Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Saturday Sermon – Kempton, Newcastle, Fairyhouse and Chepstow, some football…. News that terrorises your soul

Good evening from the Major who writes from a blustery Worcestershire where the gusts cut deep into your torso, cold biting at the innards, sending you scurrying for shelter.    Since I started the post late into the night and recommenced on this fine morning, I can now report on the morning condition of this land, a gentle pastel blue sky with soft white distant cloud, souls awakening, spring is here.

The Major landed some decent bets last week and the form continued on the twitter account (@tdl123 for you modern sorts) where this week, I pointed towards a 22/1 winner and a 9/2 winner on subsequent days.  This combined with a decent weekend just passed, created a liquid position, suitable for funding a small military intervention at Cheltenham in a matter of weeks.

Sadly, foolishly, gluttonously and gloriously, the Major set about the destruction of these new-found resources.  I have a remarkable skill to be able to bet at pace and by the time I found myself anxiously awaiting updates on a game that Lazio were losing one nil at home to Laprasador Zobronogionopovforgorovitopolova or some such thing I had never heard of; well, the die was cast – Ah, the truth one feels after wasting some money.  I cannot describe it, however, it is well documented in my favourite film, The Sting.  Robert Redford, having come across a roll of notes fit to choke a mid-sized donkey, takes a spin out with a floozy and manages to blow an astonishing amount on a crooked roulette table.  With gasps around him and his company in outrage at the sheer stupidity, wastefulness and brashness of the act, he flicks his smart hat forward an inch, puts his hand to his chin and just for one moment, takes a sharp intake of breath.  He had it spot on.

Perhaps the fuzziness in my decision making came from the restless existence I stumble through.  Snatching a handful of hours sleep in each evening, leads to a shaky existence.  In between the pools of slumber, lie monsters.  I tend to listen to the World Service, drifting in and out of the genteel voices that convey such messages of terror.  Ukraine, Syria and this week, like a bucket of cold water, North Korea.  I like to keep the night world seperate from the day, but the edges are blurring, feelings that I have deep in the night are invading into the light and I shall sahre them my friends, unburden myself of their terrible weight.

Defectors and satellite evidence has given a UN panel enough to provide a report of the sheer human horror being played out within their prison camps.  I would urge anyone not of strong disposition to skip the next paragraph or two for, dear readers, I shall flinch not for sharing some of the disgusting human tragedy.  Let me issue fair warning, it is of incredible stomach churning strength.

Crimes against humanity is a phrase in the modern vernacular that is rolled out to convey a general idea that some people have committed some evil act upon another.  To penetrate beyond the words, you need to go beyond the general concept and reach the detail.  We all sit conditioned to mans ability to inflict pain on man, history tells us that it has happened through the millenia.  Dare I suggest, we even feel a tired malaise towards it, this is not acceptance but certainly a sense that we have heard it before.

Let me shake that from you, if you will allow me, again what I write, only reflects the truth but for those who may be offended, it is not my intention to do so dear reader, please skip forwards to the sports.

You can end up in a North Korean camp for any small crime.  Some are there because they owned a bible, some because they rolled a cigarette using paper that had the image of their inglorious leader upon it.  Many are there simply because they are related to people who committed these heinous crimes.  Yes, in North Korea, they arrest three generations of criminals, irrespective of who committed the act on grounds of association.  When you commit a ‘crime‘ you risk your family.

When Dante created his circles of hell, his invention shocked the world and offered dark insight into the human mind.  He could not have replicated the evil that man is truly capable of, those thoughts that lurk deepest in the mind, once in an environment in which they are free to be expressed.  Becoming pregnant is often a death sentence, most babies born in prison camps are still born.  Yet having given birth, being ordered under pain of death to drown your baby in a bucket of water, well.  Would you do it, it is hard to imagine the horror.  What would that leave you with after you had committed such a depraved act.  For those, that like I, might think, I am incapable of it, I would have to die myself rather than do it… Would you?  Practically, the babies fate is sealed anyway, why die yourself?  More than that, unless you have been subject to the condition, how can you even know how you might react.  Who knows his own mind when his very existence is under threat.

The stories from these camps have been compiled from the reports of the few that have gotten out of them.  One a defected prison guard describes how the guards were rewarded for killing the prisoners, the rewards were education.

