Tag Archives: oh crick

Cheltenham Open Tips – Friday…

Good evening from the Major who writes from the lounge, the wood stove is alive, furiously swirling great licks of fire against the dirty glass plate door.   Outside, a chill air and a dark night, inside, warmth.  Bed is beckoning but I am to record my Cheltenham thoughts as I am attending the track tomorrow in fine company.

I shall write a brief report on the evening as part of the Saturday Sermon but here are my tips for what they are worth.  Please remember to gamble irresponsibly, if you remain entirely sensible then you shall not enjoy the thrill of your pounding heart as your horse rounds for home, time seems to slow, the leader is a clear 15 lengths up but your boy is stout and plugging on and the front runner puts in a weary leap as he approaches the hill… Is there time?

What is the point of losing what you can afford to lose?  You are an adult and I would suggest that pushing your boundaries is a healthy thing…  Live, this is not a dress rehearsal.

We have a cracking card at Cheltenham for a Friday.  We have Grade 1 winners, the cross country hilarity and a Tony Martin gamble, ah, it is good to be alive, n’est pas?

Cheltenham Open Friday.

This meeting comes as the National Hunt season is getting into full swing.  The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a good race but the Hennessy is around the corner and the Gold Cup contenders will be out for that.

We are still early in the season but plenty are arriving now with runs in them and that is always an advantage.  Trainer form is also more critical than usual at this time in my view as some yards tend to start so well while others build up a head of steam.

The Friday card is composed of a novice chase (very very good race with a disappointingly small field), four handicaps and the cross-country.  I shall take them race by race.

The opener (1.05) is an amateur riders race, contests I feel have a disproportionately high predictive factor in the quality of the jockey.  Amateurs vary from the god-awful to the actually quite good and this field are no different.  In the last year, all of the field have raced less than an average of once per week which informs you as to their experience.  The sole exception is Patrick Mullins who is a regular rider as an amateur for his fathers all-powerful yard – He has amassed 175 races in the last twelve months.   Biddick, Bannister, Waley-Cohen and Clements all have far less experience but do at least have a strike rate of above 10%, with, to my eye, Biddick and Waley-Cohen being the pick of that lot.

This four jockeys give us the choice of Standing Ovation, Mr Moss, Fredo and Ruben Cotter.

Standing Ovation has been in fine form and has won his last four – Race fitness is assured and Pipe knows how to handle one of this profile – Improving at a rate of knots, he is due to go up another 6lbs after his last win which was in the listed Badger Ales trophy at Wincanton – The rise in the weights looks a tad generous.  Yet, I cannot have him, I fear I am trying to find fault where there is little but…..  There are several concerns for me.  Number one is that he has not faced the Cheltenham obstacles and has done his winning going right handed.  The latter is a lesser part of my thinking but Cheltenham does not suit all horses and this one might just get found out.. The other concern for me is that he has had three races over this sort of distance in the last month, it is quite a heavy schedule and while he seems to take it well, Cheltenham’s undulations will exploit any weariness.  He is being backed heavily tonight but I am seeking other shores.

Fredo gets the assistance of Waley Cohen and while I think he will be better after his seasonal reappearance, I am not sure he is good enough.  It leaves me with Mr Moss and Ruben Cotter.  I side with the latter who has had a lot of problems but is in good hands and could well be fit first time out.  7/1, take a slice and thank me later.

The second race (1.35) is a particularly trappy handicap with 6/1 the field being available as I type.  I like Eastlake, who started where he left off last year and Jonjo knows how to eke the best out of these sorts but he would be trying to win off a new high mark and it is off-putting enough, though he is young enough to defy it.  As a good ground specialist, Tindaro enters calculations but his Fontwell win last time reads a little flatly in the context of this race.   Sew On Target has the vote of Joe Tizzard who had the pick of Theatrical Star and the former had a tidy piece of form in behind Johns Spirit.  Oh Crick should not be 25/1 but I shall pass over in favour of Ballyadam Brook at 20/1.  It takes a little imagination but… My tip has a very able jockey on board in Paul Townend, absolutely will love the drying ground and has some useful form hidden away.

