Tag Archives: al ferof

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury, Warwick and Naas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newbury Tips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warwick Selections

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

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

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

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

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

Courage and roll those dice.

 

 

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Haydock and my favourite weekend football bets

Good evening from the Major who writes from a crisp Worcestershire night under a spectacular heavenly orb.  The cold is biting enough that the sand coloured grit has been scattered across the roads.  The Major has the fire crackling away, delightful popping and sizzling sounds – All is well with the world.

The Major had a decent enough Cheltenham Open weekend.  I had the pleasure of attending course on the Friday and the blog performed to a profit over the three days.  With the benefit of wisdom emerging during the time lapsed, some thoughts have incubated.  Of the performances, my old friend Taquin du Seuil stands out well.  While the race was a farce, he always looked to be besting Oscar Whiskey in travelling speed and jumping accuracy and now with a taste of Cheltenham fences on his CV, I am hoping for bigger things later this year – He remains a key horse in focus for me.

I am often asked (when I say often, I mean rarely) how I arrive at a set of tips.  While the results may suggest a haphazard and drunken lurching from one week to the next, the reality is probably even less comforting.  I have a system, strecth to deep analysis and recognise the futility of it too.

At heart, I am a value based punter.  If I think something is overpriced, I back it.  I remember suggesting to a racing virgin at Cheltenham  (hospitality guests) that a 33/1 shot was my selection.  When he backed the horse, he sought me out ticket in fingers and checked he had the right selection… ‘So, you think it has a real chance?’… I wish he had not asked, the inevitable disappointment in my answer when I told him that I thought the horse had little chance but one that was better than 3.3%.

Most of my activity and energy are focussed nearer the top of markets.  I prefer to invest in discerning the chances of the shorter priced horses than I do seeking value in an all-weather long shot.  Do not get me wrong I have had my moments but generally if we are to get rich together, it will because one week, I land all selections, the mothership.

I do use some online tools, a rating engine (which I have adapted to my own preferences) coupled with a detailed stats analyser.  These provide a foundation.  I like to read trainer comments and I like to watch a lot of racing too – I feel much better if I have a good working memory of how a horse races and how previous form on which I based decisions panned out.

There is the context of history too.  The thousands of bets I have placed, the yards, the jockeys, the courses, the ground.  All of it not only exerts an influence of trend but it informs a deeper wisdom, a knowledge you think you have.  Intuition, neither to be ignored or trusted.

I use all of this to build up a story about a horse, the patterns in the numbers, the quotes, the memories, historic context, a wisdom builds, it underpins an overall profile I build in my mind.  While not necessarily sophisticated or entirely consistent, it is fair to describe it as complex.

Identifying winners is the same about identifying anything, you have a pattern you expect to see and you match as much data as you can before making a prediction. The ancient philosophers were concerned with how we identify anything.  That a horse has four legs, a mane and a shape we recognise, that it moves a certain way, that it neighs and brays and has a lolloping tongue, all these things we use to call a horse a horse.  When we glimpse in a field, from a fast moving train, the general outline of a horse, we might not have all of the sensory information we need to confirm what we saw, but we know what it was… or at least we think we do, there is some degree of certainty, sleight or great.

In the same way, we all seek our racing winners, I might know the general shape of what my mind seeks, the attributes I like, the course form at Brighton, Bath, Southwell and York.  I look for a strong jockey, this above most other things.  I want class in the form, or at least potential.  I don’t mind freshness as long as the trainer has a good record with it – You see, this adds more complexity, as some of the data, of which this last point is an example, has relationships.  I want the yard to be in form… It goes on and on and on and on and on…. Ad infinitum – The things we seek are close to indescribable, far too complex – Making sense of it, the swirling vortex of it all, it is baffling, exciting, exasperating, enticing and downright scary.

Yes, I know a rough shape of what I am looking for but the disturbances in what I think I see and the mental model I am comparing it to, are numerous, much noise around the signal.

Am I even receiving the right evidence, are the trainers comments accurate and did I witness and recall the last run with some diligence?  Secondly, once the profiles have been created in my mind, they are rarely well-defined.  Interpretation is needed, as though you were looking at an animal through a badly focussed lens or from that fast moving train, you know the model you expect to see, 4 long legs, you see what might be a mane, could it be a horse or is it a donkey?

