Tag Archives: faugheen

The Tuesday Punchestown Festival Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a changeable Worcestershire where a pleasant spring air hung in the evening as we left for dinner but by return had descended to a suppressing cold slippery mugginess.

Odd to be out to dinner on a Monday night?  Well it is none of your business but I shall accommodate your inquiry.  The good lady was a victim of a full-on road rage event yesterday.  Shockingly, while she had our two boys in the car too no less.  Assuage thy concern, all are unharmed and while the cad was aggressive, to the point of banging on the car window, that was the extent of the disturbance.

She was reporting the incident today at the police station at 4pm, so I sent her a message at 5pm suggesting…  ‘If I were to take you to dinner tonight, where should I book?’.  I would invite you to use this from time to time, works the charm.

And so…. To dinner, The Fleet on the River Severn, lovely spot.  All was well with their faggots, a little uncouth in my menu selection?  Well I couldn’t care, you can take the boy from the Black Country and all that.  The boys played on their crazy golf, the sun set and I stood outside content, beer in hand (Thunderbolt, not what you think), a few midges were present but not so many as to upset the mood.  Plus, a view over the expansive green flood plain to the droning M5 motorway a full interrupted half mile away.  You may think this punctuated the mood but for the Majors dark wayward mind, I like a constant noise to keep me anchored, I am the sort to sleep with the radio on.

Later in the evening, I drive to Pershore, the Georgian facades look grand at last light.  The window down to catch the cool evening air, like nectar after the earlier rain, a pungent whiff of the spring onions being drawn from the field.  Marvellous.

The peace is stuttering.  Two pieces of news drew sharp.  A teacher stabbed to death in front of her class, a dog tied to a tree, doused and burned alive.  I do not raise these things for sensationalism or to upset your disposition, just that the barbarous nature of it, unfathomable, it must be a madness, the first was committed by a child, it bares little thought.

All of these things, prey in the edges of my mind.  Such a world we occupy, yet there is cause for hope for statistically these things are noise.  Yes, you might think it hard to reckon the tally as I do but the positive ledger of life, even the midges, out scores the credit side with comfort.

With such recompense, let us set the mind to the Punchestown festival.

Even some of the keener National Hunt fans have failed to raise Punchestown with me in recent weeks.  I have no idea why….. the quality is exceptional, if a little elongated.  Perhaps, burnt fingers from backing many a Cheltenham good thing that has gone awry in years gone by, perhaps the weariness of the season, perhaps buying the Bet365 Gold Cup as the last significant act of the season as seemingly advertised by some commentators.  Whatever the reason, do not succumb.  This is a quality festival and we shall draw long on the goblet.  I love the early evening nature of it, coming from the office, one can swing by your turf accountant and seek the results of the day while chancing your remaining bank on the lucky last.

We have some rules.  Class can tell yet… Look for horses laid out for it.  Mullins is important.  Good ground animals too.  Ideally less than six races season to date.  To the business end of the sermon.

Tuesday Punchestown Tips

The festival opens with a low key race.  The thing with Punchestown is that the quality is a little more thinly distributed but this is splitting hairs, it remains excellent.

In the Hunter Chases, jockey booking is absolutely crucial.  Some of these jocks have ridden less than ten competitive races in the last two years, some have over 150.  Seven have not ridden a winner.   I am not going to mess about, the best jockeys are, in  the Majors order; Nina Carberry……………….. Derek O’Connor.  To be honest, Nina is the only game in town.  She is on an Enda Bolger horse, Be Positive, and it is 10/3 favourite but it is the only bet for me.

Faugheen 8/11 – He is one of those that is borderline overcooked but this is a horse that I was very taken with, I cannot wait to see him chasing but for now the first Grade 1 of Punchestown will do.  The drop to two miles is no concern.  Invest; it is as though the Bank has ordered up a touch more quantitative easing.