Teenagers forced to witness the execution of their mothers and brothers.  People surviving only on what they might catch, frogs, snakes… To eat a Salamander, you cannot bite it, its sour juice is inedible but you must kill it and then swallow it whole.  The prisoners sought out pregnant rats, believing the placenta to offer a rich food source able to provide much needed nutrients to the young of the camps.  Others searched through the excrement of animals for undigested nuts.

Death must come as welcome relief.  As the head of the panel who compiled the report said, after the German concentration camps, the world wrung its hands and exclaimed that if only we had known.  We know about North Korea.

I am sorry for the horror my friends but it lies weary and heavy on my mind, like my head contains an egg yolk, rolling from side to side, resting and pressurising my skull, causing me to shift throughout the night.

I usually dislike any polarised view.  The world does not work in black and white.  In exceptional circumstances such as these, there is no debate.

The radio brings trouble from other corners too.  The people of Ukraine have paid a price but will get their freedom.  They get the same in Egypt.  In Syria, the displaced still lead a marginal existence.

Be thankful folks, we are the fortunate few.  If you have the opportunity, donate something to a worthy cause.  It puts into context the woes of our own poor, not that one extreme wrong makes another OK, yet when heavy complaint is received about poverty, benefits cuts and food banks – Context is required.  We won the lottery of life.

Anyway, you find it flippant to move to the sports after sharing such dark thoughts.  You are right.  However, in the washing machine that is the life I lead, writing the Saturday sermon is a fixed point in time on which I can rely – I can lean upon that fixed point in the week with confidence.

To the sports….

Chepstow Tips

Chepstow is heavy and it is raining.  When Chepstow is heavy, their clay cloying soil is like a heavy glue and it takes a special breed of horses to get through it, genuine mud larks.  Those that like it soft will not do, we need the ones that revel in the mud.

In the opener, a tentative stake will be placed on the favourite Monkey Kingdom who is the only horse to have won on heavy ground.  What is more, the form stacks up with a defeat dished out to Mickie, Henry Daly’s smart grey mare.  5/2 is available with Bet365.  Gate Please is a risk especially as he looks the sort to be better of these longer distances and the minimum trip was way too short last time.

In the second, I am giving Big Society another chance.  It seems odd to be cutting some slack to a horse with jumping difficulties at Chepstow, a course I chalk up as being a more difficult chasing test.  Yet, the slow ground might give him that bit more time at the fences and given his love of mud, I think 6/1 is a fair price.

One day Swnymor will come good again and a collective sigh from folk like me will fill the air.  Some shrewdies will crow of their winnings on twitter and the world will move on.  The thing is, he looked such a damn fine novice, would have won a Grade 1 that was picked up by Ruacana with Caid du Berlais in second, after a final flight fall in January 2013 and since then, has looked anything but himself (1 place from 6 starts, mark down to 129 from 143).  When it wins, it will do so without the burden of the Majors stake.  Alder Mairi should be really suited by this test.  Should be able to bowl along relatively untroubled off the front and at Chepstow, that can be dangerous.  Have a juicy slice at 7/2 (Bet365).

In the 3.05, Poole Master looks to have finally got into gear, I knew there was a good performance in him but he does not look the reliable sort to me and now contends with a near stone rise in the weights.  Fago might be focussed by his new headgear but has the burden of top weight which is going to be a hell of a steadier in these conditions.  We have seen how well Venetia horses do in the mud and light weight Last Shot has a chance of being involved but the Major is going to be on Grey Gold who dealt up a beating of the highest quality to Desert Cry (rated 147) who is a McCain inmate.  That day, Grey Gold was reversing previous form and the heavier conditions he encountered may have been a factor.  Load the cannons at 7/2.

That’ll do for me in Wales….

Kempton Tips

I am always a bit cautious about using the word tips, it implies I am a tipster.  If you are new to these parts, you might assume so, I assure you I am not.  I am barely profitable and as you certainly know, certainly unhinged.  I do not charge, ask you to sign up for anything, earn from advertising or make any claim.  I welcome gentle humble sorts and would ask the riff raff to leave after you have finished the drink you have.

Kempton has a few nice Graded races today and we get a good look at Irving, one of Ditcheats best festival hopes.  Nicholls has been waiting to unleash the horse once the deep ground has passed and today he gets proper chasing ground at Kempton – Shabash.  Nicholls has done well at this meeting in recent years, it is a nice interval from Cheltenham and some of his will be right on the boil now.

