Tag Archives: mcmurrough

The Saturday Sermon – A top draw Greenham, Ayr Champion Hurdle (I hate calling it that) and Grand National

Good evening from the Major who writes from a virile Worcestershire scene where an abundance of colour is framed by a pleasant mid evening light; golden crops of rape, deep green grasses and dark brown earth, festering with pungent manures which gloop onto the roads trailing behind the great field workhorses coughing out their fumes and building a small tail of traffic.

The Major writes tired and failing, beer in hand and the abyss of sleep calling.  Yet, the Sermon, my weekly mistress, or perhaps more accurately master, calls me to her once more.  Penance comes once we are written and I click the blue button just inches away… publish.

The Masters is playing out in the background.  The Major posted a guest piece mid-week and the three runners are not currently dominating the leaderboard… Alas.  Nevermind, The Major also asked twitter for their fancied bets and twitter responded, my Masters stable now includes virtually half the field and since I do not think I have a golfer in the top ten, I am thinking of contacting the Guinness Book of Records.  Incredible performance, if only I had been pressing pink, not blue.

Augusta looks sensational, it always does.  I am no golfing fan but I enjoy tuning in to see the glorious grounds, stunning flora and those white bunkers glaring at you in the brightness.  The birdsong and the shade of the trees dancing across perfect greens with dark curves of water.  Although these things have been arranged by man, they are seemingly close to heaven in their composition.  It is how they wrote of the Old Summer Palace, man-made elements arranged in such a way that the beauty is breath-taking, an undeniable set of complimentary factors, it is almost impossible to fathom why one texture or colour plays so nicely against the next, it just works, some genius beyond my capability compiled it and I, your mere correspondent can only admire it.

From such perfection we slide, I watched Panorama regarding Marine A who has been convicted of murder.  I was amazed at the number of people who were willing to defend his actions.  Yes he was under extreme duress and I have every empathy for that but we cannot let the barbarism of our ancestors guide our moral judgements.  I know many of you may disagree, seemingly there is widespread support, we are partisan, he is one of ours, shooting in cold blood is never right.

I do dislike preaching, so I apologise.  Perhaps it is better if we take in the sports.  Whatever our views of the world, we are united in facing our filthy enemy whose mind so devious works to deceive and disorient.  See clearly my friends, hold a steady lance, close up ranks and despite being outnumbered, stick that chin out and let them see the straightness of our backs and certainty of posture, a certainty that speaks of victory.  Courage, roll the dice.

Newbury

With no patience before the gorging commences, I jump straight to the main dish of the Newbury card.  The Greenham has been, at times, a disappointing Guineas trial.  I am not sure why we do not get some better sorts competing most years, perhaps it is the more modern trend of taking your blue blood straight to Newmarket? Notwithstanding Frankel won the race, there are few true global stars that have emerged from the winners enclosure.  Hence it remains a Group 3.  Maybe the tide is turning though because Olympic Glory, last years winner was certainly no slouch.

Moreover, this year is a very decent looking renewal, Kingman has every chance of being a top class animal, he certainly looked so in the Solario.  He is not the only classy sort lining up as we also have the Chesham and Royal Lodge winner, Berkshire; the Gimcrack and Middle Park winner, Astaire and a host of other decent sorts.

While Kingham may prove the best of these eventually, I am taking Night of Thunder against him at 7/2 (Hills or Paddy Power) – Hannon chooses this one to follow up last seasons win with Olympic Glory (a different Hannon admittedly!) and he was a ready winner of a listed contest when last seen.  I particularly like his breeding being our of that very rich vein of Dubawi and Galileo crosses…

In the 1.50, the other Group 3 on the cards, Frankels full brother Noble Mission is joint favourite and a horse that will not carry the Majors money.  He will be able to cope if there is more cut than expected underfoot but looks vulnerable for a win and it is a winner we want… all repeat after me.. WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS… alright, on my own.

Cubanita gave a good beating to Noble Mission and that was useful course form.  I like that at Newbury for its sweeping wide straight suits a real galloping sort.  Of interest.  Astonishing has something to prove on form for me and so by process of thorough and absolute analysis, I give you Mutashaded.  He was only a few lengths down to Hillstar at Ascot and this looks a mighty easier race.