This is the most sensitive part of the process.  Glimpses of something.  The data and the stories I have told myself converges into a mass.  The pattern matching process, it is infuriating but addictive.  A test of your mind.

It has not made me rich but I don’t do too badly.  Plus, I enjoy it and I know you do too.  If there is one thing I would offer to you, one piece of wisdom that would help in all this, though I am a poor sage.  There is just too much complexity for you to know anything.  There is also too much opportunity for the data to be polluted and irrelevant.  Most of all, your ability to understand the model you should see and to be able to see through the cloud itself, you will never have certainty.

All I am saying is the obvious.  Cultivate a healthy mistrust of your personal ability to match patterns.  Then enjoy trying.

To the sports my good friends, daub thy war paint and sharpen that lance point.  Fall on parade soldier, we are for battle.

The Betfair Chase

What an unbelievably fantastical renewal of the Betfair Chase.  You know this, so I shall not bore you repeating the obvious.  Rather, let us decide on the likely winner.

I will not consider The Giant Bolster, he is an over-rated horse in my view, the Gold Cup he was runner-up in was poor and these are not his conditions.  I am also not a Tidal Bay fan, he is a grand old servant but this is top top class and I cannot see him improving at his fine age.  Roi du Mee may have beaten Sizing Europe is some style but I do not think that form will stand up given the stamina challenges of the latter.

Then, there were 5.

Long Run is a horse I have backed for a long time.  I love him.  His long beautiful legs, the trouble he gets into at fences but the tremendous heart, ah how I love him.  I also felt he has been under-rated by many for some time but now think it was my own warm feelings that were the error.  That he needs a professional jockey is obvious.  More bothersome, he is not the horse he was.  I am not sure where he goes from here.  He is young enough to still be a player but I feel his lot will be a tragedy not a romance.  Plus, he needs another mile.

I have no doubt that Cue Card is a damn fine horse and the big question is whether he will stay.  The King George is the critical piece of evidence for this where he evidently threw the anchor out.  However, a closer inspection of that race reveals an intriguing element.  He smacked the first two fences which brings into question whether his falling away was a lack of stamina or as a consequence of his early mistakes.  I am not against this horse because of his ability and I have less problem with the stamina than most, my concern (and it is a big one) is the form of the Tizzard yard.  They have placed just 4 runners from 23 runners in the last fortnight.

Dynaste is the Pricewise horse and this is an excellent chance for us to assess whether this is a genuine Gold Cup horse.  He did not do a lot wrong last year and I thought it was interesting that Pipe swerved last weeks Paddy Power which looked an easier assignment) for this.  Of interest.

Silviniaco Conti looked to be travelling as well (if not better) than Bobs Worth coming down the hill in the Gold Cup.  Sadly, we do not know if that was due to translate into a genuine challenge due to the crashing fall he took.  However, it is clear that both he and Bobs Worth are the proven Gold Cup protagonists on the scene.  I see no reason not to focus on these two.  If Cue Card is to get involved, he has to run better than the yards recent runners.  Dynaste needs to step up slightly.  These two need only run to form.

They are joint favourites as I write and this leads me to an easy choice, I just have to decide the likelier.   Bobs Worth is a proven act and has been likely raced, I worry he might need a bit further.  Last year he was straight out to win the Hennessy, he has Geraghty on board – God, it feels good.  Silviniaco Conti won this race last year and gets Fehily in the saddle – He is class but so is Geraghty.  Oh it is close, so close.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  The class of Bobs Worth.  It is Bobs Worth.

The fixed brush hurdle on the same card is interesting.  Personally I am looking to be on Gervey Chambertin, it is not so much the Pipe record in the race (although that is inspiring) but more the early performances of this horse.  Clearly the spring was not his time, although backed off the boards at the festival, something was wrong.  Aintree was no better.  I am assuming all is well again, which is a danger considering they have gone for cheekpieces at the tender age of 5.  I am getting on at 7/1.

Gullinbursti rates a danger but I am bit perplexed as to why after a successful chase victory they are coming back to these easier obstacles.

