Tag Archives: imperial commander

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.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – BOOOMMM! Three Profit Days From Three for the Major – We are through the looking glass….

Punters of Britain the Major is on a high, another profit day on Thursday, with Albertas Run returning 6/1 and Big Bucks at evens.

Important news.  Regular readers will know the Major resides in the village of Defford, outside of Pershore in rolling Worcestershire countryside.  This is 20 miles north of the course and I can report some important news…. The rain has come.  The amount of rain tonight could be crucial and it makes the job tomorrow more difficult.  I have no idea what the ground will be like first thing.  I shall risk it and offer my advices but I warn all punters to freestyle if the Major was off.  For the record I am going to expect enough for good to soft, soft in places.  Perhaps dead, perhaps tacky.  Makes life tougher.

The Major does not need to be told that he rants.  For a very special and abusive friend, I have agreed to start highlighting the advices in bold for those with less time to read the analysis or reasoning.  This is a concession that may not last.

It is the day of the reckoning and the Major, though be art weighed in the balance will not be found wanting

75% of the battle is done.  We have wounded the enemy and he seems unsteady on his feet.  He has a nasty looking gash where we took his cut on the near side and then caught him with our own defensive slice.  His guard is still up though and his mind devious; in this injured state he is dangerous, on guard young man and keep a steady eye, his rapier slashes may be crude but we need dedication to the end to see this enemy dispatched to meet his reckoning.

Yet the Major is wearied from battle too.  Three days of analysis of some of the trickiest handicaps, snow blind from reading form lines, vigilance as we approach the last dear friends.  We are almost triumphant, yet ’tis many a slip between the crouch and the leap.

The Triumph

Grandouet has been put away since the defeat of Two Kisses in January.  Two Kisses is a reliable yardstick, the form is unspectacular but good.  Henderson always has a good sort for the Triumph and the jockey booking suggests this is it.

I hate to make strong statements as they can be wrong and this may mislead but I just cannot believe Smad Place is good enough, it looks over rated to me.

A Media Luz was beaten by stablemate Grandouet and although the assistance of AP McCoy will help, I cannot see it turning the tables.  At this age, the mares allowance is influential but I just do not think it will be enough in the case of A Media Luz.

Unaccompanied, another of the fairer sex and thus 7lb in, is the Irish leading fancy for the powerful Weld / Smullen team – Dangerous to ignore, particularly with the weather turning.

Zarkanda is an Aga Khan bred animal who while über impressive when defeating Molotof, is in better company here.  Molotof is the Henderson third string.  I find it interesting that Ruby has defected to Sam Winner though.

Yet Sam Winner has struggled to cope in his last race.  Looking highly capable in the heart of winter, has some of the sparkle gone.

This triumph is a classic.  The crunch decision is over the form lines you take.  Grandouet has to be respected but had been defeated by Sam Winner, who in turn was defeated by Marsh Warbler who ran poorer than expected earlier in the week.  Both may be forgiven a run but neither are rock solid.

Zarkander has been abandoned by Ruby but could be absolutely anything.

For the Major, Unaccompanied  It has the best Irish form, the Irish trainers are having a great week, this would get Friday off to a steamer.  Have an each way bet at 7/1 and hope the allowance and rain aid the cause.  Stick it in the toaster, butter, marmite, cup of steaming tea and thank me later.

The County Handicap Hurdle

The County is a puzzle hidden inside an enigma which is disguised as a rohypnol induced nightmare.

Alazari who picked up the Imperial Cup and is hunting the £75k bonus is an obvious threat but in a field of 28 and having run in the last week, I am unsure it is wise to invest at 8/1.

Dirar is sitting favourite and you can see why.  Stable form and profile mean it should be involved, interesting.

The Major advises you though to bet sensibly, this is an insanely difficult prize.  I would proffer a few thoughts as follows.

Snap Tie a pound off top weight loves Cheltenham and has been dropping to a very handy mark.  Having not run since October 2009 it would be an almighty training performance but Hobbs can do it and Dickie Johnson in the saddle is a huge boost, 14/1 is it enough?

Salden Licht gets the burden of an extra pound, thus is the top weight and despite making a couple of errors when chasing after Recession Proof in the Totesport is on the Majors considered list, particularly at 25/1, not out of it.

Get me out of Here is also extremely well treated if the tongue tie has the desired effect, I would not put you off, personally 16/1 is an OK price but not what I am after.

Soldatino looks held unless there were excuses last time.  Dee Ee Williams more so.

