Tag Archives: prospect wells

The Saturday Sermon – Ascot and Haydock Tips….. The Major meets AP McCoy

Good evening from a blustery and wet Worcestershire.  The fineness of the day which began like gods own awakening has retreated and with the dark night comes the warm rugged squalls from the Atlantic.  It is December, I prefer the integrity of ice and frost, the tepid rugged wet weather feels dirty.

The Ascot ground looked like it was behaving today which surprised me, I thought they would be swimming on it.  The Major did fairly poorly. 

I fancied getting Puffin Billy beaten, which was proven mighty foolish.  I couldn’t bring myself to back the obvious Simonsig.  I mean…. Can you really back a novice chasing debutante at 1/6 on heavy ground no matter how impressive their novice hurdle season?  Clearly yes.  I did have the winner of the bumper, that protected some liquidity.

Last Sunday night I attended the Sports Personality Awards.  I was a guest of some business associates.  We dined before heading to the studio and sitting amongst the sporting glitterati.  The after show party was a star-studded affair.  My wingman for the night was far more comfortable approaching people for pictures and autographs than I. 

I do find it uncomfortable disturbing people socialising and frankly, what is the point.  Will you look at those pictures again?  Class and decorum for me is to relax and let it go.

I held that mighty stance until he pointed out Tony McCoy, entertaining a couple of female guests across the room.  Well, perhaps there is a shallow man struggling to get out after all as I could not contain the urge for a photo.

I interrupted as politely as possible for the picture and when I suggested Darlan to him, he was lukewarm, he gave me another horse to follow. 

AP McCoy and the Major

AP McCoy and the Major – He must love it

Now your correspondent will set the scene as best as I can…. The DJ (Comedy Dave) has the tunes cranked up, the silky green goddesses with their silver trays are breezing past, each stealing my heart (I fall in love most days)… I am a fair few Heinekens in to the evening and AP is giving me a horse to follow in his Irish lilt. 

The first time, I missed it completely.  Repeating the name, helped only moderately.  Second time round, I was able to make out some key syllables and define the shape of the horses name.  Asking a third time would have been rude and so I thanked him and left.

It took me a day and the work of a good friend Mike to track the animal down!  Who is it?  Well, that is between me, AP, my brother, Mike, anyone I have told so far and anyone who DMs me politely on twitter!  Anyway, as for AP, is he what you would hope for in a champion jockey?  Good teeth, clean shoes, class act all the way.

To the sports….

Tips for Ascot

The opening handicap is three miles through the mud so will take a lot of getting.  I really like Okafranca who is on a hat trick.  The last Taunton run was as good as anything in the field and he did that with plenty in hand.  7/1 (Paddy Power) is a very fair price – I feel good about this one but coping with another race within nine days as well as an 8lb rise might be tough enough. 

Instead I am offering a 14/1 tip on Highland Retreat.  My tip is a Harry Fry horse with Mr J Barber, a 7lb claimer aboard (has won on the other sole start for the stable).  After showing a likeable attitude in winning an Exeter handicap (first two fought clear and second now rated 121), a disappointing effort at Hereford followed.  There were problems with the girl that day (nose bleed) and if back to form, this unexposed mare might just get involved.

In the second race, Solix is clearly a decent opponent but I fancy Paul Nicholls to take this with Cedre Bleu.  My tip gets 7lb in hand and is going to be sharper for the seasonal debut.  It is interesting that connections go for a double dose of headgear, suggesting to me that the horse needs to concentrate and that we are yet to bottom out the talent.  If right, Cedre Bleu is in the right hands… 13/8 have a slice.

Long Walk Hurdle Tip – Ascot 2pm

A horse that won me some considerable dough in last seasons World Hurdle rocks up as favourite in this years Long Walk.  Smad Place had lots of supporters at Wetherby for his seasonal debut and so losing to Tidal Bay was a big dissapointment. 

It is a bitter shame that Big Bucks is unable to defend his crown here and at Cheltenham in March.  He looked as good as ever on debut and surely was booked to go to FIVE World Hurdles.

Prospect Wells looks like the horse that Ditcheat want to use as a main World Hurdle horse now that Big Bucks is out of the picture.  I am not convinced, he was in receipt of a lot of weight against Zarkander and wonder whether the image of the two of them pulling clear is not a little flattering to Prospect Wells… maybe.

