Good evening from the Major who writes from a darkened Worcestershire night where the prickles of bright starlight strike wonderment into my mind. The fire is lit and the Ashes coverage is soon to start.
My mind is racing with troubles untold. I shall not burden you, dear reader, with the weight of my own darkness. I feel vain even to mention it. Yet, you will forgive a short post as my mind is to weary to expound the usual sermon. I imagine you are breathing a sigh of relief, yet consider what that means – You came for the sport tips. Now consider what that means – It is not good my friends, not for you or for me – For the Major is barely profitable and I think you come for routine, for the deep swirling thoughts of a mind unhinged, for familiarity.
I am not going to write anything of Nelson Mandela, lest you think I believe myself a more capable commentator than the many others who take up that mantle. Yet in his life, I draw one comforting conclusion.
A man should take enormous comfort from his freedoms, particularly those that his mind allows. Nothing is more important than remembering that your own personal privilege to think and make thoughts your own, it is the most sacrosanct commodity you have. No matter what ill might befall you, you retain the freedom of your own mind. Each and every one of us.
Now to the sports.
The Tingle Creek
The defection of superstar Sprinter Sacre has removed a little sparkle from the 2013 Tingle Creek but there remains an interesting race to unpick.
The Tingle Creek always makes me think of Kauto, I am not sure many horses throughout history could complete a Tingle Creek, Gold Cup double… in the same season. Just think about that achievement, the pace, flair and accuracy for a two mile chase and then being able to win the great stamina sapping, quality testing Cheltenham show-piece that is the Gold Cup.. Magnifique, n’est pas?
The running tomorrow has a market with three clear favourites in focus. Captain Conan, the next best from the Henderson camp, Sire de Grugy, the Gary Moore star player and Somersby, the more mature of the market leaders.
Let’s take each. Captain Conan is a good horse, he has two good wins at Sandown and three wins at the top-level (while a novice) but I have found him a bit of a boat at times and think he wants further, in time a lot further – I say this even though he has struggled at 3m trips to date. Given that the yard planned to aim Sprinter at this race and that this horse (who was running at more staying trips at the end of last year) has not had a race, I find him easy to overlook.
I am quite impressed by the Somersby who won the Haldon Gold Cup with Cue card, hero of last weeks Betfair Chase back in third – That was extremely decent and assures us of his fitness. He has plenty of decent form in the book historically too but is not a horse I necessarily trust to string two good efforts together. That said, his experience will serve him well over these tough fences.
Of the outsiders, Tataniano might seem a no hoper but will like the drying ground. 33/1 is not the worst outside chance of a place I have seen.
Sire de Grugy has been talked up by his trainer and since his defeat to Captain Conan last year, has arguably shown improved form. He is going to go off a worthy favourite.
On balance, I think Sire de Grugy and Somersby are the two to concentrate on and I am swayed by the Haldon Gold Cup – Somersby is often a neat jumper and at the railway fences, that can make or break a race over the minimum trip at Sandown.
Other Sandown Tips
In the earlier Grade 1 novice chase, Taquin du Seuil is my pick. You could be put off by the minimum trip given that he looks a bit more of a stayer, I am less concerned. He always looked a chaser to me, when a hurdler and I am convinced he will be very decent in this field. Grandouet carries no concern for me as I think he will want easier fences than these. The main danger I see is Balder Succes who looks a top horse now in his own right with his last win well boosted. Yet, I stick with Taquin, regular readers will remember that McCoy gave me the horse to follow and follow I shall…
In the last race of the day, I have an angle on two horses that I quite like.
Godsmejudge was a horse I tipped up for Cheltenham at the Open meeting and I thought he was coming with a run when he smacked the fence at the bottom of the hill and was never getting going again. He has a good record on better ground and I think this sort of track will suit. Never forget that he was a Scottish National winner.
The other horse I like is Franklin Roosevelt at 16/1. Pipe is running the horse who is out of the handicap by a couple of pounds but has a useful 7lb claimer aboard. I have no fear about backing the second string of the Pipe operation. If he jumps better he could well be involved.
It is Becher Chase day and at 11/1 the field it is a minefield of possibility. Yet the race tends to have a positive shape of experienced chasers who can handle the National fences. Remember last year when Hello Bud bought the house down at the grand old age of 14.. That was special. He also won the race as a 12-year-old but the more normal age is 9 or 10. Baby Run is representing the same connections and he actually has some merit. He does well over these fences and loves decent ground… Do not rule out a sensational story.
The profile I am after is a horse carrying less weight. So lightly weighted, yet experienced…. The one I am going for is Bostons Angel at 16/1. It is another Pipe horse and I think fits my idea of the winner exactly. A former RSA chase winner, this should have been a high-class animal. He has been dogged with a few issues and has not enjoyed the best of times with Jessica Harrington recently. Having switched yards I am hoping that a return to some sort of form is in order. He is well weighted, potentially classy, mature enough to be OK over these fences and is my selection.
The other Aintree selection is Unioniste who runs in the 2.40 at odds of 4/1 – Surely the Nicholls horse will improve dramatically for getting a run under his belt and since I think The Giant Bolster is oft over-rated and Katenko wants heavier ground, I am minded that the likeliest danger is Wayward Prince who won this last year and will have been primed for a repeat.
In the football I fancy two bets; QPR to beat Blackburn at 8/11, West Brom to beat Norwich at 5/6.
The Martin Hill bet is a brave each way double on the two Pipe long shots Bostons Angel and Franklin Roosevelt.
May your dinner be in fine company, may the weight of your wallet sag your jacket and may the owner accompany you to the cellar to demonstrate how he has cared for the expensive wine you have ordered.
Courage, roll those dice.