Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Saturday Sermon – National Hunt Feast from Cheltenham, Doncaster and Leopardstown – A splash of FA Cup Magic too

Good morning from the Major who writes from the bed gazing serenely across a brightening Worcestershire dawn.  Once again the land is waterlogged, the brook over my road and down 50 metres has flooded, the temporary lake resting with the confidence of permanence.

The Major caught rest in snatches through the night, the time between filled with a headphone in one ear, dreamily listening to the World Service, drifting in and out of concentration.  The words and stories came to me as images, patchy and alarming.  Two dead building World Cup stadiums in Brazil, one fell from a roof.  Syrian refugees.  A bomb, half a ton of high explosive in Cairo destroying the oldest Islamic museum in the world, thousands of artefacts dating to before the time of Christ.

Coming awake is like leaving another world behind.  I need a shower to leave that night world where it belongs.  To delineate properly the border, reinforcements are needed to stop it seeping into the day world.

This week, Barney Curley landed a mothership.  Now, enough has been said for me not to bore you with my opinions but safe to say I love the skullduggery of racing as much as the next man and the suggestion it puts people off is a nonsense.  People are attracted to the richness.  It helps that I managed a touch on it myself.  I saw the Eye of the Tiger gamble and got 7/2 overnight, thanks to @yahwey I caught one other too, Indus Valley which I got at 10s.  Attractive prices but oh, how I wish I had gotten wind of the other two…

Cheltenham races today – Trials day.  I would be present but for the birthday of number one son, Daniel, he eight – Under ideal circumstances I would have taken him but at the age, the Science Museum and friends and family seems more attractive to him… He is a long term project, give me time.

Last week showed well, we travelled into the Sermon perfectly with a 6/1 winner and hit the mark with Melodic Rendevouz – I still managed to make the weekend a losing one after piling in most my bets to multiples including Wigan… They lost three nil at Doncaster.  The misery piled up in sedimentary layers… I saw they went one nil down… Then we went live to the Keepmoat for a goal update and it was two… The energy for the weekends punting seeping away, rapidly draining.

The same was true yesterday, after lunch I tuned in to see that Noel Fehily had won in the opener at 12/1 – What a start to the day… My Fehily multiple was looking in fine order.. It was to be the last winner he had – In fact, I did not manage another placed horse.  Disappointing.  Still, there will be many a false dawn before our own Curley sized mothership.  Indeed, you may have time to grow an oak from an acorn or you may be planning the spending tonight… who can tell.

Daub thy warpaint young warriors, we shall ride flank to flank, tight formation, with lances raised awaiting the order…. To the sports..

Cheltenham Card

No surprise, Cheltenham has gone heavy overnight so we are looking for some horses who can take it.  Out goes, The Giant Bolster (never liked him anyway), in comes Restless Harry (loves heavy and is Pricewise).

Goodwood Mirage is one of the most expensive national hunt recruits you will find, reaching 380k for his services, you would expect a lot.  Yet, price does not buy success in racing, particularly national hunt and the memory of Un Temps Pour Tout, who tempted me in with his 450k price tag (most expensive ever by the way) and failed.

Nick Williams has not had many runners but has Le Rocher who held Kentucky Hyden on heavy at Chepstow – On that form he is of clear interest and proven on the ground, hmmm.  Then the favourite, Vincezio Mio – Clearly Nicholls thinks a lot of him.  Ronaldinho is not a forlorn 20/1 shot if you read the list of horses the trainer has won this race with in the past – Katchit, Franchoek, Walkon and Grumeti.  Plus a 100/1 shot took this in 2010.  His Newbury race might not be that bad and although he was well beaten, he was prominent until after the last – He may be a non stayer, he may have needed it – We should certainly afford him the same flexibility we might afford Goodwood Mirage or Vincenzo Mio on those grounds.

It is a difficult race to make a call on.  Nicholls thinks a lot of Vincenzo Mio but he has not traditionally aimed his top guns at this.  I have to support Le Rocher over Kentucky Hyden but Nick Williams has not had many runners lately.  Sod it, I am sticking with the money… Goodwood Mirage  gets the tentative nod at 5/1.

Dark Lover has both course and ground form and so gets the nod in the second race which is a trappy handicap.  I considered the chances of Samingarry and Renard D’Irlande who both could go well, the former having the measure of subsequent grade 1 winner, Annacotty who I struggle to see overhauling him on these terms.  Anyway, 9/1 is available about my selection, with 10s in a place, if you have ever heard of Unibet!