Reve de Sivola finished second to Big Bucks at Newbury although he was clearly not in the same league. 

Master of the Hall is an interesting runner and gets the nod, perhaps a little disappointing and the hurdles mark is not generous either, the positives are that a switch to the smaller obstacles might spark enthusiasm and less error.  He is certainly one of the more likely to thrive in the conditions.  8/1 and worth a bet.

Ascot Silver Cup Tips – 2.35pm

The Ascot Silver Cup boasts a small but interesting field line up.  Roberto Goldbach has been switched to Nicky Henderson and it will be interesting to see whether he can take the horse further now he is turning eleven.

I am not convinced Hold on Julio will love the ground and I prefer Hey Big Spender who won a grade 3 at Warwick in January and was travelling well enough in the Welsh national last Christmas before coming down before the race got going in earnest.  He has gone well fresh and 4/1 is fair but I wonder if there are more significant prizes that the horse will be prepared for this year.

Maybe, this line up is giving too much weight away to Wyck Hill at 7/1 and a few pounds out of the handicap.  Racing off the minimum weight is going to be a big help and the horse has some signs of being progressive.  The heavy ground run previously was poor but the soft form suggests another try is not without hope.  7/1 (Bet365) and worth backing.

The Ladbroke – Ascot 3.10pm

21 runners make this a damn hard race to geta  solid angle into. 

Petit Robin is an interesting horse at a big price.  Chase form (and mark) is better than the current hurdles mark and a decent claimer is booked.  Maybe at 25/1 it is hard to argue that Henderson thinks he is the yards best hope but the Major gives it a squeak.

Rattan has done his best work on heavy but Ruby is on Ranjaan who represents Nicholls and it is significant that the money has come this week.  Ranjaan won comfortably at Taunton for Daryl Jacob and the rise of 9lb is not a big problem.

I just prefer a Jonjo horse who, on pricing, looks the best bet – Its a Gimme.

We have the champion jockey on our side and McManus likes some decent handicappers too – I am backing this tip to be progressive at five, the seasonal reappearance was fine and with natural progression, lets hope Its a Gimme can get involved.

Of course, Balder Success looks a decent sort but I am not sure he has the profile of the winner, it is a big ask at 4.

In the last Ulck Du Lin can prevail at 13/8.

Haydock Tips

I am hugely interested in Kruzhulinin in the second at 2/1.  A winner on heavy racing for the connections that won last years renewal, surely a decent chance.

In the third, She Ranks Me looks a dubious 6/5 shot and instead I much readily prefer the chances of Dancingtilmidnight and Scholastica.  Splitting them is difficult, both will love conditions.  The Harry Fry horse is a points winner that looks a thorough stayer and is accompanied by my favourite Jockey Noel Fehily.  Scholastica looks like a horse with any amount of improvement to come, absolutely stuffing a poor Uttoxeter field last time out (only 3 finishers).

On balance, I am going to take a chance on Dancingtilmidnight with the Fehily factor swinging it.

In the football…..

QPR look a touch big at 14/5 given the lack of confidence at Newcastle.  I think Southampton have the guns to defeat Sunderland at home at 6/5.  Norwich are a massive 16/5 to win at an Albion side that have taken one point from twelve.  I am still thinking Watford offer value with a talented young squad and 13/10 is a good price for a team that can freshen it up. 

The Martin Hill Lucky 15 is Watford, Cedre Bleu, Ulck Du Lin and Kruzhulinin.

May your dinner be delicious, pasta perhaps.  The company delightful, the ambience soft. 

Courage and roll the dice….

Saturday Sermon – Wincanton Badger Ale Day Tips plus The Criterium and some Premier League…. SHABASH

Good evening from the Major who writes from a perfectly acceptable autumn evening in the Worcestershire countryside.

Tonight I lit the wood burner for the first time this season. The job requires matches and mine were in the converted stable block which having given up the job of stabling now performs very well as a perfectly reasonable one bedroom annexe. The building also compromises of an outside convenience and a boiler room which is where the matches are to be found. I lit the weak bulb and peering in the gloomy murk found a nasty surprise.

On the floor was the carcass of a Goldfinch. I am no twitcher but the Goldfinch is a striking bird with explosive flashes of red and gold. This one lacked most of the elements that it once possessed. We were down to feathers and a few bones. I suspect the cat. It feels like a bad omen.

