Tag Archives: long run

Boxing Day Sermon – Kempton et al. Shabash. Courage, roll the dice.

Good morning from the Major who writes from Cork, all full of Christmas hangover, weary from the excess.  The sky here is large, full of Atlantic glory, the ground crisp, my head hurts.

The Major is not well acquainted with Ireland.  Driving down from Dublin, the signs were racecourse after racecourse, each stirring a memory.

Christmas Day was spent with Jim and Mary, he from Waterford, she from Cork.  Their hospitality was excellent.  From the sole served to me for Christmas lunch (I am vegetarian for a year) to the fine wines and brandy that washed it down, all was good.

Jim worked at Winson Green and Wormwood Scrubs, he is a solid sort, keeps things simple – It is fair to say I liked him from the start.  We connected immediately because of a mutual appreciation of racing – Sometimes you can look at a man and know you have that in common.

I trust your Christmas was as merry as mine.  Forgive the lateness of the post, I type from the hotel I am residing at.  My head hurts and we badly need a turn in fortune.  Such things happen at times like these.

To the sports.  Saddle up my kindred warriors.  It is time for us to daub the war paint.  We may have needed credit to enter the Christmas period but we shall emerge dripping in cash, victory upon victory, sedimentary layers of success building relentlessly until the enemy cries no more and we give out of sheer generosity for the spirit of the season.

Kempton – Boxing Day Tips

I love this card.  It is one of my favourite days of racing.  Memories bubble up of Kauto sailing over the fences, leaving Madison de Berlais or the Tom George trained grey whose name momentarily escapes me (forgive the drunken haze), in his glorious wake.  Or of Long Run, battling on like a true warrior.  The King George has taken its rightful place as the second best race of the season.

To win 5 King Georges.  Think of that.  Incredible.

Two meetings have been called off and the Major does not care.  Partly because of my wine flown state, partly because Boxing Day is hectic enough.  Jockeys you have never heard of pressed into action and races going off back to back, remorseless and relentless, painfully busy.

Let us begin like  all good stories at the start.

The opener looks like a good opportunity for Dubai Prince who is a very good convert to the hurdling game and won on debut.  He is definitely not a straight forward sort but clearly has talent and his Donnie win has been franked since with the second going in again.

In the second, Western Warhorse is one I have followed after hitting the bar at Cheltenham.  Disappointing next time out and the Major abandons him for Ericht who is a fine bet at 7/2.  The Henderson horse made a decent start over the big obstacles in a race won by Funny Star, a decent Nicholls horse  who has gone on to win again.

Although it looks a spot kick for Just a Par, I am siding with Green Flag who has looked very impressive to the eye and a natural jumper.

Then the Christmas hurdle.  Take your pick of the top two – Both incredibly impressive hurdling prospects, My Tent or Yours and The New One make this a very good renewal.  I remember the race that cemented Punjabi in my mind as a Champion Hurdler, even though he fell when chasing leg 2 of the £1 million WBX bonus… Ahhhhhh.  I think we will have a new favourite for the Champion Hurdle today and I believe it to be My Tent or Yours.  When you consider that McCoy > Twiston Davies, it becomes an easy choice.

Then the big one.  For my money, Cue Card will get beaten.  It is a tough one ruling him out because I was quite impressed with his Betfair win.  As I said before that race, I am not concerned about his stamina, even though he has pace to burn.  Yet, some races just fall completely right for a horse and I believe the betfair to be that way fir Cue Card.  No, the Major has interest in others.  Al Ferof is of interest but again, I just think there are better horses.  The King George is won by a class animal and for me that means either Silviniaco Conti or Long Run.

Regular readers will know there is a touch of the heart about Long Run for me, I cannot deny it.  I love his gangly style and despite the amateur rider who is a definite handicap, this is a superb horse.  I think people overlook just how young he was when he won a Gold Cup – Not may do that at such  a tender age.  Since then, his career has gone one way but this is an excellent chance for him on ground he will relish and with the spotlight and pressure on others.

However, the money goes to Silviniaco Conti who is a very very good horse in his own right.  I thought he was travelling as well as Bobs Worth when coming down in the Gold Cup and frankly, he is one of my horses for the season.  9/2 is available with some outfit I have never heard of but 4/1 is the general price.

Sportingbet go 8/1 about Beyeh in the last and it will stay in my top pocket as a Get Out of Jail card.

At Leopardstown, Anifleet and Champagne Fever both look like 1/2 spot kicks – Not much fun there.  Limerick has an even shorter 1/4 certainty in Felix Younger – Where has the fun of Christmas gone?

