Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Saturday Sermon – 22/1 and 40/1 tips for the Lincoln, Cork, Haydock, Meydan… Plus football

Good morning from the Major who writes from a cold Worcestershire rural scene where Jack Frost has bitten hard overnight.  Winter is the guest that has overstayed their welcome.

Next Sunday the Major runs the Paris marathon.  It is my second marathon after running the Berlin event in September of last year.

My final preparation run for Paris was in Hyde Park last Sunday.  An organised event with 1,000 participants all gathered together at the bandstand at 9.30am.  For the Major this meant a 5.20 alarm call and stood at the start line in sub-zero temperatures with a ferocious wind chill… The most pleasant moment was as the runners huddled in the starting pen.  I know my Attenborough, I selfishly headed to the middle.

The Hyde Park facilities lacked showers.  After the 20 miles I just could not get warm and I set off for home to get showered ( a three hour journey) but on the way a combination of the cold, the strange vinegary smell and aching muscles persuaded me to stop and shower at Bicester services.

Now the sign on the shower door is not encouraging… ‘PLEASE DO NOT DEFECATE IN THESE SHOWERS, USE THE TOILETS PROVIDED’.  It begs the question why would anyone do that?  Even though the showers were clean, that image remains with me.  That my friends, is branding at its worst.

I used to work solely in a marketing and worked for a man who placed great emphasis on stylish production.  At first I was only sceptical, not about his eye for it, rather that it was all a bit pointless.  I was in the camp of those that believe that as humans we act as independent entities and that styling messages was more fluff that substance.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

Over time, my views have become more extreme to the opposite, you could say that the philistine converted.  I saw this Italian beer advert on a couple of London billboards, I missed the TV campaign last year but this image stayed with me for all of the right reasons… Stuart would be proud.

Set thy mind young warriors, Cheltenham is behind us and the landscape is changing.  Our theatre of war is moving to places we have not visited in a long time, flat tracks.

Saturday Racing Tips – The Lincoln

The Lincoln is a race that I would normally have given a wide berth to.  Early in the season, a handicap, delayed for bad weather – There are lots of factors against us and given it is 7/1 the field, it is a hard enough puzzle already.

Yet, soft ground gives us a chance.  Conditions on the flat have an even greater impact than those on national hunt horses in the Majors view and soft is pretty extreme for these animals.  We are looking for those who can handle it, in my red line criteria.  Middle to high draws are favourable.  After that, horse and jockey ability, trainer form and all of the usual factors we use to convince ourselves we have solved a puzzle!

Then we watch the race and should we win, we shall convince ourselves that this calculation was worth it, that we pursued the glory of intellect, analysing information bought us these riches.  Rather than luck.  Is it worth it?  Well, I am carrying on, my results are barely profitable but even that is a victory.

Memory Cloth, Swiftly Done, Chosen Character, Majestic Myles, Chapter Seven,   Global Village, Justonefortheroad and Jacks Revenge are the horses that make this smaller list.

Majestic Myles is a Richard Fahey horse, he won the race last year with Brae Hill (who would have been of much interest racing off the same mark but for the ground factor), Majestic carries top weight, has to overcome a half year absence and looks stable second string.  yet at 50/1 I would not put you off a small slice.

Probably of more interest is Fahey’s other runner, Justonefortheroad.  He is a general 10/1 shot, goes well fresh and in the mud and is probably well set for this.  His race in the Spring Mile was very good and he did the best of his side that day.

Memory Cloth is of serious interest to the Major.  I often struggle to get the Ellison stable right but this horse is proven on the surface and has been playing around badly at the all weather game.  Now back in more suitable conditions, it looks like a pop at this race has been the plan all along… 22/1 is a big old price.  The only temperance is the draw, stall 4 is not ideal.

Chosen Character is interesting, the last run suggests that the handicap mark is still workable.  Natasha Eaton has a 10% strike rate in the last two years which is acceptable and she has a very strong record with this yard too.  Stall 13 is a good draw… 40/1 with BetVictor – Very good.

