Tag Archives: binocular

The Majors Antepost Tips for Cheltenham Festival – 40/1, 25/1 and more

The time has come for the Major to reveal exactly which horses I want in my portfolio before the tapes go up on Tuesday 13th March and the famous roar echos around the Gloucestershire air.

Antepost betting can be terrific fun and equally incredibly frustrating and the Major normally would recommend getting involved in Cheltenham betting only at this stage.

Markets for the main Cheltenham races open immediately after the preceding years event has been run.  However, getting on early means you do not have the benefit of an entire years form knowledge, you do not see the improvers or judge the injury, prep or yard form; you do not know which horses are planned to be stepped up in trip or to go chasing.

Crucially, the vast majority of bookmakers have now gone non-runner, no-bet.  This simply means a refund if your horse does not make it to the start line!  Now is the time for the Major to roll out his Cheltenham antepost tips.

The festival is such a competitive betting commercial space, you also get the plethora of offers from bookies keen to get you in the habit of using their account ahead of the week.  The Major will make no bones about advising which offers you should go for.  The stand out must be Paddy Power who are offering a refund on your horse in the Arkle, if Sprinter Sacre is beaten.  That will cost them a lot of money and we should be in the queue to take advantage.

I have broken my thoughts down into each day – I am not trying to cover every race, just my main thoughts……

One horse I don’t think will turn up (unless the heavens open) and I will miss is the Gigginstown horse, Bog Warrior.  I think this is the best chaser in the making and look forward to an exciting future but his runs require soft conditions…  Lets hope Aintree or Punchestown is soft enough.

Champion Trainer and Champion Jockey

My first antepost bet of the week has to be in the top trainer market where you can get 25/1 about Alan King (William Hill).  He has a decent portfolio of chances in the handicaps and in Grumeti, looks to have a warm prospect, it can be just a handful of horses required to win a top trainer prize at the festival. 

I would also recommend a small stake on Daryl Jacob to pick up top jockey at 40/1.  If some of the Mullins horses do not travel over well or are faced by very good conditions, then I fancy getting some Mullins / Walsh mounts turned over.  This then gives Daryl Jacob a great chance of winning a few on the best alternate Nicholls rides…. just a thought. 

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle, The Arkle….

Firstly, go to Ladbrokes and claim your free £5 bet!  You have to do it online and you have to deposit but that’s it; a completely free £5 bet for Cheltenham’s Tuesday card….

The racing – Let’s start with the Arkle.  There is no way that you should back anything unless it is with Paddy Power in this race. 

Cue Card, 8/1, has been touted by his jockey as a likely front runner, which I do not think will do him much favour.  Peddlers Cross, 9/2, is likely to line up here but may take his chances in the Champion Chase, where he is a top price 20/1, or the Jewson, 6/1.  I would put him in the Champion Chase if I owned him as I think it is a weak Champion Chase this year, more of that later.  Al Ferof at 4/1 is too short for me, although Ruby wants to oppose Sprinter Sacre with him, I am not sure there is enough in the price for a horse that has looked just short of top class.  Sprinter Sacre has been described as an aeroplane and does look top drawer, the likely winner but in a race that has a habit of turning those sorts over!

Thus, the antepost Arkle selection for the Major is Menorah at 11/1 with Paddy Power.   I cannot forget that the placed form in last years Champion Hurdle and despite the horse needing to put many excuses behind, it is entirely possible that the festival is the place to do it.  Plus with a refund available is Sprinter Sacre does go in…. well, value indeed.

In the JLT Handicap Chase, I do quite fancy Walkon at 20/1 who likes Cheltenham and has some fair class; these staying handicap chases often suit a classy horse and I want this one on my side.

The Champion Hurdle – The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle has been dominated by Hurricane Fly.  The injury prone Irish star showed all his class last year to smash his field, although on reflection, was it the strongest? 

Although Binocular was reported back to his all time best at Wincanton last time, the Major has severe doubts about whether we will see that form or what it adds up to. 

Zarkander looks good but has to overcome a serious lack of experience and 5/1 is no price. 

Once again, the Major is looking down the list at something that might run a bigger race and the pen stops at Rock on Ruby at 14/1.  This horse will be staying on to best effect at the end of the race and I just have a feeling that things might fall in his lap rather.  It could be a fairly small Champion Hurdle field and things may get messy.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, The Neptune, Coral Cup and RSA Chase

This years Champion Chase looks a fairly poor renewal.  As much as I know the yard can prepare for the big run, it looks like Big Zebs best days are behind him.

This leaves Sizing Europe, a best priced 11/10 shot and Finians Rainbow at 5/1.  Now it has cost me money, but I am still of the view that Sizing Europe is very beatable and I am going to keep that instinct.  My issue is that I do not think the horse to do it is Finians Rainbow, at least not this year.

Once again the Major’s eyes are wandering down the list and I settle on Wishfull Thinking a general 16/1 shot.  Again a horse with some questions to answer but one with definite talent and not just place claims in my view.

The Coral Cup may be a handicap where we are yet to see the well weighted horse.  Therefore I am holding my judgement until after the Imperial Cup next weekend but would register an early interest in Smad Place at 16/1.