It is to Wetherby and the Roland Meyrick for the other selection to add to your Christmas acca.  I am interested in two of the bigger priced runners.  While Cloudy Too is a good starting point for Sue Smith, I think this race is far more open than the market suggests.  My two are…. Cape Tribulation at 8/1 and Master of the Hall at 25/1.  The first is the bet, the second the saver.  Malcolm Jefferson has won this in the last few years and I think the form that Cape Tribulation has shown at Cheltenham has been close to top class.  I am surprised he is this price but understand that we need to return to form.

To the football.

I have asked my brother-in-law to guest tip the Premier League.  He is a good drinking partner and will see you right…

Man United will beat Hull in an old score style – By that he means draw half time and Man Utd at full time.  Villa Palace is a dreadful prospect (he is a Villa fan too) and unders is the way to go.  Cardiff v Southampton is a BTTS certainty.  Chelsea a 1-0 scoreline against Swansea.  Everton v Sunderland is a nil nil! Surprised me too.  Fulham might get the points out of Norwich at a price.  Newcastle v Stoke is worth backing in the overs market.  Arsenal to beat West Ham to nil.  Spurs v West Brom is a 2-2 – Reminds me of when we did come away with that scoreline and Scott Dobie scored a blinder! Finally, over 4.5 goals in Man City v Liverpool.

Outlandish calls… big prices… Merry Christmas.

For the Major – I would be a buyer of Villa t close to evens because even though they are poor, Palace are worse.  I would also back Spurs to beat Albion because they have more conviction currently.  Regulars will know that I believe Wigan to be constantly overpriced and that is true today too.

I hope your Boxing Day is in fine family company and that you indulge to the right amount.  Think of me and toast to all that is good in this world.

From Cork, I wish you and yours well.  Courage… Roll those dice.

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The Saturday Sermon – Ascot, Haydock and my favourite weekend football bets

Good evening from the Major who writes from a crisp Worcestershire night under a spectacular heavenly orb.  The cold is biting enough that the sand coloured grit has been scattered across the roads.  The Major has the fire crackling away, delightful popping and sizzling sounds – All is well with the world.

The Major had a decent enough Cheltenham Open weekend.  I had the pleasure of attending course on the Friday and the blog performed to a profit over the three days.  With the benefit of wisdom emerging during the time lapsed, some thoughts have incubated.  Of the performances, my old friend Taquin du Seuil stands out well.  While the race was a farce, he always looked to be besting Oscar Whiskey in travelling speed and jumping accuracy and now with a taste of Cheltenham fences on his CV, I am hoping for bigger things later this year – He remains a key horse in focus for me.

I am often asked (when I say often, I mean rarely) how I arrive at a set of tips.  While the results may suggest a haphazard and drunken lurching from one week to the next, the reality is probably even less comforting.  I have a system, strecth to deep analysis and recognise the futility of it too.

At heart, I am a value based punter.  If I think something is overpriced, I back it.  I remember suggesting to a racing virgin at Cheltenham  (hospitality guests) that a 33/1 shot was my selection.  When he backed the horse, he sought me out ticket in fingers and checked he had the right selection… ‘So, you think it has a real chance?’… I wish he had not asked, the inevitable disappointment in my answer when I told him that I thought the horse had little chance but one that was better than 3.3%.

Most of my activity and energy are focussed nearer the top of markets.  I prefer to invest in discerning the chances of the shorter priced horses than I do seeking value in an all-weather long shot.  Do not get me wrong I have had my moments but generally if we are to get rich together, it will because one week, I land all selections, the mothership.

I do use some online tools, a rating engine (which I have adapted to my own preferences) coupled with a detailed stats analyser.  These provide a foundation.  I like to read trainer comments and I like to watch a lot of racing too – I feel much better if I have a good working memory of how a horse races and how previous form on which I based decisions panned out.

There is the context of history too.  The thousands of bets I have placed, the yards, the jockeys, the courses, the ground.  All of it not only exerts an influence of trend but it informs a deeper wisdom, a knowledge you think you have.  Intuition, neither to be ignored or trusted.

I use all of this to build up a story about a horse, the patterns in the numbers, the quotes, the memories, historic context, a wisdom builds, it underpins an overall profile I build in my mind.  While not necessarily sophisticated or entirely consistent, it is fair to describe it as complex.

Identifying winners is the same about identifying anything, you have a pattern you expect to see and you match as much data as you can before making a prediction. The ancient philosophers were concerned with how we identify anything.  That a horse has four legs, a mane and a shape we recognise, that it moves a certain way, that it neighs and brays and has a lolloping tongue, all these things we use to call a horse a horse.  When we glimpse in a field, from a fast moving train, the general outline of a horse, we might not have all of the sensory information we need to confirm what we saw, but we know what it was… or at least we think we do, there is some degree of certainty, sleight or great.