In the first Grade 2, the juvenile hurdle, Nicholls rocks up with a double barrel shotgun – He has an excellent record in the race and is represented by Solar Impulse and Alcala both in the same ownership, both having won this season already.  Jockey bookings suggest the former is the one to rely on but the Major is skipping both for a shot with the favourite Activial.  Tentative selection only as so many improvers are lurking but Fehily + Fry = Monies!  31 from 88 in the last two years and 6 from 15 on track.  Activial had good french form, has a triumph entry and was probably on ground too firm when beaten by Calipto who looks the business too….

Fox Appeal is the choice of many over this longer trip but I think Balder Succes will still out perform him.  His jumping is sound and accurate and I think that there is nothing to fear in these longer trips for him.

The lump on Irving.  5/4 is insane.  I am convinced, load the large artillery my good people.  Yes, First Mohican is good but this Irving is definitely the bet, especially if the rain stays away.

Fehily and Nicholls team up with Bury Parade at 9/2 in the Grade 3 handicap chase and I will have a small interest.  The horse brings good form into the race and this team are unstoppable.

Newcastle Eider Day

I have grave concerns about the Eider being run on heavy ground.  Nobody wants to see exhausted horses stumbling over the line, it is unedifying and not what the sport is about.  From 16 runners, I think just 5 will finish.  Not a race in which the Major wishes to bet.

Edmund Kean should take the small field opener – A few of his opponents boast the same like of mud as he does but none has the form he has.  It is the only thing I want to back at Newcastle.

Fairyhouse

It is an obvious pick but Adriana Des Mottes in the opener looks a good thing to me.  11/10 is available but it is taking that Ruby selects this rather than the other Mullins horse who looks equally well equipped, Abbysial.  Adriana trounced the Punchestown opposition and looks a very nice prospect. A Mullins 1-2 can be backed as well.

This might not be much fun for you to read, a little obvious I know, but I am suggesting a massive Mullins day at Fairyhouse – A little like Nicholls, his string will be boiling up to Cheltenham now and I am following up the opener with multiples involving Beluckyagain 8/13 (2.00), Wicklow Gold 4/1 (2.35), On His Own 7/4 (3.10), Kalmann 3/1 (3.45)

Disappointed in me… find yourself a tipster!

In the football… Arsenal 4/11 and Manchester United 8/11 are easy starting points.  Derby 4/5 and Reading 23/20 get us more interesting and Wolves at Brentford 9/5, adds the spice.  I think my own team Albion might get the highly valuable three points at home to Fulham too 5/6.

May your dinner be in a fine seafood restaurant where the scallops are served seared and tender, fine crisp white wine flows, a clarity of thought exists and the most wondrous company is enjoyed.  Drink freely and remember your fortunes.

The Martin Hill bet involves Irving, Adriana Des Mottes, Edmund Kean, Grey Gold and Reading.  I suggest they are set up in trebles (10 bets), fourfolds (5 bets) and an accumulator, just in case the mothership wants to dock.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

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The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock, plus the football

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, dead tired and with a low tremulous wind signalling the latest violent front being launched off the Atlantic, up the Severn Estuary and smashing into the first significant land since the Caribbean.

The Major has dined this evening with the good lady.  Now I know a few of you are wondering whether I am the romantic type and I might settle that thought by telling you that today is also my wedding anniversary, the twelfth to be accurate.  12 years, it goes by in the blink of an eye.  We were married in Sri Lanka and I shall not bore you with the travel detail that others may crow about – To dwell for long on such trivia is crass and wastes your time.  Suffice to say, I found the woman to come in rounded shapes, with toothy beaming smiles and a hearty wish for your contentment.  Excellent curry too, almost as good as the homeland, Birmingham, home of the balti.  The pleasure of a finely balanced dish, coriander, fresh accompanied by a cold fresh mango juice – God has been good to us.

Usually I detest dining on Valentines night, the expense, lack of choice, busyness and sense that you are being forced to behave a certain way, not for me – It is unsettling, lacks class, decorum wearing thin at the edges.  Tonight thought, we ate simply, in a decent pub, hotel slash restaurant..

The pub has its own farm and the pork was exceptional.  I don’t think the scallops were from its grounds, the flooding is not so bad yet.  It all went down well, mission accomplished.

The weather is fantastic.  I do not truck with these folk who wring their hands and decry flood and storm.  Naturally, I am as sorry for those who have their home flooded as the next man, it must be a terrible show.  No, I contend that Violenti Non Fit Injuria – You bought the home on the plain or river – You cannot claim victimhood when such water course overspills its guts.

