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The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Paddy Power Meeting Tips including a 22/1 mothership and a 20/1 Paddy Power tip

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire rural scene of cold wintery showers blustering outside the bay windows of my living room.

The Major had a poor day at the first day of the Open meeting at Cheltenham. A very decent second for my 16/1 shot was the sole return from the six races which started with a comprehensive defeat for Fingal Bay…. I was talking up this horse all morning to anyone that would listen and offer my humble apologies to each of you for having the misfortune to listen.

I have had an entire week of being unable to sleep. Poor diet? I don’t know but the thoughts swirling in my mind, occupying the peaceful parts with their noisy clumsiness. Tiredness and defeat. I feel cloaked in the stuff, choking my movement, I yearn to break the shackles.

Continuous sleep deprivation is deeply unsettling yet interesting as equal to uncomfortable. For me the consequence is short of temper, lack of energy and an affinity with dark thoughts.

Our lives are punctuated by the rhythm of sleep. Patterns bring comforting conformity and shape. Security. When you disturb the pattern, you create the opposite; uncertainty. It is as though the individual levers and cogs of the brain, dissolve and form new structures that you are no longer familiar with. A dystopian world in which you become a prisoner, unsure if sleep will return you to normality. The boundaries between the night world and the day world lose their integrity, one seeps into the other. An osmosis that is oozing and unwelcome…. things that belong in your dreams in the night, turn up unexpectantly.

What a tragedy is unfolding again in the middle east. The sight of children injured and dying seems not enough to sober up either side and so the air strikes and the rockets continue. At a distance, war and it’s devastating consequence seem inevitable actions for those with the great responsibility of protecting a nation. To the Major, they seem instead more akin to the playground, the reasoning shallow, the considerations glib. The mood this week is not good.

In the morning, a new day and the promise of redemption. I need some fine sport to lift my gloom. A powerful remedy, a surging performance that raises the pulse.

To the sports….

Cheltenham Paddy Power Gold Cup Day Tips

Far West is an obvious place to start given that Ditcheat have taken this race the last two years with French imports. 6/4 is fair considering the obvious credentials. Both Nicholls and Henderson have hit the ground running this season and the latter is represented by Vasco du Ronceray. What he beat at Hereford adds up to a hill of beans but the manner of the defeat gave intent.

The opening contest is a Triumph Hurdle trial and with little comparative form, I am opting for Far West who at least beat a useful sort in Handazan and at 6/4 rates a good chance to bring home the bacon for Nicholls et al.

In the novice chase at 1.20, Sire Collonges is going to be a hot order representing the top yard and looking a fine prospect at Fontwell and at Cheltenham. Course form is always mprtant at Cheltenham. It is an undulating course with tough fences and a steep downhill section, not every horse gets it.

The Major though is going to tip Sraid Padraig at 8/1. The Tony Martin raider won with any amount in hand at Limerick and it is interesting that he is thrown into this. Tasty.

In the 3m 3f marathon, the Major would tipping up Problema Tic but the Pipe yard seem slightly below par so far this season. I find it hard to fathom Bradley at 5/1 when Ashkazar is at 12/1… The latter had the better of the former last time out and while both are proven on course, Ashkazar is preferred but being out of the Pipe yard again, I go elsewhere. Currently 22/1 with William Hill, I offer you up Chicago Grey my selection has the talent and has dropped to a hugely tempting mark. Johnson gets the rare ride for the Elliot team and he is 1/1 in the saddle for the yard in recent times. Shabash.

Paddy Power Gold Cup Tips

What a superb renewal of the Paddy Power. Hunt Ball, Grand Crus, Walkon… An absolute cracker. The major is tempted by many. Grand Crus is clearly a class act and if he chases to his hurdles mark, is very well in. yet the yard is in short form as already highlighted and I will resist which is a shame as if not for being well, he looked like the RSA winner.

Hunt Ball would be four and a half stone out of the handicap if running this time last year! Has a horse ever improved to the degree he has? The winners enclosure will be lively if Knott gets to celebrate again and I wish them luck.

