Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Saturday Sermon – Punchestown Tips, Sandown Tips – Suarez biting incident.. Football

Good morning from the Major who writes from bed in some discomfort.  On a rare but regular basis, the Major tweaks muscles in the base of my back leaving me a hobbling and complaining wretch.  I am not a good patient.

A week of bans in sport with Al Zarooni picking up a proper disqualification which spells the end of his training career – Good.  Suarez picked up a substantial ban too which had the wallahs of Liverpool wringing their hands and exclaiming the unfairness of it all.

The Major is pleased that a tough stance was taken on this incident.  Liverpool, in their reaction to it, are demonstrating that they learned little from the Suarez / Evra situation.  The Managing Director, the man the entire club takes a lead from in terms of behaviour and culture, suggests that the punishment targets the individual not the crime.  Other cultural leaders of the club show the balance between an organisation who want to protect a valuable asset and those that understand the disrepute he is dragging the club through… again.

Rodgers: Having reviewed the video footage and spoken to Luis, his behavior is unacceptable and I have made him aware of this – Wow, if I bit someone at work, my own company would not take the time to explain that this is ‘unacceptable’, that would be taken as read, I would be punished (fired).

Souness: …the board have to see it that way because they’re risking everything this great football club stands for 

To feel for balance in the argument it is worth considering the alternate arguments which seem to be as follows.

Is Suarez being targeted because of a history and thus, 8 weeks is too harsh a punishment?  Biting is a very dishonourable aspect to sport that disgusts many people.  In his first biting incident, Suarez was banned for 7 weeks.  In Rugby last year, Dylan Hartley took an 8 week ban for biting a finger of an Irish opponent.  Thus, 10 weeks (7 for the incident itself, 3 for violent conduct) seems fair for a second offence.  

If the club and player felt it was unduly harsh, they could appeal and run the risk of it being increased.  Their decision not to, speaks to me some what of the advice they will have received behind the scenes and their real view behind the hyperbole.  It is worth remembering that the panel who set the tariff is independent of the FA.

The Liverpool statement suggests that the tariff is unfair (which I believe to be posturing) because it is not consistent with other punishments.  One of the issues the FA need to address is retrospective action applying to players who are cautioned in a game but later found to have committed a more heinous crime.  This is what happened to Defoe, an equally low act, while unfortunate he did not serve justice it does not mean that we should not deal properly with Suarez who was not cautioned in the game.

Suarez is going to receive the full support of Liverpool.  A player whose record is so chequered, whose reputation so low, receives the full support of the club again.

Sadly the message I receive is: The values of Liverpool < The talent of Suarez – A sorry state of affairs for one of our football institutions.

If I had the time I would explore how the brand damage done by these instances will mean the club play in the long run.   I would highlight the personal values people associate with their sporting support.  Instead, we shall head to the tips…

We scored a reasonable return at Punchestown yesterday.  The fly did the business in the style you would like from a 1/4 winner.  Un Atout battled hard for victory with Pont Alexandre withdrawn.  The instruction to load the cannons on Un De Sceaux paid dividends and overall, it was not a bad day at all.

Punchestown Tips

If you are heading to Punchestown, I hope you have a marvellous time.  @limerickjfk shall be on track and I wish you and your compadres the very best of luck.

The opening Irish Field Chase could go to Shakervilz at 4/1.  He was a runner up in the Cross Country at the Cheltenham festival, that form was well franked this week.  Heavy ground should be no problem to him.  Have a small slice.

In the second, I think you need some medical attention if you back Mikael D’Haguenet.  Clearly there is enough talent to take this, after all he beat subsequent RSA chase winner Lord Windemere this season.  Yet, he throws some horrendous runs in on a regular basis.  Aupcharlie has hardly looked impressive at this end of the season either and so a chance is taken on Grey Gold at 8/1 – I am sure they are not tilting at windmills stepping the Carlisle winner up so far in class.

In the third, On His Own jumped 24 of the national fences before falling at Valentines second time around.  I did not watch the race as per my previous views on it but I understand from racing notes, he was fading at the time.  I think the ground is much more to his liking here (unbeaten on worse than soft) but it is a big ask after his exertions earlier this month.

