Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Saturday Sermon – The Flat is Back – Lincoln Day at Doncaster, Kempton and Meydan

Good morning from the Major who writes as an ‘owl like’ guest of a good friend in his Cheltenham home.  The weather nondescript, I cannot muster more than that.  The early morning light is grey and consistent.

What fine form I have been returning of late.  I do not gloat, the outrageous arrows of fortune are flying my way right now.  Yet, caution on the first day of the flat festival is imperative.  It is a dangerous time to take entrenched or confident positions, we need to warm up to the new rhythms of life. As such, we shall merely pro the forward lines, skirmishing in an open formation and ready to retreat.

The hospitality here at ‘Chez Day’ is first-rate, the home clean and all trendy and colourful, the bed comfortable and a glass of something cold to welcome the small hours with.  Truly it is an old friend, a good friend, a good man.  He once said something to me, that he always thought a person of sharp wit to be showing great intelligence.  Although he is too polite to have meant it as such, I interpreted it as a self appraisal.

What a week.  A co-pilot drives a plane into a mountain killing all on board.  With terrible monotonous regularity, the media trotted out their positions.  Firstly, before anything was known we had high excitement and speculation.  As facts emerged, various extrapolations, many ill-informed and changing with the wind were trotting out, all in the name of ‘breaking news’  It is a master that demands freshness and titillating sensationalism.

As the picture emerged that the desperate young man had mental health issues.  The spectrum I dislike reared an ugly head.  Firstly a set of terrible newspaper headlines, entirely insensitive to the millions who suffer with silent invisible mental health issues,  Then a shift, social media moved to condemn such things, quite rightly but equally wrong in moving to a whole assumption that no guilt can be attributed to his actions.

Neither position correct.  Facts unknown leave the truth distant and untouchable, the debate of it is largely without utility and frankly we all need to learn to just leave some things alone.

I have been awake for most of the last 48 hours for various reasons.  My eyes are falling now.  I am five pints in to the weekend and reclining in peace on the most comfortable bed with the window cracked and cool air washing over me.  You will forgive a direct post, to business, the sports.

Doncaster – The Flat Season Starts

Bill Turner always has one ready for the Brocklesby and in Just That Lord he has a strong candidate.  9/4 might seem skinny in a race of the nature but Turner has won the race umpteen times and this looks just the type.  One negative aspect is the late foaling (April) which might suggest the horse has more to find physically but the breeding is a family of forward sorts, have a small slice.

In the listed Betway Cambridge, Jack Dexter has a seasonal debut.  He desperately needs the forecast rain to get into the ground as he is an absolute soft ground horse.  He has new ownership and a new rider and I wish the old boy the best for the year.

I am interested in two.  Fahey has got away to a reasonable start and Heavens Guest is one I would give a squeak to at an outside 14/1.  My main interest though will be with Aetna, who will also welcome the forecast softer ground and is well worth a 5/1 stab.

Of the three so far, I like Aetna, the other two are much lighter selections.

The Spring Mile often goes to a classy one and I am taking a gamble that the rain is in the ground and has slowed up to at least good to soft.  All of this points me towards Chatez.  The Alan King horse cost me money as I had opposed him on hurdles debut thinking him an unlikely stayer.  He won two in that sphere before  losing significant form.  His record on soft ground is good and he has gone well fresh, there are certainly some issues to overlook and he has only won on a mark of 91 (off 98 today) previously but at 16/1, that is, to an extent, already priced in.

I cannot remember having the winner of the Lincoln before so consider that a fair warning.  It shall not stop me enthusiastically picking a winner.

GM Hopkins is favourite at 6/1 and having been gelded may return to his previous winning ways, he did looks very progressive in the early part of last season.  He is drawn 21 and there have been winners from that side but a lower number is slightly preferred.  On the draw, it is interesting that all 5 runnings on soft, (in the last twenty years) have been won by a horse in the single number stalls.

My pick is one of the few that could be a handicap blot.  Mondialiste may not have been hugely respected in France but did produce some notable form.  He is out of Galileo and has never finished out of the places when soft is in the description.  At 16/1, I would have a slice.  As a saver, I think Fahey’s Koukash runner Gabrial is worth a shot out of the middle stalls.  Still on a favourable mark on old form, soft ground (I am keeping this assumption up!) would be fine and Fahey lays them out well for the big handicaps.