In the same way, we all seek our racing winners, I might know the general shape of what my mind seeks, the attributes I like, the course form at Brighton, Bath, Southwell and York.  I look for a strong jockey, this above most other things.  I want class in the form, or at least potential.  I don’t mind freshness as long as the trainer has a good record with it – You see, this adds more complexity, as some of the data, of which this last point is an example, has relationships.  I want the yard to be in form… It goes on and on and on and on and on…. Ad infinitum – The things we seek are close to indescribable, far too complex – Making sense of it, the swirling vortex of it all, it is baffling, exciting, exasperating, enticing and downright scary.

Yes, I know a rough shape of what I am looking for but the disturbances in what I think I see and the mental model I am comparing it to, are numerous, much noise around the signal.

Am I even receiving the right evidence, are the trainers comments accurate and did I witness and recall the last run with some diligence?  Secondly, once the profiles have been created in my mind, they are rarely well-defined.  Interpretation is needed, as though you were looking at an animal through a badly focussed lens or from that fast moving train, you know the model you expect to see, 4 long legs, you see what might be a mane, could it be a horse or is it a donkey?

This is the most sensitive part of the process.  Glimpses of something.  The data and the stories I have told myself converges into a mass.  The pattern matching process, it is infuriating but addictive.  A test of your mind.

It has not made me rich but I don’t do too badly.  Plus, I enjoy it and I know you do too.  If there is one thing I would offer to you, one piece of wisdom that would help in all this, though I am a poor sage.  There is just too much complexity for you to know anything.  There is also too much opportunity for the data to be polluted and irrelevant.  Most of all, your ability to understand the model you should see and to be able to see through the cloud itself, you will never have certainty.

All I am saying is the obvious.  Cultivate a healthy mistrust of your personal ability to match patterns.  Then enjoy trying.

To the sports my good friends, daub thy war paint and sharpen that lance point.  Fall on parade soldier, we are for battle.

The Betfair Chase

What an unbelievably fantastical renewal of the Betfair Chase.  You know this, so I shall not bore you repeating the obvious.  Rather, let us decide on the likely winner.

I will not consider The Giant Bolster, he is an over-rated horse in my view, the Gold Cup he was runner-up in was poor and these are not his conditions.  I am also not a Tidal Bay fan, he is a grand old servant but this is top top class and I cannot see him improving at his fine age.  Roi du Mee may have beaten Sizing Europe is some style but I do not think that form will stand up given the stamina challenges of the latter.

Then, there were 5.

Long Run is a horse I have backed for a long time.  I love him.  His long beautiful legs, the trouble he gets into at fences but the tremendous heart, ah how I love him.  I also felt he has been under-rated by many for some time but now think it was my own warm feelings that were the error.  That he needs a professional jockey is obvious.  More bothersome, he is not the horse he was.  I am not sure where he goes from here.  He is young enough to still be a player but I feel his lot will be a tragedy not a romance.  Plus, he needs another mile.

I have no doubt that Cue Card is a damn fine horse and the big question is whether he will stay.  The King George is the critical piece of evidence for this where he evidently threw the anchor out.  However, a closer inspection of that race reveals an intriguing element.  He smacked the first two fences which brings into question whether his falling away was a lack of stamina or as a consequence of his early mistakes.  I am not against this horse because of his ability and I have less problem with the stamina than most, my concern (and it is a big one) is the form of the Tizzard yard.  They have placed just 4 runners from 23 runners in the last fortnight.

Dynaste is the Pricewise horse and this is an excellent chance for us to assess whether this is a genuine Gold Cup horse.  He did not do a lot wrong last year and I thought it was interesting that Pipe swerved last weeks Paddy Power which looked an easier assignment) for this.  Of interest.

Silviniaco Conti looked to be travelling as well (if not better) than Bobs Worth coming down the hill in the Gold Cup.  Sadly, we do not know if that was due to translate into a genuine challenge due to the crashing fall he took.  However, it is clear that both he and Bobs Worth are the proven Gold Cup protagonists on the scene.  I see no reason not to focus on these two.  If Cue Card is to get involved, he has to run better than the yards recent runners.  Dynaste needs to step up slightly.  These two need only run to form.

They are joint favourites as I write and this leads me to an easy choice, I just have to decide the likelier.   Bobs Worth is a proven act and has been likely raced, I worry he might need a bit further.  Last year he was straight out to win the Hennessy, he has Geraghty on board – God, it feels good.  Silviniaco Conti won this race last year and gets Fehily in the saddle – He is class but so is Geraghty.  Oh it is close, so close.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  Conti.  Bobs Worth.  The class of Bobs Worth.  It is Bobs Worth.

