Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Saturday Sermon – Newcastle Eider Tips, Arithmetic Gambling

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire whose glorious air is frozen, so chilling as to be alienating, take refuge indoors and stoke those embers.

For me the evening held an emergency trip to the good lady stranded on the side of the M42. Two small children, traffic flying by, most unpleasant, most unsettling. All is now well, the brood are returned, all is back to order.

How is your arithmetic? The Major spent many a night as a young man at the pub dart board. Traditional etiquette dictates that you chalk your name on the board to indicate your intent to play and then immediately prior to your game, you score the preceding game. This, I hold, is the main reason that my own arithmetic is of a credible level. Calculate the sum of three numbers (often multiples) and detract from a starting point of 501 (after 5 pints), repeat ad infinitum and you have a successful strategy for improving your mental number dexterity.

Yet, my own skill is merely amateur. If you have a few moments of your life to spare, observe the mathemagician.

He reminds me of a story concerning one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. Srinivasa Ramanujan had no formal mathematical training but made a huge contribution to number theory. He came to Cambridge and completed some amazing work. Hardy, a fellow academic famously recalled visiting him in hospital and casually remarking that the number 1729 (the number of the taxi Hardy had arrived in) had no significance. Ramanujan replied that he was wrong and that the number was particularly interesting as the lowest possible number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.

That’s pretty impressive n’est pas? However I question whether he could have scored 321 down by twenty, treble 17 and twenty five and I suspect he was slow to get the round in too. 225 by the way.

Successful gambling is part art, part maths. I would not put you off a gut instinct but I would encourage you to give yourself maximum advantage. Allow me to stretch your probability muscles in readiness for the day. Imagine I offer you a game of dice. Two die are involved. If I roll a 12, I score. If you roll a seven, you roll again and if you roll a second consecutive seven, you score. We can play for £10 a point – Fancy the game? (answers in the comments!)

Why do this? Well, we need to keep ourselves match fit, the significant engagements are coming. I see the enemy raising and rallying behind his standard. They are going non runner, no bet – BetVictor was the first to break rank but I understand Bet365 have too. Paddy Power tomorrow, mark my words.

Cheltenham is so palpably close my friends. Stand with me, side by side, each man holding the square. We need not flinch yet, keep your nerve young man, they circle us with their superior number, the metal of their blade offers sudden violent glints but do not be panicked. For if each can trust that man at his side then we shall stay strong and defeat their superior number.

To the sports. Take it easy today, protect that war chest of yours.

Newcastle Eider Card

The Eider in soft ground is as searching as test as you get in National Hunt racing. A few runnings on heavy have left a handful of runners out on their feet struggling to the line. Frankly a sight that does not befit our sport, in fact at that level it is no longer fair to describe it as a sport. Tomorrows test, while stretching should not be such a harsh examination.

It is surprising but lumbering a weight around the Eider has not been a hindrance to success. Comply or Die managed it off top weight and last year Portrait King carried eleven eight to victory.

We are however after a thorough stayer. The favourite as I type is Chac Du Cadran. He is young (7) but there have been similar profile winners, such as Portrait King, and his last run was a very good marathon examination. He is up the best part of a stone but has a thoroughly progressive profile.

The presence of Master Overseer has put half the field out of the handicap and while the top weight has a big job on his hands, he is a class act on his day. The big question is which version of the horse turns up. Danger to all if he gets his own way.

To add a further layer of intrigue, the presence of Master Overseer is keeping his stable-mate Big Occasion on bottom weight. He has the distance to prove and has not shown enough yet. Intriguing though.

The other eye catcher is Rapidolyte De Lada at 14/1. This horse won a small time affair at Carlisle but looks the sort to be fancied by this.

On balance, the Major opts for the class act on an each way basis. Master Overseer can be backed at 8/1 with Bet365, have a slice.

Kempton Tips

Starting with the Adonis (2.05) – This juvenile is going to give us a huge pointer as to the Triumph in less than three weeks time.

Irish Saint is well fancied after being denied by the exciting looking Rolling Star last time out at Cheltenham. He has not raced on anything other than soft ground which is a slight concern. He is a listed winner in France and clearly feared as the Ditcheat best pop at the Triumph. That form is pretty hot too and given he has shown an aptitude for the track, I fancy him to come out on top and 6/4 is a decent price. Strong bet advice. L’unique is the only one fear.

