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The Saturday Sermon – Racing Action from Doncaster, Navan and Kelso… Live with intensity my friends… Cheltenham is here

Good evening from the Major who writes from my cold Worcestershire pile. Today in meteorological terms the calendar turned to Spring but this season awakens like a slow lumbering animal whose limbs have lain stiff and frozen for some time, creaking now into life, the ice and frost cracking as new movement arrives.

I wish for you all that you live an interesting life. According to psalms, we are all here for our four score and ten, 90 years in new money, although for most of us that is pushing it.   In the UK you are likely to finish ten years light of that allocation, in some sub Saharan Africa countries where one in three adults are HIV positive, that number can be under 50.  That is an average.

Swaziland by some distance sports the lowest life expectancy.  More than half of all adults in their 20s are HIV positive.  Subsistence farming and marijuana are the key economic planks.

Interesting?  It won’t stop me telling you more.  Afghanistan is the only country in the lowest twenty life expectancies outside of Africa.  You have to scoot 40/50 countries up to find the next which is Haiti.  At the top end, it is who you would expect, Japan, Macau and small rich European countries.

The range is startling.  Yet you cannot measure your life merely in longevity, ask those in long-term incarceration.  Other elements are in play.  We pursue wealth because it buys things we seek pleasure from.  It helps to have the resources but the attitude is more important. You can be rich and allow the precious resource to be frittered.  Your use of time.

Use your time today with some intensity.  Variety is no substitute.  If you are to travel around the world, before you pay for the experience, make sure you are capable of absorbing and engaging in an environment first.

The man I used as a role model for living was Sir Clement Freud. Politician, chef, bon viveur, jockey, owner and a man capable of drawing much from that around him. The post has remained open since his death although Strange Rumblings is doing his best to find me a replacement.

Next weekend is Imperial Cup and then we are at Cheltenham.  Let us foray across the enemy line, skirmishing in tight formation.  Smash and grab, cut, thrust and run.  To the sports…

Doncaster Tips

When I saw the Doncaster card this morning, I had to get a dictionary to remind myself of what the word firm meant in the going description!  Saturdays ground is described as good.

The Doncaster opener should go to Themilanhorse but I don’t like backing runners in three runner affairs.  The second listed novice is more interesting even if it is only to watch Ma Filleule breeze up against a field that are simply not as good.  1/3 does not put me off.

Toubab is also a favourite I fancy – He looks like a sort who will really appreciate the return to faster conditions judged on his form with Sprinter Sacre that has been eclipsed by poorer runs on softer ground.

The staying chase is a minefield.  Join Together is the likely favourite and has a tremendous progressive profile.  Now the national weights are out, he is one of a few we can expect to see coming to the boil.  Yet I am not convinced that he will like the top of the ground.  Corkage is an interesting runner, particularly given the jockeys clear preference for him over the shorter priced stablemate Night in Milan, Corkage won’t mind the ground either.  Court by Surprise and Quentin Collonges are also eye catchers, the former beat the latter who might be better suited in these conditions.

Calgary Bay is the class horse amongst them and that with the coupling of AP McCoy gives me the confidence for a win bet at 8/1.

In the staying handicap hurdle, Aaim to Prosper will be trying to pay out on some of the hype.  The dual Cesarewitch winner has only managed placings in hurdles to date although they have been at a decent standard.

Carruthers is going to try to blast it from the front but I am not sure these conditions will suit.  I prefer instead the chances of both Barafundle at 9/1 and Eagle Rock at 12/1.  The former has been consistent and not badly treated by the handicapper.  The latter Eagle Rock to me looks like he might have bags of improvement to come.  12/1 tasty.

Kelso Tips

The Kelso hurdle is a grade 2 affair and while Eduard has some good form and Brick Red is stepping up after impressing in handicaps.  I also interested in 9/2 shot Only Orsenfoolies who has really stepped up as a hurdler and is proven in the soft conditions, I am not sure he beat too much last time but he dug deep.

Eduard is the obvious choice, he boasts the most clear likelihood of talent and I suggest a big investment at 5/4.

A second favourite Harry Topper is backed to make pay his decision to miss Cheltenham in the 4.15.  I was a backer of Bold Sir Brian on the day he fell at Cheltenham.  They had the screens up that day and you feared the worst but thank god, he got up once he had his wind back.  Who knows what that experience has left on him and I just hope he has a safe round at Kelso.

Navan Tips

The only Navan horse I am interested in is Wise Oscar who reverts to this code on a terrifyingly good mark and 11/8 is tasty.

In the football I am backing Hull to beat Blues at home and also taking a slice of Sunderland and Swansea.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Wise Oscar, Harry Topper, Eduard and Eagle Rock.

I hope your dinner is tasty and home cooked.  Sleep well.

Courage and roll those dice.

Saturday Sermon – Tingle Creek Sandown Tips, Chepstow and Aintree Becher Chase day too…. Shabash, courage and roll those dice

Good morning from a bright Worcestershire rural picture. The air has mellowed, dropping its aggressively cold tones and becoming thoroughly more agreeable.

