Monthly Archives: December 2013

Welsh National Day Tips – Chepstow, Leopardstown and Newbury

Good evening from the Major whose tour of Ireland has moved to a biting Dublin where the wind cuts to your bones.  Tired from travelling, I am in the bed early and weary.

Today was poor.  I thought my twitter contact @limerickjfk was off to Limerick Races – An understandable mistake given the name.  Re-reading his text later, it turned out he was off to Leopardstown.  When you cannot select the right card to read, it bodes badly for the subsequent tips.  So it transpired.

Still, there is tomorrow.  New day, new hope.

The Welsh National

Of all tracks, when Chepstow rides heavy, it is like treacle.  It takes the most outrageously deep ground horse but that gives us an edge.

Tidal Bay likes soft ground but I don’t think heavy and top weight will be a good combination.  Pricewise might fancy it but not for the Major.  Synchronised won carrying 11st 6lbs in 2011 but no horse has carried this weight to victory in the last 25 years and Tidal Bay would also be 3 years older than any previous winner.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a top class handicap chaser as much as the next man but I am after one that has snuck in at the bottom.

Goonyella is interesting and I am convinced has a big race or two in him.  He looks to have been laid out for one of these, having been campaigned over shorter but at just 6, misses some valuable experience.

Well Refreshed seems to tick a lot of boxes and will be going when plenty have cried enough.  The two the Major settles on though are Merry King and Highland Lodge.  I like the latter and think he is capable of running his best races yet.  However, he can be a bit keen and I just think Merry King will want every yard of the distance and every drop of moisture.  His Hennessy race demonstrated that, he was doing his best work at the finish.  Just think of that long long long Chepstow straight, it goes on forever…. My boy can be doing his stuff at the important moment, the final moment.  Get stuck in.

The Future Champions Grade 1 juvenile hurdle is a difficult race to call as unlike many of these events,  am not convinced that there is a star in this field.  even though the top stables are represented, I am not sure that Kentucky Hyden or Solar Impulse are all that.  As such, in spite of being unproven in conditions I am chancing Violet Dancer who can be backed at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.  Arty Campbell is also not the worst 100/1 shot I have ever seen.

Leopardstown Festival – Lexus Chase Day

I think we have a chance of solving the Lexus.  For a start, I am convinced that Unioniste is not good enough.  Then we have a series of disappointments to examine.  First Lieutenant has thrown more than one poor race at us this season and so is harder to forgive, he is discarded.

Sir Des Champs was unlucky not to win this last year but his fall in the John Durkan at Punchestown, gifting the race to Avrika Liggeoniere, was heavy and given I am not sure he would beat Bobs Worth anyway, I can overlook him.

So Bobs Worth is the selection at 5/2.  He will love conditions and I can overlook him a poor reappearance.  Lord Windermere is the one I am most concerned with.  The RSA is still a race I am reserving judgement on and so I think the favourite is the right call.

Solwhit, 4/7,  is good enough to beat his opponents even given the time he has been off.

Newbury – Challow Hurdle Day

I have a strong fancy in the Challow and it is an odd one because it is the outsider of 6 in Captain Cutter at 6/1.  Why the solid bet?  Well I actually quite like the form and despite the jumping being a bit squiffy last time, he, like others, is entitled to that sloppiness at this stage of his career and I do not hold it against him.  He has the ground form too – Have a lumpy one.  I rate Creepy as the main danger (also the longer of the prices) so clearly think this market is wrong.

I think Vukovar can keep Noel Fehily’s strong Christmas going with a win in the following race at odds on.  It is a fair weight difference he gets from Open Hearted.

I trust that you dine well and in the best of company and spirits.

Courage and roll those dice.

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Christmas Rolls On – Leopardstown, Kempton, Limerick….

Good morning from the Major who writes from the hotel bar again, all flustered with the busyness of Christmas.  I was up early and in some dreadful conditions to drive my in-laws to the coach station in Cork.

They are due to fly out later, weather permitting, on a prop plane, which could be highly entertaining.  For me and the family, we are up to Dublin for a couple of nights before coming back for the New Year.

