Tag Archives: eastlake

Cheltenham Open Tips – Friday…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the lounge, the wood stove is alive, furiously swirling great licks of fire against the dirty glass plate door.   Outside, a chill air and a dark night, inside, warmth.  Bed is beckoning but I am to record my Cheltenham thoughts as I am attending the track tomorrow in fine company.

I shall write a brief report on the evening as part of the Saturday Sermon but here are my tips for what they are worth.  Please remember to gamble irresponsibly, if you remain entirely sensible then you shall not enjoy the thrill of your pounding heart as your horse rounds for home, time seems to slow, the leader is a clear 15 lengths up but your boy is stout and plugging on and the front runner puts in a weary leap as he approaches the hill… Is there time?

What is the point of losing what you can afford to lose?  You are an adult and I would suggest that pushing your boundaries is a healthy thing…  Live, this is not a dress rehearsal.

We have a cracking card at Cheltenham for a Friday.  We have Grade 1 winners, the cross country hilarity and a Tony Martin gamble, ah, it is good to be alive, n’est pas?

Cheltenham Open Friday.

This meeting comes as the National Hunt season is getting into full swing.  The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a good race but the Hennessy is around the corner and the Gold Cup contenders will be out for that.

We are still early in the season but plenty are arriving now with runs in them and that is always an advantage.  Trainer form is also more critical than usual at this time in my view as some yards tend to start so well while others build up a head of steam.

The Friday card is composed of a novice chase (very very good race with a disappointingly small field), four handicaps and the cross-country.  I shall take them race by race.

The opener (1.05) is an amateur riders race, contests I feel have a disproportionately high predictive factor in the quality of the jockey.  Amateurs vary from the god-awful to the actually quite good and this field are no different.  In the last year, all of the field have raced less than an average of once per week which informs you as to their experience.  The sole exception is Patrick Mullins who is a regular rider as an amateur for his fathers all-powerful yard – He has amassed 175 races in the last twelve months.   Biddick, Bannister, Waley-Cohen and Clements all have far less experience but do at least have a strike rate of above 10%, with, to my eye, Biddick and Waley-Cohen being the pick of that lot.

This four jockeys give us the choice of Standing Ovation, Mr Moss, Fredo and Ruben Cotter.

Standing Ovation has been in fine form and has won his last four – Race fitness is assured and Pipe knows how to handle one of this profile – Improving at a rate of knots, he is due to go up another 6lbs after his last win which was in the listed Badger Ales trophy at Wincanton – The rise in the weights looks a tad generous.  Yet, I cannot have him, I fear I am trying to find fault where there is little but…..  There are several concerns for me.  Number one is that he has not faced the Cheltenham obstacles and has done his winning going right handed.  The latter is a lesser part of my thinking but Cheltenham does not suit all horses and this one might just get found out.. The other concern for me is that he has had three races over this sort of distance in the last month, it is quite a heavy schedule and while he seems to take it well, Cheltenham’s undulations will exploit any weariness.  He is being backed heavily tonight but I am seeking other shores.

Fredo gets the assistance of Waley Cohen and while I think he will be better after his seasonal reappearance, I am not sure he is good enough.  It leaves me with Mr Moss and Ruben Cotter.  I side with the latter who has had a lot of problems but is in good hands and could well be fit first time out.  7/1, take a slice and thank me later.

The second race (1.35) is a particularly trappy handicap with 6/1 the field being available as I type.  I like Eastlake, who started where he left off last year and Jonjo knows how to eke the best out of these sorts but he would be trying to win off a new high mark and it is off-putting enough, though he is young enough to defy it.  As a good ground specialist, Tindaro enters calculations but his Fontwell win last time reads a little flatly in the context of this race.   Sew On Target has the vote of Joe Tizzard who had the pick of Theatrical Star and the former had a tidy piece of form in behind Johns Spirit.  Oh Crick should not be 25/1 but I shall pass over in favour of Ballyadam Brook at 20/1.  It takes a little imagination but… My tip has a very able jockey on board in Paul Townend, absolutely will love the drying ground and has some useful form hidden away.

