Tag Archives: Grandads horse

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury and some other bits!

Good evening from the Major writing enveloped in the cool evening air of Worcestershire where high clouds pass over at speed and closer to the earth, the air scurries around, droplets of dirty water thrown in the gusts.

The Major writes from a peaceful home, the endeavours of Dundalk and Wolverhampton playing out jovially in the background, a cool beer is at my side, it is good to be alive.

The week was another in which the Major slept in snatches, stop-start nights, with consciousness existing in short fraudulent periods.  When drifting from the real, into the darkness, there comes sharply focussed dreams, involving vast cavernous places, dimly lit and full of danger.  I have no idea what these portend, in many of them I am climbing, sometimes with other people, often in silence.  The vividness fools me into thinking it is authentic life, as Zhuangzi, I dreamed I was a butterfly and now I am uncertain whether I have awoken or am a butterfly dreaming I am a man.

I know of folk who seem entirely normal, thoroughly so, every move precise, each action measured.  You know the sort, living lives that exist in childs books, Ikea or Channel 4 property documentaries.  I am never sure whether it is a veneer covering a seething ocean underneath, or indeed whether such a state of utter normality is abnormal in itself, it is hard to tell.

I prefer the former thought, I think such folk are terrified of letting it slip and slide, lest the mask fall further.  Yet I would say this, as Freud pointed out, the ego, our survival tool fashions what we see, it fashions it in our own image – We perceive everything as we wish and what terrifies me is that an uneven keel might be so unusual.  We are not masters in our own house, please let it be so.

Oscar Wilde described the condition well during his time spent in Reading Jail.  He was serving time for indecency, unkind and unfair times you would agree.  While a resident, Wilde penned some of his darkest works and they are well worth your time.  In describing the abuses he caused to himself which ended with his spell incarcerated, he used the line, I ceased to be lord over myself,  I was no longer the captain of my soul.

This was a line he borrowed and inverted from the oft quoted poem Invictus by Henley, of which the final stanza…

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

To be in charge of our future or to be washed about on the tide.  I might want us all to be touched by madness but in the case of ascertaining destiny?  Well, I am for the former, read Frankl Mans Search for Meaning – He more than most men knows how to find purpose in the deepest recesses of existence.

I embrace my beating heart when I awake from my active sleep, I can’t describe the dreams themselves as pleasurable, they do serve to remind me though that I am alive.  In the night, I may not be master of the house, come the day, I retain captaincy of my soul, for now.  The night world and the day world remain separate.

To the sports.

Newbury

It is not the best day of racing we are going to witness.  While I might throw a few thoughts in regarding the Lingfield listed races, I am going to have a closer examination of affairs at Newbury.

The card is to be run on good ground and we must seek out the fair spring horses that prance across the surface!

In the opener, it looks a penalty kick for Signs of a Victory who think will go off at 8/13.  I quite liked the chance of Shes Late who will go well on the ground but oddly, jockey booking (McCoy on Matripajo) suggests the other Jonjo horse .  All this is irrelevant – Henderson had three bullets at Newbury on Friday and hit the bullseye each time.

I like two at bigger prices in the 2.20.  Grandads Horse ran respectably at Cheltenham until belting a fence and letting his chances slip.  He has a good strike rate on the ground and in general – 11/1 is OK.  The other I like is Pepite Rose – She is unusual in the Venetia yard, being a horse that favours decent surfaces.  Her last two runs may not be sparkling but she gets her surface here and with plenty of others not guaranteed to act, she is worth a squeak at 12s.

The third race is a wide open listed mares limited hurdle.  As such, we have some decent sorts turning up.  There are a lot of progressive sorts in the field – Fairytale Theatre looks one that will come in for support, being a Nicholls horse and showing great improvement – Her last two wins coming on heavy temper my enthusiasm.  Down Ace will like the ground and a line through her effort in the Mares hurdle at Cheltenham which was a huge step up in class and you can see her chances.

Free Thinking goes in the Long Run colours and given my advertisement for Hendersons form, she has to be considered.  To amplify that, his record in this specific race is impressive too having won it with Polly Peachum, Line Freedom, Ryde Back and Karello Bay in the last ten years.  Considered.

Yet the Major settles on an unfashionable runner up in Joanne One who is going to love the ground and since I don’t trust the form of jumpers bumpers in relation to proper hurdling, I see her as a danger.  Yet, I cannot help but be taken by Massannie at 16/1 (14s generally) for the Pipe team.  She has not been the same since a heavy fall but Pipe persists and a return to form puts her right back in this.  She won thrice from three on good to firm, so let the sun shine.