The novice chase is the race I am looking forward to the most, despite a disappointing turnout of just four runners.  It looks a match race between Taquin Du Seuil and Oscar Whiskey and that is where I focus my cash too.  The former is a horse I have a big soft spot for.  I met Tony McCoy last year at the SPOTY awards and he gave Taquin to me as a horse to follow for the season.  I had him twice as a winner over Christmas before losing any gains in building an antepost position for the Neptune that failed to fire.  Taquin has a much more impressive record on heavy ground and the rattling conditions are a concern.  I always thought he jumped like a chaser though and he has a win under his belt at this discipline, signalling ability and experience.  Given he has to concede weight on his less favoured ground to a top class hurdler, I find my head sways towards Oscar Whiskey but my heart remains true…. Taquin du Seuil it is and sod the lot of you.

It could be a busy little spell for Dai Williams, owner of Oscar Whiskey as he has both favourite Top Gamble and second favourite, Whisper going in the next (2.40).  The latter looked a horse of promise to me last season but failed to fire when stepped up in class.  He always looked a bit slim to me and I hope he might have beefed up over the summer.  I would be backing him if it were not for a horse that I think has plenty of scope in Killala Quay at 12/1.  To start with, the horse gets the assistance of the incredibly talented Noel Fehily.  Secondly, the horse has won every start on anything better than good to soft.  He does not have Cheltenham form, but does have Chepstow form which is a good proxy.  Plenty of dangers plague the selection including Warden Hill, Handazan (who I will have a saver on), Atlantic Roller, Upswing and Gods Own.  It is a minefield! To add to that list of significant risks, Top Gamble, must rate a worthy favourite and one I would not put you off. Pipe must have laid him out for this race, which is in honour of David Johnson, his biggest supporter….. Oh Killala you’ve some horses to beat

The Cross Country is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is a different spectacle and if ever on course, I would recommend you walk to the middle to watch the race up close.  It is a bit baffling as they criss cross in a seemingly looping and purposeless path but you get close to the action to see what it is about.

As for the runners, Uncle Junior had the beating of Balthazar King in this last year and won the year before too so will have his fans but my tip, the favourite, has three years on Uncle Juniors’ ageing legs (12) and won the big XC race at the festival last year.  He is fit after winning on seasonal bow over Cheltenham fences and I fancy 2/1 is generous enough.

Having had generous prices for the first four races, I finish with both favourites.  Tony Martin has Ruby over for the ride on Quick Jack.  It is Ruby’s only ride.  It has been backed.  I am on!

Courage and roll those dice.

Friday Cheltenham Tips – Shabash

What a superb card at Cheltenham for the opening of the Paddy Power meeting…

I have spent some time immersed in the form and my thoughts and have drawn up a series of tips.  The Major needs some winners, the last couple of Saturday Sermons have delivered misery to the masses.

Here is my whirlwind tour of tomorrows Prestbury Park card…  Good luck to those good folk I know are there.  Mr McGerr I might see you for a sneaky quick one at the close.   Krish and the gang… do some damage.

1.10 Amateur Riders Handicap Chase

£10k is not bad prize money for this handicap chase for amateur riders and highlights the sheer decency of this card.

I am always a fan of backing horses with good amateurs up and since we have the Gold Cup winning jockey riding an unexposed chaser, I expect Time for Spring to start clear favourite.  A capable hurdler, his debut and breeding suggest he will go on as a chaser.  That said his round of jumping at Carlisle was not perfect and Cheltenham will provide the usual searching test of jumping accuracy so overlooked.

You have to respect the Pipe yard targeting ten-year old Swing Bill back at this but I would be surprised if he can cope with his mark.  He needs an upwards surge in form to be involved.

In second place on the selection stakes is in a field of potentials is the horse making the trip from County Cork, Barel of Laughs.  This 7/1 shot is another who seems to be significantly on the improve and who knows if the best part of a stone up in the weights is enough to stop him.  Joint second would be co-favourite Stewarts House whose last race was probably the best recent form on offer.  Tim Vaughan is in decent touch with his string and 6/1 seems reasonable.