The novice chase is the race I am looking forward to the most, despite a disappointing turnout of just four runners.  It looks a match race between Taquin Du Seuil and Oscar Whiskey and that is where I focus my cash too.  The former is a horse I have a big soft spot for.  I met Tony McCoy last year at the SPOTY awards and he gave Taquin to me as a horse to follow for the season.  I had him twice as a winner over Christmas before losing any gains in building an antepost position for the Neptune that failed to fire.  Taquin has a much more impressive record on heavy ground and the rattling conditions are a concern.  I always thought he jumped like a chaser though and he has a win under his belt at this discipline, signalling ability and experience.  Given he has to concede weight on his less favoured ground to a top class hurdler, I find my head sways towards Oscar Whiskey but my heart remains true…. Taquin du Seuil it is and sod the lot of you.

It could be a busy little spell for Dai Williams, owner of Oscar Whiskey as he has both favourite Top Gamble and second favourite, Whisper going in the next (2.40).  The latter looked a horse of promise to me last season but failed to fire when stepped up in class.  He always looked a bit slim to me and I hope he might have beefed up over the summer.  I would be backing him if it were not for a horse that I think has plenty of scope in Killala Quay at 12/1.  To start with, the horse gets the assistance of the incredibly talented Noel Fehily.  Secondly, the horse has won every start on anything better than good to soft.  He does not have Cheltenham form, but does have Chepstow form which is a good proxy.  Plenty of dangers plague the selection including Warden Hill, Handazan (who I will have a saver on), Atlantic Roller, Upswing and Gods Own.  It is a minefield! To add to that list of significant risks, Top Gamble, must rate a worthy favourite and one I would not put you off. Pipe must have laid him out for this race, which is in honour of David Johnson, his biggest supporter….. Oh Killala you’ve some horses to beat

The Cross Country is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a different spectacle and if ever on course, I would recommend you walk to the middle to watch the race up close.  It is a bit baffling as they criss cross in a seemingly looping and purposeless path but you get close to the action to see what it is about.

As for the runners, Uncle Junior had the beating of Balthazar King in this last year and won the year before too so will have his fans but my tip, the favourite, has three years on Uncle Juniors’ ageing legs (12) and won the big XC race at the festival last year.  He is fit after winning on seasonal bow over Cheltenham fences and I fancy 2/1 is generous enough.

Having had generous prices for the first four races, I finish with both favourites.  Tony Martin has Ruby over for the ride on Quick Jack.  It is Ruby’s only ride.  It has been backed.  I am on!

Courage and roll those dice.

Racing Tips from Warwick, Punchestown and Kempton… Shoreditch and ageing… It is the Saturday Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a rural Worcestershire scene where the rain comes in waves, relentlessly driving against my windows.  The sense of things coming to a close is palpable.

Before we get started, a new year deserves a new banner.  I would like your ideas please – Leave a comment, greatly appreciated.

I have been in London these last two days, spending a night in a Limehouse apartment that only the Major could have found. I have a talent for unearthing unusual digs, mostly it happens by accident but I never complain.  These were particularly spacious, in fact cavernous, clean and cheap as chips.  When I say cheap, I infer both the frugal nature of the furnishings as well as the bill. All in all, different.

This morning as I walked down Commercial Road to the DLR heading to Bank to start the business of the day, Canary Wharf was draped in cloud.  St Paul’s Cathedral by contrast was brilliant, a true architectural brute, clean white walls, dominant imposition.

On Thursday night, myself and a colleague entertained at dinner in Shoreditch. Decent restaurant, very nice lamb.  Shoreditch carries that reputation of being ‘trendy’ and ‘edgy’. It is successful too if you take the eye watering property prices as a guide.  The area made the Major feel old.