I think you have to take Wyck Hill‘s last run at Kempton with a pinch of salt given his track record on softer ground.  At 5/1, I suggest a small slice.  Liberty Counsel is also too big at 16/1 and the Irish National winner can run into a place at least so have a small saver.

Tarla looks a shoe-in at 4/6 in the fourth.  One for multiples.  She has good chase form but was very game reverting to the smaller obstacles last time.  Largely Ruby has got the stable calls right this week and so his selection of the horse over Glenns Melody carries significance.

The Champion 4yo Hurdle at 5pm is all the weaker for the absence of the uber-exciting Our Conor.  Of all of the Cheltenham winners, his Triumph success was breathtaking and surely signals a significant career ahead.  Mullins saddles four of the six runners and of them, Diakali is a shade odds on to win.  Although I am a bit nervous at the price, he does look the most likely winner.  Dogora could be an excellent cast off from Closutton for David Casey as I think back on heavy, we might see much more horse.

Gigginstown have seven darts to throw in the 5.35 handicap.  While only a certain amount of work can be done in such races, I am suggesting an investment at 17/2 in Fahamore who has a number of attractive points.  He looks well handicapped having battled out a finish (lost) with Acapulco, when having to give best part of a stone.  Since that foe went in earlier in the week, it has to rate as good form.  Heavy ground holds no problems (6 runs, 3 wins, 2 places) – What’s not to like? He only has 24 others to defeat!

That is it from Punchestown for me, I am not playing in the bumper or the charity race.

Sandown Tip – Celebration Chase

This race more than any marks the end of the National Hunt adventure.  Last year, Sanctuaire blitzed the field.  He looks a horse whose mind has been destroyed by the Aeroplane and I wonder if he will run a big race again – It sort of reminds me of this.  He is favourite here though and has shown enough in the past to justify it… if (and a big if in my mind) he can return to his former self.

Finians Rainbow is a horse the Major likes.  I was really taken by his Champion Chase win last year (people forget so easily), he really fought hard going past the bypassed fence tussling with Sizing Europe.  This season has been a disappointment having never properly recovered from a spell on the sidelines.  Good ground holds no fears.

One who will relish good ground and is overpriced is Tataniano who is six from six on good ground.  That alone is probably not enough to make him a win bet but at 33/1 I would put noone off having a slice in case a return to top form (won off 160) is in order on better ground.

Sod it… Finians Rainbow is the best of these and I am backing Henderson to have worked some magic.  Have a decent slice of the 9/2.

Football – Regular readers will know that Watford are the team I have been classing as the money train for some time and they duly delivered for me last night at Leicester at 3/1.  I am reinvesting those funds in some teams I like.  I think Stoke will be keen to finish strongly and can see off Norwich at home.  Southampton have the guns to beat West Brom who have had a poor end of season.  I also think that Newcastle at 11/5 are a big price to see off Liverpool.  For all of the troubles listed above, I think an unsettled Liverpool performance might be one of the outputs of the whole affair.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Shakervilz, Finians Rainbow, Stoke and Diakali.

I trust your dinner is expensive and held in fine company.  Allow a generous tip and be awake at the wrong side of midnight.  It is good to be alive.

Courage, roll those dice.

Friday Punchestown Festival Tips

Good evening from the Major who again writes from the comfort of a warm bed.  The radio is gently spilling out the peaceful and assuring tones of Radio Four.

Today, we finally had a result.  Rye Martini advised last night at 20/1 returned an 11/1 winner in the opener.  I won’t brag but god it felt good.  Should you be new to these parts, I issue a fair warning.  This is not the normal service.  Very welcome 20/1 winners come infrequently – Even the blind squirrel finds the odd nut.

Still, that winner has given me a few darts to throw at Fridays card so….

Punchestown Friday Tips

No prices are up for the opener but I will take a cautious bet on Shin a Vee.  A previous winner and placed effort in this race suggest he will be tuned up but he is incredibly the only horse in the line up to win on either soft or heavy.  Derek O’Connor was the final persuader as this fine amateur rider is extremely valuable in a race of this nature.  Forecast SP 7/1.

The handicap race in this second is a damn puzzle.  The Real Article is of some interest, while he has not been the same chaser as hurdler (where he started on an absurdly low mark), the distances he has been run at suggest that there might be a big run in him and he is competing off almost twenty pounds lower.