It is these last two that interest me the most.  Have a pop at both and a £1 reverse forecast.  After all, we can only dream but if the Major has the 1-2 here, you would want to be on!!  If you just want the one, go with Chosen Character.

Cork – Listed Stakes 3.10pm

This is a decent little contest and £26k is up for grabs.

Srucahan is a progressive horse in the race who is the one who has demonstrated a liking for these extreme conditions too (heavy).  Inxile is a danger as he should be OK in the mud and the trainer has a good record when raiding Ireland.

David O’Meara has sent Switcher across and that is an advert in itself, I am a bit concerned about heavy conditions but otherwise, it looks good.

Cape of Approval gets the nod, progressive and fine in conditions, we get the services of Wayne Lordan, a jockey I like – 13/2 is a reasonable price.

Haydock Racing Tips

The Major is not going to write about the Grand National this year.  I am just not interested in it.  It sends out all of the wrong vibes about our sport, is the most unsafe race we have and why we want that in the shop window, I do not know.

The opening race on the Haydock card is over three and three quarter miles.  King Fontaine would be a danger to all if returning to anything like form but that has not looked on the cards.

Jurisdiction looks mildly progressive at these staying distances but is anything from certain to have his own way at the front of affairs.  Under more pressure, his jumping will come under scrutiny, still interesting.

Handy Andy is of course of massive interest.  I am less worried about the Newbury shape of his best form than I might be and an 8lb rise is perfectly reasonable for his last win.  This race was not his first choice but he is clearly ready to go.  My worry is the ground, he is starting to look better for cut and a return to good to soft (1 win / 8 starts) might not be ideal.

Sod it, I am taking a chance on King Fontaine at 10/1.

The Saturday Hotpots

I also think Kandari at 2/1 will pick up the 5pm at Haydock.  Jupiter Rex at 4/6 looks a shoe in again at Newton Abbot (2.45).

Dubai World Cup

3.05 Shea Shea NAP

5.20 Gentildonna

6.05 Royal Delta

The Football

I prefer Wigan to Norwich and evens is a big old price.  Everton are 7/10 to beat Stoke at home and that looks generous.  Cardiff are 5/4 to win at the Posh… have a slice.

May your dinner be glorious and bountiful and in good company too.  Courage, roll those dice.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15: Cardiff, Shea Shea, Cape of Approval and Kandari

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The Cheltenham Competition Settled… Donation Made – Footsteps Foundation

Morning All

With racing off,  thought it timely to settle the Cheltenham competition which drew seven entrants.  Thank you for taking part… Let’s take a look…  Here is the original post.

Matthew scored one winner from his selections which were:

Wow - Matthew beats 4 of the 7 who dared take him on!!!

Wow – Matthew beats 4 of the 7 who dared take him on!!!

Kyhber Kim, Sizing Europe, FiveforThree, Captain Chris, The New One, Dodging Bullets, Champion Court, Milo Man, Terminal and Module.

If you did not get to see the young lad in action, then it is worth watching this explanation of his selection of Dodging Bullets… which boils down to the ‘horse having a boost’.

Adam Clarke beat that with Cue Card and Champagne Fever.  Well done Champ.

Gary Savage beat it with Hurricane Fly and Back in Focus.  Congrats.

Martin Hill I believe lost to it with just Sprinter Sacre.

I make Mark Sumner a narrow winner with Sprinter Sacre and Bobs Worth.

Strange Rumblings – I think you were beaten I am afraid, just Sprinter to you winners column.

Paul – I think you were the same.

Luke Elder – I do believe you were also a casualty!

That makes the final scores…

EVERYONE ELSE 3

MATTHEW 4

I said I would donate a £5 for each of you that beat him.  I rounded up to the attached donation.

As advertised this was a competition of goodwill and I thank you for entering, if you can make your donation, then the Footsteps Foundation I know will be really grateful.  If the four of Matthews defeated foes donate their £10 then we are close to a £100 donation which for a bit of Cheltenham fun is laudable.

