Tag Archives: kauto star

The Majors Antepost Tips for Cheltenham Festival – 40/1, 25/1 and more

The time has come for the Major to reveal exactly which horses I want in my portfolio before the tapes go up on Tuesday 13th March and the famous roar echos around the Gloucestershire air.

Antepost betting can be terrific fun and equally incredibly frustrating and the Major normally would recommend getting involved in Cheltenham betting only at this stage.

Markets for the main Cheltenham races open immediately after the preceding years event has been run.  However, getting on early means you do not have the benefit of an entire years form knowledge, you do not see the improvers or judge the injury, prep or yard form; you do not know which horses are planned to be stepped up in trip or to go chasing.

Crucially, the vast majority of bookmakers have now gone non-runner, no-bet.  This simply means a refund if your horse does not make it to the start line!  Now is the time for the Major to roll out his Cheltenham antepost tips.

The festival is such a competitive betting commercial space, you also get the plethora of offers from bookies keen to get you in the habit of using their account ahead of the week.  The Major will make no bones about advising which offers you should go for.  The stand out must be Paddy Power who are offering a refund on your horse in the Arkle, if Sprinter Sacre is beaten.  That will cost them a lot of money and we should be in the queue to take advantage.

I have broken my thoughts down into each day – I am not trying to cover every race, just my main thoughts……

One horse I don’t think will turn up (unless the heavens open) and I will miss is the Gigginstown horse, Bog Warrior.  I think this is the best chaser in the making and look forward to an exciting future but his runs require soft conditions…  Lets hope Aintree or Punchestown is soft enough.

Champion Trainer and Champion Jockey

My first antepost bet of the week has to be in the top trainer market where you can get 25/1 about Alan King (William Hill).  He has a decent portfolio of chances in the handicaps and in Grumeti, looks to have a warm prospect, it can be just a handful of horses required to win a top trainer prize at the festival. 

I would also recommend a small stake on Daryl Jacob to pick up top jockey at 40/1.  If some of the Mullins horses do not travel over well or are faced by very good conditions, then I fancy getting some Mullins / Walsh mounts turned over.  This then gives Daryl Jacob a great chance of winning a few on the best alternate Nicholls rides…. just a thought. 

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle, The Arkle….

Firstly, go to Ladbrokes and claim your free £5 bet!  You have to do it online and you have to deposit but that’s it; a completely free £5 bet for Cheltenham’s Tuesday card….

The racing – Let’s start with the Arkle.  There is no way that you should back anything unless it is with Paddy Power in this race. 

Cue Card, 8/1, has been touted by his jockey as a likely front runner, which I do not think will do him much favour.  Peddlers Cross, 9/2, is likely to line up here but may take his chances in the Champion Chase, where he is a top price 20/1, or the Jewson, 6/1.  I would put him in the Champion Chase if I owned him as I think it is a weak Champion Chase this year, more of that later.  Al Ferof at 4/1 is too short for me, although Ruby wants to oppose Sprinter Sacre with him, I am not sure there is enough in the price for a horse that has looked just short of top class.  Sprinter Sacre has been described as an aeroplane and does look top drawer, the likely winner but in a race that has a habit of turning those sorts over!

Thus, the antepost Arkle selection for the Major is Menorah at 11/1 with Paddy Power.   I cannot forget that the placed form in last years Champion Hurdle and despite the horse needing to put many excuses behind, it is entirely possible that the festival is the place to do it.  Plus with a refund available is Sprinter Sacre does go in…. well, value indeed.

In the JLT Handicap Chase, I do quite fancy Walkon at 20/1 who likes Cheltenham and has some fair class; these staying handicap chases often suit a classy horse and I want this one on my side.

The Champion Hurdle – The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle has been dominated by Hurricane Fly.  The injury prone Irish star showed all his class last year to smash his field, although on reflection, was it the strongest? 

Although Binocular was reported back to his all time best at Wincanton last time, the Major has severe doubts about whether we will see that form or what it adds up to. 

Zarkander looks good but has to overcome a serious lack of experience and 5/1 is no price. 

Once again, the Major is looking down the list at something that might run a bigger race and the pen stops at Rock on Ruby at 14/1.  This horse will be staying on to best effect at the end of the race and I just have a feeling that things might fall in his lap rather.  It could be a fairly small Champion Hurdle field and things may get messy.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, The Neptune, Coral Cup and RSA Chase

This years Champion Chase looks a fairly poor renewal.  As much as I know the yard can prepare for the big run, it looks like Big Zebs best days are behind him.

