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Punchestown Festival – Tuesday Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes a short post from his bed.  An evening spent baiting mice, planting up in the garden and then baiting Villa fans after their defeat at Old Trafford.

Dealing with my little furry vermin friends that I suspect are nesting in the loft of my garage might prove difficult.  I have laid down a rodenticide that thins the blood and causes a painless death I am assured, although I doubt little Mr Jingles and friends would see it that way.  I also suspect that they won’t fall for it so easily.

In comparison, a few choice words always draws a warm reaction quickly and effortlessly from Villa fans in their present position.  Their precarious position has them on edge.  Mind the gap chaps, it is a long way down.

I think it will prove a nail-biter of a finish at the relegation end of the table.  Wigan have a game in hand but have to face both Spurs and Arsenal.  Villa have to face Chelsea.  If no surprises occur in those fixtures then it boils down to who can take the most points from Sunderland and Norwich (Villa) or West Brom and Swansea (Wigan) before the teams meet at Wigan on the last day.  At the moment it is odds-on that it will come to that last day which makes 9/4 Villa go down (Hills) the bet in this situation for me.

As an Albion fan, you might expect me to gloat yet I hope not, I would like to think I have more dignity than that.  Yet I do want Villa to be relegated, I think it would do their fans good, certainly the ones I know.

As I grew up, Villa fans had a good team, they were players.  While Albion were battling out a promotion punch up from League 1 (or whatever it was called back then!) with Stockport, Brentford and Port Vale; Villa were challenging for titles with quality through the team.  Wolves and Blues barely did better than the Albion and so in Birmingham, if you were not a Villa fan, you were not supporting the cities best team.  That made life tough in the playground but taught you a more sanguine and realistic approach to life.

For Villains though, familiarity to regional dominance was comfortable and it is this that makes it difficult to contemplate a relegation.  Ironically, Brentford are once again challenging for promotion to the Championship.

I don’t hate Villa.  I don’t hate any football club.  I do think a spell in the Championship would be cathartic.  I can also see me talking to a couple of Villa friends in the pub on a Friday night… So who have you got tomorrow?  Oh Brentford… Well, Griffin Park is not an easy place to go… A point would be a result there… I can see their faces…

Uncouth.  I apologise.  To the proper sport, the sport of Kings.  Taste the air young soldiers, it tastes so fresh, gasp at it drawing in great gulps like a thirsty man.  Tomorrow is Punchestown and bar Sandown, this is our last hoorah of the National Hunt season.

Punchestown Tuesday Tips….

Although Punchestown draws enough top quality horses, there is a slight bitter edge to the festival for me, knowing it marks the last appearance of the season for the big names.

As a festival, my feeling is that you often get a few hot ones turned over simply because they are a bit over the top at this stage of the season.  That and the spring ground can catch a few out, although they start here on soft.  Having a horse that missed Cheltenham with Punchestown in mind is a big draw.  Not getting too lumpy on day one is also part of my strategy.

The mid afternoon starts of these meetings is a good thing in my view.  For those of us keeping the economy turning over while the Punchestown crowd sup a few stouts in the spring sun, it is nice to catch the last couple of races on the way home.

3.40pm – Kildare Hunt Cup

Enda Bolger has taken this race four times in the last ten years and his quartet in this years renewals are all under 10/1 including the two favourites.  It is fair to say, the man has a damn fine chance of taking this again!

Bolger is responsible for the only horse competing which has a Punchestown win and that is Zest for Life, the second favourite.  This horse has won this contest three years ago and since fell and been placed third.  At 5/1, I would not put you off.

In these amateur riders events, finding the best jockey is a huge factor.  In this case, it is simple.  The jockey bookings make interesting reading.  Only one of the Bolger pilots has ridden for him before and that was just the once!  But the best jockey in the race, Katie Walsh, takes the ride on his Keep on Track.  While you have to ignore a few disappointing runs, in a contest like this, I don’t think it is unreasonable to.  Paddy goes 8/1, take him up on it!

4.20 – Champion Novice Hurdle

This is one of the races of the week for me with the Supreme form of Champagne fever getting its first work over.

That horse was a winner for the Major on the opening day of Cheltenham.  I think My Tent or Yours may well prove a better horse in the end, he looked like he arrived with plenty in hand and then found himself flat-footed after the last.  Champagne Fever dug deep showing a likeable attitude.