I now file my report on Cork for your own judgement.  I like it, a lot.  The people are friendly, the service is as natural as you can imagine.  We lumbered into a bar yesterday, a large group of us, children, baggage, laden down; crashing around wildly.  A group of lads stood up, moved their furniture around to create a space to accommodate us.  Nothing is too much.

The place is old-fashioned.  There is something unsettling about the architecture, old square and certain with some ramshackle.  Very few buildings have the ambition to reach for the sky and it is in keeping with the place itself.

As for the womanfolk, I shall say this.  Raven haired and flashing eyes and the melodic sing-song style quality of their voices is hypnotising.  A man could lose himself easily.  You know me, each new one is the ideal, I fall in love readily.

On the whole, if you are yet to visit, I urge you to go.  Ireland is a fantastic place, I have not yet found a group of people more intent on fun and simplicity.

To the sports…

At this point, I wish to dop the cap to my brother-in-law, whom we shall call Dave (because that is his name).  He kindly gave me his thoughts on the Premier League action for Boxing Day and proved to be a mighty accurate tipster.  He may well return, I know you would like it, after all, how can you be satisfied with the Major, I am barely profitable!

Silviniaco Conti delivered the goods.  Ah, how lovely that was.  I watched it with no commentary in that same bar I mentioned.  A group of us huddled together as though we were watching a major breaking news story with global implications.  I think I was the only one on Silvi (apart from Dave who had recently received a Christmas Present betting slip with him on it) and I though Cue Card had travelled so smoothly, being better by half a length at each fence to my eye.  Silviniaco Conti though is a thorough stayer and the class came through, when Cue Card came off the bridle, the truth was laid out for us to see, there was little left and Fehily pushed and Conti swept by.  That was that, all done, in a heartbeat.

Kempton – Friday Tips

The Grade 2 novice chase is a tasty little contest, seemingly a match between Grandouet and Dodging Bullets.  I am a little surprised to see the former trading at 1/2 but let us examine his case.  He certainly improved in the jumping department between his first two runs, after unseating on debut, his second to Hinterland last time out was decent.  He is entitled to be better again and this is a horse that has class in the book, once being a Champion Hurdle live contender.

The ground bothers me though.  He has run on soft and heavy before and not won on it.  Contrast that with the 6lbs he receives from the other contenders who have won chase starts.  On balance I am with Dodging Bullets but it is a fine call.

We get to see Sprinter Sacre run in the second of Kemptons Grade 2’s, which is magnificent.  He is an animal with the potential to be talked about for decades to come.  I hope for no mishaps.

Limerick – Friday Tips

One of the unfortunate sorts who regularly engages with me on Twitter (@limerickjfk) is at Limerick today with the lads.  I wish your party the greatest of successes.  Courage gentleman.

The ground is going to be bottomless and this guides the staking plan.  The opening race is not going to take an awful lot of winning and I am going to chance my arm on Stolberg, 14s, who has a heavy ground victory to his name.  He won a Listowel bumper in nice fashion but has not gone on, yet there is time.

The age allowance that Renneti receives in the second could be a telling advantage in these conditions.  Certainly it looks a match between that one and Real Steel, 6/4.  That horse won a Cork race racing prominently and will certainly give the field something to aim at.  He also gets the advantage of a O’Connell ride which I think helps.  He also looks the likelier to me to go in the deep conditions.

Jane Mangan will lead the field in the third with Pumbaa, a very capable looking sort who will appreciate this distance.  I would not stop you betting that but instead think there is some value in 14/1 shot Whiskey and Rye.  That horse will love this test of stamina and is helped by the same jockey that rides Real Steel, O’Connell.  He has good course form too.

In the 2.05, you will do well to find the winner!  I am having a tentative stake on Benalex Park who at least is a known mudlark and despite having shown nothing to warrant respect, is getting nibbled at in the betting.

