Tag Archives: celestial halo

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock, plus the football

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, dead tired and with a low tremulous wind signalling the latest violent front being launched off the Atlantic, up the Severn Estuary and smashing into the first significant land since the Caribbean.

The Major has dined this evening with the good lady.  Now I know a few of you are wondering whether I am the romantic type and I might settle that thought by telling you that today is also my wedding anniversary, the twelfth to be accurate.  12 years, it goes by in the blink of an eye.  We were married in Sri Lanka and I shall not bore you with the travel detail that others may crow about – To dwell for long on such trivia is crass and wastes your time.  Suffice to say, I found the woman to come in rounded shapes, with toothy beaming smiles and a hearty wish for your contentment.  Excellent curry too, almost as good as the homeland, Birmingham, home of the balti.  The pleasure of a finely balanced dish, coriander, fresh accompanied by a cold fresh mango juice – God has been good to us.

Usually I detest dining on Valentines night, the expense, lack of choice, busyness and sense that you are being forced to behave a certain way, not for me – It is unsettling, lacks class, decorum wearing thin at the edges.  Tonight thought, we ate simply, in a decent pub, hotel slash restaurant..

The pub has its own farm and the pork was exceptional.  I don’t think the scallops were from its grounds, the flooding is not so bad yet.  It all went down well, mission accomplished.

The weather is fantastic.  I do not truck with these folk who wring their hands and decry flood and storm.  Naturally, I am as sorry for those who have their home flooded as the next man, it must be a terrible show.  No, I contend that Violenti Non Fit Injuria – You bought the home on the plain or river – You cannot claim victimhood when such water course overspills its guts.

I find the urges of some to cancel overseas aid disproportionate.  Less than a thousand homes, largely insured, have been flooded.  This does not construe a crisis.  As a nation, we used to withstand constant nightly shelling from the Luftwaffe, I think we can cope with this.  The old proverb of bringing your troubles to a common room with your fellow-man and choosing to leave with your own applies.  Syria has a population of 22m, approximately 8m are displaced and mostly living in tents, some in desperate condition.  2m of the 8m are children.  Do I sound callous?  I do not mean to – Anyone with a flooded home must be going through a terrible experience and I hope the spell of dry weather coming in persists.

I enjoy the excitement of a good storm, the violence of it.  Driving home in the middle evening this week, great waves of water were smashing into the windscreen, sheet after sheet, the horizon suddenly visible and then gone again.  I could make out the shapes of great terrifying trees, blackened against an already dark backdrop, moving in fast menacing ways, limbs twisting and thrusting, side to side, they looked like giant monsters fighting a deathly duel, all exaggerated by the low light.

I hope that all four of Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock get the go ahead.  With extra rain and all four already at ‘heavy’ I fear we may lose some.

For weeks, I have heard the same view expressed, that come Cheltenham, on good to soft ground, we are going to see some surprising results.  Who knows what ground we will get.  I care little for this argument, my antepost has been building on ability only.  I have multiples galore and am most happy with the positions on Silviniaco Conti, Bobs Worth (yes I was backing both), Annie Power (WH so need her to turn up there), Vautour and a few more.  I am less confident about Our Conor (backed a lot) and have plenty of others I would ask for my money back on if the bookie were such inclined.

Anyway, it is time to start building our war chest.  Last week was not a great week.  A couple of winners but largely I made poor calls.  The Tom George horse Module hurt me the most, I had him written off but he won like a lunatic.

The mothership left the dock and deposited none of her kind cargo, no generosity was served.  Be warned too, my run this week continued with a series of ‘good things’ getting turned over – Arsenal, Barca – Christ, the account has taken a right beating.  At such times, one might retreat, draw breath, lick ones wounds and assess a new route.  Not for the Major, no… I shall polish my lancepoint because I know that my destiny is unquestionable.  I do not think it, I know it.

There will be another full frontal assort and these are my weapons of choice.  To the sports…..

Wincanton

Let us hope that this track survives the night intact and can get their excellent card on.

In the second race, a novice hurdle, the three useful looking favourites are all sired by super National Hunt stud, Kings Theatre.  One of his should win and I am taking Paul Nicholls charge Tagrita who is proven on the ground and has won three times this season.   Blue Buttons looks a threat and with Kings string coming back to form, The Pirates Queen may well improve from her earlier season exploits and the further distance, keep it sensible.

