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The Saturday Sermon – Irish Oaks ‘Talent’ Day…. My recollection of the British Oaks

Good evening from the Major who writes from a dry dusty Worcestershire whose arid landscape is burned to a gentle straw colour.

The Major has cold Northern skin and this heat is not my ideal.  Yet, I do enjoy the world coming to life for a spell of good weather.  Generally, as long as you keep good company, less clothing is more fun.

The splendour of the weekend sport is laid before us.  We have cycling, cricket and of course the Irish Oaks and the reappearance of British Oaks winner, Talent.

I was immensely impressed by her win at Epsom.  A significant wager (she was a 20/1 winner of which I had a nother 3 from 5 selections, doubles and trebles) did act as catalyst to the joy of watching such a magnificent performance, I must admit. Regardless of personal financial rewards, this was a performance with a majestic touch.  It reminded me that life is good and that racing is the sport of those with a liking for the rich turf stories which resonate the intense emotions of our own impending deaths . Indulge me though as I tell you the running of the 2013 Oaks.   

The story of Talent and the Epsom Oaks

Talent was the second string of the Beckett yard, the 20/1 outsider.  Her juvenile debut gave no hint of her real ability and even her maiden win on Kemptons polytrack was gritty rather than flashing, it was also to be her only other two year old start.

It was her Newmarket 2013 reappearance that had caught my eye and hinted she could be better.  She clearly was not fully tuned for the listed  contest but I liked the girls attitude as she settled down to serve it up to Lady Nouf and grind out a seasonal debut win.

Granted there was much more glamorous form in some of her fellow competitors books.  Becket top stable jockey Jim Crowley had also overlooked Talent in favour of Secret Gesture, the yards more fancied runner and favourite for the race.  Yet Beckett was still very complimentary about Talent, he certainly gave the impression that the gulf in price between them was artificial and that he also held her in good esteem.  The scene was set.

The stalls rattled open and Talent is sluggish into stride, with Richard Hughes erect in the stirrups, the suspicion to my eye was that the tardiness was deliberate.  Held up, she exuded comfort climbing the Epsom hill, lobbing along in the rear.  Talent in the early cut and thrust was enjoying her day out at the races.  

This all changed shortly after she passed the high point on the course.  Here the track bends left and the ground drops away.  With the changing ground, Talent started to chomp at the bit, at first just jostling, almost playful but not settling as you want your runner to do.  As the race tempo builds, her agitation escalates, she is now fighting for her head with some gusto…  As she approaches Tattenham Corner she is becoming keener and keener… Is she hating every stride?  Is she outclassed?  Still green?

Whatever the reason, it all seems as though my goose is cooked, just 24 hours earlier, we watched a replica race.   Dawn Approach expended similar energy fighting Kevin Manning in the Derby, it looks for all the world as though Talent was to be served the same way.  However, appearances can be deceptive.

As they turn for home, Talent calms again back on the level, what is left in the tank?  As the bend completes, she gives Madame Defages a bump, she is still active, still ready to compete, will she break cover now?  Hughsie has other ideas, he holds her together, tight on the reigns… not yet girl, not yet.  Most eyes are focussed on the higher profile Secret Gesture, and The Lark who have started their own runs at the head of affairs…

Talent has yet to break fully clear and for just a moment, she seems to make heavy weather of finding that space, bunching horses block her path, Hughsie takes a pull, ice running through the mans veins and then asks her to squeeze through a gap, he has a willing companion, her head lowered she knuckles down to the business end.  

Then, like souls awakening to the brilliant brightness of summers dawn, she is suddenly free.  Relishing the difficult camber of the Epsom straight, she powers to join the fray, drawing alongside the principals.  Pausing momentarily, as though to take stock, Hughsie taps her with the whip and she surges forward taking an enormous gangly stride, her surge of raw pace is ugly in delivery but decisive in effect.  A second crack from the pilot and she is away, Talent is not for catching.

And that my friends is the battle of the 2013 Oaks filed and receipted for your appraisal.  Disagree? False pace, don’t rate the form? Please recall that the Major is only amateur and my mind is unhinged, I am merely your reluctant correspondent.  Don’t take my word for it, judge for yourself.