I find the urges of some to cancel overseas aid disproportionate.  Less than a thousand homes, largely insured, have been flooded.  This does not construe a crisis.  As a nation, we used to withstand constant nightly shelling from the Luftwaffe, I think we can cope with this.  The old proverb of bringing your troubles to a common room with your fellow-man and choosing to leave with your own applies.  Syria has a population of 22m, approximately 8m are displaced and mostly living in tents, some in desperate condition.  2m of the 8m are children.  Do I sound callous?  I do not mean to – Anyone with a flooded home must be going through a terrible experience and I hope the spell of dry weather coming in persists.

I enjoy the excitement of a good storm, the violence of it.  Driving home in the middle evening this week, great waves of water were smashing into the windscreen, sheet after sheet, the horizon suddenly visible and then gone again.  I could make out the shapes of great terrifying trees, blackened against an already dark backdrop, moving in fast menacing ways, limbs twisting and thrusting, side to side, they looked like giant monsters fighting a deathly duel, all exaggerated by the low light.

I hope that all four of Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock get the go ahead.  With extra rain and all four already at ‘heavy’ I fear we may lose some.

For weeks, I have heard the same view expressed, that come Cheltenham, on good to soft ground, we are going to see some surprising results.  Who knows what ground we will get.  I care little for this argument, my antepost has been building on ability only.  I have multiples galore and am most happy with the positions on Silviniaco Conti, Bobs Worth (yes I was backing both), Annie Power (WH so need her to turn up there), Vautour and a few more.  I am less confident about Our Conor (backed a lot) and have plenty of others I would ask for my money back on if the bookie were such inclined.

Anyway, it is time to start building our war chest.  Last week was not a great week.  A couple of winners but largely I made poor calls.  The Tom George horse Module hurt me the most, I had him written off but he won like a lunatic.

The mothership left the dock and deposited none of her kind cargo, no generosity was served.  Be warned too, my run this week continued with a series of ‘good things’ getting turned over – Arsenal, Barca – Christ, the account has taken a right beating.  At such times, one might retreat, draw breath, lick ones wounds and assess a new route.  Not for the Major, no… I shall polish my lancepoint because I know that my destiny is unquestionable.  I do not think it, I know it.

There will be another full frontal assort and these are my weapons of choice.  To the sports…..

Wincanton

Let us hope that this track survives the night intact and can get their excellent card on.

In the second race, a novice hurdle, the three useful looking favourites are all sired by super National Hunt stud, Kings Theatre.  One of his should win and I am taking Paul Nicholls charge Tagrita who is proven on the ground and has won three times this season.   Blue Buttons looks a threat and with Kings string coming back to form, The Pirates Queen may well improve from her earlier season exploits and the further distance, keep it sensible.

The Kingwell Hurdle goes off at  3.35 and pits Melodic Rendevous meets Zarkander and Grumeti giving 8lbs to the latter.  The easy pick here is Melodic and  suggest you smash in with nerves of steel.  Bet like a man possessed and be thankful.  The reasoning?  Well, Zarkander is decent, aptly demonstrated by his seconds this season to Annie Power and The New One.  While the ground will help him deal with such a short distance, this is a warm up for the World Hurdle.  The favourite is a tremendous traveller and given he has Notarfbad in the field (for pace surely) there will be no hiding place here.

Grumeti is definitely  better ground horse and if they leave him in, it will be the first time he has raced on heavy (record on soft 1/3, record on good to soft, 4/4).  Easily overlooked.

Haydock Tips

Celestial Halo has found an excellent prep race for his World Hurdle bid.  I would be interested in Restless Harry but believe he is Ascot bound.   Although it looks an easy and obvious pick (and what is wrong with that? Complaining?  See the manager!) Celestial looked at his very best when winning the Long Walk last time out.  Mickie would be the each way selection but I think they will all be enjoying a fine view of the Halo’s tail.

The Grand National trial is not my sort of race.  You may recall, you my not, that I am not a fan of the National in general.  Now the weights for the big race are out, we shall see some surprising steps up in form, I am sure.  Merry King and Our Father are both contenders for sudden returns to greater things.  The former has looked like a horse that needs 6m!  The latter was one of the best travelling horses I have seen.  Today I am having a small stake in the Venetia runner, Emporers Choice who will love conditions and we all know the form she is in in these big Saturday races.

