Tag Archives: cotton mill

The Saturday Sermon – Wincanton, Doncaster and Sandown Tips plus the football

Good morning from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire that once again is smothered in a cold, thick, grey, severely uninviting blanket of grey dampness.

Each object in my horizon looks indistinct and each thing cold as though it might infect you with chills and dampness too, if you touch it.  Thus the Major writes with the fire crackling away, the gentle sound of the air being drawn and the occasional breaking of the rhythm by a sudden crackle or violent spit.

Racing today seems to fall between the cracks,  neither top class nor is it entirely unappetising.  We know better is to come, next week we see the Cheltenham Open fixture with the likely reappearance of some genuine Championship horses, coming together to ascertain their place in the early pecking order, but today, we enjoy a more gentile existence.

This is also a likely shorter post as the Major is troubled with other matters.  I shall not bore you with the gremlins that trouble my mind but suffice to say that add up to little compared with real hardship and so would be an embarrassment to air.  I suspect most of yours are the same.  Anyway, the moralists among you, who have been here often and know my mind well might suspect I was well served for my thoughts.

Confidence in your position underpins the fabric on which you build your self-esteem.  Socrates was  drinking his deadly hemlock in utter serenity, entirely confident that is was the logical conclusion and therefore should be accepted with grace.  I am also minded of the Italian security contractor captured in Iraq, forced to dig his own grave and then defiantly as he knelt alongside it waiting to be shot, he tried to remove his hood and declare Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!…. I will show you how an Italian dies.

These things stay with me, whirling around, in amongst the mundane daily noise, these signals break through.  Accepting of your own fate, the inevitability of it all, we are all due the same settlement in the finish.

I could not write this weeks blog without a gentle nod in the direction of the champion jump jockey AP McCoy – You all know about his magnificent achievements and I shall not try to do what others are far better capable of.  Yet I proffer that Drill Sergeant who stopped to a walk mid race but was got going again and galvanised to victory plus the incredible ride on Wichita Lineman who got there in the nick of time, at a Cheltenham Festival too… These two rides for I, symbolise best what McCoy is about.  All from a man who does not drink and works so diligently.  He deserves every plaudit.

I once met McCoy at the Sports Personality Awards.  He was in good company and he took the time to have his picture taken with me.  I troubled him for a horse to follow and he gave me Taquin Du Seuil – This was mid December last year and Taquin won his next two before letting down my significant antepost investment for Cheltenham.  What did I get from that encounter?  Good hair, smart shoes, polite….. Class act all the way!

I encourage one and all to embrace gambling.  So many of the simple lessons of life are contained within the complex construction.  In gambling you can seek solace and company, hubris, happenstance and distress…. So, to the racing, we shall try to land our mothership and in good grace too.

Wincanton Tips

Let’s start with the Grade 2 limited handicap that is the Elite Hurdle.  Since Nicholls has won six of the last dozen runnings of the race with horses such as Zarkander, Celestial Halo and Azertyuiop, then his entries are a good place to start.

The Nicholls team has had a mixed start to the season, some of the runners have looked like they needed a run, which is not too unusual for the yard.  The reality is that 5 of his last 34 runners have won, a strike rate of 15% which is not a complete disgrace but 7% lower than the same stat for the last twelve months.  The Ditcheat operation is one of the most consistently excellent racing yards of our age, that 22-23% strike rate has been consistent in all of the last ten years with two exceptions, 2008, a fine vintage of 27% and 2004 a poor crop of 19%.

There does feel though some malaise over the yard.  Perhaps it is the embarrassment of riches that UK rival Henderson has at his disposal, perhaps it is the Mullins yard opening a UK base, perhaps it is Ruby and his decision to only ride the key UK meetings, stripping Nicholls of his most able rider mid week.

In such times, renewal is required.  Mahon and Jacob need to step up and prove they are good enough to ride for a potential champion trainer.  Nicholls himself needs to work that magic and turn those useful novices into accomplished second season chasers.  He needs to do what he has been best at, in spite of the rising competition, he needs to work his magic eye over the Auteil runners and bring home some new stars.

One horse, I think could be the catalyst for a lot of this is Silvianaco Conti.  He is a slim fella but was desperately coming down when looking a threat descending the hill in the Gold Cup.  With a sound campaign, Nicholls might just have a real live contender for Bobs Worth to face.

Anyway, all of this is background to the decision to be made for Far West, his entry in the Elite Hurdle.  s you can see, I am a buyer at 9/4.  Cotton Mill is OK and the Melodic Rendevouz yard of Scott is woefully out of sorts.  Far west was defeated by Our Conor in the Triumph but come on, that is top class form.  I suspect, Our Conor is a horse we will relish this season.  The Triumph form has been boosted with the work of Diakali in France and I think Far West can pay the Dessie Hughes horse another compliment today.  I feel confident about this one.  Talk of the demise of Nicholls may be incredibly unsound.