I am interested in three, Terminal, Competitive Edge and Immediate Response.  Terminal ran respectably in the RSA and may be able to carry this sort of weight around.  On jockey booking, Immediate Response has a better chance and with Mullins winning FIVE races at Punchestown yesterday, both of these are going to be backed.  This sends me down the route of a value pick in 16/1 Competitive Edge.  He looked very much on the upgrade until last time in the Irish National where he clearly did not stay.

The 4.55 is as much of a puzzle but I am going for Panther Claw at 7/1 who ran really well in the Irish National and may have been coming with a run if not for a bad jumping error.

Hurricane Fly looks rock solid for the Irish Champion Hurdle and will raise a mighty cheer taking this race once again – I am sure some of the chaps are still dinig out on him regaining his title in March.

In contrast, next on stage in the novice hurdle is Pont Alexandre who left a lot of Irish money in the satchels when failing to shine at Cheltenham.  Clearly plenty remain faithful and he is already a 4/6 shot.  The excuse there was the ground and this surface is expected to be much preferred.

I am willing to have a pop at the Mullins second string here though at 9/4, Un Atout makes some appeal.  His own festival finished honourably with a 4th in the Supreme but that was marred by trouble at the obstacles.  This track will be a little easier in that regard especially with far fewer runners.

Un De Sceaux is my NAP of the day – Mullins is having such an amazing week and this horse can continue his winning spree.  Clearly talented and targeted at Punchestown… what’s not to like… 2/1 – Load the Cannons.

Bluemountainbeach is closely related to Blackstairmountain who has had just won half a million on a far flung adventure to Japan!  Katie Walsh is not a common rider for Willie and does not have the finest record (1 winner from 9 rides n last 2 years).  County Champion gets my vote instead after a dominant Cork victory last time.

Oscar Delta was subject to one of the most amazing finishes of the festival as he tried to jink out on another circuit throwing his jockey when the race was at his mercy.  Salsify picked up the pieces that day after being raced fashionably off the pace.  I can’t see why Oscar Delta cannot gain revenge and I hope so, for Miss Mangan at least.

Courage, roll those dice.

Thursday Punchestown Tips

Good evening from the Major who again writes from the bed, tired, drained and rather weary of the fight.

A rather poor Tuesday and this Punchestown festival is one I don’t seem to have a great hold of.  I shall keep this brief, I am cloaked in defeat and I think you may be best using these notes to help you put a line through a few selections…

Thursday Tips – Punchestown

Both Malt Master and Marito have been chasing recently which complicates the picture as they return to smaller obstacles in the opening hurdle.  Marito fell when looming up in the Jewson after being backed.  A mark of 140 is probably not beyond him but at evens, he looks a little vulnerable.  I really like the form of Malt Master as I think Oscara Dara may well be very decent and so I prefer the second favourite.

I am chancing two at massive prices.  Frawley, 14/1 has clearly had some problems but as a result is supremely lightly races and unexposed – A definite bet.  Rye Martini was made too much of last time out over further and I suspect has improvement to come so 20/1 is too big.

In the second I am going for Plan A at 9/1, Slippers can bring home the bacon.

Arabella Boy is my idea of the Cross Country winner, weight and conditions may see him get the better of Big Shu here.

In the stayers hurdle, Quevega and Solwhit dominate the market.  Both won their respective Cheltenham races, Quevega threading her way through the field for a victory that looked unlikely… what a mare.  Solwhit is a horse I did not rate but hats off to him, he won fair and square.

Yet I am minded to side with Reve de Sivola, 6/1.  I thought he was set up as a sitting duck at Cheltenham and this race might pan out more in his favour.

I jump the big handicap and go straight to the 6.40 where Alderwood, 11/2, is a horse I want on my side.  I thought the Grand Annual was a very competitive handicap and this horse is young enough to keep stepping forwards from here.  An early mistake seemed to unsettle at Aintree and I think a reversal of form with Special Tiara is in order.

I think more has been expected of Twigline and I am a fan but like Ruby, desert the horse in favour of Upsie – Load the cannons.

I will double that up with a slice of Captain Cutter in the last for a McMAnus quickfire double.