The RSA chase is all about whether Grand Crus turns up or not.  Personally I would run him in the Gold Cup.  I suspect though that connections will go for the RSA and use Kauto’s declaration of fitness (Assuming that comes) as  the decision point.  Whichever race he turns up in, I am very interested in Grand Crus who has taken to regulation fences extremely well.  9/4 therefore that he wins the RSA is a price from heaven and we should all be relieving Sportingbet of the weight of their satchel.

The Neptune is another race in which I fancy the favourite.  Now that Henderson has declared this the target for Simonsig, I think the 7/2 with Boylesports represents great value.  There is not a massive amount of quality in behind this (spare Boston Bob who may not line up) so I have no hesitation in getting on early and large.  This is an ideal antepost market to tip as it looks like the favourites price will only go one way.

If you want a tip for the Champion Bumper, you are in the wrong place!  Try @kingofbumpers on Twitter on the day!

Cheltenham Thursday Tips – World Hurdle, Jewson and Ryanair

Big Bucks is so dominant in the World Hurdle market, it is hard to find an obvious piece of value.  It is there though, in the w/o Big Bucks prices.

Oscar Whisky has been touted as a real credible threat to the champion and while the Major will believe that when he can see it, 7/4 (Hills, Power, Coral and Boylesports) is a fine price. 

Although the market says he will, I don’t think Peddlers Cross will line up ion the Jewson which makes last years festival winner, Sir Des Champs, my selection at 6/1.

The Ryanair could be a cracking race this year and while Riverside Theatre returning from injury to great form shapes the market, it is Irish raider Noble Prince who the Major wants on side.  6/1 is the price, have a big slice and thank me later.

Cheltenham Friday – The Gold Cup, The Triumph

The Triumph has been shaping up well in the last month with the principles being taking each other.  I am putting two up to back at win stakes; Pearl Swan, 8/1 Paddy Power) and Grumeti, 5/1 (Generally).  I think this is the best form line and neither will mind the Cheltenham hill, a test many others in the field are to face into yet.

The Gold Cup is hugely interesting race this year.  I am assuming that Kauto turns up, which is no certainty.  If he does, he has been racing with the mind of a six year old, clearly noone has told the great horse that he is in his veteran years!  That said, I would urge anyone who would back Kauto with money and not just heart, to rewatch last years Gold Cup and King George.  There lies all the evidence you need that despite Long Run being scruffy at fences, he will outstay Kauto.

Long Run at 13/8 with a clear round is a great price but it is the clear round that bothers me.  I also do not think this is the horses fault but rather the amateur jockey – I am afraid that the Major is in the camp that would like to see Geraghty on board and really see how great this horse can be.

The antepost tip though is two-fold and buried way down the list.  I think this years Gold Cup has got the hallmarks of a race that could go to a massive outsider.  Long Run might jump his way out of it, Kauto and Grand Crus might not be there, Burton Port might bounce.

The two I am interested in are What a Friend and Captain Chris, both at 40/1 – What a Friend ran to a place last year and is sure to be in the mix, Captain Chris has quality but has run a season of shockers.  That said, he has always looked a spring horse and so I am relying on him coming back to form.  Mainly, let’s hope that Kauto gets there and gives a good race to bow out on.

That is it, the full Cheltenham portfolio.  Whatever you do, bet an amount that makes you nervous, else you won’t enjoy it as you should!

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The Majors Christmas Special – Kempton King George Tips, Dundalk Bank Builder too

Christmas seems to be an obsession in the modern age, a concept people desperately cling to in the vain hope that it can provide meaning, happiness or satisfaction in their void souls. These people are not like us, they do not gamble and have never felt the thrill or despair that a gentleman gambler experiences. Feel pity, as quoted of Jesus in Luke, forgive them, they know not what they do.

All the Major wants for Christmas is Kauto Star getting round Kempton well and coming back to the festival for a last hoorah

It feels like a quarter of the year is entirely and pointlessly focussed on 25th December. Children have an expectation, they seem unable to comprehend that it is not a right. While Christmas can be wonderful if small, well meant and subtle, too often it is a time of dry turkey, contrived fun, dreadful entertainment, the worst of western consumerism and for the punting man, very little sport to distract from the sheer terror of it all. I recommend the pub.

A solitary card at Dundalk on Friday is all that remains before the curtain comes down and the two-day racing blackout of Christmas Eve and Day. Two entire days of nothing, deadness, silence in the dark, have the will to say hold on dear friends, hold fast, do not break that line for there is light and hope. Redemption cometh.

Yes, the Majors mantra is to remain relentlessly positive, perhaps the enforced break offers a silver lining. The Majors tips are going through an extended period of dire form, from which I find myself unable to break free, Christ, even the regulars are complaining.

We must look at the break as a moment of reflection. Perhaps it provide the needed opportunity to change. If that makes the black-out medicine palatable, the glorious Kempton Boxing Day King George card, makes it wholly worthwhile.

Boxing day Kempton, for a jump racing fan, is one of the years glorious moments, top quality racing and the time to enjoy it… crafted by Jesus, rubber stamped by Sir Clement Freud, who I am sure sits at the same table.

The real beauty is that it comes after these two days of nothing. Like a thirsty man lost in the desert, when he finds water, he is tempted to gulp, so I caution you appropriately. The Major has posted King George tips 72 hours in advance so when the madness sets in, we will not be tempted by momentary urges bought on by the panic of two days, sans racing.