Sound tracking my breakfast – Fine Wiltshire pork sausages with local free range eggs, peppered and orange juice.

Facts and stories. Which of these is the greater? To a gambling man who likes a model of statistical value, you might argue the former always trumps. The tangible can be valued, a feeling cannot. We are trying to get to truth aren’t we, no sentimentality can come into it.

Yet, through human history though, people discard reason regularly, sometimes with disastrous consequences, sometimes for good reason.

Last night, a colleague and old friend lost an earring – her distress was not related to the cost but the fact that it had been her grandmothers. Time adds value that the jeweller or insurer cannot recognise.

In the same way, evaluating a business decision or a gambling opportunity carries the same dilemma. All in life is made of two elements. Fact and story. Your ability to fathom a good and useful story is more important in life than your ability to handle data. Fact. Not time to explain why, just trust in the Major and my sermon. Do your research, calculate your pricing model and then leave the last bit to personal feeling. Add a little of what cannot be explained. Life is like that. Enjoy it.

Not much time to hang about today, let’s get down to the sports. She found it by the way.

Sandown Tingle Creek Day Tips

The opening novice hurdle will be won by Golden Hoof – OK it’s a shade of odds against but Henderson has won the last three running of this race with some decent types so all points to my tip being a useful sort.

In the 1.25, despite the unbelievable form of Team Ditcheat, I cannot be on Sam Winner. I give a squeak to Gilbarry at 16/1. Gilbarry is racing of a potentially lenient mark over the smaller obstacles having shown much better chase form. He has been backed into that price so maybe something is expected.

Captain Conan looks to have a simple opportunity to pick up a grade 1 chase in the Markel Novices. Hinterland did not look the same horse over the big obstacles and might have struggled to cope with Hendersons horse even if he did handle it.

This is a good a Tingle Creek as I can remember because both Sanctuare and Sprinter Sacre look as good as we have seen in this division for some time. I love the Tingle Creek, remember Kauto winnng it! I know Denman had a swaggering style but I loved The class of Kauto (made even more special by his ability to smack a fence when cruising!). No more proof can I give than reminding you that the great Kauto had the speed for a Tingle Creek before taking in a King George and the Gold Cup in the same season!

Although its hard to imagine a horse repeating those exploits, in Sanctuaire and Sprinter Sacre we have two that I could conceive scaling similar heights. My heart is with the Aeroplane, the way Sprinter put away Al Ferof and Cue Card who have both thoroughly franked the Arkle form is damn impressive. Sanctuaire is Nicholls highest rated novice chaser and so if ratings lead you then 5/2 is a gift. My story is different though, Sprinter Sacre might be the best chaser we have seen in a generation. Geraghty says he has never ridden anything like it.

I cannot wait for the Tingle Creek.

Navan Tips

Rule the World has a strong form line with Bonisland suggesting he should have his measure and so 11/10 is fine by me in the novice event at 1.20.

I don’t care that I am in danger of stating the obvious but Oscars Well should win the novice chase affair too. This horse was a multiple grade 1 winner over hurdles and loves heavy ground which is a question for many of these. 8/11 is not prohibitive for this.

Aintree Becher Chase Day Tips

The Becher is as wide open as usual. Join Together and Problema Tic are both young talented looking chasers and the former looks a thorough stayer which is crucial over these fences. My problem is the profile of these horses. This race suits an animal who is older and has been around the block a bit more. Proven fence experience is far more important than handicap mark. That makes the selection of last years winner West End Rocker – he slammed the opposition last year, likes conditions, loves the national fences and is only 5lbs higher than last year. 6/1 is a great price.

Cannot see why Quito de la Roque won’t win in the 1.05 at 10/11, the Kauto Stone race was a decent affair and he will be fitter today.

Chepstow Tip

In the 1.30, I am going to give a squeak to Caroles Destiny at 8/1, my tip was a decent hurdler and often shows a likeable attitude.

Such is the form of the Nicholls yard that I am tipping Royal Charm in the 2.05 – the mark is more workable these days and Sona Sasta is likely to set a good clip to aim at.

Chepstow when heavy takes a lot of getting. I would want proven form on the surface and. Get it from the progressive horse Noble Legend at 9/2 in the 3.15.

To the football…

I like going against clubs in trouble and so 5/1 Sunderland and 11/2 West Brom will be backed. More solid claims are Swansea who should be good enough to beat even a rejuvenated Norwich. Southampton have started going and evens is a gift at home to a leaky Reading.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 Mothership is Southampton, Oscars Well, Noble Legend and Golden Hoof.

The each way Trixie is Carole’s Destiny, West End Rocker and Gilbarry.

May your dinner be in good company in a restaurant run by competent sorts.

Courage and roll those dice.

Friday Aintree Tips – includes a 25/1 Topham Tip

THIS IS THE 2012 POST, 2013 tips will be posted at midnight on Thursday on the home page.