In the Grade 2 chase, the shorter trip is probably the doing of Unoccupied who remains on my watch list after being backed for the Cork National and running well into a place.  Pass the Hat has claims, as does Dick Dundee whose chase and hurdles marks belong to two different animals.  Surely a defection will see Hospital get a race and that is an interesting horse too.  Dangers aplenty.  Speckled Wood could be dangerous, I think the mark is well within scope but I would prefer more chasing experience.  Make a Track has to lump top weight around, he will love the mud but it is a tough ask.  I am chancing a bet on Indian Outlook whose rider is a useful claim, he carries less weight, is still not fully exposed and can give us some excitement at 14/1.

The maiden hunter chase is a lottery.  On jockey booking alone I am siding with Winter Magic at 5/1.

The lucky last is a mares bumper and by this stage, being ahead will be astonishing after some very difficult races.  Shesafoxylady was a good bumper winner for the Mullins team and while that horse does not appear here, the form of Whisper Rock 11/2, might just give it an extra boost – This is a much easier race to win.

Leopardstown Thoughts

There are two cracking grade 1 races at Leopardstown and the clash of Sizing Europe and Avrika Ligeonniere whets the appetite.  The markets seem to be indecisive about the race with bookies taking opposing views.  You can back the favourite (Avrika) at 13/8 or 9/4 depending on who you shop with.

Sizing Europe is an admirable horse and is clearly at his best over these sorts of trips.  He is turning twelve and for the Major the time has come to hand the crown over and Avrika Ligeonniere makes plenty of appeal at around 2/1.  Regulars will know I have been watching this horse and I fully expect him to develop into an animal challenging for the top honours.  Ruby is likely to set the fractions and I am ignoring Kid Cassidy which might be dangerous given the way Sire de Grugy has advertised his form.

I am following straight up with a double for all connections as I expect Moyle Park to beat The Tullow Tank.  6/4 is generally available.

For those who need a touch of adventure – I am backing Romanesco in the 2.55 with Nina on board.  He ran a blinder in this last year and I am hoping that this is the plan for the season… we shall see… 25/1 Shabash!

Given the lack of Martin Hill bet yesterday, I am suggesting the following: A powerful trixie on Moyle Park, Real Steel and Avrika Ligeonniere.

I trust your dinner to be taken in fine company and with no troubles on your mind.  Courage and roll those dice.

Boxing Day Sermon – Kempton et al. Shabash. Courage, roll the dice.

Good morning from the Major who writes from Cork, all full of Christmas hangover, weary from the excess.  The sky here is large, full of Atlantic glory, the ground crisp, my head hurts.

The Major is not well acquainted with Ireland.  Driving down from Dublin, the signs were racecourse after racecourse, each stirring a memory.

Christmas Day was spent with Jim and Mary, he from Waterford, she from Cork.  Their hospitality was excellent.  From the sole served to me for Christmas lunch (I am vegetarian for a year) to the fine wines and brandy that washed it down, all was good.

Jim worked at Winson Green and Wormwood Scrubs, he is a solid sort, keeps things simple – It is fair to say I liked him from the start.  We connected immediately because of a mutual appreciation of racing – Sometimes you can look at a man and know you have that in common.

I trust your Christmas was as merry as mine.  Forgive the lateness of the post, I type from the hotel I am residing at.  My head hurts and we badly need a turn in fortune.  Such things happen at times like these.

To the sports.  Saddle up my kindred warriors.  It is time for us to daub the war paint.  We may have needed credit to enter the Christmas period but we shall emerge dripping in cash, victory upon victory, sedimentary layers of success building relentlessly until the enemy cries no more and we give out of sheer generosity for the spirit of the season.

Kempton – Boxing Day Tips

I love this card.  It is one of my favourite days of racing.  Memories bubble up of Kauto sailing over the fences, leaving Madison de Berlais or the Tom George trained grey whose name momentarily escapes me (forgive the drunken haze), in his glorious wake.  Or of Long Run, battling on like a true warrior.  The King George has taken its rightful place as the second best race of the season.

To win 5 King Georges.  Think of that.  Incredible.

Two meetings have been called off and the Major does not care.  Partly because of my wine flown state, partly because Boxing Day is hectic enough.  Jockeys you have never heard of pressed into action and races going off back to back, remorseless and relentless, painfully busy.

Let us begin like  all good stories at the start.

