Tag Archives: ballynagour

The Tuesday Punchestown Festival Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire where a pleasant spring air hung in the evening as we left for dinner but by return had descended to a suppressing cold slippery mugginess.

Odd to be out to dinner on a Monday night?  Well it is none of your business but I shall accommodate your inquiry.  The good lady was a victim of a full-on road rage event yesterday.  Shockingly, while she had our two boys in the car too no less.  Assuage thy concern, all are unharmed and while the cad was aggressive, to the point of banging on the car window, that was the extent of the disturbance.

She was reporting the incident today at the police station at 4pm, so I sent her a message at 5pm suggesting…  ‘If I were to take you to dinner tonight, where should I book?’.  I would invite you to use this from time to time, works the charm.

And so…. To dinner, The Fleet on the River Severn, lovely spot.  All was well with their faggots, a little uncouth in my menu selection?  Well I couldn’t care, you can take the boy from the Black Country and all that.  The boys played on their crazy golf, the sun set and I stood outside content, beer in hand (Thunderbolt, not what you think), a few midges were present but not so many as to upset the mood.  Plus, a view over the expansive green flood plain to the droning M5 motorway a full interrupted half mile away.  You may think this punctuated the mood but for the Majors dark wayward mind, I like a constant noise to keep me anchored, I am the sort to sleep with the radio on.

Later in the evening, I drive to Pershore, the Georgian facades look grand at last light.  The window down to catch the cool evening air, like nectar after the earlier rain, a pungent whiff of the spring onions being drawn from the field.  Marvellous.

The peace is stuttering.  Two pieces of news drew sharp.  A teacher stabbed to death in front of her class, a dog tied to a tree, doused and burned alive.  I do not raise these things for sensationalism or to upset your disposition, just that the barbarous nature of it, unfathomable, it must be a madness, the first was committed by a child, it bares little thought.

All of these things, prey in the edges of my mind.  Such a world we occupy, yet there is cause for hope for statistically these things are noise.  Yes, you might think it hard to reckon the tally as I do but the positive ledger of life, even the midges, out scores the credit side with comfort.

With such recompense, let us set the mind to the Punchestown festival.

Even some of the keener National Hunt fans have failed to raise Punchestown with me in recent weeks.  I have no idea why….. the quality is exceptional, if a little elongated.  Perhaps, burnt fingers from backing many a Cheltenham good thing that has gone awry in years gone by, perhaps the weariness of the season, perhaps buying the Bet365 Gold Cup as the last significant act of the season as seemingly advertised by some commentators.  Whatever the reason, do not succumb.  This is a quality festival and we shall draw long on the goblet.  I love the early evening nature of it, coming from the office, one can swing by your turf accountant and seek the results of the day while chancing your remaining bank on the lucky last.

We have some rules.  Class can tell yet… Look for horses laid out for it.  Mullins is important.  Good ground animals too.  Ideally less than six races season to date.  To the business end of the sermon.

Tuesday Punchestown Tips

The festival opens with a low key race.  The thing with Punchestown is that the quality is a little more thinly distributed but this is splitting hairs, it remains excellent.

In the Hunter Chases, jockey booking is absolutely crucial.  Some of these jocks have ridden less than ten competitive races in the last two years, some have over 150.  Seven have not ridden a winner.   I am not going to mess about, the best jockeys are, in  the Majors order; Nina Carberry……………….. Derek O’Connor.  To be honest, Nina is the only game in town.  She is on an Enda Bolger horse, Be Positive, and it is 10/3 favourite but it is the only bet for me.

Faugheen 8/11 – He is one of those that is borderline overcooked but this is a horse that I was very taken with, I cannot wait to see him chasing but for now the first Grade 1 of Punchestown will do.  The drop to two miles is no concern.  Invest; it is as though the Bank has ordered up a touch more quantitative easing.

The 4.55 is a bit of a mystery and I am avoiding the top seeds as we damn well need value.  Of the top three in the market, I prefer the Charlie Swan runner City Slicker but alas I have set my guns on more distant targets.  The one I have settled on is Dermot Welds Diplomat at 16/1 generally (BetVictor 20/1*).  He has had a spin on the flat to be fit, the yard is in fine fettle and Robbie Power is a capable and rare (perhaps first) booking for the yard.

