Tag Archives: astracad

The Saturday Sermon – Full Cheltenham International Card Tips – Let’s get Christmas paid for!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a pleasant Worcestershire evening with the family happily all around and Chinese food in, fit to burst.

The Major is full of business this evening, all bustling and bristling to get to the racing action.  A nice card at Cheltenham awaits and below is a full run down of my thoughts for tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing the New One in action – He is a serious contender for the Champion Hurdle although I confess to holding ante post tickets on Our Conor who was breathtaking in March, delivering a performance from the gods, a rare thing, winning a festival race on such a tight rein.

Such joyous days, I was not on but could only admire.

Lately, such times have been hard to recall.  I am suffering with an anxiety, dark and malevolent.  Blood surging, pressure building inside the skull, little respite.  Waking in the dark hours, restless, thoughts whirring away and not the pleasant sort.  Early in the mornings, in the worst moments, I struggle to shake it off.  The night world invading the day.

Yet now as I sit here, the fire underway, all is swept aside and a contentment lightens my mood.  Tomorrow I am to Birmingham and to spend some time watching the sport in great company.  Sport is wonderful.  All of life is contained within.

We are on this path just the once stranger.  We have no dress rehearsal.  I repeat my oft-repeated plea, we drift by on the tide just the once, grab on to what floats by, take up the fortune my friends.  If there are two simple things, just two to make your aim.. make it these… Experience and Companionship.

Daub thy war paint for it is December and we have a Christmas to pay for.  Mount the heavy horse for we will skirmish in open formation into their forward lines, meeting them man to man with our lance points flashing in the bright sunlight.  To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

In the Cheltenham opener, the Triumph trial, I am interested in two near the top of the market.

All three fancied horses come from strong yards with Henderson holding the favourite, Kentucky Hyden; Nicholls with French import, Vicenzo Mio and John Ferguson represented by Commissioned.  All three yards arrive is good form and it is noteworthy that Nicholls has used this race to launch the British careers of some decent sorts in the past, winning it twice in the last two years.

The Henderson horse won by half the track at Sandown but that small field was easier pickings than this.  I prefer the Nicholls horse who has won a decent race at Auteuil and is a definite contender.  Yet I am more persuaded by the Ferguson horse, Commissioned.  I know the record of the yard at jumping HQ is atrocious (0 wins, 2 places, 15 runners – 2 Years) but look beyond that and there is a lot to like about my tip.

Commissioned is an ex Mark Johnstone horse and has excellent form on good ground, which is a handy advantage.  The yard have had 6 winners in the last two weeks and with some handy flat form, I think the 5/1 offered by Ladbrokes is well worth taking… Get invested.

Only 4 runners make it for the stayers novice chase but it is an intriguing race all the same.  A lot of folk are going to take the way Shutthefrontdoor was closing on Le Bec last time at Cheltenham as a significant positive over this extra distance.  It certainly looks like he should be able to reverse form but I am not convinced – To me Le Bec kept finding more too and I am not convinced that the defeated foe necessarily has the upper hand tomorrow with an extra furlong and 3lbs to help him.

Le Bec was sixth in the Albert Bartlett and looks pretty assured at his fences, although he did hit one at Cheltenham last time and still finished well.

It is between these two in my book.  I am going for the reverse and a bet on Shutthefrontdoor at 11/8.  There is a further more powerful reason for a reverse in my eyes.  That is the replacement of Le Bec of Noel Fehily by Aiden Coleman.  Now I have nothing against Coleman, he is a good jockey in his own right but I am a huge Fehily fan who is surely worth some lengths to the horse.

In the Jenny Mould memorial, I am opting for Astracad (8/1) who will definitely pop up in a race like this sooner or later.  The horse has picked up a couple of course wins, although has been highly tried at Cheltenham.  I think he prefers the better ground and his trainer would like to win the Jenny Mould memorial as she was a big supporter of his yard.  Of the others, Shooters Wood would have been very interesting but I think conditions are against.  It might also be that we have not bottomed out the potential of Drumshambo who also made the short-list.

Kings Palace looks like a solid favourite for the 1.50pm.  The Pipe horse won really well here last time, loves good conditions and 5/4 does not put me off… Load the heavy cannon.

I was a big fan of Colour Squadron and thought we were desperately unlucky not to win with him at the November meeting.  A better jump two out and he was definitely going to be involved.  How confident we can be in a second such performance, I am not sure.  Johns Spirit was showing further improved form though that day and 9lbs raise may not have bottomed him out.

