Tag Archives: oscar whiskey

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.

Saturday Sermon with Haydock and Ascot tips….

Good morning from the Major who writes from a sodden Worcestershire where deluges of rain have altered the vista. It is a pretty site, fields now lakes, vast expanses of new temporary wetland which the bird life will enjoy.

It all happened so quickly, rivers and brooks burst sending violent floods of water into new places where it doesn’t belong.. roads, fields, flat areas vulnerable to the torrents of water, now settled in calm collectives. They will disperse as quickly as they came, silently draining and giving back their taken land.

The Major has been sleeping more soundly. Whatever the cause it dispersed as quickly as it pooled too. With sleep, comes confidence. Today my faithful few, we daub the war paint and go to war. We have an excellent renewal of the Betfair Chase, a decent Amlin at Ascot and football opportunities too.

Sharpen that lance point and prepare the heavy charger. The enemy is dug in, prepared for our onslaught, we shall take them on directly, first on horse, picking with our lance points at the gallop and then fighting man to man with bayonets fixed. It will be dirty work but we deserve our victory… To the sports…

3.05 Haydock – Betfair Chase

What a fantastic renewal of the Betfair Chase. The two remaining placed horses from last years Gold Cup do battle with Silvianaco Conti and Weird Al.

You can read this race a number of ways and what complicates matters further is the testing conditions which could readily deteriorate to heavy. I am making the assumption that it will.

The only horse with good form when that word appears is Cannington Brook but while he has shown improvement, surely he is not a Grade 1 winner.

The ground could scupper the chances of The Giant Bolster who is clearly a rose on the significant upgrade surprising many with a superb Gold Cup second. He is the stable star and reportedly doing very well. He is likely to run off the front and although in a small field that could be advantageous, in these specific conditions, I suggest he will be setting it up.

That leaves Weird Al, Long Run and Silvianaco Conti.

I like Weird Al a lot. Quirky and difficult to train, this will be his Gold Cup without doubt. He will be tip top for this and has a record that is mores site fresh. Strongly considered and his soft ground form (4 from 5) suggests that heavy holds little fear.

Silvianaco Conti is a second season chaser with serious merit. He has clearly progressed like so many of the Ditcheat team do. He looked excellent on seasonal debut int he Charlie Hall, particularly as that was his first time outside of novice company. He is going to be fit and ready.

Long Run is the proven class. How I wish, Barry Geraghty would get a chance. Then we would know whether the scruffy jumps are the horses habit or the amateur jockey factor. Owners can do what they want and the Corinthian spirit can be admired but as a racing fan, I want to see the best jockeys on the best horses. I am still a fan, a clean round and this machine is unbeatable in my view. He won a Gold Cup as a young pup beating good sorts. He always hits a few but stands up and keeps going. These fences at this speed on this ground might suit…. That though is the problem, can you believe the horse has never run on anything worse than good to soft! It is hard to know what Long Run will make of heavier conditions.

The tip…. Hmmmmm tricky. Weird Al is tempting simply because this is the main aim. Long Run is really tempting now drifting, I am opting for Silviniaco Conti, I am also having a reverse forecast on the first two in the market.

At the start of this season, I had written off Paul Nicholls chances of top trainer. Henderson had far more 160+ rated sorts and it looked like all the talent was there. Now with Silvianaco, Al Ferof and others showing progression, it is wide open again.

2.30 Haydock

I really like the two at the top of market and am going to tip Katkeau – Pipe has an excellent record in the race and I am not put off by jockey bookings. This is a ‘could be anything’ French import and 13/2 Coral is fine for me.

2.10 Ascot – Amlin Chase Tips

The ground at Ascot is likely to be very testing too particularly as the rain will hit Berkshire.

A few weeks back, the Major heavily tipped For Non Stop at 13/2 which duly obliged and you might expect the same again but no….

Today, even the Fehily factor (the Majors favourite underrated jockey), I am tipping Finians Rainbow. Last year, my selection was simply awesome in the Champion Chase, outclassing Sizing Europe. The latter is an exceptional horse in his own right who won doing cartwheels in Ireland last week.