In the 1.50, I am taken with the profile of More of That a 4/1 shot.  He was not fancied when he won his maiden and was injured shortly afterwards.  Returning this year, he looked very very good when winning the Wetherby reappearance and with the Jackdaws operation in such unbelievable form, I am more than happy to climb aboard at 4/1.

Saturday Ascot Tips

I was frustrated with myself to miss the reappearance of Drumshambo, a  horse that had a lot of improvement last year and was on my watch list.  Another 9lbs up in the weights and it bothers me so I am now looking elsewhere.  With just seven runners, I am hoping Saved By John a general 5/1 shot can gain compensation for a decent reappearance in which he was mugged.  His running style makes him vulnerable to that but I like him.

I like Volt Face in the Ascot bumper running for Pipe.  Although the Henderson horse brings franked form into the race, I think the Pipe one might be smart.

Captain Chris is also on my slip because I think there is only a paper between him and Al Ferof on form.  Throw in that my selection has less of a doubt over him regarding injury and the expectation that Captain Chris is primed for this in a way that Al Ferof is unlikely to be and well…

I know Annie Power is 8/13 but she should hose up.

In the football, I like Arsenal at 8/13, Newcastle at 4/5 and Wigan at evens.

The Martin Hill combination is a Wigan and Annie Power double with a separate Trixie on Saved by John, More of That and Gervey Chambertin.

I hope your own dinner is magnificent, a delectation of taste sensations, fine claret, finer company and the comfort that no matter how expensive the brandy you order, the uncomfortable lump in your ribs will barely be dented.

Courage, roll those dice.

Cheltenham Festival Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle.. All aboard!

Good evening from the Major who writes to you on Cheltenham Eve, the most exciting night of the year, all good boys and girls should get to sleep, right after you have sorted out that lucky 15!

Geraghty says he is the best he has sat on.... The aeroplane that is Sprinter Sacre - photo courtesy of the marvelous http://www.facebook.com/GoodToSoftPhotography

I have already posted my antepost tips for Cheltenham a week ago but I am planning to write short pieces advising of any notes and fancies in the next days runners.Enjoy, have fun and remember Tom Segals words last week in Sundays paper – It is not as important as we feel, have fun but keep perspective.

Tuesday Cheltenham Tips

Here we go, here are the Majors tips for the opening day of Cheltenham.

The Supreme Novices 1.30

The Supreme novices can be a very tricky race in which to find the winner, there are plenty of red-hot candidates.

Good ground means we can rule a few out but not many and Agent Archie, Darlan, Galileos Choice and Montbazon are all high on the Majors list.

Other options include Tetlami who has done nothing wrong and Prospect Wells who may improve for his wind op and goes for Paul Nicholls who has run two winners in the last 8 years.

The two I like best though are Steps to Freedom and Trifolium and it is with the former that I will stake my first claim on the enemies satchel.  He is fine on the ground and has plenty of top class bumper form.  It might worry many that he has been put away for this for so long but Harrington knows exactly what she is doing and she is a trainer I admire.  7/1 generally but I don’t mind waiting as I think it might drift.

The Major had a lovely 12/1 winner on this horse at last years National meeting and since I gave it to a betting syndicate of the finest Birmingham chaps, I was a popular man that day.

2.05 Cheltenham – The Arkle

Already Advised: Menorah 11/1

In my antepost piece, I was keen on Menorah as I think he is under rated and over priced.  Too much is made of previous jumping errors which his trainer is well capable of sorting out.  I am happy enough with the antepost ticket but have to say that Sprinter Sacre may make this field look like handicappers.

Not often that my head is turned by a jockey’s comment but Barry Geraghty at the weekend said that Sprinter Sacre is the best horse he has ever sat on!  Consider he rode the mighty Moscow Flyer and well…..

3pts win Sprinter Sacre 10/11.  Don’t forget Paddy Power are offering a refund if Sacre wins, refund on your bet.

Al Ferof wants a punch up according to Ruby, I think Sprinter Sacre will be too classy to mix it like that.  Cue Card leading from the front sounds like a disaster to me, simply setting up some nice pace for the others to aim at.

2.40 JLT Handicap

Back in 1998, Unguided Missile took this race off eleven stone ten.  It was one of three horses to win off more than eleven stone in the last fifteen years and the other two were off eleven stone two.  Another interesting trend is that of six year olds which have not won in that time frame, which sort of puts a line through Our Mick and Mossley who has been a bit suspect over fences.