Maybe it is a good omen. Godly sacrifice though having little statistical proof has enough popular backing to suggest that there is something to it. Take your pick. Whatever you think, I will invest in some better wattage bulbs.

Personally I think I stink of losing. I just feel a veil of defeat clinging to me like an effervescent cloak, a silver lining of loss and my wallet of diminishing power. Yet as Fuller once wrote ‘the hour is darkest just before the day dawneth’

Personally I think that’s nonsense too. In my gambling life, it is darkest before it gets darker.

Fearing the complexities of life, tonight I ate simply. Steak, cooked for a mere flash in the hottest oil my stove can muster – turned once after 20 seconds. Served alone, with a dash of mustard to the side.

Earlier this week, a steak caused my usually rock solid constitution to become imbalanced. Read into those delicate words what you will. Maybe that is the cause of my unsettled sense.

Doubts, damn doubts… Uncertainty over your own judgement. It is the beauty and curse of life that we are given independent thought to enable us to conceive beyond binary.

Each week, the Major hopes to enrich the life of one casual reader. I don’t care who, and i don’t care how many innocent victims have to read the wild thoughts of my mind, percolated through a swirling vortex of confusion before that one person draws some surprising meaning. Into the sports we shall go this week with perhaps, the most beautiful thing that one can say about such uncertainty…..

Khalil Gibran, the great Lebanese poet…. ‘doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother’…

Courage my faithful few….

2.15 Wincanton – Grade 2 Novice Chase Tips

In the last week, Silvianaco Conti showed that he is a player as a chaser this season when showing he has trained on from his superb novice year. He started that year with a win in this race and so it is of some interest that Paul Nicholls targets Poungach at this contest. He starts favourite and if the slip at the first at Chepstow has done little damage then on balance he is a threat to all.

Many of the others have not seen a racetrack in over a year although Court in Motion is an interesting runner. A solid bet would be ‘King of the Night’. Trained in what was the satellite yard of Paul Nicholls last season, I fancy Harry Fry to be a rising trainer.

The Major though is going to opt for one of those that has not seen action for some time. Aegean Dawn had some very good hurdle form. While he has been missing for some time, his trainer has had success with a handful of runners in recent weeks and I suspect that Aegean Dawn might be a strong chasing prospect and at 13/2 rates a strong tip.

2.50 Wincanton – Elite Hurdle

What a fantastic race – The main question here for the major is over the jockey bookings of Ditcheat. Maybe with the benefit of the post in the morning, we would have greater clarity but why is Ruby on what seems the second string?

Is Zarkander tuned up? Surely the staying on fifth in the Champions Hurdle signalled some intent for this year and the grade 1 novice wins he secured were solid. Prospect Wells has solid form of which the clear best is the Triumph Hurdle 5th but given there are no wins in graded company for a horse that is 2/7 over hurdles…. Hmmmmm

Zarkander is giving a stone and three to Prospect and while Daryl Jacob has been aboard Zarkander before when it has won and Ruby has been on a loser (Sam Winner) but that didn’t look planned either.

Sod it. Zarkander is the better horse. 9/4, have a slice. One word of caution for Baby Mix who I have not given up on yet.

3.25 Badger Ales Trophy – Wincanton Tips

Well I am going to keep this short and simple.

Diamond Harry won a Hennessy off a mark 6lbs higher than this and 7/1 is a steal…. He is dropped in grade and while clearly prone to injury is the class act in the field. Michael le Bon is the danger to all, very lightly raced….

Tips for the Criterium de Saint Cloud

Group one flat action for the two year olds and the Major wants a slice of Sempre Medici who will go off at a sporting price and has already proven himself in the testing conditions he faces tomorrow. He is a Medicean colt out of a line of Dansili Dancer… Few markets and no liquidity but I’m guessing 5/2 second favourite.

To the football….

The 11/5 about West Brom coming away from the Latics with maximum points is sent from heaven. Albion have looked excellent in defeat against Man City and away to Newcastle, scoring against both. They dispatched Southampton with ease and look like 6/4 chances at Wigan so the Major has to be involved.