Now to the sports and let us deal straight with the malevolent force of our enemy.  See clearly and act with conviction, tonight we dine, silver service, on fine undercooked steak, washed down with burgundy and in the company of those fine sorts who are so sure of their place in life, they act not thinking they are right, but knowing it.

Saturday Racing 

The Irish Oaks is run at 6.15pm, guess who I am on!  Stan James are 3/1 about Talent and I suggest you speak to your international money man to see what liquidity you can achieve by this time.

I would also suggest a double with Darwin who aces in the Minstrel Stakes which is the preceding contest.  The classic generation horses don’t have the strongest overall record in the race but the last three years have seen two winners.  John Oxx has won the race with Takar and Air Chief Marshall went in for team Ballydoyle three years ago.  My selection is 11/8, have a chunky slice.

The Betfred Summer Plate – 3.30 Market Rasen

The Summer Plate normally goes to a proven decent sort, you do get a fair smattering of six year old winners but normally they are already classy sorts and are not usually lurking at the bottom of the handicap.  This year, the race is wide open with the enemy pricing up this conundrum in a vortex at 7/1 the field.

Peter Bowen has had a tremendous recent record in the race and Dineur must be on the shortlist as a result of that form alone.

There are two I will take against Bowen, they are Galaxy Rock and Viva Colonia.   The first is well tried in the top handicaps and may well come to the boil for this.  The second Viva Colonia is the tip and one I would not normally offer.  Why not?  Well, I am not the biggest fan of Brian Ellison but I am of Noel Fehily and I just think this horse has the credentials.  Viva Colonia won the summer hurdle here two seasons ago, if his recent runs have been prepping him for this, he could be a danger to all and 20/1 with Hills might look a mighty price.

Newbury Tips

The opener must surely go to Gold Top.  The Hannon / Hughes entry is up against the boys this time but has looked good so far and Hughsie is having to slim down to his bottom weight for the ride… Load a cannon.

In the 3.15, I like Ocean War at 3/1, this selection is an interesting horse who has suffered injuries that kept him from racing for several years.  However, he was previously a classy looking sort and surely plenty of improvement is available on second start back from those troubles?

Krypton Factor is a shoe in for the 3.15.  The Ascot form is of the highest order having finished in the places behind Society Rock and Lethal Force, surely too good for this lot and 2/1 seems generous.  Normally horses do not suffer badly from breaking from the stalls.  Have a hearty slice.

That is it from the Major for this week.  I trust your dinner is delectable.

The Martin Hill lucky 15 by nature of the four tips on the blog today is Talent, Viva Colonia, Darwin and Krypton Factor.

Courage and roll those dice.

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Thursday Cheltenham Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes a brief post from the sofa ahead of tomorrows Cheltenham action.

My company sponsors the Mares Bumper and a cohort of my colleagues will be in attendance having a tremendous time.  As for I, sadly I shall not be part of the fun but I have set about writing the card up.

Thursday Cheltenham Tips

The ground condition is going to be a key consideration in selections.  Good to soft today and blustery dry overnight conditions suggest it might ride fast so a proper late Spring horse is what I am after.

Course form is often a good starting point for assessing horses at Cheltenham.  The undulating left-handed course with a stiff finish does not suit all horses.

The opener is a nice listed novice event in which none of the horses have the above requisite form but a number will be comfortable on the ground.  Those include Doyly Carte, Ma Filleule, Flying Phoenix, Hidden Identity, Shesa Bear and Springinherstep.

Ma Filleule is going to attempt to give weight away to all – The Warwick graded winner was midfield in the Martin Pipe but should have a race like this in her.  Henderson had a winner here with Whisper yesterday and I would think this girl has a great chance of getting him off to a flyer here too.    The chief danger I see is Hidden Identity who had Shesa Bear well beaten at the end of 2012 but I would fancy the Henderson horse to do the business at a price of 7/4.

2.35pm is the Mares Novice Chase – I have been a fan of Violin Davis for some time, she has been getting better and better but anyone watching her last race would have to admit she was fortunate to continue the sequence as Nataani seemed to have the better of her when falling late on.  Good ground is no problem and the Majors favourite jockey is aboard in Noel Fehily.  Looks vulnerable.