Alaivan comes into it if the rain has been significant. 

Ski Sunday is a bit of an unknown.  The January run with subsequent winner Skint behind has a classy look about it.  It was only rated 66 on the flat but is a much better hurdling prospect, hmm.

Final Approach would not be 12/1 had Call the Police performed solidly on Wednesday.  Ruby and Mullins 12/1 in this sort of handicap, interesting.

Zanir at 33/1 could run a bigger than expected race too.

The Major has not ruled too many out of the County.  I have a shortlist of a few.  The most interesting of which is Snap Tie.  A Cheltenham horse, a mark that has dropped from two years off, 14/1 is as tight as I would want it but I just fancy the trainer and jockey if they have the horses confidence back.  It goes against many of the Majors principles, after all the time off the track is a significant downside before competing in such a big field.  I just have a sense that Johnson can turn him off and nurse him through, letting class do the rest.

The Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle

Some time ago the Major put up a piece about Moonlight Drive which had been tipped to me antepost.  It definitely wants the rain which is coming and is a threat still but the softer the better.  Certainly the stable hold it in good regard it seems and as Recession Proof is a stablemate then they have a decent yardstick with the Totesport Trophy winner.

The hope was that Bobs Worth would defect to the Neptune and since that has not happened, it has to be a major threat in this given the ease of the Grade 2 success last time out.

The other horse of interest and the one I settle on to advise tonight is Champion Court.  At 10/1, I hope they have sorted the issues which caused the horse to hang so badly when it looked like it might get involved in defeat to Bobs Worth last time out.  The previous form has some depth, Bobs Worth could well be too good but with Henderson not enjoying the best week, I oppose with Champion Court.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Major has a strong fancy in the Gold Cup this year which is odd because it is as open as any I can recall.  I would go as far to say it is the best Gold Cup in many years, it will be a privilege to watch the interwoven strands of form, story, conjecture and magic unfurl.

It is not so much a case for the Major of picking the winner, it is more a case for finding the least likely reason any of the main protagonists will fail to lose.  That is not to say the quality is poor, quite the opposite.

The highlight of our national hunt year is solved by answering these questions correctly:

1. Does Kautos small bleed excuse his poor King George run and is he capable of pulling his old school form out when it matters? (He would go down not only as the only horse to have regained a Gold Cup but to have done that twice, wow)

2. Is Denmans third to the non runner Diamond Harry, giving best part of 2 stone away, in the Hennessy a decent bit of form?

3. Is the ground soft enough for Pandorama, the Majors ante post tip for the gold cup?

4. What does the Kempes Irish Hennessy win form add up to?

5. How ripe is Imperial Commander and how good was last years Gold Cup?

6. Is Midnight Chase a credible threat?

7. Is it time to change the old guard?

8. Who wins?

The Majors view: 1. No, he looked shot in the Down Royal opener, I know Nicholls will not have had him wound up for that but I think he is on a slide.  2. This is better form than anything Kauto has done but only entitles him to place form in the Majors view.  3. Probably not but if the rain keeps coming, too early to tell 4. Nothing 5. The Major is unimpressed on both counts.  6. Not really, if he were mine he would go straight to the National. 7. Yes.  8. LONG RUN.

I am aware that the stats for 11 year olds are shocking and so are the stats for 6 year olds.  Here is the advice.  If the ground gets good to soft, soft in places, then go Pandorama.  If it remains any better than that, stick with Long Run. 

I am going to believe that his 6 year old status is offset by the fact that he has had an awful lot of racing.  This was probably the reason that he lost last festival.  I was standing by Nicky Henderson that day (not that I know him!) and it did not look like the expected script was followed.  After being on the go all of the previous summer in France and then all winter, I think Long Run was already over the top at the festival.  The way he demolished the King George field suggested he is a different prospect to me.  He should stay, he won’t mind conditions, he is inexperienced but…. 5/1 Hills (who offer £20 bet on the race and a free £10 at the weekend to all customers), Paddypower and Coral – Have the biggest slice your wallet allows and send me the postcard.

Master Hobday, if you are reading, it already carries a £20 from the Majors wallet for you, the man, the legend.

The Foxhunters

The two races after the Gold Cup are surely designed as a bookies benefit to drag in any remaining cash. 

Gone to Lunch could be dangerous if showing the best of old form.  Baby Run is a worthy favourite, nothing wrong with betting that.

For value though the Major plumps for On the Fringe.  Probably too young, where Baby Run is starting to wear.  9/2 (Hills) On the Fringe for the Major.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys

Conditional jockeys riding make this one of the most trappy handicaps of the festival. 