The tentative selection though is Bescot Springs who acts on most goings.  He is one of those that the handicapper also has applied a prohibitive rise to on last running.  I still think he is a very interesting 12/1 shot.  His Kelso win was worth at least the 13lb rise and he had been performing well in novice events over both obstacles.  He has some very interesting form in the book including a two length defeat to Mad Moose.  Very interesting, make an investment.

1.45 2m Handicap Chase

Some great familiar names take part in this 2 mile handicap chase.

The race revolves around whether Crack Away Jack can return to old form.  In his earlier days he looked top class but after a season on the sidelines, he seemed to have lost the plot last year.

I have lost track of the Nicholls inmates that have risen back to glory following the magic wind op and if it has the trick, 7/2 could be the best value you see for the rest of this year.  The ground is in his favour and given he is shooting for a £25k pot, perhaps we should take the hint and invest.  He is one of the old favourites of the Major but on balance best watched.

I am opting for second favourite Haventascoobydo at 8/1 though who is also suited by conditions and is surely a horse on the significant upgrade.  The slight concern is his jumping has let him down on occasion and that is a trait in a horse that would normally get the Majors red line at Cheltenham but I am willing to give this one a chance on his third chase start.

Money for Oh Crick could be significant.

1.45 Cross Country

If you are there, get yourself over to the middle of the course, the cross country is a special watch from there.  I am not a massive fan of the cross country but it is a decent spectacle up close.

The day Garde Champetre retires is the day he will stop being a thorn in the Majors side, I relentlessly back against this one but each time it is a folly.

Here I go again though…. At 12, he is knocking on.  I also think Uncle Junior has decent enough form.  Sod it 6/1 here I go.

2.55 Novice Hurdle

Steps to Freedom is a 6/4 hot favourite and the Major had a fantastic day at Aintree on Grand National Da when this raider won the hurdle at 12/1.  He looks a very useful sort having proved his worth over obstacles already but there is a magic formula to follow here….

Novice Hurdle = Nicky Henderson.

I am all about Ericht at 5/1.  It looked a decent Champion Bumper and so 6th in that sphere reads well.  From a stable with an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdle stakes, it is telling that Henderson lines this one up for the Grade 2 feature of the opening day of the Paddy Power.

Have a chunky slice and send me the postcard.

3.30 Conditional Jockeys

Henderson has a fine record in this race and so Semi Colon has to be respected on that alone.  The lightly raced mare will come into it on previous Cheltenham form, highly respected.

The Paul Nicholls Tigre Daron is also a danger to all and the Ditcheat team are in splendid form.  Probably no fun in the price though in a race like this.

There are reasons that I believe Architrave is a well priced 25/1 and trainer form is one of them.  For those that like a price, take a slice.

As tempted as I am by Architrave, it is 16/1 shot Suburban Bay I like the most.  Stopped on a hat-trick bit at Worcester, I think there is still more improvement to come.  He will like conditions and generally is a sound jumper.  Alan Kings season has started fine….

4.05 Steel and Plate Novice Chase

They have saved the best for last.  Cue Card versus Grand Crus… fascinating.

Is it a two horse race?  Well Champion Court is a decent shout but given the way he walked through a few fences in the small field at Aintree latest, you would have to question the suitability of Cheltenham.

The only other runner of appeal is the entirely unexposed Dualla Lord who is bought into a race Nicholls once targeted with Denman.  Dualla Lord would have to be very fine to take this though and is over-looked.

Zaynar seems in permanent decline although a glimmer of hope could be taken from the last run.

Of the two market favourites, I am going to opt with Cue Card. Grand Crus would be staying hurdle champion if it was not for the might Big Bucks, there is nothing wrong with that form!

Known chase form is a boost though for my selection Cue Card.  Of the two, he is also the one probably to prefer the ground.  6/4, go large, go long and drink hard!

Good luck to all of you at Cheltenham tomorrow.  I hope the tips pay off or at least give you some excitement.

