Tag Archives: Far west

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 Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – The Major is Chasing, JT McNamara, The Triumph… last chance for glory

Good evening from the Major who writes from an overcast Worcestershire scene that is positively balmy compared to recent conditions.

The Major is tired.  Three days of battle cling to my clothes and skin and there is a certain stench of defeat about it.  Today we scored a magnificent win with Cue Card, whom I gave a strong indication to load the cannons on, but there ends the success.

Should you feel  disappointed  I hope it eases your mind to understand that the Major was significantly invested in Sam Winner, Ballynagour and Oscar Whiskey all of which floundered hopelessly at one stage or another.

Twitter is alight with thoughts and prayers for JT McNamara who suffered a fall on Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir, the consequence of which was him suffering a severe neck injury.  Powerful barbiturates were used to induce a coma and the racecourse medical team flew with him on the air ambulance to Bristol.  My own losses become inconsequential.

A bitter taste was left by that turn of events which unfurled as the racecourse team were dealing with Matuhi who suffered a fatal fall in the previous race.

This all followed the surprising news that Davy Russell had suffered a punctured lung, although the cause remains a mystery.  He is stood down and tonight there remains a mystery as to who will ride Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup on Friday…

The Major kept good company today and included in the group was a chap whose methodology involved selecting horses on a theme from current events.  He selected the papal election and so used that when reviewing each race.  To build my own knowledge of what is likely to transpire in the 2013 Cheltenham Festival championship races, I have invested hundreds of hours following national hunt racing.  You know already what happened.  He selected the winner of the first two races at 25/1 and 20/1 before following up with some rather tasty each way places including Celestial Halo (of course) at 40/1.  Good on him, I wish every man his good fortune, I just hope our own enterprise is rewarded tomorrow.

Today was a critical day and it swung things in the bookmakers direction.  We need winners.  We have just one day remaining.

Stick with me, it is darkest before the dawn.  As Roosevelt (Theodore) said it is better to be faithful than famous.  Either that, or pick a theme and knock yourself out!

The Triumph

Our Conor is going to give Ireland a terrific chance of winning a Triumph, not a traditionally strong race for the raiding team.  He has already had the measure of many of his Irish rivals this winter including Stocktons Wing and Diakali.

On the home team, the probable best chance is Rolling Star who beat Irish Saint  on British debut on heavy ground and could be anything.  That win was at Cheltenham and mighty impressive.  Henderson has won three of the last twelve Triumph hurdles and so clearly he is to be feared.

Complicating the scene is the ground / weather.  The rain is likely to not be serious until later in the afternoon and so this will be a good ground race.  That brings in some serious questions for Rolling Star and Our Conor, neither of whom have raced on good.

Lac Fontana has an interesting profile having not disgraced himself against better horses in novice company and now stepping down to juvenile grade for this.  Jockey booking suggests Far West has the measure of him at home.

On balance, Our Conor is getting the line – I am not convinced the yard is in the best shape, the horse has done better in smaller fields and he has the travel to contend with.

Both Far West and Rolling Star have won at Cheltenham.  I cannot split them but will do so on trainer form at the festival which means that Rolling Star gets the nod.

The County Hurdle

The favourite in the County is Cotton Mill, well thought of by Pricewise, enough to make him his antepost Champion Hurdle pick.  The County is a much less ambitious target.

Cotton Mill may have some class but the County is often won by a springer from lower in the weights and that is the Major’s angle into the race.  Age 5/6, Mullins horses particularly interesting…

This leads us straight to Tennis Cap at 12/1 who I think has an excellent chance.  Ranjaan has been the selection of Ruby which is an advert in itself but with Ditcheat not showing their usual swagger this week, I prefer Paul Townend aboard my pick

The Albert Bartlett

I am not sure how the Albert Bartlett will feel tomorrow after we witnessed the rise of equine and jockey stars Brindisi Breeze and Campbell Gillies and their tragic deaths last year.  I am sure the course will have some moment planned to commemorate them.

