Tag Archives: handazan

Cheltenham Open Tips – Friday…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the lounge, the wood stove is alive, furiously swirling great licks of fire against the dirty glass plate door.   Outside, a chill air and a dark night, inside, warmth.  Bed is beckoning but I am to record my Cheltenham thoughts as I am attending the track tomorrow in fine company.

I shall write a brief report on the evening as part of the Saturday Sermon but here are my tips for what they are worth.  Please remember to gamble irresponsibly, if you remain entirely sensible then you shall not enjoy the thrill of your pounding heart as your horse rounds for home, time seems to slow, the leader is a clear 15 lengths up but your boy is stout and plugging on and the front runner puts in a weary leap as he approaches the hill… Is there time?

What is the point of losing what you can afford to lose?  You are an adult and I would suggest that pushing your boundaries is a healthy thing…  Live, this is not a dress rehearsal.

We have a cracking card at Cheltenham for a Friday.  We have Grade 1 winners, the cross country hilarity and a Tony Martin gamble, ah, it is good to be alive, n’est pas?

Cheltenham Open Friday.

This meeting comes as the National Hunt season is getting into full swing.  The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a good race but the Hennessy is around the corner and the Gold Cup contenders will be out for that.

We are still early in the season but plenty are arriving now with runs in them and that is always an advantage.  Trainer form is also more critical than usual at this time in my view as some yards tend to start so well while others build up a head of steam.

The Friday card is composed of a novice chase (very very good race with a disappointingly small field), four handicaps and the cross-country.  I shall take them race by race.

The opener (1.05) is an amateur riders race, contests I feel have a disproportionately high predictive factor in the quality of the jockey.  Amateurs vary from the god-awful to the actually quite good and this field are no different.  In the last year, all of the field have raced less than an average of once per week which informs you as to their experience.  The sole exception is Patrick Mullins who is a regular rider as an amateur for his fathers all-powerful yard – He has amassed 175 races in the last twelve months.   Biddick, Bannister, Waley-Cohen and Clements all have far less experience but do at least have a strike rate of above 10%, with, to my eye, Biddick and Waley-Cohen being the pick of that lot.

This four jockeys give us the choice of Standing Ovation, Mr Moss, Fredo and Ruben Cotter.

Standing Ovation has been in fine form and has won his last four – Race fitness is assured and Pipe knows how to handle one of this profile – Improving at a rate of knots, he is due to go up another 6lbs after his last win which was in the listed Badger Ales trophy at Wincanton – The rise in the weights looks a tad generous.  Yet, I cannot have him, I fear I am trying to find fault where there is little but…..  There are several concerns for me.  Number one is that he has not faced the Cheltenham obstacles and has done his winning going right handed.  The latter is a lesser part of my thinking but Cheltenham does not suit all horses and this one might just get found out.. The other concern for me is that he has had three races over this sort of distance in the last month, it is quite a heavy schedule and while he seems to take it well, Cheltenham’s undulations will exploit any weariness.  He is being backed heavily tonight but I am seeking other shores.

Fredo gets the assistance of Waley Cohen and while I think he will be better after his seasonal reappearance, I am not sure he is good enough.  It leaves me with Mr Moss and Ruben Cotter.  I side with the latter who has had a lot of problems but is in good hands and could well be fit first time out.  7/1, take a slice and thank me later.

The second race (1.35) is a particularly trappy handicap with 6/1 the field being available as I type.  I like Eastlake, who started where he left off last year and Jonjo knows how to eke the best out of these sorts but he would be trying to win off a new high mark and it is off-putting enough, though he is young enough to defy it.  As a good ground specialist, Tindaro enters calculations but his Fontwell win last time reads a little flatly in the context of this race.   Sew On Target has the vote of Joe Tizzard who had the pick of Theatrical Star and the former had a tidy piece of form in behind Johns Spirit.  Oh Crick should not be 25/1 but I shall pass over in favour of Ballyadam Brook at 20/1.  It takes a little imagination but… My tip has a very able jockey on board in Paul Townend, absolutely will love the drying ground and has some useful form hidden away.

