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The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock, plus the football

Good evening from the Major who writes from the bed, dead tired and with a low tremulous wind signalling the latest violent front being launched off the Atlantic, up the Severn Estuary and smashing into the first significant land since the Caribbean.

The Major has dined this evening with the good lady.  Now I know a few of you are wondering whether I am the romantic type and I might settle that thought by telling you that today is also my wedding anniversary, the twelfth to be accurate.  12 years, it goes by in the blink of an eye.  We were married in Sri Lanka and I shall not bore you with the travel detail that others may crow about – To dwell for long on such trivia is crass and wastes your time.  Suffice to say, I found the woman to come in rounded shapes, with toothy beaming smiles and a hearty wish for your contentment.  Excellent curry too, almost as good as the homeland, Birmingham, home of the balti.  The pleasure of a finely balanced dish, coriander, fresh accompanied by a cold fresh mango juice – God has been good to us.

Usually I detest dining on Valentines night, the expense, lack of choice, busyness and sense that you are being forced to behave a certain way, not for me – It is unsettling, lacks class, decorum wearing thin at the edges.  Tonight thought, we ate simply, in a decent pub, hotel slash restaurant..

The pub has its own farm and the pork was exceptional.  I don’t think the scallops were from its grounds, the flooding is not so bad yet.  It all went down well, mission accomplished.

The weather is fantastic.  I do not truck with these folk who wring their hands and decry flood and storm.  Naturally, I am as sorry for those who have their home flooded as the next man, it must be a terrible show.  No, I contend that Violenti Non Fit Injuria – You bought the home on the plain or river – You cannot claim victimhood when such water course overspills its guts.

I find the urges of some to cancel overseas aid disproportionate.  Less than a thousand homes, largely insured, have been flooded.  This does not construe a crisis.  As a nation, we used to withstand constant nightly shelling from the Luftwaffe, I think we can cope with this.  The old proverb of bringing your troubles to a common room with your fellow-man and choosing to leave with your own applies.  Syria has a population of 22m, approximately 8m are displaced and mostly living in tents, some in desperate condition.  2m of the 8m are children.  Do I sound callous?  I do not mean to – Anyone with a flooded home must be going through a terrible experience and I hope the spell of dry weather coming in persists.

I enjoy the excitement of a good storm, the violence of it.  Driving home in the middle evening this week, great waves of water were smashing into the windscreen, sheet after sheet, the horizon suddenly visible and then gone again.  I could make out the shapes of great terrifying trees, blackened against an already dark backdrop, moving in fast menacing ways, limbs twisting and thrusting, side to side, they looked like giant monsters fighting a deathly duel, all exaggerated by the low light.

I hope that all four of Ascot, Gowran, Wincanton and Haydock get the go ahead.  With extra rain and all four already at ‘heavy’ I fear we may lose some.

For weeks, I have heard the same view expressed, that come Cheltenham, on good to soft ground, we are going to see some surprising results.  Who knows what ground we will get.  I care little for this argument, my antepost has been building on ability only.  I have multiples galore and am most happy with the positions on Silviniaco Conti, Bobs Worth (yes I was backing both), Annie Power (WH so need her to turn up there), Vautour and a few more.  I am less confident about Our Conor (backed a lot) and have plenty of others I would ask for my money back on if the bookie were such inclined.

Anyway, it is time to start building our war chest.  Last week was not a great week.  A couple of winners but largely I made poor calls.  The Tom George horse Module hurt me the most, I had him written off but he won like a lunatic.

The mothership left the dock and deposited none of her kind cargo, no generosity was served.  Be warned too, my run this week continued with a series of ‘good things’ getting turned over – Arsenal, Barca – Christ, the account has taken a right beating.  At such times, one might retreat, draw breath, lick ones wounds and assess a new route.  Not for the Major, no… I shall polish my lancepoint because I know that my destiny is unquestionable.  I do not think it, I know it.

There will be another full frontal assort and these are my weapons of choice.  To the sports…..

Wincanton

Let us hope that this track survives the night intact and can get their excellent card on.

In the second race, a novice hurdle, the three useful looking favourites are all sired by super National Hunt stud, Kings Theatre.  One of his should win and I am taking Paul Nicholls charge Tagrita who is proven on the ground and has won three times this season.   Blue Buttons looks a threat and with Kings string coming back to form, The Pirates Queen may well improve from her earlier season exploits and the further distance, keep it sensible.