What a great advert The New One gave for At Fishers Cross in his demolition job in the Neptune on Wednesday.  That Cheltenham race now looks key to this.

Utopie des Bordes has some experience which is an advantage but I am not sure it is good enough.

Ballycasey lines up to have a pop at At Fishers Cross where Inish Island failed.  Neither I think will get to the favourite.  All evidence to me says that At Fishers Cross is very very classy and has a great attitude.  If the rain is not soaked in by the time of the Albert Bartlett I would not be too concerned as the tip is an Oscar bred animal and should be fine under firmer conditions.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips

The 2013 Gold Cup has a decent feel to it with a number of potential winners and a great story to unfold.

At this point last year, I was convinced Sir Des Champs would go on to be crowned 2013 Gold Cup winner but he seems to have a lost a little edge.  That said he has improved with each run this year, looks a thorough stayer and clearly likes Cheltenham.  Yet, the standing down of Davy Russell is a final negative for the Major.

I cannot have the Giant Bolster.  Won’t place.  Neck on line.

At 10/1 Captain Chris would be a consideration having run Long Run so close in the King George but rain might put pay to his chances.

Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti are harder to split.

Silviniaco Conti has two negatives that put him out of the picture for the Major.  Firstly, he has no Cheltenham win to his name and while he has looked mighty impressive this term, he has yet to face this sort of challenge.  Secondly, I alluded earlier to the fact that Ditcheat just look a little short of sparkle this week.

That leaves me with a Henderson 1-2.  The order is the tricky thing.  The trend of not regaining a Gold Cup (with the exception of Kauto Star) does not bother me.  Long Run picked up his at a very tender age and there is no reason why he cannot win another simply because others have not.  He probably was not on full song when Conti beat him on seasonal debut, his King George win was brave and overall the Major is not against him at all.

Bobs Worth won a Hennessy and showed he had staying power doing so.  He has 4 course wins from 4 starts, including an Albert Bartlett and an RSA.  The Hennessy makes me slightly nervous because Tidal Bay is a yardstick that I think over-rated.  I might be the only person to think this but it makes me concerned about the Irish Hennessy form too, a view supported by the trouncing Cue Card gave First Lieutenant.  A further concern would be deteriorating conditions with Bobs Worth only experience incredibly being on goodish ground.

That leaves me with Long Run.  11/2 is available and I think it is well worth a decent wedge even if we are hampered by the Amateur Jockey.

The Foxhunters

Jockey booking is essential and after that, horse quality is required.  I think Salisfy can defend his title but 11/4 is not much of a price, particularly as the ground is going to be getting away from him.

I much prefer the 10/1 about Cottage Oak available with Corals.  The more rain he better for this one whose price accounts for the talented looking but inexperienced rider.

The Martin Pipe

After Dynaste went down in the Jewson, Ballynagour seemed to empty fast in the Byrne Plate and it seems hard to trust Pipe horses at the head of affairs.  This puts Gervey Chambertin in a little doubt.

It is only a little doubt though and I think it telling that the Pipe yard are having a pop at the race named in honour of their own with just this entrant.  He is a full brother to Grand Crus and could have been entered in several of the novice hurdles.

Solix is not a 66/1 shot in my eyes and if Ian Williams has him firing, he could make a mockery of that price.

Bourne has shown some class and rates a credible winner if we get more rain, 20/1 is workable.

The Major is opting for the fantastic festival of Willie Mullins to continue with a big run from the unexposed Make your Mark at 12/1 – Clearly he has been well thought of at various stages and if he arrives here in form, perhaps we will see it happen in front of us!  A saver on the Pipe horse is recomended.

The Grand Annual

The former race is named after the Pipe yard and the Grand Annual also carries the name of a famous yard, the Hendersons.  Rather than take one good shot at the prize, the team have lined up six darts to throw and there are cases for many of them.