Finians is simple. Evens is a gift.

2.45 Ascot – Coral Hurdle

Again, I am looking to keep it simple here. The best horse in the race is Oscar Whiskey who is also tactically Flexible. He can and will front run and will be damn hard to peg back – he likes a lot of cut so conditions bear no ill – smash it up in a double with Finians Rainbow, 4/5… I can see it being 4/7 at the off.

2.35 Gowran

Last tip from the Major comes from Gowran Park where a highly regarded Mullins horse (always worth noting) does battle with Hidden Cyclone. I fancy Call the Police to come out on top based on reputation and the weight benefit he gets as Hidden Cyclone has won a Grade 3.

Currently 7/4 but only Paddy Power has a market! Outrageous!

To the football…

Derby should beat Blues (5/4) who are a club in turmoil. I fancy that in a double with Blackburn (11/10) who should see off Millwall.

Lucky 15… For Mr Hill, (Derby, Blackburn, Finians Rainbow and Call the Police). It might not be £600 worth but good luck!

May your dinner be fuelled by magnificent winners. Have pasta and a light wine, a Bourgogne perhaps. I hope the company is enchanting and as you drop the tip on the table after the bill is settled, may her eyes widen and the race be put to bed.

Courage, roll those dice.

The Majors Rather Special Grand National Saturday Service – Load the Cannons Followers

For once the Major bids you a good late evening from starry Defford where the Major pens his Saturday Service on the evening shift.  Horseracing tips across the Aintree Grand National card have been prepared.  Why is the Major up late completing the weekly sermon?  Is the Major tiring of rising before 6am on a Saturday for the purpose of researching the days value in our relentless battle against the enemy?  The answer is no, of course not.

To Aintree and let the magic unfurl. Hoof, noise and battle - It will not be pretty

As always followers can get the latest posts alerted to them by following twitter @tdl123 of signing up to the free email service in the left hand column.  The Major remains free, amateur and unhinged.

Well done to young virile Sean, one of our band of fortune who bravely went in on the Majors advice to take the reverse forecast on Masterminded and Albertas Run.  I hope those nerve endings tingled.  I understand more winners were on the cards for you too, there was warm work to be had with the enemy fighting vigorously and frantically with slashing blade but you kept a cool hand and deflected his devious strokes, it returned for you a rich spoil, excellent work.  Incidentally, you have AP McCoy, one of the greatest men ever to walk the earth to thank.  Albertas Run was off the bridle from 5 furlongs out, how many other jocks would have kept their animal up to the work to finish second.  How many would have that strength both physical and mental?  He held off third by sheer force of will, superb – any animal with 4 legs capable of being saddled and ridden by Tony McCoy will always make a sound proposition. 

A quiet, mysterious and largely unknown tipster from the West Country known as the Shannonator gave up Battle Group yesterday to a small select few, which the Major duly failed to follow, well done to Mr Day who I know had a tasty touch.  Mr Hill, unlucky on Albertas Run – Compensation was sought on Devil to Pay at Fontwell.  Your method is questionable, your result emphatic.  Mr Febery – Surely it is time to break the habit and bet like a man on the National, be irresponsible, the good lord demands it. 

Just look at how Big Bucks hurdles, it is a thing of beauty, elegance, efficiency, speed, grace, skill and athleticism.

The Major is going to the heart of the beast’s lair tomorrow to do battle at Aintree.  Needs therefore must, I resolve not to let you, the faithful few, you brace of warriors down.

Grand National Day.  Special.

Grand National day is emotive and part of English fabric.  Most people bet on the National, it is annual habit, a right.  Many will bet in memorial of those that have passed.  Some select their horse based on a name, others a tip, some go for colours, some a number.  The Majors grandmother, passed away these many years, used to back greys, she just liked them.   

When those sweepstakes are unleashed in every office and workplace, it is a part of our history, our national identity flexing muscle, rolling on like the relentless river, moving, consistent, secure, reassuring. 