Tips across the full Cheltenham Card, Football and Boxing… and X Factor

The Major wishes all enthusiastic punters of Britain a very fine morning.  Followers, we are on a remarkable run, it has been ten weeks since we last posted a Saturday service that did not make a profit.

Once again, this morning, the Major has been up early to select the finest cuts from the delectable delights of this weekends sporting action for your personal astute perusal.

The coffee has been bubbling away for many hours, there is a fine smell in the air, coffee bean and money.  I feel ready to stand with each and every punter of Britain, shoulder to shoulder and take on the old enemy once again.  The turf accountant has priced his markets and has delivered his conundrums, we shall solve..

What a magnificent card at Cheltenham.  As previously posted, marvelous stuff moving the Tingle Creek.  A shame that Twist Magic ducks it but Masterminded more than makes up for that.  The Major cannot attend but will be there in spirit.  To those friends on course, enjoy the Guiness.  I have solved the card which we shall cover first (sports followers, keep scrolling)….

11.40 – What a time to start racing, do you drink before or not?  Of course you do..  Then you tag along to a friendly looking turf accountant and place a bet as follows.   The good ground could be key today and the 4 I think will go well in conditions are Woolcombe Folly, Imsingingtheblues, Tartak and I’m Delilah.  Ferdy Murphy and Tom George don’t seem to be running many at the minute and those that have are not placing.  Pipe is at best in uncertain form, which leaves Woolcombe Folly as the obvious selection.  It is a concern whether he goes around Cheltenham and so at 4/1,  will avoid advising to back the horse I think most likely and look at the value instead.  Fiendish Flames trainer Donald McCain is in fine touch and can be backed right now at 11/1 with Coral.  Have an each way slice but keep the stakes low.  Woolcombe could take it and I wouldn’t be putting anyone off a bet on Tartak with his 10lb claim, I’m Delilah who is sure to run a race on a surface he likes and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Oh Crick bounce back.  Wide open, stakes low, wedge intact chaps.

12.10 – Triumph Hurdle Trial – Placing large stakes on juvenile hurdles is the fast way to the poor house in the Majors view.  Again, this is not a great betting environment.  Sam Winner looks the obvious candidate and his odds on price reflects his good looking winner at Cheltenham last month (advised by the Major).  Whilst he is the likely winner, I can’t back a juvenile at that price (even one with all important course form), who knows what might pop up – Plus, the Majors boss doesn’t like them this short and is bound to be on course – The courteous thing is to find the value.  A media luz is an obvious potential thorn in the favourites side but having not jumped a hurdle its an almighty leap to place it around 2/1.  For those who need an interest, I would advise Pantxoa who can currently be backed at 10/1 with Bet365 on each way terms of quarter odds the first three (well done B365, best price and best terms, top marks from the Major).

12.45 – The novice chase is another conundrum.  Back to 3m 1f, Time for Rupert, last months course winner will be a warm favourite.  I quite like the look of Quinz as one that could improve past them all.  Previous jumping errors seem to have been ironed out by Hobbs and this horse has had two confidence boosting wins.  More rain would have made Cannington Brook of interest.  11/2 for my selection with Totesport, get it quick they are stand out on the price.

1.20 – Relkeel.  Top class stuff this.  Karabak, Zaynar, Celestial and Sentry Duty may have their quirks but they all have top notch form in the bank.  Two of them have recorded better RPR ratings than the likes of Cue Card and Menorah who will steal the headlines today.  The problem here is which one is going to put the best foot forward.  Henderson has obvious claims with both Zaynar and Sentry Duty and of the two I prefer the one that Geraghty has chosen not to ride.  Sentry won a three horse race here in January and will be fine with the ground.  I like the profile of this Henderson horse that he has kept busy on the flat (usually a good sign – like Punjabi in his champion hurdle season).  It’s a Grade 2 so Sam Twiston Davies cannot claim but I still like Banjaxed Girl who carries least weight of all.  Quartz de Thaix has done nothing wrong but will be challenged for a lead today.  Karabak wants rain in the Majors view.  Zaynar will be a danger to all if the headgear has the desired impact.  It’s a tricky conundrum but on balance I think two are worth backing each way – Sentry Duty 7/1 and Carlo Brigante whose trainer, Gordon Elliot, has bought over from Ireland where he could have been engaged in other contests.  Fourth in the triumph was no shabby result and at 4, plenty of improvement can come from this 22/1 shot (Stan James thank you – especially as you are 1/4 the place).  Have a slice of both.

