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.
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…..