The race is insane.  The hardest fences on our island over four and a half miles, forty horses piling in to each other, the Chair, Beechers Brook.  We do not ignore the pain and the anguish, strained sinew, fallen horse and man.  No, we embrace it, with dignity, respectful of the battle in which no quarter is given.  Triumphant champion where are you.

Still need an inspiration, click and watch.  See if you agree with the Major, Red Rum might not have had his amazing hat-trick if Andy Pandy had just stood up at Beechers?  Equally a better jump from Church Town Boy two out… no what am I saying, watch it, incredible to think that off top weight putting so many out of the handicap and at the royal age of 12, he won his third national, a feat never to be repeated, on the bridle like a young fresh thing.

As well as those gambling tourists, who are all welcome; how wondrous it is to think that tomorrow many more might convert to our merry crew, the religion of the gambling gentlemen.  Thousands will read, form a view, enter the alien yet exotic turf accountant and be enticed, I welcome them, I envy them, oh to have it still to learn.  They will watch their chosen beast give its all, some of these new potential warriors will leave unmoved, they will fail to see the enlightenment, the annual spectacle will be missed on them, shame on them, they live blind, stumbling onwards and I ask the good lord to forgive them, he won’t.

Ah but those few, those others for whom a door opened.  They selected a horse who gave them a run, perhaps the winner, or maybe they are a real gentlemen and their animal went before Valentines, but they still felt something move inside them.  Something permanent happened, a re-wiring, they saw, they felt their heart race and their senses grew intense, for a moment they were lost.  They caught the disease, our glourious disease.  For surely it is best to live one life with the glory of Big Bucks glaring at Grand Crus a furlong and half from home nonchalant, dominant, playing with him; to see Ruby clap in his heels bury his head and for it to be put to bed in moments… surely it is better to have this a hand full of times in one lifetime than enjoy ten lifetimes without.

Men will journeytomorrow to this glorious rebirth, let us hope a magnificent days racing prevails.  The reassuring news is that only those that reawaken become devote followers of our religion, how we welcome them and they look at us level in the eye.  They know.  They felt it.

I believe it was Descartes who described lives as if we were sparks leaving a fire, as the spark moves from the hot core into the night air, it dims and eventually extinguishes, as children we are still glorious but soon in adulthood we come detached from the wonder that the young see.  Romance, wonder, joyousness, belief in the miraculous, as we move away from the fire, we become cold, desolate, we trust our senses and not our imaginations, our worlds become more sterile, we lose the magic.  Racing can reignite the flames, see the glory, young warrior.  Now mount that charger, to battle, to the sports.

Let us start with NAP of the day.

Binocular faces Peddlers Cross in the Aintree hurdle (2.50pm).

The pricing (9/4 Binocular, 13/8 Peddlers Cross) for the top two in the market reflects the fact that Bino is less certain to stay the trip than Peddlers who many think are crying out for it.  The Major urges caution. 

The price may also reflect have some of the concern backers would have regarding Binoculars absence from the Champion hurdle, again the Major urges caution.  He missed Cheltenham because some minor treatments he was given were still present in his blood and would have given him a positive sample for banned racing substances (you can use these treatments but they must have cleared the bloodstream by race day).  This means he has been rested up a bit.  Not neccesarily a bad thing.  Just three weeks and a day ago, Peddlers was chaing home Hurricane Fly gamely staying on giving his all up the Cheltenham hill.  Bino is fresh.

Bino is a bull of a horse and I always think I want a race in him.  That said, Henderson surely would have him fit for this just three weeks after his intended target.

I urge caution if you think he won’t stay.  The ground and flat track will help.  He is such a better hurdler than Peddlers.  He is a flat jumper, moving over his obstacles with speed and maximum efficiency.  I also think the lack of obvious pace will help.  I can only consider Oscar Dan Dan as the likely pace setter. 

Peddlers is surely going chasing.  The price seems to suggest this years Champion Hurdle was better than last.  I am not sure.  At 9/4 I suggest a reasonable stake on Binocular. 