The yard had a one-two in the race last year but this year they may struggle to cope with the Tome George trained Rody (8/1).  The race has a tendency towards featherweights and Rody carries 10 8 – Have a slice.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon | Full Ascot Tips | Black Caviar | Crowdsourcing a Multiple | Building a Cheltenham War Chest

Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling damp Worcestershire scene.  The Major is tired and uneasy.  There is nothing like a good night of rest to resolve that but since the night lies between me and a refreshed state, then you have to take me as you find me…  Slipping into the night state, in that phase where the day and night merge with thoughts dancing on the edge of reason and fears you can almost touch.

We are used to the news being a repeating loop of misery but earlier today, a BBC report from Mali breached my usual bullet-proof emotionally barren defences.  The image is stark, the setting desperate and the mental conditions achieved to cut a man’s arm off… it is so unfathomably distant, it is hard to belief that it exists in the world we inhabit.

There were other items of news this week which scored direct hits on my usually high levels of mischief and boisterousness, anniversaries of tragedies, fresh tragedies, meteors missing the earth (a 6 mile one wiped out the Dinosaurs you know), food, trouble, more trouble, scandal, disgrace, death, disease, lying, filth.

Tiredness, stress, these things lower ones defences.

There are so many slices of pain which are upsetting to dwell upon, endless reams of stories, regenerating each day, the man from Mali made the limelight, many others are merely minor parts, in such a world, stab after stab, remorseless, brutal, without reason.  The reality of aging is coming to terms with the meaning of life… inevitable relentless decay, sometimes sudden and collapsing, sometimes protracted.  It comes for us all, if not at first, then at last.

You may be wondering whether I intend to remain in this sombre mood for the rest of the sermon.  The answer is no.  Having removed myself of the burden (thank you for listening), I feel lightened and able to move on.  I shall lament in these disconsolate streets no more.

You see, we are here, we are alive and we owe it as a duty to enjoy ourselves.  To open our eyes to the glory of possibility.  So today, observe, relax, laugh and enjoy, feel no guilt for that which the fickle hand of fate has given you.  For we are here, we are alive.  Enjoy it, consider it dutiful.

To the sports…

Cheltenham is coming.  In four weeks, all of our questions will be answered.  Is the Major right about Long Run being under-rated?  Will Sprinter Sacre dominate the Champion Chase?  Will he be the shortest priced winner ever?  Is Hurricane Fly the best two mile hurdler there is?  Are Dynaste, Quevega and Simonsig good things? Can Oscar Whisky reverse form with Reve de Sivola? but will Bog Warrior provide a surprise and come over the top of both of them?

Ah… the anticipation.  Right now all of our dreams are intact.  Well, that is unless your antepost bubbles have started to pop with the tragic death of Darlan or the withdrawal of Tidal Bay and Flemenstar.  I am afraid it is that time where we hold our breath, hoping they get the key players arrive in one piece, anxiously watching Betfair and twitching at the slightest move in the markets.

On that point, what a class act the Ditcheat yard are.  With a prominent position in the national and World Hurdle market, there was not a tremor before the news broke concerning Tidal Bay… fair play.

We don’t know what the festival holds but I am willing to be the answers to my questions are Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes, Yes, Probably not but I’m backing him anyway out of unadulterated love.

I hope your antepost portfolio is bulging like a drunk mans belly, fattening up nicely for the feast.  Today we shall try to add to your war chest.  We shall raise the capital required for war with a few tactical raids on the enemy supply lines.  I see a few opportunities, a few wagon carts of ammunition on the road guarded by merely a few dozen of their light lancers, we shall take them at the double, engage at close quarters and withdraw sharply with the Maria Theresa coins spilling from our saddle packs.  Shabash!

Anyone joining me at 5.30am to see Black Caviar?  The wonder mare is set to rock Flemington again and it is worth getting up for.  1/20 for Nelly to win in the morning, she is under rated in the UK by some after almost getting chinned at Royal Ascot.  She was legless in the conditions that day and was carrying injuries as well as being lighter after the exertions of travel.  Her terms, her turf tomorrow – Watch the monster devour the prey.