If they have him off the bridle tomorrow, the easier Punchestown track may not be to his advantage.  I also thought that short run in they have on day one at Cheltenham played to his prominent style.

Maybe I am trying too hard to get him beaten.  After all he was a Champion Bumper horse too so clearly is a class act.  Jezki and Rule the World have obvious claims.  Jezki had Champagne Fever beaten on this sort of track in the Royal Bond and Rule The World showed plenty of class up against impressive The New One at Cheltenham but I think he might get tapped for toe here.

Ted Veale won the County, beating Tennis Cap but I cannot have that form against these three confirmed top stars.

Here is the Champagne Fever persuader for you though….

Horse | Trainer (Runners last 14 days) [winners]

Champagne Fever | Mullins (11) [5]

Jezki | Harrington (7) [0]

Rule the World (1) [0]

4.55 Handicap Hurdle

A wide open handicap and a punters puzzle to solve.  Tennis Cap has been one for the Major before but I think both the mark and the season are catching up with him.

Last years winner, Snap Tie, has his work cut out returning on a near stone higher mark.  Not for me.

I am opting for the apparent Mullins second string though in Tasiocht at 10/1 (Ladbrokes).  This horse showed some very classy early form and a mark of just 124 I think could be very tasty.  Crucially, she has some experience in bigger fields which will help amongst twenty charging sorts over two miles here.  The fact she likes to lead also will help in that regard.  Some jumping issues will have kept the price honest and given Walsh has gone for tennis Cap, you must assume we are on the less fancied runner but it would not be the first time would it!

5.30pm Champion Chase

Unless a miracle occurs this should be yet another procession for Sprinter Sacre.  I was an early convert to the cult of The Aeroplane and it is with caution (given a large Irish readership) that I say this but…. the comparisons to Arkle are going to be inevitable.

I don’t think trip matters one jot to this horse.  Prior to the Aintree race, I thought such concerns were ridiculous (given the way he travels and jumps) and I was delighted to be proved right.  Not boastful delight you understand, just the mellow sort that allows you to bask contented, knowing you are living in an era of one of jumpings greatest ever.  If you are there, enjoy.

6.05 – The Bumper

There is a fair bit of guess-work going on in finding the selection in the bumper.

The very obvious selection is Moyle Park who was quickly bought for a six figure sum after defeating Blackmail on debut.  Now in the hands of Mullins, you would be surprised not to see it involved.  I will have an interest.

I also plan a small saver on Indian Rupee, the Tommy Mullins horse.  The stable won this last year with a less fancied sort (16s) and I cannot let this 33/1 unraced sort pass me by.

6.40pm – Champion Novice Chase

Wow – If the handicap hurdle was a tricky call for Ruby, this must have been a real coin-flipper.  Ruby has gotten off Boston Bob who looked like coming back strong to win the RSA, to ride Back In Focus who was unbelievably game to win the four miler.

I think Ruby has made the wrong call but I am hoping it is irrelevant anyway as I am opting for the Kim Bailey trained Harry Topper.  This horse has been given a little longer to get over a spill at Kelso last time and the trainer has given such positive vibes about the horse that you have to take notice.  As I mentioned at the top, I readily prefer a horse trained for Punchestown and may well take this on the rocks as well as with a reverse forecast mixing in Boston Bob.

7.15 – 2m Flat

No market, bar Betfair, which suggests that my selection Western Boy will be a 9/1 shot.  I am in!

Courage, roll those dice.

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Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, Champion Bumper… and Taquin Du Seuil

Good evening from the Major who returns to an icy Worcestershire scene from the equally frigid Cheltenham air.  Post racing, I dined in Pershore tonight, the company was good, the dinner reasonable but the restaurant odd.   The subtleties required that underpin a good service were lost on my hosts.  Still 6/10.

The same score could apply to the review of day one of Cheltenham, we went to battle but no definitive blows were struck, we danced around our enemy, driving into their lines in small neat packs, sharp fast movements, not overly committal and retreating quickly under threat from their rearguard.  There were some warm engagements as Champagne Fever struck at 15/2 and then the more obvious Simonsig and Quevega results bolstered our position.  Yet the gloss was tarnished by the no-show of Hazy Tom, Monkerty Tunkerty, Loch Ba and Grandouet, ah Grandouet.