Backing a Nicholls double requires some faith.  I have that faith.  His record at this Wincanton meeting is impressive and so it is with some ease that I tip doubling Far West with Wonderful Charm who goes in the novice chase.  The Fakenham exploits were impressive and this one looks a natural.

To Doncaster

First of all, I think Jack Dexter in the 2.25 is a tremendous bet.  He will enjoy conditions (5 from 6 in soft) and while he flopped in this race last year, he had a more demanding schedule.  He takes his racing well and I think is still capable of group class form.  He has to concede weight here but deserves to on what he has achieved.  He knows what racing is about and I back him to come home at 5/1.

I know you are after a November Handicap tip… lunatics.  I have strayed in to have a look at it but my head hurts and so it is more of a dart than anything in suggesting three runners in Shrewd, Swnymor and Twelve Strings.  The first is a Michael Bell horse who loves some cut and has not had such conditions all season, big improvement could come as a result.  Swynmor is an interesting runner who will also relish the ground and races for the Rebecca Curtis yard.  The final calculation is for Twelve Bells who is an Ellison runner (a yard I struggle to get right) a horse that will love deep ground too and arrives in good form over what I think is a more suitable trip.

Of them, I opt for Swynmor who could pose a big risk on the flat off this sort of mark and 25/1 is a big price.

Sandown

Jumps at Sandown!!  Fantastic.. I do like this course, it is tough and examines proper National Hunt horses.  This makes it hard to back a novice with massive confidence as the fences are tough enough.  You want to see some experience of fences certainly as this course rewards accuracy.

The beginners chase is a fine example of this.  Grandouet is a 4/9 favourite for this race but has not jumped a fence in his life.  Risky proposition if you ask me when there is a proven chaser in Hinterland in opposition.  Yes the form behind Captain Conan does not add up to the same as what Grandouet achieved over hurdles but my selection is not a million miles behind.  I accept that Grandouet on paper is a worthy favourite.  He will have been well schooled and prepared, this is also a god race for him with a quiet small field and I like the horse but in these positions it seems crazy not to back a potentially improving chaser in Hinterland, from a top yard who has experience at these bigger obstacles.  If this was Ffos Las, I would back Grandouet no problem but this is Sandown and he needs to treat it with respect.

I backed Grandads Horse in the listed race at Market Rasen and was disappointed.  Fehily is replaced with Geraghty which is like for like in my view but signals that this horse is still on the up.  This is a better race but soft ground suits and clearly with the high-profile jockey selection, Longsden thinks he is on a winner.

In the football, I think Everton should make light work of Palace 4/6, West Ham could take advantage of Norwich at 9/4 that is a bet and finally, Liverpool 2/7 to beat Fulham is a gift, that is a 28.6% return in one day, unless you are holding an entire families allocation of Royal Mail shares than there is no better investment!

The Martin Hill bet is a series of doubles and trebles each way on Grandads Horse, Jack Dexter, Far West, Wonderful Charm and Hinterlnd.

May your dinner be magnificent and free from cares or concerns.  I wish things for you that I may never have.  Your benefit is not my cost, do not begrudge a man his good fortune and I dearly hope you find yours my good friends…. Courage and roll those dice.

Friday Aintree Tips.. Sprinter Sacre v Cue Card v Flemenstar

Good evening from the Major who writes from a clear and cold Worcestershire.  Turning my head to the heavens, the sky is a black blanket brightened by speckles of fiery light, it will be cold.

The Thursday tips for Aintree did not perform well.  If you are new to these parts and have arrived seeking profitable advice for Fridays racing, I issue fair warning that I am on the cold list.

Sadly, we had a lot of visitors yesterday, I hope all saw sense and choose their own way.  Only Captain Conan saved us from the whitewash, beyond that it was carnage.

The Major blunders on, lashing out like a great wounded animal, as the boxer near defeat throws punches, or the frustrated darts leave the ochey without thought; perhaps some luck is required.

Yesterday I concentrated on good ground horses and tried to find some either targeted at Aintree, or at least lightly raced or spring sorts.  I believe this to be the formula and will maintain the philosophy as I interrogate Friday’s card.  Come with me brace warrior, remain purposeful as fickle fortune weaves and wanes, our resolve to see it through is undeterred.  To the racing.

Friday Aintree Tips

My Tent or Yours is quite rightly a warm order at 4/9 in the first, not a working mans price I know but I still think it is value.  He looked the winner of the Supreme but found little on the hill over the last at Cheltenham.  That looked a warm renewal to me as this horse also had tied form with The New One who won the Neptune Novices and narrowly failed to beat Zarkander here yesterday.  Bank job.