The fixed brush hurdle on the same card is interesting.  Personally I am looking to be on Gervey Chambertin, it is not so much the Pipe record in the race (although that is inspiring) but more the early performances of this horse.  Clearly the spring was not his time, although backed off the boards at the festival, something was wrong.  Aintree was no better.  I am assuming all is well again, which is a danger considering they have gone for cheekpieces at the tender age of 5.  I am getting on at 7/1.

Gullinbursti rates a danger but I am bit perplexed as to why after a successful chase victory they are coming back to these easier obstacles.

In the 1.50, I am taken with the profile of More of That a 4/1 shot.  He was not fancied when he won his maiden and was injured shortly afterwards.  Returning this year, he looked very very good when winning the Wetherby reappearance and with the Jackdaws operation in such unbelievable form, I am more than happy to climb aboard at 4/1.

Saturday Ascot Tips

I was frustrated with myself to miss the reappearance of Drumshambo, a  horse that had a lot of improvement last year and was on my watch list.  Another 9lbs up in the weights and it bothers me so I am now looking elsewhere.  With just seven runners, I am hoping Saved By John a general 5/1 shot can gain compensation for a decent reappearance in which he was mugged.  His running style makes him vulnerable to that but I like him.

I like Volt Face in the Ascot bumper running for Pipe.  Although the Henderson horse brings franked form into the race, I think the Pipe one might be smart.

Captain Chris is also on my slip because I think there is only a paper between him and Al Ferof on form.  Throw in that my selection has less of a doubt over him regarding injury and the expectation that Captain Chris is primed for this in a way that Al Ferof is unlikely to be and well…

I know Annie Power is 8/13 but she should hose up.

In the football, I like Arsenal at 8/13, Newcastle at 4/5 and Wigan at evens.

The Martin Hill combination is a Wigan and Annie Power double with a separate Trixie on Saved by John, More of That and Gervey Chambertin.

I hope your own dinner is magnificent, a delectation of taste sensations, fine claret, finer company and the comfort that no matter how expensive the brandy you order, the uncomfortable lump in your ribs will barely be dented.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Breeders Cup, Ascot, Wetherby, Down Royal… Fabulous Day of Sports… Courage and Roll the Dice

Good morning from the Major who writes from the early morning bed, such a fine day of sport has me alert at an early hour, my head snaps up and left to purvey a Worcestershire scene, the weather is not consistent with my senses.  The horizon is lost to a soupy grey blankness whose cold permeates you just by looking at it, ghostly trees poke through the still and choking mist, their limbs at strange angles, everything weighted down by a dampness you can feel.

I feel in contrasting mood though, sharp and earnest.  I have spent the week in London, or at least the latter half.  I have stayed in fine hotels and eaten well, business was conducted in amicable and brisk terms with mutually beneficial conclusions reached with little conflict.  All in all, most pleasing.

I attended a dinner in Mayfair on Wednesday night, a very fine occasion too.  It also happens in close proximity to my casino of choice, so it seemed perfectly acceptable to pop in for a few spins of fortune in the small hours – That proved the fast route to a lighter wallet.  Leaving just after midnight, I found the tube closed and since I was staying in Bethnal Green, I resolved to walk embracing the night air, I estimated it at just over an hour at a brisk pace.

London is a fine place and the richness of life was abundant.  For some, walking in a forest in spring, with nature coming to life, from its formerly frozen slumber; that experience brings great contentment.  For myself, I draw the same from such busy urban scenes.  Full of mischief, opportunity and intrigue – bristling with life.

Halloween parties spilled their drunken youngsters onto the streets, three half-naked men fought in Leicester Square but with little serious commitment to their causes, men in Hi Vis jackets performed essential maintenance tasks on drains and lights and emergency services hurtled by, their stunning deep blue lights scattering across the architecture which towered above.

In Covent Garden itself, men were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas Tree, which, being Covent Garden needs to be extravagant.  While now, I think of how irritating that such things are done at the end of October (Come the Major’s revolution, we will not be allowed to celebrate Christmas until 20th December), at the time, I just marvelled at it.  The splendour of it all.  I am under no illusion, the city, any city, has no care for me, I am merely present as an observer, a passer through – welcome but soon to be discarded.  Yet I am drawn to these scenes, life itself is played out in just a short walk and these attractions are like a siren call.

As I left Covent Garden, a consistent and cold rain came suddenly, clearly able to seep through any protection my clothing offered.  I flagged down a black cab to complete the journey.  The streets now were dark, the road was black and  slick, with the window down,  I could hear the pleasant kissing sound of the tyres against the asphalt.  Cold air through the window filled my nostrils and I felt that rare feeling… Contentment.  All I say is this, it is good to be alive.

