Good morning from Defford where the Major greets the new day like souls awakening.
Yesterdays Cheltenham tips were mediocrity at best, Uncle Junior paid a 6/1 winner and a second from Haventascoobydo at 8/1 drew the mildest of profits. Suburban Bay could have made the day a superb one but fell when travelling strongly in second, three out…. ah the tribulations.
The last race saw Grand Crus plant himself as a credible alternate to Long Run in the Gold Cup picture. His jumping was assured and with main rival Cue Card fighting for his head throughout, Grand Crus looked the business. Very exciting chaser.
The last few weeks have been barren times for the Major so even a day of such modest profit is a relief. Perhaps the tide is turning. At moments like these I am drawn to think of the boys holding the square at Thermopylae or the gallant 44th shedding their claret on the hill at Gandemak.
As Kipling wrote ‘ If you can force your nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they have gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says the to them ‘hold on!’
Stay the course followers. The Cheltenham card….
1.20 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial
The first of the feast from Cheltenham. What a tremendous day of racing. To those on course, Mr Cherry, Mr T Smith, Hathaway, Zac, Mr Lyons et al, the Major wishes you the best of luck. Empty some satchels.
The two french imports dominate the market and it is clear that they are two well fancied novice hurdlers this season. Of the two preference would be for the Henderson horse Ozeta.
At the prices though 15/8 the pair, the Major is going elsewhere and I have decided to take a chance on the improving Secret Edge at 9/1. The listed win at Wetherby reads just fine and there is more to come. British obstacle experience is a boost and let us not forget that Alan King has won this race with the fine racehorses Franchoek and Katchit in recent years. Secret Edge could well have more to offer……
Load the big cannon.
1.55 Handicap Chase
The money has been pouring in for Hennessy (Is this a Pricewise horse, I do not have the paper this morning!), backed into 8s from 12/1. That looks significant being a Ferdy Murphy inmate, he is well capable of readying a gamble.
The money on Betfair looks one way and I forecast 6/1 at the off. Someone will be eating steak if this comes in.
I think though that the Nicholls charge, Promising Anshan deserves a big punt. At 5/1 it is leading the market and the Major still thinks there is value there. Surely this one will improve for the step up in trip. The Aintree form, in behind the implausibly well handicapped Exmoor Ranger, looked more than adequate and he was probably not fully tuned up that day. With normal improvement, this one should be involved at the foot of the hill.
I am interested in the Ditcheat team as they have started the season strongly.
2.35 Chelthenham – Paddy Power Gold Cup
Here we are at the feature race of the day and it is an absolute cracker. Figuring out the puzzle is made harder by the generic ground conditions but the Major has figured an angle into two at big prices and is ready to lay for your delectable concern my Paddy Power gold cup tips before you.
Poquelin will be fancied as we always see his best form at Prestbury but not for the Major. The normal profile for the winner is sub eleven stone but from a big name trainer. Only one 9 year old has won in the last ten years, none older, and so it is an improving sort in a top class yard we want.
Reve de Sivola will win a big race one day but he won’t be carrying my money when he does. He travels beautifully and like David James can look superb but is prone to walking through the odd fence which he manages with alarming regularity and tends to time it for when the Majors hopes are at their pinnacle. I have given up on this one and will wait for the day he returns at a massive price!
There are two 20/1 shots I am willing to back. There are lots that almost made it and the discarded from the shortlist include 16/1 shots Araldur and the De Bromhead raider Loosen my Load. The two for me though on balance are….
The first is Billie Magern. At 7, there could be plenty of improvement to be seen from this Twiston-Davies horse and we must remember that the trainer has won two of the last three Paddy Powers. Billie Magerns two and a half mile win last month looked very decent. That was course form too which ticks another box. Although up 7lbs, it makes no technical difference as he is a fistful of pounds wrong in the handicap anyway, have a slice.
The other is Divers, a Ferdy Murphy horse who ran a shocker on reappearance last month. That is insignificant for this one though as this was always going to be the aim and a handicap raising barn-storming reappearance was never going to be on the cards. Also racing from the bottom of the weights, officially 4lbs wrong, is not a concern and I really do feel a big run could be in order.
Back both each way (watch the terms) and a reverse forecast will have you sending the Major brandy (A decent Hennessy please)!
3.10 Handicap Hurdle
A very simple and elegant solution here, back the 8/1 shot Oscargo who looks to have a great chance.
Lightly raced, Nicholls and Walsh, 8/1 and decent Chepstow form which should translate well to here (also a rolling left handed tough course).
Have two slices, send me the postcard.
3.40 Cheltenham – Novice Handicap Hurdle
There are a number of horses to catch the eye in this and Edgardo Sol is sure to be popular with the same Nicholls / Walsh combination as Oscargo in the previous. While that one looks very well handicapped, it is a 14/1 shot that the Major is going to tip.
Walden Prince has been racing very respectably in Ireland and has now joined a new yard. I think this is an interesting start for the horse who is match fit. There was plenty to like about his second last time out as the winner looks very decent. A replication of that form entitles this one to go close.
4.10 Novice Chase
If Restless Harry translates his useful hurdle form to the chase obstacles, he will take all of the beating and at 13/8, I do not think it is a prohibitive price. He has the look of a chasing type and the Major would not put you off.
Offering that up as a Cheltenham tip might be foolish. I like to see novices jump before getting involved but today, for Restless Harry, I make an exception. Should win well.
If you must get involved with the England game, bet 0-0 at half time. It has that feel to the Major.
May your dinner be delightful and served by a fine-looking sort. Let the quarry see the roll of notes but try to be subtle, else you appear crass.
Courage, roll the dice.