Saturday Sermon: Huge Cheltenham Card…. Plus Thistlecrack and Faugheen

Good evening from the Major who writes from a foul earth, north in Nottinghamshire. Dank filth drizzles from a black sky, in a carcass of metal I hurled across the land, visibility low, headlights thickened with muck throwing a weak tepid yellow light to the gloom.   Not even the threat of unseen dangers in the murk ahead, road definition at a minimum, even the sudden shock of a central reservation emerging unannounced, was not enough to provide the requisite adrenaline spike to raise the grey veil of damp depression that lay on me.

On such nights, the hope of gazing into the heavens is a pleasure out of reach.  Wednesday night gave a marvellous view of Venus which with just a little magnification was shown in glorious profile.  Venus is close enough that you can see the phases it goes through under just a small amplification.  IT is a wonderful thing to see, almost as good as the moons of Jupiter os Saturns rings, all available to you at the price of a cheap telescope.

The fire crackles and splutters as the draw varies.  I am too tired to even consider anything heavier than the cool simple beer I am taking in.

As I wandered through the innumerable TV options offered to me last night, I chanced upon a programme about the pilgrims and the voyage of the Mayflower to settle the Plymouth colony in New England.  With our own PM (not for you regular Irish readers) visiting the newly installed Orange Peril in the States, it struck me as good timing.  In a twist, it turns out that William Bradford was born just a few miles from where I now reside, the special relationship with the US, rooted in ancient northern Nottinghamshire, a quiet unremarkable corner of our green gem.

I thought Theresa gave a rousing speech.  Being a happy leave voter I think she is doing a sterling job.  Not giving too much away, letting our European friends know that we are happy to go it alone if we cannot get a fair agreement to suit all parties, sensible steps.  Watch out Europe, she is surely someone who will do as she says, she seems unruffled by the cries of anguish.

I am not one for partisanship.  I have voted for many parties in the past, there is no spiritual home for my politics.  I despise those that seek to define other with different views as somehow evil or, almost as bad, stupid or ignorant.  That only points to your own failing of imagination.  As Plato wrote of Socrates, Know one thing, that you know nothing.  That should guide your attitude in debate and discussion, though often the very subject is simply bad manners to raise, thus, I apologise for doing so here.

I personally find Trump a wonderfully awful candidate, someone who if presented as a character in a script would be dismissed as inconceivable.  From a distance, it seems astonishing that he made office.  Yet, in the cooler air of consideration, his difference was his strength.  He is certainly unlike any politician we have seen.

In all things, general elections, brexit, Trump.  The truth is, that once the bluster is done, business as usual carries on.  Very little will change, try not to get worked up.  We are but fleas on a rock hurtling around a gas fireball, we last a mere blip.

Devote more thinking time to critical matters such as, what lies beyond our universe?  Are the laws of physics, gods own rules?  What on Earth is going to win the Triumph?

I decided not to go to Champion Hurdle day this year.  That decision lasted all of two days until my friend said he was getting his ticket and that was that, there I was, online paying £82 for the privilege.  It is not cheap and I was planning on watching the action from the pub and spending that money on Yanworth, Thistlecrack and good wine.  Still, I can, can’t I and you know, we ought not forget that, we are the lucky ones, we are here.  It is good to be alive and in Cheltenham in the spring.

Yes, truth be told, I’d have regretted abstention.  Like last year, I will aim to be on the track early and will set up home in a suitable open bar for drinks with those that want to join in.  We managed a quorum of around 20 twitter users last year for pre race drinks.  All bought a £5 bet which were exchanged with strangers.  I think we shall do the same again.  Last year we called it Operation No More Heroes.  This year, I favour Operation Yanworth!

I am reading ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven’, charming novel set in the second World War, recommended.  It captures the atmosphere of the war wonderfully without trying to take it all on, if that makes any sense.

I hope you are well.  May the burdens of life be lifted for a moment and I wish you the best things. Contentment, saftey, close frineds and loved ones, intrigue and a dash of excitement.

To the sports, Cheltenham, a fantastic card…

Saturday Cheltenham Tips

I am going to go through the card.  OK with you?  I am serious, I am going to nail all nine Cheltenham races and retire to sleep tomorrow evening at cruising altitude in a first class bed over the North Atlantic, heading for Aruba.

Shall we get started.

