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.
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.
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.