We are in the second half of the card at 1.55 – What a monster of superlative racing.  Can anything beat Masterminded?  He looked tuned to his best back at Ascot but can he be trusted these days.  He pinged the third last that day like the horse of old (tipped up by the Major) clearing it majestically without touching a bristle.  Masterminded will win if he is 80% fit and ready.  Should the game slip, Gauvain will pick up the pieces.  Strong win bet advised with Paddy Power who go evens is advised.  For those who like a tasty price, I suggest the straight forecast with Gauvain – Incidentally, if you agree with the Major that Masterminded, the best horse in training 18 months ago has returned to his best (he is only 7 and in fine hands) then why wouldn’t you avail 888 of their 5/1 offer that he wins both today and in the Champion Chase……. 

2.30 Vote AP – Just a couple of weeks ago, The Major was on his soapbox wondering why the industry was not getting more behind our champion jump jockey McCoy for Sports Personality of the Year – Great to see the race names for this cause – Let’s hope it has the effect.  There well may be some sentimental money for Fingeronthepulse ridden by AP, but none of the Majors.  Daves Dream looked impressive in November and the Major would have been on if Pricewise hadn’t stolen the value first – Well done to him advised it at 13/2.  Out of the handicap by a pound, Matuhi is an obvious eyecatcher at 16/1 and an each way bet is not a bad shout.  I am looking for the winner though.  Little Josh won’t get the easy lead he had last time in November plus I am sure he wants the word soft to appear in the going.  To win this Little Josh would have to post a better rating than Exotic Dancer with his last to first performance several years ago, it’s a big ask.   Great Endeavour could be a threat if running a proper race, maybe he wasn’t tuned up for the Paddy Power – 10/1 is fair.  The one for the Major is heavily weighted but classy Mad Max.  Again, Geraghty prefers another but the Major respects Carberry as a booking and this experienced sort could be involved if he is tucked away and turned off for the first two miles. 

3.05 International Hurdle – Well well well.  Hmmmmmmmmmm.  Cue Card, potential superstar.  Menorah – Supreme Novices winner and the winner of the greatwood available at 9/4 with Paddy Power.  Silvicano Conti – Twice tipped successfully by the Major this year.  This is the greatest conundrum of all.  Of the remainder, Astracad at an astronomical 50/1 could run into a place if two of the top three don’t fire, it certainly does its best running on good.  So does Clerks Choice, last time out an odds of crash at Haydock following a Cheltenham win (another Major tip!), could return to form which might get a place at 12/1 – Anything better would be a surprise.    The Major has puzzled over the top three for some time.  Conti has established credentials after defeating two decent fields this season but last time out I cannot help but feel the performance of Zaynar and some of the others was too bad to be true – Conti may have been flattered, at my peril I shall overlook.  This then comes to a punch up between Menorah who has slightly more experience and a Grade 1 hurdle festival race to his name versus probably the most exciting bumper horse we have seen for some years.  There are similarities between the hype around Cue Card and that of Dunguib last year.  There is however one notable difference, Colin Tizzard has decided that instead of placing his potential world beater in walk over contests, Tizzard has bravely decided to ask the question now….. is Cue Card a champion bumper contender this year at his tender age?  I admire this.  I also think it points to a degree of confidence.  Why risk your star if you don’t think the answer is yes.  Cue Card could take an easier route and rock up at the festival to take the Supreme.  Finally, I like to back horses with that chance of being a true star.  Prove me wrong Menorah but you are simply a damn fine hurdler with an 8/1s chance of winning the blue riband hurdling event in March.  Cue Card, you could be a Gold Cup winner.  With that in mind, don’t you want to be able to say that you were on when he picked up the International all those years ago? My advice is to get on Cue Card at the available 2/1 – The head expresses some caution that we must remember this is a 4yo.  Class tells.  We shall see.