I am not convinced that genuine heavy ground will suit Double Ross and so with an 8lb rise to contend with, I am going against the improver who I backed last time out.  Cedre Bleu is a horse I have followed and I like his chances but I am sticking with Venetia Williams and Aiden Coleman, a combination that is having a great season.  Shangani was a good festival runner and should be OK in conditions.

The Argento Chase market is led by Rocky Creek who is decent but at the prices, I am overlooking.  The same combination I liked in the previous saddle up with Houblon Des Obeaux, who has a number of fans.  Pricewise beat me to the punch with pointing out the chances of Restless Harry who loves it this soft and came back with a bang last time out.  The Giant Bolster needs good ground and Harry Topper is ridiculously burdened with the most weight of all.  No, regardless of ones thunder having been stolen, I am with Restless Harry too.

Maybe Lizzie Kelly will prove a great jockey, maybe it is the folly of love (she is the daughter of the trainers wife, who is also the owner – follow?) but I am surprised that a jockey with just ten rides to her name gets a ride on a horse with a live Grade 2 chance.  That said, she has won 4 starts, including twice with this horse, last time on New Years Day at this course.  Not for me.

No, I shall focus on the two market leaders, Red Sherlock and Rathvinden, both of whom are proven in the mud.  I am readily behind Red Sherlock who has been winning lesser races effortlessly.  His preparation is one that suggests the stable (although not my favourite yard) hold him in high regard and I am minded that he at least has the course form.

Then the big one and the big question – What remains of the incredible ability of Big Bucks?  He is only eleven but is bidding to win having been off the course for over a year.  If he was not so talented, passing him over would be easy.  His age and these injuries mean are hard to overcome and there are a couple of progressive horses lining up against him.

In these staying races, age can play less of a part as speed is less important than class.  Yet, the age does trouble me.  Big Bucks has occasionally looked like a horse that is not straight forward.  He has lost the jockey that really understood him too.  It is enough for me to look elsewhere.  I may well look very foolish come 3pm but my prediction is… pulled up.  I really hope that he comes home OK – Nobody wants to see a champion humbled, let alone injured.

I was a big fan of At Fishers Cross coming into the season but you have to be tempered by his performances.  I am not sure what has happened there but he looks one to pick up again after he has had a summer on his back.  Mind you, a return to form would be dangerous for the field as he is unbeaten at Cheltenham in three starts.

Reve de Sivola is a horse I have backed on a few occasions but never quite get right.  He seems better than ever now back in staying hurdles and my thinking is torn between his proven class and the potential of the Mullins raider Boston Bob.  Reve de Sivola causes me some consternation about Cheltenham having won twice from twelve starts…

Sod it, 9/1 is too big – I am hoping, it is hope, that At Fishers Cross has whatever issues behind him and can bring back the magic.  Surprise!

It could be that throughout the card I have not scored a single winner.  On the other hand, we could be holding that mothership ticket going into the last.  Seeing a Brian Ellison horse being backed (Totalize) is a signal but I am thinking that the handicapper may have taken a chance with Lac Fontana who is 7/1 generally and 8s with 888.com ironically.

Doncaster Tips

Is the drop in trip for Annie Power going to inconvenience her… no.  Is 1/5 a backable price… probably – She has been dominant in her races and looks a top class prospect.  It certainly looks like this is a signal that she is heading for the Champion Hurdle, which makes the Pricewise (third time I have mentioned him this morning!) 14/1 advice very sound.  Reading between the lines, I cannot understand why the yard would want to do it and have come to an unfounded speculative conclusion that Mullins himself would go to the stayers race but that Ricci wants a Champion Hurdle runner and ultimately, it is the owners horse.

Anyway, the two horses I am interested in at Doncaster are Caid Du Berlais who I want a lumpy piece of at an incredible 9/2 with 888.com (generally 11/4).  That price may be wrong and I am happy at 11/4 if I cannot get on.

I find Mart Lane an interesting runner in the Sky Bet Chase and his last run looks interesting.  Unioniste is no doubt a very good stayer but I am concerned that his exploits in Ireland both expose his limitations at the top level (Still excellent in this context) and more troubling, may have taken a physical toll – It was a tough race.