Kempton Tip

@roge1409 is a kind chap, always sending me racing thoughts and today, the good man is off to Kempton for a gentle enjoyable days racing.

I have one selection I would play at the track and that is a runner for the hottest trainer going right now.  Charlie Appleby has fired in plenty of winners since taking up the reigns at this Godolphin yard.  I am constantly amazed, given the investments made, just how poorly they are doing at the top table but come down to this level and their expensive assembled assault team are hovering up the all-weather scene.  The three tracks the Appleby yard use most, by some margin are Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton.

I cannot imagine the sheikhs had celebrating at Dunstable Park in the plan when they opened the cheque book.

New Years Night offers me some value at 7/2 in the 2.50.  Looks awkward but on cosily at Lingfield last time and can go on again.

Meydan World Cup Card Tips

In the 1.15, I am giving Dubday a chance.  He has been prolific at a lower grade in Qatar but may well take the step up to this company well and was tilted at the Sheema Classic previously. 10/1 and a bit better available.

The World Cup itself, the richest race on the planet, well.  The money has attracted American fans favourite, California Chrome to get on the plane and it has a favourites chance.  I always felt it odd when he has been described as a ‘rags to riches’ type horse, in actual fact his breeding is excellent.  It is fair to say he was picked up for a Kings bargain but it was not that surprising reading his bloodlines that he turned out to be rather good.

I like California Chrome but will oppose on this surface with Lea who has shown an awful lot too and will be very comfortable on dirt.  3/1 is readily up for grabs.

Navan – Webster Cup Chase

Flemenstar is in my book, the worst campaigned horse of recent years.  I know I am not ‘in the game’, my money is not at risk and my experience, purely as an enthusiastic observer, yet this is how I feel.

I am glad he has changed yards because if he has a chance in his elder years, it is with a trainer that can plot out a proper route.

My issue was always that Flemenstar looked a superbly fluent horse over 2m 4f and thus an obvious Ryanair candidate.  Yet, connections with a snobbish view were always trying to get the horse to perform over the minimum trip or a staying trip because they wanted tilts at championship races.  I think the confused approach was not helpful.

Kauto won a Tingle Creek and a Gold Cup in the same year.  That might not ever be repeated and is an astonishing achievement.  Flemenstar is not Kauto.

Off a break, what to expect?  Well he has gone well fresh but I would prefer to avoid it.

Felix Yonger is favourite and the Willie Mullins unstoppable form carries on.  4 from 10 of his Navan runners in recent years win and this enough sees him as favourite, not for me.

I am playing Argocat at 6/1 who has been running lifelessly over hurdles after a long break.  I would suggest that a shift back to fences in a grade 2, is a signal that a good run is expected and I will have a slice at 6/1.

In the football. Nothing.  I cannot muster the energy for European qualifiers.

The Martin Hill bet, on a tricky day of racing is an each way double on Argocat and Aetna.

May your dinner be in raucous company with the wine flowing and gaudy humour turning heads at other tables.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Bangor, Kelso and Newbury

Good evening from the Major who writes from a clear pleasant Worcestershire night, cool air pools and washes the land; ahead the raucous summer hazes, blistering and busy, insects and life blooming but now, just a faint promise.

The weeks slip by, without work, without anchors in life, time slides.  I arrive into days confused, meandering and pottering, suddenly it is lunching then in the blink of an eye, it is time to collect the boys and dinner and the night.

Nights have always been a mixed blessing.  I am largely a solitary beast.  The good lady normally retires early, I always have enough mental enthusiasm to keep me from peaceful slumber.  I should find better ways of dispensing it, more worthwhile endeavours.  Instead, stockpiles of non-discharged thoughts keep me from rest in the small hours, sleep a scarce commodity and when I get it, such poor quality.

Solitary, that is how I like things.  Being a married father of two, you might find that both odd and hurtful.  If so, none is intended, though that might not excuse me.

Nobody gives you a leaflet when you are thinking of becoming a parent.  You are young and have youthful thoughts.  Pressure builds from parents itching to add grand to their titles.