The Kingwell Hurdle goes off at  3.35 and pits Melodic Rendevous meets Zarkander and Grumeti giving 8lbs to the latter.  The easy pick here is Melodic and  suggest you smash in with nerves of steel.  Bet like a man possessed and be thankful.  The reasoning?  Well, Zarkander is decent, aptly demonstrated by his seconds this season to Annie Power and The New One.  While the ground will help him deal with such a short distance, this is a warm up for the World Hurdle.  The favourite is a tremendous traveller and given he has Notarfbad in the field (for pace surely) there will be no hiding place here.

Grumeti is definitely  better ground horse and if they leave him in, it will be the first time he has raced on heavy (record on soft 1/3, record on good to soft, 4/4).  Easily overlooked.

Haydock Tips

Celestial Halo has found an excellent prep race for his World Hurdle bid.  I would be interested in Restless Harry but believe he is Ascot bound.   Although it looks an easy and obvious pick (and what is wrong with that? Complaining?  See the manager!) Celestial looked at his very best when winning the Long Walk last time out.  Mickie would be the each way selection but I think they will all be enjoying a fine view of the Halo’s tail.

The Grand National trial is not my sort of race.  You may recall, you my not, that I am not a fan of the National in general.  Now the weights for the big race are out, we shall see some surprising steps up in form, I am sure.  Merry King and Our Father are both contenders for sudden returns to greater things.  The former has looked like a horse that needs 6m!  The latter was one of the best travelling horses I have seen.  Today I am having a small stake in the Venetia runner, Emporers Choice who will love conditions and we all know the form she is in in these big Saturday races.

Wolf Shield is drifting for the 3.30 but I would not dismiss it at 14s – Heavy ground and a return to form last time suggests it could get involved.  No, I rather stick with Flemenson or Horatio Hornblower.  On the grounds that he gets a lump of weight and the services of Maguire in the saddle, I am siding with the latter.

In the Albert Bartlett, I am interested in the proven mud sloggers, Wuff and Toubeera.  I got stung when writing off a Tom George horse last week (Module) but am happy to burden that concern again by suggesting a decent stake on 13/2 (Coral generally 11/2) Toubeera.  I prefer Aidan Coleman to Paddy Brennan, she gets some weight on grounds of sex, which will be a bigger help in deep ground.  I think the extra distance will suit also.  Have a slice.

Ascot Tips

It is a fine fine day of National Hunt and Ascot Chase Day is a superb card.

Ultra expensive Un Temps Pour Tout will want to win the opener if he is going to be considered a Supreme contender.  Given he cost £450k, it is the least you would want.

In the second, I am backing Gervey Chambertin at 5/2 – I always thought this classy hurdler would be an even better chaser and I would be disappointed if we did not see a good run.  It is unusual for me to back against a favourite that has much more chasing experience (Many clouds 3 runs) but those were easy schooling small field sessions and this is different.  Experience may not count if I have my theory right, that Gervey will be a spring heeled natural.  Let’s see.

In the 2.40 chase I do love Teaforthree – Here is something strange I learned this week.  Did you know he was the Sky Soccer AM horse?  Why they sold him I do not know but they would have had a placed Grand National horse on their hands!  Well, I am not backing him today as the main agenda will be Aintree.  No I think this is an excellent chance for Highland Lodge 7/2 but will be keeping stakes small.

Jump to the Ascot Chase at 3.50 – The most interesting runner of the day goes in this Grade 1 as Hunt Ball returning from his American adventures.  He can be backed today at 33/1.  Rolling Aces of some interest but on bare form, he cannot yet hold a candle to Captain Chris who should go in at 11/10. He loves the mud, loves going this way around, boasts good form that is strong this season… Looks one for the accumulators.

It can be a Hobbs / Johnson double as in the next Mountain King looks a great 6/4 shot – I was really taken with the way he travelled in the Ludlow mud and this progressive sort can go well again.

Gowran Park

At 2.25, I will be glued to At The Races in case Bog Warrior returns to the track.  I am this horses biggest fan, partly because I always felt he had tremendous ability but largely because of his distinctive style of running.  He lobs along, head firmly pressed down against his chest – Doing his own thing.  Now, I feel a bit frustrated for him.  He will love this heavy ground, his name is very apt.  Yet, I am perplexed as to why connections are taking him chasing again  He has often blundered at the bigger obstacles but is a classy hurdler.  Coming down the hill in the World Hurdle, I really thought he was going to play a hand – Then his serious injury effected him and he bottomed out quickly.  He has had lots of entries and I suspect he will be a NR again today but I look forward to his return.  For betting purposes, I am on Turban at 13/8.