That is the Majors starting point – I want, ideally, sub eleven stone and I want a good ground horse.

Of interest are Hold on Julio who is a very good Alan King horse, on the upgrade and for a trainer that has won this handicap twice in the last ten years.

Baile Anrai is the other horse of interest, the Ian Williams chaser will appreciate the ground and 14/1 is fair.

I am going to take a slice of both at 13/2 and 14/1, I do not mind being double handed in this race.

Champion Hurdle Tips

Already Advised: Rock on Ruby 14/1

My antepost selection has come in to 10/1 and I am happy enough with my early selection.  Zarkander may prove a better horse, particularly at two miles but I think this race may pan out for Rock on Ruby who will be staying on to best effect at the hill.

The only horse I have eyes for outside of the selection is Hurricane Fly who looks the likeliest winner.

The Cross Country

The Major is not a fan, take pin, close eyes, jab paper, walk to bookie, make deposit, immediately eat ticket.

The Mares Hurdle

Quevega will surely win this; 1/2 is prohibitive so no bet.

5.15 Novice Handicap Chase

The Major has often advertised the antics of Hunt Ball’s owner, Anthony Knott.  He jumped on board Hunt Ball when entering the winners enclosure and when riding his first winner for 27 years of amateur riding, celebrating before the line with an unorthodox riding style to boot, genius.  If he wins, there is one place I want to be, the winners enclosure because I am sure he is unable to hold himself back at Cheltenham and with the cameras on him!

Triolo D’alene is a classy looking import that is sure to go well, 7/1 is very fair.

Going Wrong is an oddly strong fancy at 11/1 though.  Ferdy Murphy has won two runnings of this race and the selection has been very strong at Sedgefield.  Russell is an interesting jockey booking, a rider rarely used by the shrewd trainer, all in, I think this is a very good bet.

We are through the eye of the needle brace warriors.

The Majors Antepost Tips for Cheltenham Festival – 40/1, 25/1 and more

The time has come for the Major to reveal exactly which horses I want in my portfolio before the tapes go up on Tuesday 13th March and the famous roar echos around the Gloucestershire air.

Antepost betting can be terrific fun and equally incredibly frustrating and the Major normally would recommend getting involved in Cheltenham betting only at this stage.

Markets for the main Cheltenham races open immediately after the preceding years event has been run.  However, getting on early means you do not have the benefit of an entire years form knowledge, you do not see the improvers or judge the injury, prep or yard form; you do not know which horses are planned to be stepped up in trip or to go chasing.

Crucially, the vast majority of bookmakers have now gone non-runner, no-bet.  This simply means a refund if your horse does not make it to the start line!  Now is the time for the Major to roll out his Cheltenham antepost tips.

The festival is such a competitive betting commercial space, you also get the plethora of offers from bookies keen to get you in the habit of using their account ahead of the week.  The Major will make no bones about advising which offers you should go for.  The stand out must be Paddy Power who are offering a refund on your horse in the Arkle, if Sprinter Sacre is beaten.  That will cost them a lot of money and we should be in the queue to take advantage.

I have broken my thoughts down into each day – I am not trying to cover every race, just my main thoughts……

One horse I don’t think will turn up (unless the heavens open) and I will miss is the Gigginstown horse, Bog Warrior.  I think this is the best chaser in the making and look forward to an exciting future but his runs require soft conditions…  Lets hope Aintree or Punchestown is soft enough.

Champion Trainer and Champion Jockey

My first antepost bet of the week has to be in the top trainer market where you can get 25/1 about Alan King (William Hill).  He has a decent portfolio of chances in the handicaps and in Grumeti, looks to have a warm prospect, it can be just a handful of horses required to win a top trainer prize at the festival. 

I would also recommend a small stake on Daryl Jacob to pick up top jockey at 40/1.  If some of the Mullins horses do not travel over well or are faced by very good conditions, then I fancy getting some Mullins / Walsh mounts turned over.  This then gives Daryl Jacob a great chance of winning a few on the best alternate Nicholls rides…. just a thought. 

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle, The Arkle….