I am not sure I am a good father.  My desire to not be in the presence of my boys is a constant.  I have often wondered if it such a bad thing.  It certainly is frowned on by the more modern parent who seem to me to set the aim of having your children as best friends.  My upbringing was not like that and although I confess that my own parenting style is selfish, it also encourages independence, at least that is what I tell myself.

My eldest son turned eight in January.  At his Friday school assembly, which parents can attend (and I did after being strong armed into it) he was pulled up to the front to explain what plans his family had for his birthday.  To mirth and mutters, he said that Dad was taking him to the racing.  It did not sound good.

None of this paints me in a good light, which is why you know it is true.

Bloody heating oil.  Ran out again.  Thankfully Richard the farmer came over with his tools and 80 litres of kerosene.  Topping up the tank is easy enough, although you do coat yourself in the stuff.  The fun is in bleeding the boiler especially when you need a new O-ring.  I can say this like I had a meaningful role in this work.

I asked Richard what I owed and he shrugged.   A shrug that both said he did know and he did not care.  The thing is, having thousands of tonnes of potatoes which happen to be near unsellable in the current climate, he bought in 12,000 litres of heating oil to help preserve the crop in storage.  No avail, the produce he hoped to purvey to chip shops is now destined to feed Britain’s bovines.

Cash for oil is a poor man’s thank you.  I asked him to check the social diary with the farmer’s wife for a dinner date, something decent I think.

I was going to write up some memories of Cheltenham but the moment seems to have passed.  I got my first 2016 antepost bet down.  I backed Douvan for the Arkle, Faugheen to repeat his trick, Un de Sceaux to take the Champion Chase and then I am torn between Don Poli and Vautour for a Gold Cup horse.  I guessed Vautour but I am unsure and if Coneygree gets a clear run again, well, fireworks.

They are talking of taking Coneygree for a Hennessy next season, what madness. I know Denman did the whole, I’m class, see if you can get me with two stone in hand, but it is a dangerous game.  Doesn’t take much to ruin a horse.

I often think about that, in this wonderful sport of ours, such juxtapositions.

Watch a beautiful hurdler, fluidly taking each flight without breaking stride, or witness a beautiful flat mover, floating across the good ground.  Then go and watch the raw animal power in the winners enclosure, muscular torso, herculean, moving in great heaves of breath, sinews still strained, veins bulging.

Consider the great hulking beasts up close when acting out, precocious and strutting but with wise folk stray not near their back-end, being rightly wary, lest their sudden great powerful kick is unleashed.  Nervousness around any horse is common, around these wound up monsters, even more understandable.

Yet, the juxtaposition, the frailty as they crumble; their slender forelegs with so little between the bone and the skin; their hollow bones susceptible to life ending breaks.

Anyway, I am again tired.  Next week, I promise something interesting.  Or as best I can muster anyway.

To the sports.

The Newbury Two

It is good to soft ground at Newbury, a wide galloping fair track that suits a stayer.  Sounds odd but stiff fences and a straight that, like Chepstow, goes on forever can get them racing some way from home.

In the opener, the Greatrex / Sheehan, World Hurdle winning team have the favourite, Kings Tempest.  A smartly named horse, out of Act One and Queen of Spades who herself was out of Strong Gale.  Act One of the Tempest has the King of Naples aboard a doomed vessel in a storm.

There is plenty to like about the horse who was a good bumper winner before changing yards.  Greater is one of the upcoming generation and this is the sort of ammunition he needs.  He ran Kings Tempest in November and the 2nd at Exeter reads well.  Why the horse has been off since, I cannot fathom and while the form and yard are attractive, it is a stalling factor.

No, I go for Hassle.  The Henderson runner is a flat bred beast who will appreciate conditions.  It has also been off the track for sometime but Henderson likes the race and has an overall two year 34% strike rate at Newbury.  2/1.

Connections clearly missed a shot at Cheltenham with Storm Force Ten but given what I imagine it has in hand, this should provide some solace.  There is some 9/4 about and since he was within distance of Peace and Co, the ‘oh so’ good triumph winner, well.

Kelso – Sniper Shot

Some horses stay in the mind, Knockara Beau is one and I would not begrudge him a win in the 2.15.  He has some character and at 12, holds no secrets but a return to his favourite haunt might elicit a response.

