Tag Archives: hunt ball

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.

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Cheltenham Day Three Tips – World Hurdle Thursday, Ryanair, Jewson… The awesome Aeroplane and another day sober in paradise

Good evening from the Major who writes from another bitterly cold Worcestershire which sports a biting wind.  The temperature remains cold enough to numb the touch and add a dull ache to knee and ankle joints.  The only antidote is the warming effect of winners and champions.

The former I had a couple of.  Only a couple and I am in no doubt that day two belonged to the enemy.

The latter we were blessed with, in fact we saw a new legend.  Sprinter Sacre was breath-takingly good.  He beat a Champion Chase field by 19 lengths, hard held.  The commentator summed it up suggesting that this steeplechaser was sent from celestial heavens… who could argue with that.  No doubt, we have a star and let us hope he remains centre stage for many years.

On Tuesday, I left the racecourse by the bottom car park and spent 90 minutes queuing.  Thus in a planned change of operational procedure, tonight I parked in town and walked, a test and learn.  It certainly was easier and it gave me the pleasure of a post-racing stroll through Pittville and across the park to my car.  It was all most pleasant but the trappings of the festival that you witness on this journey remain etched in my mind, as these things will.

The girls handing out cards for gentleman’s clubs look very different through the eyes of a sober man.  The language is the same… the use of the word ‘guys’ in a voice straining to suggest familiarity.  They aim to make the groups of men who average twenty years their senior comfortable, as though they are conversing in normal circumstances.  That level of performance though must tire and something in their body language, the slope of shoulder, the curl of a lip hides a disdain for the work.  It is cold and you can see it in their eyes.

Do not take me as a prude by the way.  I am a believer that consenting adults are perfectly able to choose what they want to do without my views and whatever contracts are struck are for those parties alone.  In fact I am generally in favour of skullduggery.  I just prefer it a bit more refined.

Sadly for the Major, Taquin Du Seuil did not win the Neptune.  I did not pass go, I did not collect significantly more than 200.  Still, the dream itself was worthwhile.  There will be another time.

We go into Thursday with our war chest intact.  Early exchanges have been searching, exploratory forays to test defences and reactions.  I almost fell into the trap of backing Coral Cup and Fred Winter horses with conviction, pure folly and I kept my losses sensible… The enemy allowed me fancy prices about Mullins Jnr and Nina Carberry in the amateur riders…  I took them.

The next two days could be taken easily, too concerned with the fear of loss to try to be glorious.  No, not for us, we know what we must do…  Read on only if you are prepared to come with me and face the abyss.  Fearless.

To Cheltenham…. load the heavy cannons, stand broad and tall.

The Jewson

Dynaste cost me a fortune when defecting from the RSA to the Jewson and I am not sure it was a great call.  His previous Feltham win was very strong defeating Third Intention and generally looking very good.  This is also my issue with Dynaste – He has only won one of four starts at Cheltenham and we know it is a specialist track

I think the RSA field was weaker and today he faces Captain Conan, a horse I can easily forgive a more lacklustre display at Sandown when winning latest.  That day he clearly was not himself but still finished well on the hill to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  He was not right that day and he is reported much better now – I think a 13/2 punt (Paddy Power) is in order.

Aupcharlie has looked an immensely powerful traveller who has not always found much off the bridle.  Interesting but overlooked.

The Pertemps Final

Look, let us keep this really simple.  When Paul Nicholls describes a handicap mark as a ‘gift from God’, one should sit up and pay attention.  Sam Winner heads the market at 9/2 and I think it is well worth backing.  He has won twice at Cheltenham from four visits so the track holds no fears.  His Triumph race was interesting, while only fourth, he was staying on at the end.  He has beaten Grandouet and been within half a dozen lengths of Zarkander.  That makes a mark of just 140 very manageable.. I have to agree with his trainer.

The Pertemps is often won by a more experienced handicapper.  Maybe that is a reflection of the rigours of a big field.

If you like one at a price, Ely Brown at 20/1 does look a tad tasty.  Sam Winner for me.

The Ryanair

The quality of the Ryanair is superb this year as the Aeroplane scared people into stepping up half a mile in trip.