That said, there is one that stands out like a beacon to the Major in King of the Night.

This horse gets to race off a mark of just 139 despite having lost by a nose to Sprinter Sacre (now rated 145) when giving a full stone away.

From the champion trainer, plenty of scope.  11/1, the best the Major can come up with.

The Lucky Last – The Grand Annual

Christ, if you need a win here you are in trouble.

I might have the long priced answer too.  The Major has always had an eye for Sports Line.  OK, he gets way to frisky in his races and is often fighting for his head but when he does settle he looks classy.

What catches the eye is the switch to Timmy Murphy, I think they plan on burying him away in the field under the best rider at the last to first tactic.

33/1 is the sort of price to get you out of any trouble.

The Cheltenham Festival Summary

I hope you have had a terrific week.  The Major has taken not given and this is a refreshing change to last year.

In not many hours from now, the point in the year that National Hunt fans aim at is the furthest from us.  Thank god that the 2012 antepost markets are already open. 

Let us draw blood once again tomorrow.  I hope the racing is glorious, your victory magnanimous.

Gold Cup night deserves the best french cuisine.  Have some duck in the country fashion seared and with green peppercorn sauce.  A good Bordeaux.  Tip well, this is right.  Be upstanding for the Queen at midnight.  Find a nice girl from Cork whose sing song voice shall last with you for many days.

This Gold Cup, I hope you have every reason to be glad in your heart.

Tips for each Cheltenham Festival Championship Race – Guest Post, The Hearty Ploughman

Another guest blogger has thrown us some sporting viewpoint in our relentless quest for value.  The Hearty Ploughman is well-known to the Major and a respected punter.  He has kindly offered a view on the four championship races of the festival – Cheltenham tips aplenty.

He is the one on the right in the cap!

His analysis is often heavily statistics based and follows plenty of work.  Kindly he has proffered his thoughts for our benefit at no cost.

Included is a 14/1 Gold Cup contender and is a very interesting bet – Please remember to ensure you get NRNB (Non runner no bet), most bookies are there now but some are shamefully still letting you down.  Well worth the extra protection, this week saw the withdrawal of Diamond Harry and Riverside Theatre from their respective races, there are always a couple of high proile late non runners…. over to the Hearty Ploughman.

The Hearty Ploughman – Tips for the Four Cheltenham Festival Championship Races

Punters of the world, the time of year is almost upon us when once again we invade Prestbury Park to do battle with the old enemy the bookmaker. My good friend the Major has bestowed upon me the great honour of writing this piece on his website giving my thoughts and tips for the four big races at the meeting.

Day 1 – The Champion Hurdle

This race is normally won by horses that have had more than one race this season are aged over 5 and less than 11, have won or been placed at the festival before (providing it has run at the festival), ran within the last 2 months and finished in the top three in its last race. Using these trends we can narrow the field down to just a few horses, it helps focus the mind.

I believe the winner will come from one of the following, Binocular, Peddlers Cross or Hurricane Fly. Hurricane Fly as good as he is does not have the course experience, so by backing him you are taking on trust that he will handle the conditions. Peddlers Cross is a real battler, expect him to be off the bridle first but will be running all the way to the line.

However my selection is Binocular, he ticks all the boxes and the way he won round Cheltenham last year and again at Kempton in the Christmas hurdle was mighty impressive. That and the fact that Nicky Henderson is the master at getting one spot on for Cheltenham mean he is the choice for me.

Day 2 The Champion Chase

This race is normally won by a horse that was 1st, 2nd or 3rd last time out, ran 1-4 times this season and is in the top 4 of the betting. This leaves us with just the 4 horses to concentrate on, Master Minded, Big Zeb, Woolcombe Folly and Somersby.

Master Minded does not seem to have totally re captured the form he had before his injury, Somersby continues to be a nearly horse and Woolcome Folly still have to prove he can do it in a grade 1 at Cheltenham.

This leaves me with just the remaining horse Big Zeb.  One of my favourite horses in training, travels well, will like the better ground he should encounter at Cheltenham so am expecting a repeat of last years success.

Day 3 – The World Hurdle

Surely bearing major accidents this race is between Big Bucks and Grand Crus. Big Bucks is a class act and Grand Crus is improving all the time. Not much to choose between the two but preference is for Big Bucks.

Day 4 – The Gold Cup 

Looking at the trends we have to discount horses older than 10. That immediately takes out Kauto and Denman. Another trend is that the horse must have run 2-5 times this season. This takes out last year’s winner Imperial Commander. 