What an intriguing start with Defi du Seuil and Charli Parcs, the two exciting JP prospects going head to head.  Regulars will know I am a Defi fan (perhaps the du Seuil tag has something to do with it!) and I see no reason to abandon my hope now.  Defi du Seuil will have to do the winning with Dickie Johnson aboard as Barry fancies I am wrong.  Yet, Defi has won twice at Cheltenham already, is proven in conditions and is more battle hardened.  6/4, all aboard.

The novice handicap chase, second race 12.35, is a little trickier at 5/1 the field.  Plenty of last time out winners are gathering in stronger company to put the potential shown so far to sterner testing.  Singlefarmpayment has useful course experience but at 5/1, I’d rather find one for my multiples with a bit more risk and reward on offer.  Dark Flame is considered but not enough, I rather fancy the chances of 8/1 shot Mercurian Prince too.

In the end, I am surprised that champion trainer Paul Nicholls runner, More Bucks (seemingly the less fancied of his two), can be backed at 16/1.  His Kempton run has dented confidence in many but this horse may well be able to step up again, having been made plenty use of last time out.  At least you will have a run for your money.

In the 1.10, Annacotty lines up to have a pop at a hat-trick of wins in this race.  I am rather surprised that the market is taking a 16/1 risk of this happening.  Yes, recent form is nothing to write home about but this race is clearly the target.  Thomas Crapper will be unleashed in one of these at some point and my selection has to spot that danger the best part of two stone.  That worries me enough to cover the both of them.

Then we are into the Clarence House Chase at 1.45pm.  It is a shame Ar Mad has dropped out and Un De Sceaux doesn’t quite have the same star-dust these days after Sprinter Sacre showed him what legend looks like in last years Champion Chase.  That opinion though treats the Mullins horse harshly as he is capable of a scintillating display himself and even at 8/15, I cannot oppose.  If you forced me to oppose, I’d be on Uxizandre at 20/1, can’t be too sniffy about a Ryanair winner who may well be doing best last if Special Tiara and Un de Sceaux are at each others necks all race.  Just saying.

That is four winners, five to go.

Of course Thistlecrack wins the 2.15 Cotswold Chase.  He looks very special and his main opponent is the fences.  He takes such liberties but has the athleticism to get away with standing a country mile off!  I may well have to watch with my eyes hidden behind my fingers at times.

I have never strayed from Enda Bolger in the cross-country and I have not seen the evidence to stray now either.  11/8 for Cantlow.  On the weights, you can easily make a case for Auvergnat especially with a claiming jockey, adding to the swing.  Yet, that claim comes at a price.  An experienced capable pilot is essential in a race like this, for a start, remembering the course is a bit tricky!  I’ll take 6/4 Cantlow any day.

Only three more races to win.  In anticipation I have cracked open a rather nice bottle of Australian Shiraz.  Normally, those are pretty punchy numbers but the one I have stumbled into is a tad more gentle.

The Neptune novice hurdle is an easy race for me because I have been a fan of Wholestone all season.  Plenty are a bit sniffy about him and I’m not sure his price will tighten much from 6/1.  Topofhegame worries me more than William Henry but I am sticking with my boy.

Then the Grade 2 Cleve Hurdle in which some real enigmas take to the track.  Cole Harden could laugh at a 20/1 price tag if finding some old magic but the flame has dimmed low in that one and can only be watched.  Ballyoptic was giving the favourite something to think about (probably not on top though) at Ascot when falling last time out and to be honest, everything is pointing at Unowwhatimeanharry who can be backed at odds against, 11/10 in places.

Just one to go and we have cleaned the bookies out, an across the card success!

I am backing Maestro Royal in the lucky last at 14/1 in a place (12s and 11s more common).  I thought the last run was pretty good.  Yes, his defeated rival, Robinshill, was maybe unlucky last time having blundered the last but I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been close anyway.  The two were well clear and I am opting for the unfashionable one.  I think a hold up ride is planned again and it may well play out well in this race.

I have only covered Cheltenham.  Don’t have a go, I am doing my poor best.  We shall all enjoy the Doncaster card too.  Vroum Vroum strutting her stuff, one of my favourites.  I’d love to see her having a go at Thistlecrack with the mares allowance in the Gold Cup.  Sunday, Faugheen runs.  A lot of people are waiting for this.  My advice, back Yanworth now for the Champion Hurdle.

May your dinner be in good company, maybe I shall see you upstairs on the plain.  Go on, spend a pound, do you want to miss out when the Major goes marching in?

Courage, roll the dice.

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