To the sports.

Wetherby Tips – Charlie Hall Chase Day

The national hunt fixtures are coming at us thick and fast now and Wetherby sees some real stars of the track come to their seasonal debuts.  Let us start with the big race.

Long Run is clearly the main attraction in the Charlie Hall Chase.  He is a horse that always strikes me as older but you have to remember he was one of the very few horses to win a Gold Cup at the tender age of 5.  Many astute judges have poured some scepticism against the quality of that renewal and I cannot deny that my own seemingly unshakeable faith in Long Run is starting to shake.

Yet, he is a remarkable horse and at the age of 8, is arguably coming into to his peak season.  Here is a stunning statistic for you to bore others with.  Long Run has never been unplaced.  I repeat and embellish… Long Run has never been unplaced in TWENTY SIX runs under rules in Britain, Ireland and France.

You may detect a note of determined defence in my opening gambit for Long Run, if so, I congratulate you, your political antennae are well tuned.  So, please take my selection of Long Run for the Charlie Hall with the understanding that my soft spot for the old boy remains intact.  This year could be a stunning one in the staying chaser division and I hope my boy can get them off to a good start.

His opposition in the Charlie Hall consists of Grade One winning Benefficient who I think wants better ground and Unioniste who I doubt is that good and there is a small shadow over Paul Nicholls runners it seems to me.  The one I would be most concerned about would be Cape Tribulation.  While Imperial Commander may not have been his old force, it was a fantastic duel at Cheltenham last season and this is a dangerous sort to underestimate on his day having finished fifth in the Gold Cup and he also loves heavy ground which he may well yet get if the weather gods are with him.

The West Yorkshire Hurdle has lost At Fishers Cross which is a crying shame because I really thought that was a weekend banker.  For most, it leaves Tidal Bay as the obvious place to go and I understand that thought.  Yet, I cannot.  I do love Tidal Bay, he has been a great servant to the sport and his wins last year were inspiring.  He is twelve though and my tip, Medinas, is half that age.  He is a Coral Cup winner and improving, he won’t mind the bad weather coming and has just a fistful of pounds to find on official ratings with Tidal Bay – When you consider that Medinas is half his age, it is an easy enough assumption to think that improvement could be forthcoming.

Ascot Tips

The three mile handicap chase at 3pm, the United, is a trappy race to call but there are a few in there that are worthy of attention.

Twirling Magnet is a huge 16/1 with Bet365.  He has clearly not been a straight forward horse and has been bedecked in all manner of headgear.  He came good at Cheltenham at the end of last year and while his strike rate has not been prolific, I think there is reason to believe more could come.  Firstly, he is starting to get the hang of it, secondly, he is ground versatile, thirdly, he has the very capable Maurice Linehan in the saddle. Of interest.

I would not put you off a slice of Same Difference either.  He placed in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in the spring and that was terrific form.  If he is picking up where he left off, there is a big chance of a massive run.

I am looking to one of the unexposed sorts though and the horse that appeals the most is Opening Batsmen.  I get the services of Noel Fehily in the saddle and long term victims of my blog will know that I consider Noel a huge advantage to a horse in any race.  My horse is an improver too – We have to put a line through his run at Aintree in the spring but that was on unfavoured ground and at the time of the season where many horses are over the top.  I am happy with 9/1 – Take a slice.

I plan on a second Fehily inspired punt on No No Mac in the 3.50 – The form of his start this season has been firmly franked when his close conqueror at Uttoxeter, Timesrememebred, went on to smash the Grade 2 novice at Chepstow.

Down Royal – JNWine Tip

While Wetherby may have Long Run, the JNWine has attracted a stellar line up of Sizing Europe, First Lieutenant and Kauto Stone.

For me, it makes sense to focus on the first two in the market.  While Kauto Stone has won this before, I am suitably concerned by the runs that some of Nicholls horses are putting in that I do not want to be on this ones side today.

Sizing Europe has not had a brilliant record when stepped up in trip but this is the place to try again and he has been desperately unlucky not to win one of these.  He has been beaten by Kauto Star and Quito de la Roque in this race in recent years.

First Lieutenant has three years on the former Champion Chaser and proved a very good horse last season, arguably unlucky not to come away with a greater haul of trophies.  Like Sizing Europe, he has had a warm up race, unlike Sizing Europe, he did not win his but was only down a length or two.  Also unlike Sizing Europe, it is my belief that with slightly younger legs, he is better equipped to get over those exertions earlier.

For reasons of class, you might pick Sizing Europe.  For reasons of youth and improvement, I am opting for First Lieutenant.