Firstly, go to Ladbrokes and claim your free £5 bet!  You have to do it online and you have to deposit but that’s it; a completely free £5 bet for Cheltenham’s Tuesday card….

The racing – Let’s start with the Arkle.  There is no way that you should back anything unless it is with Paddy Power in this race. 

Cue Card, 8/1, has been touted by his jockey as a likely front runner, which I do not think will do him much favour.  Peddlers Cross, 9/2, is likely to line up here but may take his chances in the Champion Chase, where he is a top price 20/1, or the Jewson, 6/1.  I would put him in the Champion Chase if I owned him as I think it is a weak Champion Chase this year, more of that later.  Al Ferof at 4/1 is too short for me, although Ruby wants to oppose Sprinter Sacre with him, I am not sure there is enough in the price for a horse that has looked just short of top class.  Sprinter Sacre has been described as an aeroplane and does look top drawer, the likely winner but in a race that has a habit of turning those sorts over!

Thus, the antepost Arkle selection for the Major is Menorah at 11/1 with Paddy Power.   I cannot forget that the placed form in last years Champion Hurdle and despite the horse needing to put many excuses behind, it is entirely possible that the festival is the place to do it.  Plus with a refund available is Sprinter Sacre does go in…. well, value indeed.

In the JLT Handicap Chase, I do quite fancy Walkon at 20/1 who likes Cheltenham and has some fair class; these staying handicap chases often suit a classy horse and I want this one on my side.

The Champion Hurdle – The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle has been dominated by Hurricane Fly.  The injury prone Irish star showed all his class last year to smash his field, although on reflection, was it the strongest? 

Although Binocular was reported back to his all time best at Wincanton last time, the Major has severe doubts about whether we will see that form or what it adds up to. 

Zarkander looks good but has to overcome a serious lack of experience and 5/1 is no price. 

Once again, the Major is looking down the list at something that might run a bigger race and the pen stops at Rock on Ruby at 14/1.  This horse will be staying on to best effect at the end of the race and I just have a feeling that things might fall in his lap rather.  It could be a fairly small Champion Hurdle field and things may get messy.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, The Neptune, Coral Cup and RSA Chase

This years Champion Chase looks a fairly poor renewal.  As much as I know the yard can prepare for the big run, it looks like Big Zebs best days are behind him.

This leaves Sizing Europe, a best priced 11/10 shot and Finians Rainbow at 5/1.  Now it has cost me money, but I am still of the view that Sizing Europe is very beatable and I am going to keep that instinct.  My issue is that I do not think the horse to do it is Finians Rainbow, at least not this year.

Once again the Major’s eyes are wandering down the list and I settle on Wishfull Thinking a general 16/1 shot.  Again a horse with some questions to answer but one with definite talent and not just place claims in my view.

The Coral Cup may be a handicap where we are yet to see the well weighted horse.  Therefore I am holding my judgement until after the Imperial Cup next weekend but would register an early interest in Smad Place at 16/1.

The RSA chase is all about whether Grand Crus turns up or not.  Personally I would run him in the Gold Cup.  I suspect though that connections will go for the RSA and use Kauto’s declaration of fitness (Assuming that comes) as  the decision point.  Whichever race he turns up in, I am very interested in Grand Crus who has taken to regulation fences extremely well.  9/4 therefore that he wins the RSA is a price from heaven and we should all be relieving Sportingbet of the weight of their satchel.

The Neptune is another race in which I fancy the favourite.  Now that Henderson has declared this the target for Simonsig, I think the 7/2 with Boylesports represents great value.  There is not a massive amount of quality in behind this (spare Boston Bob who may not line up) so I have no hesitation in getting on early and large.  This is an ideal antepost market to tip as it looks like the favourites price will only go one way.

If you want a tip for the Champion Bumper, you are in the wrong place!  Try @kingofbumpers on Twitter on the day!

Cheltenham Thursday Tips – World Hurdle, Jewson and Ryanair

Big Bucks is so dominant in the World Hurdle market, it is hard to find an obvious piece of value.  It is there though, in the w/o Big Bucks prices.

Oscar Whisky has been touted as a real credible threat to the champion and while the Major will believe that when he can see it, 7/4 (Hills, Power, Coral and Boylesports) is a fine price. 