Wolf Shield is drifting for the 3.30 but I would not dismiss it at 14s – Heavy ground and a return to form last time suggests it could get involved.  No, I rather stick with Flemenson or Horatio Hornblower.  On the grounds that he gets a lump of weight and the services of Maguire in the saddle, I am siding with the latter.

In the Albert Bartlett, I am interested in the proven mud sloggers, Wuff and Toubeera.  I got stung when writing off a Tom George horse last week (Module) but am happy to burden that concern again by suggesting a decent stake on 13/2 (Coral generally 11/2) Toubeera.  I prefer Aidan Coleman to Paddy Brennan, she gets some weight on grounds of sex, which will be a bigger help in deep ground.  I think the extra distance will suit also.  Have a slice.

Ascot Tips

It is a fine fine day of National Hunt and Ascot Chase Day is a superb card.

Ultra expensive Un Temps Pour Tout will want to win the opener if he is going to be considered a Supreme contender.  Given he cost £450k, it is the least you would want.

In the second, I am backing Gervey Chambertin at 5/2 – I always thought this classy hurdler would be an even better chaser and I would be disappointed if we did not see a good run.  It is unusual for me to back against a favourite that has much more chasing experience (Many clouds 3 runs) but those were easy schooling small field sessions and this is different.  Experience may not count if I have my theory right, that Gervey will be a spring heeled natural.  Let’s see.

In the 2.40 chase I do love Teaforthree – Here is something strange I learned this week.  Did you know he was the Sky Soccer AM horse?  Why they sold him I do not know but they would have had a placed Grand National horse on their hands!  Well, I am not backing him today as the main agenda will be Aintree.  No I think this is an excellent chance for Highland Lodge 7/2 but will be keeping stakes small.

Jump to the Ascot Chase at 3.50 – The most interesting runner of the day goes in this Grade 1 as Hunt Ball returning from his American adventures.  He can be backed today at 33/1.  Rolling Aces of some interest but on bare form, he cannot yet hold a candle to Captain Chris who should go in at 11/10. He loves the mud, loves going this way around, boasts good form that is strong this season… Looks one for the accumulators.

It can be a Hobbs / Johnson double as in the next Mountain King looks a great 6/4 shot – I was really taken with the way he travelled in the Ludlow mud and this progressive sort can go well again.

Gowran Park

At 2.25, I will be glued to At The Races in case Bog Warrior returns to the track.  I am this horses biggest fan, partly because I always felt he had tremendous ability but largely because of his distinctive style of running.  He lobs along, head firmly pressed down against his chest – Doing his own thing.  Now, I feel a bit frustrated for him.  He will love this heavy ground, his name is very apt.  Yet, I am perplexed as to why connections are taking him chasing again  He has often blundered at the bigger obstacles but is a classy hurdler.  Coming down the hill in the World Hurdle, I really thought he was going to play a hand – Then his serious injury effected him and he bottomed out quickly.  He has had lots of entries and I suspect he will be a NR again today but I look forward to his return.  For betting purposes, I am on Turban at 13/8.

Un De Sceaux has another procession planned for 3.35.

In the football.  Wolves are a penalty kick at 1/2 and I would lump in.  Southampton to win in the cup at Sunderland is a more tentative selection at 13/10.

The Martin Hill Multiple, which needs to land to build the man’s war chest is… Melodic Rendezvous, Horatio Hornblower and Turban in a trixie of glory.

I hope your dinner is kept simple but in the company of friends.  Eat with your hands, may I suggest Fajita – Becoming involved, mixing well people and food.  Drink well and be thankful.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury, Warwick and Naas

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cold, violent Worcestershire scene where waves of weather slam into the side of the Cotswold stone house in which my hosts have made comfort the default.

Waves of weather are slamming against the house, rolling off the hills, momentum raising the speed and the noise.  At crescendo, there is an alarming amount of noise.  I understand Newbury is likely to make it in the morning but through the Atlantic washing machine I am in, I do not quite know how.

Something happened this week which surprised me and bought a smile to my face.  The Major commutes to work through some back lanes and slipping in to the services on the M5 at Strensham.  The countryside here is excellent, fields gently roll down in polite contours to brooks which themselves operate at sedate paces.  The serenity underestimates the potential mind and right now, those watercourses have spilled over, defying convention and flooding the land.  Some fields are submerged in what I would describe as an ocean.  I use that word not because of volume but because the dirt brown water looks deep, even it you know it not to be and in high wind, the top whips up, froths and moves – It fools the mind.