Alas, I am following a horse that will enjoy conditions and may well have some more improvement – Kruzhlinin.  He can be backed at 11s… Have a slice.

Leopardstown

Paul Townend has suffered the effect of Ruby being at home more weekends this year but gets a chance today on the Mullins first string in Ireland.  I rate him as a jockey and think he can take the Grade 2 Novice Chase on Djakadam.   Only 6/4 but I think this one will make a better chaser than hurdler and although less experienced and younger than his rivals, he gets some handy weight too.

Will Quick Jack keep up his relentless rise through the weights… Yes.

FA Cup action continues and my usual aim is to find overpriced Premier LEague teams away at Championship of League one clubs.  Swansea 21/20 at Birmingham City, Hull 10/11 at Southend and in League 1, Walsall at 7/5 and Wolves at 10/7.

The Martin Hill bet is a yankee including Quick Jack, Caid du Berlais, Red Sherlock and Wolves (if he can keep his breakfast down).

May your dinner be extravagant and in the best of company, with her wanton eye telling you to where her mind runs.

Courage friends, roll those dice.

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The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Haydock, Naas and some Football thoughts – Shabash

Good morning from the Major who writes from a wet Worcestershire scene.  Gazing out across the land at first light, menacing dark glimmers hint at the temporary lakes caused by inability of the Avon to drain quickly enough.  They are ominous, glinting and dark.  As the light comes, they lose their malevolent presence becoming peaceful rippling surfaces on which wetland birds glide.

How the darkness of night is lifted, a mirror for my thoughts.

Last night, listening to heavy rain outside was thoroughly relaxing, the patter accompanied by the whirring sound of high winds whipping around the solid brick.  All while you settle in to a dose of whatever you fancy while the woodburner roars away – Peace.

The Major has had a further challenging week, one that has been largely devoid of sleep and so the 11 hours that I enjoyed last night overdue and welcome.  I would not describe myself as feeling sharp as a result, more sluggish if anything but a contentment has come and it only means one thing… winners.  I can sense the moment before the victory and this morning reeks of it.

I am keeping the Sermon short this morning due to family commitments but wish you all the happiest punting victories.  Yet this high confidence means I am invested well into outcomes today.

Last week was a right off for the racing but we landed all three football bets.  To be fair, it was hard not to win on the football last week with all of the top teams in every division securing three points.

Daub thy war paint young warriors and mount thy horses.  We shall skirmish in open formation with the lancepoints dancing in the sunlight… to the sports.

Ascot Tips

The Ascot card that lies before us is a cracker and I dearly wish I was there.  The spectacular stand, a drop of something nice.  Still even from afar, I can feel that the card is solvable – Let us plunder away!

In the opening juvenile hurdle, I can see there being a mild upset.  The Jonjo horse, Masquerading, surely needs better ground and the current favourite, Handiwork was such a poor flat horse that I am taking his improvement to hurdles with a strong suspicion.  That said, his defeat of Aalim who was a subsequent winner is clearly decent.

Therefore I am investing in the French recruit to the Walford yard, Astre de la Cour,  6/1, which translates as Star of the Court.  The trainer has not had an Ascot runner in a long time and has booked Aspell (1 from 2 rides in the last year for the yard) – I suspect they are hoping for good things!

I skip to the first graded race, the 1.50, a 3 mile mares hurdle.  It is a nicely shaped race where Mickie, 11/8, is the present favourite.  She finished well ahead of Utopie Des Bordes at Kempton and I see little reason for a reversal of that form.  I was surprised to see a drift on the horse and think the main danger would be Highland Retreat who gets the assistance of the magnificent Noel Fehily.

In the 2.25 ( a limited handicap) – I am a big fan of The Skyfarmer who can be backed at 5/1 in a place and 9/2 generally.  What attracts me is the form of Lyvius who my selection beat at Cheltenham.  Lyvius was a winner off his revised mark at Kempton over Christmas and that is a good sign that the higher mark for The Skyfarmer is manageable.  It is worth noting that the pair put a lot of daylight between them and third at Cheltenham.  Irish Saint has been a bit of a disappointment and I suspect he will come good one day.

The 3pm handicap chase is a race in which I can make an argument for several so I will be leaving my stakes light on Grandioso who I hope has not suffered too much from his fall last time out.