Jim Knight – Have a terrific day at Ascot, I would say be lucky, but you are… being there, the cold air on your face, the heaving hulks of sweating beasts after their exertions for your pleasure, drink beer, gamble with intent and have a ready eye for mischief.

I am focussing on Ascot, Haydock is left for someone else.

Saturday Ascot Tips

Conditions are soft and with Ascot being such a fast drying course and a dry forecast, I am edging towards good to soft horses.

The opening novice hurdle contains some decent sorts but looks short of a top class star.

Aaim to Prosper has not done an awful lot wrong – A late converter to hurdling, he was the only ever horse to win two Cesarewitch’s.  I am not convinced.

It is Up and Go that I think could be the pick of the bunch and probably offers the most scope.  He beat Many Clouds last time out at Wetherby and that horse went on to an Exeter success next time out.  Up and Go has fallen twice in the last year but was much more fluent last time.  I would get lumpy but the front running tactics concern me slightly.

I have no similar hesitations about recommending the 5/6 on offer about Rocky Creek in the second.  He looked to have the beating of Tour Des Champs last time before his rival fell and The Real Milan is not a convincing traveller.

The listed handicap chase is a trickier affair.  Vino Griego seemed to benefit from a much more patient ride last time out and looks a tempting prospect, despite a 10lb rise.  Instead, the Major is intrigued by the Kim Bailey trained The Rainbow Hunter at 9/1.  The horse has a national entry, Kim Bailey has an excellent Ascot record with his rare runners here and with a line through the last run at Chepstow (suspect not suited by the Welsh bog – When heavy there, it means swimming!) he has a live chance.  His winning form is over several subsequent winners and has a very solid feel to it… snap it up.

The 3.15 is a very trappy handicap, Bourne looked top draw when running down Dildar at Sandown before finding a lightweight but power packed McCoy way too good on Mr Watson at Cheltenham.  Not easily overlooked, but overlooked all the same.  Whitby Jack is of more interest having run well on return before picking up a race at Kempton last time out.  7lbs is unlikely to be a big problem.  Ruby Walsh is a very eye-catching booking for Queens Grove who looks a reasonable 9/1 shot.  On balance, Whitby Jack at 7/1 is the selection, have a slice and thank me later.

The main event is the very tasty morsel that is the Betfair Ascot Chase.  The Major is very interested to see Finians Rainbow return to chasing after a lengthy spell off.  Following last years thrilling and slightly controversial Champion Chase, Finians flopped and has been the subject of a wind operation.  His Champion Chase though was first class.  He beat an on form Sizing Europe fair and square in the Majors view, even if the omitted fence caused some issues.

I am not sure this will suit Captain Chris who looks more reliable this season but I am not entirely sure he will run as well today.  Hobbs could be in better form too.  Connections of Cue card are hoping that a drop back in trip will help the horse improved, the Major is watching this one only.

The real danger could be Somersby who has won at Ascot before and is a consistent sort who deserves a few Grade 1s.

On balance, I am siding with the horse I think could be top class and that is Finians Rainbow, 7/2 with Coral.

River Maigue and Far West will be battling out the penultimate contest and in receipt of a little weight, I gently suggest the latter.

In the bumper, Pipe probably has a good idea of where he stands with Red Sherlock 4/5 against Captain Cutter as the latter beat the formers’ stable companion last time out.  It is too hard to read into those form lines and while Red Sherlocks Towcester win was impressive, there was not a lot to beat.  He is 12/1 for the Champion Bumper though.

Good luck Jim.

Gowran Park – Zaidpour

The Saturday Gowran, Red Mills trial is a cracking days racing.  No bets for me, Zaidpour should do the business in a weak field for a Grade 2 but I just don’t trust him.

Wincanton – Zarkander

Zarkander and Grandouet are my main antepost interests for the Champion Hurdle and it would be a massive surprise to me if the Nicholls star could get beat here.  I think the 1/2 will look generous when he serves up a beating to this lot.