Still very healthy profits from day one.  I did though get the Champion Hurdle all wrong.  Fair play Hurricane Fly, he was sublime.  Other day one observations.  The ground is not proper soft and being prominent is still important.  Easy.

Performance of Champion Hurdle day has to go to Quevega who looked beat on the downhill run but the game old girl plugged on, christ she knows where the finish line is.  With my yelps of KICK RUBY KICK KICK KICK urging her up the hill and an expectant crowd waiting to pay homage to her… a special Cheltenham moment.  I do hope that next year she competes to win the race again, an unprecedented sixth festival win.  I also wonder if we cannot jiggle the race namings so that she gets to run in the Quevega Mares Hurdle.

So much about Cheltenham is good that it is sometimes easy to brush over what is bad.  The diversity of life on show is one of the main attractions.   Throw in opportunities for merriment and skullduggery and any soul who still has an ache for life can’t fail to enjoy yourself.

Today, I saw the happy drunk, the unhappy drunk, the obnoxious drunk and my favourite, the delirious drunk.  Myself, I am abstaining from alcohol for a year… yes a whole year and so the entire laddish culture that exists around Cheltenham probably stood out more to me as a consequence.

When you love something, (as do I concerning our glorious National Hunt pinnacle), then you become protective of the hallowed ground.  Certain behaviours, a decorousness is preferable and established within the community who appreciate the same thing.  I don’t want to complain about it but I would observe that by acting upon a thing, the experience can change.  Should the number of people there to solely drink be proportionately greater than the people there to enjoy National Hunt racing, then our shrine will suffer, not at first but at last.. a thousand cuts.

Are we ready for day two?  Cast aside the rigours of what has passed.  Allow the sensations of victory and defeat to slip from you, wash over you like water.  As Kipling suggested, treat both those imposters the same.  Win or lose we need to prepare.  Defeat teaches you this more readily than victory.  In defeat you analyse, in victory, too often you simply accept.  Let us prepare, as Pasteur said ‘Fortune favours the prepared mind

The National Hunt Chase

What a challenge for amateur riders, four miles of the Cheltenham undulations – The National Hunt is a real test.  Without doubt we need a thorough stayer and a top amateur rider.  Jonjo O Neill has a good record in the race too.

Of these factors, for me the most important is jockey.  If we can find a talented young soul who can switch their mount off and make them forget they are in a major staying race then we can be halfway to a decent performance.

Two obvious candidates stand out.  Nina Carberry and Mullins Jnr – Bear in mind that no other rider has ridden half the amount of rides that either of these guys have had in the last two years and they boast the best strike rate of all riders here.  Put simply, they have the experience and they have the talent (even allowing for the excellent rides they are granted).

Carberry is on Tofino Bay, an interesting candidate whom the Major has followed before – He has ability but comes with a health waning and I am not sure a trip across the Irish Sea is what he needs.

Patrick Mullins is on Back in Focus, the 3/1 favourite.  The Mullins operation are flying this week with three winners on day one and I am sure all of their runners will get plenty of backing.  This one with good reason.  He has grown into his role of staying chaser with some aplomb, makes few mistakes and has won at the top level.

That is enough for the Major who thinks Buddy Bolero, despite having potential progression is not going to be good enough.

The Neptune Novices

So Mullins is on fire and he is on record as saying that Pont Alexandre is the best novice he has… obvious then?

Well…. It is time to declare an interest.  You might need to make up your own mind after I have explained why the Major is biased.

Last December, I met Tony McCoy at the Sports Personality awards.  I asked him for a horse to follow and he suggested Taquin Du Seuil.  I wrote all about it at the time.  Although I did not declare the horse he had tipped me publicly, I did offer to communicate it privately to those interested and several of the more regular sorts took me up on the offer.

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

Since that point, I have been backing Taquin Du Seuil relentlessly for the Neptune (and a little of burned money for the Albert Bartlett).

I don’t care for the stat about Challow winners and their subsequent Neptune records, means nothing.  I also think the ground will not matter too much either. He has form tied in with My Tent or Yours and I shall remain loyal.  should he win, then I shall be found purveying the fine shops of the Festival store-holders seeking a fancy coat for the good lady.