*For newcomers, the Major has no arrangements with any bookmaker, I advertise not, there is no membership.  Just unhinged, barely profitable thoughts.

The Punchestown Champion Chase lacks our new star who chose Sandown on Saturday and to be fair, this is pretty poor Grade 1 fayre.  That said, it has to be won, and so… Sizing Europe would bring the house down but he is in the veteran stage and not for me.  Ballynagour is of a lot of interest after bouncing back in the Byrne Group Plate, Somersby has his fans, aye but not here.  I was against Module earlier in the campaign and had my fingers burned.  His third in the Cheltenham version was superb and at 7, he has a right to improve.  Ah, I hear you exclaim, pour quoi n’est pas Somersby! Well I retort, it is just a visual thing, I suspect that this less challenging track will suit my pick a lot more, 5/1.

The bumper at 6.05 has been won by Willie Mullins three times in the last ten and so a tentative nod at 7/1 for Very Much So. 

The the staying Novice Chase, it is all quality.  Ballycasey is probably suited by this slightly easier race than the RSA where he did not quite see things out.  That said, the RSA is a notoriously hard race and perhaps this is one to be avoided, especially as he had an extra run where he fell when distinguishing himself with some credit.  Morning Assembly ran a place in the RSA too and there is little wrong with his chances as I think the decent ground will be fine.  Djakadam is taking his fourth run of the campaign and gets a very handy 9lb age allowance and the services of Ruby.  I am bit concerned about the ground but think a decent run is expected.

You could put a pin in the lucky last and mine has landed on Disputed.  Find your own pin!

I trust your own dinner will be served in the best company and savoured because your soul is dripping in goodness drawn from a day of benevolence and winners, what more can I hope for you than that.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Friday Aintree Sermon… plus Grand National tickets charity appeal

Good evening from the Major who writes from the darkest Worcestershire scene where rain drifts, billows and swells, gentle suppression.  I have opened a bottle of fine red wine, comfort from the tempest, in vino veritas.

The Major tipped well enough for Thursday.  Oscar Whisky was second and not disgraced, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti fought out the finish as the Major intended but I picked the wrong winner, well done Mr Fehily for an excellent ride on the increasingly quirky looking victor, friends know he is my favourite and can judge from afar as to how I felt having backed Dynaste.  The New One was an obvious pick and almost a boil-over but sustained his effort in time for the line to save him and we had to wait until the last for our redemption as Doctor Harper came home at an advised 12/1.  Shabash!

The Major did not sleep again last night, rest coming in gasps, sudden and inconsistent, thoughts and dreams mingling.  Tonight, some good wine, a handful of pills and oblivion.  If anyone expects more from me, well let them wish for it.

Anyway, there is a Friday card at Aintree to review, it is not quite as exciting as the action today but I shall cover each race.  Courage friends and roll those dice.

I have a good acquaintance attending the course tomorrow, she is the sort of good northern stock applying a straight forward forgiving logic to life.  She entertains her mother and I wish them the best, H, enjoy.

The Friday Aintree Card

The last two years have seen Nicky Henderson win the Friday opener with some very good horses, such as the ill fated, once Champion Hurdle ante post favourite, Darlan and the close Champion Hurdle second from the festival this year, My Tent or Yours.  Thus, it would be reasonable based on that evidence to assume that Josses Hill is a novice with a strong future, n’est pas?  Well, fortunately for the Major, I disagree, I like his form behind Vautour, who does not? Yet, I think there are plenty of other potential challenges in this field and he had a tough race that day.  The good aspect of my position is that the expectation is baked into his overnight price of 13/8, giving the rest of the field plenty of value.  As long as we can find a good one.  Simple, oui.

