The Saturday Service – Punchestown and Sandown Tips… Changing the Guard

Good morning from a dreary Worcestershire setting with a stern breeze confirming the weathers mood as antagonistic.  Lying in bed at an early hour, I listened closely to the noise lorries were making as they passed the village on the main road, the light hissing I could make out was certain to mean a slick road surface; who says you cannot forecast the weather with your ears.

Une Artiste (bear side) is still under estimated in the markets

The Major is frankly astonished we have had racing at Punchestown this week.  Heavy isn’t close, bottomless is not adequate, bog will suffice.  I do not blame the Punchestown team, conditions are safe.  However, when you are watching two mile bumper sorts finishing strung out like they have completed a four mile course, you have to question whether it is racing as we know it.  It looks too punishing for the Major.  That said, I have right only to opinion, it is for those who have invested their resources into owning and training a horse to decide on what they should do.Today is the changing of the guard as we see off the national hunt season with the Celebration Chase and Gold Cup at Sandown as well as the Punchestown Gold Cup.  The flat season also offers treats up with Sandowns mixed discipline card giving us two Group 3 races including the Gordon Richards stakes.

Football has reached the business end of the season too.  What a game we witnessed on Tuesday as Chelsea dug deep to repel Barcelona.  There was something utterly British about the sheer will that Chelsea showed, refusing to bend.  The oft quoted Any Sunday quote regarding games been won in inches sprang to mind as Messi connected powerfully from the penalty spot, two inches lower, the ball is in off the bar and the game would have been up.  Good news for Barca fans though, the Major can confirm I have signed a contract to replace Pep.  I am planning on bringing in a traditional British centre half and centre forward, some six foot three types, plus we will be more direct.  The contract I signed is three years, paying £2m per year…… All I hope now is that Barca also sign it, I shall keep you informed.

By the way if you think that because Real and Chelsea found ways of stopping Barcelona, then football was somehow the loser…. I say to thee, codswallop.  Mental strength is as important a component in winners as is raw ability.  The Major suggests that such toil is equally beautiful too.  The Majestic pass from Iniesta is poetic as is a centre half throwing his body down in the vain hope that a full bloodied strike hits him on the full.

Last week The Major was at the Emirates and enjoyed the colourful Saturday morning carnage on the underground.  At 10am, a man so drunk he could not stand was using language as inflammatory as you can imagine.  The Major was minded to say something but did not.  Neither did anyone else.  We all just stood there while he spewed forth his inutterables.  At one point he opened a tin of a milky drink, I have no idea what the constituent ingredients were.  He poured half of it on the floor, even then, we all remained content to stay quiet and hope his attention did not turn to us.  If just one citizen had broken rank and confronted him, I am sure the crowd would have supported but none did.  Afterwards, your reluctant correspondent felt a little deflated by the whole affair.  I like to think that I do the right thing.

Imagine if I had said something.   There was the risk that accompanies confronting a drunken sort.  The Major has only fought while a schoolboy and I lost most of those encounters, soon learning where my skills lay.  Imagine though if I had done something on that tube train.  The euphoria and adrenaline, the confidence drawn.  The rightfullness.

Later in the week, news came from Birmingham of a death in the family friend network.  The funeral is Tuesday.  We all drift by the once dear readers.  Do the right thing when you can.  Grasp those moments.  They are yours alone, the tally sheet is a private affair.

Before the horseracing tips start in earnest, the Major (@tdl123) is tipping up a twitter account to follow…. Emma Louise (@EmmyKGtS) is an amateur photographer specialising in racing.  She takes requests when she goes to track and the Major has already pinched her work for the blog on previous posts.  Well worth a follow….

To the sports and let us daub our war paint.

Punchestown Gold Cup Tips

In the last two years some big price horses have won the Punchestown Gold Cup so tipping up Rubi Light at 3/1 requires some explanation.

One of the big question marks hanging over my tip is the chance that Rubi Light will not stay.  Given the conditions, it is a fair question.  The Major clearly takes the view he will and what is more I always think that unproven stayers are always well treated in the market.

Rubi Light will face Quel Esprit as main market rival and with Willie Mullins form at Punchestown alone, you would have to think his horse will be involved.  I am concerned though that the horse came out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the morning of the race and this one I am happy to wait for next season for this one.

5.05 Punchestown Mares Hurdle

The Major is waiting for the rest of the racing world to agree that Une Artiste is a much better horse than she is given credit for.

Having finished within ten lengths of the triumph market leaders on debut in Britain, she went on to take a festival race well before returning to Cheltenham to win pretty much on the bridle, despite a market drift.

7/4 with Betvictor is a smashing price and 2m 2f in heavy conditions will suit her down to the ground, as long as she is not over the top, I suspect she wins comfortably.

2.35 Sandown – Tips for the Celebration Chase

An intriguing contest at Sandown where many questions need answering…

Which version of Somersby will turn up? Can French Opera beat a better field to retain his crown? Has Wishfull Thinking turned a corner?

The ground at Sandown remains just soft on the chase course although heavy on the flat.  The Major is torn between the three above in this race and marginal preference is with Somersby at 10/3 (Stan James).  A horse that often looks like he needs further, I think the conditions here are perfect.  Let us not forget that this horse beat the Champion Chaser, Finians Rainbow at this venue and his best performances have all come at the minimum trip.

I think Somersby can put his best foot forward and that will be too good for most these.  Wishfull Thinking remains the chief danger.

3.10 Bet365 Gold Cup

20 runners and a near four mile trip around Sandown.  This will be a real test for the strong willed amongst the field.

West End Rocker must surely be due a bit of luck and will relish the test.  Available at 17/2 I would not put you off.

Dovers Hill was an eyecatcher winning here on his latest appearance, 5lbs up in the weights looks a very light punishment given the defeated that day went on to perform so well in the Scottish National.  My main concern with this one though is the ground where he has failed to place on four starts on soft or worse.

The other of interest is Galaxy Rock.  Jonjo would not run him if he did not feel he was up to the exertion after last weeks efforts.  Even so, it is a big ask to run well in two big assignments in the week.

Le Beau Bai is one that will be praying for more rain, it simply cannot be soft enough for him!  The likely favourite will go well I am sure but….

On balance, 17/2 West End Rocker is the one that will carry the Majors penalty!

3.45 Sandown – Gordon Richard Stakes Tips

Poet looks about as certain of a place as a bet can get given that the seven year old will thrive in todays energy sapping conditions.  This would normally be the tip but the Major is drawn to the recent history of this race which show that Sir Michael Stoute has won three of the last five outings.

His representative today and the Majors tip for the Gordon Richards is World Domination at 11/1 (Stan James).  This horse was once favourite for the Derby before disappointing twice last season.  On the last occasion he returned with an injury and so I would not be so quick to write him off.  The ground is certainly a big question but it is only an unknown not necessarily a hindrance.  All of that is in the 11/1 price in the Majors view and so have a meaty slice and thank me later.

To the football fields….

Everton to beat Fulham at home looks a nice bet at 10/11.  I cannot see many goals going in at the Albion unless Villa fold early and so nil nil at half time at 9/4 makes plenty of appeal.  Bolton are fighting for their lives and 3/1 to bring the points out of Sunderland feels fair.  Corals go evens about Sheffield Wednesday winning at Brentford and that should be backed too.

Why not dine with Tapas this evening.  It is a nice way of eating.  Take a sort that doesn’t mind getting her fingers in the food and raises a giggle as the grog flows.  Eat well and relax.

Courage, roll those dice.

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