I prefer Tara Rose who may prefer better ground and goes for the local yard Twiston Davies who scored a big priced winner yesterday.  9/2 is a fair price.

The 3.10 is a difficult handicap puzzle and there is one the bookies are undecided over tonight.  Scholastica is 7/1 and 14/1.  I quite like this horse and think it is pretty well handicapped.

I do prefer 6/1 Eleven Fifty Nine though – Honeyball has had another good season and probably has an improver on his hands here now he steps this girl up in trip.

In the 3.45, Midnight Chase is going to be a popular pick, he loves it round Cheltenham and good ground is what he needs.  That said, he has been a bit below par… any return to peak form and he is a danger to all – While you have to excuse a poor season, he has been campaigning on soft ground which is less suitable.

Cedre Bleu incredibly got his nose in front on the line last time but looked to be fading and while a strapping sort, I am not sure this rollercoaster course will be the making of him.

Galaxy Rock is a serious horse around Cheltenham too and as long as a heavy fall at the festival has not dented his confidence, he could run well.

I am opting for 10/1 shot Ashkazar who won this race for me last year at a skinnier 6/1! His profile was the same, poor season and then rocked up and won this.

In the 4.20, Paul Nicholls runs Sam Winner who is 9/2.  Nicholls said Sam Winner was his best hope at the festival with a handicap mark from god!  He proceeded to flop very badly in the Pertemps burning the Majors and many others money and hopes.  No doubt the horse is quirky but there is some decent talent in there waiting to come out!

In the 4.55 I opt for Mister Matt at 10/3 who fell when ahead in this last year.  I think he has an excellent chance although the favourite Kie looks a battling sort.

The Endsleigh Insurance Mares bumper is a tricky betting puzzle.  Plenty of first time winners whose form is difficult to assess… Fabrika is the Henderson bumper horse, that yard won this last year and this girl looked OK when winning last time out.  Fairytale Theatre looks one with lots of promise for Team Ditcheat and at a forecast 9/2, I think a bet is in order.

The 6pm Chase and I am willing to take a chance on Let’s Get Serious who at least boasts some course form.

Courage, roll those dice.

Cheltenham Day Three Tips – World Hurdle Thursday, Ryanair, Jewson… The awesome Aeroplane and another day sober in paradise

Good evening from the Major who writes from another bitterly cold Worcestershire which sports a biting wind.  The temperature remains cold enough to numb the touch and add a dull ache to knee and ankle joints.  The only antidote is the warming effect of winners and champions.

The former I had a couple of.  Only a couple and I am in no doubt that day two belonged to the enemy.

The latter we were blessed with, in fact we saw a new legend.  Sprinter Sacre was breath-takingly good.  He beat a Champion Chase field by 19 lengths, hard held.  The commentator summed it up suggesting that this steeplechaser was sent from celestial heavens… who could argue with that.  No doubt, we have a star and let us hope he remains centre stage for many years.

On Tuesday, I left the racecourse by the bottom car park and spent 90 minutes queuing.  Thus in a planned change of operational procedure, tonight I parked in town and walked, a test and learn.  It certainly was easier and it gave me the pleasure of a post-racing stroll through Pittville and across the park to my car.  It was all most pleasant but the trappings of the festival that you witness on this journey remain etched in my mind, as these things will.

The girls handing out cards for gentleman’s clubs look very different through the eyes of a sober man.  The language is the same… the use of the word ‘guys’ in a voice straining to suggest familiarity.  They aim to make the groups of men who average twenty years their senior comfortable, as though they are conversing in normal circumstances.  That level of performance though must tire and something in their body language, the slope of shoulder, the curl of a lip hides a disdain for the work.  It is cold and you can see it in their eyes.

Do not take me as a prude by the way.  I am a believer that consenting adults are perfectly able to choose what they want to do without my views and whatever contracts are struck are for those parties alone.  In fact I am generally in favour of skullduggery.  I just prefer it a bit more refined.

Sadly for the Major, Taquin Du Seuil did not win the Neptune.  I did not pass go, I did not collect significantly more than 200.  Still, the dream itself was worthwhile.  There will be another time.

