Tag Archives: peddlers cross

Thursday Cheltenham Tips… World Hurdle, Ryanair, Jewson…..

What a cracking day of racing at Cheltenham….. Finians got the better of Sizing Europe in an eventful and epic Champion Chase.

Big Bucks goes for a 4th World Hurdle - Do you want to be an odds on shot that can run so flat?

The Major had tipped Wishfull Thinking who kept out causing chaos at the last fence in the home straight. Course staff then seemed to indicate (by the positioning of signs) that horses should jump the fence on the final circuit but to the right. Then the flag man came out at the last second to seem to instruct the horses to go round.This caused a late swerve from Sizing Europe but in the Majors eyes, probably inconvenienced Finians Rainbow more that Sizing Europe.  On balance, I think the course staff moved the signs on the fence to protect the area where Wishfull Thinking had fallen; what is sure is that we dodged a bullet because Finians and Sizing did well to lead the field around.

The Major had the first two winners tipped up on the blog and then the day was blessed by a 40/1 winner in Une Artiste who the Major had tipped up at Kempton on 25th Feb and was delighted to see return a winner.  At this stage it is definitely The Major 2, Bookies 0.

Enough of all that, this is merely half way, the enemy is wounded but it beaten and Thursdays cards carry the despicably fatal handicaps that are the Byrne Plate and the Kim Muir.

The Trixie of Death took a bit of a beating – Reds are losses, the greens are wins…

Hurricane   Fly Boston Bob Oscar Whisky (w/o   Big Bucks)
Quevega Sprinter Sacre Sizing Europe
Grand Crus Going Wrong Simonsig

Thursday Cheltenham Tips….. Once more dear friends…

The Jewson

Already Advised: Sir Des Champs 6/1

Five likely sorts in Solix, Champion Court, Peddlers Cross, Sir des Champs and Cristal Bonus.

Peddlers dodged two other festival engagements to run in the Jewson and with the trainer scoring winners already, 7/2 is very fair. Sir Des Champs a winner last year has had support all week and won’t mind conditions at all. Hendersons festival form simply means you cannot ignore Solix and Cristal Bonus looks suitably progressive.

On balance I think Sir Des Champs is the one for me. Although Peddlers destruction by Sprinter Sacre was probably on a ‘wrong day’, Sir Des Champs has relative form anyway an is 1/1 on good ground.

The Pertemps Final

No louder cheer bar that which would meet Kauto will be available if Buena Vista completes a hat trick of Pertemps Finals wins. The Major doubts it will happen but in a competitive race where the bottom of the handicap carries 10, 6; anything can happen.

The Major has settled on thehillsofuisneach who has the relevant experience and is a generally improving sort. 16/1, shabash.

The Ryanair

Already Advised: Noble Prince 6/1

Put simply I think Noble Prince and Riverside Theatre are the choices and of the two I feel the conditions have come right for Riverside Theatre. How he will run here and the ‘bounce’ factor are not factors in the Majors mind.

The World Hurdle

Already Advised: Oscar Whisky (w/o Big Bucks) 7/4

Big Bucks. Simple.  My son turns 4 in April, he was not born the last time a horse beat Big Bucks.

I did advise Oscar Whisky originally without Big Bucks.  I am not sure about this anymore – If he tries to take on Big Bucks, he might lose by a mle.

Byrne Group Plate

Bar the opening race of the week, the Byrne Plate is the hardest race to call of the festival in the Major’s eyes.

No solid trends to the race mean that you have less framework to the decision.

On balance the Major suggests Salut Flo and Niceonefrankie who both should go well. Again a race in which being double handed is a benefit.

The Kim Muir

Another puzzle of a handicap and one in which the Majors pin has stopped on Brackloon High. His latest dead heat was decent with the front pair well clear, the ground is a big plus and at 25/1, the Major is interested.

The New Trixie Table of Doom

This one is flatter but all lines are doubles and trebles…… 11 bets..

Riverside   Theatre Brackloon High Long Run
Pearl Swan Sir   Des Champs Big   Bucks

The Majors Antepost Tips for Cheltenham Festival – 40/1, 25/1 and more

The time has come for the Major to reveal exactly which horses I want in my portfolio before the tapes go up on Tuesday 13th March and the famous roar echos around the Gloucestershire air.