This leaves Sizing Europe, a best priced 11/10 shot and Finians Rainbow at 5/1.  Now it has cost me money, but I am still of the view that Sizing Europe is very beatable and I am going to keep that instinct.  My issue is that I do not think the horse to do it is Finians Rainbow, at least not this year.

Once again the Major’s eyes are wandering down the list and I settle on Wishfull Thinking a general 16/1 shot.  Again a horse with some questions to answer but one with definite talent and not just place claims in my view.

The Coral Cup may be a handicap where we are yet to see the well weighted horse.  Therefore I am holding my judgement until after the Imperial Cup next weekend but would register an early interest in Smad Place at 16/1.

The RSA chase is all about whether Grand Crus turns up or not.  Personally I would run him in the Gold Cup.  I suspect though that connections will go for the RSA and use Kauto’s declaration of fitness (Assuming that comes) as  the decision point.  Whichever race he turns up in, I am very interested in Grand Crus who has taken to regulation fences extremely well.  9/4 therefore that he wins the RSA is a price from heaven and we should all be relieving Sportingbet of the weight of their satchel.

The Neptune is another race in which I fancy the favourite.  Now that Henderson has declared this the target for Simonsig, I think the 7/2 with Boylesports represents great value.  There is not a massive amount of quality in behind this (spare Boston Bob who may not line up) so I have no hesitation in getting on early and large.  This is an ideal antepost market to tip as it looks like the favourites price will only go one way.

If you want a tip for the Champion Bumper, you are in the wrong place!  Try @kingofbumpers on Twitter on the day!

Cheltenham Thursday Tips – World Hurdle, Jewson and Ryanair

Big Bucks is so dominant in the World Hurdle market, it is hard to find an obvious piece of value.  It is there though, in the w/o Big Bucks prices.

Oscar Whisky has been touted as a real credible threat to the champion and while the Major will believe that when he can see it, 7/4 (Hills, Power, Coral and Boylesports) is a fine price. 

Although the market says he will, I don’t think Peddlers Cross will line up ion the Jewson which makes last years festival winner, Sir Des Champs, my selection at 6/1.

The Ryanair could be a cracking race this year and while Riverside Theatre returning from injury to great form shapes the market, it is Irish raider Noble Prince who the Major wants on side.  6/1 is the price, have a big slice and thank me later.

Cheltenham Friday – The Gold Cup, The Triumph

The Triumph has been shaping up well in the last month with the principles being taking each other.  I am putting two up to back at win stakes; Pearl Swan, 8/1 Paddy Power) and Grumeti, 5/1 (Generally).  I think this is the best form line and neither will mind the Cheltenham hill, a test many others in the field are to face into yet.

The Gold Cup is hugely interesting race this year.  I am assuming that Kauto turns up, which is no certainty.  If he does, he has been racing with the mind of a six year old, clearly noone has told the great horse that he is in his veteran years!  That said, I would urge anyone who would back Kauto with money and not just heart, to rewatch last years Gold Cup and King George.  There lies all the evidence you need that despite Long Run being scruffy at fences, he will outstay Kauto.

Long Run at 13/8 with a clear round is a great price but it is the clear round that bothers me.  I also do not think this is the horses fault but rather the amateur jockey – I am afraid that the Major is in the camp that would like to see Geraghty on board and really see how great this horse can be.

The antepost tip though is two-fold and buried way down the list.  I think this years Gold Cup has got the hallmarks of a race that could go to a massive outsider.  Long Run might jump his way out of it, Kauto and Grand Crus might not be there, Burton Port might bounce.

The two I am interested in are What a Friend and Captain Chris, both at 40/1 – What a Friend ran to a place last year and is sure to be in the mix, Captain Chris has quality but has run a season of shockers.  That said, he has always looked a spring horse and so I am relying on him coming back to form.  Mainly, let’s hope that Kauto gets there and gives a good race to bow out on.

That is it, the full Cheltenham portfolio.  Whatever you do, bet an amount that makes you nervous, else you won’t enjoy it as you should!