We go into Thursday with our war chest intact.  Early exchanges have been searching, exploratory forays to test defences and reactions.  I almost fell into the trap of backing Coral Cup and Fred Winter horses with conviction, pure folly and I kept my losses sensible… The enemy allowed me fancy prices about Mullins Jnr and Nina Carberry in the amateur riders…  I took them.

The next two days could be taken easily, too concerned with the fear of loss to try to be glorious.  No, not for us, we know what we must do…  Read on only if you are prepared to come with me and face the abyss.  Fearless.

To Cheltenham…. load the heavy cannons, stand broad and tall.

The Jewson

Dynaste cost me a fortune when defecting from the RSA to the Jewson and I am not sure it was a great call.  His previous Feltham win was very strong defeating Third Intention and generally looking very good.  This is also my issue with Dynaste – He has only won one of four starts at Cheltenham and we know it is a specialist track

I think the RSA field was weaker and today he faces Captain Conan, a horse I can easily forgive a more lacklustre display at Sandown when winning latest.  That day he clearly was not himself but still finished well on the hill to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  He was not right that day and he is reported much better now – I think a 13/2 punt (Paddy Power) is in order.

Aupcharlie has looked an immensely powerful traveller who has not always found much off the bridle.  Interesting but overlooked.

The Pertemps Final

Look, let us keep this really simple.  When Paul Nicholls describes a handicap mark as a ‘gift from God’, one should sit up and pay attention.  Sam Winner heads the market at 9/2 and I think it is well worth backing.  He has won twice at Cheltenham from four visits so the track holds no fears.  His Triumph race was interesting, while only fourth, he was staying on at the end.  He has beaten Grandouet and been within half a dozen lengths of Zarkander.  That makes a mark of just 140 very manageable.. I have to agree with his trainer.

The Pertemps is often won by a more experienced handicapper.  Maybe that is a reflection of the rigours of a big field.

If you like one at a price, Ely Brown at 20/1 does look a tad tasty.  Sam Winner for me.

The Ryanair

The quality of the Ryanair is superb this year as the Aeroplane scared people into stepping up half a mile in trip.

First Lieutenant is favourite and most argue that his form finishing in a heap with Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and Tidal Bay is also key to the Gold Cup.  The Major remains unconvinced.  It is the presence of Tidal Bay that bothers me.  First Lieutenant is a top horse, he was a superb hurdler beating Rock on Ruby and showed promise as a novice hurdler.  Yet his last win was 9 starts back.  I know he has not been disgraced in any run since but I am always nervous with horses with bad strike rates no matter what their form lines.

Most people will be a fan of the favourite because of the stamina doubts of Cue Card based on a poor King George effort.  I don’t think that day had anything to do with stamina, I think he just had a bad day… it happens.

Champion Court has a lot of plusses but for me lacks the requisite je ne sais quoi.

No… Cue Card.. 7/2… smash it.

The World Hurdle

Reve de Sivola and Oscar Whisky are surely the key starting points in the World Hurdle.

Many had the latter down as a non stayer but I was never convinced about that and his last run at Cheltenham surely put pay to it.  I think he will be fitter for the effort and on much much better ground, he will have the measure of Reve de Sivola in my opinion.

My betting strategy is going to be clouded by the presence of Bog Warrior.  He is my favourite horse in training.  Top hurdle form looked like it might transfer to fences but some major jumping errors have seen them convert the horse back to hurdles and he has been awesome ever since.  If you want to see why I love the horse so much, have a look at the Drinmore he won on Youtube.  His style is head in chest, bowling along… How can you not love him?  He will carry a significant sum of the Majors wedge for that reason alone…

Yet my advice to you all is Oscar Whisky at 7/2.

The Bryne Group Plate

Sorry to be boring but I cannot get away from Ballynagour, 4/1.  The performance it put in suggested that we have missing a lot while he has been lightly raced.

Hunt Ball is eased back into handicap level and his mark may well be passable.  He won this off just over a stone lighter last year but is a class horse.

I cannot get away from the Pipe horse though… Join the money train.

The Kim Muir

The stakes here must be kept to a minimum as the puzzle is vast and the traps numerous.