Antepost betting can be terrific fun and equally incredibly frustrating and the Major normally would recommend getting involved in Cheltenham betting only at this stage.

Markets for the main Cheltenham races open immediately after the preceding years event has been run.  However, getting on early means you do not have the benefit of an entire years form knowledge, you do not see the improvers or judge the injury, prep or yard form; you do not know which horses are planned to be stepped up in trip or to go chasing.

Crucially, the vast majority of bookmakers have now gone non-runner, no-bet.  This simply means a refund if your horse does not make it to the start line!  Now is the time for the Major to roll out his Cheltenham antepost tips.

The festival is such a competitive betting commercial space, you also get the plethora of offers from bookies keen to get you in the habit of using their account ahead of the week.  The Major will make no bones about advising which offers you should go for.  The stand out must be Paddy Power who are offering a refund on your horse in the Arkle, if Sprinter Sacre is beaten.  That will cost them a lot of money and we should be in the queue to take advantage.

I have broken my thoughts down into each day – I am not trying to cover every race, just my main thoughts……

One horse I don’t think will turn up (unless the heavens open) and I will miss is the Gigginstown horse, Bog Warrior.  I think this is the best chaser in the making and look forward to an exciting future but his runs require soft conditions…  Lets hope Aintree or Punchestown is soft enough.

Champion Trainer and Champion Jockey

My first antepost bet of the week has to be in the top trainer market where you can get 25/1 about Alan King (William Hill).  He has a decent portfolio of chances in the handicaps and in Grumeti, looks to have a warm prospect, it can be just a handful of horses required to win a top trainer prize at the festival. 

I would also recommend a small stake on Daryl Jacob to pick up top jockey at 40/1.  If some of the Mullins horses do not travel over well or are faced by very good conditions, then I fancy getting some Mullins / Walsh mounts turned over.  This then gives Daryl Jacob a great chance of winning a few on the best alternate Nicholls rides…. just a thought. 

Cheltenham Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle, The Arkle….

Firstly, go to Ladbrokes and claim your free £5 bet!  You have to do it online and you have to deposit but that’s it; a completely free £5 bet for Cheltenham’s Tuesday card….

The racing – Let’s start with the Arkle.  There is no way that you should back anything unless it is with Paddy Power in this race. 

Cue Card, 8/1, has been touted by his jockey as a likely front runner, which I do not think will do him much favour.  Peddlers Cross, 9/2, is likely to line up here but may take his chances in the Champion Chase, where he is a top price 20/1, or the Jewson, 6/1.  I would put him in the Champion Chase if I owned him as I think it is a weak Champion Chase this year, more of that later.  Al Ferof at 4/1 is too short for me, although Ruby wants to oppose Sprinter Sacre with him, I am not sure there is enough in the price for a horse that has looked just short of top class.  Sprinter Sacre has been described as an aeroplane and does look top drawer, the likely winner but in a race that has a habit of turning those sorts over!

Thus, the antepost Arkle selection for the Major is Menorah at 11/1 with Paddy Power.   I cannot forget that the placed form in last years Champion Hurdle and despite the horse needing to put many excuses behind, it is entirely possible that the festival is the place to do it.  Plus with a refund available is Sprinter Sacre does go in…. well, value indeed.

In the JLT Handicap Chase, I do quite fancy Walkon at 20/1 who likes Cheltenham and has some fair class; these staying handicap chases often suit a classy horse and I want this one on my side.

The Champion Hurdle – The antepost market for the Champion Hurdle has been dominated by Hurricane Fly.  The injury prone Irish star showed all his class last year to smash his field, although on reflection, was it the strongest? 

Although Binocular was reported back to his all time best at Wincanton last time, the Major has severe doubts about whether we will see that form or what it adds up to. 

Zarkander looks good but has to overcome a serious lack of experience and 5/1 is no price. 

Once again, the Major is looking down the list at something that might run a bigger race and the pen stops at Rock on Ruby at 14/1.  This horse will be staying on to best effect at the end of the race and I just have a feeling that things might fall in his lap rather.  It could be a fairly small Champion Hurdle field and things may get messy.

