Tag Archives: grandouet

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.

Christmas Rolls On – Leopardstown, Kempton, Limerick….

Good morning from the Major who writes from the hotel bar again, all flustered with the busyness of Christmas.  I was up early and in some dreadful conditions to drive my in-laws to the coach station in Cork.

They are due to fly out later, weather permitting, on a prop plane, which could be highly entertaining.  For me and the family, we are up to Dublin for a couple of nights before coming back for the New Year.

I now file my report on Cork for your own judgement.  I like it, a lot.  The people are friendly, the service is as natural as you can imagine.  We lumbered into a bar yesterday, a large group of us, children, baggage, laden down; crashing around wildly.  A group of lads stood up, moved their furniture around to create a space to accommodate us.  Nothing is too much.

The place is old-fashioned.  There is something unsettling about the architecture, old square and certain with some ramshackle.  Very few buildings have the ambition to reach for the sky and it is in keeping with the place itself.

As for the womanfolk, I shall say this.  Raven haired and flashing eyes and the melodic sing-song style quality of their voices is hypnotising.  A man could lose himself easily.  You know me, each new one is the ideal, I fall in love readily.

On the whole, if you are yet to visit, I urge you to go.  Ireland is a fantastic place, I have not yet found a group of people more intent on fun and simplicity.

To the sports…

At this point, I wish to dop the cap to my brother-in-law, whom we shall call Dave (because that is his name).  He kindly gave me his thoughts on the Premier League action for Boxing Day and proved to be a mighty accurate tipster.  He may well return, I know you would like it, after all, how can you be satisfied with the Major, I am barely profitable!

Silviniaco Conti delivered the goods.  Ah, how lovely that was.  I watched it with no commentary in that same bar I mentioned.  A group of us huddled together as though we were watching a major breaking news story with global implications.  I think I was the only one on Silvi (apart from Dave who had recently received a Christmas Present betting slip with him on it) and I though Cue Card had travelled so smoothly, being better by half a length at each fence to my eye.  Silviniaco Conti though is a thorough stayer and the class came through, when Cue Card came off the bridle, the truth was laid out for us to see, there was little left and Fehily pushed and Conti swept by.  That was that, all done, in a heartbeat.

Kempton – Friday Tips

The Grade 2 novice chase is a tasty little contest, seemingly a match between Grandouet and Dodging Bullets.  I am a little surprised to see the former trading at 1/2 but let us examine his case.  He certainly improved in the jumping department between his first two runs, after unseating on debut, his second to Hinterland last time out was decent.  He is entitled to be better again and this is a horse that has class in the book, once being a Champion Hurdle live contender.

The ground bothers me though.  He has run on soft and heavy before and not won on it.  Contrast that with the 6lbs he receives from the other contenders who have won chase starts.  On balance I am with Dodging Bullets but it is a fine call.

We get to see Sprinter Sacre run in the second of Kemptons Grade 2’s, which is magnificent.  He is an animal with the potential to be talked about for decades to come.  I hope for no mishaps.

Limerick – Friday Tips

One of the unfortunate sorts who regularly engages with me on Twitter (@limerickjfk) is at Limerick today with the lads.  I wish your party the greatest of successes.  Courage gentleman.

The ground is going to be bottomless and this guides the staking plan.  The opening race is not going to take an awful lot of winning and I am going to chance my arm on Stolberg, 14s, who has a heavy ground victory to his name.  He won a Listowel bumper in nice fashion but has not gone on, yet there is time.

The age allowance that Renneti receives in the second could be a telling advantage in these conditions.  Certainly it looks a match between that one and Real Steel, 6/4.  That horse won a Cork race racing prominently and will certainly give the field something to aim at.  He also gets the advantage of a O’Connell ride which I think helps.  He also looks the likelier to me to go in the deep conditions.

Jane Mangan will lead the field in the third with Pumbaa, a very capable looking sort who will appreciate this distance.  I would not stop you betting that but instead think there is some value in 14/1 shot Whiskey and Rye.  That horse will love this test of stamina and is helped by the same jockey that rides Real Steel, O’Connell.  He has good course form too.

In the 2.05, you will do well to find the winner!  I am having a tentative stake on Benalex Park who at least is a known mudlark and despite having shown nothing to warrant respect, is getting nibbled at in the betting.

In the Grade 2 chase, the shorter trip is probably the doing of Unoccupied who remains on my watch list after being backed for the Cork National and running well into a place.  Pass the Hat has claims, as does Dick Dundee whose chase and hurdles marks belong to two different animals.  Surely a defection will see Hospital get a race and that is an interesting horse too.  Dangers aplenty.  Speckled Wood could be dangerous, I think the mark is well within scope but I would prefer more chasing experience.  Make a Track has to lump top weight around, he will love the mud but it is a tough ask.  I am chancing a bet on Indian Outlook whose rider is a useful claim, he carries less weight, is still not fully exposed and can give us some excitement at 14/1.