Thanks again all - It is a good cause

Thanks again all – It is a good cause

The link for donations.

The cause is awesome, have a look at the website, particularly the testimonials.  What could make you feel better than helping young kids, many of whom are suffering with cerebral palsy?

Most of all I would like to thank you for taking part.  I write the Major because I enjoy charting my battle with the turf accountant.  It is free, barely profitable and unhinged.  I consider the readers to be a community of like minded souls that realise what is important in life and your contribution to the Cheltenham competition reaffirmed this.  Thank You.

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury Tips, Anger, Weather and some football tips too

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire shielding itself from the blizzard, winter clings doggedly to the year, yielding not to the start of the flat season, impervious to the date.

The coldest March in 50 years.  I could have told you that stood at the one furlong marker on the Cheltenham hill on the opening day of the festival.  Cold did not do it justice.  Freezing would be more honest but then the wind blew and it was as though all layers of protective clothing as well as my skin, muscle and sinew were rendered worthless against the stabbing wind stricking right at the bone.

Saturday racing hangs in the balance.  The Welsh, Scots, Irish and English have all been denied a meeting as Bangor, Kelso, Gowran and Stratford have abandoned.  Southwell should be fine but Doncaster and Newbury have to survive morning inspections.  Newbury looks to have more chance than Donnie as it rests on the ground not being waterlogged as opposed to snow.  The course is optimistic but the Major is not so sure – We might face losing both Newbury and Doncaster.

A young dashing sort called Steve is hopefully off to Newbury in fine fettle and with good company, he asked me to mark the Newbury card and I shall.  Good luck to you and your kith, wear layers concentrating on waterproofing and warmth.  Consider several pairs of socks, gloves, scarves, hats, bright plastic ponchos and any other garment useful for fighting such foul elements.  Comfort beats style eleven times from ten.

I had a three-hour drive in this awful weather earlier.  Through the grim dark grey mess I witnessed some horrific driving and some furious reactions.  Drivers wishing to go faster weaving through lanes aggressively, horns blaring, lights flashing.  The reactions are what interest me.  Some people when cut up on the motorway treat it as though their honour has been crossed.  Such pointless energy expended in futile expression.  People who drive badly are unlikely to change habits from your actions.  Thus you achieve little and a better frame of mind is to let these instances wash over you as water from a ducks back.

Ask what such anger says about you… As Gandhi said The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Newbury Tips

The opener looks an absolute shoe-in for classy flat convert Poet.  Evens is available on Betfair this evening but I suspect 8/11 to be the morning price and I still would not put you off.  There is little else in this field that could compete. Poet was a listed winner on the flat and although not turning to hurdling until late in life, he has put in enough to suggest he is well capable of winning this.  For one, he is the only horse in the field to have won on heavy ground and conditions will be fine.

If there is a danger, it will come from Seventh Sky who put in his best performance last time out at Taunton, winning a handicap.  I do not expect him to throw down too serious a challenge.

2.20 Mares Novice Chase

There is a solid argument that Fentara is lightly treated on her form against Super Duty who in turn was narrowly denied in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.  Fentara has also won two from four on heavy ground.  Yet this is competitive and this one is prone to big errors which is not ideal when facing the tough Newbury fences.

Marie Des Anges is interesting but I am not sure she is suited to a proper test in the mud over this trip.  She is one of two decent shots that Anthony Honeyball has in the race and I actually prefer her to the other, Jackies Solitaire.

The two I am most interested in are Violin Davis and Tara Rose.  The former had the better of the latter at Bangor earlier in the season when giving 3lbs.  She has to concede a further 10 here but I think she can even in these conditions.

She has the advantage of the excellent Fehily in the saddle and Harry Fry the trainer has sent 5 to Newbury in recent times with 4 winning… Have a considerable slice of the 6/1 with Paddy Power and thank me later.