Walkon looks more a more likely sort but I am slightly distrustful. As a second season chaser though, I fancy he has the profile but he is on the watch list.

In recent years, it has been more the fashion to win the Paddy Power from down the handicap. Roll back a few more years and horses with an eleven stone plus burden were more common. Most of the were trained by Martin Pipe with classics such as Our Vic and twice winner (five years apart) Cyfor Malta.

The latter was the only horse in the last twenty outings to win at the age of 5 which is a major signal to the experience required. This is the only thing putting me off Triolo D’Alene.

There will be plenty of pace on and the one I fancy to take advantage of it is Divers at 20/1 (Stan James) – he will be doing his best work late and that’s good enough for me.

The last two Cheltenham races are not affairs for me.

Three football teams for me – the footy is proving profitable of late…. Birmingham at 17/10 at home is a price. I fancy Southampton to beat QPR at 3/1 and I like Newcasle at 10/11 at home to Swansea, that’s a nice little treble.

May your dinner be fuelled by a successful Trixie and be a mix of beautiful nonsense. The wine must flow, the release valve easing the system pressure. May the day return to the day and the night be confined to the night.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Tips….. Load the Cannons… two 20/1 shots for the Paddy Power

Good morning from Defford where the Major greets the new day like souls awakening.

Yesterdays Cheltenham tips were mediocrity at best, Uncle Junior paid a 6/1 winner and a second from Haventascoobydo at 8/1 drew the mildest of profits.  Suburban Bay could have made the day a superb one but fell when travelling strongly in second, three out…. ah the tribulations.

Billie Magern for the Major..... 20/1 shabash

The last race saw Grand Crus plant himself as a credible alternate to Long Run in the Gold Cup picture.  His jumping was assured and with main rival Cue Card fighting for his head throughout, Grand Crus looked the business.  Very exciting chaser.

The last few weeks have been barren times for the Major so even a day of such modest profit is a relief.  Perhaps the tide is turning.  At moments like these I am drawn to think of the boys holding the square at Thermopylae or the gallant 44th shedding their claret on the hill at Gandemak.

As Kipling wrote ‘ If you can force your nerve and sinew, to serve your turn long after they have gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says the to them ‘hold on!’

Stay the course followers.  The Cheltenham card….

1.20 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial

The first of the feast from Cheltenham.  What a tremendous day of racing.  To those on course, Mr Cherry, Mr T Smith, Hathaway, Zac, Mr Lyons et al, the Major wishes you the best of luck.  Empty some satchels.

The two french imports dominate the market and it is clear that they are two well fancied novice hurdlers this season.  Of the two preference would be for the Henderson horse Ozeta.

At the prices though 15/8 the pair, the Major is going elsewhere and I have decided to take a chance on the improving Secret Edge at 9/1.  The listed win at Wetherby reads just fine and there is more to come.  British obstacle experience is a boost and let us not forget that Alan King has won this race with the fine racehorses Franchoek and Katchit in recent years.  Secret Edge could well have more to offer……

Load the big cannon.

1.55 Handicap Chase

The money has been pouring in for Hennessy (Is this a Pricewise horse, I do not have the paper this morning!), backed into 8s from 12/1.  That looks significant being a Ferdy Murphy inmate, he is well capable of readying a gamble.

The money on Betfair looks one way and I forecast 6/1 at the off.  Someone will be eating steak if this comes in.

I think though that the Nicholls charge, Promising Anshan deserves a big punt.  At 5/1 it is leading the market and the Major still thinks there is value there.  Surely this one will improve for the step up in trip.  The Aintree form, in behind the implausibly well handicapped Exmoor Ranger, looked more than adequate and he was probably not fully tuned up that day.  With normal improvement, this one should be involved at the foot of the hill.

I am interested in the Ditcheat team as they have started the season strongly.

2.35 Chelthenham – Paddy Power Gold Cup

Here we are at the feature race of the day and it is an absolute cracker.  Figuring out the puzzle is made harder by the generic ground conditions but the Major has figured an angle into two at big prices and is ready to lay for your delectable concern my Paddy Power gold cup tips before you.