Taquin Du Seuil for me 5/1.  It is a fantastic race though and I would not put you off a saver on Two Rockers at 14/1. The New One comes with the advantage of being proven at the course and also has form tied in with My Tent or Yours.  Yet, the yard is going through a sparse time and I think conditions suit others better.  I am also unconvinced by Rule the World. So, the tip comes with fair warning… Should Taquin win though, you may find me in a state of utter delirium, identifiable by a mile wide grin.

The RSA Chase

The defection of Dynaste from the RSA to the Jewson has been the cause of significant damage to the Majors antepost position.  Still, you go early for the prices and you take the bumps that come along.  It has made me more wary of Pipe horse placement in the future though. Unioniste, 7/2, has done little wrong but as a five year old, I think this is an almighty tough ask over a searching three miles.  That said, Golden Chieftain who won on Tuesday has given the Newbury form a boost.  That and the fact that Ruby has abandoned Boston Bob for my selection are enough for me.

Boston Bob himself has a good chance but I think his form has an ordinary look to it.  Hadrians Approach almost got the better of Unioniste last time out and rates a danger but I just think mine is better.

Champion Chase

If Sizing Europe was at his peak (two years ago) he might have finished within ten lengths of Sprinter Sacre.  As it is the Black Aeroplane barring accident will live up to the billing.  Simple. 2/7.

Coral Cup

This contest is one of the festivals greatest puzzles with lots of form lines converging and plenty of puzzling handicap marks to decipher.  The best you can do is seek a few you prefer and take a punt.

A key piece of evidence concerns Mr Watson and AP McCoy.  In January, the latter slimmed down to minimum weight to win a gamble on the former and that looked pretty impressive.  The best part of a stone rise is probably not the limit of the horses ability.

Charlie Longsden is having a great year and runs Pendra a horse bought by JP McManus.  By virtue of the contract between the top owner JP and AP the top jockey, then it is understandable that Pendra is a short price.  Clearly they fancy winning with him.

Yet the Major cannot get away from that win by Mr Watson at 16/1.  Proven course form is a massive plus and who knows what APs thoughts are regarding the chances of the horse who now gets Richie McLernon in the saddle.

The Fred Winter

The Fred Winter is as difficult as puzzle as the Coral Cup.  24 runners go to post and many of them have highly progressive profiles making form reading difficult. The focus for the Major is again finding a likely sort and keeping stakes sensible. I do wonder if Ruby has his selection right opting for Saphir Du Rheu over Kalmann.  The Nicholls horse had a confidence booster at Taunton and arrives here with a good chance but I would prefer the chances of the Mullins horse who cost a pretty penny and whose French form has a very decent look about it – He is one of three representatives of yard and owner and jockey bookings suggest he is the most likely.

The Major though is going to tip a 40/1 shot in Habesh.  Like most runners we have a potential improver but this one has arrived after an unusual preparation.  I think it is a trainers Cheltenham debut and the unusual prep has been two runs on the Dundalk all weather track after a very good Limerick win.  His all weather handicap mark will hardly set pulses racing but he does seem a better hurdler.  It is worth noting that he beat Stocktons Wing at Limerick, who subsequently defeated Dogora at G2 level… interesting n’est pas?

The Champion Bumper

I like so many of the bumper horses it is difficult to narrow it down.  So many of them have destroyed average bumper fields, it is hard to get a good reading on which of those performances were the relevant ones.

There are so many other things to note and like… I like Regal Encore because JP bought him but did a deal to leave him with Honeyball.  I like Sergeant Reckless because Richard Hughes rides and is sure to want to bag a Cheltenham winner.  I like the Liquidator because Tom Scu rides it which in turn suggests it is the better of the Pipe horses.  I like Blackmail because he is coming to good hand and the form of his last win is very good.

Which do I like the most?  Regal Encore 10/1.  Kings Theatre bred, that will do for me. Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Tips from Naas, a brief look at Kempton, some football and your belief

Good morning from the Major who writes from a wintry Worcestershire.  The slab of dirty snow sits on the ground like a single plane.  It is a transitional state, roofing is partly covered, there is less of it than I imagined, this is not satisfying

The fire I set last night is merely ash this morning.  Today, this will roar again, sausages in the pan, all is well.  The Major has been overall in decent form, there was a horrific post this week which managed to get some very short price favourites beaten but the overall ledger is positive and I know you all well, a forgiving bunch.