Having had entries for the race in the name of his stable, Alan King has withdrawn them all… odd.  It is darn hard to find a winner in this, Bucks Bond makes up his own mind but is a threat if going for it.  It is dangerous opting for a front runner in such a big field but despite having an instinct that he might set the race up, I am going to back Highland Retreat with a small fun stake as I have always admired him and on a going galloping day, he is good.  Newbury from the front just might suit him and he may have a number of these at it turning to home.

I love Newbury.. Its straight is as fair as they come, long, flat, tough jumps – The best horse wins.

Aldopicgros looks the best choice in the 4.05 – He won’t mind the ground and up half a stone for the defeat of a very progressive rival should be fine.

That is it for Newbury.

The Lingfield races are not my area of specialism – In the big one, the Winter Derby, Vodkata looks interesting making the trip from France.  Rebellious Guest loves the all weather, Grandeur boasts solid claims but has a hell of a draw – I am going to throw a dart at the popular former Johnstone horse Windhoek (13/2) – He has some tapeta form and there is no reason to think the surface will be an inconvenience.  De Sousa is a jockey I like and 13/2 is available with Hills – Have a slice.

Vicky De L’Oasis is a penalty kick 4/5 shot at Gowran.  Her form is easily the best and I see no obvious reason to oppose.

In the football Newcastle are 17/20 to beat Crystal Palace and that should go in.  Man City -2 at evens is in too – I think they are coming back to the boil.  I’d have Derby to beat Forest at 23/20.  The add a dash of Wigan at just the right side of evens…

The Martin Hill bet is Windhoek, Aldopicgros, Vicky De L’Oasis and Wigan in a Yankee, straight.

May your dinner be excellent, with a fine accomplice, her raven hair flowing down onto bare shoulder – Tip well, it is good to be alive.

Courage, roll the dice.

The Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Day Sermon…. Includes a 40/1 shot…. Courage and roll the dice

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire where bright clear skies leak the days warmth away, leaving a breathless chilly evening and stars that seem to shimmer and move like the surface of water gently rippling away.

We are here.  Every tweeter in the world is tinkling at the keyboard, excited at what the morning brings.  The Major will not dribble so trivially and waste your time.  No.

Lest to say this.  We shall witness the four days of Cheltenham, all of life shall be there, rich and poor, every social echelon, the equine athletes, the twinkle eyed Irish sirens at their betting pitches, the tatty commercialism, the genuine rush; it is all ours to savour my friends.

This year, I am attending proceedings on Tuesday and Friday, both will be tremendous occasions I am sure.

Two years prior, I attended all four days and drank and gambled at extreme pace on each.  On the Friday, a fresh set of reserve troops arrived from Birmingham but they were reinforcements, not relief forces.  As such, the expectation was to be back on it, Guinness and Champagne at breakfast and continuing in the spirit.  Ah, I did… I soldiered on but I finished that day a ruin.

Cheltenham for the duration is a physical and emotional war of attrition.

In 1900, as part of force set to break the siege of Ladyship, Natal, Lieutenant Colonel Thorneycroft followed orders to lead his men to retrieve Spion Kop, a height occupied by Boer forces, which had good sight of the road.  As a surprise tactic, Woodgate, giant of a man, led from the front  up the 1500ft slope in complete darkness.  What that must have been like, to be climbing through the mist, knowing you are about to engage the enemy , utter silence and a great hulking officer lumbering in front.  The tactics worked and following a brief engagement with bayonets fixed, they were able to scatter the small Boer force that had been in situ.  This success proved though to be a misjudgment.

The Engineers set about digging in but found hard rock just a foot into the earth. They managed to create a crescent-shaped, several hundred feet long, shallow trench and at daybreak, as the sun rose from some distant point over the Indian Ocean, it was clear that two heavy forces would be engaged heavily in action.

You see, there were several other heights at similar levels that gave the Boers excellent sight of the encamped British forces and so the bombardment commenced.  Shells ranging from 80mm to 600mm rained onto the British position every 6 seconds for which they had little protection.    The British realised that they had also mistaken the summit and the position they had dug, just slightly below had poor sight lines over the Northern crest.

By mid morning, the Boers had resolved to a sortie to recover the position and the Boers that climbed that hill did so with their leaders ears ringing ‘we shall be attacking the enemy and not all will be coming back; Do your duty, trust the Lord’.  The Boers, who were excellent rifleman rushed the summit from the blind side, which the British position allowed, this was surprising and resulted in some warm action with bayonet, fists and knives flashing.

