Good morning from a bright and breezy Defford where Spring is announced with a chorus of birdsong; awaken from thy slumber world, darkness has passed. The Cheltenham festival is the great marker for the transition into full spring, a wonderful seasonal milestone.
The Major’s poor form continues with a series of losers last week. The unerring accuracy of my error is breathtaking for all the wrong reasons – I challenge you to tip as many losers as I am in February.
Today is the penultimate Saturday Sermon ahead of the festival and so time is not by my side but rather coming up fast behind me, tearing the ground away from under my feet and threatening the war chest…. we need winners.
Before we get to the sport, the Major’s views on Kauto…
Kauto – The Fall, The Fallout and the Outcome
Kauto is vying for favouritism as the Nations adopted horse with Frankel. So it was no surprise to see the countrywide reaction to the news that he had suffered a big training fall that threatens his participation in the Gold Cup. It is a mark of just how loved the horse is that this news permeated into the Today programme on Radio Four. Say what you will but no Racing For Change initiative (as much as I am a supporter of their work) can substitute for the nations love of equine story full of hope, bravery, skill and shocks.
The controversy remains around how long it took Ditcheat to relay the news in the media. I think this is harsh criticism, I understand those that placed a bet in the meantime but they would have been equally slated for producing a negative report and then later giving the all clear. They would have been accused of trying to manipulate the market so they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
Overall Ditcheat are among the most open operations of all, they may have chosen to handle this one slightly differently but note that not one inch of impact was felt in the market, showing what a tight operation they run.
The latest news is positive with a canter going well today….. Let’s all hope that progress continues and that Kauto Star lines up in little under a fortnight but let us not take chances. If he retires with the King George as his last race… well, perhaps that is a deserved last chapter.
To the racing….
Racing Tips – Newbury and Doncaster
There is a definite feeling of calm before the storm today. The big guns are wrapped up in cotton wool. Along with Kauto we had high-profile drop-outs in the Triumph market and this is that time where we will be hit with another couple of horses who have to miss Cheltenham.
There is still plenty of decent racing though. Next weekends Imperial Cup is a marvelous race, trying to spot the handicap snip who is trying for the Imperial / Cheltenham bonus. Interesting that David Pipe who landed it with the small little spirited mare Gaspara some years ago; maintains he has no obvious plot horse this year due to owner concerns….. The Major watches with a cautious eye; not that I accuse him of treachery you understand, merely it is an established Pipe route….
Today I have decided to have a pop at all of the Channel 4 live races; get yourself a Scoop 6 ticket, sit down and buckle in.
2.20 Doncaster – Handicap Hurdle
Very interesting piece from Tom Segal in the Racing Post last week around how he goes about selecting his horses. The most fascinating part the Major picked up on was the importance that he gives to jockey booking. Far more important than ground or handicap mark in his view.
Who is the Major to argue? Thankfully it helps me select what I think is the likely winner of the 2.20 in Kangaroo Court. The horse has come down in the handicap from a peak of 142 and these conditions are ideal. With Noel Fehily amongst the Majors favourite jockey, I am going to back him to see off Allow Me and Corkage in that order. 3/1 Stan James….
3.25 Doncaster – The Grimthorpe
The two horses of key interest to the Major are Neptune Equester and Mac Aeda.
Mac Aeda is prone to a jumping error but is clearly on the upgrade. A 6lb rise for his latest win is reasonable and 9/2 is a very fair price.
Neptune Equester though is the selection at a general 8/1. Brian Ellisons horses have to be caught right so money for the selection would be a huge positive. I do think these conditions will suit the horse who loves to rattle along the top; excuses are easy to make for his recent runs and I suggest a healthy slice. Load the Cannons!
2.05 Newbury Tips – The Greatwood Handicap
This is a good race to introduce to the calendar with many horses at this time seeking a good run that could get them into a festival handicap.
The three that the Major has settled on have different profiles.
Cinderella Rose has clearly had injury problems but looked as good as ever on the last start at Plumpton. Nobody could argue that the performance does not warrant a 6lb rise. Being a fairly lightly raced 6-year-old; who knows what further improvement is there and the step up in trip is a positive on profile.
Love of Tara has been competing in graded company and this step down in class could see an improvement. Timmy Murphy is superb at 3m+ races and I would not be surprised to see a big run come from her today.
The third horse is favourite Buck Magic who has the assistance of Barry Geraghty for a yard who he gets an odd ride (normally winning) for. The horse is another who has had injury problems but with few miles on the clock and the promise of improvement, there is little not to like.
Overall, the 12/1 chance (Sportingbet / Stan James) Cinderella Rose is worth a punt on…. Have a slice and send me the postcard.
2.40 Newbury – Veterans Chase
I do love these veteran chases; famous old names lining up in their own age group, a welcome addition to the racing calendar.
The horse that just qualifies for the race is the one of most interest to the Major. Marufo has had time out of racing and returned this year with two reasonable efforts. Getting weight from all but one rival and with fewer miles on the clock, he looks a likely sort. He also gets the assistance of Richard Johnson so a big plus, 5/1 is generally available.
Niche Market is a proven stayer but has not won anywhere near enough races as he should have done.
3.10 Newbury – Tips for the Barbury International
Pricewise beat me to the punch in this race with the Major’s selection being Fine Parchment.
I like horses that are pointed at races and this looks the plot for Fine Parchment having won this exact race in 2011 off a similar mark. The 10lb claimer looks extremely valuable and a big run is surely on the cards… You will only find 11/2 available but I suggest a slice even though the mornings fancy prices have gone with the Pricewise factor.
3.45 Newbury – Greatwood Handicap
The Major is all about 11/2 (Stan James) shot Balgarry. This line up looks average and the opening mark for the selection looks very well manageable. If the horse is to line up for his Coral Cup entry he may need a big run here. I am sure that is the plan so have a huge huge slice and thank me later. Easy.
To the football….
Three selections; Arsenal can win at Liverpool – One team has to win and that is not an advantage; Arsenal can pick off Liverpool who need Suarez to start firing to pose any Champions League threat. 11/4, marvelous.
Millwall are very poor and so a Reading win at 6/4 is a price sent by the European Central Bank to ease the availability of money in Britain.
Last of all, Norwich at 7/2 to beat Stoke seems decent value – Norwich look self-assured and powerful enough to pose a real threat in the potteries.
May your dinner be first class and company to match. Drink well and savour this moment when all of your Cheltenham thoughts are intact; you have the winner of all races don’t you… you are right because in this land; your guilt and error is not yet proven.
Be bold…. roll those dice.