If you like a price, I would not put you off Quito de la Roque at 14/1 who may play a hand.

Santa Anita – The Breeders Cup

At the Breeders, I am going to be on:

9.05 – Mizdirection 9/2 – Unbeaten at Santa Anita!

9.43 – Havana – 3/1 – Will outclass these, ignore comments about last run being less than impressive

11.40 Wise Dan – 5/4 – LOAD THE CANNONS!

In the football, I fancy West Ham at 5/4 to beat Villa at home.  Many think the Villains are a better team away from home and that might be true.  I also still have concerns over their overall quality and am happy to take the hammers in this.  Chelsea are a big 4/6 to win at Newcastle in my opinion with the latter starting to struggle.  Wigan 17/20 to win at home is a price I want as is 6/10 Coventry to win at home (well sort of home).

May your dinner be in the best company and the wines delectable.  As the waiter brings the bill, be generous as you can afford to be.

The Martin Hill bet is West Ham, Havana, Wise Dan, No No Mac and Long Run.  Take them in 1pt doubles (10 bets) and 0.5pt trebles (10 bets) and stick a few pennies on it all coming home.

Courage, roll those dice.

Wednesday Punchestown Festival Tips

Good evening from the Major who writes from his bed again after a weary day of battle.  Forgive me for a more concise post but sleep is calling me with her sweet siren song, irresistible urging me downwards… one limb becoming heavy and almost impossible to lift, a drifting sensation and peaceful slumber.

I value the commodity of sleep far more than when a young man.  In life most of the fun things happen in the small hours, where normality slithers between the cracks.  Now, as a father, the noise of two children and constant demand of your attention, well it drains you.  I still gather sleep in small harvests, a useful habit but now the motivation is not preparation for more moonlit mischief, rather the sagging necessities of everyday existence.

In the dark hours, I lie awake thinking.  Not fervently you understand, more aimlessly, my mind wandering through memories and daydreams that I have collected and deposited in a vast library with no Dewey codes.  A great palace of thoughts in small rooms with unlabeled doors, unsure of where the next one takes you, closing your eyes and seeing shapes move, colours morphing and light blurring at the edges.  Cogito ergo sum.

To Punchestown.  I hope we fare better than day one.  Tasiocht and Western Boy both returned one place out of the money, Moyle Park and Sprinter Sacre did their jobs, the former scraping in, the latter doing enough.  The champagne went flat.  Tuesday I score as a moderate defeat, wounded but merely superficially, we return.

Wednesday Punchestown Tips

The opener is as open a race as you will find.  8/1 the field and no amount of research is really going to make me feel better about it, this is wrestling an octopus.  Instead of pretending, I shall inform you that my eye was drawn to Chavoy who is priced up at 14/1 with Boylesports – He is a Ferdy Murphy runner and that has not happened at Punchestown for years.  He has won a couple of races already, thought nothing anywhere near this testing and he looks as likely as the next.

The 4.20 is an intriguing race as the market is dominated by two Mullins horses. Call Me Bubbles seemed to step up at Navan and has a race fitness advantage over the exciting French import Viconte Du Noyer.  The race won at Auteuil looks decent with Blood Cotil, a decent yardstick back in 4th and two other french horses holding up the form.  It is a bit of a concern that the horse has been missing for a year and this is a hot introduction back to the track.

I am going to take a risk on Gassin Golf at 6/1.  He is out of Montjeu and made a mark of 99 on the flat.  It is early days on his hurdling career and he pulled ridiculously hard before being pulled up in the Triumph – Throw in that he is another clearly targeted at the Punchestown festival and we have a decent bet prospect.

Ballycasey is a hot favourite for the novice hurdle at 4.55pm, I am a little concerned that this is a big step up in class but the talk has been hot about him and evens quotes might be hard to come by at the off.  He missed the Albert Bartlett in which Inish Island chased At Fishers Cross up the hill finishing five lengths down at the line, that is solid form and this is a classic balance of proven ability versus potential.

Instead of the pair of them I am going to chance Road to Riches at 10/1.  Soft ground is preferred and so drying conditions are a concern but I am willing to give him a chance.  His Aintree run was too bad to be true and earlier form reads well.

5.30pm and the race we will be waiting for – The Punchestown Gold Cup.  I have a real issue in this race because I am torn between a desire to see Long Run prove me right and the fact that my logic is appealing to me to abandon him.  Say what you will, he keeps getting placed at the top level.  I do think though that three miles and a furlong around Punchestown is not far enough these days and given his penchant for throwing himself into the odd fence, the extra pace around here may not help either.