There are only 5 horses in the vast field though that have won at Cheltenham and that is not a bad angle to take into this.  Super Duty, Prince of Pirates, Swing Bill, Galaxy Rock and Alfie Sherrin should all cope with the decent ground.

I put a line through Swing Bill because although some of his form is working out well, he is 12 and I do not like it.  Jumping puts me off Prince of Pirates but a clean round equals danger for all in my view.

The Major struck well in the John Oaksey by suggesting that the jockey in these amateur races is vital.  This brings other horses into contention too including Vesper Bell and Romanesco.

Class horses have no problems lumping weight around the Kim Muir so Super Duty and my selection should be fine if they have the minerals.  I am sticking with the boy who got the job done for us on Back in Focus…. Patrick Mullins is aboard Vesper Bell.. That one has placed form at the top level and the Irish National trial he competed in has worked out OK.  There is every reason to be excited about 16/1 so have a large slice and berate me later for being so interested in a horse in a ridiculously tricky handicap.

The Cross Country

Go back two days to see the reasoning for Arabella Boy to win the Cross Country.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Service – Punchestown and Sandown Tips… Changing the Guard

Good morning from a dreary Worcestershire setting with a stern breeze confirming the weathers mood as antagonistic.  Lying in bed at an early hour, I listened closely to the noise lorries were making as they passed the village on the main road, the light hissing I could make out was certain to mean a slick road surface; who says you cannot forecast the weather with your ears.

Une Artiste (bear side) is still under estimated in the markets

The Major is frankly astonished we have had racing at Punchestown this week.  Heavy isn’t close, bottomless is not adequate, bog will suffice.  I do not blame the Punchestown team, conditions are safe.  However, when you are watching two mile bumper sorts finishing strung out like they have completed a four mile course, you have to question whether it is racing as we know it.  It looks too punishing for the Major.  That said, I have right only to opinion, it is for those who have invested their resources into owning and training a horse to decide on what they should do.Today is the changing of the guard as we see off the national hunt season with the Celebration Chase and Gold Cup at Sandown as well as the Punchestown Gold Cup.  The flat season also offers treats up with Sandowns mixed discipline card giving us two Group 3 races including the Gordon Richards stakes.

Football has reached the business end of the season too.  What a game we witnessed on Tuesday as Chelsea dug deep to repel Barcelona.  There was something utterly British about the sheer will that Chelsea showed, refusing to bend.  The oft quoted Any Sunday quote regarding games been won in inches sprang to mind as Messi connected powerfully from the penalty spot, two inches lower, the ball is in off the bar and the game would have been up.  Good news for Barca fans though, the Major can confirm I have signed a contract to replace Pep.  I am planning on bringing in a traditional British centre half and centre forward, some six foot three types, plus we will be more direct.  The contract I signed is three years, paying £2m per year…… All I hope now is that Barca also sign it, I shall keep you informed.

By the way if you think that because Real and Chelsea found ways of stopping Barcelona, then football was somehow the loser…. I say to thee, codswallop.  Mental strength is as important a component in winners as is raw ability.  The Major suggests that such toil is equally beautiful too.  The Majestic pass from Iniesta is poetic as is a centre half throwing his body down in the vain hope that a full bloodied strike hits him on the full.

Last week The Major was at the Emirates and enjoyed the colourful Saturday morning carnage on the underground.  At 10am, a man so drunk he could not stand was using language as inflammatory as you can imagine.  The Major was minded to say something but did not.  Neither did anyone else.  We all just stood there while he spewed forth his inutterables.  At one point he opened a tin of a milky drink, I have no idea what the constituent ingredients were.  He poured half of it on the floor, even then, we all remained content to stay quiet and hope his attention did not turn to us.  If just one citizen had broken rank and confronted him, I am sure the crowd would have supported but none did.  Afterwards, your reluctant correspondent felt a little deflated by the whole affair.  I like to think that I do the right thing.

Imagine if I had said something.   There was the risk that accompanies confronting a drunken sort.  The Major has only fought while a schoolboy and I lost most of those encounters, soon learning where my skills lay.  Imagine though if I had done something on that tube train.  The euphoria and adrenaline, the confidence drawn.  The rightfullness.