I am opposing both though with a chance that Salut Flo returns in some sort of good order.  My selection loves decent ground and was a serious horse when last seen in competitive action.  Clearly time off tempers the enthusiasm but Pipe can ready one and this could be a seriously good mark.  Ataglance is a horse I would not put you off, he was also involved in that Johns Spirit / Colour Squadron dust-up and while finishing further behind in fourth, it is worth noting that he was racing out of the handicap that day and is much better off on tomorrows revised terms.

I do not see any dangers to The New One in the meetings feature race.  Yes it is 1/2 on but this is a serious Champion Hurdle contender and I think he should readily have the measure of Zarkander who while decent is not top class.  I would offer a word of optimism for Albert Hall who has limited British experience but has capable french form and 100/1 would be dismissive of his place chances if there were 8 runners, sadly, currently only 7 go to post.

I can make a case for all of the runners in the last.  Gemix is hard to assess, he certainly has some top class form but I am not sure what he will make of hurdling in a small field in this company.  I prefer More of That who smashed up a Folkestone race and two wins this season have been better again – More to come.

Yet, in the last, I am minded to go with Glenns Melody, she has a good strike rate and won really handsomely last time.  Since Ruby has made the effort to come over, well I take it as a positive, 7/2 is a stand out with Coral, with 3/1 more generally on offer.

At Lingfield, I would back Black Thunder in their feature race, soft ground is great for him and he was pulling clear readily at Haydock last time, easy.

In the football, I like QPR and Forest both at 5/4.

I trust that your dinner is in the best of company, generous, full of humour and mischief and that the only inconvenience is the uncomfortable wad of notes denoting the drubbing you dished out to our beautiful enemy.

The Martin Hill bet is each way doubles and trebles on all of the Cheltenham selections above with the exception of The New One and Astracad.  That’s 40 bets… Get Christmas paid.

The Saturday Sermon – Racing Post Trophy Day… Aintree and Doncaster

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, tired and ready for slumber.  The darkened sky howls and the air froths and swirls, dancing at an ever-changing pace, gentle to furious in a rising crescendo and at once, peace again, for a passing moment.  Change in the air.  Danger.

The Major scored some winners last Saturday, including a tasty hat-trick at Cheltenham from just the three selections.  Even Martin Hill (yes he really exists) commended my changing fortune with a smile and a generous acknowledgement that is barely deserved.  That man has endured a torrent of poor fortune, all my own doing, but hangs in there, determined to the end.  I fear his lot will be like one of those collies that following the death of a beloved owner, sits above the grave, full of melancholy.  He gets his glimmers of hope, enough to string him along to the next investment and for me, I am thankful and most of all hopeful, that one day, patience is rewarded.

Of course, there is never any need to offer thanks for any winners I might find.  For a start, I am barely profitable, as advertised, so, your wins are probably hard-earned (you backed a lot of my losers too) or lucky, you dropped in on a going day.  Either way, I cannot claim credit.  What is more, I would not consider it proper to claim credit where I would not accept blame.  You see, I merely offer you the thoughts I have, the deep reaches of my mind, piecing together information in some construct that seems robust.  What you do with this is entirely your own choice.  I would not accept someone choosing how to bet my money, I do not presume to tell you how to spend yours.

Writing the sermon each week is a grounding in my hectic life.  I considered parking the blog (dark thoughts of a year ago) but find the anchor in the week a pleasant bolt hole for myself and my thoughts.  The thousand odd souls that wander in are welcome but the benefit I fear is mine.

I often wonder what a brand new reader might make of this.  Would you describe this as a tipping site?  Well if you did, it is not exactly a typical one.  For a start, I benefit from no adverts (any you see are merely those of WordPress and keep the site free for me to use).  I also make no charge, sell any service or claim any special information.

My tips are actually profitable, this may at times seem hard to believe.  If you stray into the menu, you will find two separate parts of this blogs history where I went to the effort of recording the tips given and painstakingly creating a record.  It was profitable.  Just.  Not the sort of profit that might have you jet off to the Caribbean in the company of an expensive sort, more the sort that might have you reaching for a bottle from the top shelf in Asda.

What interests me more is the reaction a new reader might have to the first part of the blog.  In a lucky week, a thought to write about occurs well before I sit to write the blog.  Perhaps, A dark night driving home, black rain-slicked roads and a distant emergency blue light, stimulate a thought, that is incubated until the anointed hour to write the sermon and out it spills, gushing with little reverence or key message, falling loosely and thence on the page, lay wasted and abused, incoherent noise.  In other weeks, my mood is dark and it tightens up my mind, as fear will, so what is written is brief and curt.

