Tag Archives: harry topper

The Post Cheltenham Saturday Sermon

Good morning, a late morning from the Major who writes from a glorious Worcestershire scene with a blinding brightness drowning all colours.

The Major is jaded after a long day yesterday that extended late into the night and has left me exhausted.  Following the efforts of this week, you will forgive a brief post only.  This is not just because I am generally tired, I think I am also suffering punting fatigue.  The emotions of the week.

Nothing went right on Friday.  I found very few people with winners, glum faces contrasted a stunning day.  Tammys Hill, not exactly a popular 15/2 shot was the only winner returning an SP less than 10/1.  I think it is fair to say that we left all of our ammunition in the bookmakers satchels.

The Gold Cup looked at one moment like it might change the direction of fortunes.  Silvi arrived and crossed the last with every chance and then emptied abruptly to not place, I have not yet seen if something went wrong or whether he is just a non stayer.

As a completely impartial observer, I was quite surprised that Lord Windemere kept the race.  I thought he drifted markedly causing interference to On His Own and the winning distance being so slender… I guess it would have been a ballsy call to change the result of a Gold Cup in the Stewards Room…. That said, I was delighted for Iron Lung Russell whose hard work deserves such a win in a year where he lost his top job at Gigginstown.  They had a great day, 4 winners…. wow.

Where did that resurgence to form for Lord Windemere come from?  I don’t think I could have ever come to the conclusion that he was the winner of the Gold Cup.

I may well try to write a Cheltenham wrap up in the coming week.  Review the key races and have a look at what we can take out of them.  For now, I am going to point out a couple of horses that stand out, a couple of football results I like the look of… then I am done.

Saturday Racing Thoughts

I am putting these out, then I am sealing Cheltenham shut in a container marked HAZARDOUS and going for some sleep.

Tatting is a massive 20/1 shot tonight in the 8.10 at Wolverhampton.  This is a step up in class but these are the ideal conditions for the horse.

Jonjo O’Neill has had a great week and maybe he can win the Silver Plate at Kempton (2.55) with AP onboard Another Hero at 9/1.

I find it odd that the classy Harry Topper skipped Cheltenham for Uttoxeter because of the drying ground.  I am not sure he will get it much softer in the Midlands so will avoid him but do so hesitantly.  The Midlands National usually goes to a horse with a featherweight and so the presence of Harry Topper who puts half of the field out of the handicap complicates things.  The one I don’t think will mind conditions, has the light weight, has the better form in his history and seems to be coming back is…. 25/1  Bradley.

That makes for a nice Martin Hill trixie placed each way.  If we make the hat-trick (last two weeks came in) there will be scenes.

In the football, Southampton 8/13 are a must in the accas… Wigan are 15/8 to win at Ipswich, have a slice… I think Newcastle at Fulham at 17/10 is also a bet.

I hope your dinner is pleasant enough, simple and home-made, good bread.

Courage and roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – National Hunt Feast from Cheltenham, Doncaster and Leopardstown – A splash of FA Cup Magic too

Good morning from the Major who writes from the bed gazing serenely across a brightening Worcestershire dawn.  Once again the land is waterlogged, the brook over my road and down 50 metres has flooded, the temporary lake resting with the confidence of permanence.

The Major caught rest in snatches through the night, the time between filled with a headphone in one ear, dreamily listening to the World Service, drifting in and out of concentration.  The words and stories came to me as images, patchy and alarming.  Two dead building World Cup stadiums in Brazil, one fell from a roof.  Syrian refugees.  A bomb, half a ton of high explosive in Cairo destroying the oldest Islamic museum in the world, thousands of artefacts dating to before the time of Christ.

Coming awake is like leaving another world behind.  I need a shower to leave that night world where it belongs.  To delineate properly the border, reinforcements are needed to stop it seeping into the day world.

This week, Barney Curley landed a mothership.  Now, enough has been said for me not to bore you with my opinions but safe to say I love the skullduggery of racing as much as the next man and the suggestion it puts people off is a nonsense.  People are attracted to the richness.  It helps that I managed a touch on it myself.  I saw the Eye of the Tiger gamble and got 7/2 overnight, thanks to @yahwey I caught one other too, Indus Valley which I got at 10s.  Attractive prices but oh, how I wish I had gotten wind of the other two…

Cheltenham races today – Trials day.  I would be present but for the birthday of number one son, Daniel, he eight – Under ideal circumstances I would have taken him but at the age, the Science Museum and friends and family seems more attractive to him… He is a long term project, give me time.

