Tag Archives: Irish saint

The Saturday Sermon – Full Ascot Card including Long Walk Tips…

Good evening from the Major who writes from a biting Worcestershire with a wind that pierces through your outer layers and seeks out your very soul.  The fire is crackling away, pouring goodness out that thickly covers the room, stifling and comforting all at once.

I won’t pretend that last week was anything other than a bloodbath.  The Major lurched from one loss to another like some great wounded blind animal lumbering onwards, lurching hopelessly and violently.

Christmas needs paying for.  Thus today we shall adorn our spears with the enemies precious trinkets and muster our weary souls into order once more.  Shall it be like the 44th forming a last thin square on the hills above Gandamak Village, after weeks of deathly marching, the last fighting men, having been sniped at by Afghan hill-men, men, women and children falling in the snow in the Khyber Pass, murderous raids on our supply train, pack animals lost, defiantly gathering to protect the colours we shall gather our last vestige of purpose and stand together to a bitter end.

Or, like the thin red line at Balaclava, shall our meagre resources, against all odds and fighting in unconventional fashion, two men deep to take on the Russian Calvary, insanity odds, yet, hold fast boys… No retreat from here men, we shall die where we stand.  That Colin Campbell was as hard as nails, he never hesitated, always spoiled for the fight.

To Ascot, load the grape-shot into the cannon.

Full Ascot Card

There is lots of form on lots of different tracks coming into this race so 9/2 the field is a fair assessment of the openness of it.  Watching the Friday Ascot action, I thought it was riding OK.

If further rain fell, it would only aid the chances of present favourite Brave Buck, he is two from two on heavy ground and comes from an in form Daly stable.   His Welsh double recently reads quite well and more may be to come but he is a stone higher in the weights as a result.

Boss in Boots looks a capable sort but I would prefer a more experienced pilot.  Josies Orders is an interesting sort having had to be rousted along by McCoy to win at Ascot, next time out was a bit disappointing.  McCoy is reunited here and there may be a better performance but I am not sure it looks a bullet-proof proposition.

Instead, the Major opts for 5/1 shot Forever Present who goes for the Henderson yard.  At Ludlow, I thought the performance was OK but a little flat-footed, that was over 2m 5f, I think this extra distance and the ground will suit and if the jumping is a little neater and the replacement of David Bass with Barry Geraghty sparks some improvement, then the handicap mark may look very lean.

Another Saturday and another David Johnson memorial race.  Quite right too – Every track wants to pay homage to the great supporter of our sport.  Only four runners make it to the line for this particular event and Join the Navy needs half a track head start if he is to play a role.  O Faolains Boy looks a very exciting prospect to me, fourth in the Albert Bartlett and stays forever, I think a potential National horse in years to come.  Baby Mix surely needs a rattling surface and that leaves me with the 11/8 shot Easter Day.  My selection has some excellent form over hurdles and he left his chase form well behind on second start over the tougher obstacles at Newbury.  Looks like a Nicholls chaser on the improve to me.

I was quite surprised by the shortness of Pendra’s price for the 1.50.  His winning form is in more minor events and this is an entirely different shape of race for which his inexperience may tell.  That said, you know I like the Longsden yard.  Ulck du Lin is back for another pop at the race he won a year ago off  a fistful of pounds higher, not to be discounted at all.

I’d give Consigliere a chance back on his favoured surface but even if the ground remains quite soft, I am not sure this is the test he needs these days.  Is Rebecca Curtis finally going to get a tune out of 10/1 shot Gus Macrae.  He will like the soft ground but needs to reverse a run of poor form.

My pen rests on Elenika who surely is going to give us a great run at some pint.  The Venetia Williams stable have had some winners in this race and the form at Cheltenham last month when just finishing behind a useful looking front four (Eastlake 3rd went on to win again) does not look so bad.

The Long Walk Hurdle is at 2.25 and I cannot see any way that At Fishers Cross gets beat.  Celestial Halo gave him a thrashing last time out but something was not right that day and overall, despite his admirable hardy record, I remain unconvinced by CH.  Anyway, he has already defected from this race and that leaves the chief competition being Reve de Sivola who I think At Fishers Cross had the better of before smacking his hurdle last time out.  Lets keep it simple… Load the money printer, George has ordered up some more quantitative easing.