The opener looks like a good opportunity for Dubai Prince who is a very good convert to the hurdling game and won on debut.  He is definitely not a straight forward sort but clearly has talent and his Donnie win has been franked since with the second going in again.

In the second, Western Warhorse is one I have followed after hitting the bar at Cheltenham.  Disappointing next time out and the Major abandons him for Ericht who is a fine bet at 7/2.  The Henderson horse made a decent start over the big obstacles in a race won by Funny Star, a decent Nicholls horse  who has gone on to win again.

Although it looks a spot kick for Just a Par, I am siding with Green Flag who has looked very impressive to the eye and a natural jumper.

Then the Christmas hurdle.  Take your pick of the top two – Both incredibly impressive hurdling prospects, My Tent or Yours and The New One make this a very good renewal.  I remember the race that cemented Punjabi in my mind as a Champion Hurdler, even though he fell when chasing leg 2 of the £1 million WBX bonus… Ahhhhhh.  I think we will have a new favourite for the Champion Hurdle today and I believe it to be My Tent or Yours.  When you consider that McCoy > Twiston Davies, it becomes an easy choice.

Then the big one.  For my money, Cue Card will get beaten.  It is a tough one ruling him out because I was quite impressed with his Betfair win.  As I said before that race, I am not concerned about his stamina, even though he has pace to burn.  Yet, some races just fall completely right for a horse and I believe the betfair to be that way fir Cue Card.  No, the Major has interest in others.  Al Ferof is of interest but again, I just think there are better horses.  The King George is won by a class animal and for me that means either Silviniaco Conti or Long Run.

Regular readers will know there is a touch of the heart about Long Run for me, I cannot deny it.  I love his gangly style and despite the amateur rider who is a definite handicap, this is a superb horse.  I think people overlook just how young he was when he won a Gold Cup – Not may do that at such  a tender age.  Since then, his career has gone one way but this is an excellent chance for him on ground he will relish and with the spotlight and pressure on others.

However, the money goes to Silviniaco Conti who is a very very good horse in his own right.  I thought he was travelling as well as Bobs Worth when coming down in the Gold Cup and frankly, he is one of my horses for the season.  9/2 is available with some outfit I have never heard of but 4/1 is the general price.

Sportingbet go 8/1 about Beyeh in the last and it will stay in my top pocket as a Get Out of Jail card.

At Leopardstown, Anifleet and Champagne Fever both look like 1/2 spot kicks – Not much fun there.  Limerick has an even shorter 1/4 certainty in Felix Younger – Where has the fun of Christmas gone?

It is to Wetherby and the Roland Meyrick for the other selection to add to your Christmas acca.  I am interested in two of the bigger priced runners.  While Cloudy Too is a good starting point for Sue Smith, I think this race is far more open than the market suggests.  My two are…. Cape Tribulation at 8/1 and Master of the Hall at 25/1.  The first is the bet, the second the saver.  Malcolm Jefferson has won this in the last few years and I think the form that Cape Tribulation has shown at Cheltenham has been close to top class.  I am surprised he is this price but understand that we need to return to form.

To the football.

I have asked my brother-in-law to guest tip the Premier League.  He is a good drinking partner and will see you right…

Man United will beat Hull in an old score style – By that he means draw half time and Man Utd at full time.  Villa Palace is a dreadful prospect (he is a Villa fan too) and unders is the way to go.  Cardiff v Southampton is a BTTS certainty.  Chelsea a 1-0 scoreline against Swansea.  Everton v Sunderland is a nil nil! Surprised me too.  Fulham might get the points out of Norwich at a price.  Newcastle v Stoke is worth backing in the overs market.  Arsenal to beat West Ham to nil.  Spurs v West Brom is a 2-2 – Reminds me of when we did come away with that scoreline and Scott Dobie scored a blinder! Finally, over 4.5 goals in Man City v Liverpool.

Outlandish calls… big prices… Merry Christmas.

For the Major – I would be a buyer of Villa t close to evens because even though they are poor, Palace are worse.  I would also back Spurs to beat Albion because they have more conviction currently.  Regulars will know that I believe Wigan to be constantly overpriced and that is true today too.

I hope your Boxing Day is in fine family company and that you indulge to the right amount.  Think of me and toast to all that is good in this world.