The Kingwell Hurdle goes off at  3.35 and pits Melodic Rendevous meets Zarkander and Grumeti giving 8lbs to the latter.  The easy pick here is Melodic and  suggest you smash in with nerves of steel.  Bet like a man possessed and be thankful.  The reasoning?  Well, Zarkander is decent, aptly demonstrated by his seconds this season to Annie Power and The New One.  While the ground will help him deal with such a short distance, this is a warm up for the World Hurdle.  The favourite is a tremendous traveller and given he has Notarfbad in the field (for pace surely) there will be no hiding place here.

Grumeti is definitely  better ground horse and if they leave him in, it will be the first time he has raced on heavy (record on soft 1/3, record on good to soft, 4/4).  Easily overlooked.

Haydock Tips

Celestial Halo has found an excellent prep race for his World Hurdle bid.  I would be interested in Restless Harry but believe he is Ascot bound.   Although it looks an easy and obvious pick (and what is wrong with that? Complaining?  See the manager!) Celestial looked at his very best when winning the Long Walk last time out.  Mickie would be the each way selection but I think they will all be enjoying a fine view of the Halo’s tail.

The Grand National trial is not my sort of race.  You may recall, you my not, that I am not a fan of the National in general.  Now the weights for the big race are out, we shall see some surprising steps up in form, I am sure.  Merry King and Our Father are both contenders for sudden returns to greater things.  The former has looked like a horse that needs 6m!  The latter was one of the best travelling horses I have seen.  Today I am having a small stake in the Venetia runner, Emporers Choice who will love conditions and we all know the form she is in in these big Saturday races.

Wolf Shield is drifting for the 3.30 but I would not dismiss it at 14s – Heavy ground and a return to form last time suggests it could get involved.  No, I rather stick with Flemenson or Horatio Hornblower.  On the grounds that he gets a lump of weight and the services of Maguire in the saddle, I am siding with the latter.

In the Albert Bartlett, I am interested in the proven mud sloggers, Wuff and Toubeera.  I got stung when writing off a Tom George horse last week (Module) but am happy to burden that concern again by suggesting a decent stake on 13/2 (Coral generally 11/2) Toubeera.  I prefer Aidan Coleman to Paddy Brennan, she gets some weight on grounds of sex, which will be a bigger help in deep ground.  I think the extra distance will suit also.  Have a slice.

Ascot Tips

It is a fine fine day of National Hunt and Ascot Chase Day is a superb card.

Ultra expensive Un Temps Pour Tout will want to win the opener if he is going to be considered a Supreme contender.  Given he cost £450k, it is the least you would want.

In the second, I am backing Gervey Chambertin at 5/2 – I always thought this classy hurdler would be an even better chaser and I would be disappointed if we did not see a good run.  It is unusual for me to back against a favourite that has much more chasing experience (Many clouds 3 runs) but those were easy schooling small field sessions and this is different.  Experience may not count if I have my theory right, that Gervey will be a spring heeled natural.  Let’s see.

In the 2.40 chase I do love Teaforthree – Here is something strange I learned this week.  Did you know he was the Sky Soccer AM horse?  Why they sold him I do not know but they would have had a placed Grand National horse on their hands!  Well, I am not backing him today as the main agenda will be Aintree.  No I think this is an excellent chance for Highland Lodge 7/2 but will be keeping stakes small.

Jump to the Ascot Chase at 3.50 – The most interesting runner of the day goes in this Grade 1 as Hunt Ball returning from his American adventures.  He can be backed today at 33/1.  Rolling Aces of some interest but on bare form, he cannot yet hold a candle to Captain Chris who should go in at 11/10. He loves the mud, loves going this way around, boasts good form that is strong this season… Looks one for the accumulators.

It can be a Hobbs / Johnson double as in the next Mountain King looks a great 6/4 shot – I was really taken with the way he travelled in the Ludlow mud and this progressive sort can go well again.