First Lieutenant is favourite and most argue that his form finishing in a heap with Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and Tidal Bay is also key to the Gold Cup.  The Major remains unconvinced.  It is the presence of Tidal Bay that bothers me.  First Lieutenant is a top horse, he was a superb hurdler beating Rock on Ruby and showed promise as a novice hurdler.  Yet his last win was 9 starts back.  I know he has not been disgraced in any run since but I am always nervous with horses with bad strike rates no matter what their form lines.

Most people will be a fan of the favourite because of the stamina doubts of Cue Card based on a poor King George effort.  I don’t think that day had anything to do with stamina, I think he just had a bad day… it happens.

Champion Court has a lot of plusses but for me lacks the requisite je ne sais quoi.

No… Cue Card.. 7/2… smash it.

The World Hurdle

Reve de Sivola and Oscar Whisky are surely the key starting points in the World Hurdle.

Many had the latter down as a non stayer but I was never convinced about that and his last run at Cheltenham surely put pay to it.  I think he will be fitter for the effort and on much much better ground, he will have the measure of Reve de Sivola in my opinion.

My betting strategy is going to be clouded by the presence of Bog Warrior.  He is my favourite horse in training.  Top hurdle form looked like it might transfer to fences but some major jumping errors have seen them convert the horse back to hurdles and he has been awesome ever since.  If you want to see why I love the horse so much, have a look at the Drinmore he won on Youtube.  His style is head in chest, bowling along… How can you not love him?  He will carry a significant sum of the Majors wedge for that reason alone…

Yet my advice to you all is Oscar Whisky at 7/2.

The Bryne Group Plate

Sorry to be boring but I cannot get away from Ballynagour, 4/1.  The performance it put in suggested that we have missing a lot while he has been lightly raced.

Hunt Ball is eased back into handicap level and his mark may well be passable.  He won this off just over a stone lighter last year but is a class horse.

I cannot get away from the Pipe horse though… Join the money train.

The Kim Muir

The stakes here must be kept to a minimum as the puzzle is vast and the traps numerous.

There are only 5 horses in the vast field though that have won at Cheltenham and that is not a bad angle to take into this.  Super Duty, Prince of Pirates, Swing Bill, Galaxy Rock and Alfie Sherrin should all cope with the decent ground.

I put a line through Swing Bill because although some of his form is working out well, he is 12 and I do not like it.  Jumping puts me off Prince of Pirates but a clean round equals danger for all in my view.

The Major struck well in the John Oaksey by suggesting that the jockey in these amateur races is vital.  This brings other horses into contention too including Vesper Bell and Romanesco.

Class horses have no problems lumping weight around the Kim Muir so Super Duty and my selection should be fine if they have the minerals.  I am sticking with the boy who got the job done for us on Back in Focus…. Patrick Mullins is aboard Vesper Bell.. That one has placed form at the top level and the Irish National trial he competed in has worked out OK.  There is every reason to be excited about 16/1 so have a large slice and berate me later for being so interested in a horse in a ridiculously tricky handicap.

The Cross Country

Go back two days to see the reasoning for Arabella Boy to win the Cross Country.

Courage, roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Trials Day Tips | Leopardstown | FA Cup… Shabash and load those cannons

Good evening from the Major who writes relaxing, from the lounge. The television was proving a poor distraction, action was taken, a button pressed. Now silence envelops me in a soft bubble, occasionally punctuated by a car passing by, tyres kissing the dark wet tarmac. Thinking time.

Worcestershire feels unclean. Lumps of white snow whose edges are diminishing fast cling to the landscape, lit up by the passing lights, starved of their icy fuel, unable to fight off the rising temperatures, slowing eating themselves. Soon teh land will be free again.

Cheltenham, racing, it is on. Shabash. The Major is looking forward to entertaining friends on course. I suspect a crowd of good racing folk will be there, starved of recent action, craving the goodness that floweth at the Prestbury Park cup.

We are incredibly blessed with a day at National Hunt HQ that is as good as trials day ever recorded. The moving of the Victor Chandler Chase bought Sprinter Sacre to the card and even the loss of Bobs Worth did little to tarnish the sheer quality jumping off the pages.

Such riches… There is a buddhist parable of heaven and hell which suggests that the two after-lifes have little in common. A feast in each is laid before you and in hell you are furnished with just one long chopstick, frustration ensues as you are unable to feed with it. In heaven, the same feast and the same apparatus are present but each man feeds his neighbour. Sounds uncomfortable at best.