In the Silver Cup, we have the surprise Hennessy winner, Triolo D’Alene out again with a further 11bs on his back.  He has run three times on soft and has never placed which is a slight concern.  It is enough for the Major to be looking elsewhere and I have long felt that Cedre Bleu could make up into a decent staying chaser even if he has failed to impress over longer distances previously.  11/2 is available as I type with Coral.  As a footnote, What a Warrior should not be 12s, if 8 go to post, it is a fantastic each way bet for a horse with no weight on his back and decent form claims.

Last but certainly not least… The Ladbroke.  A headache of a conundrum, wrapped up in an enigma and rammed down your throat with the bestial force of insanity.  8/1 the field… Take your pick.

For the Major, I am mostly staking my money on the record of Pipe in the race.  In a field of 21 runners, he fields almost a third of the runners.  Firstly a nod to the runners that Messrs Henderson and Nicholls have entered.  Chatterbox and Rolling Star will have plenty of fans.  I prefer Ptit Zig mind, even off top weight.  Yet, my Pipe plot means I am going to invest in Dell Arca 10/1 who must have been targetted at this for some time.   I am also oing to have a saver on 25/1 shot Irish Saint who has some very tasty form as a juvenile – Once beaten by Rolling Star by a handful of lengths at Cheltenham, if recovered from a fall at Newbury, I think he could play a part.

In the football… QPR have the right formula so 6/5 for a home win versus Leicester is a price.  Walsall have had some issues but 4/5 at home to Carlisle is also a bet.

The Martin Hill bet is simple… A Dell Arca, Cedre Bleu and Forever Present trixie….. Money Printer…. Loaded.

I trust your dinner is prepared with great care and charged as such.  I wish the finest wines for you and the finest company.  Tip well, tis Christmas.

Courage and roll the dice.

Thursday Aintree Card – Why I’m Bypassing the Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes tired from his bed and thus will keep things brief, if that is OK with you.

When you are being slung out of the office by the security guard and find yourself buying an 11pm kebab for dinner (not ideal Paris Marathon, Sunday, prep), you know it has been a day.  Yet, a damn productive one too.  I was not there under sufferance, more capturing the spirit of productivity coursing through my veins.

Sleep beckons though.  I started typing at midnight and plan to be finished by twenty to one.  That means 40 minutes, to fit in a diatribe about the national and give some tips.   Now you can do the maths but you can see that not a  lot of time in this equation is dedicated to the fine art of studying form.  I am not selling this well am I.  Come to think of it, I never do.

The Major remains free, slightly profitable and unhinged.  Here for your delectation.

Why the Major is Bypassing the Grand National

This week I am going to receive thousands of visitors seeking a tip on the national.  It is a moment of the year when our sport is in the nation’s mind.  we will be front page and not just back page.

Yet, it is race that I, for one, am done with.  At essence, it does not compare to the national hunt racing I love, baring few similarities.

No other race is run over four and a half miles.   The obstacles are like no other these horses face and the melee of the scene and forty horses piling around makes for an ugly spectacle.

Now some will think that I am either soft or a hypocrite.  Let me take those in turn.  To the first I say that I love racing despite its inherent dangers.  The thrill of watching these fine athletes strut their stuff… well, I find it intoxicating.  Yet, with the National, the danger is no longer a feared risk which is the by-product of the challenge… no, the danger becomes the spectacle.

The commentator excitedly calling the spills, betting markets on whether they all survive the first fence, I find it less appealing.

I hope all 40 horses make it round safely but I’d rather give it a miss myself.  If racing wanted a safer national, less runners is where I would start, followed by severe changes to some of the jumps, particularly those, like Bechers, with a severe drop.  Then, National fans, would wring their hands and exclaim that the heart of the race has gone.  Good riddance would be my reply.  This is no good advert for racing.

That is my other issue with the National.  The controversy around it may threaten racing more widely.  Further tragedies may create more popular support for banning the race.  I would prefer we dealt with it now.

I have it off my chest.

Thursday Aintree Card

Aintree and Punchestown can throw some odd results.  It is a time of the year when the ground is changing and horses that have been running on softer ground, meet spring ground, changing their prospects.  Horses who have been on the go a lot, or mainly prepared with Cheltenham in mind can also throw some shockers too.  Thus, a little caution is advised.

In the opener a prime example of a must back horse is there.  Irish Saint bypassed Cheltenham for a crack at Aintree and clearly Paul Nicholls thinks a flat track is what he needs.  Judged on his performance up the Cheltenham hill when second to Rolling Star previously, I am sure he is right.  10/3 Stan James.

