Tag Archives: loch ba

The Saturday Sermon – Fighting Fifth and Hennessy Day 50/1 Tip for the Hennessy

Good morning from the Major who writes from the lounge, baffled and tired.  The Worcestershire morning is calm and bland, cool and grey, it is dark now and peaceful, save for the odd car that trundles past outside.

Last weekend, my long-suffering comrade in arms, Martin Hill, was close to reclaiming many lost investments when the multiple I name in his honour came within a whisker of landing.  The first two legs of his trixie had landed and in the final race, Saved by John led, was headed at the last by Alasi and fought back famously to be denied by a quarter length.  Now that was exhilaratingly painful, an emotion us racing fans are familiar with.

This week, a few people have asked me for a Hennessy tip.  I have been giving them Our Father who up until last night was my fancy.  I have changed my mind (see below, I have a 50/1 Hennessy tip now!) but I stand that Our Father can be a contender if on one of his going days.

One of the reasons I liked Our Father is that I am sure he would be wound up for the race.  First of all it is the Hennessy so of course he will be but secondly, he was part owned by the legendary Johnson team and I could not help but feel that Pipe would love to win the race as tribute to the late David Johnson, a magnificent contributor to the sport and the Pipe yard.

That was speculation but it made me consider the life of David Johnson.  Reading about him , having never met him, he strikes me as a very nice sort of chap.  While manners can be afforded if you are stinking rich, they are not automatic, in fact some substitute money for common courtesy so it must be a compliment to say that money seemed not to pollute the man’s capacity for enjoying life and inspiring others around him to do so too.

Yet, I can assure you dear readers that a life of riches is not a necessity for your own personal contentment.  It helps but is not close to being the most important thing.  Consider the things you can buy and have bought.  How many were for show?  The Major confesses to be as weak here as well.  When spending money, the consideration is as much ‘how does this make me look’ or perhaps more accurately and very closely (as it is also based on the opinion of others ‘how does buying this make me feel’ than most practical considerations.  Otherwise brands would not work.

Epicurean wisdom dictates (and I entirely support) that the most important matter is friendship not wealth.  You need precious little to be happy.  Practice it today – Make a phone call to an old friend, invite them to something.  Instead of buying those nieces and nephews presents at Christmas, set up a day out with them.  You will find my friends that experience beats trinkets my friends.  Release yourself from the social need to demonstrate wealth.  Purchase for function.

Sport allows you to feel again.  Like sparks from the fire, dimming until the end, our lives are short vignettes in this planets great tome of life.  Allow sport, racing to illuminate for you.

Daub thy war paint young warrior and join me at the line, we shall skirmish in open formation into the enemies forward positions, smashing through with our heavy horse and setting upon them in close quarter….. Cry Shabash and raise that lance point, the blood staining but the silver glittering beneath.

Newbury Tips

Let us start with the Hennessy, a race that often throws up a Gold Cup winner, most notably in recent years with the likes of Bobs Worth and Denman.

The recent of Hennessy winners show two distinct winners profiles.  Either a decent chaser (135-150 Official Rating) can win it off a featherweight, or a top class chaser (160+) can bear the burden of top weight and see off the pretenders.   In the last fifteen years, the two Gold Cup winners mentioned are the only two horses that have won off a mark above 160.

The relationship between weight and official rating that creates the race make-up is complicated by the quality of the top rated horse that goes in.  When Denman won off a mark of 174, it was a remarkable achievement.  He may have been lucky and hit a year where a particular dearth of non-improvers constituted the field but no horse has won off a mark in the 170s before.  He had almost half the field outside of the handicap and only Mon Mome, a previous National winner was within a stone.

Paul Nicholls has an excellent Hennessy record having won three of the last ten renewals (twice with Denman of course).  Henderson has two wins in the same period.  Nicholls has one shot at the race this year in Rocky Creek who looks a thorough stayer and capable.   He, like many, has had no run this season but that is not a problem.  With the big races like this, the top stables can be relied upon to have their main charges well prepared.

No horse in the race is more interesting than Invictus.  He had the notable scalps of Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti in behind in the Reynoldstown, his last race in February 2012.  Given those horses are now rated 180 and 173,  if you could rely on a direct form line, his mark of 145 is a gift from god.