I like Sergeant Reckless but his profile is not quite right for me, No. Instead, I am opting for a horse who has the benefit of being ridden by a high class jockey who is riding at the peak of his ability at the moment.  Carberry gave Guitar Pete an absolute peach of a ride in the opener today and he might give Art of Payroll the same treatment tomorrow.  The horse did not get into the County but has the benefit therefore of not having been raced at Cheltenham.  11/2 in one place (Stan James*)

*For non regulars, please note the Major does not promote, endorse or hold any arrangements with bookmakers – I am at your service as a free tipping service, a word I use very lightly as it is more of an eclectic mix of racing thoughts, Victorian military history, the fragile state of my mind, the Worcestershire weather and who you should be taking to dinner.  I accept neither blame nor praise for the accuracy of my selections, I merely share them for your delectation.

The Novice Chase requires some of the best jumping skills and I think O’Faolains Boy might be the one to be on here.  There is some 11/4 with Paddy Power but 5/2 generally.  The RSA has a bad reputation for bottoming out horses but this Curtis inmate (surely the hottest trainer around!) is very lightly raced and has won his sole start on good ground.

Then the Melling Chase, Pepite Rose was a winner for the Major at Newbury but this looks a lot tougher for the girl.  Module looked impressive providing Tom George with a new stable star.  Thing is, the Melling Chase has been a race for absolute stars, Sprinter Sacre, Masterminded, Voy Por Ustedes, Moscows Flyer, Monets Garden – Do we have such a horse in this line up?  It is not likely, it looks a fairly poor renewal to me, yet I have looked and found a horse that might yet be a star.

You see, if I close my eyes, I can take you back to the start of 2013, I still recall Ballynagour winning like a future superstar heavily eased but coming twenty lengths to the good over a Warwick field with good yardsticks like Golden Chieftan and Chance du Roy.  He has now bounced back after a spell in the doldrums and if they have found the keys to him, this could be a top class sort for Pipe.  7s in a place with William Hill, 6s generally.

Thirty go over the National fences for the Topham.  Last year, Triolo Dalene signalled his Hennessy credentials with a win and with the benefit of hindsight I should have credited that effort more highly.  Why? Well he has the wrong profile, this is normally won by a nine or ten year old and one that shoulders less than eleven stone.  This makes sense, it is a tough course, so experience and a light weight help.  Plus, do not be put off by a price.

So, with that in mind, I state the case for Poole Master at 40/1 with Bet Bright, although that might be an oddschecker error as he is 33/1 with Stan James but most firms are 20 or 25.  Now this horse is fine on the ground and many might be concerned with him trying to win on a peak mark but I think he has always had improvement in him and has needed the right headgear.  He has the experience and has completed on the course before so that bodes well.

The Sefton is an absolute cracker.  I love Seeyouatmidnight but at 5/2 I cannot buy, not against a field of classy improving novices.  I was disappointed to see Geraghty not choose Tistory, I thought that one might be better yet and revels on good ground.  I also like Giantofaman who could give Carberry another cracking chance.  On balance, I am sticking with Tistory, 20/1 with Hills and B365. Second string, I could not care less.

In the Grade 3 handicap, I am backing Cheltenian to finally start coming good on his early promise, lest we forget, he was a Champion Bumper.  I hope he settles, if he does, he is a danger to all.

The last requires some luck.  I am going with my favourite jockey, Mr Noel Fehily who takes Hannahs Princess for a spin, he is the finest, of her, I do not know, two simple bloodless victories against poor opposition tell us little.  Dangers aplenty, tread warily.

I wish you luck.  Do you fancy going on Saturday?  Well @eeyore94 is auctioning some tickets for his local childrens hospice, Zoes Place.  What a gent.  Have a look at his twitter timeline, DM him an offer by 3.30pm on Friday and he will express the tickets to you by 9am Saturday.  Imagine, you are in the throng at Aintree, you have a cold beer to hand and you know that you paid good money for the pleasure, not to some faceless tout but to help children whose lives are more limited than ours my good friend.  That beer will slip down well, because the destination of the money you spent was good and right. You know then, in that moment, it is good to be alive.  Be generous.

Courage, roll the dice.