The luck last is the Grade 2 Albert Barlett Novices Hurdle, hardly a bad race to finish on – What a superb card, why am I not there?  Henderson looks to me like he is sat on a star in Mossley.  5/1 with Corals right now, have a slice and lets hope he can get us out of any bother later!

I wish everyone attending the finest of afternoons.  And in other sports….

What a week at Newcastle, clearly unhappy with 11th, Ashley choose to get ri of stable influence Hughton.  The team played atrociously at West Brom where they were expected to give a good game to the Baggies.  The Major feels they must have known, the body language seems to suggest this.  I am not a huge fan of Liverpool as regular readers know but surely 23/20 (Blue Sq) is too big.  OK no Gerrard but I think Newcastle would be beaten by most Premier League teams today so a top half team should have no problem – There is talk of boycotts and protests, this could be a choppy time for the toon.  I don’t have a problem with Pardew, he is articulate and he has as much chance of avoiding relegation as Hughton did (although if the movements this week do cause a fundamental shift in confidence, this might turn out to be Pardews poisoned chalice) 

Spurs are an astonishing price to win at home to Chelsea.  Chelsea are in free fall at the moment.  Wilkins departure had a similar impact to the one I am expecting at Newcastle.  Drogba looks way off, they are missing the steel in the middle, Lampard, Essien and Terry.  Chelsea look vulnerable.  15/8!!! Spurs are priced as if they would win this just once in three – Sorry, that’s absurd.  Have a chunk.

More football bets for you.  Brightons recent turn of form for the worse has meant that they are now overpriced to win at Huddersfield.  Brighton who played FC United midweek stayed up north to avoid two long journeys in the week and I think that reflects the professional approach the probable league winners bring.  How on earth 11/4 is available with Coral, the Major does not know – Brighton are a class act and can beat 5th placed Huddersfield – Load the large cannon.

Bury are also capable of defying the odds and picking up a win at Wycombe.  Bury look a different team on the road and have won their last two away games by an aggregate 8-1.  2/1 to for Bury (3rd) to win at Wycombe (6th) – tasty.

Hull will struggle at Palace in the afternoon kick off.  Hulls striker has a less than 1 in 10 strike rate (admittedly used as a winger for many games) and with the uninspiring Barmby in the hole, it is hard to see Hull netting at improving Palace.  7/5 available with Hills.

On form I would back Sunderland to beat Fulham at Craven Cottage.  11/4 can be taken with Victor Chandler.  Might be worth waiting to see if the influential players of Gyan and Gordon pass late fitness tests before plunging.

West Brom arrive at Villa Park full of confidence after turning the recent run of poor form around with a good 3-1 defeat of poor Newcastle.  Villa have lost all 4 league games under Houllier which points to a value 12/5 bet with Stan James.  No bet for the Major but a likely contender.

Khan fights in his toughest ever test in the Majors view against Maidana.  Maidana can really punch which is reflected in an excellent stoppage rate.  Khan looks slightly vulnerable to a punch and this boy could land one.  As much as it pains me, I think the 11/4 for a Maidana win represents better value.  If they had been fairer and offered 4/1 by KO or TKO I would have had a slice of that too.

Having delved into Xfactor last week, the Major feels compelled to see if he can back up his winning NAP last week, Mary to exit at 18/19.  We nailed the fact that Cher and Mary would fight out the bottom two.  The Major still is of the view that Matt is the likely winner.  Having advised Rebecca last week, it is pleasing to see her come into second favouritism.  I am surprised though that Matt can be backed at 10/11 given his apparent support.  I would take a good slice of that.

The NAP is Liverpool, Masterminded, Matt Cardle and Brighton in an accumulator – Don’t say I’m never adventurous!!!

The Major wishes you the finest of betting Saturdays.  I wish all those at Prestbury Park the most succesful of days.  May you empty the enemies satchel with a smile.  Tell him the Major sent you and we will see him again shortly.