I shall try to explain.  There is more than a dash of excitement immersing yourself in an area with such energy…. Open doors on ambiguous frontages with bouncers are they clubs, art installations or brothels. Who knows, dare try it? The people walking alongside you lack convention in their clothes, hair, tattoos, limps, accessories – each striving to impose their stamp of individuality.

It draws mixed emotions from the Major.  I must be getting old because historically I only have a love for such environs but now I feel a creeping sense of unease.  It is for younger men to tread these streets warily, searching for adventure. I wish to plough for my enjoyment in more serene and stable settings.

There you have it, the words of someone recognising their formerly voracious appetites are in part receding like their hairline.  Each man becomes his father in time but none like to acknowledge it. Well I recognise and embrace ageing, I welcome it as a friend, wondering what gifts it might bestow – As long as it allows me to retain an eye for mischief, then I do not mind.

So what has changed?  Why feel a difference?

Shoreditch, in fact trendiness, tries too hard for its own good.  Everything has to be quirky, laid back, informal, unorthodox…. Every business has to have an angle, everyone and everything desperately trying to distinguish themselves as out of the main stream… It’s tiring.  ‘I don’t care it’s different’ loses appeal when the irony motivation is omnipresent, the new abnormal here is normal.  Gimmicks.

Live Music is compulsory for any establishment in Shoreditch that could conceivably be a venue.  I knew none of the bands advertised and think they were only of local acclaim.   If you feel the urge to set up a four piece bassoon ensemble in the neighbourhood, then allow me to furnish you with a few suggestions of my own…. Slippery Monkfish, Smells from the Cheeseboard, Underworld Botanicals, Mongrel Palace III, Swans of Justice or Prisoner of Slippers. You can have those for free, let me know how you get on.

I must offer a nod to the writer of this article about Dorothy Paget.  A ferocious woman whose appetites for life ran to extremes that we can only admire.  She bet in eye watering sums and took no fools.  Have a little read and if you like, follow the author on twitter @srumblings.

Saturdays sporting delights are laid before us and before we dine, we must acknowledge our gratitude. Fine football, delightful racing….. Let us go into battle with a clear mind and meet the enemy with 5 rounds a man…. Charge thy musket, sharpen thy sword. Fill your heart with vigour, tonight we shall be thankful for the clarity of thought that helped us land the mothership.

We are here, at the cusp.  All of our dreams are intact, no thought unproven… It is a beautiful moment, feel that tension.

To the sports….

 Racing Tips from Warwick

Warwick have a terrific day of racing.  It is a tight little course and experience of something similar can be valuable.  As well as chase fences, these novices have to handle the tight turns, lot’s of momentum can be lost so an easy-going sort is useful.  Let us see if we can find some winners.

The opening race is not a place to look, I like novice races but this handicap hurdle looks a very open contest.  Keep your powder dry.

The second is the Edward Courage cup and is a decent affair.  George Nympton is interesting having won over course and distance last time.  Maybe the shorter distance helped, maybe the assistance of Noel Fehily (the Majors favourite), of interest kept to the minimum trip.  Nick Williams does not send many to Warwick and it has a likely chance.

Eastlake has also been prolific over the minimum distance having won 3 of 4 starts over two miles.  I don’t quite trust the animal but clearly there is some ability.

The Majors tip though is the highly progressive Rody at 9/2, Bet365.  The Tome George yard are in fine nick and my selection won over Christmas with plenty in hand.

The 1.50 is a staying event.  The field is small but select.

Two outstanding bits of form stand out.  The Major and my betting slip on Our Father were slammed by Highland Lodge who provided a turn up at Cheltenham.  Rocky Creek overcame a decent Henderson yardstick in Molotof last time out.  Those lines are good and I look forward to the two clashing tomorrow.

Tour Des Champs appeals most of the others although it is hard to know what to make of his Ludlow form.

Of the principles, while it is a tough call, I am siding with the Cheltenham form of Highland Lodge and suggest a slice at 6/4.