The novice chase is the race I am looking forward to the most, despite a disappointing turnout of just four runners.  It looks a match race between Taquin Du Seuil and Oscar Whiskey and that is where I focus my cash too.  The former is a horse I have a big soft spot for.  I met Tony McCoy last year at the SPOTY awards and he gave Taquin to me as a horse to follow for the season.  I had him twice as a winner over Christmas before losing any gains in building an antepost position for the Neptune that failed to fire.  Taquin has a much more impressive record on heavy ground and the rattling conditions are a concern.  I always thought he jumped like a chaser though and he has a win under his belt at this discipline, signalling ability and experience.  Given he has to concede weight on his less favoured ground to a top class hurdler, I find my head sways towards Oscar Whiskey but my heart remains true…. Taquin du Seuil it is and sod the lot of you.

It could be a busy little spell for Dai Williams, owner of Oscar Whiskey as he has both favourite Top Gamble and second favourite, Whisper going in the next (2.40).  The latter looked a horse of promise to me last season but failed to fire when stepped up in class.  He always looked a bit slim to me and I hope he might have beefed up over the summer.  I would be backing him if it were not for a horse that I think has plenty of scope in Killala Quay at 12/1.  To start with, the horse gets the assistance of the incredibly talented Noel Fehily.  Secondly, the horse has won every start on anything better than good to soft.  He does not have Cheltenham form, but does have Chepstow form which is a good proxy.  Plenty of dangers plague the selection including Warden Hill, Handazan (who I will have a saver on), Atlantic Roller, Upswing and Gods Own.  It is a minefield! To add to that list of significant risks, Top Gamble, must rate a worthy favourite and one I would not put you off. Pipe must have laid him out for this race, which is in honour of David Johnson, his biggest supporter….. Oh Killala you’ve some horses to beat

The Cross Country is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a different spectacle and if ever on course, I would recommend you walk to the middle to watch the race up close.  It is a bit baffling as they criss cross in a seemingly looping and purposeless path but you get close to the action to see what it is about.

As for the runners, Uncle Junior had the beating of Balthazar King in this last year and won the year before too so will have his fans but my tip, the favourite, has three years on Uncle Juniors’ ageing legs (12) and won the big XC race at the festival last year.  He is fit after winning on seasonal bow over Cheltenham fences and I fancy 2/1 is generous enough.

Having had generous prices for the first four races, I finish with both favourites.  Tony Martin has Ruby over for the ride on Quick Jack.  It is Ruby’s only ride.  It has been backed.  I am on!

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury Tips, Anger, Weather and some football tips too

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire shielding itself from the blizzard, winter clings doggedly to the year, yielding not to the start of the flat season, impervious to the date.

The coldest March in 50 years.  I could have told you that stood at the one furlong marker on the Cheltenham hill on the opening day of the festival.  Cold did not do it justice.  Freezing would be more honest but then the wind blew and it was as though all layers of protective clothing as well as my skin, muscle and sinew were rendered worthless against the stabbing wind stricking right at the bone.

Saturday racing hangs in the balance.  The Welsh, Scots, Irish and English have all been denied a meeting as Bangor, Kelso, Gowran and Stratford have abandoned.  Southwell should be fine but Doncaster and Newbury have to survive morning inspections.  Newbury looks to have more chance than Donnie as it rests on the ground not being waterlogged as opposed to snow.  The course is optimistic but the Major is not so sure – We might face losing both Newbury and Doncaster.

A young dashing sort called Steve is hopefully off to Newbury in fine fettle and with good company, he asked me to mark the Newbury card and I shall.  Good luck to you and your kith, wear layers concentrating on waterproofing and warmth.  Consider several pairs of socks, gloves, scarves, hats, bright plastic ponchos and any other garment useful for fighting such foul elements.  Comfort beats style eleven times from ten.

I had a three-hour drive in this awful weather earlier.  Through the grim dark grey mess I witnessed some horrific driving and some furious reactions.  Drivers wishing to go faster weaving through lanes aggressively, horns blaring, lights flashing.  The reactions are what interest me.  Some people when cut up on the motorway treat it as though their honour has been crossed.  Such pointless energy expended in futile expression.  People who drive badly are unlikely to change habits from your actions.  Thus you achieve little and a better frame of mind is to let these instances wash over you as water from a ducks back.

Ask what such anger says about you… As Gandhi said The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Newbury Tips

The opener looks an absolute shoe-in for classy flat convert Poet.  Evens is available on Betfair this evening but I suspect 8/11 to be the morning price and I still would not put you off.  There is little else in this field that could compete. Poet was a listed winner on the flat and although not turning to hurdling until late in life, he has put in enough to suggest he is well capable of winning this.  For one, he is the only horse in the field to have won on heavy ground and conditions will be fine.