Gowran Park

At 2.25, I will be glued to At The Races in case Bog Warrior returns to the track.  I am this horses biggest fan, partly because I always felt he had tremendous ability but largely because of his distinctive style of running.  He lobs along, head firmly pressed down against his chest – Doing his own thing.  Now, I feel a bit frustrated for him.  He will love this heavy ground, his name is very apt.  Yet, I am perplexed as to why connections are taking him chasing again  He has often blundered at the bigger obstacles but is a classy hurdler.  Coming down the hill in the World Hurdle, I really thought he was going to play a hand – Then his serious injury effected him and he bottomed out quickly.  He has had lots of entries and I suspect he will be a NR again today but I look forward to his return.  For betting purposes, I am on Turban at 13/8.

Un De Sceaux has another procession planned for 3.35.

In the football.  Wolves are a penalty kick at 1/2 and I would lump in.  Southampton to win in the cup at Sunderland is a more tentative selection at 13/10.

The Martin Hill Multiple, which needs to land to build the man’s war chest is… Melodic Rendezvous, Horatio Hornblower and Turban in a trixie of glory.

I hope your dinner is kept simple but in the company of friends.  Eat with your hands, may I suggest Fajita – Becoming involved, mixing well people and food.  Drink well and be thankful.

Courage, roll those dice.

Welsh National Day Tips – Chepstow, Leopardstown and Newbury

Good evening from the Major whose tour of Ireland has moved to a biting Dublin where the wind cuts to your bones.  Tired from travelling, I am in the bed early and weary.

Today was poor.  I thought my twitter contact @limerickjfk was off to Limerick Races – An understandable mistake given the name.  Re-reading his text later, it turned out he was off to Leopardstown.  When you cannot select the right card to read, it bodes badly for the subsequent tips.  So it transpired.

Still, there is tomorrow.  New day, new hope.

The Welsh National

Of all tracks, when Chepstow rides heavy, it is like treacle.  It takes the most outrageously deep ground horse but that gives us an edge.

Tidal Bay likes soft ground but I don’t think heavy and top weight will be a good combination.  Pricewise might fancy it but not for the Major.  Synchronised won carrying 11st 6lbs in 2011 but no horse has carried this weight to victory in the last 25 years and Tidal Bay would also be 3 years older than any previous winner.  Don’t get me wrong, I like a top class handicap chaser as much as the next man but I am after one that has snuck in at the bottom.

Goonyella is interesting and I am convinced has a big race or two in him.  He looks to have been laid out for one of these, having been campaigned over shorter but at just 6, misses some valuable experience.

Well Refreshed seems to tick a lot of boxes and will be going when plenty have cried enough.  The two the Major settles on though are Merry King and Highland Lodge.  I like the latter and think he is capable of running his best races yet.  However, he can be a bit keen and I just think Merry King will want every yard of the distance and every drop of moisture.  His Hennessy race demonstrated that, he was doing his best work at the finish.  Just think of that long long long Chepstow straight, it goes on forever…. My boy can be doing his stuff at the important moment, the final moment.  Get stuck in.

The Future Champions Grade 1 juvenile hurdle is a difficult race to call as unlike many of these events,  am not convinced that there is a star in this field.  even though the top stables are represented, I am not sure that Kentucky Hyden or Solar Impulse are all that.  As such, in spite of being unproven in conditions I am chancing Violet Dancer who can be backed at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.  Arty Campbell is also not the worst 100/1 shot I have ever seen.

Leopardstown Festival – Lexus Chase Day

I think we have a chance of solving the Lexus.  For a start, I am convinced that Unioniste is not good enough.  Then we have a series of disappointments to examine.  First Lieutenant has thrown more than one poor race at us this season and so is harder to forgive, he is discarded.

Sir Des Champs was unlucky not to win this last year but his fall in the John Durkan at Punchestown, gifting the race to Avrika Liggeoniere, was heavy and given I am not sure he would beat Bobs Worth anyway, I can overlook him.

So Bobs Worth is the selection at 5/2.  He will love conditions and I can overlook him a poor reappearance.  Lord Windermere is the one I am most concerned with.  The RSA is still a race I am reserving judgement on and so I think the favourite is the right call.

Solwhit, 4/7,  is good enough to beat his opponents even given the time he has been off.

Newbury – Challow Hurdle Day

I have a strong fancy in the Challow and it is an odd one because it is the outsider of 6 in Captain Cutter at 6/1.  Why the solid bet?  Well I actually quite like the form and despite the jumping being a bit squiffy last time, he, like others, is entitled to that sloppiness at this stage of his career and I do not hold it against him.  He has the ground form too – Have a lumpy one.  I rate Creepy as the main danger (also the longer of the prices) so clearly think this market is wrong.