Poquelin will be fancied as we always see his best form at Prestbury but not for the Major.  The normal profile for the winner is sub eleven stone but from a big name trainer.  Only one 9 year old has won in the last ten years, none older, and so it is an improving sort in a top class yard we want.

Reve de Sivola will win a big race one day but he won’t be carrying my money when he does.  He travels beautifully and like David James can look superb but is prone to walking through the odd fence which he manages with alarming regularity and tends to time it for when the Majors hopes are at their pinnacle.  I have given up on this one and will wait for the day he returns at a massive price!

There are two 20/1 shots I am willing to back.  There are lots that almost made it and the discarded from the shortlist include 16/1 shots Araldur and the De Bromhead raider Loosen my Load.  The two for me though on balance are….

The first is Billie Magern.  At 7, there could be plenty of improvement to be seen from this Twiston-Davies horse and we must remember that the trainer has won two of the last three Paddy Powers.  Billie Magerns two and a half mile win last month looked very decent.  That was course form too which ticks another box.  Although up 7lbs, it makes no technical difference as he is a fistful of pounds wrong in the handicap anyway, have a slice.

The other is Divers, a Ferdy Murphy horse who ran a shocker on reappearance last month.  That is insignificant for this one though as this was always going to be the aim and a handicap raising barn-storming reappearance was never going to be on the cards.  Also racing from the bottom of the weights, officially 4lbs wrong, is not a concern and I really do feel a big run could be in order.

Back both each way (watch the terms) and a reverse forecast will have you sending the Major brandy (A decent Hennessy please)!

3.10 Handicap Hurdle

A very simple and elegant solution here, back the 8/1 shot Oscargo who looks to have a great chance.

Lightly raced, Nicholls and Walsh, 8/1 and decent Chepstow form which should translate well to here (also a rolling left handed tough course).

Have two slices, send me the postcard.

3.40 Cheltenham – Novice Handicap Hurdle

There are a number of horses to catch the eye in this and Edgardo Sol is sure to be popular with the same Nicholls / Walsh combination as Oscargo in the previous.  While that one looks very well handicapped, it is a 14/1 shot that the Major is going to tip.

Walden Prince has been racing very respectably in Ireland and has now joined a new yard.  I think this is an interesting start for the horse who is match fit.  There was plenty to like about his second last time out as the winner looks very decent.  A replication of that form entitles this one to go close.

4.10 Novice Chase

If Restless Harry translates his useful hurdle form to the chase obstacles, he will take all of the beating and at 13/8, I do not think it is a prohibitive price.  He has the look of a chasing type and the Major would not put you off.

Offering that up as a Cheltenham tip might be foolish.  I like to see novices jump before getting involved but today, for Restless Harry, I make an exception.  Should win well.

If you must get involved with the England game, bet 0-0 at half time.  It has that feel to the Major.

May your dinner be delightful and served by a fine-looking sort.  Let the quarry see the roll of notes but try to be subtle, else you appear crass.

Courage, roll the dice.

Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview – Festival Tips including a 50/1 STUNNER!!

Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler could be overpriced but it is Cue Card for the Major - Good luck followers

Thankfully regular followers of the Major arrive at the festival in good touch.  The Saturday Service returned a 55% profit with placed horses at 18/1 and 15/2 as well as a 5/2 winner.  We also had Wales to beat Ireland at a shade of odds on and Hull to win at Coventry at 9/5.  This from just 8 bets. 

As always, the Major is free, amateur and unhinged – All of my advices are recorded in the top navigation, you can see every bet I advise, with who, the price and the outcome.  I also summarise monthly performances.  It is all there.

Now though we are at a National Hunt fans Christmas Eve, the excitement is palpable, the treasure trove of racing goodness shall overflow from Prestbury Parks ample cup.  The moment has arrived, let us sup. 