The maiden hunter chase is a lottery.  On jockey booking alone I am siding with Winter Magic at 5/1.

The lucky last is a mares bumper and by this stage, being ahead will be astonishing after some very difficult races.  Shesafoxylady was a good bumper winner for the Mullins team and while that horse does not appear here, the form of Whisper Rock 11/2, might just give it an extra boost – This is a much easier race to win.

Leopardstown Thoughts

There are two cracking grade 1 races at Leopardstown and the clash of Sizing Europe and Avrika Ligeonniere whets the appetite.  The markets seem to be indecisive about the race with bookies taking opposing views.  You can back the favourite (Avrika) at 13/8 or 9/4 depending on who you shop with.

Sizing Europe is an admirable horse and is clearly at his best over these sorts of trips.  He is turning twelve and for the Major the time has come to hand the crown over and Avrika Ligeonniere makes plenty of appeal at around 2/1.  Regulars will know I have been watching this horse and I fully expect him to develop into an animal challenging for the top honours.  Ruby is likely to set the fractions and I am ignoring Kid Cassidy which might be dangerous given the way Sire de Grugy has advertised his form.

I am following straight up with a double for all connections as I expect Moyle Park to beat The Tullow Tank.  6/4 is generally available.

For those who need a touch of adventure – I am backing Romanesco in the 2.55 with Nina on board.  He ran a blinder in this last year and I am hoping that this is the plan for the season… we shall see… 25/1 Shabash!

Given the lack of Martin Hill bet yesterday, I am suggesting the following: A powerful trixie on Moyle Park, Real Steel and Avrika Ligeonniere.

I trust your dinner to be taken in fine company and with no troubles on your mind.  Courage and roll those dice.

Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.

 

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 Service is here! – Horseracing Tips, Premier League Tipping – Kentucky Derby, Punchestown – Die hard oh gambling warriors

Good morning from Defford where last nights storms have cleared the air.   It is remarkable how  a weather front of lightning and thunder can refresh the fauna.  Last night the Major sat in the dark, watching streaks of light fill the blackened Worcestershire skies, trees flailing, globules of rain.. splat, splat, splat, roaring thunder; nothing like a good storm.

Shabash young warriors - To the turf accountants and DIE HARD

 This morning, calm.  Ah, how apt, the Majors mind is also clear of distraction and ready to bring you the value of the Saturday sporting spectacles.  The coffee has been bubbling away for hours, the papers laid out, the numbers crunched, lines have been drawn through runners the Major considers incapable, value has been assessed for you, the loyal band of faithful warriors for whom the Majors Saturday service is an unhinged part of your own Saturday plans.

This very day, the Major plans to ride for Aston where he will watch Association Football with his brother in law and first-born son – How a gentlemen sends an invite.  Not asking if I am free but letting me know he has picked up the tab already and would be grateful if we could join, that man has class.  Young David, we shall make you a small fortune yet.

The Major mujst apologise again for if any of you like to see my results I have not updated them in 2/3 weeks, I will get around to this – I think the month is still profitable although we exploded out of the box like Frankel only to fade as the month went on. 

May is here and the Major plans on making it another profitable one.   On the Majors visit to Ascot, a fellow gambler and follower told me that he always followed my large lucky 15s because it once landed and he was not on.  Young Mr Hill, I have a feeling in my water load the cannon.

If you like a bet (if you don’t please p**s off) then you understand the blood racing through your veins, the dizzying greatness of landing a touch as well as the slog of torn betting slips.  It is hard work committing to gambling, a lifetime of lessons.  Gamblers have to be die hards.  Not of the Bruce Willis kind, I do not own a vest.  More of the Duke of Wellingtons sort, the original diehards.  The 57th foot (West Middlesex).  Next Saturday is the 200th anniversary of the day on which they got this nickname and so the Major thought a taster today and an extended piece next week.  They earned the moniker at the Battle of Albuhera, in the Peninsular war, we were fighting the French, with the Spaniards and Portuguese as allies.  The Peninsular war was bloody and it was the actions of men like Colonel Inglis who galvanised steely resistance, his position compromised and himself critically injured and his horse shot from under him, instead of seeking treatment, the good Colonel cried out Die hard the 57th, die hard’.  The battle was won.  Just one of 24 officers survived.  Just 168 of the 584 foot infantry. 

To the sports oh happy few, let us fill those goblets with bounteous wine.