2.55 Mares Novice Hurdle

Henderson and Sherwood have won five of the last six runnings of this race and their runners have to be afforded respect.  Only Henderson has an entry and Glorious Twelfth, a former Cheltenham bumper winner needs to prove that bottomless conditions are what she needs.

Ballinahow Star is where the money is tonight but I am always wary of backing horses returning from a break in such tough conditions.

I am struggling to split two in the race, Too Generous and Highland Retreat.

Both are proven in the mud and both are making handicap debuts.  There is an argument that both are on workable marks.  Too Generous is certainly on an upwards curve even if she had to work a bit for her last win.  If pushed I would just favour Too Generous despite Highland Retreat being another horse to benefit from the excellent Noel Fehily.

3.30 Newbury Handicap Chase

Handy Andy is a Newbury specialist having won three of four starts at the course.  The yard is in good touch but I wonder if the mark is catching up with him.

Loch Ba could potentially bounce back to glory after never looking at home at the Cheltenham Festival.  Rhum is unlikely to get the soft lead he needs to be competitive.

The one I like the most is Cedre Bleu.  Hailing from the Nicholls camp, he warrants a good look and of all of the runners, I think he rates the likeliest to act in these extreme conditions.  Handy Andy rate the danger.

4.05 Juvenile Hurdle

The two French imports which Tony Carroll has in the race are both potential grenades.  Lac Sacre beat Thinger Licht in a claimer in Enghien but Carroll claimed them both.

While it might not be too obvious that Handazan is well handicapped, at least he is proven in the conditions.  The Major tentatively overlooks Handazan and Lac Sacre in favour of 7/1 In The Crowd who looks like an improver who will be happy to mix it in the mud.

4.40 Bumper

Chase the Wind and Fabrika are the two I am interested in.  The former finished narrowly behind Cheltenham Champion Bumper contender Vieux Lion Rouge on debut.  The latter represents Henderson and Geraghty and will have lots of supporters.

Trainer comments regarding Fabrika, put me in her camp at 3/1.

5.10 Handicap Chase

Sustainability has not had his mark changed for a close up second at Wincanton and to the eye, this horse looks a thorough stayer.  Newbury is likely to be a much more suitable venue and at 11/4, I feel a good bet in order.

Doncaster – The Lincoln

I am not going through the Doncaster card because I do not think it will make it.  Should I be wrong then I will throw one tip out for the Lincoln.

Shamaal Nibras is a Hannon horse with a solid record in soft ground.  I think it could be well treated and the break is of no concern given the hands the animal is in.

I promised you one Donnie tip but cannot help but give you another.  If Bog Warrior captures my heart over obstacles, Jack Dexter is the love of my flat life.  What a heart this horse has, winning back to back competitive handicaps last year.  I do not see any reason not to be lumping on!

To the football…

Portsmouth have been showing some spirit of late but Coventry are overpriced at 5/4 to get a result on the South Coast.  I am on Tranmere at 21/20 to take three points at home too.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Violin Davis, Cedre Bleu, Sustainability and Coventry.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Midlands National, The Winter Derby – Brief Cheltenham Debrief and some football

Good morning and an apology for the belated post from the Major who writes from in grey and damp Worcestershire and with an exhausted mind.

I was sober all week for Cheltenham but can report that the experience is as exhausting with or without the liquor element.  The standing, the cold, the walking, the cheering, the continuous repetitive nature of it, reeling on endlessly, a great loop repeating itself, remorseless, we stumble through the week like some great wounded animal and blink bleary eyed at the end, gasping for air out of the experiences that swamp our mind.

Most of all, the horses you have followed with your heart and those you have followed with the wallet cause such great emotion that the effect is tremendously emotionally draining.  Oh Bog Warrior, I wish you a recovery from your fracture, how you gave everyone a view of your head in chest bobbing along style and for a moment, just a moment…

To put this whole weeks draining nature into context, when Salsify picked up the pieces after Oscar Delta declined certain victory in order to run on for a final circuit… well, I could not muster anything.  Cheers would have been inappropriate, humble gratitude for the divine intervention perhaps but I was too empty after watching an epic Gold Cup.