The 2014 Cheltenham World Hurdle Card Sermon – Forwards in courage

Good evening from the Majors abode where I write from the comfort of the lounge, shoes off, kicking back with a bottle of decent Malbec, the gentle neon glow of events in Catalonia providing a gentile fuzzy backdrop.  Outside, the evening brings a chill to prickle the skin, all pleasant, the smell of spring on the air.  The daffodils are at their brightest, the magnolia buds splendid and luxurious – Ah, it is good to be alive in England at such a time my friends – Be thankful for your lives, thankful for the incredible coincidence that created you and thankful for the wealth that life has bestowed on you.

Wednesday saw us draw blood, our sabres clashed with sparks and we drew a mark on the enemy.  Faugheen was the horse that I had lumped into and was a key part of many multiples – If we can get wins for Annie Power, Kings Palace, Silviniaco Conti and On the Fringe – Then a small mothership will have landed.

Faugheens victory appeared as though God was replicating the Supreme, trying to draw it again, only better, Ruby to set the fractions getting his beast into a lovely rhythm (although Faugheen doesn’t pay the obstacles any respect does he!) and then go for him off the turn…

On Tuesday as Ruby rousting Vautour from the bottom of the hill, I screamed like a man possessed, I was possessed…. KICK RUBY, KICK, KICK,KICK, KICK…. There was no doubt, to those within my locale as to where my money had been staked… Let me tell you, lest you not have experienced the sensation yourself, a winner under Ruby is 20% sweeter, 40% more energetic and 100% more memorable.  Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby… the crowd love it and so do I my friends, so do I.

I was working today and so have reviewed the proceedings this evening.  As such, I cannot embellish your apprehension and appreciation of the day.  I shall record this… Sire de Grugy must be one of the most popular winners of the week.  A bargain purchase, small owners (no discredit to their stature you understand!), what a dream.  I enjoyed the picture of Ryan Moore, who is himself accustomed to the splendours of Hong Kong, Japan and Ascot stood politely and in fine sartorial style, in support of the family ventures in National Hunt.

How unlucky was Katgary.  Now, you may notice that I tipped this horse yesterday and please understand, as a gentleman, I am not crowing at this misfortune, merely observing that having almost been bought down and after deciding to walk through the last hurdle, well there will be another day for that one!  Unlucky if like I, you were invested.

I was a bit miffed that Black Hercules could not hold the place but that was fair and square.  Bloody bumper, seduces me with a siren call each year.

Half way through now… and in dangerous territory.  Tomorrow, I am not going to go too hard.  The final assault on Friday requires suitable ammunition and energy, let us not leave ourselves short.  I haven’t the time to detail the 18th century exploits of General Gottfried von Clausewitzs but, I will find another sermon for that (I know…. you cannot wait), his simple words will suffice for you this evening, let them ring in your ears across the next 48 hours:

Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.

To the World Hurdle card, Shabash my Friends, roll the dice.

Thursday Cheltenham Tips

Once again, regular readers will be aware that I have already posted some thoughts on the Grade One races on the card which you can find on this link.  I will be referring to it throughout.

The further we get into the week, the more that good ground form is becoming a must.  With decent weather expected, we want those speedy sorts with youthful knees and plenty of healthy cartilage!

The opening race is the JLT novices, as a newly upgraded race to G1 status, I have already written up my thoughts a week earlier on the aforementioned link.

I have not really changed my mind… but I sort of have.  If you are on Oscar Whisky, I do not think you have a bad hand.  However, I am being swayed by Wonderful Charm.  Both horses have good ground form so I cannot claim it is that.  Someone quizzed my decision on twitter as to whether I had fully considered the weight allowance from their last encounter… Partly this and partly the fact that WC is less exposed has me switching allegiances…  Being proud and not recognising ‘confirmation bias’ is a fast road to the gambling poorhouse.  11/2 is available with Bet365 and a handful of others.

The Pertemps Final is a more tricky affair by nature.  If it were a girl, your mother would have warned you about her.  The Major also offers caution… I am having a slender stake on Utopie Des Bordes at 25/1.  It might be the Henderson second string but I think good ground might return the girl to good form.