I do not think so much of Merry King, although anything Jonjo trains in a major handicap is impossible to dismiss.  Prince de Beauchene attempts to buck his trend of terrible luck – Having been laid out for to Grand Nationals only to fall to injury.  Lord Windermere will have many fans but since I do not rate the RSA form, I am not one of them.  Highland Lodge comes from the Lavelle yard which is firing on all cylinders… of some interest.  Loch Ba also is not without hope.

Hmmm, Invictus is highly interesting for me but so is Our Father.  I have been a fan of this horse since watching his absolutely slaughter a decent Cheltenham field – He took my eye as a really powerful traveller.  He is clearly decent fresh but has two ways of running.

Having dwelt on the subject for some time, I am settling on a rank outsider for the Hennessy.  My selection can currently be backed at 33/1 generally (though 25/1 in a place) and at a striking stand out 50/1 with Stan James.  I am talking about Opening Batsmen.  This is a horse I backed a couple of weeks ago at Ascot and was disappointed to see jump badly and be pulled up.  He is a second season chaser for Harry Fry who has a tremendous Newbury record, we also get the significant benefit of Noel Fehily too.  The horse also has some excellent form.  He is in here off 146 but last season have a good beating to Rolling Aces who has franked the form and won again, now on a mark of 153.  There may well be more persuasive and obvious claims but I am quite happy to be on this fella at 50s…. Have a slice.

I have always felt that Reve de Sivola was a World Hurdle winner in the absence of a decent in-form rival – That is probably being very harsh but I fully expect At Fishers Cross to give a sound hiding and even at 4/5 I want to be involved.

The listed hurdle opener is a cracking affair and while Vicky De L’Oasis was an impressive Wexford winner for the in form Mullins team, I am opting for Free Thinking who races in the Waley-Cohen colours.  The thing is that my selection was also impressive when winning a lesser affair (at Ludlow) smashing Koolala and eased.  Koolala went on to frank that form winning a Uttoxeter bumper on Thursday.

The Fighting Fifth

The ground for the Fighting Fifth is good this year after last year they swam it.  This is a race where a hot favourite can get turned over and here the market is hugely centred on two, My Tent or Yours and Melodic Rendevouz.

Melodic Rendevouz was very good when beating my selection Key West at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle, readily picking up Far West, a Nicholls horse who ran no sort of race when out again last weekend.  My Tent or Yours is a Champion Hurdle protagonist who won the Betfair Hurdle and I thought was unlucky in the Supreme where Champagne Fever had first run on him.  To be fair, he had every chance in the festival race but was unable to pick up the winner on the hill.

The filly in the race is of some interest having won a listed race on reappearance.  The Cockney Sparrow gets weight from all of her rivals and represents last years winning trainer.   A small case might be made for Grumeti but the rest are rounding up the field.

So how do we split these key players?  The ground might help, The Cockney Sparrow has won on it, My Tent or Yours and Melodic Rendevouz have never raced on it.  The former is out of a Sire whose progeny have only 1 win from 36 starts on the ground.  While it is thin evidence, it does trouble me a bit.  Add in the obvious fitness advantage of Melodic Rendevouz and I prefer the second favourite.

On a strict line of form with Champagne Fever, who Melodic Rendevouz faced back in 2012, then My Tent or Yours has the beating.  This means I must think MR has improved or has conditions in favour and I think both of those things to be true.  A leveler is jockey bookings as I would far rather have McCoy in the saddle than Schofield.  Not that I am against the latter, who has a great record with the horse(5/6), but class counts.  Melodic Rendevouz it is at 5/2 (1/4 in places).  Cockney Sparrow is an each way steal at 9/1.

There are a host of young improvers queuing up to have a pop at Oscar Rock in the 1.05.  I am interested in Five in a Row who beat a decent horse The Last Samuri who has gone on to win again when stepped up in trip.  That form is OK but off-putting is the recent Ellison National Hunt form which shows 1 winner from 20 runners.  I am instead opting for Ballyaton who also looks useful and comes with the benefit of proven good ground form (2 runs, 2 wins).  He also handed a drubbing to Key to the West last season and that reads well with that horse winning twice this term already.