Anyway, you have seen enough images of Somerset under water and so I shall not labour the beauty, excitement, destruction and desperation of the scenes in Worcestershire.

However, I do want to relate the relationship I have with a homeless man.  Firstly, I am speculating that he is indeed a tramp.  Each morning, I see him walking up the lane from the direction of the services, heading north.  Each morning, I know he walks miles, I do not where he goes or why but he carries on his back a large backpack.  He is unshaven.  I believe he must sleep at the services each night.  In fact, it can be a reliable indicator of whether I am late or early to the office at which point I pass him!

The Major has some experience with the homeless this as I volunteer at a charity in Worcester from time to time.  I was prompted to do this after listening to the Bishop of Birmingham speak on the radio at Christmas two years ago.  At the time I was queuing to access Merry Hill (or Merry Hell as the good lady calls it) shopping centre, surrounded by the salacious consumerism, you may well think I was ripe to listen to an alternate voice.  That is what the good bishop provided.  He described his schedule over the Christmas period and it was a non-stop agenda of good deeds.  When asked by the shows host what drove him, he replied that most people amble through each day without appreciating the proximity to slipping into such circumstances.  A failed marriage, a lost job, three missed mortgage payments – The journey is shorter than we may like to think.

It inspired me well enough and in that crucial observation I have to say that I find him quite correct.  When serving up dinner, most faces have etched into them the travails of their history, some bright red, betraying a casual approach to substance abuse.  These are not shocking though, more expected, no, the truly terrifying are those men that would not look out-of-place in any other scene you might set – You wonder why – They are like you and I, it breaks you from routine.

Anyway, my lane walking vagrant has always regarded me sternly, stopping his walking to stare at the car as I pass.  No flicker of pleasantry crosses his face, I suspect if I stopped, a few short words might be possible but that he would return to his haunched walk in as short an order as possible.   His choices indicate his reluctance for conversation.

Anyway, this week, we made some progress.  As I always do, as I saw his lonely figure emerge in the distance I slowed down, far more than is required as a sign of politeness and to respect the longevity of our relationship.  As I charted my wide berth, again with the focus being on over emphasis, he nodded at me.  The first time he has ever acknowledged me.  Years have passed, hundreds of encounters, this week we made the breakthrough.

That made me smile for a long time.  A genuine well-earned smile.

Anyway, to the sports and a mud splattered Newbury where a cracking card awaits.

Newbury Tips.

Newbury may well be a flat track but it will take some getting today – The fences are traditionally challenging and that log straight will break some wills, of that you can be sure.  We are after horses that enjoy swimming and are as tough as boots.

In the 1.50, I give a squeak to 25/1 shot Virginia Ash.  Yes, you have to suspect that the race won last time was the target (had one it in a previous year) and that this new mark and tougher company are significant obstacles… However, there are items on the positive side of the ledger too, significantly that the horses loves the mud.

No, my selection is 9/2 shot Andy Kelly – Emma Lavelle does not have a great Newbury record but this horse could enhance it for her.  Never raced on heavy but his style and the form completed on soft suggest it will not be a hindrance.  I like these improvers in such handicappers.

All of the horses in the Denman have won on heavy before so we should have a competitive race.  If Harry Topper wins any race, he will not carry the Majors money… He has some ability but can be too casual at fences.  No, this is a decision between Al Ferof and Katenko.  Connections of the former are suggesting he will better for the run and that Cheltenham is their main goal.  Regardless of that if Al Ferof is a potential Gold Cup horse then he has to win this and I think he will.  Katenko had previously looked like a top horse when giving a beating to Benefficient – Yet I remain unconvinced.

In the Game Spirit at 3pm I am a huge supporter of the 6/4 favourite, Dodging Bullets.  My 5 year old son calls him Dodgy Bullets which is enough to make you grin and young Matthew shall be with me as we watch this Nicholls novice strut his stuff – He is morphing into a much better chaser than hurdler.  I may be surprised but I think the price on Module is all wrong – I would be shocked if he won this and so am betting with conviction on my selection, at pace.  Load the cannons.

The Betfair looks a cracker and while it is 7/1 the field, history points us towards those near the top of the market.  There is a strong stat supporting the younger horses too but  am taking that on with my selection, Cheltenian at 10/1.  Trends are only useful if they can be supported in a story.  The fact that younger horses do well here is because of their improving nature, this is a top valuable handicap and the best yards send their up and comers.  Thus, the younger horse, with class and being ahead of the handicapper is a logical profile to follow.  Yet, my horse can buck the age trend because he is unexposed even at the age of 8.  He is a champion bumper winner and if back to fitness may well prove the best of these.  The task is hard – Irish Saint, Dell Arca, Rolling Star – They will all be queuing up to have a pop.