The 2.40 is the Pendil Novices Chase and this is a race that Paul Nicholls clearly likes for his top novice chasers. He has won the race an astonishing six years in the last seven, including Cristal Bonus last year and I am backing Grandioso to keep up his marvellous record at 9/4 (Coral). He looks versatile regarding the ground and his Ludlow win was very taking.

The 3.15 Dovecote Novices hurdle is a classic case of a more experienced sort in Brick Red taking on some young pretenders. I am a big fan of the Venetia Williams horse, he has won some good handicaps and deserves a crack at this. Yet I cannot help but feel he is vulnerable. Alan King took this race last year with Grumeti whom he though very highly of and he won it in 06 with Senorita Rumbalita and in 2009 with the well touted Trenchant. Thus I follow Fair Trade in at 8/1 with a fair degree of interest.

The 3.50 has all the signs of being a smash and grab job. JP has just spent a fortune on Wyck Hill and all the signs are that this mark is well within the horses capabilities. 3/1 could look exceptionally generous. Expect him to lead and I think he might be hard to peg back. Nacarat would bring the house down if he could must what it takes, good luck old boy.

Fairyhouse Graded Contests

Fairyhouse has its own warm up show for the Triumph with Dogora and Stocktons Wing seemingly the two to concentrate on. Is it just the Major who thinks this or have a lot of Ricci owned ho pots with Ruby up come a cropper when out in front? Not put off, I stick with the evens favourite to get the job done.

The Bobbyjo chase is one of those contests run after the national weights are out where we get a better idea of the principles chances. Seabass is my tip in the race at 4/1 who I think has been lined up for a pop at the national. While Prince de Beauchene may have all of the form, record and connections to be a worthy favourite, a national plot horse is a national plot horse.

In the football…

Connect your carriages to the Watford money train once again…. choo choooooo 5/6. Oldham to beat Portsmouth 8/11, like last week it feels like a cheap shot. Peterborough to beat Blues 7/5 is a bet too.

May your dinner be served by some fine European sort who treats service as an art form and is reassuringly expensive. This can only be paid for with some significant combinations today so good luck. Go easy on the brandy too, none of the XO, Cheltenham is almost here, save thy liver and thy purse.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Master Overseer, Irish Saint, Watford and Grandioso. UPDATE – NEWCASTLE OFF so replace master overseer with Fair Trade

Courage, roll those dice.

 

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The Saturday Sermon | Full Ascot Tips | Black Caviar | Crowdsourcing a Multiple | Building a Cheltenham War Chest

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling damp Worcestershire scene.  The Major is tired and uneasy.  There is nothing like a good night of rest to resolve that but since the night lies between me and a refreshed state, then you have to take me as you find me…  Slipping into the night state, in that phase where the day and night merge with thoughts dancing on the edge of reason and fears you can almost touch.

We are used to the news being a repeating loop of misery but earlier today, a BBC report from Mali breached my usual bullet-proof emotionally barren defences.  The image is stark, the setting desperate and the mental conditions achieved to cut a man’s arm off… it is so unfathomably distant, it is hard to belief that it exists in the world we inhabit.

There were other items of news this week which scored direct hits on my usually high levels of mischief and boisterousness, anniversaries of tragedies, fresh tragedies, meteors missing the earth (a 6 mile one wiped out the Dinosaurs you know), food, trouble, more trouble, scandal, disgrace, death, disease, lying, filth.

Tiredness, stress, these things lower ones defences.

There are so many slices of pain which are upsetting to dwell upon, endless reams of stories, regenerating each day, the man from Mali made the limelight, many others are merely minor parts, in such a world, stab after stab, remorseless, brutal, without reason.  The reality of aging is coming to terms with the meaning of life… inevitable relentless decay, sometimes sudden and collapsing, sometimes protracted.  It comes for us all, if not at first, then at last.

You may be wondering whether I intend to remain in this sombre mood for the rest of the sermon.  The answer is no.  Having removed myself of the burden (thank you for listening), I feel lightened and able to move on.  I shall lament in these disconsolate streets no more.