Then the Ryanair – Again this has been covered on the previous post and this time I stick with my guns on Benefficient.  He was 9/2 then but the drying ground and common sense has trimmed him in to a best priced 7/2.  If you wish an alternative, I would go no further than Boston Bob who is a best priced 10/1 shot which is a reflection of his poor jumping.  Yet, he was a contender in last years RSA and if he puts in a clean round, I’d be surprised not to see him get close.

The World Hurdle is also covered on my earlier post.  No change.  Annie Power is bet of the meeting for me.  She is surely only going to get even shorter.  I am in the lucky position of having done a lot of business on her when her plans were unconfirmed and my portfolio holds some juicy 5/1 slices, many in multiples, that sounds boastful…. but I’m leaving it in.

She is a best priced 6/4, I am sure some generous bookie will go 2/1 for ten minutes in the morning and good luck getting on.  I think she will shorten further, because events influence prices.  Fresh in punters memories are images of The Flys defeat on Tuesday, his aged legs unable to keep pace with the new guard.  Big Bucks, come on in, your time is up.

The two races that complete the card are viciously difficult to interpret.  The Byrne Plate is possibly the more difficult with just a single winner in the last ten years returning at under 10/1.  I cannot really find a reliable sort for the ground.  I was half interested in Shangani for Venetia but, would you want hers on a rattling surface?  Hmmmmm Colour Squadron can go well here but 8/1 is no bet in this sort of race… Jonjo has to be feared in any festival handicap (as per Holywell on Tuesday) and Johns Spirit ran a blinder in the Paddy Power… Ballynagour was one I felt confident in last year but god only knows what to expect… The pin drops onto Third Intention who may not have the splash of stardom about him, but winners of this race rarely do.  New headgear, preferred ground….  I don’t know…. ask the bloody cat for all I care, he probably has a better idea.

The finale, is a little less perplexing – Indian Castle was likely going to be my selection but Annacotty let that form down in todays RSA and so I am less warm about the favourite this evening.  Our Father once looked awesome but goes on a long list of Pipe horses that I cannot fathom.  I am taking two (still to small stakes).  The first was my original thought, Night Alliance – I have liked the way this one has travelled at times and given a break after a gruelling trial around Haydock on suitably heavy ground, I am banking on a come back.  The other is back to Jonjo – I cannot leave Twirling Magnet unbacked at 14/1 – He won’t mind the sun on his back and a speedy surface and the master may have another prepared to perfection.

Good luck my friends.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Open Saturday Tips… Shabash

Good evening from the Major who writes from the living room with a Worcestershire cold settling outside in a most pleasant way, for I am settled and content after an afternoon at Cheltenham races.  The wood stove is emitting waves of comfort with log and smokeless coal, flaming red inside, the air vents narrowed and the chopped silver birch, such a travesty to serve such a lovely tree this way, it burns slowly, as will my pleasure, mellowing from within.

It has been an awfully long and testing week but it has drawn to a close in good order and I shall tell you a little of it.  Today, I attended the track and enjoyed a pleasant meal of Gressingham Duck breast, most pleasant.  The table company was excellent and I tried to choose the perfect moment to relieve myself from my obligations and absorb all of the benefits from the freedom of the course.

Barely legible

Barely legible

 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

I watched the cross-country on the inside of the course and held my breath during the tense climb up the hill where after the best part of four miles, Balthazar King had enough steel to hold off the last challenge of Uncle Junior.

I  signed the Tony McCoy Wall in the Hall of Fame and remembered Taquin du Seuil who was the subject of a personal tip I received from AP last December before his two winter wins.  Though McCoy won’t remember dispensing the information, it shall stay with me.  These men of iron who take centre stage with their equine assistants, they are accessible to us, their humble observers, unlike any other sport, we can get close and personal and in such encounters, memories are created.