Un De Sceaux has another procession planned for 3.35.

In the football.  Wolves are a penalty kick at 1/2 and I would lump in.  Southampton to win in the cup at Sunderland is a more tentative selection at 13/10.

The Martin Hill Multiple, which needs to land to build the man’s war chest is… Melodic Rendezvous, Horatio Hornblower and Turban in a trixie of glory.

I hope your dinner is kept simple but in the company of friends.  Eat with your hands, may I suggest Fajita – Becoming involved, mixing well people and food.  Drink well and be thankful.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Full Ascot Card including Long Walk Tips…

Good evening from the Major who writes from a biting Worcestershire with a wind that pierces through your outer layers and seeks out your very soul.  The fire is crackling away, pouring goodness out that thickly covers the room, stifling and comforting all at once.

I won’t pretend that last week was anything other than a bloodbath.  The Major lurched from one loss to another like some great wounded blind animal lumbering onwards, lurching hopelessly and violently.

Christmas needs paying for.  Thus today we shall adorn our spears with the enemies precious trinkets and muster our weary souls into order once more.  Shall it be like the 44th forming a last thin square on the hills above Gandamak Village, after weeks of deathly marching, the last fighting men, having been sniped at by Afghan hill-men, men, women and children falling in the snow in the Khyber Pass, murderous raids on our supply train, pack animals lost, defiantly gathering to protect the colours we shall gather our last vestige of purpose and stand together to a bitter end.

Or, like the thin red line at Balaclava, shall our meagre resources, against all odds and fighting in unconventional fashion, two men deep to take on the Russian Calvary, insanity odds, yet, hold fast boys… No retreat from here men, we shall die where we stand.  That Colin Campbell was as hard as nails, he never hesitated, always spoiled for the fight.

To Ascot, load the grape-shot into the cannon.

Full Ascot Card

There is lots of form on lots of different tracks coming into this race so 9/2 the field is a fair assessment of the openness of it.  Watching the Friday Ascot action, I thought it was riding OK.

If further rain fell, it would only aid the chances of present favourite Brave Buck, he is two from two on heavy ground and comes from an in form Daly stable.   His Welsh double recently reads quite well and more may be to come but he is a stone higher in the weights as a result.

Boss in Boots looks a capable sort but I would prefer a more experienced pilot.  Josies Orders is an interesting sort having had to be rousted along by McCoy to win at Ascot, next time out was a bit disappointing.  McCoy is reunited here and there may be a better performance but I am not sure it looks a bullet-proof proposition.

Instead, the Major opts for 5/1 shot Forever Present who goes for the Henderson yard.  At Ludlow, I thought the performance was OK but a little flat-footed, that was over 2m 5f, I think this extra distance and the ground will suit and if the jumping is a little neater and the replacement of David Bass with Barry Geraghty sparks some improvement, then the handicap mark may look very lean.

Another Saturday and another David Johnson memorial race.  Quite right too – Every track wants to pay homage to the great supporter of our sport.  Only four runners make it to the line for this particular event and Join the Navy needs half a track head start if he is to play a role.  O Faolains Boy looks a very exciting prospect to me, fourth in the Albert Bartlett and stays forever, I think a potential National horse in years to come.  Baby Mix surely needs a rattling surface and that leaves me with the 11/8 shot Easter Day.  My selection has some excellent form over hurdles and he left his chase form well behind on second start over the tougher obstacles at Newbury.  Looks like a Nicholls chaser on the improve to me.

I was quite surprised by the shortness of Pendra’s price for the 1.50.  His winning form is in more minor events and this is an entirely different shape of race for which his inexperience may tell.  That said, you know I like the Longsden yard.  Ulck du Lin is back for another pop at the race he won a year ago off  a fistful of pounds higher, not to be discounted at all.

I’d give Consigliere a chance back on his favoured surface but even if the ground remains quite soft, I am not sure this is the test he needs these days.  Is Rebecca Curtis finally going to get a tune out of 10/1 shot Gus Macrae.  He will like the soft ground but needs to reverse a run of poor form.