Both sides settled down to exchange rifle fire just a hundred yards from each other, bodies lying all amongst them, the heat of the day rising.  The Boers were tired and morale was low, what they cannot have understood was either the losses of the British or the effectiveness of the continued bombardment which was taking its toll.  The Boer gunners were finding their range and among their British casualties was General Woodcroft.

Confusion started to become prevalent.  Reinforcements for the British were called for and sent but the mortars which may have been used against some key Boer positions were never bought against the enemy.  As battle progressed into the second night, the lunacy of war was such that both the Boers and British were ready to surrender their positions.  The Boers at one point started to but an officer persuaded them to stay and such is the balance of things, it proved decisive.

In the morning, Thorneycroft, receiving messages from the main army was able to lead a retreat down Skion Kop.  He left a devastation at the summit.  Nearly 250 British and 350 Boers were left dead.  The Boers so badly hurt that they were unable to hold the position.  The futility of it all.

Still, a few footnotes worthy of your attention.  Winston Churchill, a journalist but drawn to action, was the runner on the private staff of General Buller in command of the 11,000 strong force from which Lieutenant Colonel Thorneycroft was despatched – Thus he was running the messages to Thorneycroft on the summit and would have seen the bloody mess.  His schoolboy friend from Harrow also died on the summit.  Baden-Powell also served in the action.  It is also the reason that Liverpool has the Kop.

Our battle shall be entrenched too, just less bloody, for most of us.  To the action, the Cheltenham action.  Sabres drawn.  The festival is underway…

Tuesday Cheltenham Tips

Now, if you cheated and have not read about Skion Kop, either go back or exit.  Your sort is not welcome here.

For those who missed my stream of tweets last week, I have written up the Grade 1 races at the festival already and so will be drawing on that shortly.  This is where you will find my Tuesday Grade 1s but I shall summarise with brevity, something I value little, below.

In the Supreme, I have already tipped Vautour and am sticking with it.  I stand by my reasoning that Irving looks a flat track bully and my boy has been in a fight, which fancy dan Irving has yet to experience.  At a price, The Liquidator is an interesting runner and so is Vaniteux who will appreciate the better ground and is the favoured runner of Geraghty (over Josses Hill).

I am also sticking with Valdez who I wrote up in my antepost piece for the Arkle.  His price is unchanged and if anything might be bigger at the off.  The bottom line he is not a popular sort.  Perhaps people are put off by the fact he was not as good as hurdler as this lot but some horses are meant to go over the big obstacles and this season, we have seem him in fine form, even when the King stable was under a cloud.  Grandouet is a bit of a forgotten horse and all of the principles can be argued for, including Rock on Ruby who is a good ground horse in my view – This is not a big stakes race for the Major.

The 2.40 Handicap Chase is a minefield.  I would call out a few I like.  Alfie Sherrin and Holywell at 8/1 and 10/1 are of interest, particularly the latter.  Yet, in this sort of race, I want a tasty price, in the last eight years we have witnessed 28/1, 33/1 and even 50/1 shocks.  My runner to steal the money is King Massini at 20/1.  This Evan Williams horse has been a serious improver and was campaigned aggressively early in the season, unlucky not to complete a four timer.  He has been put away, most likely with this in mind.  As such, I am happy to have a pop but dangers lurk around every corner my friend.

Then the feature dish, the Champion Hurdle.  Again, you will find this on my G1 Tuesday Cheltenham Antepost page but a quick summary….

  • I have been backing Our Conor since my jaw rested on the Cheltenham tarmac as he sauntered over his Triumph field
  • I backed what my eyes saw with real money building up an antepost position
  • His runs in Ireland have been OK but not quite what I wanted, particularly the last
  • He might be better with the pace been forged by Captain Cee Bee
  • I suspect I am suffering from Confirmation Bias and am desperately turning everything I see in his favour
  • He likes good ground… Oh god, I am suffering confirmation bias
  • I will probably have a saver on the Fly – Not because I prefer him, in fact my next best is My Tent or Yours – Yet, I cannot let the place go wild and me not have a winning ticket to hand, no matter what the financial logic.

The Mares Hurdle is a potential moment of history with Quevega, the amazing Mare that the magician Mullins manages to get right for this one day, trying for a sixth Cheltenham Festival race.  Will she?  I hope so – I have some bets that include her name but I have to admit to it not being many.  I was actually a little concerned last year.  She finished well enough to win but to me needed to be niggled earlier than usual, maybe it will catch up with her this year?

I did like Highland Retreat but think the ground is going against her.  So the one I offer as an alternate is Cailin Annamh who won a graded Irish race effortlessly and could be offering a viable alternative if improving a stone… and a bit…. and beating a legend… with the best national hunt jockey in the world aboard.  What am I on about, back Quevega – If she wins, you will be gutted that you did not!