In the opener, I am more confident of the chances of Green Flag at 10/11.  I have no doubt that Streams of Whiskey could be a threat but while he was 3l down to my pick, when falling at the last, he was travelling the lesser of the two (although he had made earlier errors).  He needs a clean round of jumping and these fences will be a real test.

In the football, Walsall (8/11), QPR (7/10) and Wolves (6/4) are my selections in a tasty treble.

The Martin Hill multiple is simple… Opening Batsmen, Free Thinking and Meledic Rendevouz in an each way trixie.

I hope you enjoy a dinner in the finest of company.  Allow yourself a draw on the best brandy they have… we float by the once and must grasp anything which we enjoy.  This is not the practice round, this is it.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Newbury Tips, Anger, Weather and some football tips too

Good evening from the Major who writes from a Worcestershire shielding itself from the blizzard, winter clings doggedly to the year, yielding not to the start of the flat season, impervious to the date.

The coldest March in 50 years.  I could have told you that stood at the one furlong marker on the Cheltenham hill on the opening day of the festival.  Cold did not do it justice.  Freezing would be more honest but then the wind blew and it was as though all layers of protective clothing as well as my skin, muscle and sinew were rendered worthless against the stabbing wind stricking right at the bone.

Saturday racing hangs in the balance.  The Welsh, Scots, Irish and English have all been denied a meeting as Bangor, Kelso, Gowran and Stratford have abandoned.  Southwell should be fine but Doncaster and Newbury have to survive morning inspections.  Newbury looks to have more chance than Donnie as it rests on the ground not being waterlogged as opposed to snow.  The course is optimistic but the Major is not so sure – We might face losing both Newbury and Doncaster.

A young dashing sort called Steve is hopefully off to Newbury in fine fettle and with good company, he asked me to mark the Newbury card and I shall.  Good luck to you and your kith, wear layers concentrating on waterproofing and warmth.  Consider several pairs of socks, gloves, scarves, hats, bright plastic ponchos and any other garment useful for fighting such foul elements.  Comfort beats style eleven times from ten.

I had a three-hour drive in this awful weather earlier.  Through the grim dark grey mess I witnessed some horrific driving and some furious reactions.  Drivers wishing to go faster weaving through lanes aggressively, horns blaring, lights flashing.  The reactions are what interest me.  Some people when cut up on the motorway treat it as though their honour has been crossed.  Such pointless energy expended in futile expression.  People who drive badly are unlikely to change habits from your actions.  Thus you achieve little and a better frame of mind is to let these instances wash over you as water from a ducks back.

Ask what such anger says about you… As Gandhi said The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Newbury Tips

The opener looks an absolute shoe-in for classy flat convert Poet.  Evens is available on Betfair this evening but I suspect 8/11 to be the morning price and I still would not put you off.  There is little else in this field that could compete. Poet was a listed winner on the flat and although not turning to hurdling until late in life, he has put in enough to suggest he is well capable of winning this.  For one, he is the only horse in the field to have won on heavy ground and conditions will be fine.

If there is a danger, it will come from Seventh Sky who put in his best performance last time out at Taunton, winning a handicap.  I do not expect him to throw down too serious a challenge.

2.20 Mares Novice Chase

There is a solid argument that Fentara is lightly treated on her form against Super Duty who in turn was narrowly denied in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.  Fentara has also won two from four on heavy ground.  Yet this is competitive and this one is prone to big errors which is not ideal when facing the tough Newbury fences.

Marie Des Anges is interesting but I am not sure she is suited to a proper test in the mud over this trip.  She is one of two decent shots that Anthony Honeyball has in the race and I actually prefer her to the other, Jackies Solitaire.

The two I am most interested in are Violin Davis and Tara Rose.  The former had the better of the latter at Bangor earlier in the season when giving 3lbs.  She has to concede a further 10 here but I think she can even in these conditions.

She has the advantage of the excellent Fehily in the saddle and Harry Fry the trainer has sent 5 to Newbury in recent times with 4 winning… Have a considerable slice of the 6/1 with Paddy Power and thank me later.

2.55 Mares Novice Hurdle

Henderson and Sherwood have won five of the last six runnings of this race and their runners have to be afforded respect.  Only Henderson has an entry and Glorious Twelfth, a former Cheltenham bumper winner needs to prove that bottomless conditions are what she needs.

