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.
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.