Although the market says he will, I don’t think Peddlers Cross will line up ion the Jewson which makes last years festival winner, Sir Des Champs, my selection at 6/1.

The Ryanair could be a cracking race this year and while Riverside Theatre returning from injury to great form shapes the market, it is Irish raider Noble Prince who the Major wants on side.  6/1 is the price, have a big slice and thank me later.

Cheltenham Friday – The Gold Cup, The Triumph

The Triumph has been shaping up well in the last month with the principles being taking each other.  I am putting two up to back at win stakes; Pearl Swan, 8/1 Paddy Power) and Grumeti, 5/1 (Generally).  I think this is the best form line and neither will mind the Cheltenham hill, a test many others in the field are to face into yet.

The Gold Cup is hugely interesting race this year.  I am assuming that Kauto turns up, which is no certainty.  If he does, he has been racing with the mind of a six year old, clearly noone has told the great horse that he is in his veteran years!  That said, I would urge anyone who would back Kauto with money and not just heart, to rewatch last years Gold Cup and King George.  There lies all the evidence you need that despite Long Run being scruffy at fences, he will outstay Kauto.

Long Run at 13/8 with a clear round is a great price but it is the clear round that bothers me.  I also do not think this is the horses fault but rather the amateur jockey – I am afraid that the Major is in the camp that would like to see Geraghty on board and really see how great this horse can be.

The antepost tip though is two-fold and buried way down the list.  I think this years Gold Cup has got the hallmarks of a race that could go to a massive outsider.  Long Run might jump his way out of it, Kauto and Grand Crus might not be there, Burton Port might bounce.

The two I am interested in are What a Friend and Captain Chris, both at 40/1 – What a Friend ran to a place last year and is sure to be in the mix, Captain Chris has quality but has run a season of shockers.  That said, he has always looked a spring horse and so I am relying on him coming back to form.  Mainly, let’s hope that Kauto gets there and gives a good race to bow out on.

That is it, the full Cheltenham portfolio.  Whatever you do, bet an amount that makes you nervous, else you won’t enjoy it as you should!

The Saturday Sermon – The Gambling Gentlemens Weekend Must-Read

Good morning from the Major who sits at his Kitchen table concocting a wonderful weekend of gambling. 

This week, advices were at times unlucky but did not pay and the great start to the year took a small hit.  That said we are still hugely profitable, thanks to a number of tasty horses going in..

January Results
Sport Stakes Profit
Racing 20 86.65%
Football 8 -28.64%
Total 28 53.71%

All advices remain on my posts, for checking and the record of them is in the menu above.  The Major’s tips are always free and the thinking unhinged.  If just one child is saved from a life of non-gambling as a result of what I do, I shall go to my grave content.  Seal the lid Mr Undertaker, and let little Johnny know that I still think Trafford Lad can land a big prize one day.

The Major has started recording his bets again, you will find it on the top menu, along with new resources which I will expand from time to time. 

The Saturday Gambling Sermon is here so relax.  Gentlemen adjust your hat to a jaunty angle (26 degrees), strike up a cigar (Cohiba Siglo IV) and let us go to war once again.

Finians Rainbow - Looks like they have ordered up more of the Quantative Easing again!

We have the riches spread before us like a rich man in heaven.  The grade one Victor Chandler Chase, seven grade two races and a grade three; spread across Haydock, Naas and Ascot. 

The highlight is certainly the Victor Chandler which has been used, in the past, as a springboard for the best chasers.

Todays renewal is no exception with the superb Finians Rainbow versus Al Ferof.  It is a clash to whet the appetite, Henderson v Nicholls, Geraghty v Walsh; in a race that also includes Somersby and Wishful Thinking.  This is what Saturday sport is about.

Appetite is the focus of this mornings Saturday Sermon, well that and independent thought, which I will get to shortly. 

A man’s appetites on a Saturday should be satisfied with a fine salmon and poached egg.  Failing that, the Major’s favourite breakfast dish, Eggs Benedict would more than suffice – If you are not familiar with this particular morning spectacular, then live a little, order one up and allow the Major to brighten your existence.  Life will not be the same again.