Unless the word soft appears in the going, Pandorama may not even run. For me there are only 2 horses to concentrate on. Long Run and Midnight Chase. Long Run has run at Cheltenham twice and on both occasions has been placed. Is it that he doesn’t like the course or does his jumping need brushing up a bit? Having watched both races it would suggest that his jumping needs improving. At Kempton he jumped much better and connections have employed the services of Yogi again to make further improvements. I am sure he will go close once again.

However at a bigger price I prefer Midnight Chase, another horse who is a real battler. He has course form, been placed at the festival and is a front runner who does not like to be passed. At a price of around 14/1 provides good  value and is my idea of the winner.

Double your money last weekend – The Major says repeat prescription

 Good morning from fine Pershore where the Major prepares for another fine weekends sporting action in usual fashion.  Good coffee has been bubbling away since 6am and the Major has been hard at work on your behalf securing you some of the finest value available.  The world that a sporting gentleman occupies thrusts utterly relentless opportunity towards us.  We have to navigate this torrent of golden reward and devious trickery with composed skill and a deft touch. 

Significant profits like last week are always based on fine decision.  The next layer of the onion contains losses, we were so close to losing, but we did win.

So today, celebrate this balance, this tightrope, this dance.  Get involved, bet large, bet like a man, bet for the excitement, bet for the thrill, the interest, bet for no reason, bet with style, just make sure you take a bet and allow the tide to take you.

To recap The Majors last week, we had some tasty winning action and more than doubled our stakes (table below shows results to level stakes).   The Major never gloats and never allows despondency.  What else can we do though but celebrate last weekend, I hope you were involved.  This has been a good few months and today we will take the enemy back to the schoolyard and once more spank his insolence from him.  Enough, lets gamble.

Today is Betfair chase day, coupled with some fascinating premier league clashes and the eggball autumn internationals in full swing and the Major is a contented gambler.

I am going to start, as is custom on the Football Association pitches.

Last week we drew money from the Majors belief that Liverpools form was not a permanent fixture and that their win over Chelsea was an exaggerated piece of collateral form.  I go into today looking at their home fixture with West Ham as equally precarious for them.  They can ill afford to lose Gerrard and with Lucas also out and the non firing Joe Cole also absent, they are wholly over reliant on a touch of class from Torres in my view.  13/2 about West Ham with Victor Chandler would be my advice – Even with Scott Parker missing, the key to this fixture is what there is to lose.  West Ham can play uninhibited, Hodgson could put himself under intense scrutiny if he loses.

Chelsea who visit St Andrews could desperately do with a win.  The Major had this one right when suggesting there was something amiss at Stamford Bridge and although Alex makes a surprise and welcome return to bolster the centre back position, who knows if the issues are put to bed.  This one is a watching brief only.

My favourite football bet of the weekend is Wolves to win at Blackpool.  I have already given my view that Holloway would be best to focus on galvanizing his resources.  I suspect the train will come of the tracks at Blackpool as a result of histrionics – Yes they will be unlucky, yes they will be unfairly treated, they probably won’t deserve it but I think Holloway is starting to line up his excuses.  Mick McCarthy on the other hand remains utterly focussed on the job and feels like a proper leader.  If Matt Jarvis doesn’t overcome injury then it is a huge absence but I fancy Wolves to take it anyway so 2/1 is a tasty betting proposition.  Blackpools poor home form is also a factor – as is their inability to take Wolves effectively down the right flank where possibly the worst left back in the Premier League presides.

Shrewsbury will beat Southend and I am majorly shocked by the evens available.  I thought this would be a strong odds against bet.  Southend are injury ravaged and the noises muffling away inside Roots Hall are not good.  Ten points already separate these outfits and with Robinson a good outlet for the Shrews, surely they would win this 3 times from 5 so evens is a super bet.  Load the large cannon for this one.

I am tempted to put West Brom up to beat Stoke but was surprised at the pricing and so no bet advised.  However, with Jara returning after the horror tackle that earned him a three match ban, I fancied the Baggies.  Stokes recent win at home to Liverpool was shouted up by the Major as part of our superb last weekend but there shocking away form makes them vulnerable to an Albion outfit who play good football and will resume winning ways again if they discover that touch.  Tempting but betting on your own team is one of the Majors fastest routes to the Poor House – Put the revolver hammer back gently.