Memories, so much more precious than objects, yet we often invest more energy and place greater value in the latter, how fruitless.  We are here for such a short spell and this is no dress rehearsal my friends.  When I consider the value of the creation of memory, there is an Epicurean pleasure derived that is never replicated in the physical.   Friendship, freedom, thought, observing the might and beauty of what is around you… these things you should pursue relentlessly my friends and leave the large flat screen TV, the expensive watch and the other accoutrement of wealth to those less thoughtful than yourself – It will all be dust in the end, as shall we.

Leaving Cheltenham after racing, the light was very low and set a sky of deep and azure blues, a cold sky.  A hazy snake of red brake lights shimmering in the exhaust fumes lit the way to the exit of the bottom car park.  The steam train was leaving billowing white fluffy clouds in great expulsions.  With my window down, I could hear the high-pitched whining of the helicopter engines gaining their vicious momentum.  Looking behind me, up across the course, a stunning scene of twinkling lights and busying folk at their business of clearing the detritus of the day and resetting the course for the morning.  Maybe it was this scene, or maybe it was the bulging wallet, I shall let you be the judge but happiness was mine.

Back to Cheltenham for the Saturday Open card and we shall be at them again, our resolve set, draw thy sabre, take a cut on the forte and return, driving hard, running through their flesh.  Tomorrow night, we feast.

Cheltenham Saturday Open Tips

I have fond and mixed memories of Paddy Power Saturday at Cheltenham.  The fondest memory would be Old Vic in the David Johnson colours in a race where I had planned on backing Monkerhostin but was persuaded on course by an Irish stranger I met to get on Old Vic.  The darkest was being heavily on Granite Jack who fatally fell at the fence that caught many out travelling at speed down the hill, sadly national hunt claims many and that one stuck with me, tarnishing the experience.  Let us hope that all competitors return safely tomorrow.

I am going to take it race by race.  Critical factors remain trainer form, the good ground and course form.  Three winners from six yesterday but beware, past performance does not indicate future performance and the value of your investments may go down as well as up.

In the opening juvenile hurdle (12.40), Royal Irish Hussar is a worthy favourite as he brings a telling piece of form into the race from Wetherby.  The race he won had a series of winners from both France and Britain and he won by some distance, that looked very useful indeed.  Art Mauresque is an eye-catching acquisition for Nicholls who is to be feared with his French imports but the Henderson horse is the one for me.  Looks obvious, probably is.

The second race is an interesting Novice Chase and there are some high potential chase recruits in the race.  The two that have good ground form are the two at the head of the market, African Gold and Shutthefrontdoor.  The former is a Twiston Davies horse and I think could be a real stable star.  He was second in the Albert Bartlett to a high-class winner, At Fishers Cross.  A key hesitation here is the form of the yard.  There horses often need reappearance runs and I think Jonjo might have his string further forward.  Thus Shutthefrontdoor gets my vote, he is fit after a run over fences at Aintree and that experience would have done him no harm.  He was fourth in the Pertemps final, has won on good ground and has enough going for him at 11/4.

The third (1.50), the Murphy Group Handicap Chase is a trappy affair but I have a fancy for Quentin Collonges who is available at 12/1.  He won a Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in staying on style – He does not mind a hill, he enjoys good ground and the Daly yard are in good nick.  Key dangers come from Bradley, who stays forever and enjoys Cheltenham, which is a doubt for my own selection (a serious one too!) and also Alvarado who I will be having a small saver on, while out of the bottom of the handicap, looks like a horse that will thrive stepped up in trip.

The Paddy Power is a conundrum this year with plenty of potential angles.  I like Finians Rainbow because he has Cheltenham and ground form but it is unusual for a horse to win over the age of 8, let alone a 10 year old, he has the class but not for me.   Radjahni Express looks to have plenty of improvement left and he gave Tap night a hell of a beating at Ayr, whether good ground is the right underfoot conditions, well, I do not know.

Champion Court has conditions falling perfectly for him and I suspect he is going to be in the places.  He is seriously in considerations as is Ballynagour who looked outstanding enough to warrant a stone and a half increase after a single race last year.  The horse I am settling on though is one I think will take to the task well, Colour Squadron.  He can be a handful but has some very useful hurdle form and is in this on a featherweight.  I like Tom O’Brien in the saddle and am happy to take 12/1 on a bigger than expected run.

