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The 2014 Cheltenham World Hurdle Card Sermon – Forwards in courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pursue one great decisive aim with force and determination.

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

Thursday Cheltenham Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck my friends.

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The Saturday Sermon – Full Cheltenham International Card Tips – Let’s get Christmas paid for!

Good evening from the Major who writes from a pleasant Worcestershire evening with the family happily all around and Chinese food in, fit to burst.

The Major is full of business this evening, all bustling and bristling to get to the racing action.  A nice card at Cheltenham awaits and below is a full run down of my thoughts for tomorrow.  I am looking forward to seeing the New One in action – He is a serious contender for the Champion Hurdle although I confess to holding ante post tickets on Our Conor who was breathtaking in March, delivering a performance from the gods, a rare thing, winning a festival race on such a tight rein.

Such joyous days, I was not on but could only admire.

Lately, such times have been hard to recall.  I am suffering with an anxiety, dark and malevolent.  Blood surging, pressure building inside the skull, little respite.  Waking in the dark hours, restless, thoughts whirring away and not the pleasant sort.  Early in the mornings, in the worst moments, I struggle to shake it off.  The night world invading the day.

Yet now as I sit here, the fire underway, all is swept aside and a contentment lightens my mood.  Tomorrow I am to Birmingham and to spend some time watching the sport in great company.  Sport is wonderful.  All of life is contained within.

We are on this path just the once stranger.  We have no dress rehearsal.  I repeat my oft-repeated plea, we drift by on the tide just the once, grab on to what floats by, take up the fortune my friends.  If there are two simple things, just two to make your aim.. make it these… Experience and Companionship.

Daub thy war paint for it is December and we have a Christmas to pay for.  Mount the heavy horse for we will skirmish in open formation into their forward lines, meeting them man to man with our lance points flashing in the bright sunlight.  To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

In the Cheltenham opener, the Triumph trial, I am interested in two near the top of the market.

All three fancied horses come from strong yards with Henderson holding the favourite, Kentucky Hyden; Nicholls with French import, Vicenzo Mio and John Ferguson represented by Commissioned.  All three yards arrive is good form and it is noteworthy that Nicholls has used this race to launch the British careers of some decent sorts in the past, winning it twice in the last two years.

The Henderson horse won by half the track at Sandown but that small field was easier pickings than this.  I prefer the Nicholls horse who has won a decent race at Auteuil and is a definite contender.  Yet I am more persuaded by the Ferguson horse, Commissioned.  I know the record of the yard at jumping HQ is atrocious (0 wins, 2 places, 15 runners – 2 Years) but look beyond that and there is a lot to like about my tip.

Commissioned is an ex Mark Johnstone horse and has excellent form on good ground, which is a handy advantage.  The yard have had 6 winners in the last two weeks and with some handy flat form, I think the 5/1 offered by Ladbrokes is well worth taking… Get invested.

Only 4 runners make it for the stayers novice chase but it is an intriguing race all the same.  A lot of folk are going to take the way Shutthefrontdoor was closing on Le Bec last time at Cheltenham as a significant positive over this extra distance.  It certainly looks like he should be able to reverse form but I am not convinced – To me Le Bec kept finding more too and I am not convinced that the defeated foe necessarily has the upper hand tomorrow with an extra furlong and 3lbs to help him.

Le Bec was sixth in the Albert Bartlett and looks pretty assured at his fences, although he did hit one at Cheltenham last time and still finished well.

It is between these two in my book.  I am going for the reverse and a bet on Shutthefrontdoor at 11/8.  There is a further more powerful reason for a reverse in my eyes.  That is the replacement of Le Bec of Noel Fehily by Aiden Coleman.  Now I have nothing against Coleman, he is a good jockey in his own right but I am a huge Fehily fan who is surely worth some lengths to the horse.

In the Jenny Mould memorial, I am opting for Astracad (8/1) who will definitely pop up in a race like this sooner or later.  The horse has picked up a couple of course wins, although has been highly tried at Cheltenham.  I think he prefers the better ground and his trainer would like to win the Jenny Mould memorial as she was a big supporter of his yard.  Of the others, Shooters Wood would have been very interesting but I think conditions are against.  It might also be that we have not bottomed out the potential of Drumshambo who also made the short-list.

Kings Palace looks like a solid favourite for the 1.50pm.  The Pipe horse won really well here last time, loves good conditions and 5/4 does not put me off… Load the heavy cannon.