Last week showed well, we travelled into the Sermon perfectly with a 6/1 winner and hit the mark with Melodic Rendevouz – I still managed to make the weekend a losing one after piling in most my bets to multiples including Wigan… They lost three nil at Doncaster.  The misery piled up in sedimentary layers… I saw they went one nil down… Then we went live to the Keepmoat for a goal update and it was two… The energy for the weekends punting seeping away, rapidly draining.

The same was true yesterday, after lunch I tuned in to see that Noel Fehily had won in the opener at 12/1 – What a start to the day… My Fehily multiple was looking in fine order.. It was to be the last winner he had – In fact, I did not manage another placed horse.  Disappointing.  Still, there will be many a false dawn before our own Curley sized mothership.  Indeed, you may have time to grow an oak from an acorn or you may be planning the spending tonight… who can tell.

Daub thy warpaint young warriors, we shall ride flank to flank, tight formation, with lances raised awaiting the order…. To the sports..

Cheltenham Card

No surprise, Cheltenham has gone heavy overnight so we are looking for some horses who can take it.  Out goes, The Giant Bolster (never liked him anyway), in comes Restless Harry (loves heavy and is Pricewise).

Goodwood Mirage is one of the most expensive national hunt recruits you will find, reaching 380k for his services, you would expect a lot.  Yet, price does not buy success in racing, particularly national hunt and the memory of Un Temps Pour Tout, who tempted me in with his 450k price tag (most expensive ever by the way) and failed.

Nick Williams has not had many runners but has Le Rocher who held Kentucky Hyden on heavy at Chepstow – On that form he is of clear interest and proven on the ground, hmmm.  Then the favourite, Vincezio Mio – Clearly Nicholls thinks a lot of him.  Ronaldinho is not a forlorn 20/1 shot if you read the list of horses the trainer has won this race with in the past – Katchit, Franchoek, Walkon and Grumeti.  Plus a 100/1 shot took this in 2010.  His Newbury race might not be that bad and although he was well beaten, he was prominent until after the last – He may be a non stayer, he may have needed it – We should certainly afford him the same flexibility we might afford Goodwood Mirage or Vincenzo Mio on those grounds.

It is a difficult race to make a call on.  Nicholls thinks a lot of Vincenzo Mio but he has not traditionally aimed his top guns at this.  I have to support Le Rocher over Kentucky Hyden but Nick Williams has not had many runners lately.  Sod it, I am sticking with the money… Goodwood Mirage  gets the tentative nod at 5/1.

Dark Lover has both course and ground form and so gets the nod in the second race which is a trappy handicap.  I considered the chances of Samingarry and Renard D’Irlande who both could go well, the former having the measure of subsequent grade 1 winner, Annacotty who I struggle to see overhauling him on these terms.  Anyway, 9/1 is available about my selection, with 10s in a place, if you have ever heard of Unibet!

I am not convinced that genuine heavy ground will suit Double Ross and so with an 8lb rise to contend with, I am going against the improver who I backed last time out.  Cedre Bleu is a horse I have followed and I like his chances but I am sticking with Venetia Williams and Aiden Coleman, a combination that is having a great season.  Shangani was a good festival runner and should be OK in conditions.

The Argento Chase market is led by Rocky Creek who is decent but at the prices, I am overlooking.  The same combination I liked in the previous saddle up with Houblon Des Obeaux, who has a number of fans.  Pricewise beat me to the punch with pointing out the chances of Restless Harry who loves it this soft and came back with a bang last time out.  The Giant Bolster needs good ground and Harry Topper is ridiculously burdened with the most weight of all.  No, regardless of ones thunder having been stolen, I am with Restless Harry too.

Maybe Lizzie Kelly will prove a great jockey, maybe it is the folly of love (she is the daughter of the trainers wife, who is also the owner – follow?) but I am surprised that a jockey with just ten rides to her name gets a ride on a horse with a live Grade 2 chance.  That said, she has won 4 starts, including twice with this horse, last time on New Years Day at this course.  Not for me.