The moral point is not lost on tomorrow though. Racing is such a richness, how the heart pumps, that rising feeling as your horse turns up that Cheltenham hill, behind but plugging on and you just know it is a long way home and you have a chance…. The smells, the magnificent beasts, the sights… we are lucky to live in such times as these, Sprinter Sacre, Puffin Billy… tomorrow we dine on the feasts that racing has given us.

As the parable teaches too, we cannot do this alone, so enjoy it in company. Join the conversation on twitter (@tdl123) and while you are online, have a little look at this tribute song to Campbell Gillies who tragically died on holiday last year. The song is nice enough and features the jockey winning on Brindisi Breeze at last years festival.

When the tapes go up on this years Albert Bartlett, many will be casting a thought back to Campbell charging up the hill holding off Boston Bob in last years contest. Who would have thought it possible that two such bright young things would be dead before the summer was out. We float by on this river just the once.

Enjoy Cheltenham tomorrow, savour these times and be lucky. The Trials day is a fantastic taster of what is to come.

The Major has started recording his antepost thoughts for Cheltenham. Have a read when you get a chance, so far I have covered the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

I feel able to claim that I am in reasonable touch over the last month, a small spell on the sidelines this week hopefully has done me good. I have been known to go well fresh and so today, returning from a break, here I am at your disposal.

Daub thy war paint, load the light cannon, prepare the mortars, the enemy comes from below to attempt to breach our line, we are dug in well on the ridge though. We shall fire mortar but dropping shot from above is difficult to gauge… if it comes to it, we shall engage them man to man with 5 cartridges each and bayonets fixed and glistening their evil reflections.

To the sports…

Cheltenham Trials Day Tips

The going is soft but it might be odd ground. The covers have been on all week so the top might be loose. Fresh rain is forecast too so it might get tacky. I am erring on proper soft ground sorts.

What a feast of action we have, eight races, six of them graded… let us sharpen our minds.

12.10 Grade 2 Triumph Trial

Irish Saint is currently 6/4 and I fancy him to go off a lot shorter after an impressive Kempton win last time out. Soft underfoot conditions have already proven no problem.

The race is marked by the absence of an Alan King runner. He has run the race in 5 of the last 7 runnings all with horses of 2/1 and under.

Rolling Star has to be the biggest eye-catching entry, while it is hard to rate the French form, Henderson does not throw darts at races like this and so despite an incredibly tough introduction to British hurdles, he is respected.

Of the others, Knight of Pleasure makes appeal. He could not have won more convincingly on debut at Sandown and the Moore yard are in fine form – A tremendous piece of each way value at 14/1 with Stan James.

On balance though, the Major feels that Nicholls has a good one on his hands in Irish Saint and at 6/4 generally, I think this evenings prices are the one to take.

12.40 Cheltenham Novice Chase

Radjhani Express gave Sam Waley-Cohen the first of two winners on the Kempton boxing Day card. His rise in the weights and dubious style at the obstacles are enough to put me off.

McMurrough has terrific form on the Northern circuit, winning two handicaps but this is a long way from Wetherby, interesting.

Gullinbursti has looked just short of class on a few occasions a dirty scope on the middle of three runs was an excuse but I am not convinced a tough track like Cheltenham is what he needs.

Venetia Williams stable jockey Aidan Coleman has opted for Renard D’Irlande over Benny Mist who was a last time winner in a small field at Taunton.

Johns Spirit at 5/1 (Boylesports) is the tentative choice for the Jonjo / McCoy partnership. He looks consistent enough and a small stake is advised as plenty of others could improve.

Sizing Santiago is the other that help some interest off a massive 14/1 but he is merely one of a few that persuade me to keep stakes on the selection low.

1.15 Grade 3 Handicap

Nadiya De La Vega has run well at Cheltenham but has a habit of getting worse as the season progresses.

Bless the Wings is a talented animal and this is the right time of the season to catch it but I fear the ground may be against the King horse.

Katenko looks a very tasty favourite at 4/1, the French import to the Williams yard is a powerful looking horse and this sort of contest may bring better.

I am opting though for the horse with a fantastic winning habit, Bold Sir Brian. My tip, smacks a few fences but the way he put away Pacha Du Polder and his penchant for softer conditions bodes very well. Have a meaty slice and thank me later.

Tips for the Victor Chandler Chase

Sprinter Sacre… The Aeroplane…. His judgement cometh and that right soon.