I was a big fan of Colour Squadron and thought we were desperately unlucky not to win with him at the November meeting.  A better jump two out and he was definitely going to be involved.  How confident we can be in a second such performance, I am not sure.  Johns Spirit was showing further improved form though that day and 9lbs raise may not have bottomed him out.

I am opposing both though with a chance that Salut Flo returns in some sort of good order.  My selection loves decent ground and was a serious horse when last seen in competitive action.  Clearly time off tempers the enthusiasm but Pipe can ready one and this could be a seriously good mark.  Ataglance is a horse I would not put you off, he was also involved in that Johns Spirit / Colour Squadron dust-up and while finishing further behind in fourth, it is worth noting that he was racing out of the handicap that day and is much better off on tomorrows revised terms.

I do not see any dangers to The New One in the meetings feature race.  Yes it is 1/2 on but this is a serious Champion Hurdle contender and I think he should readily have the measure of Zarkander who while decent is not top class.  I would offer a word of optimism for Albert Hall who has limited British experience but has capable french form and 100/1 would be dismissive of his place chances if there were 8 runners, sadly, currently only 7 go to post.

I can make a case for all of the runners in the last.  Gemix is hard to assess, he certainly has some top class form but I am not sure what he will make of hurdling in a small field in this company.  I prefer More of That who smashed up a Folkestone race and two wins this season have been better again – More to come.

Yet, in the last, I am minded to go with Glenns Melody, she has a good strike rate and won really handsomely last time.  Since Ruby has made the effort to come over, well I take it as a positive, 7/2 is a stand out with Coral, with 3/1 more generally on offer.

At Lingfield, I would back Black Thunder in their feature race, soft ground is great for him and he was pulling clear readily at Haydock last time, easy.

In the football, I like QPR and Forest both at 5/4.

I trust that your dinner is in the best of company, generous, full of humour and mischief and that the only inconvenience is the uncomfortable wad of notes denoting the drubbing you dished out to our beautiful enemy.

The Martin Hill bet is each way doubles and trebles on all of the Cheltenham selections above with the exception of The New One and Astracad.  That’s 40 bets… Get Christmas paid.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Open Saturday Tips… Shabash

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

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

Barely legible

Barely legible

 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major

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

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

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

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

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

Cheltenham Saturday Open Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday Newbury Racing Tips – Determination… you don’t know the meaning of the word…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the solid frozen hulking rural scene of Worcestershire, the air seems to hang and pinch at you.  I am sat comfortably in the living room watching the inaugural showing of Utopia, it looks like my kind of show.

Tonight I have been working on accountancy, all part of the Majors MBA studies.  I am enjoying it…… thus hammering the final nails into the coffin of any rock and roll that remains in my soul.

Someone asked me recently whether I make any advertising revenue from the blog.  I explained that it was more of a communal project, attracting like-minded souls onto a punting lifeboat where gentlemen’s rules apply.  No charges apply and no advertisements or ulterior motive exists – I am with you and we are equal…. trying to land the mothership.

They suggested that I must have buckets of determination to write at a prolific rate.  Determined… hmmmm, I had never thought of it like that, I enjoy it.

Those words stayed with me though, as these things will and I was reminded of them when hearing of the demise of Maurice Herzog this week.  A French mountaineer who in the early fifties was the first to scale a peak over 8,000m, (Annapurna), a few years before Hilary and co managed Everest.

Herzog was your sort of man who was born with his mind made up.  You know he sort.  When they say something, you just know, they will do as their word.  Don’t cross that sort.

He inspired many ordinary folk and generations of mountaineers.  He knew a summit bid of Annapurna was way too risky on the day they did it but proceeded because he was minded to.  Short on kit (lost his gloves at the summit) the damage inflicted required field amputation of many toes and fingers.

Determined… me, no.  I shall leave that for others.

To the sports.

Tips – Newbury Wednesday Card

I hope Newbury survives the frost, course officials seem confident so let us hope the Berkshire cold is no worse than expected.

When Alan King has a juvenile entered at a Grade 1 track, every other trainer has cause for concern and in Seventh Sign, he probably fields the smartest flat form on offer.  Captain Cardington would be interesting on his penultimate run but perhaps with the dust settled that was not the best form.  Veauce de Sivola is a full brother to Reve de Sivola and money for the newcomer would be significant although it is not a yard that rush their top animals.  On balance, Seventh Sign is a likely  shot and at that price, I am a buyer.