Stoke at evens at home to QPR is a decent bet. Probably the last thing a team without a win (hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles) needs is a trip to the Potteries. Stoke are predictable, tough and Mark Hughes has a greater stench of defeat hanging about him than I, at least I hope so, because if I don’t have that….

Newcastle 19/20 is an amazing price, they should beat West Ham tomorrow.

For a good man who asked me to start including it again…. The lucky 15 is Aegean Dawn, Zarkander, Diamond Harry and Stoke.

May your dinner be simple as mine was. Remove doubt and realise the thin slither that pares it from certainty. I hope your companion is entertaining but that you might have serenity in your own company is my ultimate hope for us all.

Courage, roll those dice.

Friday Aintree Tips – includes a 25/1 Topham Tip

THIS IS THE 2012 POST, 2013 tips will be posted at midnight on Thursday on the home page.

2013 tips are now live.

Good evening from the Major who writes with tips for the fantastic Friday Aintree card.  The sheer quality of racing makes the heart skip a beat.

Finians was top class when seeing off Sizing Europe. This will suit…. load the large cannon

No joy from the three Aintree tips offered on Thursday.

To be fair, Crack Away Jack came in second at 50/1 after being highlighted as a possible improver.  Pearl Mix was a non runner but Grumeti’s win was a moral victory as the form lines were tied.  The other two selections fared poorly.

We need Fridays Aintree Tips to bring the Warchest for the weekend, let us review the action and see if we cannot find some opportunities to load the large cannon.

Aintree Top Novice Hurdle – 2pm

Darlan’s second in the Supreme Novices is rock solid form and to be fair, you could argue he was a little unlucky not to be the winner.

Prospect Wells was not that far behind that day but the Major is opting for a horse who finished even further behind in the Supreme… the tip is Vulcanite.

The selection is a general 10/1 shot and has been pulling very hard in his races.  If he settles I think he could be a classier act than yet shown over the obstacles as he was a decent flat horse.  Aintree is a flatter track, which I feel will suit his running style and help him settle as they will go quicker.  Now with more experience, I think there is a reasonable case to be made that Vulcanite could come improve past them all.

2.30 Mildmay Novice Chase

I can understand why the market has priced up Champion Court as favourite.  This horse likes to bowl  along and on a flat track and likely granted an easy lead, he could be hard to peg back.

Silviniaco Conti has some very good tied form with Bobs Worth who was an impressive Cheltenham winner.  Ruby opts to ride him too.

Neither of these market leaders are that convincing to the Major though who looks a little further down to find a golden nugget hiding away.

Join Together is the 11/2 tip (Stan James).  Ruby disagrees with me having chosen Silviniaco Conti over this stablemate but I think my selection has the greater form.  His last run at Cheltenham was a disappointment and I have to find a valid reason (the ground).

With a line through that run, my horse has given weight and a beating to Champion Court and has beaten subsequent Cheltenham winner Teaforthree.  Have a slice.

3.05 Melling Chase

The selection here is far more simple.  Finians Rainbow, a winner at Aintree last year and the reigning Champion Chaser, should have nothing to fear from this field and should be backed to the hilt at 11/8 with Stan James.

Albertas Run who has won the race in 2010, is now 11 and the newcomer looks more progressive.

The way Finians Rainbow finished up the Cheltenham hill suggested that 2m 4f around Aintree is well within reach.  The main danger in the Major’s eyes is Wishfull Thinking who I remain convinced has some big races to run.

Smash it up.

Topham Chase Tips

One of the trickiest contests to resolve is Thursdays Aintree Topham chase.  Tipping a winner in this is a tricky business indeed.

A couple of thoughts influence the tip, the ground is being watered and I think with a dry forecast, they are worried about it going ‘good’.  I am looking for good ground sorts and hope we don’t get that dead ground that throws up such odd results.

Secondly, there is a hugely strong Topham trend towards bottom of the handicap sorts.  Just one horse in the last twelve winners carried more than 11st and that was Gwanako.  In fact, since the turn of the century, seven winners carried 10st 4lbs or less.  To be fair, this does not rule out many as you often have a classy sort taking on unexposed players.

Peter Bowen is heavily represented again including the Topham hat-trick seeking Always Waining.  He will sure be popular again and will be in the best shape for this so has to be considered even at eleven.