We have enjoyed some good days recently, I am not sure today will be one, with so much off, caution is advised.

I do have a 33/1 ante-post Cheltenham Festival tip for your delectable review, let us see if we can make some profits with which you might back such a prospect.  I will get round to writing up a few festival posts, soon I promise.

Fans of jump racing will, like I, be disappointed with the abandonment of Haydock, Ascot and Taunton.  All of these tracks were to host good racing, including Sprinter Sacre at Ascot and Hunt Ball at Taunton.  I feel sorry for Taunton in particular who were putting on a terrific day of racing for a small track.

Thank the good lord above for Naas which is on.  The Irish track might be heavy but races and we get to have another look at Aupcharlie who I am very excited about.

Right now, all of our beliefs are intact.  Belief, that which is made of the facts as you perceive them and the story you tell about them.  You may see that the sun rises every day, science has also given you an explanation for why this happens.  Both of these ‘fact’ sources compliment each other and from it, you discern a conclusive story that the sun will rise tomorrow.  Let’s hope you are right, otherwise I will never know if my ante post position on Taquin Du Seuil was sensible or not.

The order of these events is important though.  Which comes first, fact or story?  May I suggest an answer….  you need to accumulate the facts while leaving your partisan view to the side.  This allows you to draw your own landscape and often leads to you swim against the punting tide, which can be a very profitable place to be.

The danger of the alternative is that you create your story and bend the facts to suit.  If you forma  prediction too early, then you discard contradictory fact and only seize on those that compliment your chosen outcome.

A crucial part of your punting philosophy should also be ‘fact selection’.  For example, trends analysis.  The Major cringes when he often sees long term football trends quoted as a guide to present day success.  Ask yourself how relevant it is to look at historical team performance at a particular ground.  For example, if Team Y have not won at Team X for 15 years, of what concern is that today?

Select your facts, leave your predilections behind, analyse the data and then create your story.  Find a new angle that others are not discussing, then you may reap rich harvests.

To the sports.

Naas Tips – The Maiden (1pm)

Naas is heavy…. very very very heavy.  It has passed inspection but it is going to be a muddy carnage.  I love extreme conditions, not for the test itself (it goes without saying that we all want the animals and riders to come back safe), but because it gives us an angle of certainty.  We know that we need horses that act on it and this means we can draw a line through a lot of runners.

In the opener, Morning Assembly arrives with a very good set of credentials having finished runner-up to Sizing Gold.  The bumper form stacks up too.  It is the likely winner but 8/11 is a bit short in a big field of maidens.  Expanding Universe is the tip although I will not be getting lumpy about it.  After showing some very decent bumper form, the tentative selection ran poorly on hurdles debut but I am willing to assume that the ability has not evaporated and 8/1 is a fair price to get involved again, each way today.

As a footnote, Glen Gyle is 161 on Betfair.  It is a monstrous price and he came out much more likely on my reading of the race.  OK, he has a lot of explaining to do for a string of dreadful efforts but it is the first time back on heavy which were the conditions faced when he won his Hexham race.  A true point to pointer, perhaps all is not lost on this one.  Have a small saver.

1.35pm Grade 3 Hurdle

The graded hurdle race allows us another look at Solwhit, the old foe of Hurricane Fly.  The reappearance run was very respectable and only the apple of the Majors eye, Bog Warrior, was too good for this Grade 1 winner.

Win that run under his belt, perhaps he should take this convincingly (4/7).  I am minded that he will, given that the danger (So Young)    The form of the last Grade 2 second is pretty good having finished with Monksland in his sights and if Solwhit does crack, then I am sure So Young will exploit it.  The Mullins yard are in terrific form.

2.10 – Naas – Grade 2 Novice Chase

If there is one thing I took from the defeat of Aupcharlie to Back in Focus, it was that the best horse did not win on the day.  In the Leopardstown clash, Aupcharlie seemed to travel better of the two in the last half mile and I think it was a peck on landing, experience and being asked for maximum effort a bit late (after being ushered to the front too soon in my opinion) that caused the slight defeat, rather than the slight victory.