Later in the week, news came from Birmingham of a death in the family friend network.  The funeral is Tuesday.  We all drift by the once dear readers.  Do the right thing when you can.  Grasp those moments.  They are yours alone, the tally sheet is a private affair.

Before the horseracing tips start in earnest, the Major (@tdl123) is tipping up a twitter account to follow…. Emma Louise (@EmmyKGtS) is an amateur photographer specialising in racing.  She takes requests when she goes to track and the Major has already pinched her work for the blog on previous posts.  Well worth a follow….

To the sports and let us daub our war paint.

Punchestown Gold Cup Tips

In the last two years some big price horses have won the Punchestown Gold Cup so tipping up Rubi Light at 3/1 requires some explanation.

One of the big question marks hanging over my tip is the chance that Rubi Light will not stay.  Given the conditions, it is a fair question.  The Major clearly takes the view he will and what is more I always think that unproven stayers are always well treated in the market.

Rubi Light will face Quel Esprit as main market rival and with Willie Mullins form at Punchestown alone, you would have to think his horse will be involved.  I am concerned though that the horse came out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the morning of the race and this one I am happy to wait for next season for this one.

5.05 Punchestown Mares Hurdle

The Major is waiting for the rest of the racing world to agree that Une Artiste is a much better horse than she is given credit for.

Having finished within ten lengths of the triumph market leaders on debut in Britain, she went on to take a festival race well before returning to Cheltenham to win pretty much on the bridle, despite a market drift.

7/4 with Betvictor is a smashing price and 2m 2f in heavy conditions will suit her down to the ground, as long as she is not over the top, I suspect she wins comfortably.

2.35 Sandown – Tips for the Celebration Chase

An intriguing contest at Sandown where many questions need answering…

Which version of Somersby will turn up? Can French Opera beat a better field to retain his crown? Has Wishfull Thinking turned a corner?

The ground at Sandown remains just soft on the chase course although heavy on the flat.  The Major is torn between the three above in this race and marginal preference is with Somersby at 10/3 (Stan James).  A horse that often looks like he needs further, I think the conditions here are perfect.  Let us not forget that this horse beat the Champion Chaser, Finians Rainbow at this venue and his best performances have all come at the minimum trip.

I think Somersby can put his best foot forward and that will be too good for most these.  Wishfull Thinking remains the chief danger.

3.10 Bet365 Gold Cup

20 runners and a near four mile trip around Sandown.  This will be a real test for the strong willed amongst the field.

West End Rocker must surely be due a bit of luck and will relish the test.  Available at 17/2 I would not put you off.

Dovers Hill was an eyecatcher winning here on his latest appearance, 5lbs up in the weights looks a very light punishment given the defeated that day went on to perform so well in the Scottish National.  My main concern with this one though is the ground where he has failed to place on four starts on soft or worse.

The other of interest is Galaxy Rock.  Jonjo would not run him if he did not feel he was up to the exertion after last weeks efforts.  Even so, it is a big ask to run well in two big assignments in the week.

Le Beau Bai is one that will be praying for more rain, it simply cannot be soft enough for him!  The likely favourite will go well I am sure but….

On balance, 17/2 West End Rocker is the one that will carry the Majors penalty!

3.45 Sandown – Gordon Richard Stakes Tips

Poet looks about as certain of a place as a bet can get given that the seven year old will thrive in todays energy sapping conditions.  This would normally be the tip but the Major is drawn to the recent history of this race which show that Sir Michael Stoute has won three of the last five outings.

His representative today and the Majors tip for the Gordon Richards is World Domination at 11/1 (Stan James).  This horse was once favourite for the Derby before disappointing twice last season.  On the last occasion he returned with an injury and so I would not be so quick to write him off.  The ground is certainly a big question but it is only an unknown not necessarily a hindrance.  All of that is in the 11/1 price in the Majors view and so have a meaty slice and thank me later.

To the football fields….

Everton to beat Fulham at home looks a nice bet at 10/11.  I cannot see many goals going in at the Albion unless Villa fold early and so nil nil at half time at 9/4 makes plenty of appeal.  Bolton are fighting for their lives and 3/1 to bring the points out of Sunderland feels fair.  Corals go evens about Sheffield Wednesday winning at Brentford and that should be backed too.