2.25 Argento Chase Tip

It is a shame that Bobs Worth is a non runner in the contest, it would have been fantastic to get another look at the Gold Cup favourite. However, as long as Tidal Bay stays in, we have a proper race on our hands here.

I must be the only National Hunt fan not to be that taken with the whole Lexus form. My own Gold Cup thoughts revolve around Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.

Grand Crus is starting to look like a list of excuses but that said they look valid. The wind op was a response to his poor efforts at Cheltenham and then he went well in the King George before blowing up, he arguably will strip fitter for that.

Imperial Commander will have his fans as a twelve-year-old former Gold Cup winner but not for the Major.

Midnight Chase won this last year but the creeping years and a tougher field might make a repeat bid a failing one, but he does love it round here.

Others with strong track form include Weird Al, Little Josh and Wayward Al.

The whole race feels like a weigh up between the older sorts out for a last hoorah and a few younger animals bidding to be better. Hunt Ball is one of those but I think his improving is done.

It is a younger chaser I am opting for though and it is Grand Crus that represents the value pick at 5/1. He can improve for his recent shows and will surely play a role.

3.00 The Novice Hurdle

At Fishers Cross has good handicap form and Coneygree looks like he has some of his half-brother Carruthers talent but neither appeal as much as The New One. Two and a half miles around Cheltenham looks a nice warm up for the Neptune after the tip destroyed a Warwick field last time. That race fell apart but there was no doubt over the ease in which the winner did his business.

Whisper is a potential fly in the ointment, the Henderson inmate could be anything but against a proven class animal, I am sticking with the New One.

3.35 The Cleeve Hurdle

It is the day that keeps on giving. The 3.35 is the Cleeve Hurdle, a race that sees Oscar Whiskey test his World Hurdle credentials with Reve de Sivola taking him on. He needs to win this to put to be the stamina concerns to bed ahead of the festival.

Reve de Sivola beat a good yard stick in Smad Place (placed in last years World Hurdle) last time at Ascot and that was an excellent effort coming back from a break.

Kauto Stone is starting to look tricky and Crack Away Jack owes me too much to contemplate.

I am sticking with 13/8 shot Oscar Whisky (Hills) who has the best Cheltenham record of the lot.

4.10 – The Lucky Last

Dildar to get me out of trouble at 9/2.

Leopardstown Tips

Just in case you are not drowning in the quality of the Cheltenham card, Leopardstown offer some excellent racing too.

Sadly only three go to post in the Arkle Novice which Avrika Ligeonniere should take at prohibitive 4/6 odds.

9/4 Marito for the same connections can make it a profitable day in the 2.15, one I very much like.

In the big handicap, 9/1 Carlingford Lough with Slippers aboard is my tip.

Football Tips

QPR 4/6, Wigan 4/7 and Hull 4/5 are an FA Cup treble.

Bournemouth 8/11 and Tranmere 23/10 are my league one picks.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Bold Sir Brian, Oscar Whisky, Irish Saint and Tranmere.

May your dinner be paid for by a trixie which made your wallet bulge. The company delectable.

Courage, roll those dice.

December 27th – Kempton and Leopardstown Tips – keep the Christmas winners rolling!

Good evening from the major who writes from the armchair of the living room, stuffed full of Christmas gammon, my body groans.

The rain is persistent and dark outside, best not venture out. Instead wallow in the digital glow of an online account bigger than twelve hours previous.

Forgive some gloating but I was fairly pleased with my King George write up. As well as tipping the winner, I strongly hinted at Captain Chris and my staking plan matched. Winners from Dynaste and Spurs helped and a late night top up on Stoke was the icing. Lovely.

Christmas is all about excess and tomorrow, our already brimming vessels will have more goodness carelessly splashed into them. I say careless because it is hard to keep up. Some of the jockeys riding today, I simply did not recognise. There was no way I was ever going to have the most rudimentary understanding of how the Sedgefield or Market Rasen cards might shape.

I am used to scanning every race, every day of the year. Often you get a sixth sense for a card you like. Sometimes the Grade 1, sometimes the class 6 £1900 Wolverhampton seller. With this many meetings, it is hard to do that which makes me uneasy.

Still, while the finest cuts are being presented at our table and I am distracting you with my own psychological flaws, you must forgive my rudeness, let us look closely at what is presented to us and rise up as one against the enemy…

To the racing.