In the football – I am going to smash into Watford at 8/5 at Birmingham City.  The latter are in a bit of a state with the manager disciplining one of their most effective players (Zigic) over poor training (the worst he has ever seen apparently! The fans are siding with the player and all in, it is brewing for an unhappy camp and a venue that Watfords strong squad should easily garner three points from.

Picking Carlisle to win at Portsmouth 6/5 does not make me feel proud, yu have to feel for the Pompey fans but with their squad being peddled together from a series of short-term loans, there is little Guy Whittingham or his players can do for now.

The Crowdsourcing Multiple

I invited followers on the twitter feed to supply a NAP for the Saturday sport and had a number of responses… here they are:

@chesneywold – Somersby 3.50 Ascot

@charleah – Vino Griego – 2.40 Ascot

@doublehandful – Rocky Creek – 2.05 Ascot

@adamclarke501 – Luton to beat Millwall

@tankard999 – Bournemouth at Preston

@lukeyboy1325 – Swincombe Stone 3.05 Wincanton

My staking plan for this is an Alphabet.  That is a patent on Vino, Somersby and Rocky; a further patent on Luton, Bournemouth and Swincome and a yankee across the middle (Somersby, Rocky, Luton and Bournemouth).  Interesting!

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: The Rainbow Hunter, Rocky Creek, Watford and Finians Rainbow

May your dinner be fuelled by the riches your fellow-man has provided.  May each help the other feast.  Open a bottle of something nice.

Courage, roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Tips, Doncaster Tips and the Wolverhampton Mega Buster Bet!! Merry Christmas.

Good evening from the Major who writes from a wet and breezy Worcestershire.

What a dreadful day of tips at Cheltenhams Friday meeting, from the Major. With the exception of On Fishers Cross who won nicely as I hoped for, the rest of my advice proved expensive to follow. Most simply did not get into it. Broadbackbob a particular disappointment reinforcing an old message that proven accuracy at fences is helpful at the home of National Hunt racing.

Although excuses are weak and pointless, I wrote up the tips when the ground forecast was good to soft and it soon turned soft to heavy after more rain than I expected. The way they finished the first two races, strung out around Gloucestershire, told you it was going to be a slog of a day. Tonight we are better armed with information.

My day of tipping may have been bad but breaking events in America bring some real reflection and perspective to life.

The event is horror itself, anyone would be moved by the ages of the children killed. The innocence, the pointlessness, the incomprehensibility of motive. It is the definition of tragedy.

Massacres like this are peppered through history, read King Theodore of Abyssinia. Minds so insane, so lost that even the first trigger they pull is not enough to sober up their murderous emotion, to draw back from the insane urgings.

The product is body bags, with children inside them.

The Major provides the usual Saturday Service. As usual, no charge is made, I have no service to sell. If you subscribe to the email list in the left hand column or the twitter feed (@tdl123) then I will never peddle premium tips, hotlines or even show you a single advert on the site. No strings attached, ever.

Today, I levy a small fee though. I ask you to commit one unspecified small act of decency at your discretion before sunset.

To the sports.

Cheltenham Tips

We return to Cheltenham with a score to settle. I feel aggrieved and the enemy with his dark twinkling eye will pay.

The opener looks a tasty affair. Far West won a decent Chepstow race before taking a Grade 2 at Cheltenham. While Handazan arguably improved from finishing 12 lengths behind in the Chepstow race, he might be better now too. Still a straight forecast on Far West and Handazan is my ‘double your money’ advice.

In the second, Barry Geraghty seems to have switched allegiance to Highland Lodge from Court in Motion (surely Lingfield bound?) after the latter was smashed here by the David Pipe trained Our Father. The selection is a 6/5 shot but surely still looks a value pick – This grey could be a star and I fully expect another dominant display – back it with an eye watering amount that might help get he economy moving again.

Shooters Wood has a superb record at Cheltenham being 2 from 2 and the Paul Nicholls charge might handle the rise in weights he is allotted. Not the strongest pick though on balance and instead I am chancing my arm that Garynella at 4/1 is on a generous mark – His french form is hard to read but the ground will help and Pipe might be throwing a decent novice at this race.