Courage and roll those dice.

Wednesday Punchestown Festival Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes from his bed again after a weary day of battle.  Forgive me for a more concise post but sleep is calling me with her sweet siren song, irresistible urging me downwards… one limb becoming heavy and almost impossible to lift, a drifting sensation and peaceful slumber.

I value the commodity of sleep far more than when a young man.  In life most of the fun things happen in the small hours, where normality slithers between the cracks.  Now, as a father, the noise of two children and constant demand of your attention, well it drains you.  I still gather sleep in small harvests, a useful habit but now the motivation is not preparation for more moonlit mischief, rather the sagging necessities of everyday existence.

In the dark hours, I lie awake thinking.  Not fervently you understand, more aimlessly, my mind wandering through memories and daydreams that I have collected and deposited in a vast library with no Dewey codes.  A great palace of thoughts in small rooms with unlabeled doors, unsure of where the next one takes you, closing your eyes and seeing shapes move, colours morphing and light blurring at the edges.  Cogito ergo sum.

To Punchestown.  I hope we fare better than day one.  Tasiocht and Western Boy both returned one place out of the money, Moyle Park and Sprinter Sacre did their jobs, the former scraping in, the latter doing enough.  The champagne went flat.  Tuesday I score as a moderate defeat, wounded but merely superficially, we return.

Wednesday Punchestown Tips

The opener is as open a race as you will find.  8/1 the field and no amount of research is really going to make me feel better about it, this is wrestling an octopus.  Instead of pretending, I shall inform you that my eye was drawn to Chavoy who is priced up at 14/1 with Boylesports – He is a Ferdy Murphy runner and that has not happened at Punchestown for years.  He has won a couple of races already, thought nothing anywhere near this testing and he looks as likely as the next.

The 4.20 is an intriguing race as the market is dominated by two Mullins horses. Call Me Bubbles seemed to step up at Navan and has a race fitness advantage over the exciting French import Viconte Du Noyer.  The race won at Auteuil looks decent with Blood Cotil, a decent yardstick back in 4th and two other french horses holding up the form.  It is a bit of a concern that the horse has been missing for a year and this is a hot introduction back to the track.

I am going to take a risk on Gassin Golf at 6/1.  He is out of Montjeu and made a mark of 99 on the flat.  It is early days on his hurdling career and he pulled ridiculously hard before being pulled up in the Triumph – Throw in that he is another clearly targeted at the Punchestown festival and we have a decent bet prospect.

Ballycasey is a hot favourite for the novice hurdle at 4.55pm, I am a little concerned that this is a big step up in class but the talk has been hot about him and evens quotes might be hard to come by at the off.  He missed the Albert Bartlett in which Inish Island chased At Fishers Cross up the hill finishing five lengths down at the line, that is solid form and this is a classic balance of proven ability versus potential.

Instead of the pair of them I am going to chance Road to Riches at 10/1.  Soft ground is preferred and so drying conditions are a concern but I am willing to give him a chance.  His Aintree run was too bad to be true and earlier form reads well.

5.30pm and the race we will be waiting for – The Punchestown Gold Cup.  I have a real issue in this race because I am torn between a desire to see Long Run prove me right and the fact that my logic is appealing to me to abandon him.  Say what you will, he keeps getting placed at the top level.  I do think though that three miles and a furlong around Punchestown is not far enough these days and given his penchant for throwing himself into the odd fence, the extra pace around here may not help either.

The quality of this years renewal is stunning.  Last year, China Rock managed a win at 20/1 after running just a few days before! That horse won and was rated 162 at the time, five of the eight runners in this years contest are rated above that mark, make no mistake, this is a superb race.  Be warned though, prior to the China Rock 20/1 turn up, winners have come in at 20/1 and 14/1 so the principals are no shoe in.

In short, First Lieutenant is very interesting, especially if the ground dries more. He looked like he needed further in the Ryanair and being second to Cue Card is no disgrace anyway.  Sir Des Champs surprised me, I was the first to think his form was not as strong as popular opinion.

What the hell – I am sticking with old faithful Long Run – Mainly because I could not bare him to win and me not to be on… do with that as you may.