In the handicap hurdle that follows, Silver Eagle is of some interest, though I must confess to not being Sam Thomas’ greatest fan.  Southfield Theatre is an obvious pick and I think he will definitely make the shake up.  I am going to take a slice of Bally Legend at 25/1 – I think he will like conditions and may well improve for the step up to proper staying distances.

The novice hurdle event looks more straight forward and while Timesremembered looks an exciting prospect, the vibes are good about Port Melon (7/2) too and I am backing the Nicholls inmate to convert some good point form directly into this tidy novice standard.

The bumper could go several ways and I am opting for the Henderson trained 5/1 shot Mayfair Music.  Plenty of dangers about but I think she will relish the goodish ground.

I trust you to dine in fine style and in great company.  Courage and roll those dice.

Cheltenham Day Three Tips – World Hurdle Thursday, Ryanair, Jewson… The awesome Aeroplane and another day sober in paradise

Good evening from the Major who writes from another bitterly cold Worcestershire which sports a biting wind.  The temperature remains cold enough to numb the touch and add a dull ache to knee and ankle joints.  The only antidote is the warming effect of winners and champions.

The former I had a couple of.  Only a couple and I am in no doubt that day two belonged to the enemy.

The latter we were blessed with, in fact we saw a new legend.  Sprinter Sacre was breath-takingly good.  He beat a Champion Chase field by 19 lengths, hard held.  The commentator summed it up suggesting that this steeplechaser was sent from celestial heavens… who could argue with that.  No doubt, we have a star and let us hope he remains centre stage for many years.

On Tuesday, I left the racecourse by the bottom car park and spent 90 minutes queuing.  Thus in a planned change of operational procedure, tonight I parked in town and walked, a test and learn.  It certainly was easier and it gave me the pleasure of a post-racing stroll through Pittville and across the park to my car.  It was all most pleasant but the trappings of the festival that you witness on this journey remain etched in my mind, as these things will.

The girls handing out cards for gentleman’s clubs look very different through the eyes of a sober man.  The language is the same… the use of the word ‘guys’ in a voice straining to suggest familiarity.  They aim to make the groups of men who average twenty years their senior comfortable, as though they are conversing in normal circumstances.  That level of performance though must tire and something in their body language, the slope of shoulder, the curl of a lip hides a disdain for the work.  It is cold and you can see it in their eyes.

Do not take me as a prude by the way.  I am a believer that consenting adults are perfectly able to choose what they want to do without my views and whatever contracts are struck are for those parties alone.  In fact I am generally in favour of skullduggery.  I just prefer it a bit more refined.

Sadly for the Major, Taquin Du Seuil did not win the Neptune.  I did not pass go, I did not collect significantly more than 200.  Still, the dream itself was worthwhile.  There will be another time.

We go into Thursday with our war chest intact.  Early exchanges have been searching, exploratory forays to test defences and reactions.  I almost fell into the trap of backing Coral Cup and Fred Winter horses with conviction, pure folly and I kept my losses sensible… The enemy allowed me fancy prices about Mullins Jnr and Nina Carberry in the amateur riders…  I took them.

The next two days could be taken easily, too concerned with the fear of loss to try to be glorious.  No, not for us, we know what we must do…  Read on only if you are prepared to come with me and face the abyss.  Fearless.

To Cheltenham…. load the heavy cannons, stand broad and tall.

The Jewson

Dynaste cost me a fortune when defecting from the RSA to the Jewson and I am not sure it was a great call.  His previous Feltham win was very strong defeating Third Intention and generally looking very good.  This is also my issue with Dynaste – He has only won one of four starts at Cheltenham and we know it is a specialist track

I think the RSA field was weaker and today he faces Captain Conan, a horse I can easily forgive a more lacklustre display at Sandown when winning latest.  That day he clearly was not himself but still finished well on the hill to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  He was not right that day and he is reported much better now – I think a 13/2 punt (Paddy Power) is in order.