The quality of this years renewal is stunning.  Last year, China Rock managed a win at 20/1 after running just a few days before! That horse won and was rated 162 at the time, five of the eight runners in this years contest are rated above that mark, make no mistake, this is a superb race.  Be warned though, prior to the China Rock 20/1 turn up, winners have come in at 20/1 and 14/1 so the principals are no shoe in.

In short, First Lieutenant is very interesting, especially if the ground dries more. He looked like he needed further in the Ryanair and being second to Cue Card is no disgrace anyway.  Sir Des Champs surprised me, I was the first to think his form was not as strong as popular opinion.

What the hell – I am sticking with old faithful Long Run – Mainly because I could not bare him to win and me not to be on… do with that as you may.

The Cheltenham bumper winner Briar Hill is attempting the double taking on this Grade 1 Punchestown event.  There has not been a major turn up in the bumper for some time but one I like at a humongous price is Noel Meades Apache Stronghold at 28/1.  The yard have a terrific record in the bumper.  All said and done though, Briar Hill has an excellent chance here and 6/4 is a fair price.

The 6.40pm is the handicap chase.  Nadiya de la Vega is not my sort – The mare is likeable but might just be found out.  Instead I am opting for 10/1 shot Mr Cracker who I suspect has had this as the target for some time and whose second in a grade 2 last time looks OK.

In the lucky last, I am dodging the two at the head of the market and opting for Fairy Island who might be much better than we have yet seen.

Friday Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips – The Major is Chasing, JT McNamara, The Triumph… last chance for glory

Good evening from the Major who writes from an overcast Worcestershire scene that is positively balmy compared to recent conditions.

The Major is tired.  Three days of battle cling to my clothes and skin and there is a certain stench of defeat about it.  Today we scored a magnificent win with Cue Card, whom I gave a strong indication to load the cannons on, but there ends the success.

Should you feel  disappointed  I hope it eases your mind to understand that the Major was significantly invested in Sam Winner, Ballynagour and Oscar Whiskey all of which floundered hopelessly at one stage or another.

Twitter is alight with thoughts and prayers for JT McNamara who suffered a fall on Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir, the consequence of which was him suffering a severe neck injury.  Powerful barbiturates were used to induce a coma and the racecourse medical team flew with him on the air ambulance to Bristol.  My own losses become inconsequential.

A bitter taste was left by that turn of events which unfurled as the racecourse team were dealing with Matuhi who suffered a fatal fall in the previous race.

This all followed the surprising news that Davy Russell had suffered a punctured lung, although the cause remains a mystery.  He is stood down and tonight there remains a mystery as to who will ride Sir Des Champs in the Gold Cup on Friday…

The Major kept good company today and included in the group was a chap whose methodology involved selecting horses on a theme from current events.  He selected the papal election and so used that when reviewing each race.  To build my own knowledge of what is likely to transpire in the 2013 Cheltenham Festival championship races, I have invested hundreds of hours following national hunt racing.  You know already what happened.  He selected the winner of the first two races at 25/1 and 20/1 before following up with some rather tasty each way places including Celestial Halo (of course) at 40/1.  Good on him, I wish every man his good fortune, I just hope our own enterprise is rewarded tomorrow.

Today was a critical day and it swung things in the bookmakers direction.  We need winners.  We have just one day remaining.

Stick with me, it is darkest before the dawn.  As Roosevelt (Theodore) said it is better to be faithful than famous.  Either that, or pick a theme and knock yourself out!

The Triumph

Our Conor is going to give Ireland a terrific chance of winning a Triumph, not a traditionally strong race for the raiding team.  He has already had the measure of many of his Irish rivals this winter including Stocktons Wing and Diakali.

On the home team, the probable best chance is Rolling Star who beat Irish Saint  on British debut on heavy ground and could be anything.  That win was at Cheltenham and mighty impressive.  Henderson has won three of the last twelve Triumph hurdles and so clearly he is to be feared.

Complicating the scene is the ground / weather.  The rain is likely to not be serious until later in the afternoon and so this will be a good ground race.  That brings in some serious questions for Rolling Star and Our Conor, neither of whom have raced on good.

Lac Fontana has an interesting profile having not disgraced himself against better horses in novice company and now stepping down to juvenile grade for this.  Jockey booking suggests Far West has the measure of him at home.

On balance, Our Conor is getting the line – I am not convinced the yard is in the best shape, the horse has done better in smaller fields and he has the travel to contend with.

Both Far West and Rolling Star have won at Cheltenham.  I cannot split them but will do so on trainer form at the festival which means that Rolling Star gets the nod.

The County Hurdle

The favourite in the County is Cotton Mill, well thought of by Pricewise, enough to make him his antepost Champion Hurdle pick.  The County is a much less ambitious target.