That day, Aupcharlie was a big entry in my notebook, even though the Major had tipped and backed his victor.

In such fine margins, it is interesting to look at the market interpretation of events.  Back in Focus is 8/1 – 14/1 for a number of Cheltenham engagements, Aupcharlie is 20/1 for the RSA.

Given that I think that is a reasonable RSA assessment, he really should easily be good enough for this… not a punting mans price but 1/2 is good enough for my multiples.

2.45pm Naas

Un Atout 2/5… simples.  Come on, this is a genuine Supreme horse (currently 20s) and acts on heavy, this is merely a confidence booster.  Mullins won this last year with Midnight Game who although was disappointing subsequently, was the Irish champion trainers main Supreme entry of a poor bunch.  He must think highly enough of Un Atout.

3.15 Naas – Handicap

I know what you are thinking… come on Major stop serving up these odds on shots and give us something to back!  Well I do not blame you…

There is another favourite in the Naas 3.20 that it is hard to dislike.  Matsukaze, an inmate of Tony Martins showed substantial improvement last time out and maybe a stone rise is not enough to prevent a further win today.  The ground holds no problem and so it is a decent 9/4 play with Boylesports, Carberry is up.

Beneficial is useful but won’t enjoy this mud bath.  Speed Dial will and is a major fly in the ointment.  This horse has shown plenty of progression but there is an issue too and that is the track.  He likes to be held up and at Naas that can be an advantage as the course has an uphill run in and it is long, plenty of chance to reel in the front-runners but… he is nil from seven on undulating tracks and nil from three left-handed.

On balance, I back Matsukaze to get the job done.

3.50 Naas

In a trappy affair with plenty of rogues lurking, the Major tips up Lucky Spring at 9/1.  While he has never won on heavy, he has placed in three of four efforts on the surface and on an opening chase mark, at least has the opportunity to improve beyond it a little.

The Bumper

I am going to have a small slice of Lots of Memories against the favourite who represents the Mullins team.  6/1 is very reasonable, my tip has more experience which might be important in this ground.

Kempton Tips

Kempton is on so we avoid two racing free days in Britain on the bounce…  I am not the biggest all-weather fan and so will be small slices of the following….

4.05 – Gertrude Versed 4/6 and trusting market signals last time 2.20, Haftohaf for the Botti team.

Cheltenham Antepost – Coral Cup

The 2012 Coral Cup was won by Son of Flicka who landed a near million reported gamble for his owners.  Have a look at the race, it is a bit odd, the winner is on and off the bridle but in the finish, wins well.

This year, the horse is seemingly in terminal decline but surely his main aim is an effort at defending his title.  The market has two views of this, there is the one I have just given you, BetVictor are 16/1.  Then there is the view that he is done for (Bet365 are 33/1).  Have a slice of the latter and thank me later.

Football Tips

Although it will send my good friend Martin Hill crackers, I do think that 4/1 Villa to win at West Brom is generous.  OK, Villa are in free fall but West Brom are hardly firing on all cylinders either and with so much at stake, this game is surely destined to be tight, edgy and in the balance.  On those grounds, backing Villa makes sense, they have looked by far the worse of these outfits this year but I am not sure that is what this game is about.

Sunderland look big to me at 11/4 to win at Wigan.  Hull to win at Peterborough (5/4) and definitely Watford (4/5) all aboard the money train, at home to Huddersfield.

May your dinner be a wholesome pasta in a simple sauce, with a light leafy salad containing spicy rocket.

The Hill Yankee is Watford, Matsukaze, Aupcharlie and Haftohaf.

Courage, roll those dice.

Fridays Racing Tips – Leopardstown Lexus Chase, Christmas Hurdle and Novice Chase – Load the cannons again my friends

Good evening from Worcestershire where the Major writes from the lounge. The good lady has joined me and while that scuppers the darts action, she compromised to ‘Escape to Victory’ so karmic forces remain balanced.

What a glorious day of betting for the Major. Winners were plastered all over yesterday’s blog. A double in Ireland and three from five at Kempton was a resounding success. Excellent but just shy of the mothership, it was close, as close as Bourne getting up on Dildar….. Aaahhhh the sweet sanguine feeling of loss.