If you are reading this before Christmas, I can assure you that purchasing a bet for someone is a wonderful present. A little patent on the three Kempton selections below could make someone very happy indeed. It is indeed a thoughtful gift.

Before we contemplate Kemptons glories on the other side of the chasm, we have one chance to build a war chest, this side of Christmas. There are a handful of races on the all weather track at Dundalk tonight and the Major has a fancy.

Friday Dundalk Tip

I wonder if the Mullins and Murtagh partnership, which is an exceptionally rare occurrence, have teamed up to take the opener (5pm). Why would I feel it is a strange time for a rare Mullins and Murtagh tie up? Well the race is in honour of Ireland and Dundalks champion jockey… Johnny Murtagh! The forecast SP is 14/1 and I am going to follow my nose and get stuck in at anything over 8s.

The horse itself, Dougal Philps, is not disgraced on its first run. Mullins is in fine form too. Interesting runner, interesting race in honour of the top jock, interesting stable booking, all very interesting, 14/1… very very interesting!!

Load the cannon for Boxing Day…

King George Kempton Card – Tips for the King George Chase

The Major set up a gambling club this year with a group of fair men, we named it the King George Gambling Syndicate. The net result of the club is that we have £1183 to unleash on the King George and where the money is placed is entirely up to Mr Anthony Dipper.

These are the Majors thoughts on what is an exceptional race in exceptional times. If you do not share the Majors view that this is the best era of jump racing for many decades, consider this potted history…

Tipping the King George looked easy enough at the start of the season. Long Run had just broken the track record in his Cheltenham Gold Cup win. At the unlikely age of 6, he was evidently the new king, no question. I was on big at 5s for his Gold Cup win, following the Holmes logic that once you have ruled out every other possibility, what remains is truth. It was obvious why I was a believer, the evidence was all there.

Long Run is a horse I have followed with interest. I remember being stood within yards of Henderson and his entourage when Long Run failed to fire in the 2010 RSA (Henderson just mixes it with the crowd at the festival, I can tell you exactly where he will be stood again in March). You could see the mood with connections that day was pretty low, it left me thinking that it was not the result they were expecting. That and Hendersons comments about the horse just stuck with me, he was clearly loved at home.

Long Run lost the RSA that day at Cheltenham and then the Paddy Power in November. Both races he lost because he has a tendency to see his fences poorly. Henderson has had the horse with Yogi schooling those fences between each run and he is desperate to get him jumping well because clearly he is top draw.

Then came the postponed 2010 King George and Kauto’s impenetrable crown was whipped from him by Long Run. The evidence was now building for the Major that Long Run was the new king.

This was cemented as fact in the Majors mind when in March 2011 at the Gold Cup, the real Long Run landed, winning the Blue Riband race and setting a new track record. Job done.

Thus you can understand why I came into this season thinking that he would be unbeatable and that the old guard were spent. Thanks for the memories Kauto, now move over and let the new young gun in.

It was so simple, neat and tidy but noone had read the script to Kauto, Nicholls, Walsh and the Dicheat team.

As soon as the new order was constructed in such orderly fashion, the Betfair Chase at the start of this season destroyed all certainty. Kauto came back and demolished Long Run doing some serious damage to the track record in the process. It has to be one of Kautos best performances, akin to the 2009 King George.

If you took Kauto Star out of the Betfair Chase, the Long Run view would still have held. After all, he finished second by just 8 lengths which would have been close to a track record and don’t forget he had walked through one fence and was scruffy at many others (same old Long Run, oddly enough this was Kautos issue as a younger horse, that french style).

We must also remember that Kauto was tuned up to his best but Henderson hinted that he had left some off Long Run. With a clean round, could Long Run have emerged as the champ? Could he really have beaten Kauto?

Without Kauto in that race, we would still be celebrating Long Run as the new hero of the chase track… but Kauto was there, wasn’t he, it was no dream, although it was unbelievable, it happened, he did it, he bloody did it. I know because I watched it.

If Kauto wins again on boxing day, it will be his fifth King George. Should it happen, it is record for eternity, one that will remain, as the universe which has expanded across the millenia, begins to reverse, once again all matter is bought together being crushed, under unfathomable pressures to the size of a matchbox, before exploding and expanding in the next cycle of relentless Big Bangs.

Perhaps in the next universe a horse might take six King Georges, still seems unlikely and if it does happen, it is not a universe that the Major cares for. Good luck to them.

Who will win though on the day? So you need a tip for the King George?

I do think the preparedness is key. In the Betfair, Kauto was 100%, I think connections wanted to silence the voices that were calling for retirement by showing them that a fit Kauto has the zest to carry on. It would be a masterful training performance to take his older legs, get him rested and then back for this.

Long Run will have had this as the main target and is likely to be in a better physical condition. I am in two minds over the track. One part of me thinks that Kempton will suit; but they can go at a fair clip into those fences down the back and if he is not foot perfect, we could see that traditional Long Run error. That could be crucial.

Of the other runners, Masterminded has never tried three miles but Nicholls is stepping him up anyway. Nicholls though had this as a plan for some time, I think Masterminded will be well tuned up and if he stays he is interesting. He used to struggle with two and a half miles although those days seem behind him. I think he will stay and, controversially, I think he will beat Kauto, there I have said it, will he beat the others though?