No, I shall focus on the two market leaders, Red Sherlock and Rathvinden, both of whom are proven in the mud.  I am readily behind Red Sherlock who has been winning lesser races effortlessly.  His preparation is one that suggests the stable (although not my favourite yard) hold him in high regard and I am minded that he at least has the course form.

Then the big one and the big question – What remains of the incredible ability of Big Bucks?  He is only eleven but is bidding to win having been off the course for over a year.  If he was not so talented, passing him over would be easy.  His age and these injuries mean are hard to overcome and there are a couple of progressive horses lining up against him.

In these staying races, age can play less of a part as speed is less important than class.  Yet, the age does trouble me.  Big Bucks has occasionally looked like a horse that is not straight forward.  He has lost the jockey that really understood him too.  It is enough for me to look elsewhere.  I may well look very foolish come 3pm but my prediction is… pulled up.  I really hope that he comes home OK – Nobody wants to see a champion humbled, let alone injured.

I was a big fan of At Fishers Cross coming into the season but you have to be tempered by his performances.  I am not sure what has happened there but he looks one to pick up again after he has had a summer on his back.  Mind you, a return to form would be dangerous for the field as he is unbeaten at Cheltenham in three starts.

Reve de Sivola is a horse I have backed on a few occasions but never quite get right.  He seems better than ever now back in staying hurdles and my thinking is torn between his proven class and the potential of the Mullins raider Boston Bob.  Reve de Sivola causes me some consternation about Cheltenham having won twice from twelve starts…

Sod it, 9/1 is too big – I am hoping, it is hope, that At Fishers Cross has whatever issues behind him and can bring back the magic.  Surprise!

It could be that throughout the card I have not scored a single winner.  On the other hand, we could be holding that mothership ticket going into the last.  Seeing a Brian Ellison horse being backed (Totalize) is a signal but I am thinking that the handicapper may have taken a chance with Lac Fontana who is 7/1 generally and 8s with 888.com ironically.

Doncaster Tips

Is the drop in trip for Annie Power going to inconvenience her… no.  Is 1/5 a backable price… probably – She has been dominant in her races and looks a top class prospect.  It certainly looks like this is a signal that she is heading for the Champion Hurdle, which makes the Pricewise (third time I have mentioned him this morning!) 14/1 advice very sound.  Reading between the lines, I cannot understand why the yard would want to do it and have come to an unfounded speculative conclusion that Mullins himself would go to the stayers race but that Ricci wants a Champion Hurdle runner and ultimately, it is the owners horse.

Anyway, the two horses I am interested in at Doncaster are Caid Du Berlais who I want a lumpy piece of at an incredible 9/2 with 888.com (generally 11/4).  That price may be wrong and I am happy at 11/4 if I cannot get on.

I find Mart Lane an interesting runner in the Sky Bet Chase and his last run looks interesting.  Unioniste is no doubt a very good stayer but I am concerned that his exploits in Ireland both expose his limitations at the top level (Still excellent in this context) and more troubling, may have taken a physical toll – It was a tough race.

Alas, I am following a horse that will enjoy conditions and may well have some more improvement – Kruzhlinin.  He can be backed at 11s… Have a slice.

Leopardstown

Paul Townend has suffered the effect of Ruby being at home more weekends this year but gets a chance today on the Mullins first string in Ireland.  I rate him as a jockey and think he can take the Grade 2 Novice Chase on Djakadam.   Only 6/4 but I think this one will make a better chaser than hurdler and although less experienced and younger than his rivals, he gets some handy weight too.

Will Quick Jack keep up his relentless rise through the weights… Yes.

FA Cup action continues and my usual aim is to find overpriced Premier LEague teams away at Championship of League one clubs.  Swansea 21/20 at Birmingham City, Hull 10/11 at Southend and in League 1, Walsall at 7/5 and Wolves at 10/7.

The Martin Hill bet is a yankee including Quick Jack, Caid du Berlais, Red Sherlock and Wolves (if he can keep his breakfast down).

May your dinner be extravagant and in the best of company, with her wanton eye telling you to where her mind runs.