Ayr – The Scottish Champion Hurdle

The renewal of the Greenham is above par and the same can be said of the Scots Champion Hurdle at Ayr.  Being a limited handicap, it is littered with decent winners down the years but again, few that you would argue reached the top of the tree.

This year, at one stage, the entries looked as good as the proper Champion Hurdle… Don’t be offended you Ayr lovers, proper means level weights, a fight between the best!  Anyway, the race had attracted entries from Hurricane Fly, My Tent or Yours, The New One and Pegasus, ridden by Jesus.  Sadly, Flaxen Flare and My Tent or Yours stand their ground but we have to make do with that.

The last five winners of the race won with marks of 141, 143, 144, 130 and 139 and so it is some achievement for Ayr to get the classy My Tent or Yours who runs off 168.  His presence and lofty mark have meant that only Flaxen Flare and Court Minstrel get to race at their proper weights.  Look I am surprised that My Tent or Yours is evens so lump on – I think it is a cunning plan from our new Canadian bank master to allot some extra QE amongst us ordinary folk (you not I my friends).  Flaxen Flares form in the County is the next best on offer but this is a classy classy horse and he deserves this day with the sun on his back.  Bet with conviction and courage, we do not think it, we know it.

Now for the Scottish Grand National.  10/1 the field says is all…. Last year Godsmejudge was the first horse in over a decade to lump round a weight of over eleven stone.  It is also a race that unlike the British equivalent, is won more often by seven and eight year old chasers, most likely on account of the less gruelling contest.

Again though, Tidal Bay is doing to this race what My Tent or Yours has done to the other showpiece.  18 of his 29 opponents are racing off an artificially high weight because of him taking his place.

I am going out on a limb and suggesting 33/1 shot Nuts and Bolts who is ridden by Lucy Alexander and fits the profile I like.  The horse has proven most effective on this sort of ground and may outrun the price, as could possibly so many others.  Merry King will win a race like this one day and I will kick the dog at having left it unbacked.  Before you get mad, I do not have a dog, OK; it will have to be a child.  Lie Forrit would be incredibly popular as a winner and the other horse that may just outrun a massive price is McMurrough.  God alone knows… stick a pin in, or find a proper tipster, you’ll be richer in pocket but less so in spirit.

At Navan, Answered can give us a 9/4 winner… match fitness persuades me over the eye-catching Ebasani.

and the football…

I am worried that Everton will run out of steam and so am hesitant about the 4/5 even though they are playing out of their skin… What the hell, put it in.  Derby to beat Huddersfield 8/11… glorious.  Wolves at Crewe 6/4, Luton at home to Braintree 11/20… They are the bankers.  The spice is Swansea who might outplay 4/1 against a weary legged Chelsea.

The Martin Hill bet is Answered, My Tent or Yours, Mutashaded in a power trixie.

I trust that you can take care of your own dinner plans but wish for you, the most delightful of company over a fine medallion of excellent beef, perhaps a cut from Highland Cattle reared with love in the Welsh hills.  Good wine, good company, a freedom, relaxation, restfulness; a healthy tip to reflect your contentment with proceedings and a knowing glint in your partners eye that tells you as to where her mind runs.  All these things, I wish for you.

Courage friends, roll the dice.

The Saturday Sermon – Kempton, Wetherby and Warwick

Good evening from the Major who writes from a breezy but fair Worcestershire scene where the fire crackles, the beer is cold and the good lady is preparing a king prawn curry – Ah, it is good to be alive.

There are moments, flickers, moments in the script when the sense of being alive seems inexplicably to come to the fore of your mind.  Recently, you will recall the Majors sojourn to the emerald isle.  A most satisfactory time was had.  While driving through Dublin, Daniel, number one son and heir to the Majors fortune (not that there will be a fortune, more likely a debt) spied an unusual building and exclaimed that ‘how could anyone build that?’

The simplicity of the question took me by some surprise.  It is the wonderment that made my heart skip, the sheer astonishment that as a child you can experience but as a spark from the fire diminishes as we weary.