You see, we are here, we are alive and we owe it as a duty to enjoy ourselves.  To open our eyes to the glory of possibility.  So today, observe, relax, laugh and enjoy, feel no guilt for that which the fickle hand of fate has given you.  For we are here, we are alive.  Enjoy it, consider it dutiful.

To the sports…

Cheltenham is coming.  In four weeks, all of our questions will be answered.  Is the Major right about Long Run being under-rated?  Will Sprinter Sacre dominate the Champion Chase?  Will he be the shortest priced winner ever?  Is Hurricane Fly the best two mile hurdler there is?  Are Dynaste, Quevega and Simonsig good things? Can Oscar Whisky reverse form with Reve de Sivola? but will Bog Warrior provide a surprise and come over the top of both of them?

Ah… the anticipation.  Right now all of our dreams are intact.  Well, that is unless your antepost bubbles have started to pop with the tragic death of Darlan or the withdrawal of Tidal Bay and Flemenstar.  I am afraid it is that time where we hold our breath, hoping they get the key players arrive in one piece, anxiously watching Betfair and twitching at the slightest move in the markets.

On that point, what a class act the Ditcheat yard are.  With a prominent position in the national and World Hurdle market, there was not a tremor before the news broke concerning Tidal Bay… fair play.

We don’t know what the festival holds but I am willing to be the answers to my questions are Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Probably not but I’m backing him anyway out of unadulterated love.

I hope your antepost portfolio is bulging like a drunk mans belly, fattening up nicely for the feast.  Today we shall try to add to your war chest.  We shall raise the capital required for war with a few tactical raids on the enemy supply lines.  I see a few opportunities, a few wagon carts of ammunition on the road guarded by merely a few dozen of their light lancers, we shall take them at the double, engage at close quarters and withdraw sharply with the Maria Theresa coins spilling from our saddle packs.  Shabash!

Anyone joining me at 5.30am to see Black Caviar?  The wonder mare is set to rock Flemington again and it is worth getting up for.  1/20 for Nelly to win in the morning, she is under rated in the UK by some after almost getting chinned at Royal Ascot.  She was legless in the conditions that day and was carrying injuries as well as being lighter after the exertions of travel.  Her terms, her turf tomorrow – Watch the monster devour the prey.

Jim Knight – Have a terrific day at Ascot, I would say be lucky, but you are… being there, the cold air on your face, the heaving hulks of sweating beasts after their exertions for your pleasure, drink beer, gamble with intent and have a ready eye for mischief.

I am focussing on Ascot, Haydock is left for someone else.

Saturday Ascot Tips

Conditions are soft and with Ascot being such a fast drying course and a dry forecast, I am edging towards good to soft horses.

The opening novice hurdle contains some decent sorts but looks short of a top class star.

Aaim to Prosper has not done an awful lot wrong – A late converter to hurdling, he was the only ever horse to win two Cesarewitch’s.  I am not convinced.

It is Up and Go that I think could be the pick of the bunch and probably offers the most scope.  He beat Many Clouds last time out at Wetherby and that horse went on to an Exeter success next time out.  Up and Go has fallen twice in the last year but was much more fluent last time.  I would get lumpy but the front running tactics concern me slightly.

I have no similar hesitations about recommending the 5/6 on offer about Rocky Creek in the second.  He looked to have the beating of Tour Des Champs last time before his rival fell and The Real Milan is not a convincing traveller.

The listed handicap chase is a trickier affair.  Vino Griego seemed to benefit from a much more patient ride last time out and looks a tempting prospect, despite a 10lb rise.  Instead, the Major is intrigued by the Kim Bailey trained The Rainbow Hunter at 9/1.  The horse has a national entry, Kim Bailey has an excellent Ascot record with his rare runners here and with a line through the last run at Chepstow (suspect not suited by the Welsh bog – When heavy there, it means swimming!) he has a live chance.  His winning form is over several subsequent winners and has a very solid feel to it… snap it up.