The comes bet of the year so far… Sire de Grugy has been a significant improver and quite rightly has the crown of 2m horse to beat (while Sprinter is absent).  You can make a case for Somersby on course form but I simply think that he is very vulnerable to a genuine top class horse.  All you then have to decide is whether Sire de Grugy is that and I do!

Haydock and Naas

You know the tale, so I do not need to explain why I am backing Taquin Du Seuil, 5/6, in the 1.30 at Haydock.  His jumping experience and bare form should give him the measure of these.

I am putting Taquin in a Haydock double with another hottie, Un Temps Pour Tout.  There is a big expectation on this French import having cost the best part of a cool half million.  He was placed in the Grade 1 hurdle that Ptit Zig won at Auteuil having previously won a Grade 3 at the same track – Both efforts in the mud.

In the big race, 2.40, I have every hope that we can get Ptit Zig turned over mind with Melodic Rendezvous, 9/4 – I think this is a classy classy horse and his Newcastle effort was not the right run – I think the ground was key that day and we might see an entirely different prospect here.  The way he picked up Far West at Wincanton was extremely eye-catching and I am having a chunky one.

No bet on their big chase but I think Katenko is the likeliest participant.

Is that what you came here for?  Two odds on tips and a second favourite?  Did you come for tips?  Madness, the Major reminds you once again, that this is barely profitable and always unhinged – My readers are typically regular and expect nothing more than an attempt to land the mothership.

At Naas, we have a great card and Dunguib returns to the racecourse for the first time in three years.  He was once the great new hope, winning his hurdle races so easily he was the Irish hotpot at the opening day of the festival.  He only managed a place that day and a bubble was burst.  I hope keeping him in training is for the right reasons but I cannot find myself tempted to backing him at this price.

No, I wait for the 1.35 and a 11/8 on Sizing Gold.  He looks good, this is a confident selection.

In the football…. I must highlight a good opportunity.  Now the Major has no sponsorship from any firm and never has.  Yet, I would suggest you take Ladbrokes up on their offer to give a free bet to £25 if both teams score and your main bet loses in the Chelsea v Manchester United game.  I fancy Chelsea for this anyway so the 4/5 they offer is decent and my thinking is that for the bet to lose it is either nil nil or Manchester United have to score.  Thus, as long as Chelsea score at some point, the bet pays or you get a free bet.  Shame they do not let you have it in multiples but it is generous enough!

I also like Newcastle to win at West Ham, 8/5, who are poor, do not be fooled by their Cardiff result.  Wigan to win at Doncaster 5/6 and QPR to win at home to Huddersfield 7/10.

The Martin Hill bet is a L31 on Wigan, Chelsea, Sire de Grugy, Sizing Gold and Melodic Rendezvous.

I trust that your dinner is taken in good order and in good company.  May the wine be expensive and plentiful and paid for from merely a few of those larger red notes bandily taut around a core of purple.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Kempton, Wetherby and Warwick

Good evening from the Major who writes from a breezy but fair Worcestershire scene where the fire crackles, the beer is cold and the good lady is preparing a king prawn curry – Ah, it is good to be alive.

There are moments, flickers, moments in the script when the sense of being alive seems inexplicably to come to the fore of your mind.  Recently, you will recall the Majors sojourn to the emerald isle.  A most satisfactory time was had.  While driving through Dublin, Daniel, number one son and heir to the Majors fortune (not that there will be a fortune, more likely a debt) spied an unusual building and exclaimed that ‘how could anyone build that?’

The simplicity of the question took me by some surprise.  It is the wonderment that made my heart skip, the sheer astonishment that as a child you can experience but as a spark from the fire diminishes as we weary.

Such spirit, waking moments, it is the reason why I refuse to lay off when on a bet.  I was drinking with my brother a few weeks back and bought him a treble, in  which the first two legs landed.  He felt uncomfortable, even before he spoke I knew it, he was rubbing the ticket and twitching at the prospect of saying something.  The thing is, the win would have been useful and the conflict he felt was talking to me about laying off.

Now, I am a humble soul and would not begrudge you or any other man your own opinion.  Yet, my own brother, a man who knows his own mind well felt an impulsive hesitancy in my company.

As it happened, he was waiting on a Kidderminster win.  He played a few safety bets and it was financially rewarding as Kidderminster failed in the last leg of the treble, rather miserably losing with ten men.