I think Vukovar can keep Noel Fehily’s strong Christmas going with a win in the following race at odds on.  It is a fair weight difference he gets from Open Hearted.

I trust that you dine well and in the best of company and spirits.

Courage and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Fighting Fifth and Hennessy Day 50/1 Tip for the Hennessy

Good morning from the Major who writes from the lounge, baffled and tired.  The Worcestershire morning is calm and bland, cool and grey, it is dark now and peaceful, save for the odd car that trundles past outside.

Last weekend, my long-suffering comrade in arms, Martin Hill, was close to reclaiming many lost investments when the multiple I name in his honour came within a whisker of landing.  The first two legs of his trixie had landed and in the final race, Saved by John led, was headed at the last by Alasi and fought back famously to be denied by a quarter length.  Now that was exhilaratingly painful, an emotion us racing fans are familiar with.

This week, a few people have asked me for a Hennessy tip.  I have been giving them Our Father who up until last night was my fancy.  I have changed my mind (see below, I have a 50/1 Hennessy tip now!) but I stand that Our Father can be a contender if on one of his going days.

One of the reasons I liked Our Father is that I am sure he would be wound up for the race.  First of all it is the Hennessy so of course he will be but secondly, he was part owned by the legendary Johnson team and I could not help but feel that Pipe would love to win the race as tribute to the late David Johnson, a magnificent contributor to the sport and the Pipe yard.

That was speculation but it made me consider the life of David Johnson.  Reading about him , having never met him, he strikes me as a very nice sort of chap.  While manners can be afforded if you are stinking rich, they are not automatic, in fact some substitute money for common courtesy so it must be a compliment to say that money seemed not to pollute the man’s capacity for enjoying life and inspiring others around him to do so too.

Yet, I can assure you dear readers that a life of riches is not a necessity for your own personal contentment.  It helps but is not close to being the most important thing.  Consider the things you can buy and have bought.  How many were for show?  The Major confesses to be as weak here as well.  When spending money, the consideration is as much ‘how does this make me look’ or perhaps more accurately and very closely (as it is also based on the opinion of others ‘how does buying this make me feel’ than most practical considerations.  Otherwise brands would not work.

Epicurean wisdom dictates (and I entirely support) that the most important matter is friendship not wealth.  You need precious little to be happy.  Practice it today – Make a phone call to an old friend, invite them to something.  Instead of buying those nieces and nephews presents at Christmas, set up a day out with them.  You will find my friends that experience beats trinkets my friends.  Release yourself from the social need to demonstrate wealth.  Purchase for function.

Sport allows you to feel again.  Like sparks from the fire, dimming until the end, our lives are short vignettes in this planets great tome of life.  Allow sport, racing to illuminate for you.

Daub thy war paint young warrior and join me at the line, we shall skirmish in open formation into the enemies forward positions, smashing through with our heavy horse and setting upon them in close quarter….. Cry Shabash and raise that lance point, the blood staining but the silver glittering beneath.

Newbury Tips

Let us start with the Hennessy, a race that often throws up a Gold Cup winner, most notably in recent years with the likes of Bobs Worth and Denman.

The recent of Hennessy winners show two distinct winners profiles.  Either a decent chaser (135-150 Official Rating) can win it off a featherweight, or a top class chaser (160+) can bear the burden of top weight and see off the pretenders.   In the last fifteen years, the two Gold Cup winners mentioned are the only two horses that have won off a mark above 160.

The relationship between weight and official rating that creates the race make-up is complicated by the quality of the top rated horse that goes in.  When Denman won off a mark of 174, it was a remarkable achievement.  He may have been lucky and hit a year where a particular dearth of non-improvers constituted the field but no horse has won off a mark in the 170s before.  He had almost half the field outside of the handicap and only Mon Mome, a previous National winner was within a stone.

Paul Nicholls has an excellent Hennessy record having won three of the last ten renewals (twice with Denman of course).  Henderson has two wins in the same period.  Nicholls has one shot at the race this year in Rocky Creek who looks a thorough stayer and capable.   He, like many, has had no run this season but that is not a problem.  With the big races like this, the top stables can be relied upon to have their main charges well prepared.