Bad losers are awful gamblers, they get confused. Nothing is personal, if you need a refresher in how to lose, watch my favourite film , The Sting…. A sharp intake of breath, a tilt of the hat and as Kipling said, never breath a word about your loss.

Leopardstown on Friday completes a fantastic schedule of Christmas racing. Let us do battle once again, join me, I feel a final 2012 push, we shall take the ridge and repel the counter, we shall meet them man for man, with bayonets fixed. To Leopardstown.

Leopardstown Tips

I am going to start with tips for the Lexus. It is being run on heavy ground, which will be cut up but most in the field will enjoy it. What a race we have, we have all been waiting for it. Surely the Lexus Chase only concerns the first two in the market.

The highest profile horse I am ignoring is Tidal Bay. He was conceding 6lbs to Bobs Worth when providing a worthy challenge in the Hennessy but I think that was the extent of his abilities. He has been quirky in time and I am not convinced travel will be for him. That said, Ruby is in the seat and might choose to make the running as Tidal Bay will be best suited by a searching stitching stamina test. Turning twelve though and after a hard race last time, he is first of the main protagonists with a line through.

Midnight chase did once beat Tidal Bay but on this ground, I can’t see him landing a blow here.

So the front two…. Flemenstar leapt to the head of the Gold Cup market when serving up a beating to Sir Des Champs last time out. Peter Casey is a colourful owner and it will be good for the sport to see Flemenstar remain a top class horse winning good races.

This is over a further half mile which possibly plays for Sir Des Champs’s chances. When he lost to Flemenstar it was over arguably too short a trip and his seasonal debut and so it is fair to expect better from him.

Sir Des Champs is a two time festival winner and his RSA quarterbacked a decent betting Cheltenham for the Major. My heart is with him. He has an extra year on Flemenstar and I think he is an excellent prospect for the Gold Cup.

I am pretty convinced by the argument that Sir des Champs can reverse placings. Davy Russell was quite kind to him in the John Durkan, these conditions will play into his hands. This sthe start and the finish of the Majors search for a Lexus tip.

11/4 is available on Sir Des Champs and at that price, the Major is a big buyer.

Tips for the Christmas Hurdle

The 1.35 Christmas hurdle has a air of utter quality about it.

Zaidpour is installed as favourite after taking the Hattons Grace last time up but I am not sure of that race. It was a steadily run affair and not form I trust entirely. Monksland was pretty close to Zaidpour that day with Voler la Vedette back in third.

That mare is a wonderful horse and a bloody good yardstick so if I am wrong about the race then Zaidpour is damn good. He is a horse that was kept busy in the summer but not to much effect, his French raid was poor and I just find him hard to trust.

I like So Young, but if they insist on cutting out the pace with him then he won’t be winning this.

Weapons Amnesty was a mighty impressive winner of the RSA who has been plagued with injury. I had him earmarked as a Gold Cup sort prior to his extended spell on the mend list. Given he is returning to hurdles first, I expect this is an exploratory mission and we can expect more next time up. That said, he is receiving some handy weight off some of these due to the construct of the penalties.

When it comes down to it, probably the winner is one of the Hattons Grace finishers. Of them, Monksland appeals the most at 4/1. Zaidpour makes me nervous and I think my tip is more progressive and in receipt of an extra 2lbs and stepping up in distance, I am taking a slice.

2.25 Topaz Novice Chase

Goodness me there are some puzzles in here. Some excellent horses and this will be very informative.

Aupcharlie looks second of the Mullins string but could be anything after an impressive chase win with impeccable jumping.

Avrika Ligeonniere gave a good beating to Dedigout last time out and the former looks a top class novice, it is fair to say Mullins will know where he stands with Dedigout. Avrika went on to beat Benefficient in the Drinmore.

The main Mullins horse heads the market. Back In Focus looked a top class horse and another natural at the obstacles, clearly a that to all. 5/4 just seems a bit short, although he looks the likely winner.

Instead the Major is going to tip Tofino Bay at 10/1. The Troytown win was brave, particularly so as a novice. He is a less fashionable sort having taken the handicap route but I think the form is good. He is fine on soft and has a likeable attitude – have a slice.

Good luck tomorrow troops, courage… Roll those dice.