The Pertemps qualifier is full of chasing big guns reverting to light hurdle marks.  You can make cases for too many for me to have a strong bet.  I will take a small slab of Sunnyhillboy at 25/1 (Bet365) to have an interest – The national runner up gets in off 140 only.

I am eagerly awaiting the 3pm race in which exciting hurdler The New One finally gets on track.  If he is to take a leading role in one of the championship novice affairs then he needs to take this.  Evens is a kind price.

The 3.35 sees another cracker because Pete The Feat, seemingly the Hunt Ball of the season gets to try out his new mark.  He has gone up three stone since his first run but deservedly so and the way in which he pulled clear at Newbury last time suggests more is coming.  On soft ground trying to lead around this tight track could be tough.

Restless Harry is another that likes to race prominently and if the two are taking each other on, it might fall into the hands of Rigadin de Beachene.  The tip gets a very handy pull in the weights and I think 6/1 is fair enough.  I will be having an each way saver on 11/1 shot Quentin Collonges too who looks unexposed.

Punchestown Tip – 2.10 Juvenile Hurdle

The two Mullins horses seem to be good starting points.  The yard took this race last year with 1/4 shot Ut de Sivola and field two French imports in the shape of Diakala and Dogora.

The former in the market and in the betting looks the yards idea of the winner and also carries a Triumph entry.

While I might kick myself later, I am going to back the grey Diakala as a result of that, overriding the fact that I was slightly more taken with Dogoras appearance.  Evens is a decent price for my Punchestown tip and it shall be in my multiples.

Kempton – The Lanzarote.

Before we tackle the Lanzarote, consider following Lunique in the opener (likely evens) – With Hendersons French import a non runner I take my tip to smash them up!

In the 1.30 novice affair, I am a supporter of Bucks Bond at 9/2.  The market vibes were all wrong at Taunton but he won anyway.  This is a strapping chaser of the future but is a decent price to get his was again here.

In the Lanzarote, the two Henderson horses top the market.  Clearly Bears Affair has some obvious credentials but I am not sure of why Geraghty would be on Oscara Dara.

Charlie Longsden runs Loose Chips who looks progressive but Noel Fehily went to Warwick which might suggest something.

I am going with Henderson and Geraghty is the persuader – Have a slice of 5/1 Oscara Dara, the Lanzarote is often won by a horse near the head of affairs…

To the football…

All aboard the football money train stopping at Hull (4/6), Charlton (19/10), Cardiff (7/10), Leicester (3/4) and Tranmere (11/8) – Trebles on this lot please.

The Martin Hill Yankee is The New One, Highland Lodge, Rody and Charlton

May your dinner be wholesome and in good spirit.  Allow yourself to imbibe a little too much, we float by the once.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – The Lanzarote, Premier League Tips

Good morning from the Major and the compacted frozen fields of Worcestershire.  The hard earth is covered in a whiteness that defies racing to go ahead and the constitutional stroll was in an air crisp and cutting.

Swincombe for the Lanzarote in the Majors eyes

The Major had a bit of a turn around this week, putting up an 8/1 and a 12/1 winner from four selections since Sunday.  Let us see if we can find an angle into the days sports to reap reward from the soulless enemy who awaits our arrival with his devious book.

The key to all gambling is forming an opinion and understanding how that relates to the bookmakers price.  You must base your opinion in research because myth pervades the media and other people.

Thus, opinion may be better expressed as knowledge.  To be a good gambler you need to question perceived wisdom and form your own line of knowledge.  Your ability to do this dictates your profitability.

For example, I have been backing Spurs for some time thinking that behind Manchester City they have been the second best team in the league.  Bookmakers have taken time to catch up to that view and this has given me a price advantage during that time.  Sadly, no longer! 

A good bet should not be struck solely on probability, it should be taken as a combination of probability and price.  You have to mercilessly seek out advantageous knowledge that allows you to make better judgements as to where you think pricing is wrong in a bookmakers market. 