Such spirit, waking moments, it is the reason why I refuse to lay off when on a bet.  I was drinking with my brother a few weeks back and bought him a treble, in  which the first two legs landed.  He felt uncomfortable, even before he spoke I knew it, he was rubbing the ticket and twitching at the prospect of saying something.  The thing is, the win would have been useful and the conflict he felt was talking to me about laying off.

Now, I am a humble soul and would not begrudge you or any other man your own opinion.  Yet, my own brother, a man who knows his own mind well felt an impulsive hesitancy in my company.

As it happened, he was waiting on a Kidderminster win.  He played a few safety bets and it was financially rewarding as Kidderminster failed in the last leg of the treble, rather miserably losing with ten men.

Was this right?  Was his correction emotionally as well as rationally good value?  I am unsure.  A gift, the urge to see it through, his understanding of my own reluctance to lie down in the face of a gamble – I just feel it is cheating, it is robbing yourself of the thrill you might enjoy… After all, we spin by just the once and whatever raises the heart, engages the mind, brings the lust of blood, well… it is a rarer and most beautiful thing.

Leave your chips on the table my friends, to the sports…

The Tolworth

The Liquidator looks the bet to me being 9/4 and with obvious advantages.  I must confess to not being a fan of the Pipe stable but The Liquidator carries great form into the race and unlike my other fancy (Garde La Victoire) he has proven mudlark status.  Upazo does not appeal on pure form terms to me and the Henderson yard (who are in fine form, with fewer than usual runners in the last fortnight) send out two but both are overlooked.  Of them, Josses Hill is clearly the most interesting but I do not like the form as he has had to battle to victory the last twice – That said, greenness could be a factor and I would not be outraged to be corrected.

All the dogs are barking for Captain Chris but I cannot have him.  He is not the sort I trust at all, for a start I think three flat miles on good ground is his bag and this, while shorter and on softer (thus an acceptable compromise for many) will not be his ideal conditions.  Twinlight has been talked down by the trainer but honestly, I feel he has an excellent chance, one might question why they are bringing him across otherwise – The yard seem to be in perpetual good form which is something the Ditcheat team cannot boast and Ghizao while loving the ground is short on the required form.

Warwick

Black Thunder won in a small field last time which might put some off his short odds but I have to admit to being impressed enough to lump on today at 4/6 in this better company.  Corrin Wood is a decent opponent but my selection won going away and Nicholls is bringing him along quietly.

I am also a fan of African Gold, yes it is deep ground, yes he carries top weight but make no doubt, he is the class act.

Wetherby Tip

At Wetherby, I am looking to have a bet on McMurrough who is back hurdling after some smart chasing appearances.  He looks well placed for a win and races off almost a stone lighter than his chase mark.  At first glance his soft ground form is not great but this is a distraction, he is certainly ground versatile and the yard is are in absolute awesome form…  I suspect this is bet of the day.  6/1 – Major stakes required.

To the football….

Southampton are a fine 20/17 to beat West Brom with the latter not yet benefiting from the new managers guidance.  Likewise, long-term team to follow this season, Wigan, are 13/15 to win at home to Bournemouth, have a big slice.  I would also be a buyer of Burnley at 19/20 away at Yeovil.

May your dinner be magnificent, resplendent in its glorious elegance both in cuisine and company.  Of the latter, I trust it is well-mannered, not too gentle, more outrageously good fun…. She may be entertaining the idea, which gets settled as your wallet falls open to settle the bill, spilling the good fortune of the day.

The Martin hill bet, sure to be a winner is doubles and trebles on all horses selected -20 bets.

Courage, roll the dice.

Saturday Sermon – Cheltenham Trials Day Tips | Leopardstown | FA Cup… Shabash and load those cannons

Good evening from the Major who writes relaxing, from the lounge. The television was proving a poor distraction, action was taken, a button pressed. Now silence envelops me in a soft bubble, occasionally punctuated by a car passing by, tyres kissing the dark wet tarmac. Thinking time.

Worcestershire feels unclean. Lumps of white snow whose edges are diminishing fast cling to the landscape, lit up by the passing lights, starved of their icy fuel, unable to fight off the rising temperatures, slowing eating themselves. Soon teh land will be free again.