From Cork, I wish you and yours well.  Courage… Roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Full Ascot Card including Long Walk Tips…

Good evening from the Major who writes from a biting Worcestershire with a wind that pierces through your outer layers and seeks out your very soul.  The fire is crackling away, pouring goodness out that thickly covers the room, stifling and comforting all at once.

I won’t pretend that last week was anything other than a bloodbath.  The Major lurched from one loss to another like some great wounded blind animal lumbering onwards, lurching hopelessly and violently.

Christmas needs paying for.  Thus today we shall adorn our spears with the enemies precious trinkets and muster our weary souls into order once more.  Shall it be like the 44th forming a last thin square on the hills above Gandamak Village, after weeks of deathly marching, the last fighting men, having been sniped at by Afghan hill-men, men, women and children falling in the snow in the Khyber Pass, murderous raids on our supply train, pack animals lost, defiantly gathering to protect the colours we shall gather our last vestige of purpose and stand together to a bitter end.

Or, like the thin red line at Balaclava, shall our meagre resources, against all odds and fighting in unconventional fashion, two men deep to take on the Russian Calvary, insanity odds, yet, hold fast boys… No retreat from here men, we shall die where we stand.  That Colin Campbell was as hard as nails, he never hesitated, always spoiled for the fight.

To Ascot, load the grape-shot into the cannon.

Full Ascot Card

There is lots of form on lots of different tracks coming into this race so 9/2 the field is a fair assessment of the openness of it.  Watching the Friday Ascot action, I thought it was riding OK.

If further rain fell, it would only aid the chances of present favourite Brave Buck, he is two from two on heavy ground and comes from an in form Daly stable.   His Welsh double recently reads quite well and more may be to come but he is a stone higher in the weights as a result.

Boss in Boots looks a capable sort but I would prefer a more experienced pilot.  Josies Orders is an interesting sort having had to be rousted along by McCoy to win at Ascot, next time out was a bit disappointing.  McCoy is reunited here and there may be a better performance but I am not sure it looks a bullet-proof proposition.

Instead, the Major opts for 5/1 shot Forever Present who goes for the Henderson yard.  At Ludlow, I thought the performance was OK but a little flat-footed, that was over 2m 5f, I think this extra distance and the ground will suit and if the jumping is a little neater and the replacement of David Bass with Barry Geraghty sparks some improvement, then the handicap mark may look very lean.

Another Saturday and another David Johnson memorial race.  Quite right too – Every track wants to pay homage to the great supporter of our sport.  Only four runners make it to the line for this particular event and Join the Navy needs half a track head start if he is to play a role.  O Faolains Boy looks a very exciting prospect to me, fourth in the Albert Bartlett and stays forever, I think a potential National horse in years to come.  Baby Mix surely needs a rattling surface and that leaves me with the 11/8 shot Easter Day.  My selection has some excellent form over hurdles and he left his chase form well behind on second start over the tougher obstacles at Newbury.  Looks like a Nicholls chaser on the improve to me.

I was quite surprised by the shortness of Pendra’s price for the 1.50.  His winning form is in more minor events and this is an entirely different shape of race for which his inexperience may tell.  That said, you know I like the Longsden yard.  Ulck du Lin is back for another pop at the race he won a year ago off  a fistful of pounds higher, not to be discounted at all.

I’d give Consigliere a chance back on his favoured surface but even if the ground remains quite soft, I am not sure this is the test he needs these days.  Is Rebecca Curtis finally going to get a tune out of 10/1 shot Gus Macrae.  He will like the soft ground but needs to reverse a run of poor form.

My pen rests on Elenika who surely is going to give us a great run at some pint.  The Venetia Williams stable have had some winners in this race and the form at Cheltenham last month when just finishing behind a useful looking front four (Eastlake 3rd went on to win again) does not look so bad.

The Long Walk Hurdle is at 2.25 and I cannot see any way that At Fishers Cross gets beat.  Celestial Halo gave him a thrashing last time out but something was not right that day and overall, despite his admirable hardy record, I remain unconvinced by CH.  Anyway, he has already defected from this race and that leaves the chief competition being Reve de Sivola who I think At Fishers Cross had the better of before smacking his hurdle last time out.  Lets keep it simple… Load the money printer, George has ordered up some more quantitative easing.