Long Run and Sir Des Champs looked momentarily to be the two to fight it our but Bobs Worth stayed on and after the last looked like a real champion.  What is great about that is that all of the main players should be back next year – What a season we have to look forward to.

Our Conor looked the most impressive of the new young things, even more so than The New One.   He cruised up the hill without even having to be asked a question, champion hurdle anyone?

Quevega was awesome, doing it the hard way.  Simonsig did the business but lacked sparkle.  Sprinter Sacre was imperious.

Taquin du Seuil, Long Run, Rolling Star, Arabella Boy, Zarkander all cost me but Champagne Fever, Cue Card, Simonsig, Quevega, Salsify and At Fishers Cross made for a decent week for the Major.  Nothing spectacular, nothing that could match the moment of the week for me.  The applause broke out between the second last and the last for the Aeroplane as a Cheltenham crowd recognised true class.  The best of my generation… Masterminded looked the same but there is more of a sense of permanence about Sprinter Sacre.

What riches Henderson holds for next year.  Bobs Worth, Long Run, Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig et al…..

There is so much more I could write about what I have seen this week.  I just hope my mind allows me to preserve some of those observations to relay to you at a later stage.

JT McNamara has had words aplenty gifted to him on Twitter.  I, like you, wish him and his family a speedy recovery.

Emotionally drained, you will forgive a short post.  I have reviewed the Midlands National but did so like a man offered a wafer thin mint following a hearty meal…

The Midlands National

You know the score, trends tell us light weights, thorough stayers et cetera et cetera…  Do you want me to find you a new angle.. bad luck.

This race is going to be gruelling.  I am not sure it is what my spirit needs and I probably will not watch.  Over 4 miles in the heavy slop… Christ they are going to finish legless.  Actually, I think finishers are going to be in short supply.

Master Overseer is the only horse to have won over anything like the distance and so must be considered.  He has a big weight to lumber around though and so I am not convinced.  Pipe has won the last two renewals of the Midlands national and so as well as Master Overseer you have to respect Big Occasion.  I think the latter is the best chance, against jockey bookings.

Chac Du Cadran is the obvious candidate having powered clear over three and a half miles in soft last time.  The best part of a stone rise might not stop him but he had things his way that day and he will definitely be taken on up front today.

The Major though is offering his Midlands National tip as 7/1 Cool Operator.  He has an advantage of being in the handicap proper, has an exemplary record in the slop and looks like a likely sort for these stayers races.

The Winter Derby

The Winter Derby is a decent addition to the racing calendar but one which largely passes the Major by.

Still, in order to build a potential mothership scenario, I start with Premier Loco at 9/2.

My Selection won this last year and is a bit of a Lingfield specialist.  He showed he still has a touch of class at the end of last year when finishing within a handful of lengths of a Group 2 field.  Back at his favoured track, he is sure to go well.

Cai Shen is best watched although finished placed in this race last year.  Since then he has hardly built on it but given the yard have had runners with credit in the last fortnight (as opposed to the other market leaders who have not had any), he is considered.

The favourite Faraaj, 2/1,  is the most progressive looking in the field.  He has won at Lingfield which is a massive plus.  He has placed form in the Italian 2,000 Guineas and the Breeders Cup form is very good.  It is the fact has also has proven himself at Lingfield which gives me the confidence and so I am going with the favourite in the Winter Derby.

The Football

Everton look a little tarnished and so 11/10 Man City at Goodison is a bet.

I have been against Liverpool most of the season but they are starting to really perform and may have too much class for Southampton at evens.

Wigan smashed Everton last week in the FA Cup and a home game against Newcastle is what their relegation battle needs.  13/10.

MONEY TRAIN – Watford are at Barnsley…  choo choo 6/4.  I think Cardiff will also win at 13/8.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15… Cool Operator 7/1, Faraaj 15/8, Watford 6/4 and Cardiff 13/8.

Courage and roll those dice…..