Cheltenham, racing, it is on. Shabash. The Major is looking forward to entertaining friends on course. I suspect a crowd of good racing folk will be there, starved of recent action, craving the goodness that floweth at the Prestbury Park cup.

We are incredibly blessed with a day at National Hunt HQ that is as good as trials day ever recorded. The moving of the Victor Chandler Chase bought Sprinter Sacre to the card and even the loss of Bobs Worth did little to tarnish the sheer quality jumping off the pages.

Such riches… There is a buddhist parable of heaven and hell which suggests that the two after-lifes have little in common. A feast in each is laid before you and in hell you are furnished with just one long chopstick, frustration ensues as you are unable to feed with it. In heaven, the same feast and the same apparatus are present but each man feeds his neighbour. Sounds uncomfortable at best.

The moral point is not lost on tomorrow though. Racing is such a richness, how the heart pumps, that rising feeling as your horse turns up that Cheltenham hill, behind but plugging on and you just know it is a long way home and you have a chance…. The smells, the magnificent beasts, the sights… we are lucky to live in such times as these, Sprinter Sacre, Puffin Billy… tomorrow we dine on the feasts that racing has given us.

As the parable teaches too, we cannot do this alone, so enjoy it in company. Join the conversation on twitter (@tdl123) and while you are online, have a little look at this tribute song to Campbell Gillies who tragically died on holiday last year. The song is nice enough and features the jockey winning on Brindisi Breeze at last years festival.

When the tapes go up on this years Albert Bartlett, many will be casting a thought back to Campbell charging up the hill holding off Boston Bob in last years contest. Who would have thought it possible that two such bright young things would be dead before the summer was out. We float by on this river just the once.

Enjoy Cheltenham tomorrow, savour these times and be lucky. The Trials day is a fantastic taster of what is to come.

The Major has started recording his antepost thoughts for Cheltenham. Have a read when you get a chance, so far I have covered the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

I feel able to claim that I am in reasonable touch over the last month, a small spell on the sidelines this week hopefully has done me good. I have been known to go well fresh and so today, returning from a break, here I am at your disposal.

Daub thy war paint, load the light cannon, prepare the mortars, the enemy comes from below to attempt to breach our line, we are dug in well on the ridge though. We shall fire mortar but dropping shot from above is difficult to gauge… if it comes to it, we shall engage them man to man with 5 cartridges each and bayonets fixed and glistening their evil reflections.

To the sports…

Cheltenham Trials Day Tips

The going is soft but it might be odd ground. The covers have been on all week so the top might be loose. Fresh rain is forecast too so it might get tacky. I am erring on proper soft ground sorts.

What a feast of action we have, eight races, six of them graded… let us sharpen our minds.

12.10 Grade 2 Triumph Trial

Irish Saint is currently 6/4 and I fancy him to go off a lot shorter after an impressive Kempton win last time out. Soft underfoot conditions have already proven no problem.

The race is marked by the absence of an Alan King runner. He has run the race in 5 of the last 7 runnings all with horses of 2/1 and under.

Rolling Star has to be the biggest eye-catching entry, while it is hard to rate the French form, Henderson does not throw darts at races like this and so despite an incredibly tough introduction to British hurdles, he is respected.

Of the others, Knight of Pleasure makes appeal. He could not have won more convincingly on debut at Sandown and the Moore yard are in fine form – A tremendous piece of each way value at 14/1 with Stan James.

On balance though, the Major feels that Nicholls has a good one on his hands in Irish Saint and at 6/4 generally, I think this evenings prices are the one to take.

12.40 Cheltenham Novice Chase

Radjhani Express gave Sam Waley-Cohen the first of two winners on the Kempton boxing Day card. His rise in the weights and dubious style at the obstacles are enough to put me off.

McMurrough has terrific form on the Northern circuit, winning two handicaps but this is a long way from Wetherby, interesting.

Gullinbursti has looked just short of class on a few occasions a dirty scope on the middle of three runs was an excuse but I am not convinced a tough track like Cheltenham is what he needs.

Venetia Williams stable jockey Aidan Coleman has opted for Renard D’Irlande over Benny Mist who was a last time winner in a small field at Taunton.