Flaxen Flare is a danger to all if reproducing an astonishing Fred Winter performance that came after the application of headgear.

Silviniaco Conti is an unbelievable 10/11 shot.  He has been a much improved horse this season and would certainly (in my eyes) have played a part in the finish of the Gold Cup had he not fell coming down the hill.  Load the cannons.

The New One is a hugely likeable horse having just beaten My Tent or Yours at Cheltenham in a warm up before winning the Neptune Novices.  Good ground holds no fears and what is not to like?  Yet he is meeting older horses for the first time here and we should be fearful of several.  Oscar Whisky ran too badly to be true in the World Hurdle and is a considered beast on ground he likes.

Zarkander has been fitted with headgear which is odd as I see nothing wrong with the attitude of the horse but having run well earlier in the year, looked just short of top class when fourth in the Champion.

It is Grandouet I side with who was still travelling well when falling in the Champion, runs well on good and can be forgiven finishing behind Zarkander on reappearance after a long lay off.

The foxhunters is run on the national course and considering my earlier rant, it is one I shall leave, even though it is a far safer race and not one I oppose in itself.

In the Red Rum, Kid Cassidy is of clear interest having finished second to another JP owned horse in the Grand Annual last time out.  That race is bound to throw up more handicap winners and this one is a clear contender.  However, I side with Astracad who loves good ground, is young enough to improve and races off a similar mark to when placing in this last year.  The Twiston Davies family have had a good year and I back it to continue.

I am having a big slice of Captain Conan in the novice chase.  Many did not like the look of his Sandown win and judged him a non stayer.  Whether that is correct or not, I am unsure but his defeat by Benefficient (indeed behind Changing Times too) in the Jewson was more the result of poor jumping in my view.  Many of these might not act on good drying ground and Captain Conans physique and style suggest he might be one but I struggle to find a much better one to beat him.

In the last race, the three mile handicap hurdle, I am going to opt for Many Clouds who really impressed me last time out and looked a shade classy.  He has big field experience and is my idea of the winner at 14/1.  One at 20s worth a mention and probably wholly unfancied is Connectivity.   He is likely to much prefer this ground to his Warwick reappearance and I would not rule his involvement out.

 

The Saturday Sermon – Newcastle Eider Tips, Arithmetic Gambling

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire whose glorious air is frozen, so chilling as to be alienating, take refuge indoors and stoke those embers.

For me the evening held an emergency trip to the good lady stranded on the side of the M42. Two small children, traffic flying by, most unpleasant, most unsettling. All is now well, the brood are returned, all is back to order.

How is your arithmetic? The Major spent many a night as a young man at the pub dart board. Traditional etiquette dictates that you chalk your name on the board to indicate your intent to play and then immediately prior to your game, you score the preceding game. This, I hold, is the main reason that my own arithmetic is of a credible level. Calculate the sum of three numbers (often multiples) and detract from a starting point of 501 (after 5 pints), repeat ad infinitum and you have a successful strategy for improving your mental number dexterity.

Yet, my own skill is merely amateur. If you have a few moments of your life to spare, observe the mathemagician.

He reminds me of a story concerning one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. Srinivasa Ramanujan had no formal mathematical training but made a huge contribution to number theory. He came to Cambridge and completed some amazing work. Hardy, a fellow academic famously recalled visiting him in hospital and casually remarking that the number 1729 (the number of the taxi Hardy had arrived in) had no significance. Ramanujan replied that he was wrong and that the number was particularly interesting as the lowest possible number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.

That’s pretty impressive n’est pas? However I question whether he could have scored 321 down by twenty, treble 17 and twenty five and I suspect he was slow to get the round in too. 225 by the way.

Successful gambling is part art, part maths. I would not put you off a gut instinct but I would encourage you to give yourself maximum advantage. Allow me to stretch your probability muscles in readiness for the day. Imagine I offer you a game of dice. Two die are involved. If I roll a 12, I score. If you roll a seven, you roll again and if you roll a second consecutive seven, you score. We can play for £10 a point – Fancy the game? (answers in the comments!)

Why do this? Well, we need to keep ourselves match fit, the significant engagements are coming. I see the enemy raising and rallying behind his standard. They are going non runner, no bet – BetVictor was the first to break rank but I understand Bet365 have too. Paddy Power tomorrow, mark my words.