The Mildmay is a tougher nut to crack.  Dynaste owes a big run to his followers (including your unfortunate correspondent) after failing to sparkle in the Jewson.  Go back to a flat track (Kempton) and his performance in the Feltham and you would have to say that this one had the world at his feet.  His two runs on good though have not even yielded a place, which has to be a concern, as does the hard race he had at Cheltenham.

The Major thinks a lot of Super Duty.  McCain hardly had a sparkling festival but this one certainly did him proud only just going down to Same Difference in the Kim Muir, I like the look of his spirit that day.  I think 5/1 is a reasonable price.

Rocky Creek has impressed this campaign and is a certain threat, particularly as he has not had a Cheltenham race – It is worth noting that this is the tactic employed by his Ditcheat when Silviniaco Conti won last years Mildmay and a 5/2 bet is advised.

The Melling Chase is possibly the best race of the season.  What a prospect, punters get to see the Aeroplane that is Sprinter Sacre serve it up to another two top class, yet unworthy opponents, in Flemenstar and Cue Card.  The latter is a horse I have a lot of respect for, he was a fine Ryanair winner and will test Sprinters stamina.

Some will think Sprinter may struggle to see out two and a half miles having suffered his only timber defeat over hurdles when stepped up to this distance.  I disagree with every ounce of my self.  Anyone who watches Sprinter Sacre in action can only think he will improve for the step up.  He just won a Champion Chase (Cheltenham’s undulations over 2m are worth at least 2m 2f around Aintree) hard held beating a multiple Grade 1 winner in Sizing Europe by half the hill.

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  It is time for us to stop thinking this horse is anything other than top draw.  I expect us to talk about his for a long time as one of the finest staying chasers of all time, even held up to the mighty Arkle.  If I am right he hoses up again here.

Flemenstar is a horse I must say something about.  Peter Casey is an eccentric trainer and great for the sport.  He seems a damn good laugh and sporting to boot.  Yet, his handling of this horse in my eyes leaves something to be desired.  Prior to the horse picking up a slight set back which precluded him from Cheltenham, connections were undecided on whether to run their star in a two mile contest (Champion Chase) or the Gold Cup.  Surely after the time they have spent with the horse and the evidence they have from his stunning top-level victories (and defeats) they should be training him with a plan in mind.  I think this is the ideal trip for Flemenstar and he should lead Sprinter Sacre into the home straight nicely.

Given my views on the National Course, articulated in yesterday’s post, there is no tip from me for the Topham.  It was an unfortunate occurrence that Batttlegroup died on the course today and while the course cannot be blamed for what seems a heart attack, the risks inherent on this course (4 fallers today in the Foxhunters) just make it less palatable for me.

The Sefton see At Fishers Cross, fine winner of the Albert Bartlett try good ground for the first time and I am not convinced he is going to act on it.  Noel Meades yard send out unbeaten hurdler Road to Riches who rates a threat even if the trainer is not on a hot streak.  The Major though is going to chance a better run from Gevrey Chambertin at 11/1.  The selection was a poor show at Cheltenham after hosing up in fine style in his debut over timber previously.  A brother to Grand Crus, there could yet be a star to emerge here.

The 4.50 handicap hurdle is a puzzle from hell.  Cotton Mill has form beating My Tent or Yours which clearly rates him a chief threat.   Salubrious is the Martin Pipe conditional winner, of interest but unsure about conditions.  Broadway Buffalo , 8/1, has been unbeaten this season in lower company but absolutely tanked up last time and could be anything, bigger fields seem to have been no problem and I take him to keep improving and give the Pipe yard a quick fire double.

Four year old mares have a decent record in the bumper and The Pirates Queen is a profile I like at 8/1.  I am going a little bit longer though and backing another Pipe horse Centasia at 14/1 who looked a bit green last time and is sure to be better for the narrow defeat.  Conditions should be fine.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Betfair Hurdle Tip at 25/1 (as well as two other cheeky ones!)… What are they doing with Bog Warrior?

Good evening from the Major who writes from the comfort of his own home returning after business away.  Worcestershire is a little blustery and cold, a night to be indoors.

Today the tips at Bangor performed poorly enough.  Two winners from five is reasonable for a return if they were not 5/4 and 2/5 respectively.  Still, at least we felt the blood pumping.

It is not long until the Cheltenham festival.  The Major will continue to post his Cheltenham content here.  That feeling deep down is building, a low humming buzz.. transponders are activating, the signal from the central station is pulsating out across the land… can you hear it, bend your ear ‘and the tapes go up for the Supreme to get the 2013 festival underway…’

When I think about why I love racing so much, the word that sum it up is richness.  In my last post I lamented the loss of Darlan and crassly compared the loss of life to the beauty of the sport.  It is a harsh calculation.