If the ground had come up soft, then the effort Lee has gone to sending Knock a Hand would hold more water.

I have two in the race that interest me and unusually they do not come with top class jockeys aboard.

Sharney Sike was progressive and as the Eider is a stamina test in the elite league, I would give it a chance.  There is one better.

Harry the Viking chased a resurgent Lie Forrit home twice, the latter coming home well clear of a field including two former Welsh National winners.  Frankly that is good form and while connections are less glamorous than some, il ne imports pas.  6/1.  Immerse yourself.

Bangor Tip

The quality of racing at Bangor has been on the up, it is a course on my wishlist. I raid the Welsh badlands for a single horse, in the opener.

Scorplancer looked a good point horse and a natural for converting to national hunt fences.  Hurdling he has got off well enough, marking up a win at Ludlow before chasing home a very good one at Kempton.  Being out of Scorpion, I am encouraged that he now faces better ground, it might improve him.

What I really like is the partnership that Rebecca Curtis (with whom I am in love, one of many) has struck up with Paul Townend.  17 races,12 laces.  100% from one at the track.

Horse, tick.  Trainer, tick.  Course, tick.  Jockey, tick.  Get involved with the large cannon.  7/4 Bet365.

The Football……..

Villa, still poor in quality but high in what matters (1 part belief, 1 part desire) can beat Swansea at 7/5.  At outlandish one for Sunday too.  Everton have been poor all season and just got smashed in Europe.  QPR are dismal but they need Everton and may well win at 12/5.

May your dinner be taken with such good friends as I have.  I am not gloating, just hoping for you.

Courage, roll the dice.


The Saturday Sermon…. Short and sweet. 16/1 National Tip.

Good morning from the Major who creaks out of bed, cracking as I straighten to find a light grey Worcestershire laid before me, the rising light kisses and edges Bredon Hill, an other-worldliness and I wander in a daze.

As festivals go, 2015 was pretty good.  Maybe I will write a full piece appraising what just happened but I think I might need a few more days.  Right now I am suffering with ‘racing punter fatigue’ a well-known condition afflicting hundreds of thousands at this time of year.

I just cannot take the drama anymore.

Willie Mullins Tuesday.  If Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov and Wilde, collaborated while high to concoct such drama; they could not possibly have come close.  I have never experienced anything like it and to be there was something else.  Yes, not the glory I aspired to but it will remain with me.

Don Poli and Vautour set up the 2016 Gold Cup daydreams for us all.  All of my compatriots were all for Vautour who bullied the lot of them under front running tactics; they could not lay a glove on him and from two out it was a case of how far?

I am less sure they are on the right one though.  Don Poli is less flashy, certainly more quirky but in two consecutive tough chases he has bowed his head at the business end and shown he has both an engine and titanium desire.

The Champion Chase was below par certainly.  Can’t take anything from the winner, he beat what was there and may go on again but I think the markets for the 2016 renewal already say what we all think.  If Un de Sceaux had raced in the Champion Chase, it would have been the same result as his Arkle.

Going back to Mullins Tuesday.  I have a dilemma I am mulling over.  You would think Douvan is a natural champion hurdler.  Yet, I cannot see them running Douvan and Faugheen in the same race.  So, does Douvan try his hand at chasing and aim for an Arkle?  Does Faugheen step up in trip and consider the World Hurdle?  You might think Annie is booked for a World Hurdle but they kept Quevega to the Mare’s when she had claims and I suspect they will do the same here.

Ah, the World Hurdle.  Another race some were knocking the form of.  I am not so sure.  Cole Harden, always an apple of Greater eye showed the impact of his wind op and led them a merry dance.  The presence of Saphir de Rheu who likely improved and peaked here over his previous runs, suggests this was a genuine piece of top class form.

Then the Gold Cup.  Why I put Silvi up I do not know.  I have a confession.  When I go to the course, looking at the horses parade, it struck me that surely it was time for a changing of the guard.  I went back to my horse from the start of the week Road to Riches.

Just like Saphir de Rheu, I had the pleasure of watching him chase valiantly a superior animal up the hill.  Coneygree.  Wow.  What a performance, off the front, all heart and all class.  Don Poli, Vautour, Coneygree – We are going to have a most exciting staying division.