2013 tips are now live.

Good evening from the Major who writes with tips for the fantastic Friday Aintree card.  The sheer quality of racing makes the heart skip a beat.

Finians was top class when seeing off Sizing Europe. This will suit…. load the large cannon

No joy from the three Aintree tips offered on Thursday.

To be fair, Crack Away Jack came in second at 50/1 after being highlighted as a possible improver.  Pearl Mix was a non runner but Grumeti’s win was a moral victory as the form lines were tied.  The other two selections fared poorly.

We need Fridays Aintree Tips to bring the Warchest for the weekend, let us review the action and see if we cannot find some opportunities to load the large cannon.

Aintree Top Novice Hurdle – 2pm

Darlan’s second in the Supreme Novices is rock solid form and to be fair, you could argue he was a little unlucky not to be the winner.

Prospect Wells was not that far behind that day but the Major is opting for a horse who finished even further behind in the Supreme… the tip is Vulcanite.

The selection is a general 10/1 shot and has been pulling very hard in his races.  If he settles I think he could be a classier act than yet shown over the obstacles as he was a decent flat horse.  Aintree is a flatter track, which I feel will suit his running style and help him settle as they will go quicker.  Now with more experience, I think there is a reasonable case to be made that Vulcanite could come improve past them all.

2.30 Mildmay Novice Chase

I can understand why the market has priced up Champion Court as favourite.  This horse likes to bowl  along and on a flat track and likely granted an easy lead, he could be hard to peg back.

Silviniaco Conti has some very good tied form with Bobs Worth who was an impressive Cheltenham winner.  Ruby opts to ride him too.

Neither of these market leaders are that convincing to the Major though who looks a little further down to find a golden nugget hiding away.

Join Together is the 11/2 tip (Stan James).  Ruby disagrees with me having chosen Silviniaco Conti over this stablemate but I think my selection has the greater form.  His last run at Cheltenham was a disappointment and I have to find a valid reason (the ground).

With a line through that run, my horse has given weight and a beating to Champion Court and has beaten subsequent Cheltenham winner Teaforthree.  Have a slice.

3.05 Melling Chase

The selection here is far more simple.  Finians Rainbow, a winner at Aintree last year and the reigning Champion Chaser, should have nothing to fear from this field and should be backed to the hilt at 11/8 with Stan James.

Albertas Run who has won the race in 2010, is now 11 and the newcomer looks more progressive.

The way Finians Rainbow finished up the Cheltenham hill suggested that 2m 4f around Aintree is well within reach.  The main danger in the Major’s eyes is Wishfull Thinking who I remain convinced has some big races to run.

Smash it up.

Topham Chase Tips

One of the trickiest contests to resolve is Thursdays Aintree Topham chase.  Tipping a winner in this is a tricky business indeed.

A couple of thoughts influence the tip, the ground is being watered and I think with a dry forecast, they are worried about it going ‘good’.  I am looking for good ground sorts and hope we don’t get that dead ground that throws up such odd results.

Secondly, there is a hugely strong Topham trend towards bottom of the handicap sorts.  Just one horse in the last twelve winners carried more than 11st and that was Gwanako.  In fact, since the turn of the century, seven winners carried 10st 4lbs or less.  To be fair, this does not rule out many as you often have a classy sort taking on unexposed players.

Peter Bowen is heavily represented again including the Topham hat-trick seeking Always Waining.  He will sure be popular again and will be in the best shape for this so has to be considered even at eleven.

Little Josh is now running off the same marks that got him a Paddy Power Gold Cup.  Liking to front run, conditions will suit so 11/1 Paddy Power is half decent.  However, 11st 4lbs on trends will be a burden.

The selection though is harder to justify than these.  Montoya’s Son has started to recover some form and the recent Newcastle show was OK.  It is not unrealistic to expect further improvement and 25/1 (Paddy Power) allows some room for that.  Many bookies are offering 5 places so do watch the terms.

4.15 Sefton Novices

When connections described Fingal Bay as the best they have had, the Major made a big mark in the book and left it there.  6/4 is very reasonable for a horse that has shown terrific form.

Having bypassed Cheltenham, Fingal bay turns up at Aintree fresher than many and if he has most of the form that his reputation suggests, then he should carry these before him.

For those that like a bigger price, Knock a Hand looks extremely progressive and could well take a place.

4.50 Handicap Hurdle

I have been through this card and cannot decide between two so am serving both up.

Bourne, I think, was unsuited last time and has plenty of potential left in what was a progressive profile before the festival.  9/1 is a win bet.

Like Minded is a 25/1 Paul Nicholls inmate who has not done much winning but would be closely matched with 14/1 Ataglance now on these revised terms.  Harry Derham has had a high profile winner for the yard this term and is well worth his claim.

The other big price horse that I considered is 25/1 shot Saphir River who did not give a decent run on British debut and has to prove some worth out of confusing French form.  It is notable though that there was a quarter of a million fee for the horse – Market support could be significant on second UK start.

The Bumper

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