Kempton Tips

The French listed form of Irish Saint and the Ditcheat record of handling these French imports means there is only one possible bet for me in the opener, Nicholls has a good record in this race.

I cannot find a bet in the second. Certainly the Arkle favourite Simonsig should win but in these conditions and conceding the best part of a stone to Hinterland (no mug), I can’t be on at 1/6.

In the mares handicap at 1.30, I am backing Bunglasha Lady who looks progressive. Her last run suggested she is a bit of an awkward customer but she handles soft and has a reasonable weight to lug around. Over the distance, this will take a lot of getting and if she can be switched off, I would be surprised if she was not involved. Swincombe Flame is an obvious danger as is the Henderson improver, One Lucky Lady.

The Peterborough

The 2.05 is the twice rearranged Peterborough Chase. It is an interesting and difficult race to tip because none of the horses have won in heavy ground.

For Non Stop missed his King George assignment to take part in this and he will be the stopping point for many, particularly as he tried hard to give weight away to Captain Chris last time out who went on to greater things in the King George. I have two main concerns, one is his record going right handed and the other is the heavy ground.

Hunt Balls heroics seem to be fading fast but it might be a bit early to write this one off. His soft ground form is strong.

Menorah may be stretched and is a dicey prospect. French Opera is not my type and certainly doesn’t feel the sort to be improving now.

No on balance, the Peterborough Chase tip is Hunt Ball who has form measuring close to the best with these. Having looked so straight forward last season, I am willing to draw a line through the seasonal reappearance and assume well being. 6/1 with Paddy Power.

The Desert Orchid Chase

This should be quite simple from the Majors point of view, it all revolves around the two defeated adversaries of Sprinter Sacre from the Tingle Creek and the useful if a little quirky Wishfull Thinking.

Sanctuaire finished in front of Wishfull Thinking last season and is fine on soft ground. Having recently been beaten by Kumbeshwar and now having to concede another 4lbs to that rival it might be surprising to find it is my tip for the Desert Orchid.

Kumbeshwar is probably underrated overall and probably the Tingle Creek was a very big step forward on previous form. Anyone who watched the race though knows the cost Sanctuaire paid for asking the questions of Sprinter ‘The Aeroplane’ Sacre. Much more sensible tactics will be applied here as there is no one of the Aeroplanes’ quality here. Evens…. Fill your boots and thank me later.

Other Kempton Tips

In the 3.15, I am tipping a small wager on Mister Hyde who will like conditions and showed a likeable attitude latest. Jonjo and Maguire is an interesting partnership and maybe we can expect a little more from this 11/2 shot.

In the last, my advice is, take a pin, drop it in, rip your selection out of the paper, go to a bookmaker on course, screw the paper up and set fire to it, eat any remaining ashes. Look bookmaker in the eye, about heel and leave. I just saved you some money.

Leopardstown Dial a Bet and Future Novices Grade 1’s

Two good races in Ireland for us to consider.

The Dial a Bet features Sizing Europe who is a 2/5 shot but should murder this lot. Possibly the ground is a bit slow but the shorter distance will balance. I really fancied Sizing Europe for the King George, this is a top class horse and I would be surprised if any of these can land a blow on him.

In the Future Novices, Waaheb and Sizing Rio both have plenty of potential, with the former a very exciting sort. However, Jezki is possibly the best Harrington prospect for some time and I think this one is set for the top, I am backing it at 5/4 and in a quick fire double with Sizing Europe.

Good luck and roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Paddy Power Meeting Tips including a 22/1 mothership and a 20/1 Paddy Power tip

Good Evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire rural scene of cold wintery showers blustering outside the bay windows of my living room.

The Major had a poor day at the first day of the Open meeting at Cheltenham. A very decent second for my 16/1 shot was the sole return from the six races which started with a comprehensive defeat for Fingal Bay…. I was talking up this horse all morning to anyone that would listen and offer my humble apologies to each of you for having the misfortune to listen.

I have had an entire week of being unable to sleep. Poor diet? I don’t know but the thoughts swirling in my mind, occupying the peaceful parts with their noisy clumsiness. Tiredness and defeat. I feel cloaked in the stuff, choking my movement, I yearn to break the shackles.

Continuous sleep deprivation is deeply unsettling yet interesting as equal to uncomfortable. For me the consequence is short of temper, lack of energy and an affinity with dark thoughts.