My pen rests on Elenika who surely is going to give us a great run at some pint.  The Venetia Williams stable have had some winners in this race and the form at Cheltenham last month when just finishing behind a useful looking front four (Eastlake 3rd went on to win again) does not look so bad.

The Long Walk Hurdle is at 2.25 and I cannot see any way that At Fishers Cross gets beat.  Celestial Halo gave him a thrashing last time out but something was not right that day and overall, despite his admirable hardy record, I remain unconvinced by CH.  Anyway, he has already defected from this race and that leaves the chief competition being Reve de Sivola who I think At Fishers Cross had the better of before smacking his hurdle last time out.  Lets keep it simple… Load the money printer, George has ordered up some more quantitative easing.

In the Silver Cup, we have the surprise Hennessy winner, Triolo D’Alene out again with a further 11bs on his back.  He has run three times on soft and has never placed which is a slight concern.  It is enough for the Major to be looking elsewhere and I have long felt that Cedre Bleu could make up into a decent staying chaser even if he has failed to impress over longer distances previously.  11/2 is available as I type with Coral.  As a footnote, What a Warrior should not be 12s, if 8 go to post, it is a fantastic each way bet for a horse with no weight on his back and decent form claims.

Last but certainly not least… The Ladbroke.  A headache of a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma and rammed down your throat with the bestial force of insanity.  8/1 the field… Take your pick.

For the Major, I am mostly staking my money on the record of Pipe in the race.  In a field of 21 runners, he fields almost a third of the runners.  Firstly a nod to the runners that Messrs Henderson and Nicholls have entered.  Chatterbox and Rolling Star will have plenty of fans.  I prefer Ptit Zig mind, even off top weight.  Yet, my Pipe plot means I am going to invest in Dell Arca 10/1 who must have been targetted at this for some time.   I am also oing to have a saver on 25/1 shot Irish Saint who has some very tasty form as a juvenile – Once beaten by Rolling Star by a handful of lengths at Cheltenham, if recovered from a fall at Newbury, I think he could play a part.

In the football… QPR have the right formula so 6/5 for a home win versus Leicester is a price.  Walsall have had some issues but 4/5 at home to Carlisle is also a bet.

The Martin Hill bet is simple… A Dell Arca, Cedre Bleu and Forever Present trixie….. Money Printer…. Loaded.

I trust your dinner is prepared with great care and charged as such.  I wish the finest wines for you and the finest company.  Tip well, tis Christmas.

Courage and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Grand National day tips at Aintree, just none in the National!!

Good evening from the Major who is residing in Birmingham for the night at the in-laws. The Aintree Saturday post is necessarily brief as a result.

The morning brings a flight to Paris for marathon weekend, your reluctant athletic correspondent shall report on those exploits next week. For now, all I ask is some sympathy between the hours of 8.00 and 12.30 on Sunday morning.

Warning to anyone new who has not visited the blog or read my twitter feed in the last few days. There are no Grand National tips on this blog. There are tips for each of the other races at Aintree.

I wrote two days ago about why I do not support the race. Without labouring the point for regular readers… the National is racing’s shop window but it is a travesty to think that it represents the sport I love. 30% of the horses in the National are likely to fall. A horse is likely to die.

It makes me furious when uninformed folk suggest that the venture is monetarily driven and that connections care little about their horses. I would suggest if you proffered that opinion to the Twiston-Davies family after the tragic loss of Little Josh earlier today then you might get punched, you would deserve it.

Yet, despite me knowing that risk is inherent in all national hunt racing (and living with it), the percentages involved in the national make sobering reading and it is not for me. Unique fences, 40 horses, the longest race in Britain… a unique cocktail that despite safety improvements will always make the race a risky one.

Saturday Aintree Tips

The opener sees Dodging Bullets taking on Up and Go. The former was starting to look decent but seemingly was found out in the Supreme. The latter, a McCain inmate has only run in soft conditions. Utopie des Bordes has set some decent early form in Britain and her French form is excellent, she has won on good ground but may be to better effect over longer.

Eduard is not dismissed but I suspect that one will come better in the future.