Regulars will also notice a change of scenery.  The Major felt that the festival deserved a sprucing up of the decorations, hence a new banner, one of carnage, drama, horses and Guinness. 

The Major has been working this evening in readiness to offer a run down race by race.  If you are on course then I wish you a terrific day.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle

Dunraven Storm strikes me as a forgotten horse in this race.  The animal had done little wrong but has been off course for too long.  25/1 appeals on original form and I would not put someone off an each way slice but a lot has to be taken on trust regarding well-being.  He may have been held by Cue Card on previous outings but not by much and the same can be said of Al Ferof who has fitness in his favour but at 9/1 probably is poorer value.

Gibb River is an improver but not even the stables second choice so that would be a significant shock.

John Quinn has had some very positive things to say about his Totesport Trophy winner, Recession Proof.  Not for the Major.

There is going to be plenty of pace on with three of four horses wanting to set a fair gallop.  This includes sorts like Hidden Universe who is going to want to get on with it.  So will Marsh Warbler who also likes to lead.  It is tough to win a race of this quality from the front.  Of the two (and there are likely more), Marsh Warbler is very interesting to the Major.  The Chepstow form looks very good and with the good ground in his favour, this one may be harder to peg back than many expect.  25/1 is a bit dismissive.

Zaidpour has let a few people down in the last two runs but the Major would be at pains to stress that was on heavy ground in Ireland.  This one could surprise a few although Ruby made the decision to go to Al Ferof.

Spirit Son has done little wrong and I would expect him to be involved.  Sprinter Sacre likewise is a quality beast.

The way the race is likely to pan out would have Marsh Warbler near the front at the turn for home.  I would expect the lively pace to be a real asset to the hold up horses with good form in the book.  That said, no-one wants to give Marsh Warbler too much rope.  This unknown may not stop too quickly.

This is likely to set it up nicely for the others.  I have to say Cue Card has the best form in the race. FACT.  I would be very surprised if any jockey did not want to be on this one, Joe Tizzard can score the first victory of the festival for Britain and for the punters.

My advice is to take Cue Card at 5/2 with Paddy Power and William Hill.  The dangers are Sprinter Sacre and Spirit Son rather than Recession Proof and Al Ferof in the Majors view.  Marsh Warbler is worth an each way saver at a price. 

I think Cue Cards price will be honest because of the record of the recent hotpot favourites in the festival opener.  Certainly last year, Dunguib did not have the same form against top class opposition and had a claimer on board.  I think Cue Card is a different prospect, I hope he finishes the strongest of all.  I might not think Menorah will win the Champion Hurdle but the form of Cue Card is still goo enough for this.

The Arkle

The Arkle is a tremendous race.  What a wonderful start to the festival, the Supreme and then BOOOMMM, the Arkle!

This Arkle is an intriguing contest and I have a few angles I want to pursue.  For me (and I don’t mind sticking my neck out!) Finians Rainbow would be a 10/1 shot.  I just think his form in small fields is over-rated.

Captain Chris is a very interesting runner – I am hugely surprised that connections felt this Arkle was the right race, it looks red-hot and I am not sure Captain Chris will not find it all happening a bit too quickly for him over the minimum trip. – His best races for the Major have been those when stepped up in distance.

Ghizao  has the best form in the race for the Major but the break (last ran in December is a concern. 

I don’t think that Realt Dubh will be inconvenienced by the goodish ground and as Irelands best hope in the Arkle, he warrants respect.  The Major has had a winner with him before.

Medermit will go off as favourite and after his narrow defeat of Captain Chris, it is fair enough.  3/1 is plenty skinny for the Major but not under-priced.  I would be happier if the last few runs had not been over half a mile further. On good ground back at this trip, I question whether the turn of foot is quick enough.

My idea of the best animals at the top of the market are Medermit or Realt Dubh.  I would love to go with the bigger priced horse but Noble Prince, twice defeated by Realt Dubh is not a fantastic yardstick, perhaps Irelands best will not be good enough. 

