Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Saturday Sermon – Hennessy Newbury Day and the Fighting Fifth

Good evening from the Major who writes from a perfectly pleasant early winter evening from the shallow and green rolling landscapes of Worcestershire.  The brooks are thick with life, the thick brown water trickling on its way; the smell of smoke hangs in the air as hardwood and coal fires are stoked in battle with the drawing nights.  Life is good and we are now full engaged in the battle of National Hunt racing, it is Hennessy day.

The Major is up and about, attending meetings, for the first time in many weeks.   For those who are not up to speed with my regular personal updates…  In recent months, I have left my employer in search of pastures new and slipped a disc.  Keep up.

While today was in our nations glorious capital, earlier in the week business opportunities took me north to meetings in the East Midlands and Yorkshire.  Having some time spare between appointments and with the loose objective of feeding myself, I made an impromptu stop in the town of Chesterfield, an unassuming splodge on the green map of Northern Derbyshire.  The surrounding countryside was pleasant, rolling agriculture and the town itself, everything you might expect.  I shall file my report for your personal appraisal.

Arriving just a little too early for lunch, I strolled at leisure to take my measure of  the town.  It is one of my favourite activities, to aimlessly wander at pleasure absorbing the rhythm and feel of an unknown locality.  No particular destination or route, simply allowing yourself to be immersed in the sights and sounds, you learn a lot.

Of Chesterfield, I will say this.   The residents carry a thoroughly earthy look about them, dammed business-like, little fluff.  Accents are a softened Yorkshire, the women rasp in an alto voice that is not wholly unattractive.  I cannot say that the folk are virtuous or that style and sophistication is a lasting memory but neither shall I denigrate the place.

One plaster that slipped to reveal scar damage was the impressive quantum of ‘early opening’ pubs.  The sun was yet to rise above the yard-arm but it did not quell these establishments who spilled their weary looking customers out onto the pavements for essential nicotine hits to break up their rounds of sorrowful weak lager, drowning their dreams.  Quite a depressing gaggle, cheap beer, polyester and no hope all before 11am.

Yet, I quite liked Chesterfield. In London this morning, The Grovesnor at Victoria charged me £4.90 for an awful coffee and dreadful service.  I bought a perfectly serviceable Chesterfield scrambled eggs and tea for half the price of a Grovesnor coffee – The accompanying smile was free.  That is one advantage but there are other compensations.  Wandering to the central older part of Chesterfield, through the tat, you could see an ancient mercantile history.  An expansive cobbled market square from which narrow winding alleys ran hiding mysterious merchants out of immediate sight.  I find my excitement runs high at the temptation of exploration.

That thought took me back to my school days.  The Major attended a grammar school (I would gladly vote for anyone who wishes to increase the stock), Bishop Vesey in Sutton Coldfield.  An ancient place, it celebrated the 450th anniversary during my academic tenure there.  The buildings were a mixture of historic and modern and it made the place exciting and exotic to a suburban semi-detached boy, particularly if exploring the ancient corridors, alone and at night, with no permission; when the mind might run to terror uncommon quick and a man or a boy in this case must hold his nerve.

You might be wondering whether the Major is admitting to breaking and entering in my youthful years.  Lest I be required to rely on my printed word in a court of law, allow me to explain.  It was the evening of a school production, which we held in the main hall, affectionately referred to as Big School.  A few close associates and myself had slipped our bonds and found our way past a few locked doors into the dark ancient corridors, libraries and rooms of ‘Old School’.  The old passages and stairs were abandoned, almost asleep, we split up and I trod carefully not to awaken the monsters in the shadows.

I suggest to you that such old big buildings are alive, simmering with a history, lumbering beasts lurk in corners, memories echo in the dark, creaking into movement.  Stand still and the adrenaline courses, you hold your breath tight, straining your ear to identify the rattles, hums, clicks and knocks, trying to distinguish through the noise, the signal, the origin, the cause.  In a state of heightened awareness, you can feel and smell to thrillingly intense degrees.

Whenever I see a large abandoned building, I have an urge to get inside and wander around and rekindle that fire, to feel alive once more.  I understand there is an entire movement dedicated to Urban Exploration.  If it were not for my adherence to the rules of law (in general) and my mobility capability, I would probably become a fully signed up member.  That and I imagine you have to be a bit pretentious.  That is where I would differ, I don’t want to report it, I just want to experience it.

I am not done with Chesterfield as it also reminded me of an old friend from school.  It was the spire that did it.  It took me back in an instant when I saw it, quite an unusual piece and like a slap to the face, I remembered, of course, Chesterfield, crooked spire.  That thought, like lightning in the mind, triggered a connection to my old friend Emma, born somewhere in the locale.  My school was all boys until the latter years.  Emma joined as I was close to leaving (I did not complete my A –Levels for reasons of independence) and we got on straight away.  Like all good friends, the thing that connected us the most was a shared sense of humour.  I loved time in her company because it made me feel joyous. She is in New Zealand now, married, with children and a dentist; a long way from Chesterfield.

What news from the racecourse this week.  Un de Sceaux fell so did Saphir du Rheu, beware the short price novice chase shorties.  Nicky Henderson accepted that Sprinter and Simonsig are behind as are many of his string, including those getting turned over at short prices, River Maigue and Tistory, I saw in Chesterfield.  The first of those I thankfully witnessed getting beat just after lunch in Chesterfield and I was not in time to have lost money on him, which, being stupid I surely would have done.  The latter unfortunately I was in time for.  I hear the cry; more fool you Major and I would agree.

Anyway, it is ‘Hennessy Weekend’.  I cannot recall backing a winner in the Hennessy.  I was certainly in the camp that felt that Denman could not concede so much weight to decent opponents.  That hurt – I hate not being on a monumental winner that you know has historic consequence as he crosses the line.

I am not selling my tipping services well to you am I?  Well, I do not need to.  Thankfully, the Major remains free of interference, free of charge, largely incomprehensible, unhinged and barely profitable.  I have no idea why you are here but it is not because I hold the secrets.

No, I urge you to relax, get the coffee pot bubbling, sit back and take in my thoughts.  Choose the finer cuts and discard the mutton I have dressed up.  Or, if you prefer, follow me blind, careful, a wise man would not advise it.  The Martin Hill bet landed last week though.  Didn’t hear from him until today but  he sent me a grateful text.  Strange really, no thanks required, he doesn’t lambast me for regular error.

It turned out that the Martin Hill landing was the start of a fortuitous good weekend for me too.  If you follow me on twitter you will know that I had a fun Sunday afternoon when a correct score double £5 investment stood to gain me £1200 if Hull held on against Spurs with their ten men.

Some urged me to get out and I must confess I did to a small extent.  Why is this a confession?  Well, many might remember my high and mighty stance on laying an accumulator off.  If you were not prepared to be the second leg, why not just make it a single.  The truth is I would never put £175 on a correct score in a Hull v Spurs game so a £5 single on the correct Palace 3 Liverpool 1 should have been my bet.  Call me a hypocrite, it is accurate abuse.

Anyway, I have that off my chest and feel better.  We can be honest companions for the journey once again.  You know me well enough, warts and all.