Cheltenham Wednesday Tips – The Champion Chase, The Neptune, Coral Cup and RSA Chase

This years Champion Chase looks a fairly poor renewal.  As much as I know the yard can prepare for the big run, it looks like Big Zebs best days are behind him.

This leaves Sizing Europe, a best priced 11/10 shot and Finians Rainbow at 5/1.  Now it has cost me money, but I am still of the view that Sizing Europe is very beatable and I am going to keep that instinct.  My issue is that I do not think the horse to do it is Finians Rainbow, at least not this year.

Once again the Major’s eyes are wandering down the list and I settle on Wishfull Thinking a general 16/1 shot.  Again a horse with some questions to answer but one with definite talent and not just place claims in my view.

The Coral Cup may be a handicap where we are yet to see the well weighted horse.  Therefore I am holding my judgement until after the Imperial Cup next weekend but would register an early interest in Smad Place at 16/1.

The RSA chase is all about whether Grand Crus turns up or not.  Personally I would run him in the Gold Cup.  I suspect though that connections will go for the RSA and use Kauto’s declaration of fitness (Assuming that comes) as  the decision point.  Whichever race he turns up in, I am very interested in Grand Crus who has taken to regulation fences extremely well.  9/4 therefore that he wins the RSA is a price from heaven and we should all be relieving Sportingbet of the weight of their satchel.

The Neptune is another race in which I fancy the favourite.  Now that Henderson has declared this the target for Simonsig, I think the 7/2 with Boylesports represents great value.  There is not a massive amount of quality in behind this (spare Boston Bob who may not line up) so I have no hesitation in getting on early and large.  This is an ideal antepost market to tip as it looks like the favourites price will only go one way.

If you want a tip for the Champion Bumper, you are in the wrong place!  Try @kingofbumpers on Twitter on the day!

Cheltenham Thursday Tips – World Hurdle, Jewson and Ryanair

Big Bucks is so dominant in the World Hurdle market, it is hard to find an obvious piece of value.  It is there though, in the w/o Big Bucks prices.

Oscar Whisky has been touted as a real credible threat to the champion and while the Major will believe that when he can see it, 7/4 (Hills, Power, Coral and Boylesports) is a fine price. 

Although the market says he will, I don’t think Peddlers Cross will line up ion the Jewson which makes last years festival winner, Sir Des Champs, my selection at 6/1.

The Ryanair could be a cracking race this year and while Riverside Theatre returning from injury to great form shapes the market, it is Irish raider Noble Prince who the Major wants on side.  6/1 is the price, have a big slice and thank me later.

Cheltenham Friday – The Gold Cup, The Triumph

The Triumph has been shaping up well in the last month with the principles being taking each other.  I am putting two up to back at win stakes; Pearl Swan, 8/1 Paddy Power) and Grumeti, 5/1 (Generally).  I think this is the best form line and neither will mind the Cheltenham hill, a test many others in the field are to face into yet.

The Gold Cup is hugely interesting race this year.  I am assuming that Kauto turns up, which is no certainty.  If he does, he has been racing with the mind of a six year old, clearly noone has told the great horse that he is in his veteran years!  That said, I would urge anyone who would back Kauto with money and not just heart, to rewatch last years Gold Cup and King George.  There lies all the evidence you need that despite Long Run being scruffy at fences, he will outstay Kauto.

Long Run at 13/8 with a clear round is a great price but it is the clear round that bothers me.  I also do not think this is the horses fault but rather the amateur jockey – I am afraid that the Major is in the camp that would like to see Geraghty on board and really see how great this horse can be.

The antepost tip though is two-fold and buried way down the list.  I think this years Gold Cup has got the hallmarks of a race that could go to a massive outsider.  Long Run might jump his way out of it, Kauto and Grand Crus might not be there, Burton Port might bounce.

The two I am interested in are What a Friend and Captain Chris, both at 40/1 – What a Friend ran to a place last year and is sure to be in the mix, Captain Chris has quality but has run a season of shockers.  That said, he has always looked a spring horse and so I am relying on him coming back to form.  Mainly, let’s hope that Kauto gets there and gives a good race to bow out on.

