Good evening from the Major who writes a short post from his bed. An evening spent baiting mice, planting up in the garden and then baiting Villa fans after their defeat at Old Trafford.
Dealing with my little furry vermin friends that I suspect are nesting in the loft of my garage might prove difficult. I have laid down a rodenticide that thins the blood and causes a painless death I am assured, although I doubt little Mr Jingles and friends would see it that way. I also suspect that they won’t fall for it so easily.
In comparison, a few choice words always draws a warm reaction quickly and effortlessly from Villa fans in their present position. Their precarious position has them on edge. Mind the gap chaps, it is a long way down.
I think it will prove a nail-biter of a finish at the relegation end of the table. Wigan have a game in hand but have to face both Spurs and Arsenal. Villa have to face Chelsea. If no surprises occur in those fixtures then it boils down to who can take the most points from Sunderland and Norwich (Villa) or West Brom and Swansea (Wigan) before the teams meet at Wigan on the last day. At the moment it is odds-on that it will come to that last day which makes 9/4 Villa go down (Hills) the bet in this situation for me.
As an Albion fan, you might expect me to gloat yet I hope not, I would like to think I have more dignity than that. Yet I do want Villa to be relegated, I think it would do their fans good, certainly the ones I know.
As I grew up, Villa fans had a good team, they were players. While Albion were battling out a promotion punch up from League 1 (or whatever it was called back then!) with Stockport, Brentford and Port Vale; Villa were challenging for titles with quality through the team. Wolves and Blues barely did better than the Albion and so in Birmingham, if you were not a Villa fan, you were not supporting the cities best team. That made life tough in the playground but taught you a more sanguine and realistic approach to life.
For Villains though, familiarity to regional dominance was comfortable and it is this that makes it difficult to contemplate a relegation. Ironically, Brentford are once again challenging for promotion to the Championship.
I don’t hate Villa. I don’t hate any football club. I do think a spell in the Championship would be cathartic. I can also see me talking to a couple of Villa friends in the pub on a Friday night… So who have you got tomorrow? Oh Brentford… Well, Griffin Park is not an easy place to go… A point would be a result there… I can see their faces…
Uncouth. I apologise. To the proper sport, the sport of Kings. Taste the air young soldiers, it tastes so fresh, gasp at it drawing in great gulps like a thirsty man. Tomorrow is Punchestown and bar Sandown, this is our last hoorah of the National Hunt season.
Punchestown Tuesday Tips….
Although Punchestown draws enough top quality horses, there is a slight bitter edge to the festival for me, knowing it marks the last appearance of the season for the big names.
As a festival, my feeling is that you often get a few hot ones turned over simply because they are a bit over the top at this stage of the season. That and the spring ground can catch a few out, although they start here on soft. Having a horse that missed Cheltenham with Punchestown in mind is a big draw. Not getting too lumpy on day one is also part of my strategy.
The mid afternoon starts of these meetings is a good thing in my view. For those of us keeping the economy turning over while the Punchestown crowd sup a few stouts in the spring sun, it is nice to catch the last couple of races on the way home.
3.40pm – Kildare Hunt Cup
Enda Bolger has taken this race four times in the last ten years and his quartet in this years renewals are all under 10/1 including the two favourites. It is fair to say, the man has a damn fine chance of taking this again!
Bolger is responsible for the only horse competing which has a Punchestown win and that is Zest for Life, the second favourite. This horse has won this contest three years ago and since fell and been placed third. At 5/1, I would not put you off.
In these amateur riders events, finding the best jockey is a huge factor. In this case, it is simple. The jockey bookings make interesting reading. Only one of the Bolger pilots has ridden for him before and that was just the once! But the best jockey in the race, Katie Walsh, takes the ride on his Keep on Track. While you have to ignore a few disappointing runs, in a contest like this, I don’t think it is unreasonable to. Paddy goes 8/1, take him up on it!
4.20 – Champion Novice Hurdle
This is one of the races of the week for me with the Supreme form of Champagne fever getting its first work over.
That horse was a winner for the Major on the opening day of Cheltenham. I think My Tent or Yours may well prove a better horse in the end, he looked like he arrived with plenty in hand and then found himself flat-footed after the last. Champagne Fever dug deep showing a likeable attitude.
If they have him off the bridle tomorrow, the easier Punchestown track may not be to his advantage. I also thought that short run in they have on day one at Cheltenham played to his prominent style.
Maybe I am trying too hard to get him beaten. After all he was a Champion Bumper horse too so clearly is a class act. Jezki and Rule the World have obvious claims. Jezki had Champagne Fever beaten on this sort of track in the Royal Bond and Rule The World showed plenty of class up against impressive The New One at Cheltenham but I think he might get tapped for toe here.
Ted Veale won the County, beating Tennis Cap but I cannot have that form against these three confirmed top stars.
Here is the Champagne Fever persuader for you though….
Horse | Trainer (Runners last 14 days) [winners]
Champagne Fever | Mullins (11) 
Jezki | Harrington (7) 
Rule the World (1) 
4.55 Handicap Hurdle
A wide open handicap and a punters puzzle to solve. Tennis Cap has been one for the Major before but I think both the mark and the season are catching up with him.
Last years winner, Snap Tie, has his work cut out returning on a near stone higher mark. Not for me.
I am opting for the apparent Mullins second string though in Tasiocht at 10/1 (Ladbrokes). This horse showed some very classy early form and a mark of just 124 I think could be very tasty. Crucially, she has some experience in bigger fields which will help amongst twenty charging sorts over two miles here. The fact she likes to lead also will help in that regard. Some jumping issues will have kept the price honest and given Walsh has gone for tennis Cap, you must assume we are on the less fancied runner but it would not be the first time would it!
5.30pm Champion Chase
Unless a miracle occurs this should be yet another procession for Sprinter Sacre. I was an early convert to the cult of The Aeroplane and it is with caution (given a large Irish readership) that I say this but…. the comparisons to Arkle are going to be inevitable.
I don’t think trip matters one jot to this horse. Prior to the Aintree race, I thought such concerns were ridiculous (given the way he travels and jumps) and I was delighted to be proved right. Not boastful delight you understand, just the mellow sort that allows you to bask contented, knowing you are living in an era of one of jumpings greatest ever. If you are there, enjoy.
6.05 – The Bumper
There is a fair bit of guess-work going on in finding the selection in the bumper.
The very obvious selection is Moyle Park who was quickly bought for a six figure sum after defeating Blackmail on debut. Now in the hands of Mullins, you would be surprised not to see it involved. I will have an interest.
I also plan a small saver on Indian Rupee, the Tommy Mullins horse. The stable won this last year with a less fancied sort (16s) and I cannot let this 33/1 unraced sort pass me by.
6.40pm – Champion Novice Chase
Wow – If the handicap hurdle was a tricky call for Ruby, this must have been a real coin-flipper. Ruby has gotten off Boston Bob who looked like coming back strong to win the RSA, to ride Back In Focus who was unbelievably game to win the four miler.
I think Ruby has made the wrong call but I am hoping it is irrelevant anyway as I am opting for the Kim Bailey trained Harry Topper. This horse has been given a little longer to get over a spill at Kelso last time and the trainer has given such positive vibes about the horse that you have to take notice. As I mentioned at the top, I readily prefer a horse trained for Punchestown and may well take this on the rocks as well as with a reverse forecast mixing in Boston Bob.
7.15 – 2m Flat
No market, bar Betfair, which suggests that my selection Western Boy will be a 9/1 shot. I am in!
Courage, roll those dice.