Friday Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – The Major is Chasing, JT McNamara, The Triumph… last chance for glory

Good evening from the Major who writes from an overcast Worcestershire scene that is positively balmy compared to recent conditions.

The Major is tired.  Three days of battle cling to my clothes and skin and there is a certain stench of defeat about it.  Today we scored a magnificent win with Cue Card, whom I gave a strong indication to load the cannons on, but there ends the success.

Should you feel  disappointed  I hope it eases your mind to understand that the Major was significantly invested in Sam Winner, Ballynagour and Oscar Whiskey all of which floundered hopelessly at one stage or another.

Twitter is alight with thoughts and prayers for JT McNamara who suffered a fall on Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir, the consequence of which was him suffering a severe neck injury.  Powerful barbiturates were used to induce a coma and the racecourse medical team flew with him on the air ambulance to Bristol.  My own losses become inconsequential.

A bitter taste was left by that turn of events which unfurled as the racecourse team were dealing with Matuhi who suffered a fatal fall in the previous race.

This all followed the surprising news that Davy Russell had suffered a punctured lung, although the cause remains a mystery.  He is stood down and tonight there remains a mystery as to who will ride Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup on Friday…

The Major kept good company today and included in the group was a chap whose methodology involved selecting horses on a theme from current events.  He selected the papal election and so used that when reviewing each race.  To build my own knowledge of what is likely to transpire in the 2013 Cheltenham Festival championship races, I have invested hundreds of hours following national hunt racing.  You know already what happened.  He selected the winner of the first two races at 25/1 and 20/1 before following up with some rather tasty each way places including Celestial Halo (of course) at 40/1.  Good on him, I wish every man his good fortune, I just hope our own enterprise is rewarded tomorrow.

Today was a critical day and it swung things in the bookmakers direction.  We need winners.  We have just one day remaining.

Stick with me, it is darkest before the dawn.  As Roosevelt (Theodore) said it is better to be faithful than famous.  Either that, or pick a theme and knock yourself out!

The Triumph

Our Conor is going to give Ireland a terrific chance of winning a Triumph, not a traditionally strong race for the raiding team.  He has already had the measure of many of his Irish rivals this winter including Stocktons Wing and Diakali.

On the home team, the probable best chance is Rolling Star who beat Irish Saint  on British debut on heavy ground and could be anything.  That win was at Cheltenham and mighty impressive.  Henderson has won three of the last twelve Triumph hurdles and so clearly he is to be feared.

Complicating the scene is the ground / weather.  The rain is likely to not be serious until later in the afternoon and so this will be a good ground race.  That brings in some serious questions for Rolling Star and Our Conor, neither of whom have raced on good.

Lac Fontana has an interesting profile having not disgraced himself against better horses in novice company and now stepping down to juvenile grade for this.  Jockey booking suggests Far West has the measure of him at home.

On balance, Our Conor is getting the line – I am not convinced the yard is in the best shape, the horse has done better in smaller fields and he has the travel to contend with.

Both Far West and Rolling Star have won at Cheltenham.  I cannot split them but will do so on trainer form at the festival which means that Rolling Star gets the nod.

The County Hurdle

The favourite in the County is Cotton Mill, well thought of by Pricewise, enough to make him his antepost Champion Hurdle pick.  The County is a much less ambitious target.

Cotton Mill may have some class but the County is often won by a springer from lower in the weights and that is the Major’s angle into the race.  Age 5/6, Mullins horses particularly interesting…

This leads us straight to Tennis Cap at 12/1 who I think has an excellent chance.  Ranjaan has been the selection of Ruby which is an advert in itself but with Ditcheat not showing their usual swagger this week, I prefer Paul Townend aboard my pick

The Albert Bartlett

I am not sure how the Albert Bartlett will feel tomorrow after we witnessed the rise of equine and jockey stars Brindisi Breeze and Campbell Gillies and their tragic deaths last year.  I am sure the course will have some moment planned to commemorate them.

What a great advert The New One gave for At Fishers Cross in his demolition job in the Neptune on Wednesday.  That Cheltenham race now looks key to this.