That is it, the full Cheltenham portfolio.  Whatever you do, bet an amount that makes you nervous, else you won’t enjoy it as you should!

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.

Cheltenham Festival Day One Preview – Festival Tips including a 50/1 STUNNER!!

Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler could be overpriced but it is Cue Card for the Major - Good luck followers

Thankfully regular followers of the Major arrive at the festival in good touch.  The Saturday Service returned a 55% profit with placed horses at 18/1 and 15/2 as well as a 5/2 winner.  We also had Wales to beat Ireland at a shade of odds on and Hull to win at Coventry at 9/5.  This from just 8 bets. 

As always, the Major is free, amateur and unhinged – All of my advices are recorded in the top navigation, you can see every bet I advise, with who, the price and the outcome.  I also summarise monthly performances.  It is all there.

Now though we are at a National Hunt fans Christmas Eve, the excitement is palpable, the treasure trove of racing goodness shall overflow from Prestbury Parks ample cup.  The moment has arrived, let us sup. 

Regulars will also notice a change of scenery.  The Major felt that the festival deserved a sprucing up of the decorations, hence a new banner, one of carnage, drama, horses and Guinness. 

The Major has been working this evening in readiness to offer a run down race by race.  If you are on course then I wish you a terrific day.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle

Dunraven Storm strikes me as a forgotten horse in this race.  The animal had done little wrong but has been off course for too long.  25/1 appeals on original form and I would not put someone off an each way slice but a lot has to be taken on trust regarding well-being.  He may have been held by Cue Card on previous outings but not by much and the same can be said of Al Ferof who has fitness in his favour but at 9/1 probably is poorer value.

Gibb River is an improver but not even the stables second choice so that would be a significant shock.

John Quinn has had some very positive things to say about his Totesport Trophy winner, Recession Proof.  Not for the Major.

There is going to be plenty of pace on with three of four horses wanting to set a fair gallop.  This includes sorts like Hidden Universe who is going to want to get on with it.  So will Marsh Warbler who also likes to lead.  It is tough to win a race of this quality from the front.  Of the two (and there are likely more), Marsh Warbler is very interesting to the Major.  The Chepstow form looks very good and with the good ground in his favour, this one may be harder to peg back than many expect.  25/1 is a bit dismissive.

Zaidpour has let a few people down in the last two runs but the Major would be at pains to stress that was on heavy ground in Ireland.  This one could surprise a few although Ruby made the decision to go to Al Ferof.

Spirit Son has done little wrong and I would expect him to be involved.  Sprinter Sacre likewise is a quality beast.

The way the race is likely to pan out would have Marsh Warbler near the front at the turn for home.  I would expect the lively pace to be a real asset to the hold up horses with good form in the book.  That said, no-one wants to give Marsh Warbler too much rope.  This unknown may not stop too quickly.

This is likely to set it up nicely for the others.  I have to say Cue Card has the best form in the race. FACT.  I would be very surprised if any jockey did not want to be on this one, Joe Tizzard can score the first victory of the festival for Britain and for the punters.

My advice is to take Cue Card at 5/2 with Paddy Power and William Hill.  The dangers are Sprinter Sacre and Spirit Son rather than Recession Proof and Al Ferof in the Majors view.  Marsh Warbler is worth an each way saver at a price. 

I think Cue Cards price will be honest because of the record of the recent hotpot favourites in the festival opener.  Certainly last year, Dunguib did not have the same form against top class opposition and had a claimer on board.  I think Cue Card is a different prospect, I hope he finishes the strongest of all.  I might not think Menorah will win the Champion Hurdle but the form of Cue Card is still goo enough for this.

The Arkle

The Arkle is a tremendous race.  What a wonderful start to the festival, the Supreme and then BOOOMMM, the Arkle!

This Arkle is an intriguing contest and I have a few angles I want to pursue.  For me (and I don’t mind sticking my neck out!) Finians Rainbow would be a 10/1 shot.  I just think his form in small fields is over-rated.

Captain Chris is a very interesting runner – I am hugely surprised that connections felt this Arkle was the right race, it looks red-hot and I am not sure Captain Chris will not find it all happening a bit too quickly for him over the minimum trip. – His best races for the Major have been those when stepped up in distance.