Saddle up warriors, don thy war paint, our heavy cavalry will meet them at the gallop, lance points glinting and lowered to skewer our enemies and then, with superhuman effort, raising the point with them spit perfectly upon it and crying out SHABASH! as the blood drips to our glove.  To the sports.

Newbury – Hennessy Day

Let us start with the main course, the Hennessey.  Djakadam has been a plunge horse for Mullins, the yard have started the season is the usual sparkling form. 22 of their last 49 runners have won.  Racing in Ireland is a Mullins benefit.  You have to respect any raid over the Irish Sea.

I find the presence of Djakadam helpful because I am going to put a line through the horse on account of experience and age.  I do not know of any 5-year-old to win the Hennessy and frankly, I am not sure there has ever been one.  The horse is too young to run in a national and in a busy Newbury field, I cannot have him, this in spite of Ruby giving out positive vibes about the horses ability.  He fell in the JLT and so we never got to measure him against the likes of Taquin du Seuil but he was 14/1 that day too.  I am looking elsewhere which gives us a healthy advantage on price.

There is not really a profile for a Hennessy winner that you can apply with confidence.  You can be looking for a top class animal to give the weight away or a progressive 6-year-old making bold improvement.

The last two renewals have been taken by a horse that Henderson saddled up and he sends out Triolo D’Alene to defend his crown.  While the stats point to the stable running at a reasonable strike rate, with the riches he holds, you expect more from the yard and Henderson himself has suggested some are not as forward as others.  I have long being betting against Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and (alternate yard) Sire de Grugy in Cheltenham antepost positions because my sense is that these horses might not be racing anytime soon.  We shall see.  Anyway, Triolo gets the line, returning winners have to be exceptional, not for me.

Gary Moore has had one winner in the last month, that was Via Sundown in his prep race for the Hennessy.  While the yard still look short, that one could be spot on for a big run from a lightweight, very well-respected at a massive price.

Paul Nicholls won the race with Denman twice and his representative, Unioniste is worth inspection too.  The horse is attempting the race fresh and has never finished out of the places on three runs in soft or worse conditions, that includes two wins.  Unioniste was strong at the start of last year and he might be an autumn / early inter sort.  With the usual improvement you can expect season on season from Team Ditcheat, he is strongly in my thoughts.

I like Annacotty of the Keighly yard but think there might be better alternates.  Plus, I want a proven in form trainer.  I have followed Merry King a number of times and there is never a race that does not leave you thinking, he needs further.  If there was a 6m slog event, I think he would be unbeatable.  Always staying on, never getting there.  Off a light weight though, I will be kicking myself if he goes in.  I would also think The Druids Nephew has a decent shout based on the form of his second to Sam Winner at Cheltenham.  Davy Russell gets the nod and Mulholland won the feature Friday race.

No, the other strong fancy I have is Fingal Bay.  Hobbs has been outstanding this season to date, picking up big races and deploying his string well.  I recall a few seasons back when Fingal Bay was hurdling, Hobbs described him as the best he had ever had, or words to that effect.  That is some praise as the yard have seen some excellent horses in their time.

Sod it, let’s have two.  Fingal Bay 8/1 and Unioniste 16/1.  Stick them in a double, I dare you.  If you don’t like being double-handed, stick with Unioniste.

Because it has been another monster post, I am going to quick fire in the next series of recommendations so you can get on with your day  Of course More of That wins the staying hurdle at Newbury.  He is in my ten to follow (only 6 written up – see menu above) as I think he is a banker for the World Hurdle.  Don’t wait, lump on for Cheltenham now and print some at 2/5 if you like.  I feel very confident that Jonjo has the new undefeated king of the division and I cannot see why they would change (send him chasing par example) the winning formula.

While at Newbury, fill your boots with Hammersly Lake in the 1.50pm at 4/1.  I backed the horse on the nose last time out at Cheltenham and he looked to be getting there under a conditional jockeys ride but frustratingly was short on the line.  That form looks excellent and I am considering adding the selection to the ten to follow.  The first and third have gone in again since and I remember thinking on the day (through a blurry haze of fine wines) that the two had come so far clear in battling fashion that it was form I wanted to follow.  We now get a proper adult in the saddle, in Barry Geraghty, trust your family silver, your wife, mistress and anything you can liquidate in time.  Bet of the day and ignore any negative feelings I issued earlier about Henderson, he is three from three since Wednesday and I can pick and choose the story as I like.

There is a judgement call to be made in the last race of the day, the handicap chase in which a classic Pipe v Henderson v Nicholls clash awaits.  The Pipe horse could still be ahead of the handicapper, that would be no surprise at all.  Anquetta for Henderson was going nicely last time at Cheltenham when falling and if none the worse, could be a player.  However, it is with Nicholls that I place my investment on 3/1 Solar Impulse who is less experienced than some but did beat Turn Over Sivola in a six runner event at Wetherby, a horse that is a useful and reliable yardstick.  We will get a hint of the value of this form as Turn Over Sivola, yet to run out of the first three in ten chase starts, competes in the 12.50.

Newcastle – The Fighting Fifth Card

I always have fond memories of the fighting fifth card as my old favourite Punjabi won it on route to Champion Hurdle glory.  It was one of the years in which WBX had a £1m bonus for attempting the FF, Christmas Hurdle and Champion Hurdle treble.  Punjabi fell at Christmas and in glorious scenes, seemingly I was the only person that kept faith with the brave little warrior who went on to cling on grimly on the Cheltenham Hill.

Punjabi was the last Fighting Fifth winner to go onto Champion Hurdle glory and I do not think we are looking at the winner in this field either.  I am not criticising the race, Overturn, Countrywide Flame, My Tent or Yours – There have been some notable winners but I would not be reacting heavily in the Champion Hurdle market even following a decisive win for one of the competitors from this years Fighting Fifth renewal.

If one horse was to step up, you would have to think it would be Irving.  He was impressive last year and well touted before his fall on seasonal reappearance.  I doubt he was going to win that day but if healthy and fit, in favoured conditions, it would not be a surprise to see him run well.

The one I am opting for though is the Quinn runner Aurore Destruval.  She looks a real classy trier and opened this season with a splendid win in listed company.  Like Irving, she has proven mudlark credentials and in this ground (Newcastle always looks tough to get in soft, a bit like Chepstow), I think her allowance of 7lbs might prove decisive.  4/1, engage the cannon.

If Hey Big Spender gets the hat-trick up in the 2.40pm Rehearsal Listed Chase, they might have to think about naming the race after him.  Those wins are his only two visits to Newcastle and he is attempting to pull off the hat-trick near his twelfth birthday but in ground he will relish.  Broadway Buffalo also like Newcastle in the mud but while others feel a 5lb claimer a benefit in a race like this, I think it is a hindrance.

Hence, I come back to Indian Castle the Ian Williams horse who you may remember me giving positive mentions about ahead of the Paddy Power.  We did not get a tremendous run that day and the trainer has gone for cheekpieces.  I am a big fan of the pilot Brian Hughes, especially at these northern venues and I am hoping we get 7/1 although would back at 9/2 and up.

In the football – Stoke might cause European travellers Liverpool more problems at home than 9/2 suggests.  Play the draw no bet market if you don’t have the nerve to play with the big boys.  I also want to buy another away performance and that is Newcastle who are 27/10 to win at West Ham.