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The Major’s Saturday Sermon – Newbury and Doncaster Tips – Kauto Star Thoughts

Good morning from a bright and breezy Defford where Spring is announced with a chorus of birdsong; awaken from thy slumber world, darkness has passed.  The Cheltenham festival is the great marker for the transition into full spring, a wonderful seasonal milestone.

Neptune Equester for Ellison.... Ready for a big one?

The Major’s poor form continues with a series of losers last week.  The unerring accuracy of my error is breathtaking for all the wrong reasons – I challenge you to tip as many losers as I am in February.

Today is the penultimate Saturday Sermon ahead of the festival and so time is not by my side but rather coming up fast behind me, tearing the ground away from under my feet and threatening the war chest…. we need winners. 

Before we get to the sport, the Major’s views on Kauto…

Kauto – The Fall, The Fallout and the Outcome

Kauto is vying for favouritism as the Nations adopted horse with Frankel.  So it was no surprise to see the countrywide reaction to the news that he had suffered a big training fall that threatens his participation in the Gold Cup.  It is a mark of just how loved the horse is that this news permeated into the Today programme on Radio Four.  Say what you will but no Racing For Change initiative (as much as I am a supporter of their work) can substitute for the nations love of equine story full of hope, bravery, skill and shocks.

The controversy remains around how long it took Ditcheat to relay the news in the media.  I think this is harsh criticism, I understand those that placed a bet in the meantime but they would have been equally slated for producing a negative report and then later giving the all clear.  They would have been accused of trying to manipulate the market so they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Overall Ditcheat are among the most open operations of all, they may have chosen to handle this one slightly differently but note that not one inch of impact was felt in the market, showing what a tight operation they run.

The latest news is positive with a canter going well today….. Let’s all hope that progress continues and that Kauto Star lines up in little under a fortnight but let us not take chances. If he retires with the King George as his last race… well, perhaps that is a deserved last chapter.

To the racing….

Racing Tips – Newbury and Doncaster

There is a definite feeling of calm before the storm today.  The big guns are wrapped up in cotton wool.  Along with Kauto we had high-profile drop-outs in the Triumph market and this is that time where we will be hit with another couple of horses who have to miss Cheltenham.

There is still plenty of decent racing though.  Next weekends Imperial Cup is a marvelous race, trying to spot the handicap snip who is trying for the Imperial / Cheltenham bonus.  Interesting that David Pipe who landed it with the small little spirited mare Gaspara some years ago; maintains he has no obvious plot horse this year due to owner concerns….. The Major watches with a cautious eye; not that I accuse him of treachery you understand, merely it is an established Pipe route….

Today I have decided to have a pop at all of the Channel 4 live races; get yourself a Scoop 6 ticket, sit down and buckle in.

2.20 Doncaster – Handicap Hurdle

Very interesting piece from Tom Segal in the Racing Post last week around how he goes about selecting his horses.  The most fascinating part the Major picked up on was the importance that he gives to jockey booking.  Far more important than ground or handicap mark in his view.

Who is the Major to argue?  Thankfully it helps me select what I think is the likely winner of the 2.20 in Kangaroo Court.  The horse has come down in the handicap from a peak of 142 and these conditions are ideal.  With Noel Fehily amongst the Majors favourite jockey, I am going to back him to see off Allow Me and Corkage in that order.  3/1 Stan James….

3.25 Doncaster – The Grimthorpe

The two horses of key interest to the Major are Neptune Equester and Mac Aeda.

Mac Aeda is prone to a jumping error but is clearly on the upgrade.  A 6lb rise for his latest win is reasonable and 9/2 is a very fair price.

Neptune Equester though is the selection at a general 8/1.  Brian Ellisons horses have to be caught right so money for the selection would be a huge positive.  I do think these conditions will suit the horse who loves to rattle along the top; excuses are easy to make for his recent runs and I suggest a healthy slice. Load the Cannons!

To Newbury….

2.05 Newbury Tips – The Greatwood Handicap

This is a good race to introduce to the calendar with many horses at this time seeking a good run that could get them into a festival handicap. 

The three that the Major has settled on have different profiles. 

Cinderella Rose has clearly had injury problems but looked as good as ever on the last start at Plumpton.  Nobody could argue that the performance does not warrant a 6lb rise.  Being a fairly lightly raced 6-year-old; who knows what further improvement is there and the step up in trip is a positive on profile.

Love of Tara has been competing in graded company and this step down in class could see an improvement.  Timmy Murphy is superb at 3m+ races and I would not be surprised to see a big run come from her today.

