Tag Archives: houblon des obeaux

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.

The Saturday Sermon – Wetherby, Sandown and Ffos Las Tips

Good Evening from a rural Worcestershire where the lukewarm and damp day hastily retreats to the advancing coolness of the night.

One follower has been adding some detailed comments to the Cheltenham Antepost pages.  I recommend a read of the comments left at the bottom of this page by Mr Freer…. rather insightful, much more than the Major’s recent contributions, in fact…

Why are you here?  Seeking tips?  Are you feeling OK?  It is only fair that, if you have stumbled here for the first time, that you are warned of recent fortunes.  Mala tempora currunt.

Last weekend the Major experienced a Black Saturday.  I managed to get two odds on shots beaten in The New One and Irish Saint as well as coming down on the wrong side in the Reve de Sivola v Oscar Whisky battle and generally blundering, in person,  around Cheltenham racecourse like some wounded blinded beast, wailing and waving fistfuls of notes randomly in some vain failed attempt to find something meaningful to ease the pain.

Instead losses rolled on relentlessly, remorselessly… trundling on, irrespective of any remedial actions, I was  merely the incidental cost, the beast cares not.

I hope you avoided the clutches.  Sadly 400 innocent civilians read those tips I posted last week, let us pray that each attained salvation by abstention.

Yet also remember that failure teaches us more than victory.  In the throes of splendour we seldom seek the truth.  It is more likely that we accept our spoils without questioning the logic of whether they were earned or garnered through wind of fortune.

Yet losses invoke a different emotion, one that demands self-examination.  For example, why did you ignore the fact that AP McCoy was slimming down for the ride on Mr Watson?  Why indeed….

So, some good comes from the loss, as Milton would say, a silver lining to our sable cloud.  Losses keep us sharp, they are our gambling friends.

What, I hear you cry, that’s just something failed tipsters say… You are probably right.  Yet, you are also here, drawn back to the light, hungry for the elixir, joining me to find the mothership.   Do you lack logic or do you have an abundance of loyalty?  I hope it is the latter, have faith that we will be rewarded. Adeste Fideles.

To the sports, and let us be rewarded today – We need victories in these battles to pad our Cheltenham War Chests.  We have taken the Queens salt, we will suppress the mutiny… miles gloriosus

2.05 Ffos Las – Welsh Champion Hurdle

The Welsh version of the Champion Hurdle is a limited handicap over two and a half miles and so bears little resemblance to the Cheltenham show-piece in just six weeks time.

Oscara Dara arrives looking a danger to all having won the Lanzarote last time out for Henderson.  Off top weight, this will take some getting but the calamitous hurdling at the last at Kempton suggested that a mere stone raise in the weights might be no problem with a clean round of jumping.  There to be shot at.

Balder Succes has excuses for some of his runs and has potentially more to give. Yet I am not certain heavy ground will bring out the best in this one.

Double Ross is arguably in the handicappers grip now but if you overlook the last run over a trip that was too short, then his earlier form was impressive.  An each way consideration now back up in trip.

The Major though is going to tip Tanerko Emery for the Welsh Champion Hurdle.  He handled a hefty burden when winning across the Irish Sea over two miles.  That day he gave the impression that further was needed and he gets the extra distance here.  He is two from two on heavy ground and the ownership needs noting too.  Dai Walters owns both the horse and the track and you have to think this was the plan all along with Tanerko… have a slice at 7/2, meaty enough to tickle your sense of adventure, tempered enough to acknowledge the danger of Oscara Dara.

3.10 Novice Chase Ffos Las

The early price of 9/4 about Benheir seems a bit of value in this four runner affair.  My tip has always run pretty well at Ffos Las and while he failed to impress in a graded race at Warwick, he made a terrible mistake in the early hustle and never recovered, easily forgiven.  Curtis and McCoy team up for the owners of Teaforthree, have a slice.

3.20 Wetherby – The Towton Novices

The last twelve runnings of the Towton have gone to short price horses, bar the victory of 14/1 Heltornic in 2007.  Ian Williams has won the last two runnings but has no runner today.

This race is wide open and with just seven runners, feels like one the Major can crack.

Super Duty has one of the most impressive pieces of form with a second to the Arkle dominator Simonsig.  He is in good hands.

Fourjacks is taking a sizable step up in trip and grade and is highly interesting.  Brian Harding has an excellent record for the yard too.

Houblon des Obleaux is an unlikely runner.

Goulanes though looks the fly in the ointment for all.  This horse is crying out for proper fences to jump but has made a decent hurdler none the less.  Decent points experience and a flat course on proper chasing ground is likely to be exactly what he needs and he gets the Majors vote at a general 3/1.

Sandown Tips

Sandown host a card of chases including the Scilly Isles where Captain Conan faces a penalty kick ahead of his main seasonal objectives at Cheltenham.

In the 3.35, Brackloon High is well fancied by Mr Freer but although I see the attraction, I prefer the chances of both Summery Justice and Keppols Hill.  The latter will be all the rage sporting the fancy connections but I think his jumping might not stand the test of the track as well in this company.  My tip has a slightly shaky profile having been off the track for some time but he is being entered back at a level suggesting that Venetia Williams has high hopes.  There is a risk he goes to Ffos Las.

To the football…

Charlton are overpriced at Palace in the South London derby, 7/2 is too big in a game that will be closer than that.

Watford are a shade odds on to beat Bolton at home and I am a buyer.  Watford have been my money train team and despite a derailing at Bristol City, I am still all aboard.  In the week, Zola rested six first team players including the talisman up front, Vydra… get stuck in.

QPR are also a shade odds on to beat Norwich at home.  This is a decent price as Arry starts to work his magic again.  Whatever you think about his style of management and propensity to drain resources from overwhelmingly generous owners, he gets a team playing.

Swansea continue to be grossly underestimated.  23/10 to beat West Ham is a big price.  I thought Swansea were very unlucky not to take all three points from Sunderland who held on grimly.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is: Swansea, Goulanes, Tankerko Emery and Benheir…

May your dinner be glorious, in a small restaurant, run by people who care about the service they give.  A small but select menu of delights, clean crisp white table cloths and a river running close by.  Ah, I can picture it vividly in my mind.

Courage, roll those dice. memento mori.