Friday hurt.  Financially it was poor but not horrific.  Places for several of my runners kept me from sinking low but glory, just like Tuesday…. She shimmered, all well-defined calf and close dark fabric, striking features and eye contact.  Floated across to me, mesmerising, tunnel vision and the crowds faded.  She brushed my cheek and I was left with her perfume, just the perfume to remember her by.  No More Heroes.

The rain had done him all end of favours and while niggly at times, he came to the bottom of the straight chasing the front two.  He was making ground, he was!  Cooper wanted the inside rail, a fateful call and as he went for a gap that was in his head, the door slammed shut.  It cost 3-5 lengths, he had to gather the horse up and ask again, No More Heroes did respond, he drove on and finished just off the front two.

Six months of dreams, gone in the blink of an eye.

No bitterness, no recriminations.  In my favourite film, The Sting; Robert Redford, all dashing, casts his new-found fortune onto red on a crooked roulette wheel in a back street bar.  Contemplating his loss, he tilts his hat, sucks it up and just gets on with things.

I hope you enjoyed your festival.  All of the excess.  I guess it is good for you, it seems the only thing.  I feel beaten up.  I can manage a handful of thoughts for Saturday but will return with a vengeance next week.

I have enjoyed writing the previews, interacting with you, even meeting you on course.  The nightly previews, the cut and thrust.  All peace now.

I want to thank you all for reading and sharing the Sermon.  For many years I have been doing this and while an eminently narcissistic activity, it is cathartic.  Thank you and all the best to you and yours.

To the Sports

Uttoxeter National Day

The Midlands National.  Young and featherweight and won by Pipe in the last 4 years.

The AP factor adds something but Catching On is bang on profile.  7 years old, a recent facile winner and in the race on 10-9.  9/4 though.

I am going to back Catching On because it will smart when he wins but am going to have a go at Woodford County, 16/1.

My tip is proven at staying distances and loves the mud.  A more likely completer and also carrying a featherweight with the advantage of a 7lb claimer aboard.

One from my tracker.  Primrose Valley gets on very well with Freddie Tylicki and reunited at Wolverhampton (6.45), I am expecting a win.  6/4.

At Kempton, I am putting some hope in Buck Magic with Geraghty up top can put his best foot forward in an open race, 6/1.  He is quirky and can race two ways but has been freshened up and is another that gets on well with the pilot.

In the football.  Palace (17/20), Arsenal (4/11), Brentford (4/5), Bristol City -1 (13/10) and Norwich (11/10).

Stick all five in an accumulator.  the Martin Hill bet…. Primrose Valley, Crystal Palace and Bristol City -1.  Treble.

May your dinner be relaxing and in known company, family or friends.  Italian food, the finest in Europe.  They taught the French to cook as my father in law would say.

Courage, roll the dice.

Friday: Once more to the breach dear friends…. Cheltenham Gold Cup… Gold Cup.

Good evening from the Major who returns to the homestead somewhat weathered from a day of drinking and general high jinx.  I could not comment on the weather, I feel it is beyond me.

A simple day racing.  Myself, my brother and two of his acquaintances, one of whom had never met a racecourse.

We started the day in the smarter Montpellier, all delighted with a breakfast of haddock and tea.  Procecco followed and service was good.

We pooled resources into a kitty as seemed decent and walked up through town in amongst the Cheltenham masses, dressed strictly as to orders.  If you have not seen the dress code for men, it is simple enough.  Jeans, deliberately scruffy but in unnatural shades, they fall to brown shoes, all angular.  A shirt, generally a collar, thank God, and a blazer.  Yes a blazer on jeans.  The Jeremy Clarkson look. Quite.

Being with inexperienced souls, I feel we bookended the day with a beautiful juxtaposition.  Imagine.  As we strolled through Pittville Park, I lamented that our kitty would be best spent on Vautour in the first but that failure, with so much, so early, would leave a bitter taste.  Being good sports to a man, debate and consensus, the company decried that, yes we should go to war in the first and to hell with the consequence.

And so, we did.  How we were richly rewarded for our stand.  I wrote last night that if Mullins felt he had the 2016 Gold Cup winner, then he might be right but Don Poli might have a serious rival in Vautour.  I gloat a little, yes, I bask in the righteousness but not much, rather I am delighted we have another star on the scene.  If you read my weeks preview, you knew it did my balance no bad turn either.