If you stray to these parts and are new, welcome.  We are a gentlemanly bunch, no riff raff need apply.  The game is afoot my friends, it is the time of the weekend where our hopes and dreams are intact.  It is time to prepare the heavy charger, sharpen the point on that lance and ready thyself for the battle.

To the sports….

Tip For The Racing Post Trophy

There has been a lot of rain in the UK but seemingly, Doncaster is only good to soft as I type.  I would certainly want to be on the side of a horse who might cope if it was a little worse than that and may well hold fire on the betting until having seen the morning weather and perhaps watched the first few races.

The Racing Post Trophy has gone to the O’Brien Ballydoyle team in three of the last four years with Kingsbarns, Camelot and St Nicholas Abbey.  Thus it is credible to argue that this powerhouse have again saved on of the best of their crop again for this late autumn showpiece.  Century won his maiden with ease, a race that they put Magician through in the year before.  I am getting on now for small stakes at 4/1 and may well top up later.

The selection is one of three O’Brien horses and since Joseph has chosen Century, I see no reason to think he is not the better of the two stable-mates, Johan Strauss and Buonarroti.  Certainly, all of O’Briens recent winners in this have been his first string.

If there is lots of rain, then The Great Gatsby comes into it, simply for being a proven swimmer.  I am sticking with the obvious though and Century to win the Racing Post Trophy.

My second bet for Doncaster is the second favourite at 11/4 in the 2.05, Night of Thunder.  This might be quite an appropriate name given the band of weather set to sweep across the UK on Monday morning, fate aside though, I think the Hannon trained juvenile can take this.  His run at Goodwood was visually stunning.  It was on slow ground and for a horse to handle the camber and come away so readily with no previous racecourse experience, really spoke volumes of the underlying ability.

Clearly Stubbs is an interesting runner.  Followers of the horse would have been left scratching their heads after the Coventry where he ran no race.  A line through that and you have an unexposed O’Brien juvenile, not something you would want to strongly bet against.  Yet, the Coventry has left a question mark and I was suitably impressed with Night of Thunder to think him a threat anyway so the choice was easy.

Aintree Old Roan Tips

The ‘Monet’s Garden’ Old Roan is a race which truly deserves its name.  I love the National Hunt season for the longevity of the horses which gives greater chance for their personal stories to develop.  Monet’s Garden was never quite the top draw but won this race three times over four years and with it, the hearts of many a racing fan.  He was a fine competitor and his white figure contrasted against the black silks stood out.

Again the Aintree turf may deteriorate from the currently advertised good to soft and I will err on that side.

Carrickboy has some ability and if you were assured of him putting his best foot forward, 14/1 might seem a decent proposition.  Indeed, he had today’s favourite, Walkon behind when winning at Cheltenham in the spring.  Yet, I am also minded that in the last fortnight, Venetia has sent out 9 runners and has not yet recorded a place.

Wishfull Thinking is not getting younger but holds some of the best form in the race.  His second in this last year was quite a distant second (nigh on 30l), that was on good ground behind For Non Stop (who I remember tipping by the way!).  Classy and cannot be ruled out./

I am not sure what to make of Edgardo Sol, he has been running well enough but does not look spectacular.  Is it possible that the step up in trip (not raced beyond 2m 1f) would improve him?  Possible but not for me.  I am also considering that if he was really fancied, then maybe Daryl Jacob would not have gone to Chepstow.

Astracad is not my sort of horse.  The Holmes quote is that once you have ruled out all impossible things, then what remains, no matter how improbable is the truth.  On these grounds, I would have nothing winning the Old Roan!  Thus I have to come back to Walkon, my 9/2 hope, whose stable are in form, has enjoyed visits to Aintree before (even if it was hurdling or on the national course) and has great form shouts.

Regal Encore was my Champion Bumper pick and while he ran second that day, I am hoping he will go one better over hurdles in the last today.

To the other sports

You will forgive me but I am too tired to start contemplating Newbury.  So a fistful of football tips and to bed.

I think Liverpool are a poor short price favourite because I fancy West Brom but shall not offer this as advice as I am prejudiced by my own support for the away team.  I do think West Ham are a massive 4/1 price to win at Swansea.  The home team had a tough game in Europe in mid-week and were deflated by a last gasp equalizer, West Ham can take advantage.  Other than that, Southampton look a banker at 6/10 to beat dreadful Fulham at home.  I would also back QPR at 15/8 away at Burnley.

The Martin Hill advice is to back an each way trixie on Century, Walkon and Night of Thunder.

To all of you, I wish you luck and prosperity.  I hope your dinner is taken in the most refined company and that the only discomfort be the wallet which digs into your ribs.

Courage, roll those dice.

Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.