11.24pm, Churchill Downs – The Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is one of Americas great races and this evenings line up is a little disappointing.  There is no star attraction, just a group of puzzles.  The Major has struggled to get lines through many of the 20.  The favourite, Dialed In, could be a class act but is lightly campaigned and in a bustling field of 20, the Major would look elsewhere.

With the chance of rain high, the Major advises Soldat.  Garcia is an animated but good jockey and if we can forgive the last run then at least the horse has shown somewhere near the remote form required.

I suggest that something will improve dramatically from the race and Twice the Appeal while lacking the form, has the connections and the draw to be of interest.

Aidan O Brien sends over Master of the Hounds.  No doubt since the Sire is a Kentucky Derby sort and the artificial surface performance in Meydan was adequate, he wants a pop, another one hard to assess but unlikely to have the minerals in the Majors view.

The advice remains Soldat, 14/1 bet like a man on the nose.

Grade 3 Swinton Hurdle – Haydock 3.40pm

23 runner handicap at the end of the season, the Swinton is an enigma. 

There are a few eye catchers at the prices.  the Major has settled on.

The first is Channinbar.  Now this horse comes with serious wealth warnings after repeatedly coming under starters orders and then refusing, leaving you in the laps of generous bookies like Paddy Power to refund your stake!  With that warning dished out, the latest second in a graded contest reads well.  He is highly tried and I would want every bit of the 28/1 being touted about.

Frankly 13/2 is a very decent price for Remember Now who holds very solid credentials.  At 6, the horse could still be improving ahead of the handicapper and with AP piloting, why would you not want a slice?

The other of interest and seemingly the right profile is Nicky Hendersons Higgys Ragazzo who gets a 3lb claim from the useful David Bass who rode well at Aintree yesterday.  This horse has won a couple of novice events well before leaving that form well behind at Cheltenham in a placed graded effort last time.  If still on the up, at only 4, this 14/1 shot could be a decent runner.

The staking advice is to snap up the remaining 13/2 with Hills about Remember Now on a win basis.  Then back Higgys Ragazzo at 14s each way with Bet365 who pay 5 places, very generous work from the enemy.

4.25 Punchestown Champion 4yo Hurdle

The Major apologises for offering little advice this week for Punchestown.  If it helps you, understand that I would have given you Quevega but you would have lost far more backing Tranquil Sea to a place as well as opposing Hurricane Fly.  Chester would have been barren too.

This is the race of the day for the Major.  No Zarkander, the impressive triumph winner but second Unaccompanied turns up as does the Henderson hotpot Grandouet.

The formlines are tricky at best.  The clock and the visual display makes Zarkanders Cheltenham win a very useful piece of form.  Chasing him up the hill was Unaccompanied.  She then went back out on the flat defeating a below par St Nicholas Abbey who destroyed the field at Chester this week. 

To add to the complexity, Grandouet looked to have every other horse covered when falling two out in the Aintree 4yo hurdle, that day Zarkander battled like a demon to see of the opposition, nothing like the previous form.

Mister Carter is the most intriguing, he was travelling well still when a faller in the Triumph. 

The market is behaving like Unaccompanied cannot be beaten.  While I like the horse and think the mares allowance is a very useful aid, I cannot have it at 11/10.

I am not convinced either that Grandouet does not want a bit more cut but at 7/2 that feels priced in.

Unaccompanied should win but price is on Grandouets side and so I advise backing it at 7/2.  Have a saver on Mister Apples at 25/1 because you do not know!

To the sports fields.

As mentioned the Major is at Villa Park today.  17/20 feels about right for Villa.  Wigan fought out a hard earned draw against Everton last week.  This is a classic motivation versus class argument.  No doubt, Villa are the better proposition but 4/1 Wigan?  Waiting for the team news could be crucial, N’Zogbia is an important part of the Wigan machinery.  Sitting on the fence I like the 13/5 draw, Villa looked a little off the boil at West Brom, a 1-1 feels about right.

Bolton at 10/11 look like a solid bet.  Sunderland are lacking threat without pace man Gyan, Hills are best price, take a slice.

There are some cracking games in the lower leagues as the season draws to a conclusion.  The QPR v Leeds v Palace v Forest conundrum is too much for the Major who opts for easier decisions. 

Walsall look a lively 9/2 shot to win at St Marys and complete a great escape.

May tonight’s dinner be game.  Enjoy a hearty ale with it.  The company should be fun, that flaxen-haired, hazel eyed sort who seems to know a good time and has little expectation.  Settle the bill in cash, let the quarry set her eyes on that donkey choking roll.  Shabash young warrior, it is good to be alive.