The third horse is favourite Buck Magic who has the assistance of Barry Geraghty for a yard who he gets an odd ride (normally winning) for.  The horse is another who has had injury problems but with few miles on the clock and the promise of improvement, there is little not to like.

Overall, the 12/1 chance (Sportingbet / Stan James) Cinderella Rose is worth a punt on…. Have a slice and send me the postcard.

2.40 Newbury – Veterans Chase

I do love these veteran chases; famous old names lining up in their own age group, a welcome addition to the racing calendar.

The horse that just qualifies for the race is the one of most interest to the Major.  Marufo has had time out of racing and returned this year with two reasonable efforts.  Getting weight from all but one rival and with fewer miles on the clock, he looks a likely sort.  He also gets the assistance of Richard Johnson so a big plus, 5/1 is generally available.

Niche Market is a proven stayer but has not won anywhere near enough races as he should have done.

3.10 Newbury – Tips for the Barbury International

Pricewise beat me to the punch in this race with the Major’s selection being Fine Parchment.

I like horses that are pointed at races and this looks the plot for Fine Parchment having won this exact race in 2011 off a similar mark.  The 10lb claimer looks extremely valuable and a big run is surely on the cards… You will only find 11/2 available but I suggest a slice even though the mornings fancy prices have gone with the Pricewise factor.

3.45 Newbury – Greatwood Handicap

The Major is all about 11/2 (Stan James) shot Balgarry.  This line up looks average and the opening mark for the selection looks very well manageable.  If the horse is to line up for his Coral Cup entry he may need a big run here.  I am sure that is the plan so have a huge huge slice and thank me later.  Easy.

To the football….

Three selections; Arsenal can win at Liverpool – One team has to win and that is not an advantage; Arsenal can pick off Liverpool who need Suarez to start firing to pose any Champions League threat.  11/4, marvelous.

Millwall are very poor and so a Reading win at 6/4 is a price sent by the European Central Bank to ease the availability of money in Britain.

Last of all, Norwich at 7/2 to beat Stoke seems decent value – Norwich look self-assured and powerful enough to pose a real threat in the potteries.

May your dinner be first class and company to match.  Drink well and savour this moment when all of your Cheltenham thoughts are intact; you have the winner of all races don’t you… you are right because in this land; your guilt and error is not yet proven. 

Be bold…. roll those dice.

The Majors Christmas Special – Kempton King George Tips, Dundalk Bank Builder too

Christmas seems to be an obsession in the modern age, a concept people desperately cling to in the vain hope that it can provide meaning, happiness or satisfaction in their void souls. These people are not like us, they do not gamble and have never felt the thrill or despair that a gentleman gambler experiences. Feel pity, as quoted of Jesus in Luke, forgive them, they know not what they do.

All the Major wants for Christmas is Kauto Star getting round Kempton well and coming back to the festival for a last hoorah

It feels like a quarter of the year is entirely and pointlessly focussed on 25th December. Children have an expectation, they seem unable to comprehend that it is not a right. While Christmas can be wonderful if small, well meant and subtle, too often it is a time of dry turkey, contrived fun, dreadful entertainment, the worst of western consumerism and for the punting man, very little sport to distract from the sheer terror of it all. I recommend the pub.

A solitary card at Dundalk on Friday is all that remains before the curtain comes down and the two-day racing blackout of Christmas Eve and Day. Two entire days of nothing, deadness, silence in the dark, have the will to say hold on dear friends, hold fast, do not break that line for there is light and hope. Redemption cometh.

Yes, the Majors mantra is to remain relentlessly positive, perhaps the enforced break offers a silver lining. The Majors tips are going through an extended period of dire form, from which I find myself unable to break free, Christ, even the regulars are complaining.

We must look at the break as a moment of reflection. Perhaps it provide the needed opportunity to change. If that makes the black-out medicine palatable, the glorious Kempton Boxing Day King George card, makes it wholly worthwhile.

Boxing day Kempton, for a jump racing fan, is one of the years glorious moments, top quality racing and the time to enjoy it… crafted by Jesus, rubber stamped by Sir Clement Freud, who I am sure sits at the same table.