The 3.15 is a very trappy handicap, Bourne looked top draw when running down Dildar at Sandown before finding a lightweight but power packed McCoy way too good on Mr Watson at Cheltenham.  Not easily overlooked, but overlooked all the same.  Whitby Jack is of more interest having run well on return before picking up a race at Kempton last time out.  7lbs is unlikely to be a big problem.  Ruby Walsh is a very eye-catching booking for Queens Grove who looks a reasonable 9/1 shot.  On balance, Whitby Jack at 7/1 is the selection, have a slice and thank me later.

The main event is the very tasty morsel that is the Betfair Ascot Chase.  The Major is very interested to see Finians Rainbow return to chasing after a lengthy spell off.  Following last years thrilling and slightly controversial Champion Chase, Finians flopped and has been the subject of a wind operation.  His Champion Chase though was first class.  He beat an on form Sizing Europe fair and square in the Majors view, even if the omitted fence caused some issues.

I am not sure this will suit Captain Chris who looks more reliable this season but I am not entirely sure he will run as well today.  Hobbs could be in better form too.  Connections of Cue card are hoping that a drop back in trip will help the horse improved, the Major is watching this one only.

The real danger could be Somersby who has won at Ascot before and is a consistent sort who deserves a few Grade 1s.

On balance, I am siding with the horse I think could be top class and that is Finians Rainbow, 7/2 with Coral.

River Maigue and Far West will be battling out the penultimate contest and in receipt of a little weight, I gently suggest the latter.

In the bumper, Pipe probably has a good idea of where he stands with Red Sherlock 4/5 against Captain Cutter as the latter beat the formers’ stable companion last time out.  It is too hard to read into those form lines and while Red Sherlocks Towcester win was impressive, there was not a lot to beat.  He is 12/1 for the Champion Bumper though.

Good luck Jim.

Gowran Park – Zaidpour

The Saturday Gowran, Red Mills trial is a cracking days racing.  No bets for me, Zaidpour should do the business in a weak field for a Grade 2 but I just don’t trust him.

Wincanton – Zarkander

Zarkander and Grandouet are my main antepost interests for the Champion Hurdle and it would be a massive surprise to me if the Nicholls star could get beat here.  I think the 1/2 will look generous when he serves up a beating to this lot.

In the football – I am going to smash into Watford at 8/5 at Birmingham City.  The latter are in a bit of a state with the manager disciplining one of their most effective players (Zigic) over poor training (the worst he has ever seen apparently! The fans are siding with the player and all in, it is brewing for an unhappy camp and a venue that Watfords strong squad should easily garner three points from.

Picking Carlisle to win at Portsmouth 6/5 does not make me feel proud, yu have to feel for the Pompey fans but with their squad being peddled together from a series of short-term loans, there is little Guy Whittingham or his players can do for now.

The Crowdsourcing Multiple

I invited followers on the twitter feed to supply a NAP for the Saturday sport and had a number of responses… here they are:

@chesneywold – Somersby 3.50 Ascot

@charleah – Vino Griego – 2.40 Ascot

@doublehandful – Rocky Creek – 2.05 Ascot

@adamclarke501 – Luton to beat Millwall

@tankard999 – Bournemouth at Preston

@lukeyboy1325 – Swincombe Stone 3.05 Wincanton

My staking plan for this is an Alphabet.  That is a patent on Vino, Somersby and Rocky; a further patent on Luton, Bournemouth and Swincome and a yankee across the middle (Somersby, Rocky, Luton and Bournemouth).  Interesting!

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: The Rainbow Hunter, Rocky Creek, Watford and Finians Rainbow

May your dinner be fuelled by the riches your fellow-man has provided.  May each help the other feast.  Open a bottle of something nice.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Betfair Hurdle Tip at 25/1 (as well as two other cheeky ones!)… What are they doing with Bog Warrior?

Good evening from the Major who writes from the comfort of his own home returning after business away.  Worcestershire is a little blustery and cold, a night to be indoors.

Today the tips at Bangor performed poorly enough.  Two winners from five is reasonable for a return if they were not 5/4 and 2/5 respectively.  Still, at least we felt the blood pumping.

It is not long until the Cheltenham festival.  The Major will continue to post his Cheltenham content here.  That feeling deep down is building, a low humming buzz.. transponders are activating, the signal from the central station is pulsating out across the land… can you hear it, bend your ear ‘and the tapes go up for the Supreme to get the 2013 festival underway…’

When I think about why I love racing so much, the word that sum it up is richness.  In my last post I lamented the loss of Darlan and crassly compared the loss of life to the beauty of the sport.  It is a harsh calculation.