Johnson has been raving about Captain Chris. His last run was too bad to be true and an infection was to blame. If recovered, this horse could still be ready to show us more. Place prospects but overall I think I prefer the win chances of Long Run and Masterminded.

Overall, I am minded to bet on Masterminded. As much as Long Run could be the next best thing, I think three miles around Kempton is going to be Mastermindeds’ ideal condition. He takes his fences so well at pace just like his stablemate, Kauto, and I think that will buy him enough lengths. Under pressure Long Run is prone to error and I just suspect that Kauto will not be seen in the same light as The Betfair.

Masterminded is currently 8.8 on Betfair, get stuck in and wish me Merry Christmas.

The Christmas Hurdle

Much less of a write-up on this race but no less a fascinating clash, even if a little less high-profile.

We have the barrel chested Binocular, who seems to have two ways of racing, JP McManus and Nicky Henderson had their day in the sun when he returned to win a Champion Hurdle in 2010 but since then (and prior to it), Binocular has been inconsistent and at times poor. I think he is a hard horse to get fit and needs a lot to fall right so 2/1 is not for me.

The second market leader is Overturn, who seems to love as much racing as possible. He relishes getting his nose in front and understands what is required but the suspicion is that he is just short of Champion Hurdle class. That might be enough to win this anyway.

The final of the trio that head the market is exciting prospect Rock on Ruby. While the form of his festival second to First Lieutenant is not as strong a CV as the others, his reappearance run suggested he is a star in the making. Although someway short on official BHA rankings, he could clearly take another giant leap forward and take this.

I am getting on Rock on Ruby at 2/1 and also may purchase a 16/1 Champion Hurdle ticket ahead of Boxing Day as a Christmas gift for some lucky soul!

The Feltham

This looks like a straight punch up between three exciting chasers in Grand Crus, Silviniaco Conti and Bobs Worth.

As much as Grand Crus has impressed, Bobs Worth did just a little bit more for the Major in his recent defeat of Cue Card. That day, Bobs Worth travelled well until smacking four out. Then it was time for Geraghty to earn his riding fee, in a superb demonstration of the great jockeys horsemanship, he relaxed the horse, got him back into a rhythm and up on the line to win.

Silviniaco Conti has done little wrong. His 5l defeat to Menorah was decent form, though it must be said that twice he has finished behind Cue Card who seems a better hurdler. Conti now seems to have improved based on the awesome win at Wincanton on reappearance. For me 9/2 is a superb price, Nicholls has been sweet on this horse and I fancy conditions will be perfect.

Merry Christmas to you all from the Major. May it pass with a warm glow in your heart. Let us deal with the peripheral noise and come back Boxing Day, clear minded and show our intent to the enemy ahead of the New Year.

There it is, the Majors tips for Kempton, I wish you the best. I will be posting at some point in the festive period more tips (We have the Welsh National for a start) and also my promised guide to the best 2011 horseracing moments. If you did not see the Sportingbet.com podcast, the Major got an almighty mention from their team (follow the link, it’s about 7:45 in). Was pleased to see that my top moment made a great splash there and was also selected by the Racing Post as their number one moment too.

Courage followers, shuffle those cards, it is darkest, before the dawn.

The Majors Saturday Sermon – Hennessy Tips, Premier League et al

A fine late autumn morning to you all from the Major who has been up early, reading form and walking through the market town of Pershore, as like I, it woke from slumber.

It is cool and dry in Worcestershire and the purpose of my early morning constitutional sojourn was to take air, collect the racing publication and to absorb a little of life.

The Tank leaves a customary floundering wake, Newbury will miss him

The smell of the bakers was a delight, the cheery hello from the grocer as he stacked trays of colourful produce outside the store.  These elements were straight from a stereotypical market town, acknowledged.

Walking early in the morning, you notice make observations that other times of day blind you to.  I had never noticed the Baptist Church in the market square before.  The fine Georgian building has some interesting features and is fairly prominent.  When the Major is visiting the market square though late at night for a bottle of something fine, I am oblivious to this building.

A change of pace reveals camouflaged detail.  Sometimes it is good and neccessary to do exactly that.  For this mornings stroll in the cold air, I wore no coat.  Not a deliberate act, simply an ommission.  However, the cold feel of air on the skin is a sensation that many people dismiss as simply unpleasant.  The Major disagrees.  Cold ears can make you feel the sense that it is much better to be alive.

Thus, the Majors recent form requires new angles into todays races, rebirth, regeneration.  If you are a new follower (of which we had a couple of subscribers this week) or a regular, I can only apologise for the recent run of form.  The Major did his conkers on Long Run last week and yesterdays tip felt good but trailed in last of the finishers at Newbury.

Today we reload, the Major has bought a fresh mind to the day.  Let us daub the war paint once more to battle our devious enemy.  He of sleight of hand and deception of the mind.

What a day of sport we have too.  The Hennessy is the finest handicap there is in the Majors view.  More sensible than the Grand National and full of quality.  The big yards are all represented, they know what is required to win the race, more of that soon.

We also have the fighting fifth, made to be one of the Majors favourite races by Punjabi, who has a place in the Majors heart.  The year Punjabi won the fighting fifth, he had been kept on the go on the flat in the summer.  The Major fancied his as a leading Champion Hurdle contender and had been backing him in drips since his third in the championship race at the previous Cheltenham Festival.  Punjabi won the fighting fifth and went on to win the Champion Hurdle which was the Majors largest ever win, enough to pay for some fabulous women, not enough to keep them!