Courage friends, roll those dice.

Punchestown Festival – Tuesday Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes a short post from his bed.  An evening spent baiting mice, planting up in the garden and then baiting Villa fans after their defeat at Old Trafford.

Dealing with my little furry vermin friends that I suspect are nesting in the loft of my garage might prove difficult.  I have laid down a rodenticide that thins the blood and causes a painless death I am assured, although I doubt little Mr Jingles and friends would see it that way.  I also suspect that they won’t fall for it so easily.

In comparison, a few choice words always draws a warm reaction quickly and effortlessly from Villa fans in their present position.  Their precarious position has them on edge.  Mind the gap chaps, it is a long way down.

I think it will prove a nail-biter of a finish at the relegation end of the table.  Wigan have a game in hand but have to face both Spurs and Arsenal.  Villa have to face Chelsea.  If no surprises occur in those fixtures then it boils down to who can take the most points from Sunderland and Norwich (Villa) or West Brom and Swansea (Wigan) before the teams meet at Wigan on the last day.  At the moment it is odds-on that it will come to that last day which makes 9/4 Villa go down (Hills) the bet in this situation for me.

As an Albion fan, you might expect me to gloat yet I hope not, I would like to think I have more dignity than that.  Yet I do want Villa to be relegated, I think it would do their fans good, certainly the ones I know.

As I grew up, Villa fans had a good team, they were players.  While Albion were battling out a promotion punch up from League 1 (or whatever it was called back then!) with Stockport, Brentford and Port Vale; Villa were challenging for titles with quality through the team.  Wolves and Blues barely did better than the Albion and so in Birmingham, if you were not a Villa fan, you were not supporting the cities best team.  That made life tough in the playground but taught you a more sanguine and realistic approach to life.

For Villains though, familiarity to regional dominance was comfortable and it is this that makes it difficult to contemplate a relegation.  Ironically, Brentford are once again challenging for promotion to the Championship.

I don’t hate Villa.  I don’t hate any football club.  I do think a spell in the Championship would be cathartic.  I can also see me talking to a couple of Villa friends in the pub on a Friday night… So who have you got tomorrow?  Oh Brentford… Well, Griffin Park is not an easy place to go… A point would be a result there… I can see their faces…

Uncouth.  I apologise.  To the proper sport, the sport of Kings.  Taste the air young soldiers, it tastes so fresh, gasp at it drawing in great gulps like a thirsty man.  Tomorrow is Punchestown and bar Sandown, this is our last hoorah of the National Hunt season.

Punchestown Tuesday Tips….

Although Punchestown draws enough top quality horses, there is a slight bitter edge to the festival for me, knowing it marks the last appearance of the season for the big names.

As a festival, my feeling is that you often get a few hot ones turned over simply because they are a bit over the top at this stage of the season.  That and the spring ground can catch a few out, although they start here on soft.  Having a horse that missed Cheltenham with Punchestown in mind is a big draw.  Not getting too lumpy on day one is also part of my strategy.

The mid afternoon starts of these meetings is a good thing in my view.  For those of us keeping the economy turning over while the Punchestown crowd sup a few stouts in the spring sun, it is nice to catch the last couple of races on the way home.

3.40pm – Kildare Hunt Cup

Enda Bolger has taken this race four times in the last ten years and his quartet in this years renewals are all under 10/1 including the two favourites.  It is fair to say, the man has a damn fine chance of taking this again!

Bolger is responsible for the only horse competing which has a Punchestown win and that is Zest for Life, the second favourite.  This horse has won this contest three years ago and since fell and been placed third.  At 5/1, I would not put you off.

In these amateur riders events, finding the best jockey is a huge factor.  In this case, it is simple.  The jockey bookings make interesting reading.  Only one of the Bolger pilots has ridden for him before and that was just the once!  But the best jockey in the race, Katie Walsh, takes the ride on his Keep on Track.  While you have to ignore a few disappointing runs, in a contest like this, I don’t think it is unreasonable to.  Paddy goes 8/1, take him up on it!

4.20 – Champion Novice Hurdle

This is one of the races of the week for me with the Supreme form of Champagne fever getting its first work over.