Little Josh is now running off the same marks that got him a Paddy Power Gold Cup.  Liking to front run, conditions will suit so 11/1 Paddy Power is half decent.  However, 11st 4lbs on trends will be a burden.

The selection though is harder to justify than these.  Montoya’s Son has started to recover some form and the recent Newcastle show was OK.  It is not unrealistic to expect further improvement and 25/1 (Paddy Power) allows some room for that.  Many bookies are offering 5 places so do watch the terms.

4.15 Sefton Novices

When connections described Fingal Bay as the best they have had, the Major made a big mark in the book and left it there.  6/4 is very reasonable for a horse that has shown terrific form.

Having bypassed Cheltenham, Fingal bay turns up at Aintree fresher than many and if he has most of the form that his reputation suggests, then he should carry these before him.

For those that like a bigger price, Knock a Hand looks extremely progressive and could well take a place.

4.50 Handicap Hurdle

I have been through this card and cannot decide between two so am serving both up.

Bourne, I think, was unsuited last time and has plenty of potential left in what was a progressive profile before the festival.  9/1 is a win bet.

Like Minded is a 25/1 Paul Nicholls inmate who has not done much winning but would be closely matched with 14/1 Ataglance now on these revised terms.  Harry Derham has had a high profile winner for the yard this term and is well worth his claim.

The other big price horse that I considered is 25/1 shot Saphir River who did not give a decent run on British debut and has to prove some worth out of confusing French form.  It is notable though that there was a quarter of a million fee for the horse – Market support could be significant on second UK start.

The Bumper

Go to twitter… follow @kingofbumpers… do not ask the Major!

Cheltenham Festival Tuesday Tips – Champion Hurdle.. All aboard!

Good evening from the Major who writes to you on Cheltenham Eve, the most exciting night of the year, all good boys and girls should get to sleep, right after you have sorted out that lucky 15!

Geraghty says he is the best he has sat on.... The aeroplane that is Sprinter Sacre - photo courtesy of the marvelous http://www.facebook.com/GoodToSoftPhotography

I have already posted my antepost tips for Cheltenham a week ago but I am planning to write short pieces advising of any notes and fancies in the next days runners.Enjoy, have fun and remember Tom Segals words last week in Sundays paper – It is not as important as we feel, have fun but keep perspective.

Tuesday Cheltenham Tips

Here we go, here are the Majors tips for the opening day of Cheltenham.

The Supreme Novices 1.30

The Supreme novices can be a very tricky race in which to find the winner, there are plenty of red-hot candidates.

Good ground means we can rule a few out but not many and Agent Archie, Darlan, Galileos Choice and Montbazon are all high on the Majors list.

Other options include Tetlami who has done nothing wrong and Prospect Wells who may improve for his wind op and goes for Paul Nicholls who has run two winners in the last 8 years.

The two I like best though are Steps to Freedom and Trifolium and it is with the former that I will stake my first claim on the enemies satchel.  He is fine on the ground and has plenty of top class bumper form.  It might worry many that he has been put away for this for so long but Harrington knows exactly what she is doing and she is a trainer I admire.  7/1 generally but I don’t mind waiting as I think it might drift.

The Major had a lovely 12/1 winner on this horse at last years National meeting and since I gave it to a betting syndicate of the finest Birmingham chaps, I was a popular man that day.

2.05 Cheltenham – The Arkle

Already Advised: Menorah 11/1

In my antepost piece, I was keen on Menorah as I think he is under rated and over priced.  Too much is made of previous jumping errors which his trainer is well capable of sorting out.  I am happy enough with the antepost ticket but have to say that Sprinter Sacre may make this field look like handicappers.

Not often that my head is turned by a jockey’s comment but Barry Geraghty at the weekend said that Sprinter Sacre is the best horse he has ever sat on!  Consider he rode the mighty Moscow Flyer and well…..

3pts win Sprinter Sacre 10/11.  Don’t forget Paddy Power are offering a refund if Sacre wins, refund on your bet.

Al Ferof wants a punch up according to Ruby, I think Sprinter Sacre will be too classy to mix it like that.  Cue Card leading from the front sounds like a disaster to me, simply setting up some nice pace for the others to aim at.

2.40 JLT Handicap

Back in 1998, Unguided Missile took this race off eleven stone ten.  It was one of three horses to win off more than eleven stone in the last fifteen years and the other two were off eleven stone two.  Another interesting trend is that of six year olds which have not won in that time frame, which sort of puts a line through Our Mick and Mossley who has been a bit suspect over fences.