Noel Fehily likes the bumper favourite Thomas Brown 2/1 – That is enough for me too.

Warwick Selections

The Kingmaker is the big race on the Warwick card and it looks a cracker.  I am planning a strong bet on Brick Red at 3/1.  I suspect the favourite needs better ground than this and… as is well reported, Williams trains heavy ground chasers to perfection!

I am also having a slice of Royal Player at 15/8 in the bumper.

In the football, Sunderland at 5/4 Walsall at 11/10 and Wigan at 6/4.  The latter has been a weakness of mine but I stand committed to the line.

The Martin Hill Saturday bet is Brick Red, Thomas Brown and Dodging Bullets in a powerful trixie.

May your dinner be taken in raucous fine company, good steak, nice wine, laughter is the best medicine.  Keep good company my friends.

Courage and roll those dice.

 

 

The Saturday Sermon – Sandown, Wetherby, Fairyhouse and some Football… Shabash!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a damp and cold Worcestershire scene.  Bitter cold rain stings the face, wind whistles in rising tones, a blackness lies over the land which is sodden, barren and desolate.

Indoors, the woodburner has been underway for several hours, the air flow restricted but in suffocation, there is no drama, instead the flame just licks gently at the contents, peaceful.

The Major has had another restless week.  Sleep comes in patches, unsure of my path through the night, leaping from one hour to another, not fully conscious but unable to make the long haul to the morning.

I have had a remarkably good betting week which grew from a seedling into a mighty redwood.  On Wednesday night, Bet365 sent me a free £5 bet – Unlike many of my twitter contemporaries, I am proud of the fact that I have never had an account restricted… no, sadly, bookmakers welcome with open arms, showering me with diaries, free bets and free spins.  I am a good customer.

Yet, that £5 free bet, doubled on an in-play Chelsea and West Ham draw (11/4) and an inplay Athletico Madrid win (11/2) scored me a tidy three figure return.  Fortunately, this was just the start of a remarkable run.  The next day, I scored a trixie win on an impulse and the outrageous slings and arrows of fortune even sought to conspire to get Forest over the line after trailing 2-0 after 50 minutes, to win 4-2.  I arrive at the weekend with an account buoyed by such fortunes and ready to invest.

The Major spent some time in London this week.  I enjoy time in the capital and have the privilege of doing so at my employers expense on an infrequent basis.  I like big cities, the masses, the heave, the sheer scale and breadth of everything you can access.  I am the sort that falls in love most days… Each new one is the best and wandering around our nations capital, my heart bounds.   The good lady need not know this, else she might balk at the notion of my travels.  Fear not too, none of these women, who fleetingly capture my heart, remain for long.  No, the Major cannot bear complication and so seek my enjoyment from only the increased beat of my heart.

Here is a question for you…. How many people would have to walk into a room before it is more likely than not that two share a birthday?  Don’t google it before you test your mental agility… Clearly you know the answer is low… Else why the purpose of posing the question… How low dare you go?  Tweet me if you were surprised… @tdl123

I wish I could travel more.  I would like to see the Ethiopian highlands – Green and pleasant, great black rocky outcrops, a freshness of air and starry nights.  The Great Rift Valley, tropical conditions but at an altitude to make it passable.  A land of coffee and gold.  More populous than Britain and with a median age of just 17.

In the 1860’s Britain engaged in a war with the Walla tribes over European hostages taken by Tewodros II.   The village of Amba Miriam, previously called Magdala still has the great mortar, Sevastapol, the biggest ever built (German technicians).  The history of it is fascinating… We took Indian troops to free the hostages… No doubt they were battle hardened from the Indian mutinies.  We had to build a road to get to Magdala, several hundred miles from the coast… Then, summons were issued to release the hostages but instead the numerically superior forces Tewodros met us in battle and were roundly defeated.. The Henry Martini rifle and naval gunners seeing to them, with deadly proficiency.

An Amba is a rocky plateau, on which great defences were built.  Tewodros may have fared better if he had settled in for a great siege.  Instead, he sent his men to the field, to meet us in battle, surely a judgement error.  Once defeat was apparent, he took his own life rather than the humiliation of capture and subjugation.  He relented his grip on life, rather ironically, with a pistol that had been gifted to him by Queen Victoria herself.  Alpha and Omega.

