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.

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