That is the Majors starting point – I want, ideally, sub eleven stone and I want a good ground horse.

Of interest are Hold on Julio who is a very good Alan King horse, on the upgrade and for a trainer that has won this handicap twice in the last ten years.

Baile Anrai is the other horse of interest, the Ian Williams chaser will appreciate the ground and 14/1 is fair.

I am going to take a slice of both at 13/2 and 14/1, I do not mind being double handed in this race.

Champion Hurdle Tips

Already Advised: Rock on Ruby 14/1

My antepost selection has come in to 10/1 and I am happy enough with my early selection.  Zarkander may prove a better horse, particularly at two miles but I think this race may pan out for Rock on Ruby who will be staying on to best effect at the hill.

The only horse I have eyes for outside of the selection is Hurricane Fly who looks the likeliest winner.

The Cross Country

The Major is not a fan, take pin, close eyes, jab paper, walk to bookie, make deposit, immediately eat ticket.

The Mares Hurdle

Quevega will surely win this; 1/2 is prohibitive so no bet.

5.15 Novice Handicap Chase

The Major has often advertised the antics of Hunt Ball’s owner, Anthony Knott.  He jumped on board Hunt Ball when entering the winners enclosure and when riding his first winner for 27 years of amateur riding, celebrating before the line with an unorthodox riding style to boot, genius.  If he wins, there is one place I want to be, the winners enclosure because I am sure he is unable to hold himself back at Cheltenham and with the cameras on him!

Triolo D’alene is a classy looking import that is sure to go well, 7/1 is very fair.

Going Wrong is an oddly strong fancy at 11/1 though.  Ferdy Murphy has won two runnings of this race and the selection has been very strong at Sedgefield.  Russell is an interesting jockey booking, a rider rarely used by the shrewd trainer, all in, I think this is a very good bet.

We are through the eye of the needle brace warriors.

The Saturday Sermon – 3rd Round FA Cup Weekend – Tolworth Hurdle Tips

Good morning from the Major from a clear and crisp Defford.  This fine morn, one can gaze across the Vale to Bredon Hill and see the folly on top eclipsed and bathed in orange as the cool sun rises behind it.  The air is clean, the mind clear, we are in good state to take on the enemy in the battlefield of his choosing.

Sandown Park 1905 - There is something good about old maps

The Major has embarked on a significant diet.  Now, I know that many of you will resent this, what sort of man does such a thing?  It is fair to say though that the Major has seen an expanding waistline for many years and has resolved to do something about it.

My father lost a lot of weight recently and created his own diet.  It consists of a bowl of cereal and a bowl of soup a day.   No coffee (hence nothing bubbling away this morning), no tea, no beer or wine, in fact nothing but water, a bowl of soup and a bowl of cereal.  600 calories.  His principle is that if you cannot carry what you do not eat.  I am following this diet against the advices of many people who claim anything from poor health to imminent death will result.  Willpower has never been the Majors problem and thus, I simply have not felt hungry, I have however, gained energy.

This energy we shall put to the enemy today.  Oh, he of cruel slanted eye and devious mind.  Pricing his markets in his evil ways, trickery and sleight.  We shall visit the depths of that dark vortex and come back having emptied his satchel by right of our virtuous courage.

Daub the war paint follower, sharpen that lance point, we shall pick the enemy off at the canter, ready your charger and wear your finest military attire, in victory we shall look glorious.

The Tolworth Hurdle – 2.35 Sandown

Soft ground for the 2m 1/2f renewal of this fantastic race and the line up is modest.  A line up of just five with differing form lines means it is difficult to assess true ability in this premier novice hurdle event.  The Major has assessed the main chances to bring you his Tolworth Hurdle tips.

On pure form, Prospect Wells seems to have the greatest chance with his last fourth in a valuable handicap at Ascot being a standout piece of form.  Nicholls has a terrific recent record in this race, collecting three of the last four runnings and thus this horse has to be a serious fancy.  He seems to have taken to hurdles OK and let us not forget that this horse is a Group 2 winner and a runner-up in the quarter million pound Grand Prix de Paris.  I do have a hesitation.