The richness of racing is a beautiful thing.  In a world where entertainment output is increasingly simple and targeted at morons, racing remains a deep subject weaving form, language, art, science, human nature and luck into a fine tapestry.  When I first attended a course, amongst other basics, I craved to know what ‘off the bridle’ meant.  I do not believe the sport elitist, the answers are accessible.  Yet, there is such a depth to the sport, with time comes wisdom.

I believe it Descartes that suggested our lives were like sparks from a flame.  As children the spark is bright, we are hungry for knowledge and carry open minds. As we age, our minds gnarl, the spark dims, we long for knowledge no more.

To the sports, keep the spark alive…

Newbury Tips

The opening maiden is a classic punch up between the two top yards represented by Chatterbox 4/5 (Henderson) and Lac Fortana 7/4 (Nicholls).  Many will see the form of the former has a strong feel to it having put My Tent or Yours away and the latter is a debutante for Nicholls from a very strong novice string he has to deploy.

I am not convinced that the former has shown that much and giving more than a stone to a what is likely a very good horse in Lac Fortana might be a big ask.

The Denman Chase at 2.25 is a chance for Silviniaco Conti to cement his Gold Cup claims.  The 4/6 shot has been impressive this year and along with Long Run, he is my idea of the Gold Cup winner.  He has to put this lot away easily for me to be right.  The Giant Bolster is nowhere near good enough to take advantage off just 4lbs lighter in my view and has been over-rated since the last Gold Cup.

The 3pm is the Game Spirit and Wishfull Thinking is the current favourite, followed by Majala.  Yet neither of these have a Game Spirit profile as not many winners are nine, let alone ten.  I struggle to back Wishfull Thinking too as he has two ways of running.  Instead, I am having a slice of Edgardo Sol at 6/1 who has performed well this year and while he might prefer slightly better ground, I think it is allowed for in that price.

The big one from a punting perspective is the Betfair Hurdle.  My Tent or Yours is a 9/2 favourite and I am not a fan.  Cotton Mill is 8/1 and being backed, some popularity may have been gleaned from the Pricewise endorsement for the Champion Hurdle, I am not a fan.

Interestingly Geffen has two leading charges, one trained with Nicky Henderson and one with Paul Nicholls.  Of the two I much prefer Pearl Swan who I think has a decent chance and is freely available at 9/1 after prepping for this in a jumpers bumper, looks a plot sort – Worth noting that Nicholls won the Betfair last year with Zarkander who went straight to the Champion Hurdle… Pearl Swan also has a Champion Hurdle entry so it looks the same route.

The Betfair Hurdle tip from the Major though is a much bigger price.  Caid Du Berlais is 25/1 with Stan James and I think is worth a little punt.  Yes, the horse is 6lbs wrong but I think that could be an irrelevance   You have to ignore the collateral form from his Chepstow run and just accept that much better is expected… have a slice.  I am going to suggest a slice of Pearl Swan too at 9s and why not stick a couple of speculative quid on a Nicholls 1-2 with both?  Three tips in one race… What sort of tipster am I?  A bloody bad one is the answer and I am also suggesting you have a slice of Swing Bowler at 11/1.  The Pipe mare is out of Galileo and has been mighty impressive to date.

Leopardstown Tips

The opening juvenile hurdle can be taken by Diakala although with some other very exciting prospects in opposition,  a light interest is advised.

The 2.15 is an opportunity for Champagne Fever to put his last run behind him and confirm he is a leading Cheltenham chance.  Both Champagne Fever and Waaheb have had their colours lowered by the now JP owned Jezki.  The former probably has the edge on formline and 9/4 with Stan James is too big.

In the Moriarty Novice Chase, the Major is going to opt for Boston Bob who is the obvious choice and priced at just the right side of evens.  This horse is currently second in the market for the RSA.  His Albert Bartlett win was excellent and although he won his chase this year, it did require him to dig deep.  Back up in trip, I think he will find things much more to his liking and maybe Dynaste will have something to worry about if he wins well.

I am genuinely stunned that the connections of Bog Warrior are taking on Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.  I am in no doubt that the horse is in that class.  Well OK, there is some doubt in my mind but I just love the way this horse races, I am a long term fan so feel I can assert my strong view that he should remain hurdling.  Why we are experimenting chasing again now is a mystery, he has a fair crack if sent to the World Hurdle, what is tomorrow about?  I love him and I will back him tomorrow and I don’t care what anyone thinks.  Don’t like it? Piss off.

To the football…

Swansea are constantly under-rated and so I am happy to be backing them at 10/11 at home to QPR.  Charlton at 7/5 look a bet at home to Birmingham.  I like Tranmere at 19/10 to win at Orient too.

May your dinner be delightful in company that is exhilarating.  Courage and roll those dice.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Diakala, Boston Bob, Edgardo Sol and Lac Fortana.