No horse in the race is more interesting than Invictus.  He had the notable scalps of Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti in behind in the Reynoldstown, his last race in February 2012.  Given those horses are now rated 180 and 173,  if you could rely on a direct form line, his mark of 145 is a gift from god.

I do not think so much of Merry King, although anything Jonjo trains in a major handicap is impossible to dismiss.  Prince de Beauchene attempts to buck his trend of terrible luck – Having been laid out for to Grand Nationals only to fall to injury.  Lord Windermere will have many fans but since I do not rate the RSA form, I am not one of them.  Highland Lodge comes from the Lavelle yard which is firing on all cylinders… of some interest.  Loch Ba also is not without hope.

Hmmm, Invictus is highly interesting for me but so is Our Father.  I have been a fan of this horse since watching his absolutely slaughter a decent Cheltenham field – He took my eye as a really powerful traveller.  He is clearly decent fresh but has two ways of running.

Having dwelt on the subject for some time, I am settling on a rank outsider for the Hennessy.  My selection can currently be backed at 33/1 generally (though 25/1 in a place) and at a striking stand out 50/1 with Stan James.  I am talking about Opening Batsmen.  This is a horse I backed a couple of weeks ago at Ascot and was disappointed to see jump badly and be pulled up.  He is a second season chaser for Harry Fry who has a tremendous Newbury record, we also get the significant benefit of Noel Fehily too.  The horse also has some excellent form.  He is in here off 146 but last season have a good beating to Rolling Aces who has franked the form and won again, now on a mark of 153.  There may well be more persuasive and obvious claims but I am quite happy to be on this fella at 50s…. Have a slice.

I have always felt that Reve de Sivola was a World Hurdle winner in the absence of a decent in-form rival – That is probably being very harsh but I fully expect At Fishers Cross to give a sound hiding and even at 4/5 I want to be involved.

The listed hurdle opener is a cracking affair and while Vicky De L’Oasis was an impressive Wexford winner for the in form Mullins team, I am opting for Free Thinking who races in the Waley-Cohen colours.  The thing is that my selection was also impressive when winning a lesser affair (at Ludlow) smashing Koolala and eased.  Koolala went on to frank that form winning a Uttoxeter bumper on Thursday.

The Fighting Fifth

The ground for the Fighting Fifth is good this year after last year they swam it.  This is a race where a hot favourite can get turned over and here the market is hugely centred on two, My Tent or Yours and Melodic Rendevouz.

Melodic Rendevouz was very good when beating my selection Key West at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle, readily picking up Far West, a Nicholls horse who ran no sort of race when out again last weekend.  My Tent or Yours is a Champion Hurdle protagonist who won the Betfair Hurdle and I thought was unlucky in the Supreme where Champagne Fever had first run on him.  To be fair, he had every chance in the festival race but was unable to pick up the winner on the hill.

The filly in the race is of some interest having won a listed race on reappearance.  The Cockney Sparrow gets weight from all of her rivals and represents last years winning trainer.   A small case might be made for Grumeti but the rest are rounding up the field.

So how do we split these key players?  The ground might help, The Cockney Sparrow has won on it, My Tent or Yours and Melodic Rendevouz have never raced on it.  The former is out of a Sire whose progeny have only 1 win from 36 starts on the ground.  While it is thin evidence, it does trouble me a bit.  Add in the obvious fitness advantage of Melodic Rendevouz and I prefer the second favourite.

On a strict line of form with Champagne Fever, who Melodic Rendevouz faced back in 2012, then My Tent or Yours has the beating.  This means I must think MR has improved or has conditions in favour and I think both of those things to be true.  A leveler is jockey bookings as I would far rather have McCoy in the saddle than Schofield.  Not that I am against the latter, who has a great record with the horse(5/6), but class counts.  Melodic Rendevouz it is at 5/2 (1/4 in places).  Cockney Sparrow is an each way steal at 9/1.

There are a host of young improvers queuing up to have a pop at Oscar Rock in the 1.05.  I am interested in Five in a Row who beat a decent horse The Last Samuri who has gone on to win again when stepped up in trip.  That form is OK but off-putting is the recent Ellison National Hunt form which shows 1 winner from 20 runners.  I am instead opting for Ballyaton who also looks useful and comes with the benefit of proven good ground form (2 runs, 2 wins).  He also handed a drubbing to Key to the West last season and that reads well with that horse winning twice this term already.