The Martin Hill bet is Unioniste, Hammersley Lake, Solar Impulse and Aurore Destruval in an each way yankee of freedom and love.

May your dinner be with old friends, laugh joyously as the wine flows and pick up the tab, or allow Hammersley Lake to do so for you.

Courage, roll the dice.

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The Saturday Sermon – Betfair Chase at Haydock, Ascot Amlin Chase Day

Bon Soir from the Major who writes from the lounge, cold beer to hand, hostage in my country sanctum, the dampness of Worcestershire locked out.  The sound of the cold moisture is everywhere, drips, splashes, squelches and trickles.  The temparature hovering around the single figures is accommodating enough for it to embrace the skin.

The Major is still on the slow list.  Recovering from that slipped disc, under strict instructions from Gorgeous George the physio with her curled lip and experienced knowing hand.  Do you know,  sometimes, just sometimes, a wanton glint in those eyes, well.

With injury allowing, I had my father and brother to the Majors Worcestershire pile, in recent days, to carry out essential outdoors maintenance.  It was good company.  I had them working vigorously cutting at the thicker growth while I stoked (for which George will be furious) a fire to burn what they cut.  The work on my home is perpetual and having been horizontal for many weeks, the decay was winning, as it will.

That, the last statement is futile, that we men are all to to decay in the end, as is everything; is not lost on me.  When you might consider some disquietude in your life that might feel significant; a divorce, a financial loss, some trinket of seeming importance; always remember.  You will die, the building you are in will be destroyed; nothing will last.  That we are all dust in the end, is the greatest truth the bible holds.  More than that, it is the finest principle by which you can live your life.  Those you admire, the things you desire, go for them if you want.  However, they will all succumb in the end to the wind and water.

Anyway, the wages for their groundsmandship was a pub meal in the homely local which I frequent.  It is a small establishment, they know me well and when we rocked up, as they were closing for lunch, they re-opened and served up ham, egg and chips of the highest order.  The landlords father was an inspector in livestock, very senior; the meat they serve is first rate.

Here is a question for you.  How many people, do you think, are on death row in the US?  Think about it.  How many people are at this moment awaiting execution for crimes committed.  How many of them are guilty and how many innocent?

I got to discussing this with my brother over a leisurely breakfast.  A good cafe in the heart of my Georgian market town.  They serve sausages infused with some of the local trumpeted produce, plums.  It could be worse, the Vale of Evesham has another specialist crop, asparagus.  That, plus the pears and apples and you have my scene.

I was recalling that, in recent years, (and forgive me if this proves inaccurate), in Texas, they were considering abandoning the final meal for death row inmates.  I recall the Governor expounding his wisdom and insight, that the heinous criminal had given no thought to his victim and that as such, he deserved no less himself.

When I heard this, I recall thinking what an appalling stain it was on the human condition.  That in the last moment, as we commit the uttermost trespass on our nature, to take the life of another, we might not allow a final dignity.  A final choice and a gracious gesture, even to one whose evils might sicken your spirit.  Odd attitude for a state so beset on Christianity.  Forgiveness, turning the cheek, giving the tunic too; oh I know my bible.  Humility was one of the more attractive traits of Christianity, we should hold onto it.  Not that I am a man of the church. A final meal says something important about society.

Anyway, There are over 3,000 people currently held on Death Row.  The best estimates, on the US Justice proven track record, suggest between 48 and 126 are innocent.  Put your coffee down and think about that.  An average inmate will wait 9 years for execution, 9 years.  The most advanced nation on Earth has a glaring defect.

I have always valued liberty.  That I might be poor, that I might have little riches of wealth or company, may end up being my lot.  Yet, no matter what aggression is committed upon my person by another; to strip one’s freedom, in body or mind is a crime.  In one of these sermons, I might extol of the work of Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and author of Mans Search for Meaning well worth a read.  Ultimately, our freedom is ours, nobody can tamper the integrity of your mind.

Anyway, I am drifting on the tide writing this sermon.  Let us meet the battle and be fully engaged.   We have rich seams to mine and that Mothership needs us to light a beacon. She is coming my friends.

To the Sports.

Haydock – Betfair Chase Day

What a fantastic renewal of the Betfair Chase.  As I type the field are 4/1 the first four, intriguing does not do it justice.  We shall start with the big one.

Last year Cue Card caused a minor shock when winning.  He had previously looked a non stayer but put his King George fading effort behind him to command Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti and claim a Betfair Chase.  Favourites have a good record in the race but that is tempered by the disturbance in the signal that was the great Kauto Star who won the race four times from 2006 to 2011.

What a fantastic renewal.  Where to start.

Let me start with the one’s I do not want.  Menorah.  Revitalised?  No, not for me – Hobbs might have the order singing well but this animal has always been a little short at the top table and I expect that to continue.  The Giant Bolster is one I would not put you off, if considering backing for a place.  His 50/1 with Betway is dismissive of a horse that has now placed in two Gold Cups.  Not my sort mind, especially as the yard have sent nine runners to post in the last fortnight and have yet to secure a placed finisher.

Cue Card is a horse I have underestimated sometimes. After a slow start, the Tizzard team are cranking up slowly.  Today, Third Intention won a decent contest, they stir from slumber.  Their previous sloppy start might account for Cue Cards below par finish in the Haldon Gold Cup but despite this being the season where we might expect his greatest triumphs, I remain unconvinced.

Conti has the advantage of Fehily in the saddle, the best jockey in the field, in my controversial view.  Yet, his Gold Cup weakened finish and a below par return have left a couple of niggles about the resolution of the horse.  They have reached for the cheekpieces and they might have the desired effect.

Dynaste has been beaten by Conti twice and I think is a horse that is short of the best staying chasers and not a horse or a yard who I feel will prepare a Gold Cup horse.

Look.  Regulars know where I am going, so let’s get there quickly, acknowledge the elephant in the room and move on.

Taquin du Seuil – I actually think the enforced change of jockey to Geraghty will be a massive boost.  You all know I love the horse and I have a history with him, having being advised by AP himself to follow him in his novice hurdling year.  He is a gangly jumper, he reminds me of Long Run, graceful in movement but like a daddy long legs at his fences.  He gets scruffy and in trouble and there are few jockeys I would prefer to be aboard to straighten him out than Barry.  Do you know he has won 24 times in 66 rides in the last month.

There, it is done.  Let’s move on and never speak of it again, unless he wins, in which case you can expect much enthusiastic trumpet blowing.

Faugheen and The New One

I am not betting either at the prices but at 1.50 Haydock (The New One) and 2.40 Ascot (Faugheen), we see two genuine contenders for the Champion Hurdle.  Currently trading at 2/5 and 1/4.  Thats getting close to double your money!

Many think The New One was very unlucky not to be challenging Jezki in last years championship race until meeting trouble with the tragic and fatal fall of Our Conor.  I agree.  I like Champion Hurdlers that have placed in the previous year too, they tend to come on.

Yet, Faugheen is spoken of in hushed tones by the Mullins team, they know they have a superb specimen on their hands and god only knows what Ruby rides if Hurricane Fly is treated with kid gloves and arrives fresh and ready for a Champion Hurdle as well as this beast.