In the 1.20, the track have attracted a few good runners for a fairly small prize.  Big tracks can do that but I must say, the prize money at Newbury on Wednesday is a bit poor.  Still…. James de Vassy could be an interesting chaser but can only be watched after a few years on the side lines.  AP worked wonders upon Colour Squadron at Newbury last time out chasing home the very useful Module and handling a slipped saddle too.  Why look anywhere else than Fago though who is another top class looking French recruit, when Ditcheat send their novice chasers to Newbury, you can be sure they know their business.

In the 1.55 Novice Hurdle, the three with penalties will be the first three home in my view and the order is the significant conundrum.  Etricht has been a bit disappointing and finally started to go the right way last time at Fakenham.  Melodic Rendezvous looked the real deal when beating Imperial Leader and the bare face of that form entitles the latter to be thereabouts in this company, even if the race was a dawdle to start with.  It might pay to stick with the King yard and Uxizandre who is a proven performer in soft conditions, while disappointing first time out at Market Rasen, he showed he has transferred his French potential last time with a stylish win here beating good yardsticks.

The 2.25 handicap chase is a bloody conundrum and 14 runners with 5/1 the field is not the prettiest each way market.  IF you were fed up earlier with me pointing out the damn obvious then you might prefer a slice of 14/1 with Ringa Bay.  Firstly, the negatives – He is up in class significantly and sports an amateur jockey.  The positives are numerous though.  His last win at Lingfield was decent enough but he showed good form.  There is plenty to think he is progressive on this type of surface too having only raced on soft or worse three times, winning twice and placing once.  It could be an experiment from the yard who don’t send horses to Newbury but maybe they have a decent beast on their hands.

The 3pm sees Violin Davis try to do herself justice after getting stuck in the glue at Exeter.  This track looks like it might suit her more with less undulations, more chance to get a rhythm going… basically it is easier.  Her experience will have taught her and I think 6/4 has to be backed.

Newbury have a bumper and a hunter chase to finish the card.

The 3.30pm bumper looks as wide open as you like with several boasting superbly progressive profiles.  Arguably Vieux Lion Rouge was the most exciting looking and he certainly comes from good quarters, representing the Pipe yard.  I am going to take a chance on Kalucci improving significantly for his second at Wetherby.  Third that day went back on the polytrack to in again next time out and with McCoy taking over from Felix de Giles, you have to say there are some positive signs.  Currently 3/1.

In the last, Chapoturgeon makes for an excellent hunter chaser and is likely to start odds on here.  I am going to have a smaller each way slice of Silver Story who I think could play a role.

Courage and roll those dice…

 

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury Challow Hurdle Tips Horseracing from Leopardstown including their Grade 1 Festival Hurdle

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed.  The good lady is alongside (fear not, a significant bolster, giant if you will, separates us), she is reading her book and biding her time before most likely snapping and letting me know that the tippety tap production of the Saturday Sermon is effecting her harmony.

The weather in Worcestershire is grey and mild, infuriatingly boring.  The wind is rising though and on it is the promise of significant morning rain.  The brook over the road from the Majors country seat is full of recent downpours, it is creeping remorselessly up my neighbour’s garden, devouring higher ground.

What a fantastic day of racing, we have been spoiled with the offerings this week.  The Lexus Chase had an enthralling climax with unbelievably brave Tidal Bay sticking his neck through the crowd to take glory on his only ever foreign excursion.

You can only speculate what this horse might have achieved if he had been with Nicholls his whole career.  He seemingly has the keys to him and a brave Hennessy performance preceded this heroic Lexus win.  The Major had written him off, well he is turning twelve.  Gold Cup horse… no, not for me.

In fact, I have been swimming against the tide for some time on the subject of the Gold Cup.  My views are simple.  Long Run underperformed significantly last year in one of the weakest renewals ever.  Take that out, he has won a Gold Cup aged 6 (rare and in doing so broke the track record), has won two King Georges (regaining it this year) and for me is the classiest staying chaser there is on the scene.

I have given my views already on the jockey situation but overall, I am a buyer of Long Run for the Gold Cup at 7/1 and the Lexus further convinced me.

Sir Des Champs has done little wrong but perhaps is not the world beater we might have imagined.  Flemenstar is a non stayer and drops to the Champion Chase.  Peter Casey thinks Sprinter Sacre will be quaking in his boots, I don’t think Flemenstar will get him off the bridle.  Tidal Bay is not a Gold Cup horse aged 12, no way.  Bobs Worth is the real danger as I do rate that one highly but he has not achieved as much as Long Run.