Ballinahow Star is where the money is tonight but I am always wary of backing horses returning from a break in such tough conditions.

I am struggling to split two in the race, Too Generous and Highland Retreat.

Both are proven in the mud and both are making handicap debuts.  There is an argument that both are on workable marks.  Too Generous is certainly on an upwards curve even if she had to work a bit for her last win.  If pushed I would just favour Too Generous despite Highland Retreat being another horse to benefit from the excellent Noel Fehily.

3.30 Newbury Handicap Chase

Handy Andy is a Newbury specialist having won three of four starts at the course.  The yard is in good touch but I wonder if the mark is catching up with him.

Loch Ba could potentially bounce back to glory after never looking at home at the Cheltenham Festival.  Rhum is unlikely to get the soft lead he needs to be competitive.

The one I like the most is Cedre Bleu.  Hailing from the Nicholls camp, he warrants a good look and of all of the runners, I think he rates the likeliest to act in these extreme conditions.  Handy Andy rate the danger.

4.05 Juvenile Hurdle

The two French imports which Tony Carroll has in the race are both potential grenades.  Lac Sacre beat Thinger Licht in a claimer in Enghien but Carroll claimed them both.

While it might not be too obvious that Handazan is well handicapped, at least he is proven in the conditions.  The Major tentatively overlooks Handazan and Lac Sacre in favour of 7/1 In The Crowd who looks like an improver who will be happy to mix it in the mud.

4.40 Bumper

Chase the Wind and Fabrika are the two I am interested in.  The former finished narrowly behind Cheltenham Champion Bumper contender Vieux Lion Rouge on debut.  The latter represents Henderson and Geraghty and will have lots of supporters.

Trainer comments regarding Fabrika, put me in her camp at 3/1.

5.10 Handicap Chase

Sustainability has not had his mark changed for a close up second at Wincanton and to the eye, this horse looks a thorough stayer.  Newbury is likely to be a much more suitable venue and at 11/4, I feel a good bet in order.

Doncaster – The Lincoln

I am not going through the Doncaster card because I do not think it will make it.  Should I be wrong then I will throw one tip out for the Lincoln.

Shamaal Nibras is a Hannon horse with a solid record in soft ground.  I think it could be well treated and the break is of no concern given the hands the animal is in.

I promised you one Donnie tip but cannot help but give you another.  If Bog Warrior captures my heart over obstacles, Jack Dexter is the love of my flat life.  What a heart this horse has, winning back to back competitive handicaps last year.  I do not see any reason not to be lumping on!

To the football…

Portsmouth have been showing some spirit of late but Coventry are overpriced at 5/4 to get a result on the South Coast.  I am on Tranmere at 21/20 to take three points at home too.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Violin Davis, Cedre Bleu, Sustainability and Coventry.

Courage and roll those dice.

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Its Cheltenham Eve… The Arkle and Champion Hurdle await tomorrow…

Good evening and merry Cheltenham Eve from the Major who writes from the vengeful cold wasteland of Worcestershire.  The Siberian wind swirls across the landscape whipping silent flakes of snow that land anonymously.

It is cold.  The sort of biting wind that searches every channel of clothing, driving deeply into the joins, seeking and exploiting weakness.

If you are coming to Cheltenham, dress warmly, wear layers, lots of layers.  While out earlier, I think I caught ‘Weather Tourette’s’… such is the ferocity of the Russian air, it causes uncontrollable swearing that my mother would have been ashamed to hear me exhale.

Upon Cheltenham Eve the excitement amongst the twitterati of racing acclaim is etched into their timelines.  Right now, all of our dreams are intact, all hopes remain untested, it will only remain so for a short while longer, savour this for anticipation is as good as the day itself.

The Major will take you through the Tuesday Cheltenham card.  The battle is now upon us, our forward units have been skirmishing the enemy lines for many months, we have engaged man to man with bayonets fixed and now we settle down to sort it out.

I hope you arrive with a war chest becoming the great week.  I hope coins are spilling from your wallet.  If you are one of those that believes you should bet within your means, please find yourself another blog, you are not welcome here.  If the stake matters not, then there is little point to your endeavour.  Have a little edge to your stakes… live a little, load those cannons and feel the rush of adrenaline.  This is Cheltenham, it is good to be alive and be here.