You might notice in the menu that I have started a ten to follow – There are only 4 entries so far but I will endeavour to complete it this week.

The Ascot Opener – 12.25

I am going to back the favourite with violent ferocity.  Let me explain.  When Ruby quit the Ditcheat operation, I always felt that it was a crying shame.  Nicholls, loss was Mullins gain as Ruby became available to ride in the week in Ireland.  Although I note he is often on the hottest Gigginstown, Ricci or Wylie recruits but rarely available to other trainers on the open market to ride some handicap chaser in a field of 20 at Thurles!  I don’t blame him though, he has a strategy, not to be bothered about number of winners but be concerned with quality of winners and reputation.  What is more important than that?

Tomorrow, Ruby takes his first ride for Harry Fry.  Harry was once the satellite yard for Nicholls which in a way has robbed Harry of his only G1 victory (Rock on Ruby) which technically belonged to his master.  Now Ruby is taking rides with Fry?  Interesting.

I really like Harry Fry, his horses are always fit, he keeps things simple and seems to get the best from his stock.  He is getting better backing from owners, which is not a surprise.

Fletchers Flyer is 7/4 in places and 6/4 in the worst case and at both prices I would buy.  He really fluffed his lines when coming over the last at Ffos Las to be denied by Shantou Bob.  That one went on again to smash a Lingfield race apart and frank the form and the two were well clear in South Wales.  Fletchers Flyer won a decent Punchestown Festival bumper too and I cannot recommend enough with the best jump jockey in the world aboard.

7/4.  Gift from God. Free up anything liquid!

Ascot 1.30pm

There is a well handicapped Henderson horse in Spartan Angel who I really like the look of.  A 4/1 shot, she could be thrown in on the current mark.  She beat a reasonable looking bunch at Worcester last time out and Queen of the Stage, who finished 30l off my selection, went on to win a race at Ludlow.  Hard to know what to make of it but reassuring anyway.

On the negative side of the ledger, we get Bass not Geraghty as the latter is on duty at Haydock.  I do not mean to be too critical of David, more regretting the lack of Barry.  The horse is also unproven in a slog in the mud and being from Beneficial, it might pose a problem.

On balance, 4/1 is a decent price but if the heavens have opened and it is a proper attritional battle, hold those rifles steady, arms to shoulders.

The Amlin Chase

Having commented on Ruby’s first ride for Fry, it is great to see him back in the saddle for Nicholls.  Al Ferof brings a sprinkling of stardust to the line up with his elder Wishfull Thinking contributing too.

Wishful Thinking was exceptional in the Old Roan and my heart soared in unison with some of his majestic stag like leaps.

I like Bury Parade a lot but prefer it when Fehily rides this quirky sort.  Somersby has never been my sort, often to my cost.

The one I find myself attracted to is Rajdhani Express.  He has the best amateur rider aboard and if he wins this, he may as well be thrown in with the other Gold Cup hopefuls of which there are likely to be 15 to share the market soon! He has youth and improvement on his side in this line up and it is enough for me to have a small slice.

Rajdhani was in the Old Roan which Wishfull won so convincingly.  I remember my eye being drawn to the horse who I thought was travelling particularly well.  In the Amlin, we find out how well.

Anything Else?

I fancy Brick Red who is being backed (Pricewise?) in Ascots 3.15pm chase.  You can get 5/1 but not for long.  The horse now a little more mature might well be seeing his races out better and I have a feeling there is more to come.  Plus… It is Saturday and you want to be on a Venetia sort.

I would back the Ferguson runner in the bumper at Huntingdon – Joe Farrell.  There are no markets bar Betfair where the suggestion is 15/8.  John has his runners in the best form and my chief concern is the ground.

Ballycasey, Tell Us More and Dom Poli all run at Gowran, they all should win but it won’t be much fun.

The Football

Manchester United to win at Arsenal is massive at 13/5 – Arsenal have Sanchez and after that it is a bit thin  Newcastle at 17/20 is a buy.

The Martin Hill bet…. Manchester United and Fletcher Flyer in a big power double.

I trust your dinner is with your favourite companions.  Pasta, fresh and great ingredients.  Toast with a  passion and remember that nothing you see, none that you speak to will exist in the blink of time’s eye.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Paddy Power Gold Cup Day – Tips across the #Cheltenham Card – Any RTs appreciated

Good evening from the Major who writes from the lounge feeling rather blue.  My in-laws are in attendance and I have the fire roaring and the alcohol flowing but even these compensations cannot wash away the burdens of the day.

The Major had a shocker and at a meeting I normally do well from.  I read the ground conditions with overnight rain, could see the form players, had angles into several races and bought confidence into the game with reckless abandon.  Somehow, I managed to sweep aside all of these obstacles to failure with remarkable ruthless efficiency.

Perhaps Parlour Games is a fantastic sort, the way he quickened on the hill was eye catching, or perhaps Blacklion did not put down a fast enough pace to draw the sting from his opponent who showed an impressive turn of foot.  Either way, my main hope of the day could only manage a place from an SP of 7/4.

I could barely draw the strength to crawl back to the keyboard to lay out my thoughts for Saturday.  Crawl back I have though for in five and a half years, I have not missed a Saturday.  Success, failure, good weather and storm, illness and holiday; whatever life throws, my world is anchored in the weekend sermons.  Always seeking the mothership that may never come.  Is it worth it?  I feel barely worth the support I receive, for that I thank you and pray to good god that you can cut through my thinking to isolate the diamonds from the rock wastage destined for the slag pile.

I slept badly last night too which only adds to my malaise.  After attending the Preview evening at Cheltenham, my back ached and my restless torso twisting through the night found no respite.  Drifting in and out of consciousness, warm and clammy, coming to with the heart pounding and the mind racing.  Dark thoughts swirl at that time of night, thoughts that do not belong in the daylight hours.  I worry sometimes that they might seep into normalcy, that they might creep to where they do not belong.

So here I am, bottle of Chilean wine open, fire roaring and weary, yet willing, to get back into the battle.  From the darkness, comes the light.  Courage my friends, call up the heavy charger and let us trot to face our enemy with lances vertical, the points glistening in the sparkling morning light.

Courage, roll the dice.

Paddy Power Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

The one noticeable trait from Friday racing for me was the success that hold up horses were having.  Perhaps, the ground helped, kicking off the front on that hill can make the front runners vulnerable to one given a quiet ride from an experienced hand.  The successful jockeys were Bannister in the amateurs race (one of the top three riders in the race), Twiston Davies, Geraghty and Johnson (3).

Whatever happens on Saturday, I want a good pilot and ideally some more of those hold up sorts that are doing their best work at the death.

The opening race, the novice handicap hurdle over two miles has attracted a decent field and a bit like the 20 horse novice chase today, there could be some carnage.

My tentative vote goes to a former Godolphin horse that needs to concede weight to all but one rival .  Chesterfield at 8/1 with Ladbrokes and Stan James gets my vote as a soft ground winner.  Ferguson has his team on top form at the moment and had the aforementioned Parlour Games as a winner on the Friday card.  He has won on good to soft but never on soft, to be fair, that was from one effort and with Cheltenham drying a little, the ground holds few concerns.  We also get Noel Fehily aboard, a big plus and a persuading factor.

