 9/4 but be warned my stats, which are always available in the menu will show my inability to make football profitable – I shall blunder stumbling onwards until I learn how to use the blurry images I see on my retina and contrast them better with reality!

May your dinner be an appropriate Tapas, beautiful fish, tasty morsels and company to set the pulse racing, a Spanish dark haired temptress with a wicked curl of the lip that lets you know where her mind is at.

Courage and roll those dice.

Tuesday Racing – Southwell 10/1 Tip

National Hunt racing is cancelled again on Tuesday as the cards at Market Rasen and Sedgefield fall to the icy grip of winter.

Today’s Ayr tips saw us score a winner – Advised as the Betfair market was 57/50, the selection, Sydney Paget, went off at 1/2 and won.  The second selection, Proud Times, fared less well finishing down the field.

Southwell hosts a god awful card tomorrow.  In the first race, a class 6 amateur riders handicap, I was struggling to imagine any of them winning!

However, the 3.45 presents an opportunity.  There is a much better standard in the race and we are looking for a course winner on a workable mark.

Always hard to know exactly what you will get with an Ellison runner and that’s why I love them!  However, neither Global Village or Upper Lambourn are my idea of the winner.  Both are up in mark and one up in class, I am not convinced their latest encouraging form will continue.

Joe le Taxi is incredibly interesting but 5/1?  He has not shown a return to the old form since his American adventures and is surely best watched.  That said, I think the price is heavily based on his best form being at Southwell.

Punching loves it around Southwell and that is the main reason that he is the Majors Tuesday tip.  From 23 runs, he has produced 8 wins and 10 places.  10/1 is a great price for a course specialist, so important on this surface.  His mark looks very workable.  Hayley Turner, who has been riding him in defeat of late, keeps the faith.

Although two of the six runs since his noteworthy course win in November have been at Southwell, it was the last that caught the eye.  He traveled well before seeming to not pick up as expected.  That form was a step back in the right direction and the Major fancies the cards to fall just right.