Ghizao  has the best form in the race for the Major but the break (last ran in December is a concern. 

I don’t think that Realt Dubh will be inconvenienced by the goodish ground and as Irelands best hope in the Arkle, he warrants respect.  The Major has had a winner with him before.

Medermit will go off as favourite and after his narrow defeat of Captain Chris, it is fair enough.  3/1 is plenty skinny for the Major but not under-priced.  I would be happier if the last few runs had not been over half a mile further. On good ground back at this trip, I question whether the turn of foot is quick enough.

My idea of the best animals at the top of the market are Medermit or Realt Dubh.  I would love to go with the bigger priced horse but Noble Prince, twice defeated by Realt Dubh is not a fantastic yardstick, perhaps Irelands best will not be good enough. 

At a massive 50/1, the Major is going to take a chance on Stagecoach Pearl.  There are plenty of questions about some at the top of the market.  Stagecoach Pearl needs to be forgiven the last defeat at the hands of Finians Rainbow but let us not forget that this horse is rated 147 for a reason (same as Realt Dubh).  At least it will give you a race as it likes to go from the front.  A clean round and it might surprise a few and hold on for a place.  You never know, it might go one better!

Spinal Research Handicap Chase

This is a very tricky handicap.  Heading the weights is Blazing Bailey, a favourite at Cheltenham who has improved as a chaser.

Rare Bob also has good form in the book, particularly the last race where blinkers were applied for the first time sparking improvement.

Great Endeavour has been raised a stone since last festival due to improved performances, I suspect more improvement is to come.

Caroles Legacy has feasibly a decent mark racing off 4lbs lower than his hurdle mark, of interest.

Bensalem on 6/1 is of a similar profile but probably a better version of it.  Not only did the horse finish second last year, this followed a very poor error at the first.  He went on to improve as a hurdler, makes plenty of errors but progressive.

Reve de Sivola is even more progressive!  10/1 (Sportinbet)!! This horse was second to Peddlers Cross last year, very worthy form.  The problem is whether you are likely to get a clean round.  In my view, if he jumps well he wins.

Razore Royale is back to a winning mark if finding old form.

Sunnyhillboy is also fancied as last years runner-up in the plate.  While he has some likely improvement, I am unsure he is the likely winner.

In summary if Bensalem and Reve de Sivola jump, they will be the first two in the Majors calculations.  Those are big ifs.  That said, I just like the look of Reve de Sivola and at 10/1 (Sportingbet) am willing to take it on, hope that Daryl Jacob gets is settled and jumping and then it shows what a class animal it is on the home run. 

The Champion Hurdle

I covered my thoughts on the Champion Hurdle in yesterdays post.  Peddlers Cross is my nap of the meeting.

The Cross Country

I forgot to mention in my Cheltenham build up piece that a real joy at the first day is to head to the centre of the course for the Cross Country.  You will never get as close to these magnificent beasts as they tackle some interesting obstacles.

The Cross Country is a race the Major has an awful track record in.  Maljimar is my idea of the winner with Garde Champetre peaked and the weight catching up with him.  6/1 is available generally.

The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle

It is hard to get past the hat-trick seeking Quevega who was once considered a Champion Hurdle contender.  For the second season running she gets her shot on her debut for the season.  That was a fine training performance last year from Willie Mullins, I have to say that at just 7, you have to admire the record already. 

Sparky May has to be the main danger, rated a 4/1 chance and unbeaten over hurdles, it is hard to assess what the form amounts to.  On a line with Caroles Legacy it looks quite impressive and as such I would prefer this as a bet solely because the horse ran eight weeks ago.

If Quevega turns up in the same form as last year, there is no reason to suggest she won’t, then I think Sparky May has to find 9lbs further improvement.  That is not beyond the realm of possibility and I suggest a 4/1 stake.

The Lucky Last – The Centenary Novice Handicap

This is the trickiest race of the day for the Major.  The field of novices have some very interesting contenders.

Short and sweet.  I think it comes down to Divers 9/1 and Definity 7/1.  Back both for wins, or each way for those of lesser vigour…. thank me later!