The the 3m novice chase which is an absolute cracker.  What it lacks in field depth it makes up for in quality and intrigue.  Creepy will have supporters having  shown well in his first chase appearance and on previous hurdle form.  Not for me although I must admit, he looks like a chasing type.

Sausilito Sunrise is another on the shortlist having jumped confidently to a novice chase win.  Tom O’Brien is a decent jockey but not as accomplished perhaps as some of the others here, that tempers enthusiasm but the form of Hobbs has been red hot and that will keep the support pouring in.

Kings Palace has looked outstanding at times over the smaller obstacles but I confess that Pipe is not a trainer I have full confidence in.  Couple that with the fact we have not seen the horse jump a fence yet, well the legitimate concerns over the favourite stack up.  However, I feel that Kings Palace, a son of the great NH sire Kings Theatre could be a cut above.  He gets 5lbs from the field too, having not won or raced for that matter over fences, throw that into the bargain and it starts to be appealing.  The chief concern, of chasing prowess is balanced somewhat by the nature of a small field.  Kings Palace should be able to find plenty of space and good sight of the fences.  5/4 is about.

The the Murphy Group Chase.  Sam Winner has often gone well at Cheltenham but never quite fulfilled the belief his trainer that he might be one of the best.  Mercurial would be my description.  The horse seems to have been around for ever yet is only just turning eight.  Maybe he could come again this year, maybe.  Not for me though.  In spite of Lord Windermere, I still think the RSA is a graveyard for chasers and even though Sam Winner only managed fifth, I just do no have him down as a potential festival sort.

The Package has tied form to Holywell who I find an implausible sort to be near the head of the Gold Cup market.  No thank you, at veteran stage,this is a big assignment. So who then?

The Major has settled on the favourite, The Druids Nephew, largely through my dislike of many of the other runners.  Mulholland is in fine form and we get Geraghty too, a rare booking for the yard (1 win from 2 starts in the past two years).  5/1 is generally available.

Then the big one.  The Paddy Power Gold Cup did not used to attract the best types but in recent years the form has looked good.  A young upcoming chaser, not too green but with an aptitude for Cheltenham is the order.

Johns Spirit, last years winner lines up and is a talented horse in fine order having won cosily on reappearance.  Is he good enough to go in again in a much better race, a stone and a half higher than last year?  The market drifts, as does the Majors mind.  Jonjo is not flying.

Oscar Whiskey is the class horse in the line up but about to turn ten hardly has the typical profile of a Paddy Power winner.  He does love to get his toe in and I would not begrudge him a win but my hopes lie elsewhere.

Martin Pipe used to milk this race and his son David started down the same track when winning with Great Endeavour in 2011.  Easter Meteor therefore must warrant close inspection but the horse does not stand up to it in my view.  Pipe seems to have purchased a reasonably good handicapper but one that is about to turn 9 and is well enough exposed.  Not for me.

John’s Spirit, Buywise and Indian Castle are the three I would focus on.  Buywise boasts the weakest trainer form (Williams 1 from 20 in recent weeks) and is reluctantly dropped.  Jonjo is not firing the winners in at the rate I would like either but Johns Spirit looked value for his win last time.  There are two types of winners of this race.  Lighly raced 6-8 year olds seeking in at the bottom who are a stone better than their mark… or…. 6-8 year olds at the top of the weights who are genuine Grade One chasers in the making.  I am banking on my selection burdening the weight and proving himself in the second camp.  Markets seem to disagree and you can find prices at double figures, perhaps they will drift further.

The 3pm handicap hurdle is not the strongest contest and I fancy that champion trainer Nicholls might saddle the winner in Vivaldi Colognes at 6/1 with Ladbrokes.  My choice has a little bit more evidence than the horse I perceive as a main threat, Katkeau, who has been injured best part of two years but returns at a good level from a big yard and as favourite.  The signs are there.  Yet, I feel the Pipe yard is a poor reflection of what it was and so past performance may not be a good indicator of future potential.

I have wrestled between the recent hurdling form of Golden Doyan and the potential of Hargam for Henderson in the penultimate race.  Both get weight from the Fehily ridden L’Aigle Royal who took some time to get going at Sedgefield but eventually looked value… hmmm.

In the end, having turned from Hobbs earlier, I remain with my back turned.  Just because he had the hat trick up on Friday does not mean he has right over the Saturday.  Henderson has his horses going OK and Geraghty is better than Johnson, sorry for the frankness in which I expel this rude opinion.  Thus, Hargam at a best price 7/4 (Bet Victor) is the tip.

Willie Mullins is on fire and since he has sent a bumper contender Daring Carlotta across, he has my firm support.  Take the Paddy Power 2/1 and run.

I have promised @adamclarke501 my ten to follow for the season.  It is coming I promise.

The Martin Hill bet is Hargam, Daring Carlotta and Kings Palace as a straight win trixie.

May your dinner be taken in peace.  Forget company, just enjoy eating good food alone.

Friday Cheltenham Open Meeting 2014 – Tips across the card.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a blustery Worcestershire where heavy squalls have deposited their sorrowful cargo and still, high grey blankets ripple at speed across the heavens, dizzying the eyes.

The going will be testing tomorrow, despite the current good to soft declaration.  Pleasingly, the forecast looks fair for those good souls heading to course, sadly, I shall not be amongst those warriors.  While time is on my side,   my slipped disc recovery would not be served well by a day on my feet in the cool air of November.  My physio would not allow for it and I dare not cross her.  She is a Cheltenham soul herself, all sharp eye and curled lip, lean and lithe of body; tremendous fun.

Such a shame…. Stop there, I know how your mind runs, I am speaking of my attendance at the Open meeting.  It is one of my favourite racecourse experiences.  Two memories that show the light and dark of the sport we love come to mind.  With much sorrow, I remember poor old Granit Jack falling terribly at that fast fence they used to take near the bottom of the hill, that was an awful dark moment – Watching him sprawl, watching the rest toil up the hill to glory and glancing back anxiously to see those dreaded screens going up.  Hollowness, you know the feeling. I hope Dante reserved a secret ring of hell for those that cheer fallers.

I also recall queuing to back Monkerhostin but persuaded against by an Irish chap in front of me who was, as they say in his home land, fluttered, buckled, langered or locked.  Quite how I went from Monkerhostin to Old Vic under the wise counsel of my drunken friend, well, I cannot say.  Yet, it felt glorious to watch those Johnson colours come home that day.

As for tomorrow and the opening Friday of  the meeting.  Another front is being flung off the Atlantic in God’s slingshot of fortune.  Warm Caribbean air, humid, hurried to our shores by that marvellous jet stream, depositing all of that precipitation on our Northern rocky outcrop.  The storm will come at the break of dawn and be done by mid morning.  The current good to soft ground looks highly unlikely to hold and I am planning on proper soft conditions.

I have attended the preview evening at the course tonight.  Charlie Longsden and Gordon Elliot talked at length and I tweeted the most significant tit-bits that caught my ear on @tdl123.