Why not dine with Tapas this evening.  It is a nice way of eating.  Take a sort that doesn’t mind getting her fingers in the food and raises a giggle as the grog flows.  Eat well and relax.

Courage, roll those dice.

Scottish Grand National Tip 50/1 | Scottish Champion Hurdle Tips… plus Newbury

Good evening from the Major who writes from the dark Worcestershire countryside night.  No Saturday morning post as I am London bound on the early train to catch Association Football at the Emirates.

Walkon.... Going to an extreme stamina test, what is that about?

A long and busy day is in the making.  I always think I might nap on the early train but in reality, I know I will read the papers.11am for cocktails at the Emirates is gruelling but one must make do as best as one can.  The company will be excellent and the game promises to be close.  Grab what floats by on the tide dear friends.

The late afternoon train back to Pershore and then an evening with friends at a charity event – Marvelous stuff.

What a great day of sport too.  Ayr offers a tasty card including the Scottish Grand National, the Scottish Champion Hurdle and a further Grade 2 novice affair.  Newbury host three Group races including the Greenham where Bronterre gets the chance to boost the already red hot Dewhurst form.  Then there is an interesting sprint race in Naas.

Apologies for the tardiness in updating the bet records again.  The reason I only kept them for five months before stopping them last year was simply the hassle.  I promise to get them up to date again though soon.  People do want to know whether they are reading the considered advice of an expert or the babbling noise that falls from the mouth of a madman.  I can assure it is the latter.

I find criticism of tipsters small minded.  Not surprising since I am an amateur tipster who gets his fair share of grief.  The subject is a popular rant of mine but as an individual, you have a sacred right that no-one can take, the independence of your own thought.  Therefore, what you choose to do with any information is your decision alone.  I have no right to your thanks either if you choose to bakc a horse with your own money that I like.  What I write is free, in the public domain for one and all.  Friend, foe, the deserving and the cad.

There is another reason, I find the criticism of an amateur tipster odd and that is the decline of the good loser.  If you have never watched ‘The Sting’ then you are not welcome here.  During the early scenes, the lead character grifts a small fortune and blows it on a crooked roulette table.  As his girl for the night rants and screams and the dealer throws him an extra dig (a bit rich since he cooked the table), he simply tilts his hat, grimaces and moves on with his life.

After the Majors revolution, licences will be issued allowing people access to bookmakers premises and online betting accounts.  To qualify, you must demonstrate your ability to take defeat gracefully.  If you can afford to bet, it is the minimum you owe.

Today the Major gambles the same as he always does… A touch of inspiration, a deal of perspiration and a smattering of procrastination.  I shall stick to the formula.  Sometimes innovation is required, a surprise change of methodology to surprise the enemy.

When the Suez Canal was under threat from revolt in nineteenth century Egypt,  Wolseley led a daring night march.  His goal was to attack regular Egyptian infantry who were well dug in at Tel el-Kebir.  He took Highlanders and Indian Infantry, meeting the enemy at dawn with bayonets fixed.  The British were just a stones throw from the Egyptian defences before their alarm was raised and so ferocious was the assault that the enemy largely fled.  Wolseley was a detached and clinical sort who chased down his foe.

Several thousand Egyptians died, by contrast, Wolseley had just 60 odd that failed to answer the roll call.  The decisive win paved the way for the British to march on Cairo.  The ensuing carnage of the defeated enemy clogging the Cairo road meant that little meaningful resistance was put up.  We reinstalled the Khedive and the valuable Suez Canal which had reduced by more than a half the sea trip to India was secure.

To the sports. Daub thy war paint….

Scottish Grand National Tips – 3.25 Ayr

With 25 runners, bookmakers offering five places are putting up a decent concession.  Bet365, Betvictor, Paddy Power, Boylesports and Stan James… well done.

Hmmmmmm, a damn hard handicap.  By far the most interesting horse in this race is Walkon.  Make no mistake, Walkon was a top class juvenile and when he won his chase debut after a lengthy absence, at the start of this season, the world looked like it was laid out entirely for his own satisfaction.  Things have not gone to plan since then but an entry in the Scottish National?  The horse could be accused of being one-paced at times.  This step up to a marathon distance may trigger a sparkling performance from a horse well handicapped or it is an act of desperation…. 25/1 is a fair price to find out.