The Cheltenham bumper winner Briar Hill is attempting the double taking on this Grade 1 Punchestown event.  There has not been a major turn up in the bumper for some time but one I like at a humongous price is Noel Meades Apache Stronghold at 28/1.  The yard have a terrific record in the bumper.  All said and done though, Briar Hill has an excellent chance here and 6/4 is a fair price.

The 6.40pm is the handicap chase.  Nadiya de la Vega is not my sort – The mare is likeable but might just be found out.  Instead I am opting for 10/1 shot Mr Cracker who I suspect has had this as the target for some time and whose second in a grade 2 last time looks OK.

In the lucky last, I am dodging the two at the head of the market and opting for Fairy Island who might be much better than we have yet seen.

Punchestown Festival – Tuesday Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes a short post from his bed.  An evening spent baiting mice, planting up in the garden and then baiting Villa fans after their defeat at Old Trafford.

Dealing with my little furry vermin friends that I suspect are nesting in the loft of my garage might prove difficult.  I have laid down a rodenticide that thins the blood and causes a painless death I am assured, although I doubt little Mr Jingles and friends would see it that way.  I also suspect that they won’t fall for it so easily.

In comparison, a few choice words always draws a warm reaction quickly and effortlessly from Villa fans in their present position.  Their precarious position has them on edge.  Mind the gap chaps, it is a long way down.

I think it will prove a nail-biter of a finish at the relegation end of the table.  Wigan have a game in hand but have to face both Spurs and Arsenal.  Villa have to face Chelsea.  If no surprises occur in those fixtures then it boils down to who can take the most points from Sunderland and Norwich (Villa) or West Brom and Swansea (Wigan) before the teams meet at Wigan on the last day.  At the moment it is odds-on that it will come to that last day which makes 9/4 Villa go down (Hills) the bet in this situation for me.

As an Albion fan, you might expect me to gloat yet I hope not, I would like to think I have more dignity than that.  Yet I do want Villa to be relegated, I think it would do their fans good, certainly the ones I know.

As I grew up, Villa fans had a good team, they were players.  While Albion were battling out a promotion punch up from League 1 (or whatever it was called back then!) with Stockport, Brentford and Port Vale; Villa were challenging for titles with quality through the team.  Wolves and Blues barely did better than the Albion and so in Birmingham, if you were not a Villa fan, you were not supporting the cities best team.  That made life tough in the playground but taught you a more sanguine and realistic approach to life.

For Villains though, familiarity to regional dominance was comfortable and it is this that makes it difficult to contemplate a relegation.  Ironically, Brentford are once again challenging for promotion to the Championship.

I don’t hate Villa.  I don’t hate any football club.  I do think a spell in the Championship would be cathartic.  I can also see me talking to a couple of Villa friends in the pub on a Friday night… So who have you got tomorrow?  Oh Brentford… Well, Griffin Park is not an easy place to go… A point would be a result there… I can see their faces…

Uncouth.  I apologise.  To the proper sport, the sport of Kings.  Taste the air young soldiers, it tastes so fresh, gasp at it drawing in great gulps like a thirsty man.  Tomorrow is Punchestown and bar Sandown, this is our last hoorah of the National Hunt season.

Punchestown Tuesday Tips….

Although Punchestown draws enough top quality horses, there is a slight bitter edge to the festival for me, knowing it marks the last appearance of the season for the big names.

As a festival, my feeling is that you often get a few hot ones turned over simply because they are a bit over the top at this stage of the season.  That and the spring ground can catch a few out, although they start here on soft.  Having a horse that missed Cheltenham with Punchestown in mind is a big draw.  Not getting too lumpy on day one is also part of my strategy.

The mid afternoon starts of these meetings is a good thing in my view.  For those of us keeping the economy turning over while the Punchestown crowd sup a few stouts in the spring sun, it is nice to catch the last couple of races on the way home.

3.40pm – Kildare Hunt Cup

Enda Bolger has taken this race four times in the last ten years and his quartet in this years renewals are all under 10/1 including the two favourites.  It is fair to say, the man has a damn fine chance of taking this again!

Bolger is responsible for the only horse competing which has a Punchestown win and that is Zest for Life, the second favourite.  This horse has won this contest three years ago and since fell and been placed third.  At 5/1, I would not put you off.