I am concerned over the ground for Prospect Wells.  In his formative youth he did run respectably on soft at Saint Cloud and Longchamp but that was a long time ago over entirely different distances.

Colour Squadron seems the certainty to go in the soft around Sandown Park and that does his chances some good favour.  It seems they will run from the front with Colour Squadron, tactics employed when he spread the field at Newbury.

There is always an embarrassment of novice riches in the Henderson yard and so the inclusion of Captain Conan who on paper looks a miserly 7/2 price is of interest.  He has done all of his running in France and seemingly likes to get his toe in.  They know what they are doing and so throwing him in at Grade One level over hurdles for his UK debut should not put us off.  This is the horse that is an unknown quantity.  Although Henderson won this last year with Minella Class, that horse subsequently disappointed and I think it would be easy to fall into a trap of assuming this is a star when not necessarily so, the Major shall prefer proven quality here.

Who knows whether Magnifique Etoile will like the ground.  Being out of Kayf Tara, it is not a certainty.  He has been a significant improver all year but the races he has won, have had nothing like this opposition in them and so I think a line through this one is safe (immortal words to commit to the blog).

On balance, I cannot see beyond the front two in the market.  They are well-balanced in their positives.  Prospect Wells comes with flat class and a decent recent fourth in the Ladbroke.  Colour Squadron is going to love conditions and given Prospect Wells is a Sadlers Wells offspring, I am not sure he will (despite his early career antics ‘en France’) enjoy them as much. 

My tip for the Tolworth Hurlde then…… at 9/4 with Hills, I am going to suggest a slice of Colour Squadron.  He might just be hard to peg back in the soft given an easy lead.  It just feels better value and I am more concerned about Captain Conan than  Prospect Wells.

Incidentally, the Colour Squadron is the 63rd RAF Regiment, they are responsible for guarding the Queens colours within the RAF.  Just in case you wanted to know, you probably did, else why do you come here every week?  That is probably a worthwhile question to ask yourself.

2.50 Wincanton – Bathwick Tyres Handicap

Good old Bathwick Tyres, the Major has no idea who they are but they seem to sponsor a lot of racing at Wincanton.  Good on them and may their business flourish.

This two mile five furlong contest is to be run in soft ground. 

Coup Royale is an interesting favourite.  Of the field he looks the one to have significant improvement in him.  That said, he has a tendency to blunder at the fences and the Major is not sure that Wincanton is going to be ideal for him.

Ashfields Dream though is the selection.  His Perth and Newcastle runs are the best two bits of recent form and he will not have a problem at the obstacles.  Ashfields Dream has been dropped a pound for a marginal defeat in fourth to Hey Big Spender on the last of those two runs.  11/2 is plenty of price for a horse that should give a good race around here.

Minella Theatre could pose the biggest threat to the Majors tip.  It is entirely plausible that he needed the run at Newcastle behind Ashfields Dream and although he unseated David Bass at Cheltenham, he may have been about to run a bigger race, we shall see.

To the FA cup….

The Major loves FA Cup third round weekend, I have a rich seam that I follow and if you research the blog to this time in January 2011, you will see some very profitable third round FA Cup tips.

My approach is simple, I believe that markets over-price the chances of form teams in lower divisions and do not take enough into account for the gulf in class between.  Even though many Premier League clubs will be fielding weaker teams, those players will be highly motivated and most probably still a better quality than the opposition.

It is with confidence that I suggest you take the greatest slice of Victor Chandlers 13/10 about Swansea winning at Barnsley.  Swansea play great football, their club is on a high and they have the ability to put this lot away.  Odds against is an absurd price in the Majors view, very strong win bet advised.

Stoker are 4/6 to win at Gillingham, Bolton 3/4 to win at Macclesfield, these both go in.

QPR are 7/4! to win at MK Dons (massive stake required) and Norwich are 10/11 to get over Burnley at home, these go in too.

I would put West Brom in too at 10/11 but as Mr Hill often criticises me for, I am always a little bit reluctant to back my own team.

May your dinner this evening reflect the glories of the days.  Take good company, the sort that dresses up and has a wanton glint that lets you know where her mind is at.  The Major suggests a good french restaurant where a Pastis aperitif can be followed by delectable selections, try the duck, that succulent fatty meat, mmmmmm. 

Courage, roll the dice.