Cheltenham Friday Tips

The opening race on Friday is an Amateur rides race and regulars will know that I am quite keen on these races.  The advantage I think they offer is the range in quality of the amateur riders that line up.  A number are close to the standard of their professional colleagues and have significant experience.  Others, less so.  This has a number of impacts.  Cheltenham is a tough course and so the effect quality riding is amplified.  Experience is significant, leaving some in the tank for that hill.  Plus, given the quality is more diverse, we should pay attention to yards booking the better jockeys for their mounts.

Now, I will let the jockey booking continue to carry a high influence but to be fair, we also have a lot of quality angles to get in to this opening race.

Sam Waley-Cohen, Will Biddick and Bannister have won strike rates of in excess of 16% over two years.  The B Division start at 11%.  These three are high quality. Between them they have secured 45% of the entire winning rides this field of jockeys can muster from 29% of the total rides.  They boast between them a strike rate of 18.5% compared to an average of 9.4% by the rest of the field combined.

I would mention Sam Clements too who doesn’t boast the stats but is one I have confidence in.  Of the four, Sam Waley-Cohens stats stand out as excellent but I also consider his rides to be off the best quality too being supported by his fathers excellent string.

Of course, in all races, course form is a big plus but in the opening race, only Handy Andy has won here previously and that was from six attempts, he placed in none of the other five.  His win happens to be in this race last year and after being tuned up again, clearly he will be well fancied.  One of those warm up runs was a race in which one of my other fancies, Benbens competed and finished behind Handy Andy.

Oscar Time, Ballyoliver and Charingworth represent the jockeys I prefer in the field.  Charingworth is the first casualty as I am not sure it will appreciate the soft conditions I am anticipating.  Oscar Time will be celebrating his 14th birthday on New Years Day and while he stacked up a hat trick over the larger and smaller obstacles in a remarkable spring campaign that included a place in the Grand National, this is a big ask for his aging frame.

Anyway, for all of the machinations of my calculation.  For all of the toil.  Gordon Elliot said that Pipe does well at the meeting and that Broadway Buffalo currently 9/2 was his thought for tomorrow.  There you go.  Here I am.  Striving between what I think (Ballyoliver) and that which a trainer; of whom I hold in high regard, thinks.  Gordon Elliott only gave one tip for Friday at Cheltenham.  Pipe.  9/2.

1.50pm – A 2m handicap chase concerning twenty starters around Cheltenham is going to be carnage.  As such this is an automatic low stakes race, signalled by the market, 7/1 the field.  There have been 57 runs at Cheltenham from these racehorses and incredibly two horses, Oiseau de Nuit and Astracad are responsible for 30 of those runs!  My tip though is Anay Turge who needs to come back to form.  It also needs things to click right but having won this race convincingly last year and of the type that might ‘come right’ again, I will be in for a very meagre investment at 12/1 with Ladbrokes.

The Steel Plate has been won by some decent sorts including Taquin du Seuil; regulars know my connection.  Is there a star chasing name to emerge from the field? Hmm, I am doubtful.

Well, I am not opting for the favourite – No thank you.  Why not?  There are things in Colour Squadron’s favour including the significant fact that Cheltenham is his preferred venue.  Hobbs has used him very well at times and last year I was a buyer early on In the campaign and he served me well.  Yet, he is not classy.  I feel harsh here but he has limitations.  Last year was his year.  The future belongs to others.  Let me die by these words.

Hobbs saddles the second favourite, Champagne West who is ridden by Richard Johnson, I am not sure enough of the jockey order for the JP horses to understand the significance of this.  That said, I prefer this horse to Colour Squadron.  I have already decried the first choice Hobbs horse so is this my idea of the winner.  Well, no.

I think Champagne West is going to be a stayer and a decent one but these middle distance chases might go a bit too quick even at this stage of his career.

So my idea of the winner is 15/2 (Stan James) Splash of Ginge, a horse I feel I might be under-rated. He beat a Pipe horse, Ainsi Fidelis, recently and I have the sense that now they might repel a greater Pipe challenge from Dell’ Arca who I see as the main threat.  My tip has form, course comfort and the Twiston-Davies team on the positive side of the ledger, plenty for me at that price. It’s a risk opposing Hobbs who is sending out winners and has the front two in the market but that mothership won’t land itself.

The 3pm staying hurdle has some recent history too.  Winners include Fingal Bay, Champion Court and Diamond Harry.  I am going to keep things simple here.  Blacklion was a horse I backed against last time (in what I think might emerge as a key bit of form) to my loss and I refuse to make the same mistake again.  Many in the line up have potential, Blacklion boasts both opportunity and recent fitness and as advertised in the last race, Twiston-Davies and his local track, come on; what thought against might you have?  Load your cannons.  I have a feeling , this horse might start being a great tomorrow.  A real galloper, reminds me a bit of Denman.  Relentless.  Call your money man, 15/8.

The Cross Country.  Hmmmmmmm. Balthazar King battled well last year and course form is crucial.  Let’s hope the jockeys remember the course!  Thing is, Uncle Junior is too old and nothing else appeals.  Sorry.  Not that I would be going wild at 4/5 but winners pay for dinner.

You aren’t going to like it but Charlie Longsden tonight said that Cup Final was his good thing for the Friday card.  I won’t argue and at 13/8 (Paddy Power) plan a reasonable investment.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – RTs Always appreciated – Criterium de Saint Cloud, The Darley Stakes (4.40am Flemington, Australia) and I might even deem to look at some UK racing!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a damp Worcestershire where the car tyres kiss the wet tarmac, dirty brown puddles pooling on the roadside, yet a clear sky, pinkish and cold, a moon covered in a thin cloth, the defined edges smudged in a haze, a heavy mist shall roll off the Avon tonight.  Settle in, this is a monster, you might need to refresh the coffee pot, mid sermon.

The Major is home, horizontal and the homely stove stoked into action.  Not roaring for I am low on wood.  That I have any is due to the generosity of my landlord, returning from a bookie run to collect some winnings, more of that in a moment, I stopped in to say hello and enjoy an early evening pot of ale.  My Worcestershire local has a permanent fire roaring, good furniture, no music, no neon fruit machine and good beer on tap.

They hold my ceramic mug behind the bar and to the disdain of any cider drinkers out there, I fill it with beer, as is my choice.  The locals fish in the river, farm their land and are handy sorts, friendly to the end.  Anyway, I mentioned that I had run out of wood and that was enough to send him scuttling into his grounds to recover some Hawthorn he had felled and dismembered in the summer.  Hawthorn burns nicely, slowly and warm; I can lay personal testament to that.

My winnings were thin.  What is more, they were almost glorious.  I had backed five horses in each way trebles and an accumulator (always have to play for the mothership).  The first, the Hobbs horse in the opener obliged at 8/15.  The second, a former point to pointer at Hexham was rather more interesting and when they flew home at 20/1 (took 14s foolishly), the mothership was on.  Sadly of the remaining three at 11/8, 5/2 and 2/1.  One won, one placed and one lost.  In an hour, I had gone from contemplating calling BA and having them reserve me and the lady a seat upstairs heading for anywhere in the Caribbean, to driving to Upton upon Severn where an independent wine merchant sells his wares.

The gamblers curse has struck me twice this week.  I was a single football result away from another fine win.  Why not cash out Major?  I hear the cry and I reply to you.  For I, am a man.  I play for fun, thrills, challenge and a test of nerve.  I have lectured on the virtues of cashing out before and let me summarise my view.