Then the four miler… amateur riders.. The Major is a fan of backing the best jockeys in these races and I also think over this distance, it makes an even bigger differential.  Clements is good but McNamara, Carberry and Mullins are better.

McNamaras mount, Herdsmen, needed the mud, no.  Nina (Carberry for the legion of irregular racing fans joining us today) takes the ride on the favourite, Shutthefrontdoor – That horse is going to love the drying ground and I love watching Nina ride a hold up sort, she has elegance, strength and resolve.  It is hard to pass over but I am resting on Suntiep at 10/1 – There are lots of reasons why not, including the ground and lack of chase experience around such a tough course… take it easy.

Then the Novice Handicap Chase that closes the card and if we need this as a get out of jail, we are in a world of hurt.

I am going to put up two.  First a horse I have watched for a while, Grandads Horse, currently available at 40/1 – Do you want the reasoning? Look, if you are backing a 40/1 shot in the last, you definitely do not… Don’t even start to think about the trainer having Pendra, a seeming much fancied runner…

My saver is another massive price.  Venetia has been the talk of the year with her horses running to tremendous credit on heavy ground.  I think Gardefort forgiven the last time out may be a snip at 40/1 also with BetVictor…

Courage and roll those dice.

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.

The Saturday Sermon…. Newmarket, Chester and Market Rasen…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the settee, restless and unsettled.

This may be the shortest Saturday Sermon in some time for various reasons. Mainly though it is time of which I am short. This weekend, I must repay a debt and spend a day with my two boys so I was committed to publishing before midnight. Having being under siege with a head cold for two weeks, my downtime plans first involve sleep.

I am so tired. It has been hectic at work and while I won’t dwell on the detail it has been an unsettling time of late. Coming home tonight, I left the motorway to beat a cross country path after a bad accident had closed a lane. The words are quickly passed over on a traffic report. Closer to home another road was closed following a head on collision. I am so tired, it comes over me like waves each threatening to dislodge my sea anchor and sweep me away, thrown in a tumult, spinning out of control.

There is so much to do. I have a lawn that needs cutting, runs that need to be set upon, decorating, business to tend to, purchases outstanding, lots of things that remain unread. These things pile up, each compresses the last like layers of coal and over time, the pressure squeezes out any enjoyment or contentment, nothing is pleasing, confused I slump and lunge from each item outstanding to the next, all purpose gone, acting not on impulse anymore but out of some strange conviction that salvation lies in ticking items off. How foolish. I am so tired. Sleep will come soon.

Newmarket Tips

Rumours abound that Betfred will go 16/1 the field for the Cambridgeshire in the morning. It is not a race I normally enjoy, 35 runners. I will get to my thoughts on that shortly…

The Royal Lodge opens the card and it looks a fair match up from Chesham winner Berkshire and 4th Somewhat. The latter has had more experience since and shown improved form and with match fitness assured I am on at 2/1.

It was a bit of a turn up yesterday when Charles Hill won the Falmouth but I think he has an excellent chance of another big prize with Kiyoshi in the 2.35. Truth be told though, I think Joyeuse has a solid claim too as is still improving and 6/1 is a fine price.

The Sun Chariot is a cracker with the rematch between Sky Lantern and Elusive Kate. These two have history and it is a hotly awaited showdown. I am all for Sky Lantern at 7/4 who I thought would easily have beaten Elusive Kate if not for the carry in the Falmouth. That is some form too as we are talking about a star European filly.

In the Cambridgeshire, my instinct is to go with Educate but having been let down so often, I have settled on two bets on Tha’ir and Forgive both of whom are 25/1 shots. I think both have been laid out for this and both have capable pilots…. It’s fun but not a race I’ve committed serious thought to.

At Chester, in the 3.05, I am struggling to split Zain Eagle and Gabrials Kaka both of whom have excellent chances. The former benefits from my favourite non retained jockey, Neil Callan and the latter has the crucial course form. On balance I am siding with Gabrials Kaka at 6/1.

At Market Rasen the Summer Plate is another open contest but I am opting for 10/1 shot Grandads Horse. My pick comes with Noel Fehily aboard and looks an improver over fences.

In the football, I have strong fancies for Arsenal away at Swansea (7/5) and Spurs (7/4) who I think will beat Chelsea. I also think Birmingham could win at Reading (10/3)

For Martin, I suggest a Sky Lantern, Grandads Horse and Spurs trixie.

The rest of you, I wish you a fine dinner in the best of company. Courage and roll those dice.