To the sports and in the words of a Mr Redmond, whom I know carries the essence of the Majors gambling spirit in his heart, go large or go home.

The Hennessy

With last weeks Kauto Star explosion at Haydock, there must be a pang in the air of Newbury that Denman, the other elder statesmen of the Nicholls yard goes direct to the Lexus rather than take in the Hennessy.

I have to say that surely this is the correct decision though.  Asking Denman to shoulder top weight (he is rated 9lbs superior to Neptune Collonges, running him would leave just 5 rivals in the handicap proper) and stick it to horses some 5 years his junior would be a cruel task to set in the Majors view.

Take a moment of your life and revel in the Tanks 2009 win in this race.  That day he could have carried me around.  If your hairs do not stand on end as he clears the cross rail fence without touching the birch; or when hearing the crowd cheer him on, even as What a Friend (who was in receipt of 2 STONE!!!) could not get to him on the run in…….. awesome, relentless power, a true champion – Watch and enjoy one of the best steeplechase performances of all time, the Tank was the right nickname, he just drew the sting out of all of them.

Todays race.  I think Great Endeavour is going to be all the rage.  Currently 6/1, the cosy Paddy Power winner carries a modest penalty for that race and is sure to go well.  Some punters may make more of the fact that he has never been extended to this distance but the way he finished up the Hill at Cheltenham, he should easily get a Newbury three miles.  The Pipe team have taken a couple of Hennessy Gold Cups in the last ten years, they know what it takes, he has a favourites chance.

Michel Le Bon carries the hopes of the Ditcheat team and could be anything, he fits the second season chaser trend of many Hennessy winners (taking Denmans other wins out).  Noel Fehily is one of the Majors favourite pilots and another that is highly considered, particularly as it is trading shorter than the Walsh ridden Nicholls horse.

Muirhead is the first of a couple I like at a price.  At 25/1 with Boylesports, I think you are getting terrific value.  Just slightly outside of the 6/7 year old bracket, Muirhead looked terrific in winning the Munster National and will not be inconvenienced by goodish ground.

Billie Magern carried the Majors money when disappointing last time but I am willing to keep faith.  He is highly tried and out of the Twiston Davies yard, I am sure they are not tilting at windmills so they must genuinely think better is possible.  He is only an effective 1lb better off with Great Endeavour for a 13l defeat in the Paddy Power but I am willing to take a punt that at 33/1 (much bigger on Betfair) he can be competitive in these conditions.

Aiteen Thirtythree is the other favoured Nicholls runner that has already shown some class as a novice.  You have to suspect that the reappearance run over a trip that was never going to suit was designed to protect a handicap mark.  With Ruby aboard and the opportunity to benchmark against Michel Le Bon, money would be significant.

The Major has to make a selection from these five and with a poor recent record, I am tempted to suggest Great Endeavour and Michel le Bon who have excellent and more obvious chances.  However, I am loading up the value guns on Muirhead and Billie Magern.  25/1 and 33/1 (bigger on the exchanges) – Load the cannons and thank me for my bravery later.

The Fighting Fifth

Thinking of bravery.  The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (5th Regiment of foot) have a distinguished service history dating back to action in the 17th century.  They have seen service in the American Revolution but it was action in the Peninsular war of the early 19th century that earned the nickname of the fighting fifth.

It is not a bad nickname given some of the exploits of their soldiers in later warm engagements in India, particularly during the first mutiny.  Read the account of Private Patrick McHale VC who lead skirmishing to the gun positions when fighting the Sikhs at Cawnpore, or that of Peter McManus who also won a VC fighting in the streets of Lucknow rescuing a senior under fire from enemy sepoys.

In the year Punjabi won the fighting fifth, there was a £1m bonus for a horse that could collect this prize, the Christmas hurdle at Kempton and the Champion Hurdle.  The removal of this bonus brings just 5 contenders and I am not sure any of them will come close in Cheltenham in March.

The race has to be won though.  Binocular if anything like on top of his game will win.  It is hard to keep in mind that this horse is only 7.  He has shown dazzling brilliance and pretty shocking awfulness too.  First time out, will he go well?

It is all about match fitness for the Major.  Binocular has beaten Overturn in a fair fight and there is no good reason to expect that Overturn is better, there is good reason to suspect that he is fitter.  Celestial Halo while having a winning reappearance to the Major looks worse bet of the three.  I am not sure the reappearance amounted to much.

So the question is fitness or class?

I am going with Class.  Binocular.  Nicky Henderson may not have had the big winners in the last few weeks but there is no doubt that he is the apple of the McManus eye.  Fitness is a big concern.  Binocular is a bull of a horse and takes a lot of getting fit.  However, trainer comments seem to gently suggest he is in grander shape now then when narrowly losing out last year, this is not a strong a field, on that balance, I am in, odds against at 11/10 is very fair.

7.50 Wolverhampton

Yes, the Major reviews the top races of the day and also brings you his thoughts on the Bookiefreebies.com Handicap at Wolverhampton tonight.

The horse that catches my eye is the Ed Dunlop trained Voodoo Prince.  Off a long break, this three year old returns to action after being gelded.  I often wonder if we gelded the England football team whether it would have the desired effect of getting them focussed back on the sport…

However, in this case, I think they have taken action as the horse should be better than shown.  He has been defeated favourite on his last two starts after winning a very nice mile race at Haydock in the spring.