The richness of racing is a beautiful thing.  In a world where entertainment output is increasingly simple and targeted at morons, racing remains a deep subject weaving form, language, art, science, human nature and luck into a fine tapestry.  When I first attended a course, amongst other basics, I craved to know what ‘off the bridle’ meant.  I do not believe the sport elitist, the answers are accessible.  Yet, there is such a depth to the sport, with time comes wisdom.

I believe it Descartes that suggested our lives were like sparks from a flame.  As children the spark is bright, we are hungry for knowledge and carry open minds. As we age, our minds gnarl, the spark dims, we long for knowledge no more.

To the sports, keep the spark alive…

Newbury Tips

The opening maiden is a classic punch up between the two top yards represented by Chatterbox 4/5 (Henderson) and Lac Fortana 7/4 (Nicholls).  Many will see the form of the former has a strong feel to it having put My Tent or Yours away and the latter is a debutante for Nicholls from a very strong novice string he has to deploy.

I am not convinced that the former has shown that much and giving more than a stone to a what is likely a very good horse in Lac Fortana might be a big ask.

The Denman Chase at 2.25 is a chance for Silviniaco Conti to cement his Gold Cup claims.  The 4/6 shot has been impressive this year and along with Long Run, he is my idea of the Gold Cup winner.  He has to put this lot away easily for me to be right.  The Giant Bolster is nowhere near good enough to take advantage off just 4lbs lighter in my view and has been over-rated since the last Gold Cup.

The 3pm is the Game Spirit and Wishfull Thinking is the current favourite, followed by Majala.  Yet neither of these have a Game Spirit profile as not many winners are nine, let alone ten.  I struggle to back Wishfull Thinking too as he has two ways of running.  Instead, I am having a slice of Edgardo Sol at 6/1 who has performed well this year and while he might prefer slightly better ground, I think it is allowed for in that price.

The big one from a punting perspective is the Betfair Hurdle.  My Tent or Yours is a 9/2 favourite and I am not a fan.  Cotton Mill is 8/1 and being backed, some popularity may have been gleaned from the Pricewise endorsement for the Champion Hurdle, I am not a fan.

Interestingly Geffen has two leading charges, one trained with Nicky Henderson and one with Paul Nicholls.  Of the two I much prefer Pearl Swan who I think has a decent chance and is freely available at 9/1 after prepping for this in a jumpers bumper, looks a plot sort – Worth noting that Nicholls won the Betfair last year with Zarkander who went straight to the Champion Hurdle… Pearl Swan also has a Champion Hurdle entry so it looks the same route.

The Betfair Hurdle tip from the Major though is a much bigger price.  Caid Du Berlais is 25/1 with Stan James and I think is worth a little punt.  Yes, the horse is 6lbs wrong but I think that could be an irrelevance   You have to ignore the collateral form from his Chepstow run and just accept that much better is expected… have a slice.  I am going to suggest a slice of Pearl Swan too at 9s and why not stick a couple of speculative quid on a Nicholls 1-2 with both?  Three tips in one race… What sort of tipster am I?  A bloody bad one is the answer and I am also suggesting you have a slice of Swing Bowler at 11/1.  The Pipe mare is out of Galileo and has been mighty impressive to date.

Leopardstown Tips

The opening juvenile hurdle can be taken by Diakala although with some other very exciting prospects in opposition,  a light interest is advised.

The 2.15 is an opportunity for Champagne Fever to put his last run behind him and confirm he is a leading Cheltenham chance.  Both Champagne Fever and Waaheb have had their colours lowered by the now JP owned Jezki.  The former probably has the edge on formline and 9/4 with Stan James is too big.

In the Moriarty Novice Chase, the Major is going to opt for Boston Bob who is the obvious choice and priced at just the right side of evens.  This horse is currently second in the market for the RSA.  His Albert Bartlett win was excellent and although he won his chase this year, it did require him to dig deep.  Back up in trip, I think he will find things much more to his liking and maybe Dynaste will have something to worry about if he wins well.