1.45 Novice Hurdle

What a cracker.  Spirit Son re-opposes horses that were behind him at Cheltenham when he lost out to Al Ferof.  Recession Proof is one I feel will be better suited by the step up in trip.  The Quinn yard could be in better form, 11/1 is fair.

The Major prefers the chances of Rock on Ruby.  There was plenty to like about his head defeat to First Lieutenant and the previous defeat by 2l to Bobs Worth also now looks good following Bobs Worths win at the festival too.  Daryl Jacob who missed out on the Zarkander race this week may get his payday here.

Sam Winner is Ruby Walsh’s chosen mount and the way he stayed on from well back in the Triumph suggested further would be better.  I think this one might not be the easiest ride but he clearly has ability.

It comes down to the two Nicholls horses.  The Major goes for Sam Winner and a chance taken at 5/1.

Take a slice, add butter, allow it to melt slightly.

2.15 Maghull Novice Chase

I know connections of Classic Fly will get a kick out of a runner in this Grade 1 contest but surely it cannot be good – If he inconveniences a major candidate, it makes a mockery of his entry.  I just hope that Peter Toole keeps him out of the way.

Finians Rainbow looks good to the Major as he is the one of the top three in the betting which is more likely to give an assured round of jumping.  Both Ghizao who walked through a few at Cheltenham and Starluck who can be clumsy; look unsafe.  That said Finians hit the last at Cheltenham but to be fair by then he was on the stretch already with Captain Chris putting the race to the sword.

Overall, I would rate Finians a good bet.  4/5 Paddy Power might seem short, it is, but 4/6 is the Majors pricing.  4/5 is not stingy. 

The Bumper at Aintree

Steps to Freedom is the tentative 12/1 each way suggestion.  This interesting sort won well on bumper debut last summer in Ireland.  It probably was going to lose when it clipped heels with a rival in its second run.  A year on, who knows. 

Gallox Bridge at 50/1 is not the worst outsider I have ever seen.  OK nothing special has come from his sole bumper which he won at Fontwell but he did it nicely and it is hard to judge how good he is.

Laveroque is backable, particularly if Rock on Ruby performs well earlier in the day. 

Allure of Illusion at 7/1 is also a viable option being completely unexposed and of connections that are likely to know when they have a good one – Money would be significant.

Wondering why I have not provided a tip for the Grand National?  Follow the link to my post earlier in the week – Abor Supreme 20/1.

A note about betting on the National.  If you are the sort that is going to your local bookmakers to place the bet, please do so on the tote.  You will notice that on the Grand National, the prices for most of the field will contract horribly mid morning with bookmakers vociferously telling us about several ‘plunge horses’.  Nonsense, this is the bookies payday, they will try to operate an overround of 150%+, ouch.  Place your bet on the tote, you can do this at most bookies.  This is a 116% fixed overround and so you will get far better value.  Most are simply unaware and the bookies take advantage of the casual punters.   

To the sports fields…..

Just one bet.  Cardiff should win at Doncaster.  11/8 is quite a price given the gulf in class.  Throw in that Doncaster have not scored in their last three outings and well, it looks like a terrific bet.  Coral can take a beating on this one.

May your bets be blessed by the lord of debauchery who watches over us gamblers and rewards our free living spirit.

Why not taken Binocular and Cardiff in a tasty double?  Surely Jesus would?

Take your winnings and fly to Colombo.  Travel from Fort Railway Station, paying a few hundred rupees for a single up to Bandarawela in the hills.  It is cools and pretty.  Stay in the old colonial hotel, send the Major a postcard.

Saturday night, I suggest Indian food.  A tasty array of spiced curries, dhal, chapatis etc.  Eat with your fingers and entertain a sort where this will break the ice.  A classic looking sort but down to earth, smiles readily.  Be polite and expect little, you will gain more.  Drink beer with her too.  You will be gloriously spent from the days sports to entertain ‘le gallop’, no harm in being a gentleman for the night.

Messrs Redmond, Wiseman, Hobday, Reilly, Powell et al – Load the big guns people, we are through the looking glass.

Courage followers, shuffle the cards.