In the opener, I am more confident of the chances of Green Flag at 10/11.  I have no doubt that Streams of Whiskey could be a threat but while he was 3l down to my pick, when falling at the last, he was travelling the lesser of the two (although he had made earlier errors).  He needs a clean round of jumping and these fences will be a real test.

In the football, Walsall (8/11), QPR (7/10) and Wolves (6/4) are my selections in a tasty treble.

The Martin Hill multiple is simple… Opening Batsmen, Free Thinking and Meledic Rendevouz in an each way trixie.

I hope you enjoy a dinner in the finest of company.  Allow yourself a draw on the best brandy they have… we float by the once and must grasp anything which we enjoy.  This is not the practice round, this is it.

Courage, roll those dice.

Racing Tips from Warwick, Punchestown and Kempton… Shoreditch and ageing… It is the Saturday Sermon

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a rural Worcestershire scene where the rain comes in waves, relentlessly driving against my windows.  The sense of things coming to a close is palpable.

Before we get started, a new year deserves a new banner.  I would like your ideas please – Leave a comment, greatly appreciated.

I have been in London these last two days, spending a night in a Limehouse apartment that only the Major could have found. I have a talent for unearthing unusual digs, mostly it happens by accident but I never complain.  These were particularly spacious, in fact cavernous, clean and cheap as chips.  When I say cheap, I infer both the frugal nature of the furnishings as well as the bill. All in all, different.

This morning as I walked down Commercial Road to the DLR heading to Bank to start the business of the day, Canary Wharf was draped in cloud.  St Paul’s Cathedral by contrast was brilliant, a true architectural brute, clean white walls, dominant imposition.

On Thursday night, myself and a colleague entertained at dinner in Shoreditch. Decent restaurant, very nice lamb.  Shoreditch carries that reputation of being ‘trendy’ and ‘edgy’. It is successful too if you take the eye watering property prices as a guide.  The area made the Major feel old.

I shall try to explain.  There is more than a dash of excitement immersing yourself in an area with such energy…. Open doors on ambiguous frontages with bouncers are they clubs, art installations or brothels. Who knows, dare try it? The people walking alongside you lack convention in their clothes, hair, tattoos, limps, accessories – each striving to impose their stamp of individuality.

It draws mixed emotions from the Major.  I must be getting old because historically I only have a love for such environs but now I feel a creeping sense of unease.  It is for younger men to tread these streets warily, searching for adventure. I wish to plough for my enjoyment in more serene and stable settings.

There you have it, the words of someone recognising their formerly voracious appetites are in part receding like their hairline.  Each man becomes his father in time but none like to acknowledge it. Well I recognise and embrace ageing, I welcome it as a friend, wondering what gifts it might bestow – As long as it allows me to retain an eye for mischief, then I do not mind.

So what has changed?  Why feel a difference?

Shoreditch, in fact trendiness, tries too hard for its own good.  Everything has to be quirky, laid back, informal, unorthodox…. Every business has to have an angle, everyone and everything desperately trying to distinguish themselves as out of the main stream… It’s tiring.  ‘I don’t care it’s different’ loses appeal when the irony motivation is omnipresent, the new abnormal here is normal.  Gimmicks.

Live Music is compulsory for any establishment in Shoreditch that could conceivably be a venue.  I knew none of the bands advertised and think they were only of local acclaim.   If you feel the urge to set up a four piece bassoon ensemble in the neighbourhood, then allow me to furnish you with a few suggestions of my own…. Slippery Monkfish, Smells from the Cheeseboard, Underworld Botanicals, Mongrel Palace III, Swans of Justice or Prisoner of Slippers. You can have those for free, let me know how you get on.

I must offer a nod to the writer of this article about Dorothy Paget.  A ferocious woman whose appetites for life ran to extremes that we can only admire.  She bet in eye watering sums and took no fools.  Have a little read and if you like, follow the author on twitter @srumblings.

Saturdays sporting delights are laid before us and before we dine, we must acknowledge our gratitude. Fine football, delightful racing….. Let us go into battle with a clear mind and meet the enemy with 5 rounds a man…. Charge thy musket, sharpen thy sword. Fill your heart with vigour, tonight we shall be thankful for the clarity of thought that helped us land the mothership.

We are here, at the cusp.  All of our dreams are intact, no thought unproven… It is a beautiful moment, feel that tension.

