Good morning from a bright Defford where the smoky remnants of morning mist have been burned away by a pleasant spring sun who knows that it’s time has come.
Not many tips offered today by the Major as we are on the doorstep of the greatest show on turf, the Cheltenham Festival. I have given the blog a Cheltenham make-over with a new banner and some new festival content.
If you are new to the festival, you will find the Cheltenham Festival Guide useful (I hope). In it, are guides to around Cheltenham and the racecourse itself, including advice on what to wear.My Cheltenham ante post tips were posted last week and are on the link.
I have also gathered the thoughts of a number of people who are festival regulars or novices and posted them in the ‘How we do Cheltenham’ section. Have a glance at a couple such as Calum Madell, who is a student, budding sports journalist and owns a share in Magnifique Etoile who races on the Friday. Calum is good to follow on twitter (@calummadell) or his blog – The Young Racegoer.
I like the perspectives that the people have kindly offered and hope they give you an idea of how to tailor the cheltenham festival experience to your own requirements. If you fancy a boozy affair then I recommend the write up of Will Brunwin or Andy Lyons; if you are more about savouring the atmosphere and enjoying every last drop, then read Andy Febery or Adrian Ellis (who has 23 festivals to his name and has worked on the course too!).
We are now on the cusp of the great week. For the Major it is like Christmas. Today I am going easy on the sport, spending some time with the family and trying to relax. Ready for the tapes to go up and that crescendo of noise that encompasses everyone’s hope.
This is almost the best part of the festival, the few days in the run up to it – All hopes and dreams are intact, no theory has been tested so all is still correct and balanced. Not long now, hold tight.
Today, the Major has had a look at the Imperial Cup, todays main race, to offer a little tickle if your war chest needs a boost.
3.15 Sandown Paddy Power Imperial Cup Tips
If you have not watched the Paddy Power ‘Chav Tranquiliser’ banned advert yet, I would recommend a visit to Youtube. The Irish bookmaker is up to his controversial publicity seeking best tricks and it is an entertaining ad.
No surprise that a bookmaker sponsors the twenty-four runner handicap that is the Imperial Cup. Given the bonus that exists for training a horse to win the race and subsequently win at Cheltenham, it attracts plot horses galore who are trading on handicap marks well below their true ability.
A good place to start is the Pipe yard. I noticed in last weeks Racing Post that David Pipe didn’t think he had a plot horse for this, given he and his father have sent out half of the last ten winners in a field of this size and competitiveness and you will forgive my scepticism! Sure enough, Master of Arts collapsed in price this week from 12s into 6/1 today.
Given that value is gone and the Ted Spread favourite is not one for the Major, we have to look elsewhere for value.
Ducking Ted Spread might seem an odd choice given his group form on the flat and seemingly strong adaption to obstacles. 15lbs up since his last win and put away for this, you can see why the markets have installed him as favourite – I just want something with better value.
Trends suggest a featherweight is an advantage in this race; more to do with the ‘good thing’ horses lurking at the bottom of the weights than the way the race itself shapes, in the Majors view. This is certainly a race where money talks and it often goes to a horse whose SP is in single figures.
I have both taken and ignored that advice in my two selections – The five of most interest to the Major are Chesil Beach Boy, Celtus, Nampour, Devil to Pay and Ile de Re at 33s, 20s, 16s, 14s and 8/1.
Chesil Beach Boy is the longest priced of those on the short list and makes it on the basis of his improving handicap form. Raised a further 9lb in the handicap for making a hat-trick last time out, the horse is being stepped up again, a huge amount. I quite liked the look of his last run though even though he idled somewhat in front, I think it could show further improvement and not that lightly dismissed at all.
Celtus is another Henderson french import and on paper a type he should do well with. It is odd that the entry has run so poorly in Britain so far with no grand form to his name. However, the yard have riches of these hurdlers beyond any other and so it is with great interest that I see Henderson and Geraghty persist with Celtus at a very good grade. That said, the fact that they have been chasing with the horse already provides a big doubt.
Nampour has had injuries and on paper doesn’t look the most exciting returning this year. That said there are some excuses for his run on heavy ground and chasing home the potentially very good Balgarry last week, could be very good form. I also like the fact that Tom O’Brien is in the saddle, he has a very good record for the Tizzards.
Devil to Pay has been finishing in the places on his early runs over hurdles against some very good sorts including Third Intention. It is entirely possible that much more improvement is to come.
Il de Rey is an Ian Williams horse and that is a yard that can prepare a handicap winner. This horse has excellent flat form and the handicap mark looks nice. The price has been collapsing which is a great sign.
On balance, I think it is worth having two darts in the Imperial Cup and so the Major tips Il de Rey and Chesil Beach Boy. Take both with the race sponsor Paddy Power who go five places and quarter odds at 8/1 and 33/1 respectively.
In the football, I am tipping up Sunderland to get the better of Liverpool (who I am out to get) at 33/10. I also think Manchester City will canter to a victory against Swansea (7/10).
May your dinner be simple, fish and chips, some tartare sauce and a nice bottle of Chablis. Keep the company simple and fun and sleep well, you will need your rest for next weeks action.
Courage and roll those dice.