That horse was a winner for the Major on the opening day of Cheltenham.  I think My Tent or Yours may well prove a better horse in the end, he looked like he arrived with plenty in hand and then found himself flat-footed after the last.  Champagne Fever dug deep showing a likeable attitude.

If they have him off the bridle tomorrow, the easier Punchestown track may not be to his advantage.  I also thought that short run in they have on day one at Cheltenham played to his prominent style.

Maybe I am trying too hard to get him beaten.  After all he was a Champion Bumper horse too so clearly is a class act.  Jezki and Rule the World have obvious claims.  Jezki had Champagne Fever beaten on this sort of track in the Royal Bond and Rule The World showed plenty of class up against impressive The New One at Cheltenham but I think he might get tapped for toe here.

Ted Veale won the County, beating Tennis Cap but I cannot have that form against these three confirmed top stars.

Here is the Champagne Fever persuader for you though….

Horse | Trainer (Runners last 14 days) [winners]

Champagne Fever | Mullins (11) [5]

Jezki | Harrington (7) [0]

Rule the World (1) [0]

4.55 Handicap Hurdle

A wide open handicap and a punters puzzle to solve.  Tennis Cap has been one for the Major before but I think both the mark and the season are catching up with him.

Last years winner, Snap Tie, has his work cut out returning on a near stone higher mark.  Not for me.

I am opting for the apparent Mullins second string though in Tasiocht at 10/1 (Ladbrokes).  This horse showed some very classy early form and a mark of just 124 I think could be very tasty.  Crucially, she has some experience in bigger fields which will help amongst twenty charging sorts over two miles here.  The fact she likes to lead also will help in that regard.  Some jumping issues will have kept the price honest and given Walsh has gone for tennis Cap, you must assume we are on the less fancied runner but it would not be the first time would it!

5.30pm Champion Chase

Unless a miracle occurs this should be yet another procession for Sprinter Sacre.  I was an early convert to the cult of The Aeroplane and it is with caution (given a large Irish readership) that I say this but…. the comparisons to Arkle are going to be inevitable.

I don’t think trip matters one jot to this horse.  Prior to the Aintree race, I thought such concerns were ridiculous (given the way he travels and jumps) and I was delighted to be proved right.  Not boastful delight you understand, just the mellow sort that allows you to bask contented, knowing you are living in an era of one of jumpings greatest ever.  If you are there, enjoy.

6.05 – The Bumper

There is a fair bit of guess-work going on in finding the selection in the bumper.

The very obvious selection is Moyle Park who was quickly bought for a six figure sum after defeating Blackmail on debut.  Now in the hands of Mullins, you would be surprised not to see it involved.  I will have an interest.

I also plan a small saver on Indian Rupee, the Tommy Mullins horse.  The stable won this last year with a less fancied sort (16s) and I cannot let this 33/1 unraced sort pass me by.

6.40pm – Champion Novice Chase

Wow – If the handicap hurdle was a tricky call for Ruby, this must have been a real coin-flipper.  Ruby has gotten off Boston Bob who looked like coming back strong to win the RSA, to ride Back In Focus who was unbelievably game to win the four miler.

I think Ruby has made the wrong call but I am hoping it is irrelevant anyway as I am opting for the Kim Bailey trained Harry Topper.  This horse has been given a little longer to get over a spill at Kelso last time and the trainer has given such positive vibes about the horse that you have to take notice.  As I mentioned at the top, I readily prefer a horse trained for Punchestown and may well take this on the rocks as well as with a reverse forecast mixing in Boston Bob.

7.15 – 2m Flat

No market, bar Betfair, which suggests that my selection Western Boy will be a 9/1 shot.  I am in!

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Racing Action from Doncaster, Navan and Kelso… Live with intensity my friends… Cheltenham is here

Good evening from the Major who writes from my cold Worcestershire pile. Today in meteorological terms the calendar turned to Spring but this season awakens like a slow lumbering animal whose limbs have lain stiff and frozen for some time, creaking now into life, the ice and frost cracking as new movement arrives.

I wish for you all that you live an interesting life. According to psalms, we are all here for our four score and ten, 90 years in new money, although for most of us that is pushing it.   In the UK you are likely to finish ten years light of that allocation, in some sub Saharan Africa countries where one in three adults are HIV positive, that number can be under 50.  That is an average.