How do you do this?  My advice is always to price your own market up based on your research and then compare it to the bookmakers prices.  This ensures that you do not follow the crowd and perceived logic but instead compare what you actually think to what is available.  This process will also train you to be better at pricing and weighing up probability.  

Most gamblers go on a hunch, think of something they could conceive and then look for a best price.  Not many people back 100/1 shots but you should if it really is a 50/1 shot. 

It is perverse to start with a price and then see how you feel, first you need to understand what you think the price should be and then seek better, so the advantage is with your knowledge and opinion. 

The Saturday Lesson – The Mathematics of Bookmaking

Reading from the Major Chapter 3, versus 12 -18….

To calculate your price, write down the possible outcomes that could occur in an event (3 in a football game) and then write down all of the factors you think should influence that outcome.  This is the research stage.

For football as a minimum you should consider injuries, form, squad quality and home/away form, but add in any factors you like.  

Next you need to calculate the probability of each outcome, as you see it.  The easiest way to do this is to allocate points out of a hundred as to how likely you see an outcome.  I often find a useful question at this point is ‘If this game were to play a hundred times, how often would I expect each outcome’.

Here is an example.

If I consider the Chelsea v Sunderland today, I am taking into account Chelsea’s squad troubles (I do not think all is that well in the camp), Chelsea while having a much stronger squad have won only half of their last ten home games.

Sunderland have now managed five wins in seven, revitalised under a new manager.  Chelsea are without Drogba and Kalou who go to Africa while Malouda is unlikely.  They will have Terry and Sturridge.  Sunderland are missing Brown.

On balance I score it Chelsea 50 Draw 30 Sunderland 20.

So how to calculate odds?  Well, you need to use the formula that the Major has adapted.  Take the probability that you worked out (expressed as a number of occurrences from one hundred) and then apply this formula..

 Odds = 100-(probability/(1-probability))

So for example, I think Chelsea will win, in todays conditions, 50 from one hundred times thus 100-(50/(1-50) = 1 or expressed as a more familiar bookmaking odd evens. 

To show this works in an easy context, consider the same market with all outcomes equally likely.  Therefore your probability (from 100) is 33.3.  In my calculator, the odds of each outcome is 2 commonly expressed as 2/1.  Thus a pound on each outcome would always get your money back in that market. 

Crucially, a bookmaker will not price this way, they need to make a profit.  Thus, they will have an extra step which will be to reduce the number by around 10-25%.  This is called their overround and is designed to ensure they make a profit.  Instead of offering 2/1 in my example, he might offer 7/4, slightly shorter on all three outcomes.  This is why it is always hard to find genuine good value in any punt.

It is useful to be able to calculate how high the overround is, it shows how greedy the market is!

The formula to calculate the probability back from the bookmaker odds then first convert the odds into a probability.  To do this, take the odds and apply the following denominator/(numerator+denominator)… so 2/1 becomes 1/3 or 33% and 4/5 becomes 5/9 or 55.6%.  Then add them together and subtract a hundred

So, in our case of three 2/1 shots, each priced now at 7/4, then we need to add three lots of 4/11, which is 36.4%, thus three times that minus a hundred is 9.1%.  To check that works, consider placing a pound on all three outcomes.  Your return is £2.75 and therefore you lost 25p from £3.  25/300 = 8%.  This is slightly short of the overround which calculates on a round basis so for example, to get £3 from 7/4 you need to stake £1.0909.. 

A cursory glance at the pricing for Chelsea versus Sunderland shows that 7/2 is generally available about the draw, 8/1 is available about a Sunderland win and Ladbrokes are best price Chelsea at 9/20.  With these prices the overround =  2.2% – It is lower than it would be with any one bookmaker but we are taking advantage of best odds in the marketplace.  If the overround ever drops below 100% then you can make money without risk using the right staking strategy.