The 4.55 is a bit of a mystery and I am avoiding the top seeds as we damn well need value.  Of the top three in the market, I prefer the Charlie Swan runner City Slicker but alas I have set my guns on more distant targets.  The one I have settled on is Dermot Welds Diplomat at 16/1 generally (BetVictor 20/1*).  He has had a spin on the flat to be fit, the yard is in fine fettle and Robbie Power is a capable and rare (perhaps first) booking for the yard.

*For newcomers, the Major has no arrangements with any bookmaker, I advertise not, there is no membership.  Just unhinged, barely profitable thoughts.

The Punchestown Champion Chase lacks our new star who chose Sandown on Saturday and to be fair, this is pretty poor Grade 1 fayre.  That said, it has to be won, and so… Sizing Europe would bring the house down but he is in the veteran stage and not for me.  Ballynagour is of a lot of interest after bouncing back in the Byrne Group Plate, Somersby has his fans, aye but not here.  I was against Module earlier in the campaign and had my fingers burned.  His third in the Cheltenham version was superb and at 7, he has a right to improve.  Ah, I hear you exclaim, pour quoi n’est pas Somersby! Well I retort, it is just a visual thing, I suspect that this less challenging track will suit my pick a lot more, 5/1.

The bumper at 6.05 has been won by Willie Mullins three times in the last ten and so a tentative nod at 7/1 for Very Much So. 

The the staying Novice Chase, it is all quality.  Ballycasey is probably suited by this slightly easier race than the RSA where he did not quite see things out.  That said, the RSA is a notoriously hard race and perhaps this is one to be avoided, especially as he had an extra run where he fell when distinguishing himself with some credit.  Morning Assembly ran a place in the RSA too and there is little wrong with his chances as I think the decent ground will be fine.  Djakadam is taking his fourth run of the campaign and gets a very handy 9lb age allowance and the services of Ruby.  I am bit concerned about the ground but think a decent run is expected.

You could put a pin in the lucky last and mine has landed on Disputed.  Find your own pin!

I trust your own dinner will be served in the best company and savoured because your soul is dripping in goodness drawn from a day of benevolence and winners, what more can I hope for you than that.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Champion Chase Day Sermon – Full review of Wednesdays Cheltenham card

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire scene of peaceful spring – The Major is returned from Cheltenham, a little bruised and wondering just how I finished the day so poor.

Proceedings started so well, Vautour was simply barnstorming – Ruby set the fractions and kicking off the turn, showed the field a clean set of heels.  I have not read Paul Nicholls comments and so am uncertain if anything was amiss with Irving but he ran no sort of race.

The Arkle was taken by an outsider, as Ruby sailed over the last the crowd rose, like a wolf showing hackles, you could feel the energy about to go into roaring Ruby home, but then the last actor joined the stage, Western Warhorse under a maximum effort from Tom Scudamore to press a slight advantage at the line, ah he had not read the script, like a balloon slowly relieving itself of its contents, the masses calmed.  A sea of slightly confused punters punctuated by the odd small stakes backer of the winner jumping for joy with their fingers clutching at a 33/1 ticket.

The Champion Hurdle demonstrated the sheer triumph and disaster our sport allows.  Travelling up the inside on the back straight, Our Conor, such an effective hurdler, crumpled quickly on the landing side and suffered such injuries that it was deemed that the best course of action was to put him down.  He gave me an inspirational moment last year and having followed him all season, it sobered me up alright.  Christ, it is a magnificent sport but there is a grave price.  It has not rightly sunk in, it is a terrible thing and while we move on, I shall not forget that great moment.

Contrast was provided within moments.  I watched the race from a spot I frequent, knowing that Nicky Henderson is there.  At some point just before the race, I realised that Jessica Harrington was alongside me in a smart red coat, class act I can tell you.  As Jezki battled on with Geraghty using all of his guile to repel McCoy on My Tent or Yours, she burst into tears of joy – You could see what it meant.  Afterwards, in a touch of class, Henderson went and embraced her… I regaled this to a table of serious Irish betting fraternity who tell me that they are the best of friends.