I am genuinely stunned that the connections of Bog Warrior are taking on Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.  I am in no doubt that the horse is in that class.  Well OK, there is some doubt in my mind but I just love the way this horse races, I am a long term fan so feel I can assert my strong view that he should remain hurdling.  Why we are experimenting chasing again now is a mystery, he has a fair crack if sent to the World Hurdle, what is tomorrow about?  I love him and I will back him tomorrow and I don’t care what anyone thinks.  Don’t like it? Piss off.

To the football…

Swansea are constantly under-rated and so I am happy to be backing them at 10/11 at home to QPR.  Charlton at 7/5 look a bet at home to Birmingham.  I like Tranmere at 19/10 to win at Orient too.

May your dinner be delightful in company that is exhilarating.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Diakala, Boston Bob, Edgardo Sol and Lac Fortana.

A few Friday thoughts including a 40/1 shot… plus the tragic end of Darlan

Good evening from the Major who flash types a post from the Berkshire countryside where the air is cool and damp.  Away from home, fine hotel, roaring fire, all is well.

It is the first time I have posted since the tragic conclusion to the Doncaster listed hurdle on Monday.  Watching Darlan cruise into the race hard on the steel before tragically catapulting over the last and clearly lying distressed and fatally injured was a tough watch.

There are often times where the sport of horse racing brings death to the fore.  Darlan was just one of three horses that died on course on Monday, an unusually black day.  It is an unavoidable consequence of the sport, even if it can be remedied by better safety measures.

Darlan though was no fault of the course, jockey or trainer, it was a tragic fall.  My twitter timeline was choked with genuinely distressed racing fans.  Some, clearly contemplating whether the sport is worth the cost.

That is not an easy question to answer.

My own view is that while hard to stomach, racing reflects a truth in life that safety is not all.  The union of jockey and horse, locked in racing combat, negotiating obstacles… it is hard because it is meant to be.

The thin nature of the answer troubles me and I will dwell on it more.

Bangor Friday Tips

Golden Hoof should win the opener although you might have to hold your nose at the punitive odds on pricing (8/13).  He is stepped down from the standard of the Tolworth, soft underfoot conditions pose no problem and it should be an easy winner.  Gee Hi is more worrying to the Major than Blackwater King as the former is less exposed and if ready for a big run could be a fly in the ointment… small stakes.

In the second, another small field of novices and another odds on shot 2/5 in Violin Davis for the Major.  She looks a better animal than the rest.

The 2.35 is a three mile novice hurdle and I fancy 10/3 shot Dungeel representing the McCain yard to win.  Soft conditions are a plus and the two wins at Leicester and Catterick look solid.   Midnight Appeal is a tough chase campaigner and might be booked for a place.  O Faolains Boy represents Curtis and she has a good record at Bangor.  All of them are overlooked in favour of  Phillip Hobb’s Ballytober at 7/1 – The first run on return from injury was woeful but that form was left well behind when running on through the mud to score readily at Ascot last time out. 7s is a fine price.

The staying chase over best part of four miles is going to take some getting in the soft ground and there are many dubious contenders in the field.  We have a fifteen year old in Victory Gunner and less than half the field have completed their last three assignments.   My Boy Paddy finished well in a race that has worked out very nicely at Chepstow but 4/1 feels prohibitive, he should be involved.  Instead, the Major is going to opt for complete outsider 40/1 shot Gidam Gidam.   You have to get over a patchy record including a woeful return to action recently.  Yet, if you do put a line through that, there is some fine form in there, including a win off a stone and a half higher…

I cannot stomach the 3.45, too little quality, find a pin, stick it in and good luck to you.

In the bumper, I am surprised to see Tonvadosa at 2/1 on Betfair this evening. The win at Towcester was eye catching, while the fallen foe may not be up to much, the style of victory was memorable.

The Hunter Chase is an interesting race.  That’s Rhythm is at the veteran end of his career and falling last time out may have caused more aches and pains than when he was a young man.  Noble Ben has had some issues and missed some time off the track, he is 11 himself but has won at Cheltenham and I am backing him to run well at 6/1.

Courage, roll the dice.