The real beauty is that it comes after these two days of nothing. Like a thirsty man lost in the desert, when he finds water, he is tempted to gulp, so I caution you appropriately. The Major has posted King George tips 72 hours in advance so when the madness sets in, we will not be tempted by momentary urges bought on by the panic of two days, sans racing.

If you are reading this before Christmas, I can assure you that purchasing a bet for someone is a wonderful present. A little patent on the three Kempton selections below could make someone very happy indeed. It is indeed a thoughtful gift.

Before we contemplate Kemptons glories on the other side of the chasm, we have one chance to build a war chest, this side of Christmas. There are a handful of races on the all weather track at Dundalk tonight and the Major has a fancy.

Friday Dundalk Tip

I wonder if the Mullins and Murtagh partnership, which is an exceptionally rare occurrence, have teamed up to take the opener (5pm). Why would I feel it is a strange time for a rare Mullins and Murtagh tie up? Well the race is in honour of Ireland and Dundalks champion jockey… Johnny Murtagh! The forecast SP is 14/1 and I am going to follow my nose and get stuck in at anything over 8s.

The horse itself, Dougal Philps, is not disgraced on its first run. Mullins is in fine form too. Interesting runner, interesting race in honour of the top jock, interesting stable booking, all very interesting, 14/1… very very interesting!!

Load the cannon for Boxing Day…

King George Kempton Card – Tips for the King George Chase

The Major set up a gambling club this year with a group of fair men, we named it the King George Gambling Syndicate. The net result of the club is that we have £1183 to unleash on the King George and where the money is placed is entirely up to Mr Anthony Dipper.

These are the Majors thoughts on what is an exceptional race in exceptional times. If you do not share the Majors view that this is the best era of jump racing for many decades, consider this potted history…

Tipping the King George looked easy enough at the start of the season. Long Run had just broken the track record in his Cheltenham Gold Cup win. At the unlikely age of 6, he was evidently the new king, no question. I was on big at 5s for his Gold Cup win, following the Holmes logic that once you have ruled out every other possibility, what remains is truth. It was obvious why I was a believer, the evidence was all there.

Long Run is a horse I have followed with interest. I remember being stood within yards of Henderson and his entourage when Long Run failed to fire in the 2010 RSA (Henderson just mixes it with the crowd at the festival, I can tell you exactly where he will be stood again in March). You could see the mood with connections that day was pretty low, it left me thinking that it was not the result they were expecting. That and Hendersons comments about the horse just stuck with me, he was clearly loved at home.

Long Run lost the RSA that day at Cheltenham and then the Paddy Power in November. Both races he lost because he has a tendency to see his fences poorly. Henderson has had the horse with Yogi schooling those fences between each run and he is desperate to get him jumping well because clearly he is top draw.

Then came the postponed 2010 King George and Kauto’s impenetrable crown was whipped from him by Long Run. The evidence was now building for the Major that Long Run was the new king.

This was cemented as fact in the Majors mind when in March 2011 at the Gold Cup, the real Long Run landed, winning the Blue Riband race and setting a new track record. Job done.

Thus you can understand why I came into this season thinking that he would be unbeatable and that the old guard were spent. Thanks for the memories Kauto, now move over and let the new young gun in.

It was so simple, neat and tidy but noone had read the script to Kauto, Nicholls, Walsh and the Dicheat team.

As soon as the new order was constructed in such orderly fashion, the Betfair Chase at the start of this season destroyed all certainty. Kauto came back and demolished Long Run doing some serious damage to the track record in the process. It has to be one of Kautos best performances, akin to the 2009 King George.

If you took Kauto Star out of the Betfair Chase, the Long Run view would still have held. After all, he finished second by just 8 lengths which would have been close to a track record and don’t forget he had walked through one fence and was scruffy at many others (same old Long Run, oddly enough this was Kautos issue as a younger horse, that french style).

We must also remember that Kauto was tuned up to his best but Henderson hinted that he had left some off Long Run. With a clean round, could Long Run have emerged as the champ? Could he really have beaten Kauto?

Without Kauto in that race, we would still be celebrating Long Run as the new hero of the chase track… but Kauto was there, wasn’t he, it was no dream, although it was unbelievable, it happened, he did it, he bloody did it. I know because I watched it.

If Kauto wins again on boxing day, it will be his fifth King George. Should it happen, it is record for eternity, one that will remain, as the universe which has expanded across the millenia, begins to reverse, once again all matter is bought together being crushed, under unfathomable pressures to the size of a matchbox, before exploding and expanding in the next cycle of relentless Big Bangs.