If there is a danger, it will come from Seventh Sky who put in his best performance last time out at Taunton, winning a handicap.  I do not expect him to throw down too serious a challenge.

2.20 Mares Novice Chase

There is a solid argument that Fentara is lightly treated on her form against Super Duty who in turn was narrowly denied in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.  Fentara has also won two from four on heavy ground.  Yet this is competitive and this one is prone to big errors which is not ideal when facing the tough Newbury fences.

Marie Des Anges is interesting but I am not sure she is suited to a proper test in the mud over this trip.  She is one of two decent shots that Anthony Honeyball has in the race and I actually prefer her to the other, Jackies Solitaire.

The two I am most interested in are Violin Davis and Tara Rose.  The former had the better of the latter at Bangor earlier in the season when giving 3lbs.  She has to concede a further 10 here but I think she can even in these conditions.

She has the advantage of the excellent Fehily in the saddle and Harry Fry the trainer has sent 5 to Newbury in recent times with 4 winning… Have a considerable slice of the 6/1 with Paddy Power and thank me later.

2.55 Mares Novice Hurdle

Henderson and Sherwood have won five of the last six runnings of this race and their runners have to be afforded respect.  Only Henderson has an entry and Glorious Twelfth, a former Cheltenham bumper winner needs to prove that bottomless conditions are what she needs.

Ballinahow Star is where the money is tonight but I am always wary of backing horses returning from a break in such tough conditions.

I am struggling to split two in the race, Too Generous and Highland Retreat.

Both are proven in the mud and both are making handicap debuts.  There is an argument that both are on workable marks.  Too Generous is certainly on an upwards curve even if she had to work a bit for her last win.  If pushed I would just favour Too Generous despite Highland Retreat being another horse to benefit from the excellent Noel Fehily.

3.30 Newbury Handicap Chase

Handy Andy is a Newbury specialist having won three of four starts at the course.  The yard is in good touch but I wonder if the mark is catching up with him.

Loch Ba could potentially bounce back to glory after never looking at home at the Cheltenham Festival.  Rhum is unlikely to get the soft lead he needs to be competitive.

The one I like the most is Cedre Bleu.  Hailing from the Nicholls camp, he warrants a good look and of all of the runners, I think he rates the likeliest to act in these extreme conditions.  Handy Andy rate the danger.

4.05 Juvenile Hurdle

The two French imports which Tony Carroll has in the race are both potential grenades.  Lac Sacre beat Thinger Licht in a claimer in Enghien but Carroll claimed them both.

While it might not be too obvious that Handazan is well handicapped, at least he is proven in the conditions.  The Major tentatively overlooks Handazan and Lac Sacre in favour of 7/1 In The Crowd who looks like an improver who will be happy to mix it in the mud.

4.40 Bumper

Chase the Wind and Fabrika are the two I am interested in.  The former finished narrowly behind Cheltenham Champion Bumper contender Vieux Lion Rouge on debut.  The latter represents Henderson and Geraghty and will have lots of supporters.

Trainer comments regarding Fabrika, put me in her camp at 3/1.

5.10 Handicap Chase

Sustainability has not had his mark changed for a close up second at Wincanton and to the eye, this horse looks a thorough stayer.  Newbury is likely to be a much more suitable venue and at 11/4, I feel a good bet in order.

Doncaster – The Lincoln

I am not going through the Doncaster card because I do not think it will make it.  Should I be wrong then I will throw one tip out for the Lincoln.

Shamaal Nibras is a Hannon horse with a solid record in soft ground.  I think it could be well treated and the break is of no concern given the hands the animal is in.

I promised you one Donnie tip but cannot help but give you another.  If Bog Warrior captures my heart over obstacles, Jack Dexter is the love of my flat life.  What a heart this horse has, winning back to back competitive handicaps last year.  I do not see any reason not to be lumping on!

To the football…

Portsmouth have been showing some spirit of late but Coventry are overpriced at 5/4 to get a result on the South Coast.  I am on Tranmere at 21/20 to take three points at home too.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Violin Davis, Cedre Bleu, Sustainability and Coventry.

Courage and roll those dice.

Wednesday Horse Racing Tips – Fairyhouse, Ludlow and Doncaster – Shabash, roll those dice

Good evening from the Major who has been reviewing tomorrows racing cards while watching the continuing free fall of Aston Villa Football Club.