Vautour is all about speed but he travels well enough to step up in trip.  Don Poli does his best work at the business end and looks a proper street fighter.  If the stars align, this could be some battle.  Kauto v Denman II.  A long way off and many a slip between the crunch and leap so we can park those thoughts, for now.

Juxtaposition.  From a glorious stand with a brave investment on Vautour.  Cut to many units of alcohol later and we remain on course ploughing notes onto Clifford Baker to win the charity race, which he did not.  Yes, quite.

Between one point and another, those Cheltenham virgins (I didn’t call them that in case of offence) were inducted.

I met up with some former colleagues, all fine chaps, financial sorts, work in a stiff environment and so like to let their hair down.  These old dogs were skulking about the top of the course and while jaded; determined to see things through.  No bat of an eyelid, I became part of their round, which was generous.  Since I had to scoot before I could reciprocate, I bought them a ticket on my fancy in the last, Nina almost bought Bless the Wings home…… Delighted to see them.

The bus.  Fun bus back to town.  40-year-old Anthony, probably some sort of estate agent, in his Jeremy Clarkson uniform he pole danced.  Yes, don’t adjust your spectacles, he pole danced on the bus and encouraged others to do so.  I give the man credit that he almost elicited cooperation from two ladies who probably woke to be thankful that their friend stopped them in the nick of time. Being wine flown myself, I must admit to encouraging this behaviour.  Shame on me, I know.  Oh, I’ll rot with the devil.

You did not come here to read such cadish shenanigans.  This I know.  We are here because we are about to embark.  We join the battle full, there will be warm work in the forward skirmish but our heavy cavalry will punch through and we must pour on, fearless and with blind anger, slashing in fury.

My brother told me a vivid vision at the end of the day.  One, that while not mine might sum up the day.  We were lingering, drinking in the Centaur after racing when he decided to pursue a habit our mother would certainly not condone.  Smoking.  He sauntered out to the concourse and witnessed a moment.  Meandering as a man does he floated past the food vendors and surprised himself by almost walking in on the sales event at the top of the course.

Sat and all contemplative, he heard the call as the hammer went down for 75k, lot 5; in the distance, as the last light was dying, confetti swirled into the lights of the Best Mate stand, the confetti of the damned, thousands and thousands of torn slips.

Thursday, we held our ground, lets go, final day; leave nothing on the bookies floor.  To the sports, let your slips not be torn in terror and left in a terrifying eddy.

Courage, roll the dice.

Friday Gold Cup

The triumph, I have not had many winners in this race.  Here the kids arrive, full or reputation but not having ever faced such a test.  Many of them compiled reputations on winter ground and that scuppers my enthusiasm.

Beltor carries a 50/1 slip of mine (see the Saturday Sermon two weeks ago) and I would enjoy his win.  However, if I had not post a bet, I would be concerned that connections have decided headgear is in order?

Top Notch is at least as interesting as Peace and Co.  X is as interesting as Y.  I am done.  I am tempted to have an interest in Kalkir.  A mere 20/1.  All reputation, it burst badly but maybe, maybe.

I really want a good ground horse and Hargam is the one I trust.  7/1 Paddy Power.

JP loves the County.  As the Pertemps contenders turned the bend, I thought the owner might have the first three home.  Not to be but he might get a winner here.  Tony McCoy has made his selection.  I think he might regret it.  Sort it Out appealing mark.

Albert Bartlett.  Let me ask you ask you a question… Whatever happened to Leon Trotsky?


My bet of the week.  God, I pray for rain.  God, I pray he needs it not.

The Gold Cup

I have been a supporter in recent weeks of Road to Riches who in my view is the worthy winner.  Alas, the ground as it is may prove against him and three are of interest.  Silviniaco Conti, Carlingford Lough and Bobs Worth.

Legends.  It is hard to regain a Gold Cup.  Yes.  Bobs Worth while a superior winner once, has too much water under the bridge to confirm that now.

Carlingford Lough, no.

Silvi?  The horse that faded, twice?  Well, yes.  For a start, his form has only improved and as long as the stormy weather does not procede his run, I think he won’t winter.  Silviniaco Conti 4/1.