Was this right?  Was his correction emotionally as well as rationally good value?  I am unsure.  A gift, the urge to see it through, his understanding of my own reluctance to lie down in the face of a gamble – I just feel it is cheating, it is robbing yourself of the thrill you might enjoy… After all, we spin by just the once and whatever raises the heart, engages the mind, brings the lust of blood, well… it is a rarer and most beautiful thing.

Leave your chips on the table my friends, to the sports…

The Tolworth

The Liquidator looks the bet to me being 9/4 and with obvious advantages.  I must confess to not being a fan of the Pipe stable but The Liquidator carries great form into the race and unlike my other fancy (Garde La Victoire) he has proven mudlark status.  Upazo does not appeal on pure form terms to me and the Henderson yard (who are in fine form, with fewer than usual runners in the last fortnight) send out two but both are overlooked.  Of them, Josses Hill is clearly the most interesting but I do not like the form as he has had to battle to victory the last twice – That said, greenness could be a factor and I would not be outraged to be corrected.

All the dogs are barking for Captain Chris but I cannot have him.  He is not the sort I trust at all, for a start I think three flat miles on good ground is his bag and this, while shorter and on softer (thus an acceptable compromise for many) will not be his ideal conditions.  Twinlight has been talked down by the trainer but honestly, I feel he has an excellent chance, one might question why they are bringing him across otherwise – The yard seem to be in perpetual good form which is something the Ditcheat team cannot boast and Ghizao while loving the ground is short on the required form.

Warwick

Black Thunder won in a small field last time which might put some off his short odds but I have to admit to being impressed enough to lump on today at 4/6 in this better company.  Corrin Wood is a decent opponent but my selection won going away and Nicholls is bringing him along quietly.

I am also a fan of African Gold, yes it is deep ground, yes he carries top weight but make no doubt, he is the class act.

Wetherby Tip

At Wetherby, I am looking to have a bet on McMurrough who is back hurdling after some smart chasing appearances.  He looks well placed for a win and races off almost a stone lighter than his chase mark.  At first glance his soft ground form is not great but this is a distraction, he is certainly ground versatile and the yard is are in absolute awesome form…  I suspect this is bet of the day.  6/1 – Major stakes required.

To the football….

Southampton are a fine 20/17 to beat West Brom with the latter not yet benefiting from the new managers guidance.  Likewise, long-term team to follow this season, Wigan, are 13/15 to win at home to Bournemouth, have a big slice.  I would also be a buyer of Burnley at 19/20 away at Yeovil.

May your dinner be magnificent, resplendent in its glorious elegance both in cuisine and company.  Of the latter, I trust it is well-mannered, not too gentle, more outrageously good fun…. She may be entertaining the idea, which gets settled as your wallet falls open to settle the bill, spilling the good fortune of the day.

The Martin hill bet, sure to be a winner is doubles and trebles on all horses selected -20 bets.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newcastle and Lingfield plus 3rd Round FA Cup

Good morning from the Major who writes briefly from a Worcestershire scene that is laden with water.

Racing fixtures across the land are being abandoned as the ground staff cry enough and surrender to the onslaught of Atlantic fronts that have streamed in relentlessly, no mercy.

The Major is holed up in bed – Unwell, unsettled.  Thus forgive the brevity, it is not curtness, it is the wish to sleep, or try to.

Sir Des Champs out for the season – Shame for the horse, not for the Majors multiples which only contain Bobs Worth and Silvi for the Gold Cup.  It’s bad form to wish ill on another and the Major hopes to see SDC back in late 2014 with his new rider, Bryan Cooper.

It is ten weeks until Cheltenham.  My own antepost stable contains a lot of Our Conor so I was a little disappointed over Christmas to see him fall to Hurricane Fly.  It was his first jumps start of the season and he will improve where the fly will not – That said, he also has to beat The New One or My Tent or Yours either and he can be backed at much bigger prices than my own ticket prices.

The joy of antepost – It is like you are hatching a plot, you watch the season unfold in front of you and outcomes range from the smug joy of using the words ‘I’ve been backing that since’ to the silent private act of destroying the evidence of money spent on horses that will never run.  Having experienced both I assure you the debit side of the ledger does not outweight the credit side.  Thus, find yourself a horse and back it throughout the season for Cheltenham.  Every year.

To the sports.