Our lives are punctuated by the rhythm of sleep. Patterns bring comforting conformity and shape. Security. When you disturb the pattern, you create the opposite; uncertainty. It is as though the individual levers and cogs of the brain, dissolve and form new structures that you are no longer familiar with. A dystopian world in which you become a prisoner, unsure if sleep will return you to normality. The boundaries between the night world and the day world lose their integrity, one seeps into the other. An osmosis that is oozing and unwelcome…. things that belong in your dreams in the night, turn up unexpectantly.

What a tragedy is unfolding again in the middle east. The sight of children injured and dying seems not enough to sober up either side and so the air strikes and the rockets continue. At a distance, war and it’s devastating consequence seem inevitable actions for those with the great responsibility of protecting a nation. To the Major, they seem instead more akin to the playground, the reasoning shallow, the considerations glib. The mood this week is not good.

In the morning, a new day and the promise of redemption. I need some fine sport to lift my gloom. A powerful remedy, a surging performance that raises the pulse.

To the sports….

Cheltenham Paddy Power Gold Cup Day Tips

Far West is an obvious place to start given that Ditcheat have taken this race the last two years with French imports. 6/4 is fair considering the obvious credentials. Both Nicholls and Henderson have hit the ground running this season and the latter is represented by Vasco du Ronceray. What he beat at Hereford adds up to a hill of beans but the manner of the defeat gave intent.

The opening contest is a Triumph Hurdle trial and with little comparative form, I am opting for Far West who at least beat a useful sort in Handazan and at 6/4 rates a good chance to bring home the bacon for Nicholls et al.

In the novice chase at 1.20, Sire Collonges is going to be a hot order representing the top yard and looking a fine prospect at Fontwell and at Cheltenham. Course form is always mprtant at Cheltenham. It is an undulating course with tough fences and a steep downhill section, not every horse gets it.

The Major though is going to tip Sraid Padraig at 8/1. The Tony Martin raider won with any amount in hand at Limerick and it is interesting that he is thrown into this. Tasty.

In the 3m 3f marathon, the Major would tipping up Problema Tic but the Pipe yard seem slightly below par so far this season. I find it hard to fathom Bradley at 5/1 when Ashkazar is at 12/1… The latter had the better of the former last time out and while both are proven on course, Ashkazar is preferred but being out of the Pipe yard again, I go elsewhere. Currently 22/1 with William Hill, I offer you up Chicago Grey my selection has the talent and has dropped to a hugely tempting mark. Johnson gets the rare ride for the Elliot team and he is 1/1 in the saddle for the yard in recent times. Shabash.

Paddy Power Gold Cup Tips

What a superb renewal of the Paddy Power. Hunt Ball, Grand Crus, Walkon… An absolute cracker. The major is tempted by many. Grand Crus is clearly a class act and if he chases to his hurdles mark, is very well in. yet the yard is in short form as already highlighted and I will resist which is a shame as if not for being well, he looked like the RSA winner.

Hunt Ball would be four and a half stone out of the handicap if running this time last year! Has a horse ever improved to the degree he has? The winners enclosure will be lively if Knott gets to celebrate again and I wish them luck.

Walkon looks more a more likely sort but I am slightly distrustful. As a second season chaser though, I fancy he has the profile but he is on the watch list.

In recent years, it has been more the fashion to win the Paddy Power from down the handicap. Roll back a few more years and horses with an eleven stone plus burden were more common. Most of the were trained by Martin Pipe with classics such as Our Vic and twice winner (five years apart) Cyfor Malta.

The latter was the only horse in the last twenty outings to win at the age of 5 which is a major signal to the experience required. This is the only thing putting me off Triolo D’Alene.

There will be plenty of pace on and the one I fancy to take advantage of it is Divers at 20/1 (Stan James) – he will be doing his best work late and that’s good enough for me.

The last two Cheltenham races are not affairs for me.

Three football teams for me – the footy is proving profitable of late…. Birmingham at 17/10 at home is a price. I fancy Southampton to beat QPR at 3/1 and I like Newcasle at 10/11 at home to Swansea, that’s a nice little treble.

May your dinner be fuelled by a successful Trixie and be a mix of beautiful nonsense. The wine must flow, the release valve easing the system pressure. May the day return to the day and the night be confined to the night.

Courage and roll those dice.