On balance I am going for Up and Go – He is likely to try and make all but I think he can get away with it. He gets the assistance of Jason Maguire who I like to see at the front of affairs, dictating things…

The Up and Go partnership would be hoping for a quick fire double with Overturn in the second. To tip this one, I have to look beyond the chances of Alderwood who has just won the Grand Annual. That form is excellent – The Grand Annual is such a competitive handicap that I always think you will see multiple winners coming out again for the Aintree and Punchestown handicaps. It is telling that Alderwood is going straight to Grade 1 level and it is hard to ignore but Overturn is a horse you cannot help but like.

He is as flexible as you like, gives his all and has a touch of class. He would not have enjoyed conditions in his Arkle and his earlier chasing form, while not in top class events, certainly was visually stunning. Overturn or Alderwood, Alderwood or Overturn….. Alderwood... Have a slice.

In the Liverpool Hurdle goes my bet of the day. I think the World Hurdle form is suspect at best. Celestial Halo is not a horse I trust, Solwhit is also a bit beyond prime and the fact the two battled out an exciting finish, well it just served to say there was a lack of class to that. Against them both, I am going to suggest African Gold at 9/1 – At Fishers Cross did everything to boost the form of the Albert Bartlett in which African Gold was a solid second.

In the listed handicap, I am going to pick good ground specialist Problema Tic at 14/1 – Pipe can ready this one who looks likely to come back now the spring is here.

In the 5.10, I am more interested in the jockey than the horse. Trying to solve the latter is a mystery as there are simply so many who are seemingly well handicapped. Finding a good jockey is down to three factors, win %, experience and what my eyes have told me! Corbett, Mahon and Brooke are my three to focus on.

Ranjaan is the mount of Mahon and may be seen to better effect on good ground but Nicholls is not in the best touch this week in my view. Brooke rides Local Hero was well beaten in the Elite by Zarkander but has been given plenty of time to recover and arrives very fresh. Meganisi is the Brooke ride and has won a couple of nice handicaps this term.

I am suggesting a small pop at both Meganisi and Local Hero.

If the Twiston Davies team had a horrible day yesterday with the loss of their stable pet, I am backing a fine double with a winner in the bumper in the shape of Pure Science at 9/1. He conceded a lot of ground racing wide in the Champion Bumper but still came in 6th and I feel a decent run will see him involved.

Outside of Aintree, I feel a 6/5 punt on Rupert Lamb is in order.

In the football, Reading must be feeling a bit desperate and Southampton continue to show spark, 13/10 for an away win is worth it. On Sunday, I feel Tottenham at 5/4, home to Everton is a gift from god. Hull at 5/6 is a must buy.

 

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is African Gold, Rupert Lamb, Alderwood and Tottenham.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Gambling Gentlemens Weekend Must-Read

Good morning from the Major who sits at his Kitchen table concocting a wonderful weekend of gambling. 

This week, advices were at times unlucky but did not pay and the great start to the year took a small hit.  That said we are still hugely profitable, thanks to a number of tasty horses going in..

January Results
Sport Stakes Profit
Racing 20 86.65%
Football 8 -28.64%
Total 28 53.71%

All advices remain on my posts, for checking and the record of them is in the menu above.  The Major’s tips are always free and the thinking unhinged.  If just one child is saved from a life of non-gambling as a result of what I do, I shall go to my grave content.  Seal the lid Mr Undertaker, and let little Johnny know that I still think Trafford Lad can land a big prize one day.

The Major has started recording his bets again, you will find it on the top menu, along with new resources which I will expand from time to time. 

The Saturday Gambling Sermon is here so relax.  Gentlemen adjust your hat to a jaunty angle (26 degrees), strike up a cigar (Cohiba Siglo IV) and let us go to war once again.

Finians Rainbow - Looks like they have ordered up more of the Quantative Easing again!

We have the riches spread before us like a rich man in heaven.  The grade one Victor Chandler Chase, seven grade two races and a grade three; spread across Haydock, Naas and Ascot. 

The highlight is certainly the Victor Chandler which has been used, in the past, as a springboard for the best chasers.

Todays renewal is no exception with the superb Finians Rainbow versus Al Ferof.  It is a clash to whet the appetite, Henderson v Nicholls, Geraghty v Walsh; in a race that also includes Somersby and Wishful Thinking.  This is what Saturday sport is about.

Appetite is the focus of this mornings Saturday Sermon, well that and independent thought, which I will get to shortly. 

A man’s appetites on a Saturday should be satisfied with a fine salmon and poached egg.  Failing that, the Major’s favourite breakfast dish, Eggs Benedict would more than suffice – If you are not familiar with this particular morning spectacular, then live a little, order one up and allow the Major to brighten your existence.  Life will not be the same again.