What a contrast.  That is Cheltenham in a nutshell.  I managed to suggest another horse that fell and with the screens up, looked like it might be serious but thankfully for the connections of Gardefort and the Williams yard, it seems as though it was tiredness and being winded.  Yet I also saw with my eyes people will Quevega on, they helped her, does that sound ridiculous?  Yes, it does, doesn’t it… Well I know, I was there.

In gambling, your investment returns may go up as well as down.  The Major is down, yet, this is not the end, not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning, I can see the light.  Vautour and Quevega are in a number of multiples I have – This is good.  Plus, I feel like I have come on for the run today.

Wednesday Cheltenham Tips

Now, should you be a newcomer, you might not realise that I have already written up my thoughts for the Grade 1 races on the Wednesday card.  I may refer to that page and so you can use the link to go to it if you want and read the earlier thoughts.  That is how the internet works!

The day starts with the Neptune and another key plank of the Majors antepost week plots runs and we need at least a place and hopefully one better from Faugheen.  The Red Sherlock and Rathvinden tied form is good but we get Ruby and since I am (and for the more infrequent / novice gamblers amongst you) going to use the technical term… I am ‘balls deep’ in this position my friends – Cheltenham depends on him and Annie Power.

As a footnote, if Lieutenant Colonel wins, consider the emotions, Dessie Hughes lost his stable star today in tragic circumstances, what god send the next to arrive on the scene and lift the spirit.

Then the RSA – Again, more substantial notes are available on the link above but I think this is a weak RSA (cannot remember that many strong ones!) and all those at the head of the market have question marks.  As such, I stand by my selection, now drifted to 25/1 in Annacotty.  He was giving weight to Indian Castle when running with credit in defeat, this drying ground will be fine and he has been targeted clearly at this race all season…. Have faith and courage my friends.

The Coral Cup is an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle and then smashed over your head time and time again.  What can I tell you… Trends… In the last 15 years a horse has won 15/15.  It had a jockey 15/15.  I was not on it 15/15.  You have been warned.

For what it is worth, I have looked at the card until my head hurts.  Dunguib fits none of the usual profile but he is hardly a usual horse having been the great Irish hope until injury made him miss his best days.  He is eleven, he will not want this rattling ground playing havoc with his joints!  No.

There are plenty I can make some sort of case for.  It also plagues me that the winner of this race has not returned at huge prices in recent years.  In the end, I am betting Indevan at 20/1.  Ruby again, Ricci again.  Long absence to overcome but in excellent hands to do so.

Then the big race of the day, again something I have covered at length and I am most happy to continue to suggest backing the favourite Sire de Grugy makes sense.  This is a weak Champion Chase and he has done everything right.  I am surprised he is 11/4, load a cannon!

The Cross Country is a unique race for the festival and I like it, I know it has its detractors but if you are on course, I suggest you make your way to the centre of the course and enjoy watching the action up close.

As for the winner, I am a big fan of Big Shu, a horse I think should be much much shorter than 4/1.  He was superb in this race last year and while a stone rise in the weights is a leveler, I think he is likely to go again.  He has been laid out for this race and my only concern is that the ground might not be ideal.  At  huge price, Diamond Harry is no forlorn hope.  Get stuck into my boy though!

The Fred Winter is another head scratcher.  So many improvers, so much to like! I am swayed that the drying ground might be quite an issue for those with proven form in the book this winter.  This is the tenth running of the race and it has had two 40/1 winners to date, one of which I had the pleasure of a bet on in Une Artiste…. Sweet memories.

I cannot find a profile I particularly like and so am siding with Katgary who we know so little about.  Good hands, reasonably expensive and nearer the bottom of the weights which is the slightly more normal profile of a Fred Winter winner.  Tread with care.

I have already covered the Champion Bumper in the link above.  I am happy enough with Black Hercules but this is the bumper! Alternatives? Izzini with her mares allowance looks interesting at 50/1 (Boyles) and so does Our Kaempfer at 28/1 with BetVictor – They are longer priced darts and this is not a race I suggest you stake your dignity on.

Courage and roll the dice.