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 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!
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….