Johns Spirit at 5/1 (Boylesports) is the tentative choice for the Jonjo / McCoy partnership. He looks consistent enough and a small stake is advised as plenty of others could improve.

Sizing Santiago is the other that help some interest off a massive 14/1 but he is merely one of a few that persuade me to keep stakes on the selection low.

1.15 Grade 3 Handicap

Nadiya De La Vega has run well at Cheltenham but has a habit of getting worse as the season progresses.

Bless the Wings is a talented animal and this is the right time of the season to catch it but I fear the ground may be against the King horse.

Katenko looks a very tasty favourite at 4/1, the French import to the Williams yard is a powerful looking horse and this sort of contest may bring better.

I am opting though for the horse with a fantastic winning habit, Bold Sir Brian. My tip, smacks a few fences but the way he put away Pacha Du Polder and his penchant for softer conditions bodes very well. Have a meaty slice and thank me later.

Tips for the Victor Chandler Chase

Sprinter Sacre… The Aeroplane…. His judgement cometh and that right soon.

2.25 Argento Chase Tip

It is a shame that Bobs Worth is a non runner in the contest, it would have been fantastic to get another look at the Gold Cup favourite. However, as long as Tidal Bay stays in, we have a proper race on our hands here.

I must be the only National Hunt fan not to be that taken with the whole Lexus form. My own Gold Cup thoughts revolve around Bobs Worth, Long Run and Silviniaco Conti.

Grand Crus is starting to look like a list of excuses but that said they look valid. The wind op was a response to his poor efforts at Cheltenham and then he went well in the King George before blowing up, he arguably will strip fitter for that.

Imperial Commander will have his fans as a twelve-year-old former Gold Cup winner but not for the Major.

Midnight Chase won this last year but the creeping years and a tougher field might make a repeat bid a failing one, but he does love it round here.

Others with strong track form include Weird Al, Little Josh and Wayward Al.

The whole race feels like a weigh up between the older sorts out for a last hoorah and a few younger animals bidding to be better. Hunt Ball is one of those but I think his improving is done.

It is a younger chaser I am opting for though and it is Grand Crus that represents the value pick at 5/1. He can improve for his recent shows and will surely play a role.

3.00 The Novice Hurdle

At Fishers Cross has good handicap form and Coneygree looks like he has some of his half-brother Carruthers talent but neither appeal as much as The New One. Two and a half miles around Cheltenham looks a nice warm up for the Neptune after the tip destroyed a Warwick field last time. That race fell apart but there was no doubt over the ease in which the winner did his business.

Whisper is a potential fly in the ointment, the Henderson inmate could be anything but against a proven class animal, I am sticking with the New One.

3.35 The Cleeve Hurdle

It is the day that keeps on giving. The 3.35 is the Cleeve Hurdle, a race that sees Oscar Whiskey test his World Hurdle credentials with Reve de Sivola taking him on. He needs to win this to put to be the stamina concerns to bed ahead of the festival.

Reve de Sivola beat a good yard stick in Smad Place (placed in last years World Hurdle) last time at Ascot and that was an excellent effort coming back from a break.

Kauto Stone is starting to look tricky and Crack Away Jack owes me too much to contemplate.

I am sticking with 13/8 shot Oscar Whisky (Hills) who has the best Cheltenham record of the lot.

4.10 – The Lucky Last

Dildar to get me out of trouble at 9/2.

Leopardstown Tips

Just in case you are not drowning in the quality of the Cheltenham card, Leopardstown offer some excellent racing too.

Sadly only three go to post in the Arkle Novice which Avrika Ligeonniere should take at prohibitive 4/6 odds.

9/4 Marito for the same connections can make it a profitable day in the 2.15, one I very much like.

In the big handicap, 9/1 Carlingford Lough with Slippers aboard is my tip.

Football Tips

QPR 4/6, Wigan 4/7 and Hull 4/5 are an FA Cup treble.

Bournemouth 8/11 and Tranmere 23/10 are my league one picks.

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Bold Sir Brian, Oscar Whisky, Irish Saint and Tranmere.

May your dinner be paid for by a trixie which made your wallet bulge. The company delectable.

Courage, roll those dice.