In Summary

If Cue Card (or Marsh Warbler), Stagecoach Pearl, Reve de Sivola and Peddlers Cross don’ go well, it is a bad day because the Major does not fancy trying to recoup losses in the Mares Hurdle, Cross Country or the Centenary.

I hope that whatever you are on, you take great wedges of cash from the old enemy.  Allow yourself to be carried along with the tide, remember what the Major tells you, you go along once so enjoy it. 

Remember you can sign up for the email alerts in the left hand column.  You can also sign up to the tweet feed @tdl123.  Tweet me if you are on track tomorrow.  The festival tips piece for Wednesday will be written late on Tuesday and a little bit more drunkenly.  Have a great day.

Go to bed and sleep, Santa doesn’t come unless you do….

The Major’s Ultimate Cheltenham Festival Guide 2011

The Racecourse from Cleeve Hill

Just before I wrote this post tonight, I passed the course, it was a buzz of tiny people seeing to the detail, lights on, christ it whets the appetite

The Major has attempted to give you lucky people visiting Cheltenham this week a guide as to what you can expect, if you have not been before and a few of the Major’s favourite bits for those seasoned campaigners.  There is also the Major’s banker for the week which goes in the Champion Hurdle.

Like all bitten by the Prestbury Park bug, I have many fond memories of the festival.  I backed Kauto the year Denman won, convinced that the bully would not upset the master, that was pretty special being proven wrong.  Watching Big Bucks destroy the field in 2010 still on the bridle at the last, almost mocking the field, that was good.  Ingles Drever winning his third world hurdle crown, like Big Bucks having to come off the bridle half way around before showing us all what a champion he was, well that was probably the finest moment….  then again Masterminded’s first Champion Chase was special too, leaping like a stag clearing the imposing Cheltenham obstacles like a stage in the fastest chase race there is.  I hope that 2011 brings us all a few more breath-taking memories.  They stay with you.

Around the Course

Cheltenham racecourse is huge, particularly the extended bit when you get to festival week.  Let’s start with the enclosures

The Different Enclosures

Best Mate is not in the main section of the site.  It is wedged on the opposite side of the finishing line and is the cheapest enclosure.  In my experience, bar access is good, the atmosphere is just as exciting and the view of the grandstand adds something to the experience.  However, you lose access to the parade ring and winner’s enclosure as well as a host of other bonuses of being in the main area.

Tattersall’s tickets are over in the main part of the course.   Club gives you access to a few extra areas but in my experience during the festival there is very little benefit to a club ticket.  Members get a few extra exclusive areas too.

The Guinness Village

This is on the main site, so no use if you are a Best Mate ticket holder.  There is a live band, a pretty big outdoor Guinness bar and a cracking atmosphere – You should definitely head down here!  The village is lined by bars and plenty of people having a fine time.

The Arkle Bar

Without doubt my favourite Cheltenham spot is the Arkle bar.  The bar is adorned with old news coverage of ‘himself’.  The crowd in there is young and country, its good fun.

As an experience, take a race with a Henderson runner, go into the Arkle bar and order up either a Guinness or have a whisky and stones ginger wine.  Head outside 5 minutes before the off and stand by the first drainage cover you come across.   This is where you will find Nicky Henderson; he watches all of his runners from this exact spot, always worth a visit.

The Parade Ring

This is always very busy for the festival, particularly before and after the feature races.  I would suggest you squeeze in for a visit though, seeing the horses and owners parading before they set off for the start gives some perspective.  The owners trying to look calm, the jockeys getting their leg up onto to their mounts, it is good stuff.  Even better if you can be there when a champion returns.  The cheers raised as a good winner returns to the ring is famous.

Shopping

OK, so it is not the primary purpose of your visit and nor should it be.  The Major would recommend a stroll around the marquee villages of stalls that come in for the Major race days at Cheltenham.  You will see goods that you would never have even considered purchasing and the types of people that regularly do.  Ever wante a set of pink corduroys?  No, nor I; yet if that horse ins the 4.20….

Cheltenham Pubs and Eateries

For drinking post racing in Cheltenham, you will find plenty of pubs with clientele spilling onto the pavements.  If you fancy young and disco (I am aware that no one uses that word), try Vodka Revolutions in a fabulous old church building. 