I am conscious that the blog will be receiving more than its usual readership.  If you are new to these shores, welcome, whether tourist or new follower, I wish to be a good host.  The Major is free, barely profitable and certainly unhinged… read on my friends and take what you will.  At the end I have posted a few blogs to give you some second opinions too, you see, I believe in customer advocacy.

Please consider taking part in my charity tipping competition.  I am inviting you to take on my 4 year old son who has picked his Cheltenham selections.  Full details in this post.

A note for my strategy… The first two days of the festival are run on the old course and this is well worth taking notice of.  The turn in for the old course gives a fairly short run in.  You might think that with soft ground and a hill to contend with, it gives those from the back a decent chance.  Yet, last year, the opening days required horses to be prominent and the Major will be seeking these sorts in the tips for the Cheltenham Tuesday card….

Daub thy war paint young warrior, sharpen that lance point and bring up your charger.  We shall pick them at the gallop, crying Shabash and St George.

The Supreme

The opening race of Cheltenham 2013 has been made very interesting by the decision of connections to run My Tent or Yours as opposed to supplementing him for the Champion Hurdle later on the card.  The owner, JP McManus, already has Jezki, whom he purchased for an eye watering sum earlier in the season scheduled for the Supreme and after MTOY destroyed a good Betfair field and the tragic racecourse death of Darlan, many suspected, he might pay to supplement MTOY to the Champion Hurdle.

Instead, he takes his chance as a 15/8 favourite in the Supreme.  The Major thinks that common sense has broken out here.  My Tent or Yours has earned a mark of 162 for his troubles but should be introduced to the top prizes next year.

The Supreme is not always an easy race to tip.  Novices that are still on upwards curves can show some violent form swings.   The runners that are proven on the ground are My Tent or Yours, Puffin Billy, Champagne Fever, Jezki, River Maigue and Cause of Causes.

Of them, I feel My Tent or Yours has certainly shown the best form and will not put you off a decent bet.  2/1 is generally available this evening.

Yet the tip goes to 15/2 shot, Champagne Fever.  Ruby Walsh has selected him as the best shot and I think he may have a point, he has valuable Cheltenham form having won the bumper a year ago.  What I really like about the selection is that he is a prominent racer which at least will put him in the race on the home turn, that and a love of soft ground can help him overcome a marginal defeat to Jezki from earlier in the season.

Really worth taking Hills up on their 5 places paid offer – That is an incredibly generous start to a week of superb offers from the enemy.

The Arkle

When Donald McCain recently suggested that Overturn would give the grey Aeroplane Simonsig a race in the Arkle, Henderson was quick to give his own bullish view.

I can only see the red hot favourite shortening up as the main rival Overturn has been avoiding soft conditions all winter, in his career he has only won one of his four races on ground softer than good to soft.  Overturn is admirable but I feel will be setting this up.

Simonsig is 4/6 and I grant you it is no working mans price but we all need some winners on day one.

The JLT Handicap

Fruity O Rooney may well be a popular pick here having run so close in the same race last year.  noone would deny that he would be a worthy winner and he is racing off a 1lb lighter mark here.

Only one horse in the last fifteen years has won off a weight greater than 11-2 and the tally of winners contains just one 11 year old.  These seem logical enough trends and help us profile a likely sort.  Soft ground is also a big plus.

Jonjo has taken the race twice in the last five years, not the most robust stat but clearly Merry King will have his followers.  He lost a thorough battle last time at Haydock in very testing conditions.  It showed he has talent and heart as well as a liking for the mud.. shortlist material.

Quantativeeasing owes the Major and a return to form would hurt but not be that shocking, my main concern for that one is the ground.

Pete the Feat is the Hunt Ball of the season having gone up over 40lbs for his exploits.  Last time out was bitterly disappointing and many will now be feeling he has been caught by the handicapper but the Major holds a hope.

The two I like are Monkerty Tunkerty and Loch Ba.  The former at 16/1 is reaching veteran status which is not quite the profile I had in mind but he comes with a light CV that suggests he has more to give.   The latter showed tremendous improvement to win last time at Newbury in tough conditions and a rise of nearly a stone might not put him out of the frame for this.