The 4th is a split contest between some up and coming decent sorts and some experienced old hacks. In the young corner we have Coneygree and Boyfromnowhere, two decent looking sorts. Mon Mome leads the elder horse charge and the Grand National winner looks a forlorn hope aged 12 but may well be staying on late up that hill over this distance which is way too short! On balance, Coneygree looks like the real deal and will surely appreciate going to three miles…. unoriginal but get stuck in.

The Ironspine Charity Gold Cup is the feature race of the day (not necessarily the one I am most looking forward to) and Walkon adds sparkle to the line up. I was looking at this race on an antepost basis earlier in the week and was struggling to find many confirmed mudlarks (I was working an angle that it might be heavy and wish I’d followed it though with a bet). Cristal Bonus was one that fitted the bill and his price has halved in recent days. Walkon also won’t mind the cut. the other two I like are Quantativeeasing, Golden Chieftain and Wishfull Thinking.

Nicholls and Henderson have bagged five of the last ten runnings and there is a strong trend towards six and seven-year olds in the race (12 from last 15 years).

It really leaves me with Cristal Bonus and Quantativeeasing. At 6/1 and 18/1 we can afford to load two cannons. I do like their chances although before he tapes go up, all our dreams are intact.

Cristal Bonus went to Ireland and won nicely in this seasons debut and Quantativeeasing is a little forgotten about after a flop in the Paddy Power but let us not forget he won this last year.

The 3.05 is the race I am waiting for. This is a simmering hot race with the reigning Champion Hurdler, Rock on Ruby, taking on the best Nicholls has in that division, Zarkander and the frail but talented Henderson horse, Grandouet.

There was a feeling that the Champion Hurdle was not the strongest – A bit bitchy if you ask me, what has Rock on Ruby done wrong?

Nevertheless, Rock on Ruby seems in a vulnerable position and Nicholls will fancy a pop with Zarkander who looked all the better for a summer of sun on his back when reappearing in the Elite Hurdle.

Grandouet is my tip. It is a dicey one in some senses, his price probably does not reflect the stuttered build up to here. He missed several assignments, including the Champion Hurdle. Yet, I have always felt that Henderson really fancies this one and the most eye-catching form was when winning this race last year, smashing Overturn…. Have a thick slice, pour on the custard and thank me later.

Oscar Whiskey has a penalty kick in the last race, he will love conditions. and won this last year. If this is the day that Crack Away Jack proves top class, it would not surprise me as I have finally given up backing him, less my burden, he will probably scoot up.

The Wolverhampton MegaCard

Can you believe Wolverhampton have a racecard with 14 events on it, all for a tenner. On one hand it is value, on the other, it is like a large fish and chips, serves a purpose but too voluminous.

Every race bar one is sub £3k winners pot so do not expect much quality – My tip comes in the one race of reasonable merit, the 8.50pm. Forest Edge gets the assistance of Adam Kirby who is having a fine season. He gets a 4lb hike for his Lingfield win but the manner of that victory looked more impressive to me – 4/1 is a gift from the gods.

If you have the stamina for every race then all power to you!

Doncaster Grade Two Tip

By the time, the favourite Vasco Du Ronceray goes off at Doncaster, we will have the manner of Key Wests performance to provide comparative clues as their form is well tied. This is a graded race though and the apprentice aboard the favourite cannot make his claim which effectively penalises the horse.

I am going to chance a tip on Kashmir Peak each way at 8/1 – This one might have more to offer even if this represents a significant step up from the Market Rasen run.

To the football….

Crystal Palace have some talent and I would fancy them to win at St Andrews at 9/5. Bolton are strong but I like 3/1 Charlton who have a very strong squad. Leicester are a tip, they can beat Millwall away (7/5) to make a nice away trixie.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Coneygree, Our Father, Grandouet and Forest Edge – That can pay for Christmas.

I hope your dinner is unhurried, relaxing and in fine company.

Courage and roll those dice.

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.