Newcastle Tips

Retrieve the Stick is penalised for a facile win at Kelso in the mud last time and that proven form should be enough to see her win the opener at Newcastle.  5/2 is generally available and while giving weight away in these conditions will be tough, no other horse in the field has won on soft or heavy ground and so experience of winning, proven form and a liking for the mud all add up to a sizeable bet from the Major.

Yard form has persuaded me to add Mr Philson to the portfolio who can be backed at 6/1 in the wide open 1.40.  He has placed twice on heavy ground from 3 runs and with the return of the stiffer headgear and going for a red-hot yard, it is worth a pop.

I am also getting on Nautical Star in the 2.15.  The horse ran well enough on handicap debut to suggest that the mark is manageable.  The Jefferson yard are in great form and in this ground, receiving weight from all rivals is sure to be an advantage.

Dingo Bay gets a tentative nod at 9/4 in the 2.50.  He suffered an horrendous fall on reappearance which is a dampener but he did win this race last year and is 2/2 on heavy ground.  The chief concern would be My Chippy who returns from best part of two years off and could be on a handy mark is prepped for a big run by the McCain team.

Lingfield Tip

I am not a big all-weather fan and my sole bet comes in the 2.00 where Joyous rates a danger to all on his second course start.  He is not badly treated for a sound AW debut where maybe a little unlucky (was sent off favourite) and while I would agree with the consensus that Kirby is the number one AW jockey, Winston is not far behind.

In the football, it is FA Cup 3rd round weekend and the Major always feels this is a weekend where profits can be made.  The angle is seeking Premier League teams where the market is pricing against them on the grounds that they are likely to play an inferior team and are playing a form team from a lower division.

The Major seeks markets where these conditions exist and then look to back the Premier League club.  My counter logic is simple, the gulf in class of squads is greater than many give credit for.  The fact is that the second string of a Premier League club is oft enough to do the job anyway.  Plus at this stage of the season, with the transfer window open, the players coming in have plenty to prove and are surprisingly motivated.

So…. Villa to beat Sheffield United 4/7.  Hull to win at Middlesborough 21/10.  Stoke to beat Leicester 5/4.

The Martin Hill bet is a Yankee on Nautical Star, Retrieve the Stick, Mr Philson and Stoke.

The Cheltenham New Years Day Sermon of 2014…. Courage friends, roll those dice

Happy New Year from the Major who writes from the comfort of the living room with the stove crackling away, the wine open and the dinner of King Prawn Vermicelli bringing a contentment.

The close of the year is a moment of reflection for all of us.  Should the Major trot out the expected staid lines about the new opportunities the arbitrary turn of date brings; of course I shall not, I shall leave that task to the banality of the rest.  You do not come here for that.  No, indeed, the Major only attracts those of a sound constitution.  Folk who understand about gambling, the roller-coaster, the lessons, the rush of the heart and the solemn self-reflection.

In spite of the Majors reticence to become a faux-reluctant reporter of the years events, I shall proffer my own best / worst moments of the year.  May I add that these are not researched, they come to me in this wine-flown state and so I am sure I have missed significant moments.  Feel free to correct me (@tdl123).

On the side of the highs…. Bobs Worth was a fine winner of the Gold Cup, stayed on forever.  Talent was my classic highlight, she held her head so high down the hill and then came wider to accelerate past much more fancied foes… It won’t be on many lists but it got my pulse going.  Wise Dan.  Treve, wow.  The Toranado and Dawn Approach battles…

On the debit side of the ledger, the year took a heavy toll.  Darlan was a tragic loss and in amongst many others, @efc1967 reminded me of Little Josh – There is a high price paid.

What did I learn this year?  Definitely that to be profitable, I should bet less.  Yet, to enjoy life, I should bet more.  Figure that.

I certainly wish to never write Lingfield on a betting slip again, or Downpatrick for that matter, you can add Dundalk too.  I know I will but I should not.  Jockey skill, so long given a huge prominence in my calculation, shall be downgraded – Not significantly, just adjustment.  I shall continue to follow my instincts for quality in the training work of Longsden and Fry.