Please note place terms, many bookies are 4 places only but plenty are 5 places.

Tips for the Champion Hurdle

The championship race of the Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle and the 2013 renewal seems to lack a little lustre.

The absence of Darlan is a loss and reminds us how frail the boundary of delight and despair.

Hurricane Fly is the one horse that could raise the roof on Tuesday.  He will come with an army of Irish supporters who are convinced that the Fly can regain his crown.  Last year I felt he had a fair crack and could not get to Rock on Ruby and Overturn.  The talk is that he was not quite right.

Certainly he has not put a foot wrong this year, destroying fields in Ireland that, to be fair, he should destroy.  That makes a reading of his form difficult.  He is also 9 and has had to travel…. not the sort for me at 2/1.

Zarkander has not put a foot wrong too this season and his defeat of Grandouet and Rock on Ruby at the course was particularly strong.  Both of his foes that day may be able to give a good excuse but Zarkander is starting to look like a horse who knows how to get his head in front.  He has looked a lot stronger this year and remains undefeated this season.

Grandouet is of clear interest.  Losing that day to Zarkander was no disgrace given the amount of time he was off the course previously   He is obviously a delicate sort and has an interrupted preparation once again.  That was the cause of a a significant drift in his price but connections have been reassuring.  He is only 6 and entitled to improve.

Rock on Ruby has run this season as though this was the only race on trainer Harry Frys mind.  Last year when he won the Champion Hurdle (tipped up ante post by the Major at 14s!) he was technically a Paul Nicholls inmate but operating from the satellite yard ran by Fry.  He has been fitted with blinkers for the first time which comes as a bit of a surprise to the Major.  I cannot bring myself to back him again.

So it is Zarkander and Grandouet for the Major and who gets the tip of death?  At the prices now, it has to be Grandouet.  I am suggesting a win bet too.  If he performs he is entitled as any to win.  He now gets 4lbs from Zarkander which with natural fitness after that first run back should be enough to turn the tables.  Have a slice.

The Cross Country

If you can brave the cold, head out to the middle of the course for the cross country – It is a thing to behold.

The Major is keeping it simple, Enda Bolger is the specialist in these races and Arabella Boy is a worthy favourite, have a large slice and thank me later.

The Mares Hurdle

Quevega bids for history in the Mares Hurdle, seeking a fifth straight race win.  What is incredible is that Mullins keeps this spring horse under wraps until this race each season and so she bids to do so on debut.  Does the ground hold a concern?  Not really, she seems very versatile… what a girl.

It would be an incredible achievement and she is sure to raise a fine cheer come glory or defeat.

Normally I would be getting edgy about backing a nine year old but she is so lightly raced and so well looked after that I think that the rest are playing for places.

Of them, Une Artiste is the one I would fear.  The Major has had some tasty wins with this girl, including a surprise in last years Fred Winter.  She is young, progressive but needs to be if she is going to endanger that record.

5.15 Listed Chase

If at this stage, the day has not gone to plan, I suggest a mere light interest in the last.  Save your ammunition for easier puzzles than this.

The Novice Handicap Chase is designed in the deepest darkest minds of our enemy.  A swirling vortex of factors, the inexperience of chasing, the lack of course form, the improvers and the ground… 20 runners… we stand little chance.

Hazy Tom won a good race at Warwick and was just headed at Mussleburgh, I would argue he wants to be stepped back up from the minimum distance and he catches the eye with the Majors favourite jockey Noel Fehily aboard.

Rajdhani Express is of some interest if his jumping holds together and 25/1 could look big.

Carlito Brigante as a Coral Cup winner has plenty of attractions but the going is a significant concern for the Major.  Klepht is one to watch in the market.

On balance, I am opting for Hazy Tom at 16/1.

Good luck to all of you throughout the week.  I will post Wednesdays thoughts by midnight tomorrow.  For second opinions on tomorrow, have a look at any or all of the following, they are ad free enthusiastic racing fans… Young Racegoer, Luke Elder, Good to Soft, King of the Jumps (Callum, Luke and Emma – I wish you all the best)

Courage and roll those dice.