Aupcharlie has looked an immensely powerful traveller who has not always found much off the bridle.  Interesting but overlooked.

The Pertemps Final

Look, let us keep this really simple.  When Paul Nicholls describes a handicap mark as a ‘gift from God’, one should sit up and pay attention.  Sam Winner heads the market at 9/2 and I think it is well worth backing.  He has won twice at Cheltenham from four visits so the track holds no fears.  His Triumph race was interesting, while only fourth, he was staying on at the end.  He has beaten Grandouet and been within half a dozen lengths of Zarkander.  That makes a mark of just 140 very manageable.. I have to agree with his trainer.

The Pertemps is often won by a more experienced handicapper.  Maybe that is a reflection of the rigours of a big field.

If you like one at a price, Ely Brown at 20/1 does look a tad tasty.  Sam Winner for me.

The Ryanair

The quality of the Ryanair is superb this year as the Aeroplane scared people into stepping up half a mile in trip.

First Lieutenant is favourite and most argue that his form finishing in a heap with Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and Tidal Bay is also key to the Gold Cup.  The Major remains unconvinced.  It is the presence of Tidal Bay that bothers me.  First Lieutenant is a top horse, he was a superb hurdler beating Rock on Ruby and showed promise as a novice hurdler.  Yet his last win was 9 starts back.  I know he has not been disgraced in any run since but I am always nervous with horses with bad strike rates no matter what their form lines.

Most people will be a fan of the favourite because of the stamina doubts of Cue Card based on a poor King George effort.  I don’t think that day had anything to do with stamina, I think he just had a bad day… it happens.

Champion Court has a lot of plusses but for me lacks the requisite je ne sais quoi.

No… Cue Card.. 7/2… smash it.

The World Hurdle

Reve de Sivola and Oscar Whisky are surely the key starting points in the World Hurdle.

Many had the latter down as a non stayer but I was never convinced about that and his last run at Cheltenham surely put pay to it.  I think he will be fitter for the effort and on much much better ground, he will have the measure of Reve de Sivola in my opinion.

My betting strategy is going to be clouded by the presence of Bog Warrior.  He is my favourite horse in training.  Top hurdle form looked like it might transfer to fences but some major jumping errors have seen them convert the horse back to hurdles and he has been awesome ever since.  If you want to see why I love the horse so much, have a look at the Drinmore he won on Youtube.  His style is head in chest, bowling along… How can you not love him?  He will carry a significant sum of the Majors wedge for that reason alone…

Yet my advice to you all is Oscar Whisky at 7/2.

The Bryne Group Plate

Sorry to be boring but I cannot get away from Ballynagour, 4/1.  The performance it put in suggested that we have missing a lot while he has been lightly raced.

Hunt Ball is eased back into handicap level and his mark may well be passable.  He won this off just over a stone lighter last year but is a class horse.

I cannot get away from the Pipe horse though… Join the money train.

The Kim Muir

The stakes here must be kept to a minimum as the puzzle is vast and the traps numerous.

There are only 5 horses in the vast field though that have won at Cheltenham and that is not a bad angle to take into this.  Super Duty, Prince of Pirates, Swing Bill, Galaxy Rock and Alfie Sherrin should all cope with the decent ground.

I put a line through Swing Bill because although some of his form is working out well, he is 12 and I do not like it.  Jumping puts me off Prince of Pirates but a clean round equals danger for all in my view.

The Major struck well in the John Oaksey by suggesting that the jockey in these amateur races is vital.  This brings other horses into contention too including Vesper Bell and Romanesco.

Class horses have no problems lumping weight around the Kim Muir so Super Duty and my selection should be fine if they have the minerals.  I am sticking with the boy who got the job done for us on Back in Focus…. Patrick Mullins is aboard Vesper Bell.. That one has placed form at the top level and the Irish National trial he competed in has worked out OK.  There is every reason to be excited about 16/1 so have a large slice and berate me later for being so interested in a horse in a ridiculously tricky handicap.

The Cross Country

Go back two days to see the reasoning for Arabella Boy to win the Cross Country.

Courage, roll those dice.