Appetite for risk is something the Major is familiar with from my daily pursuits both vocational and recreational.  To be able to judge risk, you need to be able to weigh the likelihood of an event occurring with the impact of the resultant outcome.  Your acceptance of a wager should be determined by such.

This is straightforward and is similar to the mathematical concepts of probability, odds and value which the Major has posted in the Gambling Resources section of the site. 

Calculating value is one matter, your personal appetite dictates how you react to that value.  In the Majors opinion, gamblers and people of business are happy to operate at the low risk with certain, low reward end of the risk spectrum.  They rarely back themselves to go for the high risk but high reward opportunities that present themselves.  Consider…..

I have often said, that if a horse should be 33/1 but has been priced at 100/1, you should back it.  This is because it is profitable.  Ultimately, that calculation is more important than what you think will happen.  Yet few people will back such a prospect, even when they have calculated that it is great value.

For example, if you calculate reasonably that each of the Premier League elite teams will lose a home game, once a season to a bottom third team, then you might reasonably surmise that the odds of those away teams should be approximately 8/1.  Thus if QPR were at Chelsea and priced at 12/1, this would be a value price in your book, the reward is great but the risk is high as you still believe that the outcome is 87.5% likely that your bet will not pay. 

What is important is not that you think it will not happen, it is that you still think it is more likely to happen than the market price suggests.

This is fundamentally why gambling is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme but a long game dotted with regular consistent losses.  What is important is that when you win, you backed outcomes at correct prices. 

Don’t be a sheep.  When you here someone say that Manchester United are a certainty at home, remind that they did lose at home to Blackburn…. at 28/1.  Whatever outcome occurs, the test of judgement is whether you priced it correctly. 

What people get confused between is value and likelihood.  Just because something is likely, does not make it good value.  Human nature dictates to follow likelihood more than value because we want to win more.  This thought clouds the brain.  Often, value dictates back Blackburn but likelihood says back Manchester United because it is more likely.  Be careful of those voices in your head, remember the Major’s calculation for betting value – (Decimal Odds * Probability) / 100.  Value greater than 1 – Back it.  Value less than 1 – Leave to the sheep.

So I think Chelsea to win at Norwich is just a 40% probability.  Their price is 1.66.  1.66*0.4 = 0.664 – Shocking value for the Major.

That is the sport of it, the intellectual thrust of judgement and calculation.  The fine balance.  When people ask why I gamble, I reply ‘why not?’ – The Major pities those who cannot feel the rush of blood at a sporting event where you have staked your money on the market being wrong.  When you made your honourable personal choice, your own integral thoughts, that which no man can alter but thee, that which god gave you to distinguish yourself as that of the finest and highest privelege – A man with independent thought.  What finer or purer thing exists? 

No wonder hostages survive, able to hold on that thought – Whatever happens, my independent thought still remains.  That integrity cannot be taken away. 

To the Sports, daub thy war paint…..

The Victor Chandler Chase – 3.10 Ascot

First of all, The Major dops his hat to Victor Chandler who are stumping up a matched £25 bet offer for existing customers.  The Major has not studied the detail but this firm have always been generous with their concessions.  As a bookmaker they offer best priced markets too, so that when a horse drifts you collect the better price.  One of the Major’s preferred accounts.

The market is currently full of bookmakers competing for our wagers on this race – This has forced the overround down to 103%, happy days!

We are looking at some of the upcoming stars heading the market in the shape of Al Ferof and Finians Rainbow.  These two, with the possible addition of Wishfull Thinking seem the progressive sorts and that is what the Major wants.

Wishfull Thinking has disappointed a bit this term in the Tingle Creek and the Paddy Power but looked a top prospect at the close of last season, it is possible we are getting to his time of year and he is a dangerous sort to rule out.  That said, he has reportedly had breathing problems which two wind ops do not seem to have solved, not without a chance but in this company, overlooked.

Al Ferof has won both starts over fences and although that does not equate to much experience, visually he looked very comfortable.  The form line with For Non Stop is not the strongest, but hugely respectable.  Remember we are comparing him though to the best potential Grade 1 chasers mind and he might still need to improve more.

Finians Rainbow however ticks more boxes.  His Kempton win last time (beating Wishfull Thinking) showed plenty of guts and a decent turn of foot; having been pretty much on the deck with half a mile to go.  His novice campaign was exceptionally strong and Henderson clearly thinks highly of him.  His Arkle defeat for me, remains amongst the best pieces of form on show, the time evidence supports that view.