Swaziland by some distance sports the lowest life expectancy.  More than half of all adults in their 20s are HIV positive.  Subsistence farming and marijuana are the key economic planks.

Interesting?  It won’t stop me telling you more.  Afghanistan is the only country in the lowest twenty life expectancies outside of Africa.  You have to scoot 40/50 countries up to find the next which is Haiti.  At the top end, it is who you would expect, Japan, Macau and small rich European countries.

The range is startling.  Yet you cannot measure your life merely in longevity, ask those in long-term incarceration.  Other elements are in play.  We pursue wealth because it buys things we seek pleasure from.  It helps to have the resources but the attitude is more important. You can be rich and allow the precious resource to be frittered.  Your use of time.

Use your time today with some intensity.  Variety is no substitute.  If you are to travel around the world, before you pay for the experience, make sure you are capable of absorbing and engaging in an environment first.

The man I used as a role model for living was Sir Clement Freud. Politician, chef, bon viveur, jockey, owner and a man capable of drawing much from that around him. The post has remained open since his death although Strange Rumblings is doing his best to find me a replacement.

Next weekend is Imperial Cup and then we are at Cheltenham.  Let us foray across the enemy line, skirmishing in tight formation.  Smash and grab, cut, thrust and run.  To the sports…

Doncaster Tips

When I saw the Doncaster card this morning, I had to get a dictionary to remind myself of what the word firm meant in the going description!  Saturdays ground is described as good.

The Doncaster opener should go to Themilanhorse but I don’t like backing runners in three runner affairs.  The second listed novice is more interesting even if it is only to watch Ma Filleule breeze up against a field that are simply not as good.  1/3 does not put me off.

Toubab is also a favourite I fancy – He looks like a sort who will really appreciate the return to faster conditions judged on his form with Sprinter Sacre that has been eclipsed by poorer runs on softer ground.

The staying chase is a minefield.  Join Together is the likely favourite and has a tremendous progressive profile.  Now the national weights are out, he is one of a few we can expect to see coming to the boil.  Yet I am not convinced that he will like the top of the ground.  Corkage is an interesting runner, particularly given the jockeys clear preference for him over the shorter priced stablemate Night in Milan, Corkage won’t mind the ground either.  Court by Surprise and Quentin Collonges are also eye catchers, the former beat the latter who might be better suited in these conditions.

Calgary Bay is the class horse amongst them and that with the coupling of AP McCoy gives me the confidence for a win bet at 8/1.

In the staying handicap hurdle, Aaim to Prosper will be trying to pay out on some of the hype.  The dual Cesarewitch winner has only managed placings in hurdles to date although they have been at a decent standard.

Carruthers is going to try to blast it from the front but I am not sure these conditions will suit.  I prefer instead the chances of both Barafundle at 9/1 and Eagle Rock at 12/1.  The former has been consistent and not badly treated by the handicapper.  The latter Eagle Rock to me looks like he might have bags of improvement to come.  12/1 tasty.

Kelso Tips

The Kelso hurdle is a grade 2 affair and while Eduard has some good form and Brick Red is stepping up after impressing in handicaps.  I also interested in 9/2 shot Only Orsenfoolies who has really stepped up as a hurdler and is proven in the soft conditions, I am not sure he beat too much last time but he dug deep.

Eduard is the obvious choice, he boasts the most clear likelihood of talent and I suggest a big investment at 5/4.

A second favourite Harry Topper is backed to make pay his decision to miss Cheltenham in the 4.15.  I was a backer of Bold Sir Brian on the day he fell at Cheltenham.  They had the screens up that day and you feared the worst but thank god, he got up once he had his wind back.  Who knows what that experience has left on him and I just hope he has a safe round at Kelso.

Navan Tips

The only Navan horse I am interested in is Wise Oscar who reverts to this code on a terrifyingly good mark and 11/8 is tasty.

In the football I am backing Hull to beat Blues at home and also taking a slice of Sunderland and Swansea.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Wise Oscar, Harry Topper, Eduard and Eagle Rock.

I hope your dinner is tasty and home cooked.  Sleep well.

Courage and roll those dice.