Cheltenham is so palpably close my friends. Stand with me, side by side, each man holding the square. We need not flinch yet, keep your nerve young man, they circle us with their superior number, the metal of their blade offers sudden violent glints but do not be panicked. For if each can trust that man at his side then we shall stay strong and defeat their superior number.

To the sports. Take it easy today, protect that war chest of yours.

Newcastle Eider Card

The Eider in soft ground is as searching as test as you get in National Hunt racing. A few runnings on heavy have left a handful of runners out on their feet struggling to the line. Frankly a sight that does not befit our sport, in fact at that level it is no longer fair to describe it as a sport. Tomorrows test, while stretching should not be such a harsh examination.

It is surprising but lumbering a weight around the Eider has not been a hindrance to success. Comply or Die managed it off top weight and last year Portrait King carried eleven eight to victory.

We are however after a thorough stayer. The favourite as I type is Chac Du Cadran. He is young (7) but there have been similar profile winners, such as Portrait King, and his last run was a very good marathon examination. He is up the best part of a stone but has a thoroughly progressive profile.

The presence of Master Overseer has put half the field out of the handicap and while the top weight has a big job on his hands, he is a class act on his day. The big question is which version of the horse turns up. Danger to all if he gets his own way.

To add a further layer of intrigue, the presence of Master Overseer is keeping his stable-mate Big Occasion on bottom weight. He has the distance to prove and has not shown enough yet. Intriguing though.

The other eye catcher is Rapidolyte De Lada at 14/1. This horse won a small time affair at Carlisle but looks the sort to be fancied by this.

On balance, the Major opts for the class act on an each way basis. Master Overseer can be backed at 8/1 with Bet365, have a slice.

Kempton Tips

Starting with the Adonis (2.05) – This juvenile is going to give us a huge pointer as to the Triumph in less than three weeks time.

Irish Saint is well fancied after being denied by the exciting looking Rolling Star last time out at Cheltenham. He has not raced on anything other than soft ground which is a slight concern. He is a listed winner in France and clearly feared as the Ditcheat best pop at the Triumph. That form is pretty hot too and given he has shown an aptitude for the track, I fancy him to come out on top and 6/4 is a decent price. Strong bet advice. L’unique is the only one fear.

The 2.40 is the Pendil Novices Chase and this is a race that Paul Nicholls clearly likes for his top novice chasers. He has won the race an astonishing six years in the last seven, including Cristal Bonus last year and I am backing Grandioso to keep up his marvellous record at 9/4 (Coral). He looks versatile regarding the ground and his Ludlow win was very taking.

The 3.15 Dovecote Novices hurdle is a classic case of a more experienced sort in Brick Red taking on some young pretenders. I am a big fan of the Venetia Williams horse, he has won some good handicaps and deserves a crack at this. Yet I cannot help but feel he is vulnerable. Alan King took this race last year with Grumeti whom he though very highly of and he won it in 06 with Senorita Rumbalita and in 2009 with the well touted Trenchant. Thus I follow Fair Trade in at 8/1 with a fair degree of interest.

The 3.50 has all the signs of being a smash and grab job. JP has just spent a fortune on Wyck Hill and all the signs are that this mark is well within the horses capabilities. 3/1 could look exceptionally generous. Expect him to lead and I think he might be hard to peg back. Nacarat would bring the house down if he could must what it takes, good luck old boy.

Fairyhouse Graded Contests

Fairyhouse has its own warm up show for the Triumph with Dogora and Stocktons Wing seemingly the two to concentrate on. Is it just the Major who thinks this or have a lot of Ricci owned ho pots with Ruby up come a cropper when out in front? Not put off, I stick with the evens favourite to get the job done.

The Bobbyjo chase is one of those contests run after the national weights are out where we get a better idea of the principles chances. Seabass is my tip in the race at 4/1 who I think has been lined up for a pop at the national. While Prince de Beauchene may have all of the form, record and connections to be a worthy favourite, a national plot horse is a national plot horse.

In the football…

Connect your carriages to the Watford money train once again…. choo choooooo 5/6. Oldham to beat Portsmouth 8/11, like last week it feels like a cheap shot. Peterborough to beat Blues 7/5 is a bet too.

May your dinner be served by some fine European sort who treats service as an art form and is reassuringly expensive. This can only be paid for with some significant combinations today so good luck. Go easy on the brandy too, none of the XO, Cheltenham is almost here, save thy liver and thy purse.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Master Overseer, Irish Saint, Watford and Grandioso. UPDATE – NEWCASTLE OFF so replace master overseer with Fair Trade

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.