Cotton Mill may have some class but the County is often won by a springer from lower in the weights and that is the Major’s angle into the race.  Age 5/6, Mullins horses particularly interesting…

This leads us straight to Tennis Cap at 12/1 who I think has an excellent chance.  Ranjaan has been the selection of Ruby which is an advert in itself but with Ditcheat not showing their usual swagger this week, I prefer Paul Townend aboard my pick

The Albert Bartlett

I am not sure how the Albert Bartlett will feel tomorrow after we witnessed the rise of equine and jockey stars Brindisi Breeze and Campbell Gillies and their tragic deaths last year.  I am sure the course will have some moment planned to commemorate them.

What a great advert The New One gave for At Fishers Cross in his demolition job in the Neptune on Wednesday.  That Cheltenham race now looks key to this.

Utopie des Bordes has some experience which is an advantage but I am not sure it is good enough.

Ballycasey lines up to have a pop at At Fishers Cross where Inish Island failed.  Neither I think will get to the favourite.  All evidence to me says that At Fishers Cross is very very classy and has a great attitude.  If the rain is not soaked in by the time of the Albert Bartlett I would not be too concerned as the tip is an Oscar bred animal and should be fine under firmer conditions.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips

The 2013 Gold Cup has a decent feel to it with a number of potential winners and a great story to unfold.

At this point last year, I was convinced Sir Des Champs would go on to be crowned 2013 Gold Cup winner but he seems to have a lost a little edge.  That said he has improved with each run this year, looks a thorough stayer and clearly likes Cheltenham.  Yet, the standing down of Davy Russell is a final negative for the Major.

I cannot have the Giant Bolster.  Won’t place.  Neck on line.

At 10/1 Captain Chris would be a consideration having run Long Run so close in the King George but rain might put pay to his chances.

Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti are harder to split.

Silviniaco Conti has two negatives that put him out of the picture for the Major.  Firstly, he has no Cheltenham win to his name and while he has looked mighty impressive this term, he has yet to face this sort of challenge.  Secondly, I alluded earlier to the fact that Ditcheat just look a little short of sparkle this week.

That leaves me with a Henderson 1-2.  The order is the tricky thing.  The trend of not regaining a Gold Cup (with the exception of Kauto Star) does not bother me.  Long Run picked up his at a very tender age and there is no reason why he cannot win another simply because others have not.  He probably was not on full song when Conti beat him on seasonal debut, his King George win was brave and overall the Major is not against him at all.

Bobs Worth won a Hennessy and showed he had staying power doing so.  He has 4 course wins from 4 starts, including an Albert Bartlett and an RSA.  The Hennessy makes me slightly nervous because Tidal Bay is a yardstick that I think over-rated.  I might be the only person to think this but it makes me concerned about the Irish Hennessy form too, a view supported by the trouncing Cue Card gave First Lieutenant.  A further concern would be deteriorating conditions with Bobs Worth only experience incredibly being on goodish ground.

That leaves me with Long Run.  11/2 is available and I think it is well worth a decent wedge even if we are hampered by the Amateur Jockey.

The Foxhunters

Jockey booking is essential and after that, horse quality is required.  I think Salisfy can defend his title but 11/4 is not much of a price, particularly as the ground is going to be getting away from him.

I much prefer the 10/1 about Cottage Oak available with Corals.  The more rain he better for this one whose price accounts for the talented looking but inexperienced rider.

The Martin Pipe

After Dynaste went down in the Jewson, Ballynagour seemed to empty fast in the Byrne Plate and it seems hard to trust Pipe horses at the head of affairs.  This puts Gervey Chambertin in a little doubt.

It is only a little doubt though and I think it telling that the Pipe yard are having a pop at the race named in honour of their own with just this entrant.  He is a full brother to Grand Crus and could have been entered in several of the novice hurdles.

Solix is not a 66/1 shot in my eyes and if Ian Williams has him firing, he could make a mockery of that price.

Bourne has shown some class and rates a credible winner if we get more rain, 20/1 is workable.

The Major is opting for the fantastic festival of Willie Mullins to continue with a big run from the unexposed Make your Mark at 12/1 – Clearly he has been well thought of at various stages and if he arrives here in form, perhaps we will see it happen in front of us!  A saver on the Pipe horse is recomended.

The Grand Annual

The former race is named after the Pipe yard and the Grand Annual also carries the name of a famous yard, the Hendersons.  Rather than take one good shot at the prize, the team have lined up six darts to throw and there are cases for many of them.

The yard had a one-two in the race last year but this year they may struggle to cope with the Tome George trained Rody (8/1).  The race has a tendency towards featherweights and Rody carries 10 8 – Have a slice.

Courage, roll those dice.