If you are after something more real ale, I would suggest The Jolly Brewmaster – Always a good selection, well kept, enjoy.

If you want to watch the sport, try Tailors just off the High Street or the Hogshead near the bottom of the High Street with a handy local Betfred.   There was a pool bar opposite the Hogshead but I think it may be shut down. 

While in the area though I must point out that there is a kebab shop on your left as you walk away from the High Street at the lower end.  It is simply amazing as kebab shops go.  Try before you mock.

General Advice – The Ground

I have a slight concern about this year’s festival as a betting contest.  The terrible winter we have had has meant that no good ground horse has had suitable conditions, until now.  This may mean that many of our form races are not the guides we think they could be.   I would advise checking carefully before writing off better ground horses, particularly the Irish ones.  I am sure there will be a few big surprises from the previously written off.

One example of what I mean would be Zaidpour who has won twice on soft, been beaten toiling away in the heavy and yet remains the apple of his trainers eye.  It is difficult to compare that form with that of Cue Card but 10/1 Zaidpour, who knows?  Take care out there.

The Major’s Cheltenham Tip of the Week

I am going to be giving a rundown of the following days Cheltenham tips every evening (sobriety allowing); therefore I am going to keep my advices here for my banker.

It is Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle.  I thought Binocular was shaping up as a bet and I had the field down to Binocular or Peddlers.  Binoculars abstention today made it an easy race.

Don’t get me wrong, Hurricane Fly could be a champion, I do worry about two things, one, how strong is the form against Solwhit who is now pursuing a staying hurdle career?  Secondly, the lack of course form is a worry; some very good horses do not perform to their best at Cheltenham.  Ruby in the saddle will help, although not much more than Townend.  One thing is for certain, the jockey booking will probably keep the money pouring on.

Menorah is also ahead of Peddlers Cross in the market but again, while I accept there is clearly no problem with Cheltenham, I do question the form.  Now before Menorah fans become irate with the Major, I must say that clearly it is a top class animal.  That said, the Cheltenham form this year beating Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti has not worked out all that well.  That, plus the recent runner stat which the Hearty Ploughman rolled out which is also a negative.  The Major only cares for trends that make sense, does this one?  In many races I wouldn’t care for it, I often back horses running fresh as long as I believe the trainer capable of getting it ready.  That said, this is a champion hurdle, 2 miles of fast hurdling against the best in the world……. a recent run is a trend we can count given no mistakes are allowable.

Dunguib is intriguing but too many questions, Khyber Kim is a terrific place prospect but doesn’t feel like a winner.

Peddlers Cross is an unbeaten hurdler, including when defeating this year’s champion hurdler on debut this season.  I accept that is not a race that Binocular would have been wound up for but…. what has PEddlers done wrong.  I like the fact that Jason Maguire awas willing to risk the rest of his weeks rides at the festival to challenge a riding ban which would have kept him off Peddlers Cross.   Get stuck in and get the week off to a flyer. 9/2, Sportingbet – KABOOOOMMM.

Bookmakers Offers of the Week

The Major urges you to take the most optimised betting strategy as possible for the week.  If you are going to the track then of course, take a bundle and have a laugh.  However, you should take advantage of the offers available.

Use a site like oddschecker.com to ascertain the best odds for anything you fancy.  Then sign up for new accounts and take advantage of the free bets bookies offer.   Most do.  For example Boylesports are offering a £20 stake a £40 free bet, have a piece of that!  £60 on for £20 staked, lovely.

Then understand the specials on offer and use them where they fit your betting pattern.  For example, anyone who doesn’t want Cue Card in the Supreme should get on with Paddy Power who offer a full refund if the favourite wins!  In the same race, Betfair offer new accounts a refund of up to £25 on Cue Card stakes if he loses!

Bet365 offer a free bet of the equivalent staked when your initial bet wins at 4/1 or more on any race covered by Channel 4.  The bet is redeemable on the next C4 race.

Mark Boylan – Finally, this lad knows the score!  13 and he loves the festival so much, he wrote a song about it – What a cracking Irish voice too!  Warning, it may stay with you!