Tag Archives: captain conan

The Saturday Sermon – Aintree and Sandown

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.

Aintree Tips

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.

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Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.

 

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.

The Saturday Sermon – Wetherby, Sandown and Ffos Las Tips

Good Evening from a rural Worcestershire where the lukewarm and damp day hastily retreats to the advancing coolness of the night.

One follower has been adding some detailed comments to the Cheltenham Antepost pages.  I recommend a read of the comments left at the bottom of this page by Mr Freer…. rather insightful, much more than the Major’s recent contributions, in fact…

Why are you here?  Seeking tips?  Are you feeling OK?  It is only fair that, if you have stumbled here for the first time, that you are warned of recent fortunes.  Mala tempora currunt.

Last weekend the Major experienced a Black Saturday.  I managed to get two odds on shots beaten in The New One and Irish Saint as well as coming down on the wrong side in the Reve de Sivola v Oscar Whisky battle and generally blundering, in person,  around Cheltenham racecourse like some wounded blinded beast, wailing and waving fistfuls of notes randomly in some vain failed attempt to find something meaningful to ease the pain.

Instead losses rolled on relentlessly, remorselessly… trundling on, irrespective of any remedial actions, I was  merely the incidental cost, the beast cares not.

I hope you avoided the clutches.  Sadly 400 innocent civilians read those tips I posted last week, let us pray that each attained salvation by abstention.

Yet also remember that failure teaches us more than victory.  In the throes of splendour we seldom seek the truth.  It is more likely that we accept our spoils without questioning the logic of whether they were earned or garnered through wind of fortune.

Yet losses invoke a different emotion, one that demands self-examination.  For example, why did you ignore the fact that AP McCoy was slimming down for the ride on Mr Watson?  Why indeed….

So, some good comes from the loss, as Milton would say, a silver lining to our sable cloud.  Losses keep us sharp, they are our gambling friends.

What, I hear you cry, that’s just something failed tipsters say… You are probably right.  Yet, you are also here, drawn back to the light, hungry for the elixir, joining me to find the mothership.   Do you lack logic or do you have an abundance of loyalty?  I hope it is the latter, have faith that we will be rewarded. Adeste Fideles.

To the sports, and let us be rewarded today – We need victories in these battles to pad our Cheltenham War Chests.  We have taken the Queens salt, we will suppress the mutiny… miles gloriosus

2.05 Ffos Las – Welsh Champion Hurdle

The Welsh version of the Champion Hurdle is a limited handicap over two and a half miles and so bears little resemblance to the Cheltenham show-piece in just six weeks time.

Oscara Dara arrives looking a danger to all having won the Lanzarote last time out for Henderson.  Off top weight, this will take some getting but the calamitous hurdling at the last at Kempton suggested that a mere stone raise in the weights might be no problem with a clean round of jumping.  There to be shot at.

Balder Succes has excuses for some of his runs and has potentially more to give. Yet I am not certain heavy ground will bring out the best in this one.

Double Ross is arguably in the handicappers grip now but if you overlook the last run over a trip that was too short, then his earlier form was impressive.  An each way consideration now back up in trip.

The Major though is going to tip Tanerko Emery for the Welsh Champion Hurdle.  He handled a hefty burden when winning across the Irish Sea over two miles.  That day he gave the impression that further was needed and he gets the extra distance here.  He is two from two on heavy ground and the ownership needs noting too.  Dai Walters owns both the horse and the track and you have to think this was the plan all along with Tanerko… have a slice at 7/2, meaty enough to tickle your sense of adventure, tempered enough to acknowledge the danger of Oscara Dara.

3.10 Novice Chase Ffos Las

The early price of 9/4 about Benheir seems a bit of value in this four runner affair.  My tip has always run pretty well at Ffos Las and while he failed to impress in a graded race at Warwick, he made a terrible mistake in the early hustle and never recovered, easily forgiven.  Curtis and McCoy team up for the owners of Teaforthree, have a slice.

3.20 Wetherby – The Towton Novices

The last twelve runnings of the Towton have gone to short price horses, bar the victory of 14/1 Heltornic in 2007.  Ian Williams has won the last two runnings but has no runner today.

This race is wide open and with just seven runners, feels like one the Major can crack.

Super Duty has one of the most impressive pieces of form with a second to the Arkle dominator Simonsig.  He is in good hands.

Fourjacks is taking a sizable step up in trip and grade and is highly interesting.  Brian Harding has an excellent record for the yard too.

Houblon des Obleaux is an unlikely runner.

Goulanes though looks the fly in the ointment for all.  This horse is crying out for proper fences to jump but has made a decent hurdler none the less.  Decent points experience and a flat course on proper chasing ground is likely to be exactly what he needs and he gets the Majors vote at a general 3/1.

Sandown Tips

Sandown host a card of chases including the Scilly Isles where Captain Conan faces a penalty kick ahead of his main seasonal objectives at Cheltenham.

In the 3.35, Brackloon High is well fancied by Mr Freer but although I see the attraction, I prefer the chances of both Summery Justice and Keppols Hill.  The latter will be all the rage sporting the fancy connections but I think his jumping might not stand the test of the track as well in this company.  My tip has a slightly shaky profile having been off the track for some time but he is being entered back at a level suggesting that Venetia Williams has high hopes.  There is a risk he goes to Ffos Las.

To the football…

Charlton are overpriced at Palace in the South London derby, 7/2 is too big in a game that will be closer than that.

Watford are a shade odds on to beat Bolton at home and I am a buyer.  Watford have been my money train team and despite a derailing at Bristol City, I am still all aboard.  In the week, Zola rested six first team players including the talisman up front, Vydra… get stuck in.