The question is whether this is to get a run into the horse or whether we have a bit of a good thing.  What settled the Majors mind was the jockey booking.  McLaughlin is a sound booking and he turns up at Wolverhampton for this single ride, a bit of effort.

I am willing to overlook the breeding record on the surface which is poor and pile in at a tasty 6/1 that we have found a good thing.

To the football…….

Mr Hill of the good ship Hiscox will once again denounce the Major selecting against the mighty West Brom but Spurs at Evens is an absurd price.  They are one of the best teams in the division and are playing very good stuff.  Albion will be missing key players, potentially including Long and I would take Spurs every time at that price.

I like the concession with Bet365  (could be a few punts with them today) on their double and treble the goalscorer in the Charlton, Liverpool v Man City and Stoke v Blackburn fixtures.  Essentially you get the price if a single goal is scored but double and treble the price if 2 goals or a hat-trick is bagged by your selection.  They are best price Jon Parkin too at 7/1 so I suggest an investment for Monday night.

QPR are a monster price to win at Carrow Road.  5/2 does not reflect the fact that they are the better team.  They were last season and they are this season too both on results and on the additions to their squad.  Get stuck in.

Tonight, curry is the order of the day, keep it nice and simple, local fare, eat with your hands.  Take a friend.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Majors Rather Special Grand National Saturday Service – Load the Cannons Followers

For once the Major bids you a good late evening from starry Defford where the Major pens his Saturday Service on the evening shift.  Horseracing tips across the Aintree Grand National card have been prepared.  Why is the Major up late completing the weekly sermon?  Is the Major tiring of rising before 6am on a Saturday for the purpose of researching the days value in our relentless battle against the enemy?  The answer is no, of course not.

To Aintree and let the magic unfurl. Hoof, noise and battle - It will not be pretty

As always followers can get the latest posts alerted to them by following twitter @tdl123 of signing up to the free email service in the left hand column.  The Major remains free, amateur and unhinged.

Well done to young virile Sean, one of our band of fortune who bravely went in on the Majors advice to take the reverse forecast on Masterminded and Albertas Run.  I hope those nerve endings tingled.  I understand more winners were on the cards for you too, there was warm work to be had with the enemy fighting vigorously and frantically with slashing blade but you kept a cool hand and deflected his devious strokes, it returned for you a rich spoil, excellent work.  Incidentally, you have AP McCoy, one of the greatest men ever to walk the earth to thank.  Albertas Run was off the bridle from 5 furlongs out, how many other jocks would have kept their animal up to the work to finish second.  How many would have that strength both physical and mental?  He held off third by sheer force of will, superb – any animal with 4 legs capable of being saddled and ridden by Tony McCoy will always make a sound proposition. 

A quiet, mysterious and largely unknown tipster from the West Country known as the Shannonator gave up Battle Group yesterday to a small select few, which the Major duly failed to follow, well done to Mr Day who I know had a tasty touch.  Mr Hill, unlucky on Albertas Run – Compensation was sought on Devil to Pay at Fontwell.  Your method is questionable, your result emphatic.  Mr Febery – Surely it is time to break the habit and bet like a man on the National, be irresponsible, the good lord demands it. 

Just look at how Big Bucks hurdles, it is a thing of beauty, elegance, efficiency, speed, grace, skill and athleticism.

The Major is going to the heart of the beast’s lair tomorrow to do battle at Aintree.  Needs therefore must, I resolve not to let you, the faithful few, you brace of warriors down.

Grand National Day.  Special.

Grand National day is emotive and part of English fabric.  Most people bet on the National, it is annual habit, a right.  Many will bet in memorial of those that have passed.  Some select their horse based on a name, others a tip, some go for colours, some a number.  The Majors grandmother, passed away these many years, used to back greys, she just liked them.   

When those sweepstakes are unleashed in every office and workplace, it is a part of our history, our national identity flexing muscle, rolling on like the relentless river, moving, consistent, secure, reassuring. 

The race is insane.  The hardest fences on our island over four and a half miles, forty horses piling in to each other, the Chair, Beechers Brook.  We do not ignore the pain and the anguish, strained sinew, fallen horse and man.  No, we embrace it, with dignity, respectful of the battle in which no quarter is given.  Triumphant champion where are you.

Still need an inspiration, click and watch.  See if you agree with the Major, Red Rum might not have had his amazing hat-trick if Andy Pandy had just stood up at Beechers?  Equally a better jump from Church Town Boy two out… no what am I saying, watch it, incredible to think that off top weight putting so many out of the handicap and at the royal age of 12, he won his third national, a feat never to be repeated, on the bridle like a young fresh thing.

As well as those gambling tourists, who are all welcome; how wondrous it is to think that tomorrow many more might convert to our merry crew, the religion of the gambling gentlemen.  Thousands will read, form a view, enter the alien yet exotic turf accountant and be enticed, I welcome them, I envy them, oh to have it still to learn.  They will watch their chosen beast give its all, some of these new potential warriors will leave unmoved, they will fail to see the enlightenment, the annual spectacle will be missed on them, shame on them, they live blind, stumbling onwards and I ask the good lord to forgive them, he won’t.