If you are placing a four selection accumulator and you know that if the first three legs won that you would want to consider cashing out, then simply only bet the treble.  A useful exercise and question to ask yourself before betting any roll up bet.  Calculate the winnings before the final leg and ask; If I had that money would I stake it all on the final leg or would I want more options?  Cashing out simply gives a percentage back to your turf accountant that they did not earn.

The state of my health is fast improving.  I can only walk for half a mile before my muscles, some of which are in overtime compensating for my slipped disc, cry enough.  Yet, I am mobile again and continuing to take the excellent advice from my excellent physio George.  Ah, that one has dancing dark eyes that tell of a wicked sense of humour.  She knows me for a scoundrel already and I think she likes me all the more for it.  Now, do not think I am ahead of myself, nothing out of the orderly is to happen but the merry enjoyment of company is plenty little sin and as I extol to you often, we float by on the river just the once my friends.

She had me reminiscing of a girl of my acquaintance in a younger more innocent time.  I cannot disclose too much to protect the innocent but we all have our inner thoughts, that one remains with me and I think about her from time to time and wonder aloud in my mind.  We all carry a portfolio of secrets, of things we dare not share or cannot, or even refuse to admit to our own selves.

Some consider secrets destructive, I consider them a glue that binds many of the dysfunctional aspects of your soul together.  Whether yours be an indiscretion, a crime or some other thought; I urge you not to dwell on it.  Why allow yourself the pain of inner turmoil.  Let it go.  We drift by on life’s river just the once, time is too short and whatever ails you too slight.

Absolution complete.

There is a film either released or about to be, named Unbroken and I would advise you to put it on your watch list.  It concerns the life of an American who has one of the most amazing stories of hellish torture to tell.

An Olympian pre Second World War, Louis Zamperini was an American Air Force pilot.  He served in the Pacific theatre with credit and partook in an extraordinary event.  An American bomber had been downed and Zamperini was assigned a search and rescue mission for which two planes were involved.  With his own plane badly damaged from a previous bombing raid on the Japanese held island of Nuara, East North East of Papua New Guinea; Zamperini was given a barely serviceable alternate plane to conduct the search.

Needless to say, both propeller engines surrendered during the flight and he was forced to abandon into the sea.  He was unable due to the nature of the machine to complete a graceful landing and sadly 8 of the 11 souls aboard his bomber were lost in the crash, leaving himself and two others to scramble aboard a life raft.

47 days at sea.  Raw fish and rainwater rations, the odd albatross; the odd maelstrom of mother natures indiscriminate cruelty, circled constantly by sharks, vultures of the ocean.  Worse was to come, day 33 at sea, a Japanese fighter spotted them and ran several straffing runs on their feeble raft.  His compatriots, Phillips and McNamara remained aboard but Zamperini chanced with the sharks and tried to get deep into the water to protect from the hellish bullets which zipped through the water.

For some it might offer proof that God exists that when climbing back aboard the punctured raft with the fighter plane returning to base; all three remained alive.  Bullets had missed McNamaras groin by a mere inch, 48 holes existed on the tiny craft but incredibly, the men survived.

Sadly McNamara, effected badly by the raid, died six days later.

Phillips and Zamperini drifted on and were picked up by the Japanese just off the Marshall Islands, lucky to be alive, or perhaps not.  For they were taken to Ofuna, the notorious prisoner of war camp where they were most mercilessly beaten.  There was a strict rule of silence in the camp and prisoners were housed in isolation.  Cruelty in men unbound.

Yet the real devil was to come.  Transferred to Naoetsu, otherwise known as Death Island, Zamperini was subjected to the presence of a most famous, for famous read notorious, brutal bastard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe.  He was known by the Americans as ‘The Bird’ and took great delight in exposing the dark reaches of his souls abandon and playing out his macabre creations.  A true psychopath, he suffered violent mood swings, capable of the most depraved activity and equally wanton to acts of generosity.  Nothing would sober the man up though when his black mood fell upon him, breaking teeth, necks; beating the helpless.

I would like to say that justice was served, that Watnabe got his own.  It was not, he did not.  After the war, he was one of the most wanted Japanese criminals but charges were never bought.  He accepted his complicity in the evil doing.  Such a state, to wash mens minds.  The Japanese were wishing to revive their warrior classes, raise the samurai from their slumber.  In such fervour of state, such beasts are created.

Watch the film, even if I did spoil it for you.

Anyway, I must clear something from my mind.  I rarely write a political note but I feel I wish to air a thought.   In recent times, the rise of UKIP has been a phenomenon and unwelcome to many.  Now, I shall not share my own political leaning but I am backing them to win seats at the General Election and am placing a fresh £10 investment each week with Ladbrokes who are the only firm I know to run a seat by seat market.  I am selecting fishing ports and less wealthy towns as well, of course, as Kent.

The predominant issues that UKIP stand for full, I believe will remain prominent and perhaps escalating up  to election day and I think party support will continue to rise.  The 2 MPs they will have as a minimum pre-election day will add credibility and I would not be surprised if they surpassed the expected 5/6 seats considerably.

I watch the debate around them therefore with some interest.  What gives my betting position more confidence is the lack of comprehension of the attraction that people have to UKIP.  Scared, some opponents are starting to slur an element of racism towards the party.  I am sure that some supporters of UKIP are racist, as I am sure that some other parties host such people.  Perhaps more so with UKIP.  Let’s be honest too, the rise of the party has seen a demise in the popularity of the National Front and the BNP.  The latter used to gain quite significant support, for this UKIP are a much more palatable alternate.

They address an issue that no other party can stray into.  They have an approach that is different to others and I think, yet not necessarily wish, they will do well.

I believe it impolite to project your political beliefs onto another and so do not treat it as endorsement or party political broadcast.  I merely state my case for a continuation of my £10 investments.  Dover, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Grimsby, Cleethorpes et al.  Think of me in May.

We shall not debate politics here, that would not be gentlemanly.  Forgive me, it is a smell of opportunity I raise, not the stench of Realpolitik.

To the sports.

Flemington Darley Sprint

For those early birds, there is a G1 treat at 4.40am with plenty of rich context.  Australian racing is fiercely defended down under and their pride has been greatly wounded the year as foreign raiders have taken three of their top races.  This includes the Ryan Moore inspired Protectionist that won the worlds richest handicap, the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

If there is one thing the Aussies have nailed in their racing, it is their sprinters.  This is an area in which the Antipodeans have punched well above their weight in recent years.  Of course, as you read these very words, your mind wanders to Black Caviar who came to the UK and hung on in the most fortunate fashion to win a Diamond Jubilee.  Conditions were entirely against her that day and Luke Nolan might consider himself the luckiest man alive.  Dropping his hands within the shadow of the post with the French raider Moonlight Cloud closing at the death, almost an entirely different ending.  Nolan would have been lynched, he might have made it out of Ascot, he would not have landed in Sydney.

Anyway, it was damn sporting of the Black Caviar owners to come and take on Europe at the Royal meeting.  How fitting that the Irish winner of this years Diamond Jubilee now is sent down under to have a pop at their best.  Slade Power has been a revelation this year and followed that Diamond Jubilee win with another G1 in the Darley July Cup.  What chance?