Arsenal are a nice price to beat Spurs too in my other no bet.  With key Spurs centre halves missing at the Emirates I would have fancied the Gunners to take advantage of a Kaboul / Gallas partnership that is less than ideal; particularly with Huddlestone out too.  However, 4/6 about a team that can turn up in one of two minds, not for the Major thank you.

Bolton can beat Newcastle who are less organised.  HAve a small slice at 6/5 odds against at home – Coyle knows his beans and this will be tough for the toon.

On the eggball fields, I fancy two in the handicap.  Don’t say the Major is nothing but fair tipping up Englands return to form recently.  Today I don’t think the 21 point handicap for Samoa will be enough – The pack will win it well before half time, 11/10 lovely.

Doubling that up with the All Blacks in their -14 handicap makes sense – A tasty rugby bet advised on the double.  Nearly 4/1 that.

On track, I fancy Imperial Commander, especially as his price continues to drift.  Pricewise plums for What a Friend and why not, this Nicholls horse has had a wind op (often the key at Ditcheat) and loves to go fresh.  Imperial though is reported further forward than last year when he lost by a hair; although he was given a stone by the the mighty Kauto.  It is interesting that Nicholls runs here given that as a Hennessy horse, What a Friend would carry one of the most lenient marks, take from that what you will.  Nacarat was tipped up two weeks ago and won nicely for us, I don’t think he is capable of a repeat but wouldn’t put you off an each way slice on the big white hope.  Chief Dan George has superb form in the book and if he found it again 66/1 would be huge, especially as he has a victory over Imperial in his locker.  Tidal Bay equally could make 40/1 look absurd on one of his good days.  The Major however sticks with the Commander.  Let’s be honest he has all the form.  His price will be honest because of two factors, Pricewise plumbing for What a Friend and the fact that apart from a novice hurdle at Newcastle, Imperial has done all of his winning at Cheltenham.  Major followers understand this – Trends are there to be scrutinised, not trusted.  I can accept that Imperial is a better horse going left-handed (conditions he has today), I could also accept that some horses are course specialists (Mr McGoldrick at Wetherby as a case in point) but not top class horses.  Watch last years Betfair Chase, It was Kauto a dubious first; Imperial Commander second and fresh air all the way back to the trailers.  There were good horses behind that day and today it is off level weights with the form in the book on the favourites side……. the prosecution rests and advises a strong Imperial bet but leave it until an hour before the off, or take Paddy Powers online price guarantee as you the advantage of the predicted drift.

Another Nicholls horse, another wind op, will Masterminded win on debut, hmmmm.  It is incredible to think this horse is just 7 given his achievements.   I believe he is back and will destroy them all bar Albertas Run who although class in his own right, is not the same – there you go, simples….  evens again.

Zaynar is the other hot fancy to rock up in the hurdle on debut.  I thought it was interesting to hear Henderson talk about this as a World Hurdle horse which gives me concerns that today’s trip might not be enough on this seasons debut – Why is he also in cheekpieces for his last two runs, is he really going to give it the best on reappearance, might be wrong but I am staying clear.  I do like Zaynar for future Grade 1 success but am going to stick with Silciniaco Conti who was an impressive winner when tipped up by the Major at Chepstow a few weeks ago.  This Nicholls / Fehily team (36% strike rate this year!) have the unexposed horse and with Lough Derg in the field, they will go at a fair clip, small stake advised.

Great listed all-weather action today for hardcore fans.  Hitchens to win the 3.40 at Lingfield is a decent bet with many of the other market leaders needing to prove they go on the poly.  5/1 is available with Laddies and Sportingbet.

One that was given to the Major by a master of the dark arts was James de Vassey in the Haydock 2.50, 13/2 is around, take a piece each way and I shall thank the tipster for you.

May this evenings fine dinner be Italian with a hearty Barolo to wash it down with.  Tip generously, its what the Commander wanted as he pinged the last.

THE MAJORS ADVICE LAST WEEK
Bet Stake Returns
Hearts to win at St Johnstone 6/4 £2.50
More than 3 goals West Ham v Blackpool 8/11 £0.00
Norwich to win at Reading  16/5 £0.00
Stoke to beat Liverpool 3/1 £4.00
Haye to win in the third 9/1 £10.00
Haye to win in the fourth 9/1 £0.00
Haye to win by stoppage 1/3 £1.33
Long Run to win the Paddy Power 7/2 £0.00
Berties Dream to win 9/2 £0.00
Sam Winner to win the Cheltenham Novice Hurdle 9/2 £5.50
Serious Drinking in the last at Wolverhampton 10/3 £0.00