Sunday Racing Tips from Punchestown for the Tied Cottage Card

Good morning from the Major who writes from a decidedly cold Worcestershire scene with an overcast sky and damp floor.

Yesterday was not the Black Saturday of last week but neither was it redemption.  The Major remains firmly on the cold list and there is only one thing to do…. punt my way out.

I thought it was an odd day of racing.  McCoy seemingly had an excellent book of rides but failed to sparkle on many.  Captain Conan was all but beat before rallying and taking advantage of Third Intention tying up.  Perhaps it was the glue like conditions that saw so few horses running to their best…

Sunday sees a great day of racing at Mussleburgh and Punchestown and I shall once more daub my face in war paint.

Punchestown Card – Tied Cottage

The opener revolves around the Mullins French import Upazo who has been beaten at prohibitive odds twice already but has shown ability in both defeats.  Jennies Jewel from the latter defeat has confirmed the form to be solid going down in a reasonable manner to Glenns Melody next time up.

So Upazo is good if not spectacular so the key question is whether anything is hiding amongst this list of maidens…

Byerley Babe is the key threat – the Thurles bumper he won does not seem to be up to much but the style was impressive.

In the each way prices, I like Follow the Sign the most but feel it is best watched today.  On balance I am going to back Upazo at 5/4.

The second, 1.20pm,  is a fantastic novice affair, the Moscow Flyer Grade 2.

Don Cossack is trying to restore a once lofty reputation.  Along with Starky, Ned Buntline and Mozoltov, he will enjoy the mud he faces here.  Don Cossack fell when chasing Pont Alexandre last time and while he was never threatening the leader, bear in mind two things.  He never travelled that day suggesting something was slightly amiss and secondly, Pont Alexandre is prominent in the novice staying markets at Cheltenham suggesting that it is no mug.  You can read  the trainer Gordon Elliots thoughts here.

Back in this company and freshened up he is a big threat.  Remember he gave a good beating to Sizing Gold in a bumper and while that horse has also had a beating from Pont Alexandre, it represents a strong formline.

Mozoltov also has some form tied up with the premier horses, including being placed behind Champagne Fever.  Mullins has won this race twice in the last five years with Gagewell Flyer and Mikael D’Haguenet.  The latter was always highly regarded, the former less so.

It is hard to read Ned Buntlines form having being disappointing on his penultimate run but shaping much better winning last time.  That race has a weakish look to it but you can only beat them well.

This is a race that is hard to read.  On balance I am going with Mozoltov.  As much as Don Cossack boasts the highest reputation, Mullins is in sparkling form and I am backing him to make it three wins from six runnings of the Moscow Flyer.  Incidentally if you need a bit of cheering up as I do, have a watch of the 2007 Tingle Creek in which Azertyuiop and Well Chief fail to peg back the most awesome of two milers.

The third is a Pertemps qualifier and Colbert Station is an obvious call on recent form, beating a big field in his latest assignment.  His earlier runs behind Roi du Mee are strong too.  His chase mark is two stone bigger than this hurdle mark so the chances are clear.  Technically his record on heavy is dubious but many of those runs were credible.

Sizing Europe looks to have another penalty kick in the fourth.

The Cross Country is a bit of a specialist event for both the horses and the punters!  While Bostons Angel looks the most talented horse in the line up, I am never confident about backing with confidence a cross country horse.  If I feel like an interest I will go with the equally obvious call of Arabella Boy, 7/2, who represents Enda Bolger, the specialist yard for these contests.

In the 3.20, I am opting for Corals 16/1 about Beeverstown.  There are more obvious calls for Lambro and I also like Quiscover Fontaine who while tackling a distance too short for him is the most proven of these in the mud.  My tip though has shown some good novice ability and I think his jumping will stand up to this. He comes with a health warning as he often fails to complete and even unseated at the start last time out.

In the 3.50, spare a thought for Vesper Bell who has to shoulder a stone and a half more than the rest of the field.  I am not a fan of Arbor Supreme who these trips on this ground must be a real labour at the age of 11.  On balance, while having to shoulder a big burden over a staying trip, Vesper Bell gets my vote on class.

I am opting for The Ramblin Kid in the bumper, Nina will get us out of trouble!

Good luck to us all.