The greatest lesson I could give (and it is issued ever so humbly) is that you should treat victory with the same attention as you may treat defeat.  In this, I do not infer, as Kipling did, that each lacks credibility.  No, I just suggest that you should apply the same vigour to winning bets as you might to a lost one.  We often do not – A fortunate winner is treated kindly, we accept the luck as due to us and never question the validity of our logic.  Conversely, a defeat causes our mind to explore every nook and cranny of our original thought, self-doubt, analysis and a change to future behaviours…

To be careful now.  To make sure sentiment rests to one side.  It is difficult.  I type as the witching hour falls, the turn of the year is here.  It does not feel a good year for the Major, yet surely this is my prime?  I feel at odds with myself, as though I am floating above situations and not an active participant.  The day world has been infected with the night.  The commodity I crave is not wealth, neither women or power… it is peace of mind.  I wish contentment for you in this new year.  Courage my friends, stay the course.

There are few things to wish for in my own opinion. Health, contentment, experience and companionship, perhaps they are the greatest.  I raise a glass tonight to you my faithful friends.  I wish us to land the mothership this year.  The same I have wished in each year, a prayer unanswered.

To the sports…

Cheltenham New Years Day

The opener is a decent looking race and I am looking forward to the return of Ballyalton – A general 2/1 shot, you can find a touch of 9/4 about the place with some outfits you may never have heard of!  Ian Williams has a dual licence, operating out of the South Midlands – He deserves a big jumps horse and I think he has one here.  My tip did really well to win here last time when beating a horse I hold in high regard, Garde la Victoire.  That day he was very slow away and hit the hurdle at the top of the hill so to go on to beat prestigious opposition was a real achievement.  Large bet advised.

In the second, Mendip Express comes out of novice races in good spirits but I am not sure this is an entirely reasonable mark on which to start proceedings.  De le Bech mind comes off a win at Chepstow, the style of which to me suggests a mere third of a stone rise is well in reach.  The one I like though is Bradley who has often run a good race at jumps HQ.  I am struggling to understand why Alvarado is two points clear after a 4 length defeat and a 7lb swing… 10/1 William Hill.

Once again Oscar Whiskey is fancied to better long-term fancy of my own, Taquin du Seuil.  The Cheltenham win last time out for Taquin was impressive in one regard which was that he seemed to have a superior turn of foot to Oscar Whiskey but  think that might be misleading.  Oscar was forced to lead that day and never settled, the early pace was a walk and while I remain surprised that Taquin is faster than Oscar, I think the whole affair a shambles.  Off revised weights, with further experience to Oscar Whiskey, who since beat Wonderful Charm a very decent yardstick and previous winner, well… I am reduced to saying this.  McCoy gave me Taquin and I am staying loyal at 11/8 in spite of logical protest.  That said, there is a bit of logic to my side of the debate too… Distance… and ground. It will be tough and for that, the gangly and hardcore Taquin Du Seuil is your horse.

To think that the Giant Bolster who has finished ahead of Gold Cup winner, Long Run in a Gold Cup is 11/1 in a hurdle tells you a lot of his fall from grace.  I was never feeling he would repeat that form and cannot have him here either.  Burton Port is another former high-class chaser who is thrown into this hurdling lark again and I am sure will be slow and jumping large.   No  Whispering Gallery for the ever improving Ferguson team is the one for the Major.  He is a G3 Dubai winner and has done nothing wrong to date, I always have a thing about Ferguson horses wanting better ground and while Cheltenham seems to be advertising OK conditions for the 1st Jan, I cannot help but think that it will be much heavier which would be an inconvenience.  In that event, tough Return Spring might be the one to be doing his best work at the end.

I am looking forward to the 2.30 – I like Drumshambo a lot.  Venetia Williams deserves some big Cheltenham Festival successes and this horse is one I think could go well if handled correctly.  As such, I find i difficult to assess if this one is well treated – I actually think it would not be out of company in some of the bigger group staying races but here it is.  Cedre Bleu is a horse I also like even though he is a tricky son of a gun.  Yet the Major is settled on Carrickboy at 9/1 who is the second Venetia runner, is notably being backed tonight and gets the ground he loves for the first time in a few races.

Annie Power is 4lbs the worse than when receiving 11lbs and dishing an absolute beating to Zarkander last time.  She has bags of talent and potential and I see no reason to desert at 4/11.   Psychologically she has the measure of Zarkander.

In the bumper, there are a plethora of reasonable choices and I opt for an outsider in Solstice Star, 20/1, Honeyball has had some decent sorts and may not be throwing blind darts here.

I hope your New Year is plentiful and victorious.  For dining, taste the joy of a good Fish Pie, glaze some carrots alongside and chill a Chablis.

Courage all and roll those dice.  Happy New Year.