In the Silver Cup, we have the surprise Hennessy winner, Triolo D’Alene out again with a further 11bs on his back.  He has run three times on soft and has never placed which is a slight concern.  It is enough for the Major to be looking elsewhere and I have long felt that Cedre Bleu could make up into a decent staying chaser even if he has failed to impress over longer distances previously.  11/2 is available as I type with Coral.  As a footnote, What a Warrior should not be 12s, if 8 go to post, it is a fantastic each way bet for a horse with no weight on his back and decent form claims.

Last but certainly not least… The Ladbroke.  A headache of a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma and rammed down your throat with the bestial force of insanity.  8/1 the field… Take your pick.

For the Major, I am mostly staking my money on the record of Pipe in the race.  In a field of 21 runners, he fields almost a third of the runners.  Firstly a nod to the runners that Messrs Henderson and Nicholls have entered.  Chatterbox and Rolling Star will have plenty of fans.  I prefer Ptit Zig mind, even off top weight.  Yet, my Pipe plot means I am going to invest in Dell Arca 10/1 who must have been targetted at this for some time.   I am also oing to have a saver on 25/1 shot Irish Saint who has some very tasty form as a juvenile – Once beaten by Rolling Star by a handful of lengths at Cheltenham, if recovered from a fall at Newbury, I think he could play a part.

In the football… QPR have the right formula so 6/5 for a home win versus Leicester is a price.  Walsall have had some issues but 4/5 at home to Carlisle is also a bet.

The Martin Hill bet is simple… A Dell Arca, Cedre Bleu and Forever Present trixie….. Money Printer…. Loaded.

I trust your dinner is prepared with great care and charged as such.  I wish the finest wines for you and the finest company.  Tip well, tis Christmas.

Courage and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Full Cheltenham International Card Tips – Let’s get Christmas paid for!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a pleasant Worcestershire evening with the family happily all around and Chinese food in, fit to burst.

The Major is full of business this evening, all bustling and bristling to get to the racing action.  A nice card at Cheltenham awaits and below is a full run down of my thoughts for tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing the New One in action – He is a serious contender for the Champion Hurdle although I confess to holding ante post tickets on Our Conor who was breathtaking in March, delivering a performance from the gods, a rare thing, winning a festival race on such a tight rein.

Such joyous days, I was not on but could only admire.

Lately, such times have been hard to recall.  I am suffering with an anxiety, dark and malevolent.  Blood surging, pressure building inside the skull, little respite.  Waking in the dark hours, restless, thoughts whirring away and not the pleasant sort.  Early in the mornings, in the worst moments, I struggle to shake it off.  The night world invading the day.

Yet now as I sit here, the fire underway, all is swept aside and a contentment lightens my mood.  Tomorrow I am to Birmingham and to spend some time watching the sport in great company.  Sport is wonderful.  All of life is contained within.

We are on this path just the once stranger.  We have no dress rehearsal.  I repeat my oft-repeated plea, we drift by on the tide just the once, grab on to what floats by, take up the fortune my friends.  If there are two simple things, just two to make your aim.. make it these… Experience and Companionship.

Daub thy war paint for it is December and we have a Christmas to pay for.  Mount the heavy horse for we will skirmish in open formation into their forward lines, meeting them man to man with our lance points flashing in the bright sunlight.  To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

In the Cheltenham opener, the Triumph trial, I am interested in two near the top of the market.

All three fancied horses come from strong yards with Henderson holding the favourite, Kentucky Hyden; Nicholls with French import, Vicenzo Mio and John Ferguson represented by Commissioned.  All three yards arrive is good form and it is noteworthy that Nicholls has used this race to launch the British careers of some decent sorts in the past, winning it twice in the last two years.

The Henderson horse won by half the track at Sandown but that small field was easier pickings than this.  I prefer the Nicholls horse who has won a decent race at Auteuil and is a definite contender.  Yet I am more persuaded by the Ferguson horse, Commissioned.  I know the record of the yard at jumping HQ is atrocious (0 wins, 2 places, 15 runners – 2 Years) but look beyond that and there is a lot to like about my tip.