I am sure you find this fascinating.  I know my readership… you come not because I have some magic beans but rather, this is part of your weekly rhythm, your selection of sporting chance will occur when you have read this.  Some of my thoughts will pervade your own, shared freely amongst us good friends, you can select which lines of enquiry you find agreeable.  Some you will discard, casually throwing aside my own position in favour of your own strong cognition.  Either way is good for me.  As long as you come in friendship, harmonised with my standards and expectations.

Accept that neither of us are right before the event.  Allow the spirit in which thoughts are shared to please you.  All I have is this, some opinion.  I expect nothing in return either.  Should you win, there is no need to offer thanks if I helped (either by my advocacy or your decision to take a successful contrary position).  Your decisions are yours alone to make.  Neither shall I accept your criticism.  Like Buddha, I do not have to accept such gifts… not that you send me any, I cannot recall criticism for poor performance for some time, despite the burgeoning readership…  The Major has followers who empathise rather than criticise, welcome…

Let us land the mothership.  Find the treble you feel passionate about and weaponise your stakes.  It is time for the sports.  Daub thy warpaint young warrior, we shall meet them in the passes, stone walls forcing our will and bayonets fixed, each man gritting teeth and praying.

To the racing…

Now I oft select a card and run through it, I enjoy that, it allows me to chance an angle on an entire days racing.

Sadly, the three NH races in the UK are subject to morning inspections and as such, with all meetings in doubt, I elect to jump quickly from race to race, not caring for the usual order of things.

Of course it is a shame that a Grade 1 chase only attracts three runners.  The Scilly Isles will surely be won by Oscar Whiskey with the only threat Benvolio probably not up to the same standard.

The veterans chase looks interesting mainly because only a few of them look comfortable in this mudbath.  Tatenen, the favourite, has raced on soft (or worse) 11 times and won once.  Not that he has a great strike rate, back to top form?  Unreliable in my eyes.  Fine Parchment has a great track record but I have concerns.

I favour Aachen who is well in on old form and loves it on heavy ground.  5/1 is available generally and this horse is one that will surely come on again (don’t revolt at his age) from his reappearance.

At Wetherby, they might have been trying Shutthefrontdoor on better ground but his heavy and soft ground form suggests he has no problem with these conditions.  In fact, I imagine he will improve for them.  Ely Brown is the concern, representing the superb Longsden yard.  Double that up with Flemeson on the same card – He is a progressive sort who was involved in a hot race last time and this is lesser company.  I am also a fan of Ice ‘n’ Easy a Fehily ride, trained by Longsden… The 5lbs he was penalised for the last run might well be extremely light.

At Ffos Las, I am sure they would get a better running of the West Wales National, if they ran it after the national weights came out.  Still, to be fair, it is a good show, especially with Welsh National winner Mountainous rocking up.

Without doubt, the best race of the day is the Welsh Champion Hurdle.  Whisper has always looked a light horse to me but gets on very well in the mud.  Saphir de Rheu is still a World Hurdle player and may well be able to exceed his mark in this.  The Major however chances his arm on Alaivan at 7/1 who is entitled to run better than reappearance – County Hurdle form reads well enough in this field and 3/5 on heavy provides confidence.

De La Bech is my pick in their feature chase – Assured of acting in conditions – Load up!

At Fairyhouse, in their 2.30…. Competitive Edge makes a great bet at the right side of evens.  Shrapnel might yet come good but his runs have been poor and a watching brief is in place for the Major.

and at the football…

@TJHeezy pointed the absurdity of the 13/10 about Swindon, they are a strong team at home.  I would also be a massive buyer of QPR at home to Burnley… evens… Shabash!  I thought about Spurs away but feel Hull are strong and Hull are galvanised.

The big double I would urge your investment in is a Wolves (8/13) and Man City (17/20) play.  Wolves may have sold a few but they are coming good and will play well.  As for Man City, I think they will win the league by ten clear points… This game will signal intent.

I hope yours business is conducted in sober, solemn and patient terms… May your dinner be served on the finest china.  Tip well, after all, the bulging pocket suggests  you finished at some pace.

The Martin Hill advice… I owe him. Competitive Edge, Shutthefrontdoor and Wolves…. Trixie – The last leg might sting but will pay.

Courage…. roll the dice.