I think the Victor Chandler will pan out with Forpadytheplasterer and Wishfull Thinking taking them along.  This should suit Finians Rainbow.

Get stuck right in and thank me later: 5/2 Victor Chandler with their additional concession.

1.45 Champion Hurdle Trial – Haydock

In name this is a Grade 2 Champion Hurdle trial, in truth, it is not a great show.  Just four go to post and the 1/2 favourite is Celestial Halo. 

The resaon for throwing the race into the Saturday Sermon in is that I am not sure 1/2 is at all value for the favourite.  The race is sure going to be tactical.  It is heavy ground and with a small field, they will probably go at a dawdle until the business end.

A further concern is that Celestial Halo has never run on heavy ground and this will be bottomless.  While his soft ground form suggests it will be fine, after coming out of a hrad last race, 1/2 is no price.

Instead, I suggest Marsh Warbler who I think will thrive in the mud.  7/2 Skybet, have a slice.

1.00 Ascot – Novice Handicap Chase

It is hugely difficult to evaluate the form of my selection Triolo D’Alene who is available to back at 10/3 with Betfred but 127 gives plenty of opportunity if the ability is there.  Top connections might have an easy score here and 10/3 might look the price of fools at ten past one. 

10lbs of weight conceded from Oldrik who rates the danger, persuaded me to get on the Henderson unknown quantity.

Haydock 1.10

Bet of the day for me is in the Novice Chase over two and a half miles at Haydock.

While State Benefit looks like being another of the riches spilling from the Henderson yard, the Major would be concerned that the bottomless ground may get to him.  Certainly his Exeter win on soft seems to suggest he likes getting his toe in but Haydock in these conditions is a different prospect.

This is why I place great weight on the two wins Cotswold Charmer has collected on heavy.  His chase debut win at Bangor was on soft and he has scope to keep improving.

5/1 is generally available and is overpriced for the Major. 

To the football….

African Cup of Nations

The African cup of nations kicks off today and I am very pleased to be sat on an ante-post ticket backing Senegal at 10/1.  They have been backed into 11/2 across the board and you can see why.  They should have a relatively trouble-free passage to the Semi-Finals and their squad is littered with European striking talents.  In fact, they boast seven strikers of which, we would be most familiar with Demba Ba.  If you want a tournament interest, have a slice – I fully expect the ageing Ivory Coast squad, who start the tournament 13/8 favourites, to flop once again. 

In the Premier League, I am following my belief that Chelsea are weaker than the market thinks and suggesting a Norwich win at 5/1 with 188Bet.  While my tip for Chelsea to fail to beat Sunderland did not pay, after watching the game, surely you would not want to be on Chelsea today at 4/6 best price?  Incidentally the draw is a best price 16/5, making that a 100% overround.  £6 with Ladbrokes (6/4), returns £10, so does £2.40 with 16/5 Victor Chandler and so does £1.70 with 188bet at 5/1.

I know Fulham have a decent home record but Newcastle still look great value at 3/1.  I think the price is inflated because markets believe they will miss Tiote and Ba too much but in reality it is more their no nonsense 4-4-2 sensible approach that has been winning them games.  They have kept it simple and they work hard.  They have adequate players to drop in and while their 1-0 QPR win was not spectacular, it again showed their organisational strength.  3/1 is too dismissive.

Finally Wigan look better than 3/1 to get a result at QPR.  Wigan play nice football, a fact not helped by their shocking pitch.  QPR will suit them and the Major has never been convinced by Mark Hughes, not a fan.

Mr Hill – The Lucky 15 Order is: Finians Rainbow, Norwich, Cotswold Charmer and Senegal – That should pay for a new pair of shoes or two!  Put Triolo d’Alene in if you feel the football is not to your particular taste.

Tonight may your dinner be beautiful, akin to the Major who took a ‘diet break’ eating a fine Chateaubriand in the week.  The tenderloin has to be the best cut of beef and I recommend you try it.  Have for company a country sort that won’t be offended by the bloodiness of your dish.  Dine well for tomorrow may never come.

Courage and roll those dice.