Commissioned is an ex Mark Johnstone horse and has excellent form on good ground, which is a handy advantage.  The yard have had 6 winners in the last two weeks and with some handy flat form, I think the 5/1 offered by Ladbrokes is well worth taking… Get invested.

Only 4 runners make it for the stayers novice chase but it is an intriguing race all the same.  A lot of folk are going to take the way Shutthefrontdoor was closing on Le Bec last time at Cheltenham as a significant positive over this extra distance.  It certainly looks like he should be able to reverse form but I am not convinced – To me Le Bec kept finding more too and I am not convinced that the defeated foe necessarily has the upper hand tomorrow with an extra furlong and 3lbs to help him.

Le Bec was sixth in the Albert Bartlett and looks pretty assured at his fences, although he did hit one at Cheltenham last time and still finished well.

It is between these two in my book.  I am going for the reverse and a bet on Shutthefrontdoor at 11/8.  There is a further more powerful reason for a reverse in my eyes.  That is the replacement of Le Bec of Noel Fehily by Aiden Coleman.  Now I have nothing against Coleman, he is a good jockey in his own right but I am a huge Fehily fan who is surely worth some lengths to the horse.

In the Jenny Mould memorial, I am opting for Astracad (8/1) who will definitely pop up in a race like this sooner or later.  The horse has picked up a couple of course wins, although has been highly tried at Cheltenham.  I think he prefers the better ground and his trainer would like to win the Jenny Mould memorial as she was a big supporter of his yard.  Of the others, Shooters Wood would have been very interesting but I think conditions are against.  It might also be that we have not bottomed out the potential of Drumshambo who also made the short-list.

Kings Palace looks like a solid favourite for the 1.50pm.  The Pipe horse won really well here last time, loves good conditions and 5/4 does not put me off… Load the heavy cannon.

I was a big fan of Colour Squadron and thought we were desperately unlucky not to win with him at the November meeting.  A better jump two out and he was definitely going to be involved.  How confident we can be in a second such performance, I am not sure.  Johns Spirit was showing further improved form though that day and 9lbs raise may not have bottomed him out.

I am opposing both though with a chance that Salut Flo returns in some sort of good order.  My selection loves decent ground and was a serious horse when last seen in competitive action.  Clearly time off tempers the enthusiasm but Pipe can ready one and this could be a seriously good mark.  Ataglance is a horse I would not put you off, he was also involved in that Johns Spirit / Colour Squadron dust-up and while finishing further behind in fourth, it is worth noting that he was racing out of the handicap that day and is much better off on tomorrows revised terms.

I do not see any dangers to The New One in the meetings feature race.  Yes it is 1/2 on but this is a serious Champion Hurdle contender and I think he should readily have the measure of Zarkander who while decent is not top class.  I would offer a word of optimism for Albert Hall who has limited British experience but has capable french form and 100/1 would be dismissive of his place chances if there were 8 runners, sadly, currently only 7 go to post.

I can make a case for all of the runners in the last.  Gemix is hard to assess, he certainly has some top class form but I am not sure what he will make of hurdling in a small field in this company.  I prefer More of That who smashed up a Folkestone race and two wins this season have been better again – More to come.

Yet, in the last, I am minded to go with Glenns Melody, she has a good strike rate and won really handsomely last time.  Since Ruby has made the effort to come over, well I take it as a positive, 7/2 is a stand out with Coral, with 3/1 more generally on offer.

At Lingfield, I would back Black Thunder in their feature race, soft ground is great for him and he was pulling clear readily at Haydock last time, easy.

In the football, I like QPR and Forest both at 5/4.

I trust that your dinner is in the best of company, generous, full of humour and mischief and that the only inconvenience is the uncomfortable wad of notes denoting the drubbing you dished out to our beautiful enemy.

The Martin Hill bet is each way doubles and trebles on all of the Cheltenham selections above with the exception of The New One and Astracad.  That’s 40 bets… Get Christmas paid.