Utopie des Bordes has some experience which is an advantage but I am not sure it is good enough.

Ballycasey lines up to have a pop at At Fishers Cross where Inish Island failed.  Neither I think will get to the favourite.  All evidence to me says that At Fishers Cross is very very classy and has a great attitude.  If the rain is not soaked in by the time of the Albert Bartlett I would not be too concerned as the tip is an Oscar bred animal and should be fine under firmer conditions.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips

The 2013 Gold Cup has a decent feel to it with a number of potential winners and a great story to unfold.

At this point last year, I was convinced Sir Des Champs would go on to be crowned 2013 Gold Cup winner but he seems to have a lost a little edge.  That said he has improved with each run this year, looks a thorough stayer and clearly likes Cheltenham.  Yet, the standing down of Davy Russell is a final negative for the Major.

I cannot have the Giant Bolster.  Won’t place.  Neck on line.

At 10/1 Captain Chris would be a consideration having run Long Run so close in the King George but rain might put pay to his chances.

Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti are harder to split.

Silviniaco Conti has two negatives that put him out of the picture for the Major.  Firstly, he has no Cheltenham win to his name and while he has looked mighty impressive this term, he has yet to face this sort of challenge.  Secondly, I alluded earlier to the fact that Ditcheat just look a little short of sparkle this week.

That leaves me with a Henderson 1-2.  The order is the tricky thing.  The trend of not regaining a Gold Cup (with the exception of Kauto Star) does not bother me.  Long Run picked up his at a very tender age and there is no reason why he cannot win another simply because others have not.  He probably was not on full song when Conti beat him on seasonal debut, his King George win was brave and overall the Major is not against him at all.

Bobs Worth won a Hennessy and showed he had staying power doing so.  He has 4 course wins from 4 starts, including an Albert Bartlett and an RSA.  The Hennessy makes me slightly nervous because Tidal Bay is a yardstick that I think over-rated.  I might be the only person to think this but it makes me concerned about the Irish Hennessy form too, a view supported by the trouncing Cue Card gave First Lieutenant.  A further concern would be deteriorating conditions with Bobs Worth only experience incredibly being on goodish ground.

That leaves me with Long Run.  11/2 is available and I think it is well worth a decent wedge even if we are hampered by the Amateur Jockey.

The Foxhunters

Jockey booking is essential and after that, horse quality is required.  I think Salisfy can defend his title but 11/4 is not much of a price, particularly as the ground is going to be getting away from him.

I much prefer the 10/1 about Cottage Oak available with Corals.  The more rain he better for this one whose price accounts for the talented looking but inexperienced rider.

The Martin Pipe

After Dynaste went down in the Jewson, Ballynagour seemed to empty fast in the Byrne Plate and it seems hard to trust Pipe horses at the head of affairs.  This puts Gervey Chambertin in a little doubt.

It is only a little doubt though and I think it telling that the Pipe yard are having a pop at the race named in honour of their own with just this entrant.  He is a full brother to Grand Crus and could have been entered in several of the novice hurdles.

Solix is not a 66/1 shot in my eyes and if Ian Williams has him firing, he could make a mockery of that price.

Bourne has shown some class and rates a credible winner if we get more rain, 20/1 is workable.

The Major is opting for the fantastic festival of Willie Mullins to continue with a big run from the unexposed Make your Mark at 12/1 – Clearly he has been well thought of at various stages and if he arrives here in form, perhaps we will see it happen in front of us!  A saver on the Pipe horse is recomended.

The Grand Annual

The former race is named after the Pipe yard and the Grand Annual also carries the name of a famous yard, the Hendersons.  Rather than take one good shot at the prize, the team have lined up six darts to throw and there are cases for many of them.

The yard had a one-two in the race last year but this year they may struggle to cope with the Tome George trained Rody (8/1).  The race has a tendency towards featherweights and Rody carries 10 8 – Have a slice.

Courage, roll those dice.