The International meeting at Cheltenham kicks off with a decent little card and the Major will be on course aiming to pay for Christmas, once more.
Last Saturdays form continued the Majors mixed to shocking form but as my old gambling friends would say, even the blind squirrel finds the odd nut….. we venture on brave few unto honour.
12.00 Novice Chase
Only 4 runners but a cracking start with Solix opposing Sam Winner and opening as slight market favourite.
The Henderson horse gets the Majors vote by slim virtue of the trainers better form and unbelievably strong credentials in these events, the horses strong form looks fine and there is decent ground which I am unconvinced that Sam Winner will appreciate. There is rain coming down which would square it up but even if it goes good to soft, I suspect that Solix is the better horse and he edges a narrow opener.
12.35 Handicap Hurdle
Edgardo Sol, Aather and Golden Gael are the three that catch the Majors eye.
The first from the champion trainer has great credentials and Harry Derhams useful 7lb claim brings the horse down to a decent looking mark. The latest run at Sandown looked half decent.
Aather is harder to explain at 25/1 and in terrible form. Unreliable, off the track for some time but….. the Major has had this one on a watch list on pieces of form that date back some time. It takes some imagination to see it winning but as Thoreau said, the world is a canvas to such imagination….
The Major however goes for a more sensible route and tips Golden Gael. Unexposed and the booking of the stables ‘go to’ jockey is enough for the Major. 8/1…. have a chunky slice….
1.10 Handicap Chase
Nudge and Nurdle is plummeting towards some tasty looking marks and money for this one would be significant but not for the Major.
That’lldoboy is of definite interest and not a bad value favourite at 2/1. He is up 17lbs though in his last two runs and I am concerned (probably more than most will be) that he may be getting into the grip of the handicapper.
That said finding an opponent to beat him is tough. Bene Lad at the foot of the weights might be the chief danger but comes with plenty of questions upped in class.
Overall, despite the handicap concerns I am sticking with the favourite and willing to put good money that he toils up the hill second to something implausibly well handicapped!
1.45 Handicap Chase
I am only interested in Mon Parrain and Shakalakaboomboom.
The first was a major player for the Paddy Power if the money was to be believed and the second finished last season on a career best at Punchestown and is bought here by Henderson despite having a poor record at Prestbury Park. , tough decision.
On balance I think Shakalakaboomboom is worthy of a stake at 9/2. At the end of the day, I prefer the better form of the Henderson yard and he is capable of having this one tuned up.
Backing both feels like a shot to nothing mind.
2.20 Cross Country
Expecting a tip on the Cross Country from the Major…… I am sorry, I do not truck with witchcraft, good luck to you. Stop looking at me like that…. Satan get behind me….
Uncle Junior and it hurts me to type it.
2.55 Handicap Hurdle
If the rain comes the Major will plug on betting on Pause and Clause, possibly through a heady mix of sheer stupidity and loyalty, who I am convinced has bigger races in him than this but I find it hard to back Emma Lavelles charge on merit.
Evan Williams is in form and so Di Kaprio is considered but surely Oscargo can give the famous Nicholls / Walsh combination another Cheltenham win here. The third at Cheltenham last time out is probably as good form as on show here and this horse is (unlike most) entirely unexposed. Garton King is obviously interesting too being from the same stable and unbeaten but I would take jockey booking as informative here.
So Oscargo is it…. well no.
I am after more value and Killyglen at 8/1 offers me just that. As a younger horse, this one threatened to be better class than this. If you accept that his seasonal reappearance was needed then he is on a decent mark and the Major is willing to stick with him, particularly as Dickie Johnson has been booked for a rare (or possible debut) stable ride.
3.30 Novice Hurdle
Darlan at 1/2 is surely one of the hottest novice hurdlers in the Henderson yard which makes him one of the hottest seasonal prospects.
The Majors suggestion is Aikideau at 16/1 who showed improved form on reappearance when entitled to need the run. Probably not good enough but an each way shout.