I write with some trepidation, he might fade you see. So. Two tips.

I want Holywell on side.  I wrote that Ma Filluele was a horse I wanted to follow and her second today supported my view, even if the girl did not quite make it profitable.  Her and Holywell have history.

He is not a natural pick but one that spring ground makes easier.

Bet victor are still 10/1 on Salisfy in the Foxhunters and frankly, the horse knows the business and I am less bothered about age in the race.

I sniff a plot in the Martin Pipe, which is not hard as lots of trainers are trying to launch one.  Yet, Full Shift, reappearing in the race looks a murkier candidate than most.

McCoy.  Last race at the festival.  Ned Buntline 5/1.

It is all so easy.

Courage, roll the dice.

Cheltenham Festival Thursday – World Hurdle Day Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes from a mild Worcestershire evening where the air bites a little into the cheek and I am glad to shut the door to such horrors and relax in the comfort of home.

We are half way there.  Today, I was glad to watch the action from home.  I have done the ‘4 day’ festival before and you end up spat out the other end, dazed confused and damned.

Today, after fixing my guests the finest Worcestershire cooked breakfast, I sauntered into town for a haircut and to visit my turf accountant.  Then to home, warm tea and able to focus on the racing in detail with the up close TV angles but none of the intimacy of yesterday.  I am also shattered.  I have a bad cold and fear the usual service is diminished.  If the product does not meet your requirements, you are entitled to a full refund, let me know.

I am back at course tomorrow and health permitting, will take champagne and whisky, confident in their medicinal qualities.

I spent most of the time before racing this morning still mulling over Annie and Tuesday.  One thought rested with me.  In the maelstrom, did Un de Sceaux not quite get the credit he was due?

Early in the season, I suggested that God’s Own would be a horse to follow and possibly a Champion Chase horse.  I did this after his Exeter exploits.  What an experienced novice he was and in a race that was falling apart.  He did not carry any of my money on Tuesday but 33/1 2nd in the Arkle…. My theory was correct but my application poor.

Today’s racing seemed a come down at times.  The Neptune saw Windsor Park assert on better ground and last nights sermon followed straight up with another win,  Don Poli who while not always travelling sweetly, showed his heart at the business end.  We were on.  That was the last on my success.

You need to get lucky in some of the handicaps where so many avenues of possibility create a mile wide river of doubt.  Those unfortunate guesses I don’t mind but I was unhappy to be so far off in the Champion Chase.

I am not sure what to make of the race.  It seems to crass to say so but I thought that Sprinter Sacre was going to end up with a P next to his name.  Please disassociate the thought that he would from the desire to see that.  When he bled after his return race, I was concerned and now I wonder whether retirement might soon be a consideration.

Anyway, the race and the day was a little short of top draw.  Now Major, are you being a little sore because you won two races and then drew blanks?  Perhaps.

That Champion Chase though, I do not think will last long in the memory.  I put Special Tiara up as my next best at 25/1 each way because I could see this as a possibility but I did not wish it.  No, I would rather have seen four or five top two mile chasers bursting past at the bottom of the hill.

Instead we got the improved but not brilliant Dodging Bullets being chased down by old man Somersby with Special Tiara kept up to the work by Noel Fehily.

Sire de Grugy looked niggly early to me, not quite as poetic at the fences.  Sprinter, well, I don’t want to get into trouble with his legions of mega-fans so shall keep my counsel.

Not every year can be vintage.

Cheltenham Thursday – World Hurdle Day Tips

After a flying start, the day paled away.  I kept most of the powder dry but overall, came away with the silver for war intact.

We switch to the old course, longer run ins – perhaps more action from the back of the pack (although Moon Racer enjoyed picking them off!).

Business starts with the JLT and Vautour.  Many of you will have read the piece I wrote at the start of the week covering my main interests and Vautour is one of the lynch pins of the week.

I had tickets for the Champion Chase with his name on and then when my theories seemed unfounded, started backing him for the JLT at around 5/1.  I am not gloating, there are plenty of slips in the bin already too.

Anyway, bar one inexplicably poor run, he has been solid high-grade winner and although Don Poli is all the rage for the 2016 Gold Cup.  This boy might enter calculations with a decisive win today.