Perhaps in the next universe a horse might take six King Georges, still seems unlikely and if it does happen, it is not a universe that the Major cares for. Good luck to them.

Who will win though on the day? So you need a tip for the King George?

I do think the preparedness is key. In the Betfair, Kauto was 100%, I think connections wanted to silence the voices that were calling for retirement by showing them that a fit Kauto has the zest to carry on. It would be a masterful training performance to take his older legs, get him rested and then back for this.

Long Run will have had this as the main target and is likely to be in a better physical condition. I am in two minds over the track. One part of me thinks that Kempton will suit; but they can go at a fair clip into those fences down the back and if he is not foot perfect, we could see that traditional Long Run error. That could be crucial.

Of the other runners, Masterminded has never tried three miles but Nicholls is stepping him up anyway. Nicholls though had this as a plan for some time, I think Masterminded will be well tuned up and if he stays he is interesting. He used to struggle with two and a half miles although those days seem behind him. I think he will stay and, controversially, I think he will beat Kauto, there I have said it, will he beat the others though?

Johnson has been raving about Captain Chris. His last run was too bad to be true and an infection was to blame. If recovered, this horse could still be ready to show us more. Place prospects but overall I think I prefer the win chances of Long Run and Masterminded.

Overall, I am minded to bet on Masterminded. As much as Long Run could be the next best thing, I think three miles around Kempton is going to be Mastermindeds’ ideal condition. He takes his fences so well at pace just like his stablemate, Kauto, and I think that will buy him enough lengths. Under pressure Long Run is prone to error and I just suspect that Kauto will not be seen in the same light as The Betfair.

Masterminded is currently 8.8 on Betfair, get stuck in and wish me Merry Christmas.

The Christmas Hurdle

Much less of a write-up on this race but no less a fascinating clash, even if a little less high-profile.

We have the barrel chested Binocular, who seems to have two ways of racing, JP McManus and Nicky Henderson had their day in the sun when he returned to win a Champion Hurdle in 2010 but since then (and prior to it), Binocular has been inconsistent and at times poor. I think he is a hard horse to get fit and needs a lot to fall right so 2/1 is not for me.

The second market leader is Overturn, who seems to love as much racing as possible. He relishes getting his nose in front and understands what is required but the suspicion is that he is just short of Champion Hurdle class. That might be enough to win this anyway.

The final of the trio that head the market is exciting prospect Rock on Ruby. While the form of his festival second to First Lieutenant is not as strong a CV as the others, his reappearance run suggested he is a star in the making. Although someway short on official BHA rankings, he could clearly take another giant leap forward and take this.

I am getting on Rock on Ruby at 2/1 and also may purchase a 16/1 Champion Hurdle ticket ahead of Boxing Day as a Christmas gift for some lucky soul!

The Feltham

This looks like a straight punch up between three exciting chasers in Grand Crus, Silviniaco Conti and Bobs Worth.

As much as Grand Crus has impressed, Bobs Worth did just a little bit more for the Major in his recent defeat of Cue Card. That day, Bobs Worth travelled well until smacking four out. Then it was time for Geraghty to earn his riding fee, in a superb demonstration of the great jockeys horsemanship, he relaxed the horse, got him back into a rhythm and up on the line to win.

Silviniaco Conti has done little wrong. His 5l defeat to Menorah was decent form, though it must be said that twice he has finished behind Cue Card who seems a better hurdler. Conti now seems to have improved based on the awesome win at Wincanton on reappearance. For me 9/2 is a superb price, Nicholls has been sweet on this horse and I fancy conditions will be perfect.

Merry Christmas to you all from the Major. May it pass with a warm glow in your heart. Let us deal with the peripheral noise and come back Boxing Day, clear minded and show our intent to the enemy ahead of the New Year.

There it is, the Majors tips for Kempton, I wish you the best. I will be posting at some point in the festive period more tips (We have the Welsh National for a start) and also my promised guide to the best 2011 horseracing moments. If you did not see the Sportingbet.com podcast, the Major got an almighty mention from their team (follow the link, it’s about 7:45 in). Was pleased to see that my top moment made a great splash there and was also selected by the Racing Post as their number one moment too.

Courage followers, shuffle those cards, it is darkest, before the dawn.

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.