Appetite for risk is something the Major is familiar with from my daily pursuits both vocational and recreational.  To be able to judge risk, you need to be able to weigh the likelihood of an event occurring with the impact of the resultant outcome.  Your acceptance of a wager should be determined by such.

This is straightforward and is similar to the mathematical concepts of probability, odds and value which the Major has posted in the Gambling Resources section of the site. 

Calculating value is one matter, your personal appetite dictates how you react to that value.  In the Majors opinion, gamblers and people of business are happy to operate at the low risk with certain, low reward end of the risk spectrum.  They rarely back themselves to go for the high risk but high reward opportunities that present themselves.  Consider…..

I have often said, that if a horse should be 33/1 but has been priced at 100/1, you should back it.  This is because it is profitable.  Ultimately, that calculation is more important than what you think will happen.  Yet few people will back such a prospect, even when they have calculated that it is great value.

For example, if you calculate reasonably that each of the Premier League elite teams will lose a home game, once a season to a bottom third team, then you might reasonably surmise that the odds of those away teams should be approximately 8/1.  Thus if QPR were at Chelsea and priced at 12/1, this would be a value price in your book, the reward is great but the risk is high as you still believe that the outcome is 87.5% likely that your bet will not pay. 

What is important is not that you think it will not happen, it is that you still think it is more likely to happen than the market price suggests.

This is fundamentally why gambling is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme but a long game dotted with regular consistent losses.  What is important is that when you win, you backed outcomes at correct prices. 

Don’t be a sheep.  When you here someone say that Manchester United are a certainty at home, remind that they did lose at home to Blackburn…. at 28/1.  Whatever outcome occurs, the test of judgement is whether you priced it correctly. 

What people get confused between is value and likelihood.  Just because something is likely, does not make it good value.  Human nature dictates to follow likelihood more than value because we want to win more.  This thought clouds the brain.  Often, value dictates back Blackburn but likelihood says back Manchester United because it is more likely.  Be careful of those voices in your head, remember the Major’s calculation for betting value – (Decimal Odds * Probability) / 100.  Value greater than 1 – Back it.  Value less than 1 – Leave to the sheep.

So I think Chelsea to win at Norwich is just a 40% probability.  Their price is 1.66.  1.66*0.4 = 0.664 – Shocking value for the Major.

That is the sport of it, the intellectual thrust of judgement and calculation.  The fine balance.  When people ask why I gamble, I reply ‘why not?’ – The Major pities those who cannot feel the rush of blood at a sporting event where you have staked your money on the market being wrong.  When you made your honourable personal choice, your own integral thoughts, that which no man can alter but thee, that which god gave you to distinguish yourself as that of the finest and highest privelege – A man with independent thought.  What finer or purer thing exists? 

No wonder hostages survive, able to hold on that thought – Whatever happens, my independent thought still remains.  That integrity cannot be taken away. 

To the Sports, daub thy war paint…..

The Victor Chandler Chase – 3.10 Ascot

First of all, The Major dops his hat to Victor Chandler who are stumping up a matched £25 bet offer for existing customers.  The Major has not studied the detail but this firm have always been generous with their concessions.  As a bookmaker they offer best priced markets too, so that when a horse drifts you collect the better price.  One of the Major’s preferred accounts.

The market is currently full of bookmakers competing for our wagers on this race – This has forced the overround down to 103%, happy days!

We are looking at some of the upcoming stars heading the market in the shape of Al Ferof and Finians Rainbow.  These two, with the possible addition of Wishfull Thinking seem the progressive sorts and that is what the Major wants.

Wishfull Thinking has disappointed a bit this term in the Tingle Creek and the Paddy Power but looked a top prospect at the close of last season, it is possible we are getting to his time of year and he is a dangerous sort to rule out.  That said, he has reportedly had breathing problems which two wind ops do not seem to have solved, not without a chance but in this company, overlooked.

Al Ferof has won both starts over fences and although that does not equate to much experience, visually he looked very comfortable.  The form line with For Non Stop is not the strongest, but hugely respectable.  Remember we are comparing him though to the best potential Grade 1 chasers mind and he might still need to improve more.