Ah but those few, those others for whom a door opened.  They selected a horse who gave them a run, perhaps the winner, or maybe they are a real gentlemen and their animal went before Valentines, but they still felt something move inside them.  Something permanent happened, a re-wiring, they saw, they felt their heart race and their senses grew intense, for a moment they were lost.  They caught the disease, our glourious disease.  For surely it is best to live one life with the glory of Big Bucks glaring at Grand Crus a furlong and half from home nonchalant, dominant, playing with him; to see Ruby clap in his heels bury his head and for it to be put to bed in moments… surely it is better to have this a hand full of times in one lifetime than enjoy ten lifetimes without.

Men will journeytomorrow to this glorious rebirth, let us hope a magnificent days racing prevails.  The reassuring news is that only those that reawaken become devote followers of our religion, how we welcome them and they look at us level in the eye.  They know.  They felt it.

I believe it was Descartes who described lives as if we were sparks leaving a fire, as the spark moves from the hot core into the night air, it dims and eventually extinguishes, as children we are still glorious but soon in adulthood we come detached from the wonder that the young see.  Romance, wonder, joyousness, belief in the miraculous, as we move away from the fire, we become cold, desolate, we trust our senses and not our imaginations, our worlds become more sterile, we lose the magic.  Racing can reignite the flames, see the glory, young warrior.  Now mount that charger, to battle, to the sports.

Let us start with NAP of the day.

Binocular faces Peddlers Cross in the Aintree hurdle (2.50pm).

The pricing (9/4 Binocular, 13/8 Peddlers Cross) for the top two in the market reflects the fact that Bino is less certain to stay the trip than Peddlers who many think are crying out for it.  The Major urges caution. 

The price may also reflect have some of the concern backers would have regarding Binoculars absence from the Champion hurdle, again the Major urges caution.  He missed Cheltenham because some minor treatments he was given were still present in his blood and would have given him a positive sample for banned racing substances (you can use these treatments but they must have cleared the bloodstream by race day).  This means he has been rested up a bit.  Not neccesarily a bad thing.  Just three weeks and a day ago, Peddlers was chaing home Hurricane Fly gamely staying on giving his all up the Cheltenham hill.  Bino is fresh.

Bino is a bull of a horse and I always think I want a race in him.  That said, Henderson surely would have him fit for this just three weeks after his intended target.

I urge caution if you think he won’t stay.  The ground and flat track will help.  He is such a better hurdler than Peddlers.  He is a flat jumper, moving over his obstacles with speed and maximum efficiency.  I also think the lack of obvious pace will help.  I can only consider Oscar Dan Dan as the likely pace setter. 

Peddlers is surely going chasing.  The price seems to suggest this years Champion Hurdle was better than last.  I am not sure.  At 9/4 I suggest a reasonable stake on Binocular. 

1.45 Novice Hurdle

What a cracker.  Spirit Son re-opposes horses that were behind him at Cheltenham when he lost out to Al Ferof.  Recession Proof is one I feel will be better suited by the step up in trip.  The Quinn yard could be in better form, 11/1 is fair.

The Major prefers the chances of Rock on Ruby.  There was plenty to like about his head defeat to First Lieutenant and the previous defeat by 2l to Bobs Worth also now looks good following Bobs Worths win at the festival too.  Daryl Jacob who missed out on the Zarkander race this week may get his payday here.

Sam Winner is Ruby Walsh’s chosen mount and the way he stayed on from well back in the Triumph suggested further would be better.  I think this one might not be the easiest ride but he clearly has ability.

It comes down to the two Nicholls horses.  The Major goes for Sam Winner and a chance taken at 5/1.

Take a slice, add butter, allow it to melt slightly.

2.15 Maghull Novice Chase

I know connections of Classic Fly will get a kick out of a runner in this Grade 1 contest but surely it cannot be good – If he inconveniences a major candidate, it makes a mockery of his entry.  I just hope that Peter Toole keeps him out of the way.

Finians Rainbow looks good to the Major as he is the one of the top three in the betting which is more likely to give an assured round of jumping.  Both Ghizao who walked through a few at Cheltenham and Starluck who can be clumsy; look unsafe.  That said Finians hit the last at Cheltenham but to be fair by then he was on the stretch already with Captain Chris putting the race to the sword.

Overall, I would rate Finians a good bet.  4/5 Paddy Power might seem short, it is, but 4/6 is the Majors pricing.  4/5 is not stingy. 

The Bumper at Aintree

Steps to Freedom is the tentative 12/1 each way suggestion.  This interesting sort won well on bumper debut last summer in Ireland.  It probably was going to lose when it clipped heels with a rival in its second run.  A year on, who knows. 

Gallox Bridge at 50/1 is not the worst outsider I have ever seen.  OK nothing special has come from his sole bumper which he won at Fontwell but he did it nicely and it is hard to judge how good he is.

Laveroque is backable, particularly if Rock on Ruby performs well earlier in the day. 

Allure of Illusion at 7/1 is also a viable option being completely unexposed and of connections that are likely to know when they have a good one – Money would be significant.

Wondering why I have not provided a tip for the Grand National?  Follow the link to my post earlier in the week – Abor Supreme 20/1.