At a massive 50/1, the Major is going to take a chance on Stagecoach Pearl.  There are plenty of questions about some at the top of the market.  Stagecoach Pearl needs to be forgiven the last defeat at the hands of Finians Rainbow but let us not forget that this horse is rated 147 for a reason (same as Realt Dubh).  At least it will give you a race as it likes to go from the front.  A clean round and it might surprise a few and hold on for a place.  You never know, it might go one better!

Spinal Research Handicap Chase

This is a very tricky handicap.  Heading the weights is Blazing Bailey, a favourite at Cheltenham who has improved as a chaser.

Rare Bob also has good form in the book, particularly the last race where blinkers were applied for the first time sparking improvement.

Great Endeavour has been raised a stone since last festival due to improved performances, I suspect more improvement is to come.

Caroles Legacy has feasibly a decent mark racing off 4lbs lower than his hurdle mark, of interest.

Bensalem on 6/1 is of a similar profile but probably a better version of it.  Not only did the horse finish second last year, this followed a very poor error at the first.  He went on to improve as a hurdler, makes plenty of errors but progressive.

Reve de Sivola is even more progressive!  10/1 (Sportinbet)!! This horse was second to Peddlers Cross last year, very worthy form.  The problem is whether you are likely to get a clean round.  In my view, if he jumps well he wins.

Razore Royale is back to a winning mark if finding old form.

Sunnyhillboy is also fancied as last years runner-up in the plate.  While he has some likely improvement, I am unsure he is the likely winner.

In summary if Bensalem and Reve de Sivola jump, they will be the first two in the Majors calculations.  Those are big ifs.  That said, I just like the look of Reve de Sivola and at 10/1 (Sportingbet) am willing to take it on, hope that Daryl Jacob gets is settled and jumping and then it shows what a class animal it is on the home run. 

The Champion Hurdle

I covered my thoughts on the Champion Hurdle in yesterdays post.  Peddlers Cross is my nap of the meeting.

The Cross Country

I forgot to mention in my Cheltenham build up piece that a real joy at the first day is to head to the centre of the course for the Cross Country.  You will never get as close to these magnificent beasts as they tackle some interesting obstacles.

The Cross Country is a race the Major has an awful track record in.  Maljimar is my idea of the winner with Garde Champetre peaked and the weight catching up with him.  6/1 is available generally.

The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

It is hard to get past the hat-trick seeking Quevega who was once considered a Champion Hurdle contender.  For the second season running she gets her shot on her debut for the season.  That was a fine training performance last year from Willie Mullins, I have to say that at just 7, you have to admire the record already. 

Sparky May has to be the main danger, rated a 4/1 chance and unbeaten over hurdles, it is hard to assess what the form amounts to.  On a line with Caroles Legacy it looks quite impressive and as such I would prefer this as a bet solely because the horse ran eight weeks ago.

If Quevega turns up in the same form as last year, there is no reason to suggest she won’t, then I think Sparky May has to find 9lbs further improvement.  That is not beyond the realm of possibility and I suggest a 4/1 stake.

The Lucky Last – The Centenary Novice Handicap

This is the trickiest race of the day for the Major.  The field of novices have some very interesting contenders.

Short and sweet.  I think it comes down to Divers 9/1 and Definity 7/1.  Back both for wins, or each way for those of lesser vigour…. thank me later!

In Summary

If Cue Card (or Marsh Warbler), Stagecoach Pearl, Reve de Sivola and Peddlers Cross don’ go well, it is a bad day because the Major does not fancy trying to recoup losses in the Mares Hurdle, Cross Country or the Centenary.

I hope that whatever you are on, you take great wedges of cash from the old enemy.  Allow yourself to be carried along with the tide, remember what the Major tells you, you go along once so enjoy it. 

Remember you can sign up for the email alerts in the left hand column.  You can also sign up to the tweet feed @tdl123.  Tweet me if you are on track tomorrow.  The festival tips piece for Wednesday will be written late on Tuesday and a little bit more drunkenly.  Have a great day.

Go to bed and sleep, Santa doesn’t come unless you do….