Ptit Zig does concern me.  He has improved but if you want to come out of the festival on top, you have to take a view.  Mullins bandwagon rolls on.  2/1.  Top me up!

Most of this week, I have been guessing at the handicaps but on Thursday, I think the favourites in two of them have a superb chance.

When Edeymi managed to qualify for the race with a 4th at Musselburgh at the start of February, every shrewdie in Britain and Ireland got their mythical notebooks out.  Not only did the horse stay on well without, to be polite, perhaps being ridden as prominently as possible; the trainers name stood off the race card in bold capital letters.  Tony Martin, knows how to get them ready, a phrase that really means, knows how to only show the horses full ability on the day.

I will be topping up.  9/1 Paddy Power.

The the Ryanair.  In God’s Own I picked a horse that has done well but got the target wrong.  I managed the same trick with Ma Filleuele who was in my Gold Cup book at 50s and 66s.

Her run at Aintree was very good, she has a lovely fluidity at her fences, a bit like Hurricane Fly, looks very economical at getting across.  She travels very nicely as well but looks, well slow.  It might not be a problem but they need to go quick enough.  I must confess that I have some tickets on her in this too but on the eve of the race, she is not my pick.  You see, I am not sure the better ground is what she wants.

This week, my readership has blossomed as the racing tourists join the regulars.  For those without the benefit of some history to my style, I ask forgiveness for what is about to happen.

Taquin du Seuil has ability.  He is leggy, he is awkward, he is not quite a stayer, not quite a speedster.  He likes better ground and this is probably the right trip.  The form of his JLT is not brilliant and well, he clearly has not gone forwards but surely Jonjo can bring him to the boil for me and I think Noel Fehily is an excellent pilot for the job.  Keep the faith, 12/1 in a place.

I accept this is now a problem, a cry for help and so I offer a second more reasoned judgement.  Johns Spirit at 10/1 is a steal.  He thrives at the course and run very well here under heavy weights previously, A Jonjo 1-2?

The World Hurdle does not look a classic.  When you consider that Zarkander is favourite and was beaten resoundly by Annie Power, you wonder whether Annie would have won this championship race.  Not that I am admonishing her been entered in the mares.

Anyway, the Nicholls yard are flying again, which is restoring some British pride to the leaderboard.  Sapphire de Rheu and Zarkander will be the two that most folk concentrate on and why not?  Sapphire gave a tough display to edge out Reve de Sivola and the latter is a tough nut to crack.

Well there are other options.  Tiger Roll is not the craziest 66/1 shot I have seen, although he’d be the youngest ever winner. Whisper holds some merit and Cole Harden almost might feature.

11/2 the field.  The biggest field for nearly ten years.  A wide open World Hurdle.

Lieutenant Colonel looks the best of the Irish contingent and I am tempted.  He is unexposed and improving at staying trips.  I have a concern on the ground though which is a positive factor in considering Whisper.  He came close to getting the nod.

Instead, I go for Saphir de Rheu.  The form of his last run here is franked and franked again.  Cole Harden and Reve de Sivola are solid yardsticks to beat and down the field was The Druids Nephew who did his bit on Tuesday.  Progressive and with Nicholls and Sam flying,  6/1 Paddy Power and Stan James.  Have some of that.

I wrote a piece for a racing community on the Plate and won’t reiterate it all here but the highlights are that the profile I seek is a 135-145 rated chaser wither on the way up or having had former glories.  Pipe, Henderson and Venetia have good track records, with Pipe’s being excellent.

Champion Court would be intensely popular and fits my profile.  Un Ace does too and I prefer that one.  Yet, Monetaire ticks every box bar being proven on the ground and I think, after the bumper win today for Pipe, there will be more money so get the 7/1 as soon as you can.  More confident than most handicaps.

God, the Kim Muir.  If you need this, you are in a world of trouble.  My guess is Bless The Wings.  Nina would have had the choicest rides to pick from and she has gone for Gordon Elliott’s runner.  He inherited the horse from Alan King and after a few OK runs, it has not been seen for some time.  There is a record of big runs when fresh so…. Well look, you could pick nearly any of them.  22/1.

Courage friends, roll the dice.