Finians Rainbow however ticks more boxes.  His Kempton win last time (beating Wishfull Thinking) showed plenty of guts and a decent turn of foot; having been pretty much on the deck with half a mile to go.  His novice campaign was exceptionally strong and Henderson clearly thinks highly of him.  His Arkle defeat for me, remains amongst the best pieces of form on show, the time evidence supports that view.

I think the Victor Chandler will pan out with Forpadytheplasterer and Wishfull Thinking taking them along.  This should suit Finians Rainbow.

Get stuck right in and thank me later: 5/2 Victor Chandler with their additional concession.

1.45 Champion Hurdle Trial – Haydock

In name this is a Grade 2 Champion Hurdle trial, in truth, it is not a great show.  Just four go to post and the 1/2 favourite is Celestial Halo. 

The resaon for throwing the race into the Saturday Sermon in is that I am not sure 1/2 is at all value for the favourite.  The race is sure going to be tactical.  It is heavy ground and with a small field, they will probably go at a dawdle until the business end.

A further concern is that Celestial Halo has never run on heavy ground and this will be bottomless.  While his soft ground form suggests it will be fine, after coming out of a hrad last race, 1/2 is no price.

Instead, I suggest Marsh Warbler who I think will thrive in the mud.  7/2 Skybet, have a slice.

1.00 Ascot – Novice Handicap Chase

It is hugely difficult to evaluate the form of my selection Triolo D’Alene who is available to back at 10/3 with Betfred but 127 gives plenty of opportunity if the ability is there.  Top connections might have an easy score here and 10/3 might look the price of fools at ten past one. 

10lbs of weight conceded from Oldrik who rates the danger, persuaded me to get on the Henderson unknown quantity.

Haydock 1.10

Bet of the day for me is in the Novice Chase over two and a half miles at Haydock.

While State Benefit looks like being another of the riches spilling from the Henderson yard, the Major would be concerned that the bottomless ground may get to him.  Certainly his Exeter win on soft seems to suggest he likes getting his toe in but Haydock in these conditions is a different prospect.

This is why I place great weight on the two wins Cotswold Charmer has collected on heavy.  His chase debut win at Bangor was on soft and he has scope to keep improving.

5/1 is generally available and is overpriced for the Major. 

To the football….

African Cup of Nations

The African cup of nations kicks off today and I am very pleased to be sat on an ante-post ticket backing Senegal at 10/1.  They have been backed into 11/2 across the board and you can see why.  They should have a relatively trouble-free passage to the Semi-Finals and their squad is littered with European striking talents.  In fact, they boast seven strikers of which, we would be most familiar with Demba Ba.  If you want a tournament interest, have a slice – I fully expect the ageing Ivory Coast squad, who start the tournament 13/8 favourites, to flop once again. 

In the Premier League, I am following my belief that Chelsea are weaker than the market thinks and suggesting a Norwich win at 5/1 with 188Bet.  While my tip for Chelsea to fail to beat Sunderland did not pay, after watching the game, surely you would not want to be on Chelsea today at 4/6 best price?  Incidentally the draw is a best price 16/5, making that a 100% overround.  £6 with Ladbrokes (6/4), returns £10, so does £2.40 with 16/5 Victor Chandler and so does £1.70 with 188bet at 5/1.

I know Fulham have a decent home record but Newcastle still look great value at 3/1.  I think the price is inflated because markets believe they will miss Tiote and Ba too much but in reality it is more their no nonsense 4-4-2 sensible approach that has been winning them games.  They have kept it simple and they work hard.  They have adequate players to drop in and while their 1-0 QPR win was not spectacular, it again showed their organisational strength.  3/1 is too dismissive.

Finally Wigan look better than 3/1 to get a result at QPR.  Wigan play nice football, a fact not helped by their shocking pitch.  QPR will suit them and the Major has never been convinced by Mark Hughes, not a fan.

Mr Hill – The Lucky 15 Order is: Finians Rainbow, Norwich, Cotswold Charmer and Senegal – That should pay for a new pair of shoes or two!  Put Triolo d’Alene in if you feel the football is not to your particular taste.

Tonight may your dinner be beautiful, akin to the Major who took a ‘diet break’ eating a fine Chateaubriand in the week.  The tenderloin has to be the best cut of beef and I recommend you try it.  Have for company a country sort that won’t be offended by the bloodiness of your dish.  Dine well for tomorrow may never come.

Courage and roll those dice.

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.