To the sports….

 Racing Tips from Warwick

Warwick have a terrific day of racing.  It is a tight little course and experience of something similar can be valuable.  As well as chase fences, these novices have to handle the tight turns, lot’s of momentum can be lost so an easy-going sort is useful.  Let us see if we can find some winners.

The opening race is not a place to look, I like novice races but this handicap hurdle looks a very open contest.  Keep your powder dry.

The second is the Edward Courage cup and is a decent affair.  George Nympton is interesting having won over course and distance last time.  Maybe the shorter distance helped, maybe the assistance of Noel Fehily (the Majors favourite), of interest kept to the minimum trip.  Nick Williams does not send many to Warwick and it has a likely chance.

Eastlake has also been prolific over the minimum distance having won 3 of 4 starts over two miles.  I don’t quite trust the animal but clearly there is some ability.

The Majors tip though is the highly progressive Rody at 9/2, Bet365.  The Tome George yard are in fine nick and my selection won over Christmas with plenty in hand.

The 1.50 is a staying event.  The field is small but select.

Two outstanding bits of form stand out.  The Major and my betting slip on Our Father were slammed by Highland Lodge who provided a turn up at Cheltenham.  Rocky Creek overcame a decent Henderson yardstick in Molotof last time out.  Those lines are good and I look forward to the two clashing tomorrow.

Tour Des Champs appeals most of the others although it is hard to know what to make of his Ludlow form.

Of the principles, while it is a tough call, I am siding with the Cheltenham form of Highland Lodge and suggest a slice at 6/4.

The Pertemps qualifier is full of chasing big guns reverting to light hurdle marks.  You can make cases for too many for me to have a strong bet.  I will take a small slab of Sunnyhillboy at 25/1 (Bet365) to have an interest – The national runner up gets in off 140 only.

I am eagerly awaiting the 3pm race in which exciting hurdler The New One finally gets on track.  If he is to take a leading role in one of the championship novice affairs then he needs to take this.  Evens is a kind price.

The 3.35 sees another cracker because Pete The Feat, seemingly the Hunt Ball of the season gets to try out his new mark.  He has gone up three stone since his first run but deservedly so and the way in which he pulled clear at Newbury last time suggests more is coming.  On soft ground trying to lead around this tight track could be tough.

Restless Harry is another that likes to race prominently and if the two are taking each other on, it might fall into the hands of Rigadin de Beachene.  The tip gets a very handy pull in the weights and I think 6/1 is fair enough.  I will be having an each way saver on 11/1 shot Quentin Collonges too who looks unexposed.

Punchestown Tip – 2.10 Juvenile Hurdle

The two Mullins horses seem to be good starting points.  The yard took this race last year with 1/4 shot Ut de Sivola and field two French imports in the shape of Diakala and Dogora.

The former in the market and in the betting looks the yards idea of the winner and also carries a Triumph entry.

While I might kick myself later, I am going to back the grey Diakala as a result of that, overriding the fact that I was slightly more taken with Dogoras appearance.  Evens is a decent price for my Punchestown tip and it shall be in my multiples.

Kempton – The Lanzarote.

Before we tackle the Lanzarote, consider following Lunique in the opener (likely evens) – With Hendersons French import a non runner I take my tip to smash them up!

In the 1.30 novice affair, I am a supporter of Bucks Bond at 9/2.  The market vibes were all wrong at Taunton but he won anyway.  This is a strapping chaser of the future but is a decent price to get his was again here.

In the Lanzarote, the two Henderson horses top the market.  Clearly Bears Affair has some obvious credentials but I am not sure of why Geraghty would be on Oscara Dara.

Charlie Longsden runs Loose Chips who looks progressive but Noel Fehily went to Warwick which might suggest something.

I am going with Henderson and Geraghty is the persuader – Have a slice of 5/1 Oscara Dara, the Lanzarote is often won by a horse near the head of affairs…

To the football…

All aboard the football money train stopping at Hull (4/6), Charlton (19/10), Cardiff (7/10), Leicester (3/4) and Tranmere (11/8) – Trebles on this lot please.

The Martin Hill Yankee is The New One, Highland Lodge, Rody and Charlton

May your dinner be wholesome and in good spirit.  Allow yourself to imbibe a little too much, we float by the once.

Courage and roll those dice.

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.