In these amateur riders events, finding the best jockey is a huge factor.  In this case, it is simple.  The jockey bookings make interesting reading.  Only one of the Bolger pilots has ridden for him before and that was just the once!  But the best jockey in the race, Katie Walsh, takes the ride on his Keep on Track.  While you have to ignore a few disappointing runs, in a contest like this, I don’t think it is unreasonable to.  Paddy goes 8/1, take him up on it!

4.20 – Champion Novice Hurdle

This is one of the races of the week for me with the Supreme form of Champagne fever getting its first work over.

That horse was a winner for the Major on the opening day of Cheltenham.  I think My Tent or Yours may well prove a better horse in the end, he looked like he arrived with plenty in hand and then found himself flat-footed after the last.  Champagne Fever dug deep showing a likeable attitude.

If they have him off the bridle tomorrow, the easier Punchestown track may not be to his advantage.  I also thought that short run in they have on day one at Cheltenham played to his prominent style.

Maybe I am trying too hard to get him beaten.  After all he was a Champion Bumper horse too so clearly is a class act.  Jezki and Rule the World have obvious claims.  Jezki had Champagne Fever beaten on this sort of track in the Royal Bond and Rule The World showed plenty of class up against impressive The New One at Cheltenham but I think he might get tapped for toe here.

Ted Veale won the County, beating Tennis Cap but I cannot have that form against these three confirmed top stars.

Here is the Champagne Fever persuader for you though….

Horse | Trainer (Runners last 14 days) [winners]

Champagne Fever | Mullins (11) [5]

Jezki | Harrington (7) [0]

Rule the World (1) [0]

4.55 Handicap Hurdle

A wide open handicap and a punters puzzle to solve.  Tennis Cap has been one for the Major before but I think both the mark and the season are catching up with him.

Last years winner, Snap Tie, has his work cut out returning on a near stone higher mark.  Not for me.

I am opting for the apparent Mullins second string though in Tasiocht at 10/1 (Ladbrokes).  This horse showed some very classy early form and a mark of just 124 I think could be very tasty.  Crucially, she has some experience in bigger fields which will help amongst twenty charging sorts over two miles here.  The fact she likes to lead also will help in that regard.  Some jumping issues will have kept the price honest and given Walsh has gone for tennis Cap, you must assume we are on the less fancied runner but it would not be the first time would it!

5.30pm Champion Chase

Unless a miracle occurs this should be yet another procession for Sprinter Sacre.  I was an early convert to the cult of The Aeroplane and it is with caution (given a large Irish readership) that I say this but…. the comparisons to Arkle are going to be inevitable.

I don’t think trip matters one jot to this horse.  Prior to the Aintree race, I thought such concerns were ridiculous (given the way he travels and jumps) and I was delighted to be proved right.  Not boastful delight you understand, just the mellow sort that allows you to bask contented, knowing you are living in an era of one of jumpings greatest ever.  If you are there, enjoy.

6.05 – The Bumper

There is a fair bit of guess-work going on in finding the selection in the bumper.

The very obvious selection is Moyle Park who was quickly bought for a six figure sum after defeating Blackmail on debut.  Now in the hands of Mullins, you would be surprised not to see it involved.  I will have an interest.

I also plan a small saver on Indian Rupee, the Tommy Mullins horse.  The stable won this last year with a less fancied sort (16s) and I cannot let this 33/1 unraced sort pass me by.

6.40pm – Champion Novice Chase

Wow – If the handicap hurdle was a tricky call for Ruby, this must have been a real coin-flipper.  Ruby has gotten off Boston Bob who looked like coming back strong to win the RSA, to ride Back In Focus who was unbelievably game to win the four miler.

I think Ruby has made the wrong call but I am hoping it is irrelevant anyway as I am opting for the Kim Bailey trained Harry Topper.  This horse has been given a little longer to get over a spill at Kelso last time and the trainer has given such positive vibes about the horse that you have to take notice.  As I mentioned at the top, I readily prefer a horse trained for Punchestown and may well take this on the rocks as well as with a reverse forecast mixing in Boston Bob.

7.15 – 2m Flat

No market, bar Betfair, which suggests that my selection Western Boy will be a 9/1 shot.  I am in!

Courage, roll those dice.