Like a Member of Parliament, I feel I need to declare an interest, the Major for those who do not know, has a soft spot for West Brom.  Since a young man, I was outnumbered in my social group by Villa fans, oh how the times have changed.

My early memories were following Albion down to the old second division where, ably aided by Bob Taylors goals, we did battle through the season with Brentford and Stoke, finishing 4th (I think) before an epic play off semi final battle with Swansea (the home leg of which was the most sensational atmosphere) and then a victory over Port Vale in the final.  Hazy memories of a seven-foot (exaggeration) striker for Stockport that would always score against us, maybe his name was Williams.

Albion played some dreadful football, we played some awful teams.  The heart of the awfulness was reserved for the referees.  Listening to fans of Premier League teams complain about poor refereeing is hard to take when you have seen the standard lower down the leagues.

At this time in my life, Villa fans were cavorting about the top ten clubs in the land flaunting Saunders, Atkinson, Yorke and co.  They were a decent team, their safety was never in doubt, they were never quite the best but they were at least in that game.

I am not a man who harbours grudges, the anger some  conjure over a rival’s team is lost on me.  It just is not that important.  On your death-bed will you consider it energy well spent?

Yet I do think that Villa fans would be well served a dose of Championship football.  They would learn something.  I am aware this sounds patronising and I advertised my vested views up front.  In life, your sense of entitlement is tempered if at times you did not get all the Christmas presents you wanted.

Yesterday, the Major scored three winners from four tips.  They came in at 8/11, 6/5 and 6/4.  I missed with Lovcen.  What do you want from me?  Riches?  Well, you won’t get them.  You will get my unhinged views but I am no golden source.  Tonight, I again look at the cards, seeking inspiration.  Stick with me if you please, I ask nothing of you but to be good to your fellow men.

If you play an active part of the Twitter community, say hello sometime (@tdl123).  Twitter hosts a plethora of racing minds, I shall bring one to your attention.  Over the Last  is a podcast put together with some love by @pghenn and co.  Well worth a listen.

To Wednesdays racing… let us see if there are more short price horses worth backing.

Doncaster Tips

I am curious that Overturn steps up in trip in the 2.15.  His Arkle price is as short  as 5/1 and while he is sure to be effective over this extra 3f, it is interesting to see a step up in trip.  He is way better than the opposition here, let us not forget last seasons Champion Hurdle runner-up spot to Rock on Ruby.  Lucy Wadhams runner is interesting, the race is a no bet scenario for the Major.

In the opener, Handazan is out and has plenty of experience after chasing Far West home this season.  That form puts him in the mix but you have to feel he would be vulnerable to something else top class emerging.  I think another unfortunate brave effort in defeat is in line again and Jonjo makes a fairly rare foray to Doncaster to unleash the highly talked of Last Shadow.  There is a risky element to the tip given the lack of jumping experience but this horse was decent on the flat (beating Swynmor) and is reportedly a very viable Triumph sort where he is currently not available in any market other than Betfair (25s).

Ludlow Tips

While I might be forgiven a little sentimentality given it is my mantra, Roll the Dice looks a very backable 9/4.  The tip still has the measure of Last Shot in the Major’s view and the rise for the last win is manageable.  I like Tom O’Brien in the saddle and Hobbs has a good record at Ludlow.  Back it.

It could be a good day for Hobbs as I fancy his hotpot in the opener.  Whatsupjack might be the best of those with experience but Tiqris looks a very able recruit to the jumps game having shown good bumper form.

I am a fan of Longsden and Fehily as a team and Tidal Way at 3/1 looks a nice candidate for me.  His last race was a decent affair and the second and third went on to win races of their own.  Tidal Way was in charge that day and looks on an entirely workable mark.

Bordoni and Amoralist look the obvious two to concentrate on in the juvenile hurdle at 3.05, but I am not sure they are the only two.  In this juvenile contest, there might be a fly in the ointment with King of Dudes, this Irish import is in the right hands and will likely go off at a tastier price (6/1+).

Fairyhouse Tip 

Forjoethepainter has gone up somewhat in the weights since his last easy win but that rise is offset by a claim made by this capable jockey.  The ground offers no problem and the last win was impressive and so 7/4 is impressive.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: Tiqris, Tidal Way, Roll the Dice and Forjoethepainter

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.