Well on form, a damn good one.  There is no doubt that this horse is as good as we have for the job but I foresee problems.  Firstly, there has been the issue of loading.  This has been controversial, the Aussies have been sticking to their rules, loading in stall order.  Slade Power is a known menace to himself and others in the stalls and ideally, he wants to go in last and thus out quickly like a bullet from the other end.

It seems that sense has prevailed and to accommodate the round the world trip, Australian authorities are willing to turn a bit of a blind eye and load our chap late.  My main concern is that Slade Power arrives with a developing winter coat into the humid hot conditions of a mid Australian afternoon.  I cannot believe this will help.

I also think that the pace on the draw is an interesting if not helpful factor.  Slade Power wants to be prominent but ideally sit behind something, I think is only hope is Buffering who likes to bowl along and won this last year.  On the other side of the track, forwards early will be Lankan Rupee (the early sizzler who now has a reputation to restore) and Temple of Boom.  It is also notable that this side of the track has delivered the better results this week.

Chautauqua clearly has not been bottomed out yet and white this is the sights test to date, the market speaks in favour of a bold showing.  I want more value.

The one I am suggesting for punting reasons is Rebel Dane at 20/1 with Paddy Power.  I have doubts of a few at the top of the market.  This is a new level for the favourite who I think is on the wrong side and this boy can race mid pack and come late and fast to pick off Lankan Rupee, Temple of Boom and Drefontien.

Criterium de Saint Cloud

The best race in Europe is run at 1.30pm and in heavy going this years renewal is interesting.  Britain and Ireland are represented by Hannon and Tony Martin with their respective runners; Crafty Choice and Clonard Street.

Both hold a chance with, of the raiders, the Hannon horse, Crafty Choice, holding the best chance.  That one looks more experienced, will go OK in the ground and has been progressive.

Paddy Power are the only market up at 10pm on the eve of the race, a shameful situation but credit to them.  They suggest Palang at 14/1 which I think is generous.  German horses are becoming more accepted in the top circles, they did just win the Melbourne Cup and for some of the summer and the favourite for the Arc in Sea the Moon.  Poland won in Cologne on soft and I am sure the respected yard feel they have a sporting chance at this level.

Epicurus and Big Blue seem to hold the keys though and the former seemingly has the edge over the latter having beaten him in the Prix de Conde at Longchamp in suitably muddy ground.  The hopes for a reversal lie with the increase in distance bringing improvement from Big Blue.

Let me wrap this up.  I am often unconvinced by such arguments.  Often it is easy to look for a reason for form reversal when in truth, the best horse won.  It is not often I back Rail Link colts over Galileo ones but tomorrow, I have confidence that Epicurus will remain unbeaten and be an exciting prospect for 2015 and the classics.

Epicurean thinking is a major school of Greek philosophy and he has much to teach us sorry gentlemen gamblers.  He believed that we should not worry of death as once we get there, we experience nothing and as such there is nothing to fear.  He valued friendship and a bird in the hand over desire.  In fact, he taught that the pursuit of wealth, fame and greed in general were an ill to be left behind.    Perhaps though, this might be a mantra to recollect from time to time.

The misfortune of the wise compares better than the prosperity of the foolish.

Aside from these foreign adventures, I think I am tired of the flat.  Doncaster has a nice card and on soft ground I am sure some better tipsters than I can work into which runners will likely do well.  The thing is that at this stage of the flat season, we are into the same predicament as the Punchestown Festival.  The ground is different and who knows which horses are over the top and crying out to be put to paddock and rest.

No sir, that mist I spoke of, it signals a cold frosty morning and the jumps are running through my veins.

Wincanton, Sundown and Naas

Feeling bruised that I spent time in France and Australia, well then, you are a dirty bigot, those foreign races can add to our richness of racing culture and value in our souls.  I bet you support UKIP don’t you!  Let’s not get back there shall we, I fear you think less of me for raising politics already.

Three excellent jumps cards and this week, the pulse of the jumping season has been returning to my veins.  The Haldon Gold Cup, good action at Mussleburgh and some excellent novices being unleashed by the top yards.

The ones to watch at the moment are Warren Greatrex, Harry Fry, Mullins, Dessie Hughes, De Bromhead, Tom George, Nicky Richards and Hobbs.

It is a nice Saturday of varied jumping action and so I am going to dart between the venues accordingly, affording you the riches and cyclonic nature of my thoughts.  Whirling away, darkness and light; the cold sanity of the day; the depth of night and with it the creatures.

At Naas, Mullins runs two; Aniflet (1pm) and Killer Crow (2.45pm).  The first is a mare that has had her problems but was once a leading Triumph contender.  In these hands, you can bet she has returned in full flight and odds on is to be expected.  I am sorry.

Killer Crow might also go off odds-on but I am hoping we can secure a bit of evens at least if not odds against.  He faces a decent opponent in Fine Article who ran pleasingly in the Punchestown Champion Bumper and is well related.  My selection has already flopped over hurdles having jumped poorly on debut but if there is a yard to sort that out, this is it and let’s face it, the assistance of Bryan Cooper will be a massive boost.  I am a huge fan of the young man who has come back from injury with some vengeance.  He is destined for the top and fully deserves the surprising vote of confidence that Gigginstown gave him last year.

Tom George has a single runner tomorrow and Ballyalia Man should be considered at 3/1 (generally) in the 12.55 at Wincanton.  This one goes well enough fresh and is being turned out for a yard that is doing good things at the moment.  I think a bit of rain would help but good to soft at Exeter will be testing enough.  That said, he is up against one with a better chance in the Majors book in Bincombe at 2/1.  Oliver Sherwood runs one in this too and so it is a case of three yards on fire coming to the cauldron of Wincanton to settle their scores.  A bit over-dramatic?  Guilty as charged.

In the opener at Sandown, I was interested in Teochow who runs for Greatrex.  It is the race conditions that put me off.  It is a conditional jockeys event and his rider, though experienced has a 7% strike rate.  Compare that to Charlie Deutsch and his 17%.  Charlie gets the benefit of a lot of Charlie Longsden horses, a real up and coming yard who I think in a few years will be competing with the Hendersons, Nicholls and O’Neills of our theatre of war.

Thus, No No Mac  gets a clear vote – He can go well fresh.  Have a significant cannon loaded for the 6/1 at Betfred – Play that as a win bet.

I have to make a blog call on the 2.05 at Wincanton before having seen the 1.30 which is a shame as Southfield Theatre will be a useful guide to Polly Peachums chances.  Personally I think the yard form of Fry, a yard to watch, the assistance of Fehily and a pull of over a stone will be enough to exact revenge for Blue Buttons.  I am conscious of my earlier contradiction but what are you going to do about it?  4/1 generally, I like it.

The Martin Hill bet… My good friend, join me in a trixie with Blue Buttons, No No Mac and Bincombe.

I hope your dinner is spectacular.  Old recollections, distant now, raised to the surface in the inebriation, hazy, enhanced with the passing of time.  Tentative memories of the past made beautiful in the moment.  Why not eat a good communal meal – I suggest Teppanyaki and think of this amazing cuisine from my warrior Japanese nation and consider their rich history.

Courage, roll the dice.