To calculate an easier version to use when pen and paper are not handy, use

Value = (odds x probability)/100

Express  odds as a decimal and probability as a number from 1 to 100.  If the number exceeds 1 then it is a value bet, simple.

Again the probability is you own thinking so for example, the odds for Villa to win at home today are 6/4 or 2.5 (expressed as decimal odds) multiply that by your probability, mine is 50 ( I would fancy them to win half of these encounters v Everton ) so 2.5*50 = 125.  Divided by 100 = 1.25 A VALUE BET.

My Chelsea example would be odds 1.4 * probability 50 = 70 DEFINITELY NOT A VALUE BET.

So if anything can be drawn from this mathematical look at odds remember to convert odds to decimals, multiply by the possibilities of the event occurring in a hundred and divide by a hundred.  Over 1, get stuck in like a lunatic, below 1, leave it for the sheep.

There, you can now price your own markets and talk more knowledgeably about why you want to back an outcome.  If someone tells you something is a ‘good price’, ask them in their view how many times from a hundred they think the outcome would occur.  Then calculate the value based on the odds and their probability and see if they are right!

To the Racing

2.25 Punchestown – Juvenile Grade 3 Hurdle

Clearly Ut de Sivola is thought of in magnificent terms because the 1/3 price when the only Irish or British form is winning a Clonmel maiden looks frighteningly skinny.

Ok that run was in Heavy but you have to be brave taking odds on prices on these juveniles. 

My money on this will always be on One Cool Shabra.  He lost a Grade two last time out by half a length after making an error at the last.  He has a superb attitude and seems to take his racing well, even when in soft conditions.

10/1 does not reflect the chances, have a slice.

The Lanzarote – 2.50 Kempton

There is still some doubt as to whether the Lanzarote will go ahead.  Assuming we get past the inspection then we have a decent little contest on our hands.

 This is the sort of handicap I like to apply trends to, but there is a complication.  This race has been moved to Carlisle for two years and seen two distance changes from 2m to 2m5f, via 2m 1f.  Therefore it is comparing apples and pears.  That said, 6 year olds under eleven stone have a good record which brings to the fore; Drumshambo, Sincombe Flame, Timesawastin, Eastlake, Decoy and Lightening Strike.  Act of Kalanisi and Ohio Gold just fall above the weight marker.

Of them, Ohio Gold looked a great horse with the superb teenager Brendan Powell taking off a further 5lbs (he won’t have that claim for too long!).  Sadly I think this horse needs to get his toe in and so overlooked.

Swincombe Flame will handle the ground and is no doubt well handicapped.  Being introduced at this level is an advert in itself.  13/2 seems very fair and whats more impressive is the record in winning in big fields which is highly impressive.

At a bigger price I like Eastlake too who may continue improving and at 14/1 seems fairly priced.  Timesawastin could run a big race if on a going day, he is one that has hung and reared before now!

I am going to suggest backing both of my main fancies each way.  While Skybet and Bet365 go five places, the prices do not warrant backing them there.  Take Swincombe Flame at 13/2 with Sportingbet and Eastlake at 16/1 with Victor Chandler or William Hill.

Send me a postcard.

To the football…

If you bothered to read the mathematical betting education above then you would know that I am all about Sunderland getting something at Stamford Bridge.  Of all the markets, I think backing, straight, the draw at 7/2 and the Sunderland win at 8/1 gives best value.  2/5 Chelsea is not how I see it today.

The only other bet for today for me is at Ipswich where I expect Blackpool to take the spoils.  The Lancashire team are mounting their promotion charge while Ipswich, whom I fancied early in the season, don’t seem to be firing.  6/4 is more than fair.

May your dinner be Italian, a broth of clams and mussels with Swordfish perhaps, much like the Major enjoyed this week.  Take a voluptuous sort with flaxen bountiful hair and a smile to match.  Tip well and be discreet as your wallet thuds to the table.  Her eyes widen just the tiniest amount and you know the game is won.

Courage and shuffle those cards.