Tag Archives: african gold

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Open Saturday Tips… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes from the living room with a Worcestershire cold settling outside in a most pleasant way, for I am settled and content after an afternoon at Cheltenham races.  The wood stove is emitting waves of comfort with log and smokeless coal, flaming red inside, the air vents narrowed and the chopped silver birch, such a travesty to serve such a lovely tree this way, it burns slowly, as will my pleasure, mellowing from within.

It has been an awfully long and testing week but it has drawn to a close in good order and I shall tell you a little of it.  Today, I attended the track and enjoyed a pleasant meal of Gressingham Duck breast, most pleasant.  The table company was excellent and I tried to choose the perfect moment to relieve myself from my obligations and absorb all of the benefits from the freedom of the course.

Barely legible

Barely legible

 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

I watched the cross-country on the inside of the course and held my breath during the tense climb up the hill where after the best part of four miles, Balthazar King had enough steel to hold off the last challenge of Uncle Junior.

I  signed the Tony McCoy Wall in the Hall of Fame and remembered Taquin du Seuil who was the subject of a personal tip I received from AP last December before his two winter wins.  Though McCoy won’t remember dispensing the information, it shall stay with me.  These men of iron who take centre stage with their equine assistants, they are accessible to us, their humble observers, unlike any other sport, we can get close and personal and in such encounters, memories are created.

Memories, so much more precious than objects, yet we often invest more energy and place greater value in the latter, how fruitless.  We are here for such a short spell and this is no dress rehearsal my friends.  When I consider the value of the creation of memory, there is an Epicurean pleasure derived that is never replicated in the physical.   Friendship, freedom, thought, observing the might and beauty of what is around you… these things you should pursue relentlessly my friends and leave the large flat screen TV, the expensive watch and the other accoutrement of wealth to those less thoughtful than yourself – It will all be dust in the end, as shall we.

Leaving Cheltenham after racing, the light was very low and set a sky of deep and azure blues, a cold sky.  A hazy snake of red brake lights shimmering in the exhaust fumes lit the way to the exit of the bottom car park.  The steam train was leaving billowing white fluffy clouds in great expulsions.  With my window down, I could hear the high-pitched whining of the helicopter engines gaining their vicious momentum.  Looking behind me, up across the course, a stunning scene of twinkling lights and busying folk at their business of clearing the detritus of the day and resetting the course for the morning.  Maybe it was this scene, or maybe it was the bulging wallet, I shall let you be the judge but happiness was mine.

Back to Cheltenham for the Saturday Open card and we shall be at them again, our resolve set, draw thy sabre, take a cut on the forte and return, driving hard, running through their flesh.  Tomorrow night, we feast.

Cheltenham Saturday Open Tips

I have fond and mixed memories of Paddy Power Saturday at Cheltenham.  The fondest memory would be Old Vic in the David Johnson colours in a race where I had planned on backing Monkerhostin but was persuaded on course by an Irish stranger I met to get on Old Vic.  The darkest was being heavily on Granite Jack who fatally fell at the fence that caught many out travelling at speed down the hill, sadly national hunt claims many and that one stuck with me, tarnishing the experience.  Let us hope that all competitors return safely tomorrow.

I am going to take it race by race.  Critical factors remain trainer form, the good ground and course form.  Three winners from six yesterday but beware, past performance does not indicate future performance and the value of your investments may go down as well as up.

In the opening juvenile hurdle (12.40), Royal Irish Hussar is a worthy favourite as he brings a telling piece of form into the race from Wetherby.  The race he won had a series of winners from both France and Britain and he won by some distance, that looked very useful indeed.  Art Mauresque is an eye-catching acquisition for Nicholls who is to be feared with his French imports but the Henderson horse is the one for me.  Looks obvious, probably is.

The second race is an interesting Novice Chase and there are some high potential chase recruits in the race.  The two that have good ground form are the two at the head of the market, African Gold and Shutthefrontdoor.  The former is a Twiston Davies horse and I think could be a real stable star.  He was second in the Albert Bartlett to a high-class winner, At Fishers Cross.  A key hesitation here is the form of the yard.  There horses often need reappearance runs and I think Jonjo might have his string further forward.  Thus Shutthefrontdoor gets my vote, he is fit after a run over fences at Aintree and that experience would have done him no harm.  He was fourth in the Pertemps final, has won on good ground and has enough going for him at 11/4.

The third (1.50), the Murphy Group Handicap Chase is a trappy affair but I have a fancy for Quentin Collonges who is available at 12/1.  He won a Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in staying on style – He does not mind a hill, he enjoys good ground and the Daly yard are in good nick.  Key dangers come from Bradley, who stays forever and enjoys Cheltenham, which is a doubt for my own selection (a serious one too!) and also Alvarado who I will be having a small saver on, while out of the bottom of the handicap, looks like a horse that will thrive stepped up in trip.

The Paddy Power is a conundrum this year with plenty of potential angles.  I like Finians Rainbow because he has Cheltenham and ground form but it is unusual for a horse to win over the age of 8, let alone a 10 year old, he has the class but not for me.   Radjahni Express looks to have plenty of improvement left and he gave Tap night a hell of a beating at Ayr, whether good ground is the right underfoot conditions, well, I do not know.