Merigo looks an each way steal having been prepped for this race all season.

The other two of significant interest are Galaxy Rock who has two things the Major likes about his chances.  Firstly, bar a rallying Neptune Collonges, Sunnyhillboy almost landed the Grand National last week and Galaxy Rock would have then been the yards stab at the National double.  Secondly, the horse ran a blinder earlier in the season at Cheltenham and on face value that form has him very well in.

The final horse on the shortlist is Portrait King.  The Eider winner has been showing much more class now upped to marathon distances.  That said, I am wary of backing a novice, no matter how good his chances look.  It is a tough one to ignore though, his 9lb raise looks very light considering how gamely he rallied after smacking three out.

All of my selections and most of the field will be fine on the good ground.  On balance, all four have a good chance.

I would not my cap too towards Mostly Bob who if putting in a big round of jumping, which is a considerable if… would be there at the finish.

However, the Major has gone for a 50/1 outsider that would be a shock winner.  Petitfour out of the Twiston-Davies team (won the race with Hello Bud four years ago).  I think a marathon trip will suit and ground won’t be a problem.  The horse has had his problems and has not been in the winners enclosure for several years but I do not think it is a forlorn hope…. Have a slice with Betvictor who go the five places.

Scottish Champion Hurdle Tips

Champion Hurdle in name, limited handicap in nature.

Providing a Scottish Grand National Tip requires you to immerse yourself in a sea of information, finding the winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle is much much easier.

Edgardo Sol. 9/4 Betvictor again.  This horse has found his form in sparkling style this spring with a fine second in the county hurdle being followed up with a breathless Aintree win.  As long as this does not come too soon, I would be quite surprised if he did not go in again.

2.15 Grade 2 Novice Chase

Pacha Du Polder is only five and looks a sure improver but the Major opts for Rival D’Estruval.

My selection has shown decent form and my only concern is that this trip might be a little on the short side.

Tips for Newbury Group Races

3.10 Newbury – Greenham Stakes Tips

As opposed to the good ground north of the border, expected conditions at Newbury are soft.

Trumpet Major gave the Dewhurst form a further boost when rocketing home at Newmarket this week.  Ektiham had already franked that race and so Bronterre looks the form pick here.  The Major’s observations are hardly revolutionary though as he is 8/11 generally.

Caspar Netscher is hugely experienced for a horse just starting his classic year.  Very well thought of and highly tried, I think his best form ties in.  Although untried, I think he will be fine with conditions.

Rebellious Guest is amongst the early crop of Cockney Trucker colts to hit the course.  I think he could be good.

On balance, I think the Greenham will go to Caspar Netscher at 3/1.

2.35 Newbury – Fred Darling

The girls have a go in the Group 3 at 2.35pm.

Best Terms looks a very promising sort but the Major is going to dutch two in Brick Tops and Electrelane.  Both have shown promising maiden wins, both have won on soft, both are well-bred.  Electrelene is my tip for the record, although seemingly Ralph Becketts (won this race twice in last ten years) second string, I am a big fan of Neil Callan and 12s is decent.

Tips for the 3.40 Naas 5f Listed Contest

The listed sprint in Ireland can go to 7/2 shot The Reaper.  Ground and trip are not going to be a problem, clearly Spirit Quartz is the principle danger as the British raider.

To the football….

Chelsea have not been scintillating of late but have mustered a hardness and togetherness that is grinding out results.  In their big week, I think 3/1 that their form continues is massive, take a hefty slice.

Sunderland have been a little off colour but can prise three points from Villa Park at 12/5.  O’Neill won’t tolerate a switching off and will demand the best result possible.  Many Villa fans I know are worried about the clubs ability to win any remaining fixture, that gloom could become serious tomorrow.

Newcastle to beat Stoke at 7/10… load the money printer.  Back Cisse too.

May your dinner be in a popular place in a group, choice of wine, good fish perhaps.  I hope you are in fine company.  The quieter sort who is limitlessly likeable.  Even when you fall in love everyday, as the Major does, for moments it can be deep.  Meaningful and fleeting.  Tip well and breathe it in.

Courage, roll those dice.