While we are on ante post betting, have a bit of Major Malarkey at 25/1 for the Welsh National.  It will be good for you, you can thank me later.

A very good friend asked me how I make money from writing the Major’s blog and was quite surprised to hear that I don’t.  I have never (and can never foresee a time when I might)  promoted services to my followers.  For a start, it is not my style, I enjoy writing this too much and prefer the honest relationship we have.  I offer you this for free, you can despise me when you have lost your money.  I don’t want the integrity of your hatred lost in a confusion over whether I was just wrong and cost you money or whether I was being evil and tried to trick you into backing a loser.  One I regularly am guilty of, the other I am not capable of.

I do not know you but you might have gleaned somewhat of my own mind, over time.  You might think me a little unhinged, you might enjoy it, you might be informed, you might be here through chance, a first time, or you might be here through reluctant familiarity, like returning to a poor soap opera as a matter of habit.

In providing my racing tips, I profess not expertise but an enthusiastic and positive amateur approach.  What is more, I believe any claimed expertise in my field is fallacy.  It is partly why I stick to my mantra of courage and roll the dice.  

By the way, I stole that, or at least I borrowed heavily to get to it.  If anyone can tell me (comment or tweet @tdl123) where from and get it right then I will be impressed….  Answers next Saturday.

Roll the dice, the courage to take chances… but as a horseracing fan and amateur tipster, is it not my job to remove chance, to be certain?  Is it not therefore an admission of shame to say that chance plays the master role?

Put simply, there is too much information to be certain of anything in life.  We can access such enormous amounts of data not just in racing but in all walks of life and it has a profound impact on how we view the world.

Using information wisely is a profitable business is all walks of life.  Yet there is little information, if any, to which I can claim exclusive access.

I have a rating engine I use which although using someone elses software platform is essentially my own.  This is not unique though and the source information for the engine is common.

My point is this, our views are so often based on things that everyone else can access too.  There is so much of this information too, I can access the strike rate of Sir Des Champs sire on left-handed tracks, if I want to, if I think it merit worthy.

The idiotic, select elements of this ‘sea of data’ that fit their pre-existing argument.  If you like Sir Des Champs, you might be minded to convince yourself that an extra half mile will see him beat Flemenstar.  If you like Flemenstar, you might select his unbeaten record to decide that he will be superior on the day.  This is dangerous, if you do not realise you are doing it.  It is easy to corrupt yourself into false confidence.

All I am saying is that there is enough data to pretty much argue anything.  It is the human condition that we believe we can control enough of what lies around us to predict the future, we are desperate to do this and you can see it in people all of the time.  If you even start to critically analyse what people say, just scratching the surface of their belief systems, you find it full of weakness, yet some convey their belief with such authority.

How frustrating that is, to meet the man born believing , in fact, knowing himself to be right.  These people, I believe are most afraid of their own mortality.  they will die scared.  They need to convey certainty in their knowledge, because they are too weak to accept that they do not know, that the world is far greater than the insignificance speck that is you and I.

Accepting we cannot predict, control and know is a terrifying prospect, the very idea that we have no idea takes us closer to our own insignificance.  Socrates knew it and you should be at peace with it too as it is inescapable.  It is as inevitable as your own death.

Bleak, possibly… but cheer yourself that you have the elixir of life, freedom, autonomy and vibrancy.  You are here, after all, many are not.  That thought, the one in your head right now, it is yours alone.  Drink deeply from the cup, let it run over and splash down you.  You are alive, you have your own mind.

My point about prediction and how thin and feeble it can be is why gambling is the best hobby a man could possibly have.  It teaches humbleness in the face of the infinite, it teaches you to try to garner just a slither of understanding of the small detail, not to fool yourself with an illusion of absolute control.

The belief that one has the ability to predict outcome with certainty belongs to the fool.  In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.  Know something and understand it is only something.

Ask yourself, have you ever had a strong sense of a horses chances only to see it lose unfortunately?  Have you ever used information to understand a picture but just not quite staked well, thus losing?

When doing so, do you feel frustrated or is there another emotion too?  Contentedness, a rested mind that you were able to comprehend the variables, even if it was without reward?  If you do not feel this, then please do not come back.  We here are gentlemen gamblers, at the snooker table we acknowledge those lucky deflected pots and we call our own fouls.

If you have felt it, then embrace it.