QPR are also a shade odds on to beat Norwich at home.  This is a decent price as Arry starts to work his magic again.  Whatever you think about his style of management and propensity to drain resources from overwhelmingly generous owners, he gets a team playing.

Swansea continue to be grossly underestimated.  23/10 to beat West Ham is a big price.  I thought Swansea were very unlucky not to take all three points from Sunderland who held on grimly.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: Swansea, Goulanes, Tankerko Emery and Benheir…

May your dinner be glorious, in a small restaurant, run by people who care about the service they give.  A small but select menu of delights, clean crisp white table cloths and a river running close by.  Ah, I can picture it vividly in my mind.

Courage, roll those dice. memento mori.

Saturday Sermon – Tingle Creek Sandown Tips, Chepstow and Aintree Becher Chase day too…. Shabash, courage and roll those dice

Good morning from a bright Worcestershire rural picture. The air has mellowed, dropping its aggressively cold tones and becoming thoroughly more agreeable.

Sound tracking my breakfast – Fine Wiltshire pork sausages with local free range eggs, peppered and orange juice.

Facts and stories. Which of these is the greater? To a gambling man who likes a model of statistical value, you might argue the former always trumps. The tangible can be valued, a feeling cannot. We are trying to get to truth aren’t we, no sentimentality can come into it.

Yet, through human history though, people discard reason regularly, sometimes with disastrous consequences, sometimes for good reason.

Last night, a colleague and old friend lost an earring – her distress was not related to the cost but the fact that it had been her grandmothers. Time adds value that the jeweller or insurer cannot recognise.

In the same way, evaluating a business decision or a gambling opportunity carries the same dilemma. All in life is made of two elements. Fact and story. Your ability to fathom a good and useful story is more important in life than your ability to handle data. Fact. Not time to explain why, just trust in the Major and my sermon. Do your research, calculate your pricing model and then leave the last bit to personal feeling. Add a little of what cannot be explained. Life is like that. Enjoy it.

Not much time to hang about today, let’s get down to the sports. She found it by the way.

Sandown Tingle Creek Day Tips

The opening novice hurdle will be won by Golden Hoof – OK it’s a shade of odds against but Henderson has won the last three running of this race with some decent types so all points to my tip being a useful sort.

In the 1.25, despite the unbelievable form of Team Ditcheat, I cannot be on Sam Winner. I give a squeak to Gilbarry at 16/1. Gilbarry is racing of a potentially lenient mark over the smaller obstacles having shown much better chase form. He has been backed into that price so maybe something is expected.

Captain Conan looks to have a simple opportunity to pick up a grade 1 chase in the Markel Novices. Hinterland did not look the same horse over the big obstacles and might have struggled to cope with Hendersons horse even if he did handle it.

This is a good a Tingle Creek as I can remember because both Sanctuare and Sprinter Sacre look as good as we have seen in this division for some time. I love the Tingle Creek, remember Kauto winnng it! I know Denman had a swaggering style but I loved The class of Kauto (made even more special by his ability to smack a fence when cruising!). No more proof can I give than reminding you that the great Kauto had the speed for a Tingle Creek before taking in a King George and the Gold Cup in the same season!

Although its hard to imagine a horse repeating those exploits, in Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre we have two that I could conceive scaling similar heights. My heart is with the Aeroplane, the way Sprinter put away Al Ferof and Cue Card who have both thoroughly franked the Arkle form is damn impressive. Sanctuaire is Nicholls highest rated novice chaser and so if ratings lead you then 5/2 is a gift. My story is different though, Sprinter Sacre might be the best chaser we have seen in a generation. Geraghty says he has never ridden anything like it.

I cannot wait for the Tingle Creek.

Navan Tips

Rule the World has a strong form line with Bonisland suggesting he should have his measure and so 11/10 is fine by me in the novice event at 1.20.

I don’t care that I am in danger of stating the obvious but Oscars Well should win the novice chase affair too. This horse was a multiple grade 1 winner over hurdles and loves heavy ground which is a question for many of these. 8/11 is not prohibitive for this.

Aintree Becher Chase Day Tips

The Becher is as wide open as usual. Join Together and Problema Tic are both young talented looking chasers and the former looks a thorough stayer which is crucial over these fences. My problem is the profile of these horses. This race suits an animal who is older and has been around the block a bit more. Proven fence experience is far more important than handicap mark. That makes the selection of last years winner West End Rocker – he slammed the opposition last year, likes conditions, loves the national fences and is only 5lbs higher than last year. 6/1 is a great price.

Cannot see why Quito de la Roque won’t win in the 1.05 at 10/11, the Kauto Stone race was a decent affair and he will be fitter today.

Chepstow Tip

In the 1.30, I am going to give a squeak to Caroles Destiny at 8/1, my tip was a decent hurdler and often shows a likeable attitude.

Such is the form of the Nicholls yard that I am tipping Royal Charm in the 2.05 – the mark is more workable these days and Sona Sasta is likely to set a good clip to aim at.

Chepstow when heavy takes a lot of getting. I would want proven form on the surface and. Get it from the progressive horse Noble Legend at 9/2 in the 3.15.

To the football…

I like going against clubs in trouble and so 5/1 Sunderland and 11/2 West Brom will be backed. More solid claims are Swansea who should be good enough to beat even a rejuvenated Norwich. Southampton have started going and evens is a gift at home to a leaky Reading.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 Mothership is Southampton, Oscars Well, Noble Legend and Golden Hoof.

The each way Trixie is Carole’s Destiny, West End Rocker and Gilbarry.

May your dinner be in good company in a restaurant run by competent sorts.

Courage and roll those dice.