A note about betting on the National.  If you are the sort that is going to your local bookmakers to place the bet, please do so on the tote.  You will notice that on the Grand National, the prices for most of the field will contract horribly mid morning with bookmakers vociferously telling us about several ‘plunge horses’.  Nonsense, this is the bookies payday, they will try to operate an overround of 150%+, ouch.  Place your bet on the tote, you can do this at most bookies.  This is a 116% fixed overround and so you will get far better value.  Most are simply unaware and the bookies take advantage of the casual punters.   

To the sports fields…..

Just one bet.  Cardiff should win at Doncaster.  11/8 is quite a price given the gulf in class.  Throw in that Doncaster have not scored in their last three outings and well, it looks like a terrific bet.  Coral can take a beating on this one.

May your bets be blessed by the lord of debauchery who watches over us gamblers and rewards our free living spirit.

Why not taken Binocular and Cardiff in a tasty double?  Surely Jesus would?

Take your winnings and fly to Colombo.  Travel from Fort Railway Station, paying a few hundred rupees for a single up to Bandarawela in the hills.  It is cools and pretty.  Stay in the old colonial hotel, send the Major a postcard.

Saturday night, I suggest Indian food.  A tasty array of spiced curries, dhal, chapatis etc.  Eat with your fingers and entertain a sort where this will break the ice.  A classic looking sort but down to earth, smiles readily.  Be polite and expect little, you will gain more.  Drink beer with her too.  You will be gloriously spent from the days sports to entertain ‘le gallop’, no harm in being a gentleman for the night.

Messrs Redmond, Wiseman, Hobday, Reilly, Powell et al – Load the big guns people, we are through the looking glass.

Courage followers, shuffle the cards.

Tips for each Cheltenham Festival Championship Race – Guest Post, The Hearty Ploughman

Another guest blogger has thrown us some sporting viewpoint in our relentless quest for value.  The Hearty Ploughman is well-known to the Major and a respected punter.  He has kindly offered a view on the four championship races of the festival – Cheltenham tips aplenty.

He is the one on the right in the cap!

His analysis is often heavily statistics based and follows plenty of work.  Kindly he has proffered his thoughts for our benefit at no cost.

Included is a 14/1 Gold Cup contender and is a very interesting bet – Please remember to ensure you get NRNB (Non runner no bet), most bookies are there now but some are shamefully still letting you down.  Well worth the extra protection, this week saw the withdrawal of Diamond Harry and Riverside Theatre from their respective races, there are always a couple of high proile late non runners…. over to the Hearty Ploughman.

The Hearty Ploughman – Tips for the Four Cheltenham Festival Championship Races

Punters of the world, the time of year is almost upon us when once again we invade Prestbury Park to do battle with the old enemy the bookmaker. My good friend the Major has bestowed upon me the great honour of writing this piece on his website giving my thoughts and tips for the four big races at the meeting.

Day 1 – The Champion Hurdle

This race is normally won by horses that have had more than one race this season are aged over 5 and less than 11, have won or been placed at the festival before (providing it has run at the festival), ran within the last 2 months and finished in the top three in its last race. Using these trends we can narrow the field down to just a few horses, it helps focus the mind.

I believe the winner will come from one of the following, Binocular, Peddlers Cross or Hurricane Fly. Hurricane Fly as good as he is does not have the course experience, so by backing him you are taking on trust that he will handle the conditions. Peddlers Cross is a real battler, expect him to be off the bridle first but will be running all the way to the line.

However my selection is Binocular, he ticks all the boxes and the way he won round Cheltenham last year and again at Kempton in the Christmas hurdle was mighty impressive. That and the fact that Nicky Henderson is the master at getting one spot on for Cheltenham mean he is the choice for me.

Day 2 The Champion Chase

This race is normally won by a horse that was 1st, 2nd or 3rd last time out, ran 1-4 times this season and is in the top 4 of the betting. This leaves us with just the 4 horses to concentrate on, Master Minded, Big Zeb, Woolcombe Folly and Somersby.

Master Minded does not seem to have totally re captured the form he had before his injury, Somersby continues to be a nearly horse and Woolcome Folly still have to prove he can do it in a grade 1 at Cheltenham.

This leaves me with just the remaining horse Big Zeb.  One of my favourite horses in training, travels well, will like the better ground he should encounter at Cheltenham so am expecting a repeat of last years success.

Day 3 – The World Hurdle

Surely bearing major accidents this race is between Big Bucks and Grand Crus. Big Bucks is a class act and Grand Crus is improving all the time. Not much to choose between the two but preference is for Big Bucks.

Day 4 – The Gold Cup 

Looking at the trends we have to discount horses older than 10. That immediately takes out Kauto and Denman. Another trend is that the horse must have run 2-5 times this season. This takes out last year’s winner Imperial Commander. 

Unless the word soft appears in the going, Pandorama may not even run. For me there are only 2 horses to concentrate on. Long Run and Midnight Chase. Long Run has run at Cheltenham twice and on both occasions has been placed. Is it that he doesn’t like the course or does his jumping need brushing up a bit? Having watched both races it would suggest that his jumping needs improving. At Kempton he jumped much better and connections have employed the services of Yogi again to make further improvements. I am sure he will go close once again.

However at a bigger price I prefer Midnight Chase, another horse who is a real battler. He has course form, been placed at the festival and is a front runner who does not like to be passed. At a price of around 14/1 provides good  value and is my idea of the winner.