To the sports and remember, I am merely a guide shining a tiny narrow light into the cavernous kingdoms of information, my torch may flash on something you like but I am only searching myself, I offer thought, not fact.  The beauty of life is not control, it is choice and chance so be with me today followers… courage and roll those dice.

Newbury Challow Hurdle

Two terrific prospects for the Neptune clash here and both Clondaw Kaempfar and Taquin du Seuil look potentially top class.

The former was bought for a six figures and has won a decent bumper and two good hurdles, including a listed contest latest.  Never raced on heavy but the soft ground form suggests this is no problem.

Taquin du Seuil is another classy prospect and it was surprising to me that it is second favourite in the early prices.  Jonjo has used this race before with some decent horses including the ill-fated Wichita Lineman.  Taquin won a Uttoxeter bumper with some authority before bumping into the smart My Tent or Yours and losing.

That loss was interesting, while he was not that fluent at the obstacles, he was ultimately well held and I would suggest that the trip was already inadequate.

Stepped up a further half mile last time out and raised into Grade 2 company, Taquin Du Seuil smashed the opposition which although potentially a bit light for the standard, marks him as a serious prospect.

On the whole, Taquin du Seuil has achieved more to date than the others and I think, kept to these distances, he is a very smart prospect.  He is my strong tip for the Challow Hurdle and I would be taking those 16/1 prices on the Neptune now.

2pm Leopardstown – Istabraq Hurdle Tips

I do not think Hurricane Fly is likely to retake his Champion Hurdle crown come March but he should be able to give his fans something to cheer about here.  3/10 might be no punters price but neither Thousand Stars or Unaccompanied are within a stone of the former champ and any other outcome would be a major surprise to me.

Another Leopardstown favourite I will tip is Sizing Gold who is likely to go off around evens in the 12.55, having finished 10l down to the decent Don Cossack last time up, a repeat performance would be enough but surely improvement is on the cards.

In the 1.30pm, I am willing to give 4/1 shot The Real Article another chance.  Once a controversial handicapper over hurdles that ended up in graded races, he is looking to shape into a very useful chaser.  A fall last time out came when travelling nd jumping well enough and if the confidence is unharmed he will be a threat to all at this level.

In the 2.35, I am going to have a considerable slice of Zuzka at 6/4.  This mare was unfortunate enough to run into Jessica Harringtons Jezki in the Royal Bond (impressive winner of the Future Champions), there is no such opposition here.  If anything the Royal Bond stretched her a little and she did well to be within a few lengths of Jezki, all in all, she should have the guns for this.

You need the mind of Stephen Hawking to attempt to decipher the 3.05… just watch it!

More Newbury Racing Tips

The 1.35pm sees the chase debut of Colour Squadron who could be a decent jumper of the larger obstacles having run Captain Conan close over hurdles last year.

That said, jumping was an issue with the small ones and Newbury fences are tough enough.  The ground might help slow things up and could be an assistance but I cannot tip a chase debutant with that record at the obstacles.

Module is also full of promise but I prefer the chances of Tenor Nivernais and Bury Parade who have both registered chase wins.  The former might have a few quirks but definitely has some quality as shown when spread-eagling a Bangor field, that was not top class stuff but probably just the confidence booster Tenor Nivernais needed.

The tip for the Newbury Novice Chase though is Bury Parade who was an expensive purchase recently into the Ditcheat team after beating Super Duty at Carlisle.  That horse went on to smash-up a decent Cheltenham field in the Schloer Chase providing ample advertisement that the transfer fee for my Newbury tip could be money well spent indeed.  Take the hint.

Given I am all about Taquin Du Seuil, you would expect me to be on My Tent or Yours at cramped odds in the last and I will be!

To the football tips…

I am all aboard the Watford money express to Brighton at 11/4.  I also think 13/10 Leyton Orient to beat my old team Walsall and 5/6 for Tranmere at home should be in your multiples.  I must say that Sunderland look the value bet to me, Villa are in free fall at the moment and the Spurs form against them should not be taken literally.  13/5 home win is a bet.

Hull are a touch the wrong side of evens to beat Leeds at home and I think they should be bought.  Palace are 11/5 to win at Forest, with turmoil at that club, I fancy this being a good time to get them.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Taquin Du Seuil, Zuzka, Leyton Orient and Bury Parade.  Load the cannons.

May your dinner be a simple meal.  Remove the finery and return to basics.  Have good company with you and sleep content.

Courage and roll those dice.