Champion Court has conditions falling perfectly for him and I suspect he is going to be in the places.  He is seriously in considerations as is Ballynagour who looked outstanding enough to warrant a stone and a half increase after a single race last year.  The horse I am settling on though is one I think will take to the task well, Colour Squadron.  He can be a handful but has some very useful hurdle form and is in this on a featherweight.  I like Tom O’Brien in the saddle and am happy to take 12/1 on a bigger than expected run.

In the handicap hurdle that follows, Silver Eagle is of some interest, though I must confess to not being Sam Thomas’ greatest fan.  Southfield Theatre is an obvious pick and I think he will definitely make the shake up.  I am going to take a slice of Bally Legend at 25/1 – I think he will like conditions and may well improve for the step up to proper staying distances.

The novice hurdle event looks more straight forward and while Timesremembered looks an exciting prospect, the vibes are good about Port Melon (7/2) too and I am backing the Nicholls inmate to convert some good point form directly into this tidy novice standard.

The bumper could go several ways and I am opting for the Henderson trained 5/1 shot Mayfair Music.  Plenty of dangers about but I think she will relish the goodish ground.

I trust you to dine in fine style and in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Grand National day tips at Aintree, just none in the National!!

Good evening from the Major who is residing in Birmingham for the night at the in-laws. The Aintree Saturday post is necessarily brief as a result.

The morning brings a flight to Paris for marathon weekend, your reluctant athletic correspondent shall report on those exploits next week. For now, all I ask is some sympathy between the hours of 8.00 and 12.30 on Sunday morning.

Warning to anyone new who has not visited the blog or read my twitter feed in the last few days. There are no Grand National tips on this blog. There are tips for each of the other races at Aintree.

I wrote two days ago about why I do not support the race. Without labouring the point for regular readers… the National is racing’s shop window but it is a travesty to think that it represents the sport I love. 30% of the horses in the National are likely to fall. A horse is likely to die.

It makes me furious when uninformed folk suggest that the venture is monetarily driven and that connections care little about their horses. I would suggest if you proffered that opinion to the Twiston-Davies family after the tragic loss of Little Josh earlier today then you might get punched, you would deserve it.

Yet, despite me knowing that risk is inherent in all national hunt racing (and living with it), the percentages involved in the national make sobering reading and it is not for me. Unique fences, 40 horses, the longest race in Britain… a unique cocktail that despite safety improvements will always make the race a risky one.

Saturday Aintree Tips

The opener sees Dodging Bullets taking on Up and Go. The former was starting to look decent but seemingly was found out in the Supreme. The latter, a McCain inmate has only run in soft conditions. Utopie des Bordes has set some decent early form in Britain and her French form is excellent, she has won on good ground but may be to better effect over longer.

Eduard is not dismissed but I suspect that one will come better in the future.

On balance I am going for Up and Go – He is likely to try and make all but I think he can get away with it. He gets the assistance of Jason Maguire who I like to see at the front of affairs, dictating things…

The Up and Go partnership would be hoping for a quick fire double with Overturn in the second. To tip this one, I have to look beyond the chances of Alderwood who has just won the Grand Annual. That form is excellent – The Grand Annual is such a competitive handicap that I always think you will see multiple winners coming out again for the Aintree and Punchestown handicaps. It is telling that Alderwood is going straight to Grade 1 level and it is hard to ignore but Overturn is a horse you cannot help but like.

He is as flexible as you like, gives his all and has a touch of class. He would not have enjoyed conditions in his Arkle and his earlier chasing form, while not in top class events, certainly was visually stunning. Overturn or Alderwood, Alderwood or Overturn….. Alderwood... Have a slice.

In the Liverpool Hurdle goes my bet of the day. I think the World Hurdle form is suspect at best. Celestial Halo is not a horse I trust, Solwhit is also a bit beyond prime and the fact the two battled out an exciting finish, well it just served to say there was a lack of class to that. Against them both, I am going to suggest African Gold at 9/1 – At Fishers Cross did everything to boost the form of the Albert Bartlett in which African Gold was a solid second.

In the listed handicap, I am going to pick good ground specialist Problema Tic at 14/1 – Pipe can ready this one who looks likely to come back now the spring is here.

In the 5.10, I am more interested in the jockey than the horse. Trying to solve the latter is a mystery as there are simply so many who are seemingly well handicapped. Finding a good jockey is down to three factors, win %, experience and what my eyes have told me! Corbett, Mahon and Brooke are my three to focus on.

Ranjaan is the mount of Mahon and may be seen to better effect on good ground but Nicholls is not in the best touch this week in my view. Brooke rides Local Hero was well beaten in the Elite by Zarkander but has been given plenty of time to recover and arrives very fresh. Meganisi is the Brooke ride and has won a couple of nice handicaps this term.

I am suggesting a small pop at both Meganisi and Local Hero.

If the Twiston Davies team had a horrible day yesterday with the loss of their stable pet, I am backing a fine double with a winner in the bumper in the shape of Pure Science at 9/1. He conceded a lot of ground racing wide in the Champion Bumper but still came in 6th and I feel a decent run will see him involved.

Outside of Aintree, I feel a 6/5 punt on Rupert Lamb is in order.

In the football, Reading must be feeling a bit desperate and Southampton continue to show spark, 13/10 for an away win is worth it. On Sunday, I feel Tottenham at 5/4, home to Everton is a gift from god. Hull at 5/6 is a must buy.

 

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is African Gold, Rupert Lamb, Alderwood and Tottenham.

Courage and roll those dice.